a plan for the future

IMG_0600Should I have the privilege of living to a ripe old age, I anticipate having to work until 70 before tapping into retirement benefits that may or may not exist by 2040. If I continue making my living by writing, that means another 24 years spent sitting at a desk, staring at a lighted box and type-type-typing the day away.

This is assuming my mind stays sharp, and someone is willing to pay me for whatever it is I’m writing about.

As jobs go, I’m pretty lucky. I love words and have always been a writer. But sometimes I have the fantasy of freedom. Of selling everything, getting a rolling home and moving from one beautiful state or national park to another with James and the dogs, picking up odd jobs that keep gas in the tank and food on the table.

Even in this fantasy, I know I’d find myself craving a home rooted in the ground. A place with a bathtub. Something with a view and room to grow food and flowers. But I wouldn’t want to be saddled with a 30-year mortgage, so I’d need to take a non-traditional approach to finding a permanent place. Which I think I’ve figured out.

A commune.

But not just any commune.

A special one.

Here’s the appeal of the commune concept. A group of like-minded people pool their resources to buy a big piece of land upon which they each have their own small home. They share chores–like keeping the garden, tending to the chickens, feeding the livestock. If there are children (which there won’t be in this scenario because we’ll all be old), the adults share parenting responsibilities.

This all sounds idyllic and lovely to me except for one thing–all those people. Can’t you just hear the screen doors creaking and slamming all day as people come and go in each others’ homes? The chortles of laughter in the garden since it’s weed-pullin’ day and everyone participates? The good-natured ribbing about how Jeremy doesn’t know how to make good coffee from people standing around on his porch holding their mugs with both hands as little puffs of coffee steam rise in their faces?

It’s not that I don’t like people. I do. I just don’t want to be around them all the time. Which brings me to the way this commune will be different.

It’s a commune…for introverts. A non-communal commune.

Same deal as described above. Garden. Screen doors. Coffee. Porch. The difference is, no one really hangs out at each others’ houses or shows up unexpectedly. There’s one communal area where you can go when you want to be social or need to discuss who’s not pulling enough weeds, but other areas are treated like a typical urban neighborhood. A friendly, non-committal wave in the morning, maybe a comment about the weather, then go back inside.

Anyone interested? There will also be wifi.

 

the view from here

 

christmas tree reflectionMorning breaks on Christmas Eve. December 24. Just like last year.

James and the dogs are still sleeping. The only sounds are the clicking of my keyboard, our whirring refrigerator and seabirds passing overhead. I might also be slurping my coffee a little since no one’s within earshot.

Our weather, cold and rainy, reminds me of winters past in Houston (though today, Houston is expected to reach 80 degrees). El Niño has arrived in central California, and the rain comes often. The brown, crunchy land has turned green again, a contented sigh of oxygen coming from the earth. It’s soothing to look at the thick grass and clover covering our yard, and the dogs are enjoying a soft carpet underfoot on which to make their morning deposits.

At night, the ocean is loud. We can hear the waves pounding rocks at the shore. The sound makes me want to run down the hill to the coast, camera in hand, but I never do. Too cold. Too dark. Too drunk.

James and I are off for 11 days, today through January 3. A vacation in the place where we’d travel on vacation if we still lived in Houston. Assuming the rain stays away, we’ll do some hiking in Big Sur. Maybe drive up to San Francisco. Work in the yard, removing the beautiful clover that threatens to overtake our drought-tolerant plants. Read books. Watch TV. Try new restaurants. Go for drives. Take naps. A bit of soul rejuvenation at the end of the year.

Tomorrow is Christmas, our first without family. We knew the dark side of the bargain when we made this move. It sometimes means not being there when you want to be. It often means not being there when you want to be. But our people are a phone call away, and the gifts we’ve exchanged are a tangible connection. And I’m coming home for a visit in less than three months. Time moves so fast now, three months will feel more like three weeks.

The dude abides, and so do I.

However and whatever you’re celebrating as we close out 2015, cheers friend.

 

like flies on the same turd

In my ongoing search to find some people for us to drink wine with ’round these parts, I was thinking that maybe I would go to the weekly poetry slam in Monterey (they encourage all sorts of performance, not just poetry). You know, meet some other writers. Maybe we’d have something in common.

I disliked them all immediately, sitting around acting clever and superior. They nullified each other. The worst thing for a writer is to know another writer, and worse than that, to know a number of other writers. Like flies on the same turd. – Charles Bukowski

To be fair, I’m friends with a number of other writers, but we generally met in non-writer circumstances. And, regardless, friends happen organically after repeat, positive interactions. It’s not something you do. “I’m going to sell this house today!” It’s something you experience. (And I’d guess the people at the slam are too young anyway. If your liver is still pink and springy, we probably don’t have enough in common. Plus, slams aren’t really my thing.)

James and I are a self-sufficient couple. Even after 11 years of listening to each other’s bullshit, we’re still interested and still laughing. But we’re not quite ready for the unabomber cabin in the woods where it’s just us chickens and we never hang out with other people. It’s nice to hear someone else’s bullshit occasionally, especially if their bullshit can lead us to great places to eat, cool trails we’ve never heard of and things we don’t even know we’re interested in.

I had this conversation–in person–with my friend Nelson (a writer) a few days ago. He and his wife Phoebe split their time between Houston and the Bay Area, where they are currently. They drove down to PG to take me to lunch on Friday. It was great to see familiar, friendly faces, and find out that maybe James and I aren’t the only ones on this odd errand of finding new friends in middle age.

When you’re in your thirties it’s very hard to make a new friend. Whatever the group is that you’ve got now that’s who you’re going with. You’re not interviewing, you’re not looking at any new people, you’re not interested in seeing any applications. They don’t know the places. They don’t know the food. They don’t know the activities, If I meet a guy in a club on the gym or someplace, I’m sure you’re a very nice person, you seem to have a lot of potential, but we’re just not hiring right now. – Jerry Seinfeld

I didn’t think I be interviewing at age 44 because I didn’t know I’d be moving. So I’m either going to have to start getting out of the house more often to meet people, or some of you fuckers are going to have to move here.

If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is. – Kurt Vonnegut

Shared experiences are important. Even if you’re on a turd–at least you have good company.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. – Oscar Wilde (and also The Pretenders)