Welcome to Tofino: an #OpHippie Flashback!

From now on, any time anyone asks me what Tofino was like, I’m just going to point them to this post on Facebook.

 

Sooo … This morning I found a ponytail in our car. Doors were unlocked, nothing was taken but the seemingly fresh (I sniffed it, smelled like Pantene Pro-V) tail was wedged between the drivers seat and the middle console right by my belt. I’m certain it wasn’t there before. I have not much to say other than *in true Trading Post style* “If you accidentally borrowed the use of a random car to cut off a ponytail, please identify yourself so I can go back to feeling peaceful”

Sooo ... This morning I found a ponytail in our car. Doors were unlocked, nothing was taken but the seemingly fresh (I sniffed it, smelled like Pantene Pro-V) tail was wedged between the drivers seat and the middle console right by my belt. I'm certain it wasn't there before. I have not much to say other than *in true Trading Post style* "If you accidentally borrowed the use of a random car to cut off a ponytail, please identify yourself so I can go back to feeling peaceful" ;)

It’s like that. It’s just exactly like that.

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OpHippie: the Situational situation

OpHippie: Mackenzie Beach Sunset

OpHippie: Mackenzie Beach Sunset

So maybe living off the grid with a bunch of unpredictable hippies in a cabin named after Jean Lafitte’s pirate hideout in the middle of nowhere at the End of the Road (literally, there is only one road in and no roads out except the same damn one, backwards) near a place known as Tuff City wasn’t the most stable of choices.

Still.

From the Department of Did Not See That Coming:

After a year and a half of my good friend Shahee making a (very!) modest living trying to get the Symbiosis Ecovillage going on the property known as Poole’s Land, the property owner has decided to pull the plug. The property itself has been for sale the entire time, and one gets the feeling he’d just as soon sell it to one guy who already has the money as wait around for a spontaneous group of moneyed hippies to somehow manifest and unite, Transformers-style, into a single twinkle-fingered ConsensusBot which somehow has three quarters of a million dollars.

Which is down from the two million price tag I’d heard about a couple of months ago.

Still.

The upshot is, we can all stay and carry on as usual except that working for Michael, the property owner, suddenly outranks working for Symbiosis in our daily Workshare regimen, because it is now not going to be Symbiosis. That, I’ll remind you all for lo, all of you except those in inherited houses are working far more to keep yourself housed, is two hours a day working at various tasks from keeping the common areas clean to shoveling the humanure composting bins out to spreading broken tiles in the potholes (with the result that our potholes have rainbow auroras and look like they were made by Dale Chihuly at a Greek wedding) and the like. So now, all the long term planning tasks are gone, replaced by “let’s get this place in shape for summer short term campers” tasks.

Which is not simply a change of labour, but also a significant change of direction and thinking.

All of this, combined with the fact that Shahee, the one who convinced me that moving here was a good idea, is probably leaving to find work, has brought things rather to a head. Into my head. Which is already pretty crowded and busy, if you ask me.

Yesterday P left. He’s a wacky, cheerful, tall, blond surfer with a part-time job at the gas station and a habit of materializing at the most improbable times simply to hang out in silence for an hour, then leave, calling the experience “peachy” and wishing me “a beautiful experience today,” accompanied by the prayer hands and little bow gesture that probably has a proper yoga name that I don’t know.

Today S was raging, or as close to raging as a man who is constitutionally incapable of rage can be, about how he came here and stayed here not because he wanted to camp in the swamp and be a hippie, but because he wanted to be living rough now and working to build something for his future, so that by the time he’s 26 or 27 he’ll have a place to live, and he’ll have built it with his own hands. And who’s to tell the man he does not have that right? But he can’t do it here; he’s now too busy weeding the kale fields and hauling lumber to clear the campsites, to say nothing of not, you know, actually owning the land.

So here I am, having received (at a guess, but I’m pretty goddam good at guessing) $500 worth of gifts and cash (returned $200 because YAY, had gotten a brief paying gig!) from a handful of generous souls who wish me well on this adventure and want to support it, and having spent a great deal of my own money to get to the place and equip it (rather glad I didn’t spring for my own axe, thank god), I am now wondering whether to chuck it all in.

This ecovillage is dead. Long live the ecovillage.

Symbiosis will carry on. It just won’t live here. And that’s actually okay, because here, objectively speaking, is 17 acres of swampy rainforest with a protected salmon stream and within the town limits, so subject to building codes, thus ruling out pretty much any structure you could really call an “earthship.” Which is what ecovillages are generally made of, not abandoned Chevy vans circled like musk oxen against predators.

Now, the question becomes do I tag along with Shahee, should he bolt, and land in some other ecovillage, or on the property of an obliging hippie type looking to ecovillage-ize? Even though I don’t actually have a bus or even a tent? Or do I close the Grand Experiment and truck all this sophisticated camping gear back to The Big Smoke, where I have nowhere to live and couldn’t afford it if I did? Or do I sit tight, work on my Secret Project (Oh, I didn’t tell you about the Secret Project? THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S A SECRET!), get my healthcare and paperwork and ID up to date, get a driver’s license, continue to talk to S2 about a work/trade for the bus she has for sale, convert the bus like Shahee‘s into an incredible mobile home, and save money until the passport comes in, as was the Whole Original Plan in the First Goddam Place?

Well, is it really a question?

Any situation, however chaotic, that I am already in is always my default choice as compared to any new situation unless the new situation comes with paid-up housing that includes deep bathtubs suitable for hours-long soaking, and that is simply a fact. I often say of myself that I’d put more effort into avoiding crises if I didn’t take such pride in my ability to cope with them, to which the friend who knows me best said, “That is the most self-aware thing you’ve ever said.”

This preference for stasis will no doubt come as a surprise to most of you who are familiar with my rather adventurous-seeming lifestyle, but then most of you didn’t see the mildew on the apartment that I’d hung on to for thirteen years. As long as I have a place to come home to I’m perfectly content to go to some crazy dangerous places on day trips, or even overnights, provided there’s wifi, I assure you.

So. Sunrise. Sunset. Sunrise? I’m still about 10% on the fence, but for now it looks like I’m staying.

But it definitely looks like I won’t be giving this blog URL to the landlord.

PS: for what it’s worth, the rainbows are still following me.  All the way from Port Alberni, in fact. I hope it’s a good sign.

OpHippie Rainbow means pot AND gold at the end? What if I don't like pot? Can I just get a nice Guatamalan poncho instead?

OpHippie Rainbow means pot AND gold at the end? What if I don’t like pot? Can I just get a nice Guatamalan poncho instead?

OpHippie: the shopping situation

Well, I went and did it. I didn’t mean to, but I did it.

I spent the bus fare home.

How? One “buying pizza for a friend” and one trip to Army Navy for supplies. That’s all it takes to zero out the bank account lately: a pizza with wine and a months worth of batteries.

Well, actually:

4 D batteries for LED lamp
The cheapest LED lamp they had
4AA batteries for the headlamp, making midnight firewood runs with the wheelbarrow much, much easier
A paperback on living off the sea by a local fisherman
Three space blankets to use as wallpaper to keep the heat in
One fluorescent poncho
One fish grilling basket
Three candles
A lighter
Garden trowel for clam digging

And that’s it. That’s all it takes. $85.81. So I emailed my ex-boss to see if he could pay the remainder he owes me tonight or tomorrow instead of month’s end. Wish me luck!

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#OpHippie: the wildlife situation

and igloos are the hard tacos

and igloos are the hard tacos

This should end well.

Last night on the way back to the cabin I’m pretty sure I heard the local bear. It’s a small black bear, nothing to worry about, but all the same unsettling at 4am. There are also apparently cougars about, which is more of a worry, as the cougars of Vancouver Island are the most man-eating big cats in the world.

Then again, I’m not a man, so what do I care?

There are also wolves, although I haven’t heard any, but I’m prepared for that. You bet. I got a tip on Facebook. All the natural world cowers in fear of having its secrets exposed in a random Facebook status update or comment, and for good reason. In this case, the tip, which appeared in my friend Janine’s timeline, is that to keep coyotes off your property, pee on the boundary lines. They can’t see your invisible fence, but they can smell it and go, “Whoa, hippie territory. Hippies. Why’d it have to be hippies? I hate hippies,” and bugger right off. I’m going to see if it works with wolves too. And bears. And rats.

Oh, the rats. The rats. The rats in the walls.

Well, I wouldn’t care so much if they would stay IN the walls; it’s when they come out and poop on my floor and counter that I find annoying. Every couple of days I find another rat poop somewhere I was about to put my foot or my hand, and since the cabin is only about 15 feet square, this is TOO MUCH. At night as I’m lying in my cosy sleeping bag in the loft, I hear them directly above my head on the roof, scrabbling around and chittering, so I drum on the damn ceiling to encourage them to move on and they momentarily stop what they’re doing before starting up again shortly afterwards.

Now, I know what to do with rats, but the fact is I haven’t got a pack of flying Jack Russells with frickin’ laser beams on their heads, so I’m having to make do. If I could find the holes they are using for getting inside the cabin, I could stuff them with steel wool and/or spare tinfoil (washed, so it has no food smells) and that would stop the buggers. The problem is, because of the trees and overcast weather, there hasn’t been enough light to SEE such things in the first place. Once the sun comes out I’ll get a wooden ladder and circle the outside of the house, pull the tarps off the roof and check under there as well, and look at the cistern behind the cabin too. Having checked the weather reports for the area, I expect that will be in May or June.

In unrelated news, I have accidentally left my iPhone at the cabin. This is bad because that motherfucker’s flashlight app is the best damn flashlight this camp has ever seen, and the battery only has 20% left. It’ll die tonight and worse: I cannot use it to actually get to the cabin. I have a weak headlamp instead that Shahee loaned me.

In other unrelated news, I’m starving, haven’t eaten today, and am off to the Best Western down the road to have a burger. I have heard their veggie burgers are good, so hopefully their beef burgers will be as well. Too lazy to walk into town this late; the place rolls up the sidewalks at 5, which was an hour and a half ago.

Still haven’t heard from the new boss about when I start. At this point forget an advance: a retroactive payment would be nice. And oh yes, I started a new blog. Can’t afford the custom domain this week, but hopefully next week I’ll be able to get one registered. With the Manolosphere going the way of the dodo, Manolofood.com is going to disappear, and I need a place for my foodie posts, a dedicated food/drink/travel blog. Will import the old posts and get some new content coming in the next few days.

#OpHippie: Day Seven

The Grand Haul

The Grand Haul

Well, there it is, as promised: The Grand Haul of my shopping trip.

  • Sorel Caribou boots with leather upper and removable felt liners which make excellent slippers for sitting by the fire: $99 plus tax.
  • latex-coated gloves for working in the cold and wet, plus cowhide gloves for working in the cold and wet with sharp edges and splinters: $20 for both pairs.
  • two pairs of socks which are apparently an historic line of socks from which comes the original sock monkey pattern, which I cannot use because I used the cardboard as a fire starter last night, $20 plus tax. Yeah, expensive, but feet are important. Feet in boots need the right socks. First night I was wearing those fuzzy synthetic socks that are so cute and warm and they formed a velcro lock with the boot liners and I nearly gave myself an injury getting my boots off. With these there are no such problems. A wool/cotton blend, I believe, thick enough to protect against blisters.
  • One bandanna. I would hate to live in the wilderness in the far West without a bandanna. It would just be wrong. I think this was like $7 or so.
  • One pair hunter green velvet jeans $4.98 minus 30% at the till because they were on clearance. At an original $80-some-odd dollars, no shit they were on clearance! But saving an extra buck and change was nice. It was, in fact, hilarious.
  • One pair clay-coloured twill jeans/work pants. For working. Because cold. Wet. Pointy. The woods are all these things. I think they were $9.98.
  • One pair denim jeans with some stretch to them. I dunno why I bought these, actually. I tried them on the second day I was here and they were too small. Couldn’t zip them up. Can now, though! In fact, I can put my full fist into the waistband of the twill jeans, at right angles to my waist. I’m gonna need a belt soon.
  • One Vicky/Christina cocktail at Little Jumbo, about $17 with tax and tip, but no way was I going to be in Victoria without seeing my friend Janice for cocktails at Little Jumbo.
  • Two bags of groceries purchased en route in Nanaimo. It was a Save On, if I’m not mistaken, and it cost $80-something, which, living as I have in Chinatown I am not used to paying, but I didn’t have that, so I put the peanut butter and the Vanity Fair back and then Mme Metro bought me the peanut butter anyway and my bill came to $69 and yes, I had enough for that with like three bucks left over.

So that’s the haul that my esteemed donors bought for me. You know who you are, and I cannot thank you enough.

From the sounds of it, my friend Brenda will be coming up-Island soon bearing fresh bedding for me (Shahee has loaned me an awesome sleeping bag which keeps me so warm some nights I don’t light a fire at all), plates and cups and the like, and some camping equipment to make life easier. Another very kind person whom I met on Twitter has bought me a Swiss Army Knife, destined to be useful every single moment of its existence. And tomorrow the newest arrival to camp is going to see about putting a window into my cabin; he’s handy with construction projects and mechanical items and may even fix the starter on the Beautiful Bus.

As distinct from the Magic Bus, which is an entirely different modified schoolbus a little farther along the trail. No, I’m not kidding.

The workshare here is about two hours a day, six days a week, which is not onerous but has a great deal to do with why I’m losing weight. Okay, so does having to walk two miles to the liquor store and not having any money when you get there. And the amount of meat I’ve consumed this week is: two bison sausages. Period. Otherwise, my protein comes from cheese, lentils, and free range eggs (no chickens here, but wait for it). And I’m not eating much that’s been fried, not even eggs, and the condiments I use are limited because I have to carry them in here from town: sambal, peanut butter, ponzu sauce, soy sauce, Major Grey Chutney which can render even quinoa edible or almost, and that’s pretty much it. Got some pasta, got some peppers and onions, got some rice noodles and quinoa and all the bloody kale you could ever eat.

The work itself is things like: breaking up tiles rejected from the factory, turning them into gravel, and spreading them in the potholes. Cutting up the tree trunks in the woodpile to manageable chunks. Bringing deadfall wood into the woodshed to dry out so it can become kindling. Picking up the garbage left behind by overnighters etc and cleaning up campsites in general in preparation for spring, working on the occupancy agreement (which I have been avoiding as it is already 41 pages long and I’d rather work on a simplified version, but the consensus model means a geometric increase in paper every time you make a change of any kind), breaking down and moving the old, full latrines and setting up new ones using the humanure composting system. It’s pretty basic: you have two pails. One is full of sawdust and a scoop. You put a toilet seat on the empty pail and do your thing in it, then you cover that with sawdust. Eventually it turns into compost.

When I was talking about coming here I thought what I’d be doing was basically setting up systems for workshops and marketing those workshops to whoever…and there are a lot of people interested in this sort of thing. We have people here who can teach, people with skills. We’ve got some musicians, we’ve got a civil engineer who can design shelters for people (who can then build them as part of the workshop), we’ve got Shahee who can teach raw vegan food preparation and do massage and lead yoga and meditation, we’ve got surfers who can teach, we’ve got me, and the new guy in addition to being a competent mechanic is also a tai chi instructor.

Yet.

At the moment, Symbiosis Ecovillage is a concept and an agreement but not yet a corporation, nonprofit, or registered society. So all of that is up in the air until some sort of legal framework is in place. Yes, I can work towards putting that legal framework in place, but there are things I’d rather do.

Like sit by the fire and share some Jameson’s with my friends.

Like go down to the beach (which I’ve done only once, and I am ashamed of myself for that).

Like do a hike on one of the local trails. Like take a kayaking tour of Clayoquot Sound. Like build my own rocket stove and hot water system, and install a thermal converter so that one little wood stove can give me power, heat, and hot water.

Not that there aren’t other distractions nearby in the great metropolis of Not-Ucluelet.