My first response, from “Kenneth,” was rather unsettling:
“hello iam 10 min from your school you sleep on my couch i only have a couch sleep on or sleep in my water bed with me and my wife lol .”
I didn’t know whether to be more perturbed at the grammatical sacrilege of the English language or the invitation to what could have been an Appalachian-style ménage à trois. I now realize that this may have been a far more interesting first blog entry if I had taken Kenneth up on his offer, but taking a mustache ride on his Big Sur waterbed was, for me, unfortunately, too much of a sacrifice for the sake of entertaining my humble readership.
I ended up getting three more responses; one from Phillipa—a large Jamaican woman who is in the home healthcare field. Not only did I end up staying in her spare bedroom for three nights, but she was kind enough to pick me up at the airport. She had a hearty laugh; when I told her of Kenneth’s response, you could see the laugh start in her belly and explode out her mouth. She said I could stay as long as I needed to to find “proper housing.”
For whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her my actual plans, so I let her believe that I was in the market for an apartment near campus. I guess I skirted the subject half out of embarrassment and half because I thought she might think that I was insane. Nor did I want Phillipa--as I expected her to--channeling the spirit of my mother and saying (except with a Jamaican accent), “No, Mr. You’re going to get yourself an apartment.”
While at Phillipa’s, I arranged to meet Dennis—another contact I made on craigslist who was selling his ‘94 Ford Econoline Van. I had been looking up and down the auto ads on craigslist for nearly a month.
It was my first thought--when I entertained the idea of radical living many months ago--to build some rudimentary shack in the woods near the college. This wouldn't have worked for a thousand reasons, starting with my carpentry skills, which are--how shall I put this--unrefined.
The above picture was taken in Mississippi when I was working for the Gulf Coast Conservation Corps. We didn't have anything to do one day, so each crewmember made a birdhouse. Don't let the wheelchair delude you: I am by no means handicapped (aside from my carpentry skills). Much to my disappointment, and much to all of birddom's great fortune, because of a minor architectural flaw (I tried to burn a hole in the wood--you can guess what happened from there), the birdhouse was never erected.
Then I thought, what better affordable housing could I find than a van?! I could find some cheap piece of junk, buy a parking permit, and use it as a mini-apartment. I could take showers at the gym, read in the library, and cook with my backpacking stove... Perfect. Now, I just need to find that piece of junk.
After a two hour bus ride, I finally arrived at Dennis's. And there it was. When I first cast my eyes upon it, I thought of Thoreau stumbling upon what would be his beloved Walden Pond for the first time. Googly-eyed, I sauntered up to the van, erotically trailing the backside of my fingers on the shiny-smooth burgundy hood.
The burgundy, from top to bottom, slowly and sensuously fades into a rich black complexion. I noticed, when I opened the side door, the carpet was bespeckled with stains--proof of the van's great maturity. I got behind the wheel and revved up the engine. There was a grumble, then a cough, then a smooth and steady mechanical growl that said this baby's ready for action.
It was $1500 and I bought it immediately.
Just as Thoreau had his Walden Pond and Don Quixote, his Rocinante, I now have my burgundy beauty. With that said, radical living officially begins.
Next step: Renovating the van.