How I Ended Up On The Road

Since 2015 I am making my way in loops around the U.S. making music, images, paintings, performances, rants, stories, word salads, connection, disconnection, inspiration, recovery, and a bunch of other random intangible stuff.

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Like many of my paleface genx ilk, I developed at the intersection of class privilege, scarcity, and various forms of domestic abuse.

For a while, I thought the answer to being trapped between my teenage empathetic socialist awareness and what a raging shitheel I was, was to leap from my half-woke edgy fringes and dive head first into The Capitalist Establishment to do my best to influence the game in the .com boom.

I gave up on that influencer thing pretty quickly, turncoating on tech in 2003 in part due to my distaste for what I would eventually learn was the industries pervasive scent of sexist white supremacy.

Though I stopped being able to afford to live in Seattle as a small downtown massage business owner around 2009, I stayed another 6 years in part due to my dual-incomed relationships. In 2014, when my sex positive poly fuckpile imploded, remaining in or even near the city long-term quickly became impossible.

With my 20something yuppie love affair years dead and my beloved Hurricane being the latest keepsake leveled to make way for Shiny Amazon Balls, I knew it had become a matter of very short time before I’d be pushed out of my office, which was one room and too small to both live and work in, anyway.

I could dig in and be stubborn, hold on to a job I no longer enjoyed in a city I didn’t want to be anchored to any longer and wait to feel further victimized and pushed out of a place I’d loved once but grown to pretty much despise.

Or, I could leave the gnarled pile of multidimensional failure intentionally and walk away with some dignity.

The Tiny House

I’d sensed a shift on the horizon for some time, so when shit hit the fan, I had about 1/3 of what I needed for my basic tinyhouse build: enough to build a box frame on wheels with no walls or amenities, and with no way to haul it.

I’d already spent 8 months looking for an affordable cat-friendly room which frankly turned up situations that were far, far worse than that. One room was in a house barely on the border of the city proper that literally had no fucking roof on it and was still going for $495 a month plus utils, with about 12 people, including 4 small kids, already sharing it.

I’d also found that my anarchocommie, freshly-rewoke ass just couldn’t reconcile spending all I had managed to save in years of being in this place on 6 more months of friggen rent.

I’d been searching my social net for somewhere stable to base out of, but no one I knew had a plot of land or was able to host me, with or without a trailer, longer than what could be described as a season.

Time ticked on, and need for reliable shelter loomed faster than the money could be saved, even with the gift of winter in the shed.

Dec 2, 2014 — CJ and I are moved into the shed, and it’s basically heavenly. It’s warm, it’s comfortable, it’s just the right size of a project. It seems I could in fact actually have a much smaller tiny house than I had anticipated having, presuming I had access to a shower somewhere.. but life has occurred, business is slow, and I’m once again off track to having the finances to build in the spring when it’s time to move again.

I’m trying to settle into the 6 months of solace but am finding it difficult to do that, cause 6 months isn’t a long time. I’m so weary of moving and scrambling around.

It’s looking like I’ll be shooting again for a van or an RV or fucking something and will have to pare down even more than I already have — but for now, I’m enjoying living on my own, and how cozy/comfortable this tiny space ended up being.

Bella Stinkbutt

After months of research on various options and facing the cold, hard reality of what kind of RV a few thousand PNW bucks can get you, I chose to spend most of my savings buying a very rusted, somewhat shady 2002 Chevy Express 3500 with 180k miles on it from an also somewhat shady hacker friend for… $2600.

Many thanks to Chris (pictured) who facilitated my sleeping platform, TP for selling me the rig, and my Tiny House contributors John H. $70, Phil B. $50, Scott S. $51.50, Sam L. $30, Eric B. $8, Shatter N. $23 (to get me to $1337. \m/ \m/ ), Edgars K. $50, Jason S. $40, Peter V. $35, Andy G. $25, Aaron B. $100, Michael D. $100, Craig Y. $20, Cris T. $250, whose generosity helped enable me to move into the van when I was out of time and options.

The van option meant giving up my cat to a foster situation while collectively mourning the demise of virtually every figment of my life including 4 of my closest relationships. I’m grinning with my tongue sticking out cuz power tools and metal fabrication (and I’m a fucking geek); but it was not exactly a joyous decision to make at the time. Inside I was sick with grief, overwhelmed in poverty mindset, and horrified by the bleakness of my future.

How the fuck was I going to do ANY of this shit?

My First Road Year

In May of 2015, after recording and releasing Keep Going in the shed and puking out that hot patriarchy/rape culture mess, I left Seattle alone, hissing and angry and empty, in search of some other place on the continent that felt like it could be home. I was gone nearly a year.

During this first tour I rolled into towns with a loose schedule, hitting up open mics and familiarizing myself with the venues in each city. I performed a short internship at The Bosque Village, a permaculture pine forest in Central Mexico, where I experienced having killed, plucked, gutted, cooked, and eaten my first animal; all in a single day.

I also released Decatur, produced by Mark Bingham after he was sent a video of my busking in New Orleans and invited me to spend 4 days in his studio recording the album.

While laying down groundwork for later trips I expanded as a musician and performer, including a two-month acting role which culminated in two songs recorded on Decatur, and meeting my tour buddies, Doc Otis, who then helped me round out my next musical tour.

I also made, with the exception of Camp Half Blood which payed very fairly, impressively little money. After doing my postmortem music tour numbers, (3 states 7 cities 13 performances and one patreon = $6 in pocket) I was stone cold suicidal for two weeks.

I returned to Seattle defeated, exhausted, depleted, with my tail firmly tucked between my legs; only to find that my cat’s foster had decided C. J. belonged to them, and wouldn’t let me see her. Year one was a huge kick in the ass on many levels.

April 27, 2016 – One thing that nearly a year on the road has shown me: There is nowhere.

There is nowhere to go. There is nowhere to outrun patriarchy. There is nowhere to outrun capitalism. Nowhere to feel safe. Nowhere to feel comfortable. It’s gone, along with my blissful ignorance. Anywhere I go will be touched by it, if not in any other way than by my being present there.

Another thing that nearly a year on the road has shown me: It is damn near fucking impossible for a person to understand something when their survival depends on them not understanding it.

This is why reform of capitalism won’t work. This is why people don’t see how bad their relationships are until they leave. This is why you can’t dismantle a system which pays your salary. This is why making a difference “from the inside” is ultimately a bunch of tyrannical horseshit. This is why there can be good in people, but there are no “good” cops. Or judges. Or politicians.

Y’all tell yourselves what you need to in order to deal with it, tell yourselves you’re somehow starting a revolution by playing the same fucking game you’ve always played. You and I always will be fooling ourselves to some degree, as long as we’re inside the machine.

As long as I’m using money, as long as I smile and thank that server who is obviously treating me differently because I’m fuckable, as long as I’m alive and interacting with this society, so too will I be telling myself that somehow my participation is warranted and benevolent and different than everyone elses. That for some reason my reluctance, my anger, my squeezing myself dry to avoid as much as I can changes the impact of my acts of compliance.

I shopped at Walmart today because they have the cheapest price on motor oil, which my van burns like a chain smoking tommygun packing gangster.

I put gas in my house twice today, and twice yesterday, blazing across Wyoming at 14mpg to beat a looming snow storm.

I paid my taxes. On time. But only because I fear being hunted.

These are the choices I have made, the things I hold onto in order to survive turncoating on the tech industry, on rape culture, on romance supremacy, to resist couples privilege, being kept.

There is nowhere.

The only way actually out of this mess is to stop going along with things that insult your fucking soul.

All The Things.

And that’s a life’s thankless, lonely fucking work, right there. Chipping away. A whole life’s work planting seeds for more life’s works in the future. Slamming your head into the ceiling.

Existing is so fucking expensive

and so, fucking, exhausting.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

After spending the summer contracting in environmental restoration with DirtCorps, working urban agriculture on City Soil Farm, and pouring a bunch of cash into tuning up the van, I did a small photography tour of the west (ORANGE).

Much of this trip was back country single lane mountain dirt, until my alternator crapped out on me suddenly not 10 minutes after I’d hit pavement again for the first time in three days, 80 miles away from the nearest shop.

After two days camping in a Burns, OR parking lot on labor day weekend and a $600 bill once they opened, I spent a good amount of time less inclined to do those types of project tours with this van. Which was, frankly, the whole damn reason to be living bent over and babywiping in the first damn place. I was not amused.

After being gifted a month-long Christmas with friends in Sweden, sleeping many long dark days and recovering from the shithouse 2016 election, in January of 2017 I hit the road again for Cold Front Tour (AQUA).

My time with Doc Otis during this trip was magnificent, filling me with hope and ideas. I wrote a lot of the songs on Cold Front during this time, made a little more money, and the van made it through the tour, thankfully.

Then it had its two major breakdowns ($500 brake line rusted through in Austin,  $900 fuel pump which is inside the fuel tank requiring both to be replaced in LA) and had lost two of its 8 cylinders for unknown reasons on the drive back (RED). I thought, sailing back to my reluctant port a second year of taking on water, that I was living what would be the end of the van and my transient life about the country.

Floating on emergency credit, I was traumatized and thoroughly freaked out, my confidence in Bella Stinkbutt all but used up. I’d ripped all my stickers off of it, officially broken up with it emotionally, and contemplated scraping it on the road multiple times — which is not a fun prospect when you’re driving your house, and frankly,  your closest friend, too.

Again, my community of people friends and artists and clients came through, sending what they could to help get me home and doing what they could to get me back up and running once I got there.

Upon return, thankfully to the soft landing of a few months in another friends guest shed, I found that the engine missing was caused by a melted spark plug wire when a heat shield had broken off — an easy fix for what many had estimated was nothing short of disaster.

Some fairly routine maintenance and being gifted the bonus repair of my exhaust leaks (don’t worry, Stinkbutts ass still stinks), and it was time to let the mending begin again.

Through the encouragement of gear friendly friends, I finally learned to do quite a bit of maintenance on the van myself; and in August of 2017 I was helped along by a significant gift from a well-off patron which paid my debts and enabled me to think clearly about what to do next.

Combined with the odd jobs and artistic collaborations that summer in Seattle which bolstered my confidence as well as my financial situation, I had significantly reduced my ambient stress levels and had a bit of savings again; Not enough to significantly upgrade my diggs mind you, but enough so that when fall rolled around again I went out for another road year in Stinkbutt when I’d all but vowed not to months before.

Roadlife: Year Three

My third year, Roadkill Tour, started off with the van dumping massive amounts of coolant while driving over Snoqualmie pass my first day out.

The most notable thing about that situation was the absence of the years of intense fear I’d become accustomed to feeling whenever the van sounded weird or started acting sickly. I didn’t feel the cloud of hopelessness holding the tears behind my face. I didn’t immediately freak out about the money it was going to cost, or even about the $18 I spent on coolant to get over that pass. I just did what had to be done and kept stopping to replace fluids until I could get somewhere safe and take a closer look.

It turned out to be a hose replacement that I was able to do in a friends driveway for about $40, including the coolant. Between facebook, vidchats  and IRL help at least 4 people were involved including myself. It felt like a win in a lot of ways.

 The remainder of the 2017/2018 year didn’t exactly go as planned, but in terms of my immediate needs — food, shelter, decent people to talk to, the van not dying on me — it’s been a breeze this time.

I used my AAA three times the first year, 5 times the second, and 0 times the third. I sold three well-priced art pieces that helped a lot, picked up a few paid shows, ran a couple open mic’s and even got down into the dirt for money a few times too.

I finally got hooked up with a solar geek to help me get the right stuff to install a secondary electrical system, and confirmed the establishment of a semisolid base in Fort Walton Beach, FL, bringing to fruition my dream of splitting time semi-comfortably between two places, and being able to use lights to see at night without giving myself an ulcer about the van starting the next fuckin morning.

I also recorded and released Cold Front in Los Alamos this tour, played many experimental music shows in Florida with people like Karisha Shaw and QWERTY, and after two years of emergency shitting in plastic bags, this was the year I got a plastic boat toilet. It smells like murky shitdeath if I actually use it, waaaaay worse than bagged poo, but still! If I can power through the active use smell I can shit in it for months. Hashtag progress.

Current Conclusions

I shed legit tears when I successfully did situps and a downward dog inside the van for the first time. The act was the culmination of an impressive amount of intangible work. It took months and a lot of seemingly wasted days sitting with the van torn apart thinking really fucking hard about how to get another square foot of usable space.

I rarely am able to access anything but fundamental basics without having to lift something while twisted and hunched in the dark and balancing on somesuch bag of somethingorother, holding back whatchmaacallit from falling into the hole I just made to access this thing I’m reaching for as something else I have to press against to stretch far enough is poking into my fucking ribs.

Functioning in those circumstances is utterly exhausting, letalone producing actual work.

I will be the first person to caution fantastical daydreamers that I have not chosen an easy way of life. For me at least, this was necessity, and it was come to with at least as much duress as excitement. I didn’t fit myself into a van on a whim, but after over a decade of culling and evolution. The transition wasn’t simple or painless.

But I get to plan my life around where and when the mild sun shines.

I have the satisfaction that the direction I face is firmly aligned and pointing in the same direction of my integrity.

I astound myself with being able to get by, even rather comfortably sometimes, using very few resources.

I am utterly relieved to be living in a way that I do not rely on my relationship with certain persons, or the employment of one company, to sustain my life.

I am amazed at how rarely I actually honestly need a shower.

I amuse myself with my creativity and ingenuity, even if the results of it don’t look very flashy or fancy most of the time.

I’m happy that when I am called to move on from a place, I can leave.

I am happy that when I am called to stay put, I have a place of my own where I can do that.

I am grateful for the perspectives I have shed, and gained, regarding comfort, need, community, boundaries, and solitude.

I am pleased at how many people I am meeting and visiting that I would normally not get to meet or visit.

I am impressed that, though my productivity isn’t exactly where I’d like it, I have still been creating and performing art while utterly transforming the way I live.

I am tickled by how simplifying has brought me closer to each of my needs and processes, from sleep to food to two years of pooping in plastic bags.

I am proud of how often I accomplish the ability to do something I once took for granted, and how well I’ve acclimated to this life in 3 short years.

I am so fucking fuckass thankful for my supporters, financiers, collaborators, sustainers, friends, fans, and clients, who have never failed to step in and help me when and how they could.

And, most notably right now, I am relieved with how often I find I am thinking to myself “hot damn, I might actually be getting the hang of this.”

>>> Things I’ve learned on the road