(More) Jumping off things!

I’m going to basically let the videos do the talking about last weekend, but to sum it up, I went to Boone to visit Kristin, and it was awesome. Besides hanging out with Bear Grylls again (the kitten we found), meeting some cool college folk (I miss college folk), and seeing my girlfriend (felt like I needed a third parenthetical for balance, so here it is), I also got to do more jumping off of tall things into soft things! This time the soft thing was water! Van adventures for the win. Alright, here’s the footage. Skip to the second one for the fun part.

So that was the highlight of last weekend.

This weekend, Kristin came to visit in Wilmington, and we camped out on Carolina Beach. We set up the tent, built a small fire, and sat by it, sipping fruity drinks and gazing up at miles of stars, like a combination Coleman advertisement / Jack Johnson song. It had rained earlier, but was done for good by the time we got out there, and the only sign was a slight dampness to surface of the sand and epic flashes of distant lightning over the ocean, making the horizon look like it played host to a monstrous, slow-paced fireworks show. It made for a beautiful evening, right up until we tried to go to sleep.

We were well-aware there was a cold front on its way, but had no idea how cold it would prove to be. With nothing but a sheet and a tent below us and a comforter above us, it was chilly, and we couldn’t cuddle, because lieing on our sides on the hard-packed sand put our arms to sleep. She, in pajamas bottoms, a fleece jacket, and wool socks, slept a little better than I did in nothing but boxers.

The next morning quickly re-awesome’d the weekend. I got up at 7:30, cold, sore, and throat-ached from the harsh night, dressed in sandy garments, and grumbled my way back to the van to pay for parking (meters ticked in at 8). We had parked roughly a half mile away- the camping area of Carolina Beach is more meant for park-n-camp camping using 4-wheel-drive vehicles that can drive up onto the beach, and the van certainly could not.  At least a full day’s parking in the distant lot – $7 – was less than half the cost of a day-pass to drive out on the sand. I paid our parking and grabbed another armful of firewood (I’d collected it from a patch of woods before Kristin arrived Friday) and trekked back to the camp spot. My mom, who lives in Raleigh, had made us some chili, which Kristin had picked up on her way to Wilmington from Boone, and I set up about heating it up over the fire. Then I climbed into the tent and pounced on Kristin and jumped up and down on her until she agree’d to get up and join me outside.

It was awesome chili – thanks mom, you’re the best – and instantly made the day that much better. It also made the tent blowing halfway down the beach 20 minutes later much easier to deal with – having had a hearty breakfast and all. Note to potential campers on C. Beach: the wind there is ruthless. Don’t get tent stakes, get, like, 16-inch re-bar, or hunks of concrete. The wind was so strong, the tent at times looked almost concave from how much it bent to the pressure.

We got another pick-me-up when running into my buddy from work, who was generous enough to offer us a shower at his awesome Carolina Beach pad.

The camping experience, while well worth it, made living in the van seem like pure luxury. The next night, we went to take a nap at 6pm. We were so toasty, comfortable (memory-foam mattress, don’t forget) and exhausted from the night before, we actually slept until dawn the next morning. Then we drove to Wrightsville beach and watched the sun rise. Reasons Kristin is awesome #17: we both get geeked-out about stuff like that.

I’m still looking at places to live – possibly super-downtown – but I’m highly bi-polar about the idea. One minute, I’m touring an apartment and getting really worked up and excited about the idea that it could be my home, and the next, I’m staring lovingly into the highly-organized, highly-efficient little den that is the back of my van and wondering why I would ever pay hundreds of dollars a month to leave it. It gives me some consolation to know that if I do move into an apartment, I will still have the van, and can always switch back.

Guess for now, I’ll just keep myself on my toes. Thanks for reading. Love.

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Leap headfirst off of giant sand dunes at the outer banks?

Check.

Mike mid-front-flip leaping off of a sand dune at jockey's ridge state park

Me mid-front-flip leaping off of a sand dune at jockey's ridge state park

How I got upside down in the above photograph: Last weekend, Kristin, my now-girlfriend and then-ex-girlfriend (I know, it’s usually the other way around) met me in Raleigh at 11 pm. She lives across the state, so we often meet in the middle. We were planning to spend the weekend together, and we were planning to do something awesome, although “planning” is a bit of a stretch. Meet in Raleigh, we said, and go from there- spontaneity at its finest.

She got to Raleigh a little before I did and worked on a paper at Helios, a hipsterish (Raleigh people: hipsterish, you agree? no?) coffee shop & bar downtown until I showed up. We tossed around the idea of going up to Virginia, maybe Busch Gardens, but the weather forecast proved that unwise. Low on inspiration, we loaded up Google maps, and the first thing to catch my eye from the satellite summary of the southeast was the Outer Banks. The fringe of the state. Kitty Hawk’s name stuck out, so I suggested it and we agreed. We ate a well-priced (read: cheap) meal and had an odd beer at an urban-feeling, charmingly run-down cafe down the street, dropped her car off at my parents place, loaded ourselves securely into the van, and at around 1 AM Saturday morning, began the 3.5 hour drive to Kitty Hawk.

She slept most of the way down, though she refused to sleep in the bed in the back. I fought to keep my eyes open, but we survived and at around 5 AM, crossed into Kitty Hawk. The GPS on my phone, having been given only the town’s name as a destination, lead us to a surprisingly residential area and decided its job was done. I steered the van around some back roads, eyes out for a place to sleep, but eventually we found our way back to civilization and parked in a lot. Helpful hint for you aspiring van-dwellers: in an unfamiliar town, look for a Walmart. You should have no problems sleeping the night in their lot. If that fails, as it did in Kitty Hawk, a big parking lot for a store that’s un-mall-like is a good runner-up. A grocery store would probably work nicely. Couldn’t hurt to have a store that opens later in the morning, so if you do get kicked out, you at least get to sleep in a little first. If you can find one that has commercial vehicles, that ought to do you well, because it won’t be unusual to see vehicles parked there overnight. I found a furniture store that had several branded vans parked in a row at the edge of the lot. We just joined the pack, a couple spots down, like the estranged cousin of the van family. It was raining and a little chilly- perfect. We blocked out all the windows and slept comfortably, instantly, and for a long time.

The weekend was awesome. A couple highlights in pictures:

Kristin on the Staircase at Currituck Beach Light House

Kristin on the Staircase at Currituck Beach Light House

 

 pretty girl atop currituck beach lighthouse

Kristin atop Currituck Beach Lighthouse

 

Brushing one's teeth when van living often involves a public restroom

Brushing one's teeth when van living often involves a public restroom. I captured the moment when we ate breakfast at Stack 'Em High.

Girl sporting a raincoat

We wanted to run around on the beach, but it was raining. Kristin put a raincoat on over her swimsuit. Bloody adorable.

 

adventure in outer banks: jumping off sand dunes at jockeys ridge

Running for the edge of the cliff at Jockey's Ridge

 

animation of us jumping off the dunes at the outer banks

An animation of us jumping off the dunes at Jockey's Ridge

Things we did: climbed a lighthouse, ran around on the beach, filled every crevice of our bodies with sand jumping off the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge, ate cheap breakfasts and an expensive dinner, went to a nut store called Try My Nuts, tried their nuts, introduced music to each other, watched The Lion King in a theater, and officially, and with a touch of ceremony, reestablished our relationship.

On another note, Friends, I have potentially upsetting news. I am casually home hunting. I love living in the van, but I miss having a place to work, like on music or writing or programming, and the van isn’t quite big enough to accommodate that. I haven’t decided if and when I’ll stop vanliving, but I am actively looking for a more stable (read: immobile) home. Don’t worry- it may be months before I move out, so there will plenty more vanliving posts to come. I’ve also, on the advice of a friend, decided to try and update this thing once a week on Sundays. So check back this upcoming Sunday for what I did the weekend after the one described in this post. Teaser: it has hot videos of me shirtless… haha. NoButSeriously.

Love.

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Eating in a van

As promised, this post throws out a bit about how I eat. If you’re expecting nifty, cost- and space-efficient, back-road shortcuts to cooking up good meals, are you ready to be disappointed? I almost entirely eat out. In fact, I kid you not, exactly as I typed that last sentence, an enormous burger was set down in front of me at the restaurant at which I now sit.

I have a box of pasta, a couple packets of ramen, a bottle of good olive oil, and some spices sitting in one of my storage bins in my van. I have some light cooking gear. But I haven’t used it. In fact, the closest I’ve come to cooking is adding Frank’s Red Hot sauce from my own stash to the food I’ve bought elsewhere. The cost-efficiency of my diet is probably my van-life’s biggest failure so far. I’m not eating particularly unhealthily, but I would guess I average around $7 for lunch and around $6 for dinner. Yes, I spent more money on lunch- I tend to eat out with my coworkers, and we go to decent, white-collar-lunch type places. When I eat dinner, which I sometimes don’t, I tend to get, for example, the sub of the day from Harris Teeter, which is around $3, or two slices from Slice of Life (best pizza downtown, possibly the best in Wilmington, though I’d have to have it side-by-side with Vito’s from Wrightsville Beach to say for sure) for about 5$.

Breakfast, though, I’m proud of. For the past couple weeks, as often as I can, I get a regionally farmed peach, locally roasted coffee, and a locally baked bagel from a hippy-ish grocery store called Carolina Farmin’ (there is no “g”). It costs a little over two bucks, tastes good, aint too bad for me, and is good for society, dammit. I beleive that beats McDonald’s breakfast on, oh, about every dimension. And I never ate that good a breakfast when I lived in an apartment.

And now, a confession. Every Thursday, for the past 5 weeks, in exchange for free dinner and drinks, I’ve done something of which I am quite ashamed. I have watched the television atrocity “Jersey Shore”. I know. I’m sorry. I attend a weekly viewing party thrown by a rotating set of my coworkers, and they serve food and drinks. I go, I enjoy the dining and the company, and I watch the show. I’ve made it clear that I’m only there for the food, which everyone seems surprisingly okay with. Still, they’re starting to think I secretly like the show, and I can’t really blame them – I mean, I keep showing up. But I really don’t like the show. It makes me sad, or angry, that it exists. Every week, at the end of the show, belly full and hunger forgotten, I tell myself, ‘this is it; this is the last week. This show is making me dumber, and it’s not worth it.’ But every week, I get out of band practice on Thursday night, and I have the choice of eating alone in the van and going to sleep, or going to warm, rowdy shindig and eating and drinking with people I like.  What would you do?

Anyway, van life’s good. It’s still getting cooler, which as a van-liver, I love. Sleeping in on the weekend used to be a problem- that is, the problem is that I couldn’t because it would get too hot. Today, I slept in till almost 11 before the heat woke me up. Grand.

In other news, while I’ve still never been told to move, today I got my first parking ticket. I forgot that downtown, the meter’s still kick in on Saturday mornings. Fifteen bucks. Oh well.

Love.

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Update on the roof-jumper

Update: I’m sorry to report that the man did in fact take his life. The story here: http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20110903/ARTICLES/110729782/0/news0101 . Two interesting comments from readers of the article:

“I was told this person had been recently released from The Oaks and was upset over his girlfriend and waited until she was present to jump. Also there were bystanders that were yelling “Jump” that seemed to be in disbelief when he did.”

and, from a different commenter:

“This man that took his own life is my son. And before his heart and mind became troubled, he was a bright, funny, handsome, loving, sweet person. His loss in our lives leaves our hearts crushed. May you hold your loved ones tighter and say a prayer for mine.”

I debated with myself as to whether or not the cold logic of yelling “jump” was reasonable- the logic, perhaps, being that a society without sympathy for the suicidal would have less suicidal people, or even that if a person wants to commit suicide, why stop them? In light of the events of Friday night, I think there may be less to be said for that logic than for compassion.

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Wilmington rooftop suicide negotiation (google, you getting this?)

SEO people, what do you think, any juicy keywords in this title? Suggestions? Haha. Non-SEO people, please ignore this. More on that potential suicide in a sec.

I have reason to beleive there’s an E-harmony first date occurring at the table in front of me at port city java. Is it going to be magic? Is it going to be like the commercials? Well, it started at 11 AM in a coffee shop so … who knows. Maybe that’s one of their dimensions of compatibility: a dry appreciation of non-romantic dates. Ha. Just kidding, couple-in-front-of-me, if you ever read this. I hope you guys got married and such.

So, the meat of this post: some friends and I watched a rooftop suicide negotiation – seriously – for about an hour last night. It was downtown. The potential jumper was atop the library parking garage, on the little square of concrete at the corner of the guard-wall. From what we could hear him yell at the negotiator, he was discharged military, had recently broken-up with an ex-fiance, and had, earlier that night, put his fist through a window that did not belong to him, an act for which he now feared he’d go to jail. He also said that in Iraq (I beleive), he’d seen most of his platoon die.

The feeling of watching this was new, and it was strange. First off, it’s strange to watch what you know may be someone dieing. I had a reflexive desire to act, to prevent his death, but because the man was choosing to die, I also had a small instinct to turn away, to give him privacy, despite his being on a public building downtown on a Friday night in a port/tourist/college town. Given that, it was strange how small a crowd gathered. Maybe 20 folk who stayed to watch for more than a few minutes. We were there for at least an hour before we were finally ushered away by cops (I’m not sure if we were legally required to leave or not- if anyone knows, I’d be curious to hear it).

It’s also strange to see a presumably-intoxicated person tell a cop what to do for once. “Back up. Don’t fucking come any closer,” etc. His threats became more dramatic at one point. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something very similar to “I went to states in high school for swimming- you want to see how well I can swan dive?”. Evidently, he also had some simple demands met- we saw him instruct the cops not to move as he climbed down and picked up a cigarette, presumably tossed to him by the police.

I had mixed feeling about our fellow crowd members. The first shout we heard was “jump!”. It came from someone leaving a nearby bar. Cops quickly went over to have a word with the man (again though, I wonder if they had any legal authority to shut him up. Is shouting counterproductive things to a suicidal man during a police intervention considered protected speech?) Over the course of our watch, we saw and heard several more shouts of “jump” or “just do it”. We also heard a short chorus of “don’t do it”s, and some “there’s other fish in the sea” or “there’s other things to live for”. There were criticisms of the cops, in one instance ending with a very loud “fucking pigs”. At one point, in response to a shout of something like “get down man”, the suicidal ex-soldier flicked off the crowd and shouted “you don’t know me!” or similar, and a man who could not retrieve his car from the parking garage went on a short spout about “whooping his [the suicidal gent's] ass”. A group of fellow-witnesses broke into a few lines of “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind (“I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend…”). There was a short public prayer.

Finally, as a person who believes in a God, fate, and that in almost every so-called coincidence, no matter how minuscule, lies some significance, it was strange to reflect on my day leading to that moment. I had spent some time considering the book “How We Decide” (Jonah Lehrer) at a copy shop, for example – a book, to quote it’s introduction, “about how the human mind – the most complicated object in the known universe – chooses what to do” (The introduction, by the way, is an anecdote about a pilot making a life-or-death decision when one of his engines fails). I had listened to “Gravity” by John Mayer (though, to be fair, I listened to “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” first). But, really, the thing that gave me pause was this: My friends and I, directly before going out, had watched the episode of The Office wherein Michael Scott, to demonstrate that workplace safety is a serious issue, faked a suicide threat – and here’s the kicker – by climbing to the building’s roof and threatening to jump. In the episode, he has a bouncy-castle hidden behind a corner of the building, thinking he can jump safely onto it for theatrical effect. When its discovered, he has to be convinced not to, as the fall would still probably kill him. Think, then: how often does one watch a television show in which one of the characters threatens a particular form of suicide, then goes on to witness, in real life, an individual threatening the same form of suicide? Except for a handful of people in particular professions, I’d wager, not often.

I don’t know if he jumped. If I had to guess (gun to my head, if you’ll forgive the phrase), I’d say he didn’t. He was up on that ledge for a long time: perhaps all he needed was for several people to take his life deadly serious for a few hours. Who doesn’t? Anyway, I can’t find anything in the local news about it. If anyone knows, or finds out, please let me know.

And then, a quick update on van-life: I miss having a spot to work. If I want to play keys, I have to either haul my rig into a coffee shop, or sweat it out in the van. If I want to work on my laptop after 11pm, when the last coffee shop I’m aware of closes, I have to either go to a bar or work from the van, and then, race the laptop’s battery. On the up side, the van is getting much more comfortable at night – I’ve even woke up chilly a few mornings (a very welcome discomfort), and have taken to using the comforter instead of just a sheet. I’ve also become almost completely at ease with choosing a spot to park and sleep – it’s no longer any stress.

I know I promised I’d talk about food this post, but the events of last night proved much more interesting. Next post, I guess. And, if you were curious, the couple in front of me is now locked into a soul-searching stare, fingers entwined, speaking only in whispers.

Just kidding. They’re talking about cell-phone software. Catch up with you soon.

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Windy pros and fuzzy cons to living in a van

Hey guys, sorry for the hiatus.

This past weekend, for a short few hours, Wilmington was  host to the would-be destructive force of hurricane Irene. The week prior, as she loomed closer and closer, an ominous cherry-red icon on tv’s and computer screens everywhere, my friends grew concerned for me. Where will you go? They said. You cannot stay in your van! Ah, but I can, because of this significant bonus to living in a vehicle:

(drum roll)

It moves! Haha. I just drove to Charlotte. Sunny skies all weekend. My mobile advantage would’ve been even more poignantly illustrated, had the hurricane’s impact on Wilmington actually been more significant than a few downed power lines. But however weak it was, it’s still interesting that a generally negative thing – a potential natural disaster – brings to light the best advantages of my current living situation.  This weekend also illustrated that a generally positive thing can illustrate one of my living situation’s significant flaws.

Charlotte was fun. I stayed with an ex and old friend of mine (yes, the same one, for those of you paying attention). Saturday morning, after breakfast at Cafe 100 (I beleive it’s called; I highly recommend it), my host and I wandered around a townhouse complex, exploring unfinished construction and the woods behind it almost like children (I live in a van- what made you think I ever grew up?). We snuck into a forest like space enclosed by kudzu on one side, hopped over tiny streams, examined bugs and leaves and slapped mosquitoes, and dirtied up a good pair of khaki’s, probably beyond washing clean. I have no regrets.

As we were trying to feed a caterpillar we had caught to a giant spider, my friend noticed a sound not unlike a cat’s meow. I insisted it was a bird or insect of some sort, and she insisted it was a very small kitten. To aid us in settling the debate, she nominated the option of throwing a brick from the nearby pile in its direction. A bird, she reasoned, would fly away. I talked her down to pebbles- she threw and we waited, and the meowing continued. Intrigued by this pebble-resistant, meowing creature, I found a sort-of path, unobscured by bushes and trees, that lead generally towards the sound. As we drew nearer, I expected the sound to stop, as the creature heard us and became frightened, but it did no such thing, and so before long, I was 5 yards away from, and exchanging a mutually curious look with, a very tiny kitten. My friend, I shit you not.

Allow me to put my masculinity in a very dark box for a second and tell you that my immediate reaction was “AWWWWWWWWWWW, KITTTTY!!!!!!”

The kitten was scared of us. But not very. He would approach within three or four feet, then run away if we made any sort of movement. But eventually…

The tiny Kitten standing next to a shoe, which dwarfs it.

We had him. As we found him surviving alone in the wilderness, we thought it appropriate to name him Bear Grylls. So we did. Then we bought him kitten formula and canned food and litterbox-sand. He is our Bear. We feed him Bear food. Lulz.

This awesome event presents a con to living in a van. My friend gets to keep Bear at her place, hours away from Wilmington. Her reaction?

Bear Grylls the kitten on my friend

Bear Grylls the kitten has conquered a small mountain range

Next post, I’ll explain how I eat, as this seems to intrigue a lot of you. Thanks for reading, Love.

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Guests in the van

You read that right. This weekend, I had company.

But first, a little catching up. The gym was closed part of last week, so I’ve been using the beach’s public hose/outdoor shower head. I need to reiterate (if indeed I ever iterated it in the first place) how great it is to wake up, open a door, and stumble across the dunes – the sand is so soft on the south end, like powder, I’d love to know why that is – and into the ocean. Fresh from the illogical plots and impossible scenes in my dreams, and from having spent the night in a small, dark box, the sand-and-ocean landscape feels surreal and immense. It’s almost like stepping from one dream into another. If the water isn’t chilly enough to shock me awake from it, getting into the water amplifies the aura. This morning, the surf was as cold as it’s been so far, but as flat as I’ve ever seen it, and the beach as lonely. It was like wading into a pond that just happens to never end. I think starting your day feeling like an infinitely small speck in an enormous, hypnotic chaos is, if nothing else, worth trying once or twice.

It certainly makes shaving seem more peaceful.

Mike shaves outside at a public beach

No sink? I'll just shave with the hose.

So, on to the excitement. I had sleepovers!

It’s funny. When I first decided to do this, people, who thought they were just the cleverest of people, kept asking “What will happen when you want to bring a girl home?” First off, faux-clever people, what do you take me for, some kind of wild free-love hippy, with harems of free-spirited nymphs constantly threatening to knock down my door? …Well, actually, I could see why you’d make that mistake. But I’m not a sew-my-wild-oats kinda guy, at least not compared to most guys in my generation. So this issue didn’t really concern me. I just figured that if I ever did find a girl I fancied enough to have a romp with, we’d go to her place, or she’d be like enough to me to recognize how awesome my van experiment is, and be at least willing to give it a try. Or, best-case scenario, she’d be like enough to me that when I said “So listen, here’s the thing: I live in a van,” she’d respond, “well then, your van or mine?”. Eh, scratch that, too eerie.

Anyway, it turns out, I was right. This weekend saw three guests in my van. Each guest got a little bigger taste of what it’s like to live life like me, and what it would be like to live life with me.

The first was early this week. A friend and I had a drink downtown. When I drove her back to her car, she asked if perhaps she could take a quick nap to make sure she was sober enough to drive. I, being a southern gentleman (coughhacksureyouare), agree’d, of course, and insisted she use the bed. The nap was short and the guestship surface-level, but the point is this: for the first time, someone other than myself slept in my van.

The second guest was an old, old buddy of mine named John, who lives in Raleigh (about 2 hours away). I got a call from him while still at work Friday afternoon- he had no plans, and thought maybe I was good for some. Well, he was right- that night promised to be a beer-soaked night on the town to celebrate a coworker’s birthday. I told him as much, in work-friendly code, and he said he might come out.

“But sir,” I reminded him, “I live in a van.”

“No problem, I’ll just lean the front seat back and crash there.”

Long story short, he did come out, and he did crash in the van, though I opted to take the front seat (wasn’t so bad). That night had a lot of memorable scenes (the night’s promise was fulfilled), but for me, the most stand-out of them all was John and I, lounging in the area of the van in front of the bed but behind the front seats, parallel parked directly in the middle of downtown’s club scene, having a beer and catching up. Another reason living in a van is awesome: starting off the night with a drink and friendly conversation in the privacy of your own home, then opening your front door and walking right into the party.

Finally, the third, most anticipated guest showed up Saturday afternoon. She is an ex and an old friend of mine, and though we talk on the phone more than rarely, this was our first time hanging out since I graduated College at the start of summer. I met her in a parking lot.

We spent the rest of the weekend together, hanging out at the beach, downtown, and in coffee shops watching Wilfred on Hulu. We slept in the van Saturday night, and then, for both of our sakes, split a hotel Sunday night.

The clever people asked me, “Mike, what will you do when you want to take a girl home?” Why go home? The beach is beautiful in the moonlight.

Love.

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Seizures give me headaches

I spelled “seizures” correctly first try. Self-props.

So I spent some of the weekend in Raleigh. I rode around Raleigh in the van with some old-as-dirt friends, which was as awesome as it was expensive. I’ve averaged about 15 mpg in the old bear of those times I’ve kept track, but on my last 20 gallons, I only got 13.5. In terms of cost efficiency, I’m thinking maybe I’d be better off with a tent and a scooter.

Sunday night was interesting. I went to see another old friend perform with his new band. I parked downtown near Moore Square, which sketched me out just a bit, because I don’t really know how safe my van is in that area. It was around 11 pm. As I locked up and walked to the venue, I was just a hair on edge. I was soon distracted from any worry. Some guy down the street, in front of the bus stop, started yelling to me, calmly but urgently, saying “This woman is having a seizure.” Ah, good.

I ran up. The woman had fallen against a 2-3 foot high, foot-wide brick wall that lines a dirt plot, and the man, who did not know the woman, was straining to support her, to keep her from falling into it, in which case she would’ve essentially been resting her weight on her lower back, with the brick wall acting as a fulcrum. I helped him lay her down as best we could along the wall. In a few minutes, she came out of the seizure, eyes open but completely unresponsive. We tried to communicate with her, but in about 30 seconds, she went into another seizure. The man who had flagged me called 911. When the EMT’s arrived, she was just coming down from the second seizure- shorter but more violent than the first. This time, she was responsive- or at least conscious. I left, my hands unnervingly greasy from where I’d cradled her head. Then I saw my buddy’s band play. Weird, right?

Anyway, I drove back to Wilmington and slept in that shopping center parking lot again last night, no big deal. I’ve had a killer headache building for the past couple hours. Gonna call it a night. Night, mates.

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Teenagers staring at me in bed

I wonder if this experience is gonna fade away quickly, like a boring afternoon, or if it’ll stick with me as some sort of turning point or adventure. I wonder if I’ll ever tell my children or their children about this. “Grandpa once lived in a big rolling box called a van, back before we genetically engineered flying super-horses!” Seriously, can we breed some extremely hay-efficient, high-speed horses? I gotta believe hay would be cheaper than gas, and the environmental consequences of horse-shit easier to deal with than whatever the hell comes out of my tailpipe.

Anyway, it’s been almost a full week. I’m in the white-hot middle of my first full weekend in the van. First, a recap of what’s transpired since my post on Monday:

My first night downtown, Monday night,  was absolutely painless, and I really hope that’s a precedent. I hope that the night after that night, with its uncomfortable oddness, was a rare inconvenience. That night, Tuesday night, I had my spot, parallel parked on a quiet street in an offices-and-such area. I had drawn my blinds, hung up the bedsheet I use as a curtain to hide me from the front half of the van and anyone who might peer in from up there, and was about to crash (poor choice of words, perhaps, for someone who lives in a vehicle). Before I did, I pulled aside the curtain and looked out the front windshield. Three teenagers were staring at me.

Okay, that was a bit of sensationalism. What they were really doing was sitting and smoking cigarettes, almost in unison, in a neat row, on the edge of the bed of a black pick-up truck about forty yards in front of me. They were indeed staring, intently- but at the van. Whether they could see me, I will never know, but they never moved or broke their stare as long as I had that curtain pulled aside to see. This may not seem that odd to you, but I tell you, it was a strange thing to see from one’s bed, even given the circumstances. They were arranged so evenly and postured so identically- unmoving, except to raise and lower their cigarettes. They did not appear to speak to one another; all three simply stared at me. It called to mind the twins from The Shining, or the three hockey demons from Dogma.

They must have been harmless, because they left after an uncomfortable little stretch of time.  I found myself unable to fall asleep until a good bit after they left.

Wednesday night, after a fun bit of karaoke with some friends, I slept in the parking lot of a shopping center, which went smoothly. I swam in the ocean that morning, which had a very soothing effect on my small hangover. The next night, I was somehow talked into watching the Jersey Shore season opener at a friend’s place, which was mind-numbing and regrettable, though I enjoyed the company. Afterward, I spent the night in a guest parking spot at her apartment complex. Surfed that next morning with some of the band. Friday night, last night, I played a show downtown at 16 taps (soon to be called the Pour House Wilmington, I beleive- good venue), and afterward, I went swimming with a friend at her pool, and I spent the night at her place (nothing scandalous). I admit: falling asleep in air conditioning, for the first time all week, was quite nice.

When I swim or surf in the morning, at least so far, I bathe afterward using the hose on the south end of Wrightsville. It’s weird to put shampoo and body wash on myself without an enclosure of some sort, or privacy. Though I wear my swimsuit, I feel naked. It’s like I can’t mentally separate the idea of nudity from these actions that I have taken almost exclusively in the nude since I popped into the world 23 years ago. Being on the edge of a mid-sized parking lot amplifies the feeling, I’m sure. You should try it; I’d be curious to see if other people felt the same thing.

Also, the van might just be getting me in shape. I have worked out in some way every morning since I moved into the van, because then I don’t feel weird about using the gym showers. It has me thinking that maybe, as a rule, taking away some basic comfort of your life might tend to produce some other positive enhancement to it- that my case isn’t just circumstantial. Just a hypothesis. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Unless you’re an asshole.

Might spend tonight in Raleigh with some old friends. I’ll hit you guys up with some pictures and a tour and such soon, I promise. Love.

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One day in, not dead yet

Yesterday, it happened. I moved out of my apartment and into my van.

I slept in a residential area near the beach. I fell asleep almost instantly and slept soundly until my alarms woke me this morning. This morning (I’m still counting today as Monday, even though it’s 12:30 AM on Tuesday- so, anyway, Monday morning:), I woke up, went and jogged, and even lifted a bit, at the gym, showered, shaved, and went to work. When I left, I grabbed dinner from an organic salad bar type place with a friend, drove downtown, walked along the river for a while while talking to an old friend/ex, and am currently doing laundry at a very cool music venue/bar/laundromat called The Soapbox. The Soapbox, to ice the cake, even has wifi. Without this place, my experiment would be significantly less fun. Tonight, I’ll sleep near downtown, a place secluded enough that I hope not to bother or be bothered by anyone, but populous enough that I don’t fear harm. And, it is a place close enough to the Cape Fear that, for tonight, yes, I can say it- God knows I’ve heard it referenced enough these past few weeks. I live in a van down by the river.

So. The technical aspects work thus far. Sweet.

The initial emotional aspect was a bit unexpected. I mean, I knew it’d be different, to get off of work and have nowhere defined as home. Nowhere to go. But, much like love and boobies, actually feeling it is a good bit different than you imagined before you’d felt it.

When you don’t have anything to do when you get off work, or get done with classes, where do you go? Home. Why?

The pause you may have before you can put the answer(s) to that into words is sort of like the pause I felt when I left work today. I mean, I was hungry, so I knew I was going to get food, but then what? What fills the time between food and sleep, the free time? I very much felt the weight of that question mark.

But that’s part of the point. The question has become “What do I do?” instead of “Where do I go?”, because the answer to where I go depends entirely on what I want to do. And because there’s no longer a place where I can sit and watch tv half-naked for three hours, the what-I-do should begin to improve. What I do in my free time has been brought sharply into focus. If I want to waste my life away, I must literally point my van towards that wastehood and drive myself there. And that, I hope, will be a deterrent. I hope.

I hope that the small drama of finding my sleeping spot, of dealing with life without the comfort of a electricity and running water behind lock and key, does not instead become my excuse. ‘Sure, all I did was watch Hulu at the coffee shop all day- I mean, c’mon, I live in a van, what am I gonna do?’ To hell with that. If that becomes my routine, someone please come slap me in the face.

Anyway, enough disciplined thought for now, I suppose. I’m going to have a beer and watch an episode of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” (seriously? yes) and get some sleep. By the way, if you’d like to watch a sorta blaire-witch-ish video of my face talking to you from the van during my first night, ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out: http://youtu.be/Q8rtE72m-9k . But I legit won’t be offended if you wouldn’t. I’d actually almost rather you didn’t. Love.

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