Day 17: Survivalism

From greatest to least in order of possessions, we have: RV-ing, car camping, pack and camp with livestock, bivouac camping, and finally, Survivalism. 

Camping is something you do for enjoyment, and as such you inevitably have to strike a balance between extracting the benefits of nature and sacrificing the comforts of a domicile. Usually, it’s a simple matter of finding your comfort level and matching your activity to it. If the smell of fresh air and authentic sounds of nature is all you care for, but you are not about to give up a night without a mattress, there is a conventional way to do so. If all you need is food, water, and to stay dry, there is a conventional means to achieve that, as well. 

I have taken my chances in the wilderness travelling by foot, carrying nothing aside from the contents of my pockets. It’s certainly a spiritual experience if nothing else! Thirsty? Just where are you going to find water if you don’t have a map? Are you going to find it before you suffer debilitating dehydration? If you find water, is it going to be safe to drink, or are you going to get giardia? Food? Let’s see, there’s berries you probably can’t eat, rabbits you can’t get closer than 20 feet to, and if you happen to find water there’s a chance it will lead to fish at some point downstream, but then you will have to figure out how to catch them (hint: probably not your bare hand). Then, assuming you do manage to get food, what do you expect to do with it? You may want to cook it, although if you have the fortune of fish, it’s not entirely unpalatable raw-I even hear it’s popular in some cultures! What about shelter? Hyper and hypothermia are very real concerns in a matter of 24 hours or less when you don’t have so much as a garbage bag to cover yourself with! At some point, it becomes clear that this isn’t an exercise in pleasure. 

Of course, when I venture out like this, I’m doing so knowing how to start a fire with nothing but two sticks, how to make traps and projectile weapons with a single boot lace, and several ways to construct shelters using natural materials and features. Still, you find a new sense of being alive when you realize that you can do so without absolutely anything that must be made available by another human! 

I’m thankful for my sense of life, because no matter what happens to me, I will always know the simplest things- fresh water, clothing, food of any quality, walls and a roof- to be luxuries of society. 

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Day 16: Experience

But first

Are you experienced? 

Ah! Have you been experienced? 

Well, I have 

Hendrix couldn’t have said it any better! 

I’ve seen a rich man beg I’ve seen a good man sin I’ve seen a tough man cry

I’ve seen a loser win and a sad man grin I’ve heard an honest man lie

I’ve seen the good side of bad and the downside of up and everything between

I’ve licked the silver spoon drank from the golden cup and smoked the finest green

I stroked the baddest dimes at least a couple of times before I broke their heart

You know where it ends yo, it usually depends on where you start

Just because I’m a 90’s kid, and the radio still plays the shit out of it, I have to admit I relate. 

I used to have a key chain tag that read, Been There Ate That. Even at the time, it was quite appropriate. Escargot to Rocky Mountain Oysters, lobster and filet mignon to natty ice and a mayonnaise sandwich, fruits whose names I will never remember to salads grown in my own garden, I am pretty much an insatiable gut. The only taste bud limits I’ve ever hit were lobster intestine sushi rolls and limburger cheese. 

Travel. Man, I’ve seen some incredible places. I circled half the US with my high school best friend before I left for boot camp. I got stationed in Okinawa, deployed to mainland Japan and the Phillipines, deployed to the desert via layover in Germany, vacationed in Australia, visited buddies in Seattle, and got stationed in Pendleton for my last bit of the Corps. I tried to go back home to Colorado, but a record (and roof) breaking winter caused me to think twice and instead I went back to Australia to live and work (and get my finger stuck in a ring). After a year there, it was back to Colorado to pick up my truck and belongings for a road trip to Oregon via Shasta and Redwood Forest up the 101. I’ve been everywhere, man, I’ve been everywhere. 

We won’t talk about the sex life! Let’s just say it mimics my taste in music. I am classically trained, and misfortunately conditioned. I can listen to just about anything from Mozart to Megadeth, Lemongrass to Lil Wayne, Tommy James to Thriftworks. 

Activities? Oh, man! Skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, surfing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, mountain climbing, speeding at 130mph, racing dirt bikes… I mean, there’s plenty I haven’t done yet, but I’ve always sought new adventures and taken the opportunities when they come around. 

Substances? Well, enough to know what not to fuck around with! Nota Bene, I am talking all substances, including Bayer and Bacardi! I have decided on a strict policy: if it doesn’t grow, it doesn’t go. Even then, I try to stay away from nicotine and my intake has been much more moderate than in the past. 

If life is about experiences, I can honestly say that I have lived, and today I am thankful for my awareness of the world I live in. 

Day 15: Moral Corporations

I know, it’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? Corporations exist to generate money for their investors by means of fulfilling a need. You know, like your need for an iPhone 10.

However, there are the exceptions. I suppose most of them are so because they start out specifically removing the whole ‘generate money for their investors’ part and focus on fulfilling the need. 

My girl bought me a pint of ice cream, it was a limited run dubbed One Love. The front label said it was banana ice cream, and my tongue instantly repelled the thought of artificial banana flavor. Ugh! Seriously, I am traumatized by artificial banana flavor. Firstly because it’s fucking gross, and secondly because I actually know how to make anything banana flavored without any bananas. Thanks, Chemistry 220! And third, because it’s fucking gross. I bring myself to put a spoonful in my mouth, and the taste just wasn’t right there. I registered cold, then something reminding me of a sweet bread taste, then finally as it melted I could distinguish a banana taste. I look at the back of the label, and a few short ingredients down I see bananas. Like, pulled out of a yellow shell, tossed into the mixer as other ingredients go in, ba-na-nas. It wasn’t the best ice cream flavor I will admit, but that’s beside the point. I appreciate a corporation like Ben & Jerry’s for their moral compass pointing in the right direction. 

I have been a cog in many of those investor driven machines. At a time in my life when I was living on dollar store food, I even had to attend a big company meeting where the executives were gloating about how all the [ laborers’ ] hard work was saving the company [ increasing their stock margins ] $20 per unit. “So we are all getting a bonus?” I asked assumingly. And joke of the month goes to… 😃😁😀😄  

I am learning more and more about the company that I’ve been involved with since June, and it makes me proud to be a part of their operations. It’s just great to know that some organizations in this world operate on the notion of benefiting society, and let the growth simply respond to the market instead of being pushed for. 

Day 14: Alone Time

I know I already gave thanks for my girl getting a decent job. This morning was her first day of work and the first day in what I sure hope is going to be an upswing in life. Having just one respectable and regularly occurring paycheck will sure make a difference by next month. 

Honestly, though, what I have really been looking forward to is a whole day to myself. I mean the whole workday, freaking 8 or more consecutive hours alone. I love my girl and I love my family, and they sure love me back. It’s just that between the three of them, I literally can’t even punch out a quick email. Do other parents feel that way? I can’t be the only one who wishes the bathroom door was heavy steel with a maximum security lock.  I find that I have to peel myself rudely away from one family member just to have a few minutes with another. I get so burned out on them hanging on me like monkeys, buzzing around the house like rabid wasps, and having volcano sized emotional eruptions. Aye aye aye. 

With entire days of my life back in my own hands, I almost don’t even know what to do with myself. I guess I owe myself a meeting with myself to discuss what to do with all this time to myself! I swear I’m not anti-social or incredibly introverted. I’m just well enough alone and I like my own company. Man, I am so thankful to simply be left the hell alone for a whole workday!

Day 13: The City

The hustle and bustle. The big smoke. Light pollution, noise pollution, sign pollution. Rush hours and traffic jams, smog advisories and snowpocalypse. Ah, the city!

I can understand someone wanting to move to the country because something they love to do doesn’t fit well in the city. I don’t understand people that leave the city because they think there is some kind of lifestyle or experience there they have never experienced before. I chatted with someone on social media and he commented that he wished he had some country living as he was growing up. What the hell for, I had to wonder. I grew up in the country, and it was a whole childhood wasted that I will never get back. 

I have come to believe that the irony of yearning for the country lies in the amount of entertainment available in the city. It is practically shoved down your throat by your friends. Turns out, you don’t even have to have money or a vehicle to have a good time in the city. I suppose that if people are willing to throw money away to simply enjoy absolute silence and darkness in a body of water for 30 minutes, living in the country seems to hold some tangible benefit to one’s sanity.

Being in the country, for me, meant we lived too far from school to participate in after school activities. Forgetting a grocery item meant going without until the next trip into town. It meant having to take an ATV illegally across the highway (read: the highway) to go see my friends. Back before every household had at least one computer, it meant a lot of time alone with your thoughts. It meant needing a hobby to prevent insanity. 

Am I ever so thankful to live in the city! Friends, food, employment, and entertainment can be found a mere 10 minute drive, stumble, or bus ride away. Not having a vehicle does not imply you can’t get somewhere, it implies parking is a pain in the butt. When times are tough, there are always a few doors open in the city. No matter who you are or what you do, there is an opportunity for you.  Additionally, I’m thankful to live in a city that’s just as weird as I am! It’s the only place in the world that I ever felt I belonged. 

Image pirated from stumpedinstumptown

Day 12: Being Wanted

It took all day yesterday to think of something to be grateful for. After I did, I was too occupied to get to blogging it. 

I did seek out some more work this last dry spell. None of those efforts seem to have produced anything. Still, every so often, I get a call to come do more work for folks I’ve been doing business with. Yesterday was one of those occasions, and I scored enough pocket change to keep me going until Wednesday when I am supposed to be getting last week’s pay from some slimy corporation. 

I hung out with a long time friend Saturday night. Aside from the usual, he started talking about a project I had going for a while. This project started one night after class with the inebriated declaration, “dude, ya know what would be so awesome?” That classmate helped me start the project, but he was really just about making money in the end. I kept the project going for two years before deciding I just don’t have the means to push something to market on my own. That project is now housed in a cardboard box that’s buried in my storage unit. Well, it may be packed away but since I put those two years of runtime on it, I’ve apparently gained some kind of notoriety around it.

I admit I get really worn out from feeling wanted. My kids and my girl seem to need every minute of my time that I’m home. I find myself grumbling that I’m the only one that doesn’t get enough of my time. However, I have to admit that wandering in a world where nobody even wants to look at you much less deal with you would be far worse. 

Day 11: Veterans

Being as I am a Vet, I always feel a little off this day of the year. I am thankful for the men and women that served before, after, and alongside my service. 

I mentioned to my good friend that I plan to go enjoy some free food today, and he couldn’t figure out what the occasion was. On the other hand, my girlfriend’s family lost a loved one and even though she has no memory of him, still gets teary about a dozen times throughout the day. 

Sometimes this fact alone illustrates the bipolar mindset that I have regarding my service. I have been more calm and peaceful these last few years than I ever have in my life. However, people that knew me back then just assume that I still have my short fuse, booming voice, demeaning words, and still wear steel toe ass kickers from dawn to dusk. I have worked so hard on not being that person anymore, but sometimes I feel the world picking at me, trying to light my fuse. 

I am thankful for this nation’s veterans. But I guess in the end I am more thankful for those that give thanks. Ten percent off a purchase? A free burger and fries once a year? I really do see that as a little something to offset whatever a receiving veteran might have sacrificed, whether it was 4 years of freedom or more. 

All gave some. Some gave all. 

My thanks to all who have served.