Extraordinary stories from everyday life on the edge of the world

Stories

the best thing about us is the people we know.
 

Encinitas Avenue || Friday, 2.54pm

First, Jeremy called to talk about gathering traction for Converge. They’re having an anniversary/subscription campaign launch party in June. I want to be there; they want me to be there; how can we make this happen?

Thinking, thinking…my current home is breaking up in June, anyway. Which means I’ll be needing somewhere new to sleep. A floor in Vancouver would suit me fine, if one is made available.

When I hung up the phone, Brad the tech guy let a respectful moment pass before saying,

"You know, if you’re looking for a cheap living situation, there are big, elegant office buildings downtown that will rent small offices for about $300 a month, for attorneys to use as an extra room or what have you. I know, because my partner rents one for this purpose. You can fit a small couch in there, and you could put in a ‘file cabinet’"—he made quotation marks with his fingers—"to use as a wardrobe.

"You could put in a small refrigerator. And they have, you know, the break rooms, with communal kitchen appliances. They have facilities, so you can take a shower. And it’s all for $300 a month."

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Most of the things Brad says make me laugh, though possibly not in the way he intends. For example, things about a British TV show where they drop cars from a helicopter and examine the crash. Things about where to buy pens with concealed knives and “paperweights” that you can fit around your knuckles and use in self-defense.

So I was laughing when I said,

"That sounds like a great way to beat the system. Actually, though, I was talking about going up to Vancouver when my house breaks up. It would just depend on whether I could crash somewhere…"

And, I didn’t add, getting my affairs in order that quickly. I’ve only just started prowling Craigslist for a vehicle.

Because of course, while the Project doesn’t have to coincide with spending a month in Vancouver, my brain likes putting them together, like joining two pieces of track in a train set. Who needs that meandering S-curve of unoccupied time in the middle?

"Do you know anyone between there and here?" Brad asked.

"I know people in San Francisco," I said, "and in Portland. But I don’t think I know anyone in Washington."

"Then what you do," he intoned…and this, friends, is where Brad transformed into an oracle…"Is call your friends in San Francisco and Portland and ask them who they know, that you could stay with, between them and Vancouver. You’ll save a ton of money on lodging, that way."

I stared at him. “Well, that’s what I…”

He interrupted,

"And what you do then, is set your destinations in Google Maps, so they create an itinerary for you. And you could call it ‘How to Live Off the Largess of Friends of Friends.’ Or ‘A Road Trip Through Modern America.’ Or ‘A Single Woman, Alone on the Road.’

"Along the way, you take pictures. Of everything. Do you have a good digital camera?"

"Yes," I obediently answered.

"Then you take thousands of pictures, and I mean thousands. You take pictures of gas stations, and post them. You can title it ‘Gas Stations On the Road to Vancouver.’ You take pictures of bed and breakfasts, even if you don’t stay in them! ‘Bed and Breakfasts on the Road to Vancouver.’ And I’ll tell you, you take pictures of your food. Everything you eat. Everything you drink. And I mean everything. If you go to Starbucks, take a picture of the Starbucks from outside. Take a picture of the person making your drink. Take a picture of the drink before you’ve taken a sip. Take a picture when you’re halfway done.

"You don’t have to post every picture. But if  you take thousands, by the end of the day you’ll have one or two gems. If you haven’t taken ten thousand pictures at the end of the day, you haven’t done your job.

"Do you have a good digital recorder?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Make sure you use that, and describe things as you see them. Describe them right there. And talk to people. Then you can post those recordings as mp3 files for people to listen to."

Brad

"This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about," I said, "for the last year."

I looked down at the calendar on my phone.

"It’s just…I wanted to plan it out a little more. I always do things without planning ahead, without really thinking about how I can make them sustainable. If this was going to happen in a month…I don’t know if I could even get it together…"

"Well," Brad said, "you obviously have the skills and equipment to do it. Tell me, are you familiar with ‘A Walk Across America?’"

"Sure—by Bill Bryson?" I asked.

"No," Brad said flatly. He pulled out his iPad and showed me this.

Then he showed me a Dalek meditation video. (I’m not giving you the link for that—do you want your brain to rot?)

"Remember," he said, packing up his attache case, "you can write the same article over, and over, and over again. I had a friend, Joyce Maynard…"

"You’re friends with Joyce Maynard?" I interrupted.

"We went to high school together." He shrugged in that yeah, it’s a big deal but it’s no big deal to me way.

"Were you still friends after she got with J.D. Salinger?" I asked.

"No," he said, flatly. "Anyway, Joyce Maynard wrote an article when she was a teenager about being in high school. Then, a few years later, she wrote it again. And then she wrote it again. Then she wrote a book about it. So, once you have the material, you can do that. Just keep writing the same thing over and over. Pffft!"

He spurned Joyce Maynard with an air of distaste.

"I’ll never forget going to a conference with her," he said, "in the Shoal Islands off of New Hampshire. It was an LRY conference, put on by the Unitarian church. She ate nothing but candy, the whole week." Again, Joyce Maynard was summarily brushed off, with a wave of his hand.

"Well," I said, "thank you…"

"For all the advice for your trip? Of course." And with that, Brad left for what I presume was his next appointment with destiny.