…down by the river

There was a great old skit on SNL that featured Chris Farley as a motivational speaker.

In the skit, he mentions “living in a VAN…down by the RIVER”.

And here’s this guy…this angry guy…living in a van somewhere.

Holy Smokes!  I know there’s got to be some really regular folks out there living in vans down by the river.

I know there’s got to be some quiet, regular joes living in a van who don’t freak out and yell into the camera.

Now look in the background…look in the van behind him…is that a BEAR?  There, sleeping in his van…is that a BEAR laying in there?!  That could be one of his problems.

I’m all into helping animals…but you add to the stress when you share your van with a bear.

I don’t know…maybe it’s just a sleeping bag.

This guy scares me.  Up until this video, I thought that moving all of us into a van and finding a nice quiet spot under a bridge somewhere close to the river would be a good way to save money.

It sounded peaceful.

But this guy’s been to “prison college”…whatever that is…and he seems like he knows the score…and all of a sudden, that van idea doesn’t look so appealing.


And …if I can claim lack of oxygen from living in a small enclosed area…I’ll have a legitimate excuse for being angry and loud.

The thing about this video that just hit me is how good the interviewer is at keeping the ball rolling with responses like, “that’s where we’re headed..” and “it’s insanity”…or even “DANG”.  That’s quite a skill to keep the nut jobs talking.

I can do that.

Nut jobs talk to me all the time.

Was this guy a kook before everything hit the fan?  Did it hit the fan because he’s a kook?

Our biggest worry right now is what to do with 3 extra roosters.

“My muffler blew up, my starter blew up…I’ve got one dollar in my pocket!  ONE DOLLAR!!”

“This is revolution time…but who’s gonna do it?”

Holy Smokes….what a weird way to wake up (in America).

I don’t know…living in a van down by the river might still be kind of peaceful.

It might be kind of nice if this guy doesn’t figure out how to move next door to you.

And what the heck is John Gosselin doing interviewing guys on the streets of Orange County?







what dreams may come

I was having a dream last night.

It was a dream I remembered when I woke up.  It was a dream I remembered when I woke up relieved.

In my dream, I was delivering the mail.  I was delivering out of my 1981 Corolla Station Wagon, so I knew in my head…even in my dream…that something was different.

I haven’t driven that car on the route for a while…not since I blew the head gasket trying to go too fast up the Saluda Grade to get a package to the District Manager on time.

In my dream I was having a pretty good time.  I was up in Asheville for some reason…fully loaded for a day of delivering but way outside my delivery zone…when I heard what I thought was Gary Clark Jr. playing some blues at a big street festival.

The guy had the red guitar, wore his hat the same way..he was playing the blues pretty well…surely, it had to be Gary Clark, Jr.

So I parked the mail and left my car and got out to enjoy the music.

This is a big no-no.

When you deliver the mail, you are tethered to your vehicle.  You lock and secure…you don’t leave to go listen to Gary Clark….Jr.

You don’t chase butterflies when you deliver the mail.

You have to stay focused.

But, in my dreams…I leave to listen to “the blues”.

Anyway, I was grooving to this music and enjoying the sunshine when I took a closer look.

“Hey…wait a second.  This isn’t Gary Clark….Jr. …..this is Shambone and the Ruffintown…what the heck?!!!”

It was at that moment that the full responsibility of my commitment to the USPS kicked in…and I looked for a fig leaf to cover myself.

“I’ve got to get back to the car!!!”

So I wandered back to the place I’d left the vehicle…right in front of an illegal chop shop and catty-corner to the crack house….AND MY CAR WAS GONE.


I was frantic….running down the street, around all the corners I came to…looking, looking, looking….LOOKING HARD.


In my dream, I must have run for at least half an hour.  I was nervous about this “losing the mail” situation.

“Why’d I ever stop to listen to that faux Gary Clark….Jr. ?!!!  I’m ruined.”

I couldn’t figure out how to get out of losing all this mail.

I felt like Pinocchio on his second day at Pleasure Island.

And then I remembered…in the midst of the mildest bad dream I’ve had in a while…I remembered that I could WAKE UP.

What do they call that?  Cognizant Dreaming?  Lucid Dreaming?  I don’t really know…but I remembered that I could wake up and the part that could be so damaging if it happened in real life would just go away.

So I woke up and it was all over and I knew that I had another chance at another perfect day of bringing the mail to the people correctly.

My string of perfect days was unbroken….it was only a dream after all.

But, while my dream lasted, it was a lot of fun to be standing in the crowd listening to some really good cover band play the blues.

I guess that’s why they make repercussions as painful as possible.  We’d all be chasing butterflies if the payback for enjoying ourselves wasn’t so damaging.

Dreams are pretty strange.  I’m glad I could wake up from this one…no matter how much fun it was at the beginning.


rich enough to simplify

Watching this, it makes me wonder if you don’t have to have some resources to really live the simple life?

When frugality and simple living is a choice, it sure does seem a lot more appealing…otherwise you’d lay in bed at night and wonder how it must feel to go into Wal-Mart and buy a brand new boombox?

There’s (possibly) a lot of satisfaction in living in a cardboard box…there may be a homeless man somewhere who waxes eloquent about how free he feels and how close to nature his lifestyle choice allows him to be.

But…I doubt it.

I don’t know…there’s something both great and kind of creepy about this sort of thing.  There’s a self-consciousness to this that kind of bugs me.

I don’t think that somebody slogging their way through a day working at McDonalds…going home to some overpriced rental home or apartment….eating whatever is easy and filling and cheap….I doubt that they’re going to find getting really philosophical about their lives very appealing.

This seems to be the “country equivalent” of the minimalist Architectural Digest home that takes a lot of work to get to the bare, minimalist stage.

I’ve watched this a couple of times now….and it’s bugging me.

There are a million….no, a kazillion…people around the world living like this by circumstance.  It’s what they know…it’s not a choice…it’s not some spiritual quest…it’s hammering out a living without expectation of something bigger.  It’s just the way they live.

This is an expensive way to live.  Maybe these people built their own house…I don’t know the details of their lives, and I shouldn’t pass judgement…but she strikes me as someone who probably had some craftsmen come in and build this thing, this life, this house to exacting specifications to help them reach an idealized simplicity.

I guess that if I have enough time on my hands to pay any attention to how someone else lives that I have too much time on my hands.

This is a nice little house.  It’s a good way to live.

But…again, the “but”….this really bugs me.

The luxury of considering our “innermost lives” in the context of simple living…it’s not something that some folks out in the world have the time to wax eloquent about.

Live in a little house…be thankful for what you have…live and let live…be a good human.

Any of that rolls easy on my mind.

Just don’t be creepy.  If you’re going to simplify, just don’t be creepy.

Please….don’t be creepy in general.

And save your candles for night-time.

a place to stay

“You just have to put your mind to it….and that’s what scares people.”

What a tremendous thing it would be to…in addition to an education…give a kid a place to stay that was their own.

What an education it would be if the young person made themselves a place to live.

This is a pretty inspiring movement.  I’d written before about tiny homes …but it was kind of a response to what I thought were a bunch of folks with money building these expensive boutique tiny homes just because the movement had become trendy.

If you google tiny homes…or check out Lloyd Kahn’s blog or books , you’ll see that there’s a broad range of situations going on.  It’s not just wealthy trend followers working at being “hip”.

I love funky building…and I love the thought that we can build in a way that provides freedom from mortgages and being “tied down”.  That’s pretty inspiring.

Check out this video for an example of doing the “tiny home” thing on very little money…

I’ve said it before…the world is a BIG PLACE.

There are so many different ways to live…why not in a “tiny home”?


Sam’s Father’s Head


When I was in my early 20’s, I helped my friend Sam move out of his condo.

There was a bunch of folks helping with the move.  We had quite a crew.

I remember that Sam’s father was helping.

He and I were carrying a couch out to the truck and when he got up in the bed of the truck to start positioning it, his head hit an I-beam that extended down from the low ceiling of the parking area.

His head hit that I-beam and the i-beam just RANG.

It was kind of like his skull had thumbed a massive tuning fork.  It was a horrible sound. Actually, that’s probably hyping it up a little.  It sounded like a big melon hitting a stainless steel table.

It was a really bad sound.

I know that if it had been me, it might have been a real vocabulary expander.  It sounded like it must have hurt a great deal.

But I’ll always remember Sam’s father’s response.

He just said, “darn it.”

And that was it.  No yelling or cussing or blaming….just a quiet and well-mannered “darn it”.

“Well mannered”….that’s the description I like the best for his response.  It was a kind and mature response that I’ve used as an example of a “good reaction to an awkward or painful situation” many times.

There are things that our own parents do during our lifetimes that we carry with us.

There are things that we carry that our friends and their families do that we also always remember.

I don’t want to have to see Sam’s Father hit his head to learn my lessons…but his response taught me something good.

It was a good lesson.

The day before yesterday, I got up early to write a couple of blog posts….

and the computer was screwed up.

So the time that I would have used to write, I used to troubleshoot and try to get the computer back up and running.

I didn’t hit my head.  There wasn’t anything painful going on.  It was a minor irritation.  It was a very minor irritation in the big scheme of things.

Even though no one else was up and could see me, I pitched my own quiet version of a desperate hissy fit.

“How could this happen?  I keep my ducks in a row…I plan and persevere.  I’m a good person…why is my computer messed up?!!”

There was probably a lot worse going on inside my head while I was working at getting my precious blog back up and heading out into the world.

Where was my “well-mannered response”?

Even though no one was up to see it, I know that I should be embarrassed about getting upset over something so minor. It wasn’t anything that deserved getting overwrought about…it was just a machine that didn’t act right.

That’s pretty common, really.

I’m glad I have the marker of Sam’s father’s response to refer to.

Now if I can just mature enough to consistently emulate it.


image from here.




the chihuahua proof fence


There’s a house on my route that caught fire a couple of years ago.

In the fire, it was gutted… but since the house could be reclaimed, they repaired it and the folks who lived there have since moved back in.

One of the things that went away after the fire happened was the fence that surrounded the house.

The posts are still there, the gate is still up and functional…it closes and latches like it used to…but there’s nothing attached to the wooden posts.

It’s nothing but a defined perimeter.

It’s just an idea of what used to be a barrier.

At this house, there’s two chihuahuas.

I feed the dogs on my route when I see them.  It’s one of the routines that get me through each day.

These dogs at this house are kind of a pain…wagging their tails when they know I’m going to give them another in a long line of bones…barking their heads off when I get out to deliver a package.  When I step out to deliver a package, it’s sometimes like they’ve never seen me before.

These two chihuahuas are not on my list of the smart dogs on the route.

One day last week, I rolled up to the box and the only chihuahua that greeted me was the younger of the two…the black one.

“Huhhh….where’s that old, dumb brown chihuahua?” I thought.

I did a quick scan around the junked cars and the trash from the house fire.

Then I saw him.  He was waiting patiently behind the closed gate, like he had a million times before when there was still something of substance between the fence posts to impede his range.

Sitting obediently like there was a purpose behind the accepted impediment.

“Oh, dude…there’s a big world out there…walk around the freaking gate, you dumb old chihuahua…”  This dumb brown chihuahua was disappointing me.

I don’t get it.  Maybe it’s just what he knows…like all those old prison movies where the old-timer says that he wouldn’t know how to make it on the outside?  The one who stays behind when the younger guys bust a move?

So there sits the brown chihuahua….safe in the familiar.

People talk about “comfort zones”, but what happens if we’re scared to bust out of our “uncomfortable zones” ?  What happens if we’re afraid to move around the latched gate? The gate of “quiet desperation”?

I know that in my own life, it’s pretty nerve-wracking to just go off and start running out the gate and into the “who knows where”.  It’s nerve-wracking to make a change…especially when other people are involved and we’re depending on each other.

But good grief….I am good at finding gates in a wide open world.  And I’m a dutiful kind of guy…if the gate has a latch, I will be sure to lock everything down tight once I get inside.

Even if it’s just a gate…and the rest of the fence has been taken down…I’ll be sure that gate is latched down completely when I get inside something familiar.

I love my job.  I love seeing these dogs and talking to the people….seeing the wildlife…experiencing the seasons.  I love having a purpose and being able to take care of my family.

I love that.

But just around that gate….the only thing still solid in a disappeared fence…there is a BIG WORLD.

That’s pretty darn exciting to me.


by the dark of the moon I planted

When you are driving around by yourself everyday…the radio off and the road noise the loudest thing you hear….it’s easy to get fixated on things.

Except for your job, there isn’t a lot to do other than that.

Yesterday, I was driving and all of a sudden the line from this song…”By the dark of the moon I planted, but there came an early snow…”  popped in and wouldn’t leave.

I spent a good part of the rest of the delivery day trying to remember all the lyrics to “Wildfire”.

Some people do Sudoku to ward off dementia…I try and remember the lyrics to old songs, I guess.

Oh my gosh, this is a good song.   There’s a titanic cheese factor to it….we’ve heard it to death over the years…but what a complete scene Michael Martin Murphy paints in a relatively spare amount of lines…

She comes down from Yellow Mountain
On a dark, flat land she rides
On a pony she named Wildfire
With a whirlwind by her side
On a cold Nebraska night

If I told you that I spent a good part of the day yesterday mulling over some of these lines, you’d probably say, “ohhhh dude….you’ve got to get a life.”

I don’t know how certain things enter the “cheesy universe”…I guess that all a cliché is is some truth we’ve heard too many times to pay attention to anymore…but this song is so simple and, I think, so good.

I’ve got to really give it a good listen…reconsider what I think is cheesy.

I don’t know when I thought I got too hip to really appreciate some of these overplayed songs.

(Someone, somewhere, is thinking, “you never got hip…it must have been something else..”)

I need something now to get this song out of my head for a while….how about this video?….

That ought to do it.