Sept. 17, 2004 (posted Sept. 22)
Some highway in Nebraska
We have not lived in a house of our own since over a year ago. We haven’t couch-surfed or mooched off anyone, either. We’ve just spent most of our time sleeping in things that roll, and otherwise exchanging work for beds on land. It’s been a fairly successful — at times stressful — experiment, a swap of money spent for time spent.
We don’t need much cash for anything anyway. We trade work for a previously-abandoned place to live. We’ve been living off meager savings, working on a couple writing projects, and finding cheap or free recreational activities. Life and work have merged completely. We haven’t earned any money, but we’ve learned a lot.
Sometimes it feels like we spend most of our days doing what we like to call the “Shit Shuffle”: Whatever we’re looking for is always packed away, spread out, under heavy items, at the other place, or broken and in need of fixing.
Everything requires advance planning, even as our schedule remains wide open and fluid. We’ve discovered that it’s possible to feel free, and yet never well-rested, for more than a year without dying of exhaustion.
The payoff is excellent — getting to go on Cyclecide tours, sleeping wherever our van lands, meeting all kinds of people, doing different stuff every day, learning how things work and how to fix things, and never really dealing with authority. But sometimes we feel quite feral, and find ourselves wishing we had shiny hair again.
Now and again, when we ride bikes through our sort-of-dangerous San Francisco neighborhood and we come upon a roadside conglomeration of crackheads and their RVs, we get nervous that our identity is closer to that desperate, dirty, lost-soul scene than we’re leading ourselves to believe. Koit says it’s not the case. He jokes we’re probably the most attractive, sane, drug-free homeless couple in San Francisco.
Sometimes we miss the lifestyle from a few years ago, when we would all dress in short skirts and ridiculous shoes and go to punk rock shows and art openings and nice dinners. These days we’re always in coveralls or something practical, and we never wear makeup anymore. Bonus? Same girls. Now, we all wear jumpsuits on bike build days. We all chose the same devolution.
We dream of having a house that’s not likely to get broken into, where we can arrange all our possessions under one roof, find what we’re looking for, listen to our music, watch movies, plant something green, cook in a kitchen with a full-sized fridge and stove, and shower in our own bathroom.
We will again, certainly — but not right now. Well, maybe. We are Generation X after all. Maybe we’ll always be this way. Stuck in the controlled burning of America.
For now, we are content to live in — depending on the day — a vintage Dodge van with five transmission replacements to its name in the past year (we did them ourselves — turns out there was a kink in the line);
a loft above the kitchen in a smoke-and-boy-filled house with a bike junkpile in the backyard;
a hand-me-down RV with a thrown rod in the engine, a leaky roof, and a new interior paint job;
a second-story shipping container that overlooks: an art-metal shop, a junkyard, an illegal cockfighting ring, a gargantuan power plant, one of the most notorious gang-infested hills in the country, and the San Francisco Bay;
a 12’-by-12’ single-room tank house next to the milking barn on a fourth-generation dairy farm in the Central Valley;
an old, dilapidated sharecropper’s house (the “Country Fight Club”) we keep trying to renovate and secure even though the crazy tweaker … who used to squat there for 8 months without power and water until he finally got evicted for harboring a mentally disabled teenaged girl … keeps stalking us, waiting for us to leave, breaking in the house, stealing things like carpet padding and extension cords, and taking a crap on the floor;
and on the Cyclecide bus. Home stinky home.
After Durango and through the next few weeks, Cyclecide has to drive all the way back to Arizona for shows in Phoenix and Flagstaff, then over to Denver and Fort Collins, CO, then from there, over a THOUSAND miles to Minneapolis, MN and down the Mississippi River before we go back across the Southwest and up California.
There are some other ridiculously long drives that we think Jarico’s withholding from us in order to preserve morale. We asked him for specifics the other night as he was poring over the atlas. He scoffed. “The Donner Party didn’t go through what we’re going to have to go through,” he said, and returned to his maps.
Maybe after the thousand-mile drive (average speed 40mph) we might wish a little bit for a Lease of One’s Own.
Or maybe all the claustrophobia, clown-herding, breakdowns, wait-arounds, and alone-time deprivation will push us into such a hobo-monastic state that we’ll come home from tour and go find a shopping cart and a nice cardboard box. (JUST KIDDING AGAIN DAD)
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