Sacked by the "downturn", an unemployed architect touring the country in a bus...



I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Things are lookig up!

Second Night...  Columbia, NC.

I happened across Sesquincentenial State Park.  Ooooooooh, lovely lake.




Stayed the night for $16.  I met Cliff, the "host."  The parks hire retirees and such to live in the park in their RV's for a month or so at a time, and Cliff, from Michigan, was this campground's host. 

The campground was a very American thing, with the mix of wonder and disdain implied by that term when its used by an east coast urbanite or European.  There are 50 or so "sites"; parking spots paved with hardpack, splayed around a cul-de-sac, and each furnished with a bollard sporting electrical outlets and a water spigot.  There is a central heated building, with clean toilets and hot showers, and there are picnic tables and fire pits.  Metal signage on perforated posts gives rules and notes the handicap accessible site.  The only way you know you are in the woods is by all the trees.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

First night...

Monday night:

I'm in my bus in the dark, at night, alone.

I'm 20 miles outside Charlotte, NC, parked on a road outside the campgrounds at the McDowel Nature preserve.  I arrived after dark, and Woody, with whom I had made arrangements this afternoon, neglected to mention that the gates would be locked after dark...

Bad gas, good gas!

I bought my second tank of gas yesterday.  I had a funny feeling fueling up the first time...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Taking off...

I have been staying these last two weeks with Margareta, my brother in law's father's widow, and we have become good friends.  And I have eaten some of the most wonderful meals.  Margareta has a way of cooking that extends over time.  She has a repertoire of lovely and healthy recipes on which she riffs and improvises as her mood and opportunity move her.  New ingredients and leftovers cascade and merge through the week, with yesterday's main course cooking juices becoming today's sauces, and today's veggies becoming tomorrows soups.  I am spoiled.  I asked for a list of spices that I might experiment with; cumin, turmeric, and coriander, which three she said I could mix, but to be sparing with turmeric.  And marjoram, basil, thyme, and oregano, any or all with lime or ginger.

Tomorrow, I'll head for Charlotte, where there is, among other attractions, an IKEA...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Am I a homeless person?

Today I built a substantial amount of my folding bed frame.  It's built from two solid core doors hinged together along their length with a piano hinge.  This sucker is heavy, so I wanted to attach it securely to the bus by drilling through the floor to bolt down some angles and so forth.  Drill through the floor... gulp, will I hit a fluid line, or the drive shaft, etc.?  So I carefully planned and measured, and went under the bus with my ruler to see where I'd penetrate, and it looked ok.  I fired up the trusty Honda 2000ai generator (a gem) and went back inside and drilled a hole in the floor.  It was not as hard as I feared, fairly easy in fact.  A few more holes, angle in place, bolts dropped in, and I was back under the bus to install washers, lock washers, and nuts.  Several trips back inside and back under to get vice grips in place below and to tighten well from above, and the installation was done.  A repetition of the procedure completed the second angle installation and I started to clean up.

I had placed a piece of cardboard on the ground to lie on when under the bus, an unfolded large corrugated carton.  As I was cleaning up I realized I should keep this box, it's an asset.  This is my box.  This is when I thought of people who sleep in boxes on the sidewalk and I wondered, "Am I a homeless person?"...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Inner musings

12/25 Durham, NC

I went for a walk with my new good friend, Margareta. She asks such good probing and constructive questions. She wanted to know about my expectations for my travels, which gave me pause, because I felt it deserved a better answer than I had at hand, and I realized I didn't fully know. Partly, that's the charm of what I am doing;...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Bus build out

I've put in some carpet, and I'm installing a wood trim detail at the tops and bottoms of the windows so I can mount mini blinds. I'm working off a generator; a lovely Honda 2000ia. It purrs at 56db and runs my old Porter Cable power tools very nicely, including the 13amp circular saw. The other day, I set up in the parking lot of Home Depot, where I bought the blinds. I had my generator running, and I was drilling out some high strength rivets that had once held wheel chair restraints, and when I wore out a bit,...

Tourque converter? Whas that? And how about vegetable oil?

It's the thing under my bus that was rattling and clacking like crazy and making me embarrassed at stoplights. I had Ford look over the whole bus a few days after I bought it. They found a few things; oil leaking at the rear axle, coolant line seepage, and the cause of that sound! It's fixed now. Not cheap, but it was worth it for peace of mind and civic pride.

Speaking of civic pride, I have learned that I can have my bus' diesel engine converted to run on used cooking oil...

Best thing that's happened in years

I keep telling people, this is the best thing that's happened to me in years. Of course, I'm depressed and worried about my future, but aside from that, I'm in a great mood most of the time. I feel liberated. The stress in my life is gone. I'm free. On the one hand, the situation is so bad, there is nothing to do but laugh and have fun. And on the other hand, I know it could be much worse... I actually have some savings (dwindling), I have skills, and I have friends and family. And for the moment, I have health insurance. (Come on, Senate, get it together and pass something with a public option!) I'm eating and sleeping better. I've lost weight (30 lbs.) And I have an opportunity to think about what I want to do. I'm starting a blog! (I hope this thing has a spell checker.)

I worked with Moveon for a few months, to help support the Waxman/Markey energy bill. Then health care reform. Then I worked on a musical invention of mine. I'll post about these and other persuits, but the point is, I am looking at things anew, and it's great. And it seemes a lot of people I meet these days are doing some of the same kind of soul searching. These are the worst of times, but maybe also the very best of times. Adversity will improve the arts; better films and books and songs surely must be about to burble up from the discontedted and dislocated out there along with me... I can hardly wait.