Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Two original songs

These original songs have been in my repertoire for a few years and I have made numerous audio tape versions with friends, but never video taped them. At my friend Jim's insistence, he wanted to tape them and show them on YouTube. He is an organist at a local church and we go there from time to time to jam. He digitally records each jam session and liked the following two songs upon re-listening and asked me to make a video of them. The videos were shot in my new place. The ceiling is high and room almost bare, explaining the echoey nature of the sound, which I happen to like.

Here's the videos. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Updatus maximus

I'm still without a permanent address, though those days are more briefly numbered than I might have planned. This afternoon I am looking at a room above the Fargo Theatre in downtown DeKalb. I've been interested in this locale since spending an afternoon with a friend of a friend in one of those rooms back in 2002. As it turns out, the room available for rent is the same room.

I won't go into particulars now, but it seems to be a cool place with a deceptive amount of room. Of course, it is a rooming house set-up, with shared bathrooms and kitchen, but if I remember right, the room available is set off by itself and has a sleeping loft. I've always wanted one of those since living in a loft apartment in Antigo, WI, lo 10 years gone by. And while my old loft digs in Antigo were in an old train depot, my prospective place looks out on a depot.

In other news, all of my paperwork is in order and I'm back on the substitute teaching list in DeKalb. I was kind of bummed out yesterday when I drove by a middle school here in town and saw vehicles in the parking lot. Teachers are getting their classrooms and schedules ready for a busy school year. And here I am, once again, on the outside looking in. But rest assured, peeps, you can't keep a good man down. I'll be teaching and have a classroom of my own to ready in the not-to-distant future. I can either lament how fate dealt me a cruel hand or just pick myself up and keep on plugging away. Easy choice. Not even a choice. I was born for action.

Camping out is still enjoyable. I've found a couple choice spots that I feel confident no one could discover me at, and am still scouting out new spots all the time. Who knew there were so many camp spots in and around DeKalb.

Its been nice to see Jonny often during the week and reuniting with some old friends, many whom didn't even know I left DeKalb.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I've been having fun with Twitter since I got my qwerty keyboard phone about 10 days ago. But I am frustrated that the newest posts are shown first because I've been using Twitter to tell little stories and post quotes from books I'm reading. So those who read my page read an account backwards. I've looked into it to see if I change the order of posts.

A couple ideas I have are to talk about one thing for 10 tweets a day, and to also do an English/ grammar lesson a day in 2-3 tweets. A way around the Twitter posting format is to cut and paste the tweets in the order I want them to be presented here on this blog. Here's Saturday's 10-tweet about my old home.

1. The house was the last house on the left, and it had a creepy vibe 2 it. The kitchen was too small. It had four entrance doors.

2. Spiders were everywhere. Mice invaded the kitchen. I had 2 use poison bait and traps. In the spring an odor of decaying flesh in the walls.

3. There was this stupid little booth off the kitchen with a bench facing a wall. I kept fresh fruit on the table, boxes + bags on bench + flr.

4. The master bdrm was huge and 8 windows looked on serene hillside forest. Deck. Screened in porch. Firepit. Fox River Trail through yard.

5. The livng rm has hardwood floors + a fireplace w/ a brick mantel. I used it often in Nov + Dec, but retreated 2 a small bdrm in Jan.

6. Spectacular sunsets in the fall and winter when leaves off the trees gave a clear view onto the river. Golden rays on whorled wood wall.

7. Rent was so expensive I had no money for entertainment. The Gail Borden library was 1 1/2 miles up the trail. I checked out a lot of DVDs.

8. I sometimes felt the presence of someone else and heard strange noises at night. The place wore an air of unhappiness like a shawl

9. I saw my next door neighbor, an age 90+ man, only once. Butch and Julie lived across the street. We exchanged pleasantries now and again.

10. I realize now how isolated and lonely I'd become living there and, in spite of the quiet and natural beauty, am glad to be gone.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Recent pictures of Jonny taken with my phone

As I'm slowly acclimating to my new phone and discovering how to use its dizzying array of features (and this is the cheap, no-frills phone), I figured out how to post pictures I take with it. Who knew I could use the phone to e-mail people too? Ain't that neat. The bottom picture is the best of Jonny. The other two are blurrier. C'est la vie.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A short bibliography on indigence

If you count the two thru-hikes I've taken in the past 9 years, this is my fourth stint at voluntary homelessness. why voluntary? Because I have enough money to rent a room or small apartment. I just used Amazon to compile a short (30 titles) bibliography on the subject of homelessness. I picked from memoirs and sociological texts. My tentative plan is to write about the topic and incorporate these other works into a first-person account of my experiences with homelessness.

I tend to glorify the condition because I actually enjoy the challenges and greater connection to nature that homelessness brings me. Those addicted to drugs, the mentally ill, and homeless families face worser travails than I. There is no way for them to romanticize their condition and little hope for a way out of it. I acknowledge the novelty in which I treat the subject. This novelty is now turning to research.

I've got 11 minutes left at the library's computers. I will order 3 titles through interlibrary loan when my time runs out. Any titles I've collected that don't fit in this timeline will be posted to my Twitter page ( ).

Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America's Hoboes -- Ted Conover
American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers, and Bullriders -- Richard Grant

One More Train to Ride: The Underground World of Modern American Hoboes -- Cliff (Oats) Williams

Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America -- Todd DePastino

Down and Out, On the Road: The Homeless in American History -- Kenneth L. Kusmer

The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked - 21st Century Edition -- Ernie J. Zelinski

Making Room: The Economics of Homelessness -- Brendan O' Flaherty

Voices from the Street: Truths about Homelessness from Sisters of the Road -- Jessica P. Morrell

Ragnar's Guide to the Underground Economy -- Ragnar Benson

My 30 Days Under the Overpass: Not Your Ordinary Devotional -- Mike Yankoski

The Irresistable Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical -- Shane Claiborne

Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America -- Mike Yankoski

Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women -- Elliott Lebow

Reckoning with Homelessness (The Anthropology of Contemporary Issues) -- Kim Hopper

The Visible Poor: Homelessness in the United States -- Joel Blau

Down on their Luck: A Study of Homeless Street People -- David A. Snow

Down and Out in America: The Origins of Homelessness -- Peter H. Rossi

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The art and science of stealth camping

I've been put in a bind as my search for another teaching job enters its final month. I moved out of the house I was renting in Elgin on July 31, but cannot commit to a lease on a new place because I still hold out hopes of getting a teaching job somewhere, anywhere.

And I was going to stay with Esther and Jonny, but her landlord told her she couldn't have any additional tenants. I can still stay there a couple night a week or if the weather is horribly bad, but anything long-term is out of the question. Plus, her place is too small for three people. I feel cooped up when I'm over there.

Of course, I could stay in hotels or find other friends, but I've decided on a fun alternative that 99.9 percent of the population would shun. I've opted to be homeless. I'm renting a small storage unit for $35 a month that I have ready access to 24/7. Most of the month I've been camping out in and around DeKalb.

For more about stealth camping, check out the following links: -- This is a good site that explains the rationale for stealth camping on long-distance hikes or bike trips. -- Agglutination has posted four videos on his stealth camping experiences. This videos show the sights and sounds of stealth camping.

I'm not going to go into great detail about where I camp (it would detract from the "stealthiness" of it), but do show a Google map image of my favorite area.

View Larger Map

The key to good stealth camping is to scout out a good site during the day and mark the spot either with a ribbon, a colorful bandanna, or some other conspicuous marker that can be spotted at night, preferably without headlamp. Also ask the following questions: Are people likely to come around at night? Am I out of sight of any houses, roads, or trails? Are there any wild animals that might disturb my nocturnal peace? Can I enter the site inconspicuously?

Once this criteria is established, go about your business until night time, then find your site and settle in as quietly as possible. This method is so simple it's stupid. I think the biggest thing to overcome is the fear of being discovered, but if you follow best practices this fear is unfounded. Simply put: Most urban and suburbanites don't notice details of the world beyond the reach of their arms. They are blissfully unaware of their surroundings.

I've also had to get used to the night sounds of suburbia: trains, the low hum of traffic punctuated now and again by squealing tires and brakes, ambulance and police sirens, and the sounds of music and people talking being carried on the wind. Animals also make noises, mostly mice and other small mammals scurrying through the brush. Suburban woods are rife with deer. One of my nights a buck tried to roust me out with loud snorting. One of my stealth spots was besides a gently gurgling creek, so other noises were shunted to the background.

One downside to stealth camping is the need to break camp swiftly and quietly around first light. Most people don't like to be up this early. It's not a problem for me because I love to greet the sunrise and listen to birdsong as the world slowly awakens. There's no better way to start the day. Another downside is the lack of bathroom facilities in or near camp. I'm one of those people who wakes up needing to evacuate solid wastes, so I have to squelch the turtlehead until camp is broken. A third problem to stealth camping is getting to the site without alerting those who see you en route to your intentions. I pack my tent, sleeping bag and ditty into my GoLite Breeze rucksack and ride my bike through side streets as much as possible. I even have an excuse if I'm questioned about carrying a larger than normal pack around town: I'm on my way to do laundry. A final downside is the inability to have a fire (unless you have a really out of the way spot with an already established ring). I make up for this by lighting a few tea candles. It provides some of the flickery ambience of a camp fire.

Thru-hiking has spoiled me forever from camping in the third world tenements that comprise most campgrounds. I also heed the words of venerable thru-hiker BillyGoat, who told me once, "I only camp in places where no one else has camped before." This method, combined with a before bedtime urination around the camp site, prevents the likelihood of critters disturbing your slumber.

I do not recommend stealth camping for people not steeped in the ideology of Leave No Trace. I take pains to leave my site cleaner than I found it, picking up any errant trash and fluffing up the vegetation after I've lain on it.

So far, so good. I'll give an update if I'm hsuled in for trespassing or vagrancy.