totem

I spent the last 4 1/2 years of my college life at a school in downtown Atlanta.

“Four and a half years?  What?! ‘Last part’ he says….how long did it take him to finish college? ” you may be thinking.

It’s a long story that I’ll skip for now.

It felt like a long story when I was living it.

This was a school that, like any school in the heart of a city, was mainly concrete…concrete….concrete…steel and glass.  It was urban.  It was urbane.

It was far from being the wilderness I had floating around inside my head.

I spent my summers working at a summer camp in North Carolina.  It was “out in the woods”.

It was what got me through the school year…thinking about getting out of the concrete and congestion, the hectic pace…and back to the mountains.

(We live down the road from the camp now…and after the highway department paved the road and I got more familiar with the area, it feels like a “suburb” of the nearest small town.  I guess that anything feels less remote when it becomes your home.)

This video is kind of funny.

It reminds me of some of the “totems” I had when I was waiting to get back up here….little things I could look at and remember friends and places I was anxious to see again.

People say “bloom where you’re planted”…and I guess we all do our best to deal with the task at hand.  Sometimes, though, the memory of someplace important to us is hard to forget.

It’s funny how small things like a campfire on your office desk can help you cope.

 

video star

If I’m posting a YouTube video, there’s a good chance that I overslept.

When I promised myself that I’d do a post every morning, I think that I was operating on the premise that I’d give myself enough time before work to actually do a post every morning.

So when I oversleep, it’s a good stop-gap to post a YouTube video.

This video is by a guy who calls himself Wranglerstar for all his video postings.  As of this morning, he’s posted about 358 videos of advice about homesteading and country life.

This video is about swap meet tools…but he covers a lot of ground in the other 357 postings he’s made.

It’s pretty amazing to me that he can sustain any level of quality over the high volume of postings that he’s done…but the ones I’ve watched have all been pretty good.

There is such a broad range of paranoia on YouTube….search “survivalist” or “survivalism” to open that can of worms…but this guy’s videos are pretty practical and I think he does a good job with them.

espresso

espresso-roast

I’m almost down to the last of the bag of coffee beans I usually buy.

I have a new bag…a fresh bag…waiting in the cupboard for me so it’s not even some weird minor “emergency” that I’ve almost finished with this bag.  I’m covered on the coffee angle.

I’ve got this coffee thing under control.

The thing that’s going to be different for me this time is that I chose a different kind of coffee when I picked out the new bag.

This coffee was on sale.

This bag is an “espresso roast”, whatever that means.  I’ve had an espresso before…I think I remember liking it…but there was a big price difference between  the new coffee and what I usually buy and like…so I ended up buying the cheaper coffee.

At the time, I inwardly gloated about saving the money. I didn’t tell anyone else…but it made me feel like a “good hunter” to figure out which coffee would save me the most money.

Why and how did I get so cheap?

And what exactly is an “espresso roast”?  A really dark roast?

What have I done?

I think about what it means to live a “big life” all the time.

A life of surprise and adventure would have to be a good thing…it’s a good thing to shoot for.

But they say that God is in the details…some people do say that….and when I’m looking at a big bag of unfamiliar coffee beans, I have to wonder if sometimes it isn’t better to just suck it up and pay the price for the thing I really want.

Maybe I’m just selling myself short with all these bargains?

I know that there is a certain fatalistic amusement factor to driving a car with a lot of quirks.

You can “buy quirks” when you’re cheap enough with yourself.  There’s usually a reason things become a bargain.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just spending the money on something decent to begin with, though. Maybe that’s part of getting older and wiser.  Maybe it’s a part of getting older and more tired.

The thrill of some self-prescribed cheap excitement is pretty much gone.

I think I read somewhere that adventure comes from making bad decisions.  I’m paraphrasing what I read…I can’t remember the exact quote…but I think it was something along those lines.

I’ve had a lot of adventures in the “cheap cars” I’ve owned over the years… and I’ve learned a little about fixing cars out of necessity.  I also have a swirling catalog up in my head of all the things that can possibly break or go wrong when you’re operating a motor vehicle.

Maybe wisdom does come from experience…but I think that fear does, too. I fear the unknown…and I fear what I expect to happen based on past (bad) decisions.  I fear repeating the “possible” that I set in motion with my cheapness.

Wisdom… and fear.

My “bargains” have bought me both.

I am wise beyond my years in the matter of the repercussions of being cheap.  I know repercussions like the palm of my hand.

Getting back to the coffee…I don’t know what lies in store for me when I brew the first french press.

“Brew the first french press?! You don’t brew a french press!! ”  Somebody who knows is possibly having a problem with that thought.  What’s correct?  “Cook” a french press? Boil it?  “Make a french press of coffee”… I’ll go with that.

I don’t know what “espresso roast” really means.  I don’t know what is going to happen.

It’s just another small adventure in the misguided pursuit of a “big life”.

Emphasize the small.

grown up female stranger

first girl I loved

The Internet is beautiful.

The Internet is terrifying.

I had this song on an old cassette that I bought used that I’ve since packed away somewhere.  It’s Jackson Browne’s version of an old Incredible String Band song called “First Girl I Loved”.  This version was on an Elektra Records tribute album that came out in 1990 called Rubaiyat.

rubaiyat

When I say that the Internet is beautiful, I mean it’s pretty darn nice that I can look up this song and actually find it.

It’s amazing that I can locate things on the Internet that I couldn’t find in that box I packed away in the corner of “somewhere I forgot”.

There is some kind of beauty in all that stuff out there being available if I can just press the right keys.  It’s there for me if I can just remember how to ask correctly.

I guess that it’s kind of terrifying when you think that you can find just about anything you want…and then some. Just look up all the information about Edward Snowden you can find right now.  It boggles the imagination.

Speaking of Edward Snowden for a moment…just to digress for a moment…didn’t we used to celebrate people who were brave enough to stand up for a cause they believed was right?  I learned about all sorts of people in school who were heroes for doing that…but this guy’s a traitor for pointing out something he feels is wrong.  It’s hard to figure out sometimes.

I don’t want to “make the list” because I mentioned “Edward Snowden” in a blog…but it is hard to figure out…except for the extreme embarrassment to the US of verifying something that we already suspected…why this guy can’t even find a country willing to let him take his shoes off in.

It makes me wonder if it’s safe to pose an opinion about anything….just let it all be what it is might be safer.

Keep your nose clean and your head down, don’t ask questions…and don’t give up any big secrets.

What’s the point of having a passport if you can’t enjoy it?

Back to the song…in light of the Edward Snowden situation…how long is it going to be before we have to stop singing great lines like “you turned into a grown up female stranger”?

We may not know each other…but maybe there won’t be any strangers in the future?  Somebody’s going to know everything about Everybody at some point…whether we’re aware of it or not.

All the information but none of the connection…that can’t be healthy now, can it?

This post was about a great song.  Art will always be with us…there is a need to express and feel…there is a need to make connection and be part of something universal and bigger than just “ourselves”…there is a need to experience “spirit”. We need to be able to share that experience with each other.

We have needs that no amount of technology can completely change or take away.

I think that people will seek out a way to express those needs no matter what is going on in the world.  Artists will always seek a way to let what they need to express out where it can be shared with other people.

I hope it doesn’t get harder to share that connection as the years go by…in our “brave new world”.

 

moving, moving, moving….can’t slow down

Here’s another long video about movement and nomadic living.

I must be on some kind of traveling kick right now…living vicariously through all these traveling guys.

This video is produced by the BBC…so any comments about our country being fertile ground for “anthropological observation” that I made earlier do hold true in this case.

There’s some bad language and rough characters in this video…but I think it’s kind of an interesting film so I’m going to include it in the blog.

One of the things that I kind of picked up from this video is that there always seems to be some collateral damage when people choose a free wheeling lifestyle.  It seems like a lot of these people have stories of families left behind or parents they don’t communicate with or other relationship issues.

Maybe they travel because they have issues with the people around them? Maybe they have issues because they travel?

It’s probably hard to say.

I love to be on the road.  I love to share the road with my family.

That’s the combination that I want to move towards.

keep riding

Here’s two videos from the brothers at americarecycled.org

I made some fun of the folks up in Asheville in yesterday’s post…but this is pretty amazing what these brothers are doing traveling around America and filming what they see.

I’ve talked about what a big world it is…how we need to be able to expand our horizons…and then I make fun of the “commune kids” up in Asheville.

What a hypocrite.

I guess that I just want things to be on solid footings for my family.  It’s a different perspective when I feel like I should provide for them.

I really respect what these brothers are doing…some great and interesting filmmaking.

Happy 4th of July!  Independence Day!

get a job

This kind of stuff used to look appealing.

I used to think that communal living would be pretty great.  I was born in 1960…so even if I was just a kid, somehow I identified with all the hippies and that whole 60’s vibe…even if I was too young to understand or join in.

Now it all looks like a bunch of lazy idiots screwing around in a really dirty house.

I guess that’s what a little (emphasis on the “little” part) maturity will do for you.  It changes your perspective to have a family and embrace some responsibility.

This is a video that I found while looking for videos on homesteading.

I thought, “What’s this?  A video about something called the Montana House posted by somebody in…maybe… Russia?  Weird…I’ve got to check this one out…”

It turns out that these guys are a bunch of hipsters living in a house up in Asheville…close to where I live.

They should do a follow-up video and find out how many of these kids have trust funds.  There’s a lot of really “creative people” living under the umbrella of “Daddy’s Money” up in Asheville.

Now my daughter is going to start school up at UNC-A in the Fall.

The “A” part is for Asheville.

I hope she doesn’t fall in with a bunch of weirdos like these and move to a “commune” when she gets up there.

I don’t think she would.

The thing about this video that I thought about first when I saw that someone from Russia had posted it was that it’s strange how what’s weird and a “waste of life” in our eyes…becomes “important anthropological information” if you’re looking at it from a world away.

These guys may as well be Indians on the Plains.

(There are some pretty graphic butchering scenes in this video….so just a spoiler if you’re squeamish…they process some road kill meat and the shots are graphic.)

I went to Art School…I had VW buses…I grew my hair when it still grew on top…I thought this lifestyle was kind of “cool” at one point.

Now, I think I’m more interested in Warren Buffett than I’m interested in Abbie Hoffman.

It’s a good thing to grow up.

I think these videos look like they were done by Americans….but appreciated by someone in Russia and posted on YouTube.

It looks like the videos might have been produced for/by americarecycled.org

( Digging a little deeper…these videos are produced by two filmmaker brothers riding bikes around America exploring lifestyle alternatives.  So …any thoughts about Russian perspectives, etc. aren’t valid in this case.  Do check out the link above…these brothers are pretty cool even if the house up in Asheville seems to be full of goobs.)

A post-script from later in the morning….

Actually, I war against these impulses all the time.  My deepest and best hidden motivation, like Pinocchio, is to get myself over to Pleasure Island and start growing some donkey ears as quickly as possible….but I’m trying to be a responsible adult… so I rail against the fun hog tribes who survive without any jobs.  Maybe part of me is just jealous, I don’t really know.

I push the part of me that still finds this kind of lifestyle creative and interesting back when I can.  I just want a good life for my family…and that seems to take at least a little money from time to time. I like providing for my family…it’s a pleasure.

unshiny track

railroad wavy tracks

I have a bunch of places on my mail route where I have to cross a dormant railroad track.

I slow down each time I cross it…look both ways…and then remember that it’s been years since a train has come down them.  I guess that safety is a hard habit to break.

They are as brown and rusty on top as any piece of metal unused will get.

They are an unshiny track.

They hold all the promise of movement that a train track provides…they give the illusion of something going somewhere, but they are just a metal line going off into the distance.

It’s just an underlining of something that doesn’t happen anymore.

There are people who have built large homes around the lake that abut the dead track.

My wife and I wonder how appealing the million dollar homes will be if the trains ever start running again.

I guess that’s confidence…they must feel that once it’s all gone down that it’s never coming back again.

We will see.

This track isn’t really dead.  I shouldn’t say that.  It’s just not being used at the moment.

They haven’t pulled this track yet and sent the steel off to China.  It still has a chance of carrying a train again.

Veering off into metaphoric nirvana, I don’t want to be those tracks.

I don’t want to give the illusion of movement…or to be a reminder of what used to be.

I want to have some shine on my surface.

I want people to have to look both ways when they cross me.

I don’t want to be taken for granted.

A friend and I took a road trip across the country when I was in my early 20’s.

I remember sitting on a big dune in the Sand Hills in Nebraska.

This is an area that’s different from anywhere I’ve ever been…miles and miles of…well, sand hills for lack of a better description…big dune like hills….with no ocean in sight.

I remember sitting up on the hills eating a bologna sandwich that had gone instantly bone dry in the humidity free air…and seeing a train off in the distance.  It was a pretty good ways off, but there was something different about the way we were seeing this train.

We sat there for a moment, watching this train move across the land in front of us…and then both realized at the same time…“I can see the whole train”.

From engine to caboose, we could see the whole train stretched out straight off somewhere in the Nebraska prairie.

We were both from the East…the mythical “East” that’s romanticized so often (kidding)….and the view of a “whole train” wasn’t something that we were used to.

We were used to seeing it bit by bit when it came around a corner…but seeing it “all together and completely” was a new thing for us.

Lately, I’m realizing how little of the “train” I usually can see.

I can look behind me and see as much of where I’ve been as the curve allows.

I can look forward and see as much as I can imagine lies around the next curve.

I don’t see the whole train from where I’m standing.

I guess the secret to it all is to just try to keep the train on the tracks…and try to keep the tracks shiny.

Seeing the whole train is a nice memory, though…maybe I’ll have a chance to try that again someday.

betty cracker

Paula Deen

We were kidding around coming home from town the other day.

It was kind of inappropriate, but we were talking about what some people might say to scare people away from our mountain region…

things along the lines of “don’t let the sun go down on you…that’s right, you better run..”

Goofy stuff. Really inappropriate stuff.

By the time the conversation really devolved, I’d said, “That’s right….we’re big Paula Deen fans around here….you better not let the sun go down on….”

From the back of the minivan, I heard my son say, “Yeah…and we’re big fans of Betty Cracker, too.”

I don’t know…I thought that was pretty funny.