23 flavors

the first thing i'll do when i get home is
stick my feet in boulder creek
'cause he's led me beside stagnate waters
and grass that's greener lingered on the other side

the first thing i'll say when i arrive is
'where is the salsa?'
and 'pass the chips'

but the Lord is my shepherd
so what i want i shouldn't
where i've been i wasn't
and what i've done i haven't

he's restored my preoccupation with the metaphysical
and dogmatically directs my political affiliations for his name's sake

yea, though i may
sleep all day
- my mind might slip -
and my clothes could fray,

i will fear no evil
for night is coming
and, at night,
we shine

your rod and your staff, they
batter my ignorance of pastoral metaphor
the deepest dark is all around, about,

but i don't need a Shepherd
i won't be wanting living all alone
'cause i really only wanted to be home


that one time when we planted a garden

this sign talks about possible future watermelons
(see plant in cage). also featuring grapes (left) and
raspberries (center).
i had a wild idea. i approached the friends and family members with a proposition: what if we planted our very own garden? it would be great, they said. here's how it went down:

in december we selected the plot  - a rectangular section of my parents' backyard in tangent, oregon. this area had been used for gardening before, but was currently growing an enormous crop of weeds.

our task for january was to fill up the garden plot with a thick layer of leaves. luckily, my parents' yard has about a dozen deciduous trees in it. this task had already been done (to some extent) for several previous years. this year, i jumped in and got some of my siblings to help out.

i set up a compost bucket right outside the kitchen window of my parents' house. we were going to need a lot of compost, so we started early. we tried to compost grass clippings and table scraps, but no meat.

we started tilling up the ground in late march. this proved to be a difficult task, as the ground was still significantly mucky. it was also difficult when the gas tiller we were using lit itself on fire. from then on we had the pleasure of tilling using a hoe. it was a great workout.

we started planting in march, but most of the seeds and sprouts that we put in the ground failed to survive the frosts. through this we learned to get specific advice from experienced folks about what to plant when, and not to just trust the vague color-coded maps on the back of the seed packets.

we also got chickens. aren't they cute?
my parents asked us to take them back.

we really got to planting in april. new plants replaced their old, frost-killed comrades. we planted six rows of corn and several cucumbers (spoilers: the cukes didn't make it). the compost pile, newly developed and labelled 'compost, yo', had started to toast its bad self. it smelled gross.

we set down black plastic cover a big area of the yard to create an annex garden, hoping to kill the grass and simultaneously prevent the weeds from spreading their seeds over this area. the idea didn't fully work, but we planted watermelons there anyway. we dug out the ground in the planting spots and replaced it with weed seed-free soil, placing watermelon seeds (and a few more cucumber seeds) a couple of inches deep in it and covering around the plants with our very own compost after they sprouted.

 the peas came out in june. though bunnies had been munching on the sprouts intermittently in the previous months, these deliciously sweet vegetables survived.

at this point, we were mainly focused on watering and weeding the garden. my sister rachel watered most every day. she's quite something, folks. we also started harvesting the peas. they tasted tasty.
a plant tries to grow in our very own garden.
come august, we had begun to set about the business of harvesting tomatoes, beans and basil. eating our very own vegetables gave the feeling of great accomplishment.

note: our garden is currently full of weeds. this is due to a few reasons which we have already identified. we really should have covered the ground more and spent more time weeding early on. the real success of this garden is that we have learned how to succeed more triumphantly next year.

amber weeds tomatoes in our very own garden.
vincent warren comments this week on assange, manning and the importance of the freedom of the press to democracy.



we don't exist

we don't exist in a vacuum, as convenient as that might be. because we're alive and co-habitating on earth, any disconnection we can conjure tends to be of the artificially motivated and anti-humanitarian bent.

you might hear writers, thinkers and speakers articulating a particular human condition as an 'inter-mingling of destinies.'

it's true.

schisms turn to rifts, and erupt into chasms. gravity has a way of working with gale-force winds, and tree-clingers fall, limbs ripped from the icy branches in an awesome display of 'just because.'

houselessness and poverty are states of being which are becoming increasingly ciminalized in the u.s. in cities like boulder, co, sleeping outside is a crime punishable by ticketing. in trendier cities like san francisco and berkeley, california, it is a punishable crime to sit on the sidewalk.

source: endhomelessness.org
cnbc reported "18.4 million vacant homes in the u.s." last year, while the annual homeless assessment report to congress recently reported the documented the emergency shelter stays of 1.6 million houselesss human beings in the states.

there are least eleven open and available houses for every person freezing on these streets.

 houseless people are often considered a problem for which the government is constructing creative solutions - yet survival fires, urban gardening and unlicensed makeshift shelters are almost universally illegal in the states. houseless folks are not hitting bad luck in nature; it's society that's kicking them out and holding them back.

it's true that in the states there are not enough jobs. money is tight; and yet resources are far from scarce.

even though there is enough food to feed them, enough clean water for them to drink and enough sewers to carry away their waste, the poor and houseless are subject to a cycle of supply and demand engineered to maximize profits for landowners.

dec 30: with violent crime still on the rise, the oakland police
department owns up to its true priorities and mobilizes to evict
houseless people from a foreclosed house. flickr: @geekeasy
worse than any economic condition, the enforcement of property ownership has separated those who could not (literally or figuratively) inherit land and scattered many into hiding. a commonly voiced isolationist maxim advocates for living "off the grid," but...

we cannot continue to trust and invest in a system that causes this kind of division. we cannot continue to endorse and proliferate capitalism:

  • because in our system money is no longer "facilitating exchange" in a manner that is beneficial to human beings.
  • because our trees and our soil are not, in fact, capable of withstanding infinite expansion.
  • because the token american export is swiftly detonated explosives.
war and poverty are not so different; both are inflicted by the rich and powerful on the poor and disenfranchised through forcefully insistent intermediaries.
what these two oppressions have in common may be the us empire's ultimate undoing: because the rich insisted on agitating the poor, the class war has already begun.

"a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." - martin luther king jr. (1967)


summer song

under blackberry bridge
where the river does some
summer dance and gently tells 
its autumn plans
—there i want to listen good and long

and if it talks of living small
and smoothing stones in rainy fall,
and when its whispers swell in summer song...

in the canoe canal
where shiftless empty rowboats sway,
insisting they were born this way,
—there my soul is slipping off to sleep;
  drifting into blackberry deep



the job

i was lying on the couch in the trailer at sauvies island listening to a sad, sad song when i realized that i had to quit my job. 13 hrs./day and 6 days/week, i decided, wasn't going to cut it.

it was a tough decision to make, so i slept on it. sometimes you gotta do that. i had this strange feeling that i was making a life-altering bad call, and at the same time i felt sure that quitting the job i had only just started would be best.

after the second night of sleeping on it, i was sure, if uneasy, that i needed to do something else with my time. i called the ceo and let him know i wasn't going out this season... and then i started free-falling into the uncertain world of recent college graduates with liberal arts degrees.

my first week as a jobless bloke found me applying for open positions like mad - at least six hours a day. i sent out a lot of applications, resumes, cover letters and references. as a seasonal landscaper/gardener/etc, i knew that the fact that i had so many temp jobs meant nothing. the work season is short here in oregon; once the rains hit, it's over.

i created a system for applying for jobs. my google docs account sprouted new documents - cover letters, first-contact emails and references were stored in a neat little row next to my newly-vamped-up resume and professional resume. i even kept an application log, which detailed each job, where i found it and the point in the application process which i had reached.

what kind of job do you get right out of college? i wanted something creative - not an easy task on today's job market. i also wanted to stay in the wilamette valley (talk about limited options!). the most limiting thing, however, was probably my attachment to certain ethical standards...

i have this theory that many people are trapped in jobs that they either hate or strongly dislike, doing things that the young idealist version of themselves would have punched them for. i know i am a young idealist, and i have quite different ideas about what is good for society/societies than many much more experienced people; however, i just couldn't imagine myself using my time and creativity in a way that helps to enlarge the financial means of a group of stock-holders at the direct expense of everyone and everything else.

why not work for a large corporation? i would likely end up drinking myself to death. i have seen too many folks going down that road - down into social alienation or depression. because i don't own any land, my only means of production is my physical body and what my hands can do. to place that in the hands of an institution would be a strange kind of suicide.

so i set out to find a job that wouldn't make me wish i wasn't living on this earth - and found one! i recently joined talino design's metroleta program as a writing and editing intern.

metroleta is a program which connects teachers to parents and other teachers and provides them with learning tools for free in a private online environment. ad revenues generated in other parts of the site (videos, articles and columns like mine) go to help elementary school teachers purchase school supplies and snack for their classrooms.

talino gave me one of the best interviews of my life, and i am very excited to be part of the team now. look for my new column on metroleta.com starting soon! : )

as ever,


i also moved to corvallis and started working at the stables in trade for rent. you can check out happy trails riding center on facebook here.

check out my new place!


sketchy times

amber and i graduated with our super nifty certificates of achievement (b.a., english) and launched ourselves into a brand new environment full of wonderful opportunities for learning, growth and personal development - homelessness.

we were actually a little more houseless than homeless. for almost two months we had friends, family, connections, a car and one and a half laptop computers...  just not enough money for an apartment. we were also cows.

undeterred by our houselessness, we cows smile for the
camera with a famous plastic horsey.

if you'll recall part 1 of this story, amber and i had full-time jobs with a company that had just shifted our start date forward one month.

with no current job and no place to live, things changed very rapidly for us. we stopped thinking about papers that were due next week, and started thinking about where we were going to sleep that night. suddenly, there was no need to go clean the bathroom... instead we spent our time looking for a place to shower.

but with the lack of resources came a certain abundance of liberty. we were free to do whatever we wanted. the world was our sidewalk; here's what we did with it:

what to do with your houseless self (5 easy steps)

1. pick up some odd jobs
even for folks not paying rent someplace, food is still a need. it weighs heavily on the wallet. coffee, beer and gas can also be expensive. but, not not worry, you can offset these costs by working odd jobs. working on a job-to-job basis can be difficult to get the hang of. a couple of hints:

- craigslist.org has a site for most cities in the states. you can often pick up temporary gigs that require little to no experience in the general labor section under jobs. a more helpful, but perhaps less obvious place to look is the gigs section just below that. craigslist is extremely easy to navigate. the one drawback is that a large percentage of posts on there are scams; be careful.

- if you have attended any university or community college, they are likely to have a career center and a corresponding jobs site. i have sometimes picked up jobs from the lbcc job service in albany and uo joblink in eugene. many of these do not require special training or a college degree.

farm, yard work and weeding gardens kept us busy and sustained our finances while we waited for our brand new full-time jobs to start. sometimes we would...

2. crash with friends
in areas that you know people, staying on a friend's couch or floor at night can be a great way to get out of the weather and into some great conversations. amber and i did this on numerous occasions, though you may find that it's significantly easier to pull off in areas where you have lots of friends and/or family.

crashing with friends is also a great way to get to use a kitchen when you're houseless. you can get some grocery store food and cook a big meal for you and your hosts. suddenly, everyone's happy and your visit has been a help rather than a potential annoyance. make sure you do the dishes.

3. rice and beans
for home cooks like amber and i, the transition to lacking access to a kitchen was kind of difficult. living in a car, we'd often have to resort to eating prepared food from a fast food restaurant. that can be pretty nasty, and surprisingly expensive. to get around this, we started getting rice and beans from baja fresh.

baja fresh offers rice and beans for $2 in many u.s. locations. when you add in complimentary chips and free salsa, you have enough food for 2-3 people at .75-$1 apiece. and we were full. this was a huge help.

4. become a carnie!
back to the getting-jobs-on-craigslist thing: amber and i were digging through sketchy little cl postings, and found a brilliant opportunity to join the carnival! she sold ride tickets and i handed out snow cones to little children.

working at the fair is a great way to make some cash and stay on your feet during houselessness adventures, but beware: there is a strong possibility that they will try to cheat you.

inconclusive proof that carnival fixtures are, indeed,
strung together with paper clips.

5. sleep at community college
folks who are staying in rural or suburban areas have the opportunity of sleeping at their local community college. amber and i found this extremely entertaining. we had a safe and inexpensive (free) place to sleep, free and uncrowded showers (rec building), and plenty of peace and quiet - a nice contrast from the bustle of the streets. we even had 24-hour free internet access (courtesy of a friend with a student login).

sleeping at community college is a great way to have a safe base camp from which to venture into the world. thanks to recent budget cuts, the security team at your local community college may be too short-staffed to worry about courteous folk with bachelor's degrees sleeping in their woods and lawns. i would highly recommend this option for anyone who pays taxes.

so, there you have it. you now have some idea of what it takes to stay on your feet when you have no steady place to live. it's important to me to stay houseless, and not cross the line into homelessness... but that's another story. on to bigger and better things!

as ever,


p.s. this may not be true, but definitely it's definitely classic:


post-graduatin' (part 1)

what do you do after college? i started thinking about this exactly three days after graduation. kind of a weird time, really. all i wnated to do was be done, but then i graduated. and now this...

so i got a real job. i called a couple of times on the best lead i had (a friend's friend) and landed an extraordinarily well-paying position working a desk at various nuclear power facilities. this was the plan: move around from site to site staying in fancy condos for free and making bank doing paperwork 85 hours a week.

week one found amber and i commuting through portland suburb traffic. we were leaving her dad's house at 5:30 a.m only to weave and lurch our way through what the great mark bowser would call "traffic drama."

the training was supposed to take us four days, afterwhich we were to be immediately shipped out to the southeast for on-site experience training. we worked hard and took notes. as soon as we finished, we were offered the opportunity of a lifetime: a golden job in the middle of the seemingly inevitable recession that has ravaged a good number of the world's economies. it had one catch - it didn't start for a month.

so what do you do when your graduate from college? we were just finding out...


really different

here's one thing i've been thinking about: separation.

separateness, like separation of church and state or separation of curds and whey is a conceptual divider that serves to define both entities that it stands between and establish their boundaries.

sometimes the difference between two things is visual, like the separation of sea and shore seen here:

photo: @shazwan
other times, however, things may not be so clean-cut. sometimes differences boil down to words; the separation between to a simple linguistic splitoftentimes the only difference between things is their purpose, as indicated by the linguistic designators by which we refer to them:

trash (photo: stevendepolo)
recycling (photo: stevendepolo)

i guess this second kind of separation leaves room for a lot of shifting when it comes to talking about objects in the world. one man's trash is another man's treasure is another man's recycling. how do we decide who's right?

maybe the way that we talk about things really depends on what we want to see in the world. some people want to recycle bottles, and others don't really see the point. but the way we describe things definitely has a serious effect on what we do in the world.

what about the united states? what kind of separations can we talk about here?

i guess the popular ones are separation of church and state, separation of business and pleasure and separation of texas from everything else (funny story about that)...

but i don't hear much about the separation between government and people. and this might be because, in america, we are supposed to have "government of the people, by the people, for the people." (lincoln)

the lack of separation between government and people is what a lot of people (me included) idealize. but is that what's really happening? it depends on how you look at it.

the u.s. government is comprised of a group of offices that uses $3,830,000,000,000 per year to build things, buy things, sell things and in some cases take over entire countries. sometimes governmental departments take their orders from a group of wealthy elected officials and sometimes they simply act on their own.

sure, we make decisions through our senators and representatives, but doesn't the u.s. government answer to us? doesn't it represent us, the people born within the borders of the u.s.? aren't we the real u.s.?

maybe not. a lot of things are really out o the hands of the people living here. for instance, take a look at this proposed discretionary budget for 2011:

proposed u.s. discretionary budget 2011 (source: costofwar.com)

though almost everyone i've talked to (liberal and conservative and otherwise) wants to rein in government spending and end the wars abroad, congress and the president saw increases in military spending as the top priority for last year's budget. they want more spent on it than everything else combined.

what this says to me is that the government of the u.s. is not the same thing as the people of the u.s. if it were, maybe people everywhere would start seeing the money that we pay in taxes go to things they support instead of things they oppose. that would be nice, wouldn't it?

as ever,


you may want to read about trapwire, an "anti-terrorism" system the u.s. government set up that uses use facial recognition software to track people in public places. here's a recent article about it that appeared in russia today: http://bit.ly/NPkL8k