Ryan´s faucet

The faucet had been broken long before I met Ryan. I don´t remember the story, but somehow someday something happened that snapped the kitchen faucet in such a way, that made water shoot diagonally through the room whenever it was turned on. Ryan was the master of the faucet. Only he was able to turn on the water in such a way as to fill up the kitchen sink. Whenever I tried, I pressure washed the kitchen and all its appliances.

Ryan and I both were group home kids, who were left to figure things out on our own at an early age. When I met Ryan, he had already left behind the group home and lived in his own apartment. I was a few years younger and was living outside, with friends, and soon transitioned into a group home myself. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time at his place and we routinely got ourselves into trouble. But we were free and young and even though we lived well under the poverty line, we had plenty of fun.

Ryan´s studio was in the process of being sold and the current owner promised Ryan that he´d figure out a deal to keep rent low. He showed up with a couple buckets of paint and asked Ryan to paint and “clean the place real good”. The buckets got kicked to the side and we pretty much forgot about it. Several months later, I receive a phone call from a frantic Ryan. It was Friday and the potential buyer was going to show up Sunday morning. Well, shit.

I made my way to Ryan´s and we began what would be a two day cleaning/painting binge. Poor Ryan really believed that he was a rather clean fellow. While I have definitely seen worse places, his studio was anything but clean. Inches of dust covered the windowsills, his bath tub had all kinds of nasty crap stuck in the groves he created when washing the rocks of his fish tank in it (yeah, I know), and his couch aka bed, which served between 2 – 4 people a night, contained so many random crumbs and unidentifiable stains that I opted to sleep inside a duvet cover at night. Regardless of the condition of the place, we made great progress.

The evening before the potential buyer was scheduled to show up, we decided that the floors needed cleaning badly. It seemed like the perfect time, since we had moved everything out to paint. To the best of my knowledge, we were sober that night. I contribute the following to youthful fun and a couple spoonful of crazy.

What better way to get a crusty old floor shiny again than lots and lots of water? And what better way to add lots and lots of water than Ryan´s homemade endless water shooter aka broken faucet? Exactly! We began the deep cleaning by intermittently shooting water 10 feet across the air into Ryan´s living room, while one of us mopped. Soon the entire floor was wet and we removed dirt we previously thought to be part of the floor´s pattern. Since I was lacking faucet operation skills, I ended up pressure washing parts of the ceiling, the windows, and those nasty windowsills as well. Everything looked so nice and clean…. except for sweaty and tired Ryan, who was standing in the middle of the living room mopping. I couldn´t help myself. I aimed and hit my target at once! I followed him all the way through the living room soaking him from head to toe. The war was on! Ryan began chasing me through the apartment, hugging me with his wet clothes. I slipped on the wet floor and he used the opportunity to aim the faucet at me. Soon both of us were completely soaked, made peace, and began dancing under the still running water. Despite our age marking us as teenagers, we really were nothing more than oversized children. We laughed and hugged and were filled with joy.

By the end of our cleaning spree, we were tired, happy, and standing in a good half inch of water. We used every single towel we owned to soak up the water. Once everything was somewhat dry, we moved all the furniture back in place and called it a night. What a great job we´d done! After a few hours of sleep, we got up in the morning and I went my merry way.

Now, I wasn´t there when the owner and potential buyer showed up, but I was told that they were less than ecstatic. Long story short, the guy was unable to sell the place, due to the condition it was in. Aside from the ruined bath tub and the broken faucet, he found many more things wrong with the place. I have no idea why Ryan didn´t get kicked out right then and there, but it would take another 4 years before the owner finally booted him.

Get your imaginary friend on the phone

Yes, I am slightly bananas. No, this is not what this post is about. This post introduces you to the art of deception. Imaginary friends are incredibly useful and with a little experience you can talk your way out of trouble without ever talking to anyone. Now, if that doesn´t sound like super powers, then I don´t know.

Still confused? Keep on reading. I tend to use my imaginary friends mostly to explain why I am where I am. You see, as a hobo you sometimes find yourself in situations that others view as suspicious, judgeworthy, or an invitation to rough you up. For example, you park your tiny mobile home and realize that some random human is sitting in the car next to you. It is expected of you to exit your vehicle and go to your house, but wait! Your imaginary friend is calling, which gives you a perfect reason to remain seated (and hope the random human leaves, so you can get in the back).

Now, before I give you more examples, you need to understand how important acting skills are. There is nothing more suspicious than a guy who pretends to be on the phone with someone. Period. Try listening to other people´s phone calls and notice how you understand a great deal of the conversation without ever hearing what the person on the other line is saying. A common newb error is saying too much in an attempt to provide the listener with a story. For example, “Yes, I am here at your apartment complex waiting for you by my car like we agreed on” is way too much info. A simple and relaxed “Ya, I am here. Where are you?” seems more natural. Also, account for the lack of actual phone noises. If you are too close to other people, they may realize that there is an eerie silence coming from your phone. Heck, you may even want to play your ring tone before you pick up the phone to make it more believable.

Back to the examples. Here is the transcript of a conversation between me and my imaginary friend I initiated to throw off a suspicious cleaning lady. I had gone to the gym showers at my school and, not expecting anyone there, looked just a bit disheveled. Now, why would any housed person wearing street clothes use a gym shower, when the gym is closed, the lights are off, and the building just opened for the day? You see why the cleaning lady was suspicious? Here we go.

Hey Kate, I was just gonna text you.

(short silence)

Ya.

(short silence)

Yeah, I just got done running. What are you up to?

(little longer silence)

Uhum.

(More silence and nodding)

Ah, I see. Did you bring your books?

(Short silence)

Uhum.

(Silence is golden)

Ya, I am. But I need a shower first.

(Silence)

No, I don´t think they are open yet.

(Tiny silence)

Ok, I will.

Uhum. Ok. Is Steve there too?

(Tiny silence)

Ok, good. I´ll meet you guys there.

(Tiny silence)

Great. Ok. Bye.

By the time I got off the phone, the cleaning lady had lost all interest in me. I was able to take a nice shower knowing that I didn´t have anyone nosing around in my business. This method has saved my ass plenty of times.

Do you have similar tricks up your sleeve? Share your wisdom!

Be nice to yourself – Eat well

Healthy food can be incredibly boring, especially as a vegetarian. I get it. I also know that as a hobo I rely heavily on my body to keep me warm at night, fix itself when I walk blisters onto my feet, and keep me alert when I maneuver through a sketchy neighborhood.

While I am in no way an expert on nutrition, I´ve spent quite some time figuring out how and what to eat to keep myself healthy. Here is what I´ve come up with. Notice that most pictures show snacks and small meals; however, the same general rules apply for regular meals.

Prepare your meals for the day. Think about what you are going to eat, where you´ll be able to heat up some food, and what nutrients you need. It´s better than impulsively grabbing something from the store or buying fast food.

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Tomatoes are filled with plenty vitamin C, while cereal typically contains up to 1/3 of your daily nutrients (most breakfast cereal is fortified). Apple sauce is a high energy food that also includes fiber and some vitamin C.

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Need vitamin C? Eat peppers. They are also filled with vitamin A and vitamin B6. Pretzels contain lots of carbs and sodium. The yellow powder is dried hummus (just add water), which is a high energy food that contains protein, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use meal containers. Environmentally friendly, easy to transport, keeps your food from getting smushed, and makes you more likely to diversify your meals. You don´t need to get a 100 degrees of fancy with yours; cheap ones will do.

Make it colorful. Half a loaf of bread or an entire cucumber sounds just about as boring as it tastes. Mix it up! If you are just not a fan of fruits and vegetables, then add a small variety of them. Just one kiwi can provide you with an entire day worth of vitamin C.

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Crackers are rich in carbs and sodium. This salad contains boatloads of vitamin A and is low in calories. The olives add some iron and healthy fats.

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The peanut butter sandwich contains lots of energy mainly consisting of protein and carbs. Kiwis are filled to the rim with vitamin c and also contain potassium. Blueberries are also a good source of vitamin c and additionally are full of fiber. Gummy bears are food for the soul. That´s my story and I am sticking with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crispy bread contains minimal carbs, while being rich in fiber. This particular cereal has protein powder added to it. Besides protein, protein powder often contains high quantities of essential nutrients.

 

Balance. Nobody said you can´t have candy, pizza, and mac and cheese. It´s all about balance. Personally, I will eat healthy as a rule and treat myself with less healthy food. Remember, if you live outside you may need somewhat more calories than housed people. Find your balance.

Read the nutritional labels. You should have seen my face when I realized how much sodium (salt) is in a package of ramen noodles. You don´t need a calculator for this; just keep and eye on some key nutrients.

 

Frozen

(aka hobo tales, aka bad poetry)

  • It´s cold as fuck
  • I have no luck
  • all my shit is frozen
  • Can´t wash my hair
  • as in despair
  • I see my shampoo ´s frozen
  • My breath is bad
  • I´m getting mad
  • My mouthwash is so frozen
  • Can´t feel my feet
  • because indeed
  • my socks are really frozen
  • Stand by my car
  • because so far
  • the damn doors are too frozen
  • Despite cold feet
  • I´d like to eat
  • but all my food is frozen
  • Can´t blow my nose
  • man, this is gross
  • my nostrils too are frozen
  • Cant you believe
  • despite all grief
  • this life is what I´ve chosen

Colorado Reality Check

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Yesterday, I sat under a tree wearing flip flops, thin pants, and a long sleeve shirt, while reading one of my less exciting textbooks. Worried about getting sun burned, I occasionally moved to escape harmful UV rays. It got up in the 80´s; I heard birds chirping, people laughing, and children playing. It was an unusually warm, but very comfortable fall day.

Today, I am at the library wearing a thick poncho, two pairs of pants, and regular shoes, while watching the snow fall outside. There is no chance I could get sun burned, as the sun is hidden behind a heavy cloud cover. The temperature is in the 30´s and I can hear hysterical international students outside, who´ve just encountered their first snow.

Gotta love Colorado. Except for these extreme weather fluctuation, I enjoy the pace of the season change. It provides just enough of a transition phase to mentally prepare oneself for the upcoming winter. Also, Colorado has 300 days of partial and full sun days; if that doesn´t make for a good mood, then I don´t know.

What changes for a hobo during the cold season?

  • I typically sleep better in my 0° bag when it´s nice and cold out. No more random overheating and waking up at night, as has been happening since I switched bags late September.
  • Rather than taking extensive spit baths in the morning, I tend to head for the gym more during the winter. You think you enjoy showering? Try showering after spending several days outside!
  • Also, for me this is the season of cold hands. I´ve identified 4  stages of cold hands: a-little-cold, damn-cold, numb-and-painful-cold, and useless-sausages-cold. The last two stages typically happen in the morning, when I am getting ready for the day.
  • My diet changes for two reasons: First, I need more protein to stay warm. Second, I can store different foods, such as lettuce and berries, that usually go bad within days.

No matter the weather, I know it´ll be beautiful!

Camping and Tents

This amusing post was written by a gentleman who couldn´t be more opposite to us hobos. Very entertaining ; – ) .

Underdaddy

Camping. The world’s most confusing hobby.

It makes about as much sense as fertilizing a lawn that you have to mow twice a week. Humans have spent hundreds of thousands of years solving the challenges of nature. We live in houses that maintain a stable temperature, supply clean water on demand, carry human waste out through a magic network of pipes, rain water is deflected by advanced roofing systems, beds adjust to our individual preference of firmness, and if we want to experience nature or community then we pull out some technology and surf the vast world of the internet. Dogs live better in these modern times than cavemen ever thought about. Yet here, in the pinnacle of this accomplishment, is a growing culture of people who yearn to eat reheated trail food and shit in the woods. I don’t have that burning desire.

Deep down in my soul, I…

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Blind at Night

With the sun setting earlier this time of year, I find myself in relative darkness as I take care of evening business inside my tiny mobile home. Not wanting to alert my housed neighbors, I refrain from lighting a candle and instead rely on my other senses to guide me.

I know all my clothes by touch and purposefully arranged them. Daytime clothes on the upper shelf, nighttime clothes on the lower one. Both shelves are organized the same, starting with shirts and ending with pants. Easy. Only difficulty are same-kind-different-color-socks. Can´t discern those via touch. Needless to say, I wear mismatched socks a lot. Even funnier, I own two pairs of Converse and yes, I´ve mismatched those before. People thought I was trying to be fashionable.

I know all my hygiene products by touch and those who share the same-shape travel containers I know by smell. No problem here. Brushing my teeth is a whole other ball game. I either brush using a mountain of toothpaste or barely any at all. That is, if I manage to actually get toothpaste on the brush. Eye-hand coordination is much trickier if you can´t use your eyes. Keeping your unusually large mouthwash bottle next to your unusually small laundry detergent bottle can lead to “clean cotton” breath, which sounds a lot better than it tastes. Trust me.

All important and much used items, such as my car keys, phone, chap stick, and pepper spray, each have their own spot. That doesn´t mean that each item actually makes it there. There is nothing more fun than searching for you phone in complete darkness!

I spent a large portion of my day reading books, working on my computer, and writing papers. If I could, I may be tempted to spend my hour before bed doing even more reading! Instead, I frequently download audio books and meditation music. It is very relaxing to look up at my glow-in-the-dark universe while listening to Edgar Allan Poe.

I´ve gotten so used to the darkness, really, now it´s part of my routine. It´s a time of relaxation, reflection, and contemplating the universe´s mysterious ways. Darkness can appear threatening, cold, and overwhelming. Over the years, I´ve found that darkness doesn´t provide cover for dangerous creatures. Rather it reveals the creatures that roam your own mind.

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Living without a Fridge

img_20161030_1736031During the summer months, food can go bad in no time. Whether you store your groceries in your vehicle, your backpack, behind a bush, or inside a storage container, the heat will spoil many items rather quickly. Don´t think that changes during winter; although many food items will stay fresh longer, quite a few, including vegetables, don´t do so well in freezing cold temperatures.

No fridge – no Problem

Certain foods keep just fine without refrigeration, while others simply need to be consumed a little quicker. Make sure to check your food thoroughly before consuming it; this includes the inside of fruits and vegetables. Unopened food items last longer than opened ones.

As a rule of thumb, anything canned can safely be stored outside. However, that doesn´t mean that your food won´t change. In summer and winter alike, anything solid will slowly but surely transform into a liquid with each major temperature change. I´ve experiences this with potato soup before; by the time I was ready to eat it, there were barely any chunks of potato left. I`ve had canned emergency soups in the back of my car for months without any problems. Have you tried the canned version of your favorite fruits and veggies? My favorites are canned pineapple, baby corn, and mixed vegetables.

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Fresh fruits and vegetables can be stored without refrigeration for about a week depending on the temperature and kind of food. In my experience, kiwis, bananas, avocados, carrots, grapes, and cucumbers last the longest, while bell peppers and tomatoes go bad rather quickly. Berries of any kind, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, go bad within a couple of days. Vegetables that completely freeze tend to turn to mush upon defrosting.

Beverages, such as ice tea and orange juice, last just fine during the winter, although you may encounter solidly frozen liquids instead of your favorite drink. During the summer, you don´t want to keep opened juice bottles for longer than a week.

Anything dried, such as cereal, crackers, and oats, will last as long as it takes you to eat it. No worries here. This leads to an amazing conclusion: If you can find a dried version of you favorite food, you can store it much longer. For example, I am really excited about dried milk. It lasts forever (figuratively speaking) and, depending on the brand, tastes just like regular milk. Just add water! Similiarily, I´ve discovered dried hummus, soups, instant meals, oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, and more; all of which you don´t have to worry about spoiling.

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Bread seems to last as long outside as it does inside. Jelly may spoil within a couple weeks, while honey may crystallize, but doesn´t go bad. Peanut butter seems to last forever, probably due to its high fat content.

DO NOT consume fresh animal-based products that have been left without refrigeration. This includes, but is not limited to, fresh meat, milk, eggs, sea food, yogurt, and cheese. Don´t risk it. Best case scenario, you´ll be worshiping the porcelain god for a couple days. Worst case scenario, you find yourself at the hospital with some unpronounceable illness.

Keeping food fresh longer

Personally, I´ve always kept my groceries in a “food box”. This can be any box really, however, a thick-walled plastic container with lid works best. Makes sure to insulate your box as much as possible; covering your box with a blanket helps a lot. If you keep your food inside your vehicle during the summer, try to park in the shade and use window shades to keep the inside cool.

Doing a Bad Job at Staying Alive

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I am no doctor; so really, I can´t tell how close my friend came to death. However, from my perspective he was very very lucky.

My three friends Karim, Adam, and Lucy, and I went for a camping trip in the northern part of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Except for some wind, the weather was fantastic and the changing trees provided the perfect backdrop for some serious rock hiking.

After a fun Friday night at our camp ground, we headed for a lake about 25 minutes north the next morning. I´d been to this particular lake many times and explored quite a bit of the area in the past. The road had recently been fixed; what had once been a barely passable level 6 road, is now a relatively smooth dirt path through a remote forest. To my friends, I am known as the one who plans fun mountain adventures and thus I was excited to take them to this beautiful valley.

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My friends immediately fell in love with the lake and we quickly began exploring the area. We decided to head around the lake for a little while and then continue straight up the mountain west of us. The hike up is difficult as the mountain is rather steep and littered with boulders of various sizes, some too big to climb over without equipment. In addition, we had to deal with lose dirt and rocks, random tree trunks, and an army of cacti that seemed too eager to teach us a lesson or two.

After climbing over and crawling under massive boulders for approximately 45 minutes, we finally made it to the top. The view was spectacular. Adam found a spot that protected us from the wind and we settled down. After we caught our breaths and refueled on water and snacks, we began talking about everything and nothing. In the end, we decided that life is good and nature is beautiful. What a great day!

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We began our descent about 30 minutes later. It was getting pretty warm and I knew I´d get burned to a crisp if we stayed much longer. Adam took the lead on our way down and we followed alerting each other about lose rocks and angry cacti. We made it about 1/4 of the way, when I suddenly heard a sliding noise next to me. Karim had climbed onto the boulder next to me and had lost his footing. With nothing to grab a hold of, he quickly slid down the rock. When he fell over the edge, his backpack caught the rock pushing him forward. He hit a boulder 10 feet below; first his body, then his head.

“Karim, do not move!” was all I could get out. From my position it was difficult to get to him, but I forced myself down the rock as fast a humanly possible. I got there first and assessed the situation. Karim appeared dazed and confused. Adam and Lucy joined me seconds later. Since Karim had already managed to get up onto his knees, we decided to sit him down in the shade. There was no even ground anywhere; just boulder after boulder and we did our best making our wounded friend as comfortable as possible.

Initially, it seemed as if his wounds were our top priority. He denied feeling pain in his back and neck and he didn´t seem to have any broken limbs. I was in charge of his profoundly bleeding finger, which had gotten crushed upon impact. Lucy and Adam took care of his forehead and nose, which were both bleeding badly. I was just about done wrapping Karim´s finger, when I heard Adam say “Oh, no no no my friend, you don´t get to sleep!”. Karim was leaning back, slowly closing his eyes. We couldn’t keep him sitting up for long before we had to let him rest on his backpack. For 5 minutes we did our best at keeping him conscious; we talked to him and asked him questions about his hobbies and school. His condition was rapidly deteriorating and when he stopped responding to pain, we knew he was out cold.

It became clear that we needed emergency help. Without a signal for miles, Adam rushed down the mountain to call 911. Karim´s skin was turning cold and clammy and I was unable to find a pulse. I had been calm and collected the entire time, but was losing my cool quickly. I pressed my hand on his chest, neck, and wrist; still nothing. I could see his chest moving slowly; he was still breathing. “Found it!”, Lucy proclaimed holding Karim´s wrist. “It´s really faint though”.

While Lucy continued to care for Karim, I perched on top of a boulder holding a mylar blanket up in the air. I could no longer see our vehicle at the bottom of the hill; Adam must have not been able to get a signal in the valley. As I rhythmically moved the silver sheet through the air, I  wondered how far Adam would have to drive before he could call 911.

Karim slowly opened his eyes. He was dizzy, felt nauseous, and his vision was blurry, but he was alive. Our friend was very confused and began muttering about not needing a helicopter or an ambulance. “You got to be freaking kidding me”, I thought. His finger had bled through the wrap, there was blood on his hands, head, and on the rocks around us, and he was still bleeding out of his nose. “Your ass is going to a hospital!”

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The emergency response was amazing! I can´t tell you how long it took for the first cop to show up, but the man ran up that mountain as if he was being chased by a bear. Overall around 25 people arrived to help: an ambulance that drove over 60 miles from the nearest city, two search and rescue people, half a dozen EMT´s and cops, as well as every resident within a 10 mile radius. Adam, fueled by adrenaline, ran back down the mountain to guide the remaining rescue personnel to us. He even carried their first aid bags. Everybody was there, except for the helicopter, which had flown to the wrong lake and didn´t have enough fuel to make it to us. Fantastic! We had no other choice but to somehow transport Karim down the mountain.

With Karim conscious we made it down the mountain rather quickly. His busted foot did not allow him to walk very far and thus he spent the majority of the way sliding down rocks and dirt. Once we arrived at the bottom of the hill, the EMT´s assessed Karim´s condition once again, before we were allowed to take him to the hospital. It took just under an hour to get there; not bad at all.

We placed Karim in a wheel chair and stormed through the emergency room entrance. We were  stopped by a bored looking security lady. “Do you have any weapons on you?” We looked at each other, shrugged, and began shedding weapons left and right. 4 knifes, 2 pepper sprays, 1 hatchet, and 1 gun later the security guard looked at us as if we were crazy. Needless to say, we were not allowed in unless we removed our arsenal from the building.

Once inside the hospital, Karim was put into a fashionable hospital gown and neck brace. Doctors, nurses, and EMT´s gathered around him like an army of ants. Initially, I was the only one allowed back there, but once Karim´s most immediate needs had been taken care of, all four of us gathered in the tiny room. I could feel my body coming down from its adrenaline fueled high and was overcome with hunger and thirst. All of us looked tired, dirty, and disheveled. What a day! When a nurse walked in 20 minutes later, she stopped immediately, looked at us, and exclaimed: “My goodness, what is this smell?” We hadn´t showered in two days, had an incredibly exhausting sweaty day behind us, and reeked of campfire. Adam made an attempt to explain our situation; the rest of us just grinned.

Karim spent roughly 4 hours at the emergency room before being released. They scrubbed his wounds clean, applied gauze and bandages, and took a variety of x-rays and CT scans. The final verdict: a concussion, a sprained ankle, multiple bruises, wounds on his head, nose, knee, and arms, and one badly crushed finger.

“Man, you really gotta do a better job at staying alive”, I said before we headed back into the wilderness.