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Help Steer Michael to His ‘Off the Grid’ Dream

1 Dec

by Roger White

 

When I was a young lad (translation: Kennedy Administration), I had dreams of living off the grid when I grew up. I don’t think “off the grid” was even a term then, but I had visions of a simple, cozy existence. My fantasy was to buy a small Quonset hut or used airplane hangar, refurbish it with shag carpet, cedar paneling, and black lights, grow fat tomatoes and skinny goats out back, and write Mickey Spillane crime novels for a living.

quonset home

Although none of the above came to pass (well, I do have the black light), I was recently taken back to those dreamy days by the daring brainstorm of one young Michael Talley. Michael’s going to live in a bus.

Talley, son of Austin musician Woot Talley, cobbled together $2,400 in April to buy a used Austin ISD school bus at public auction. Even though he was the sole bidder to show up and give the buses the once-over before the auction, he almost lost out. “I was the only one to go examine the buses at the open house,” said the 24-year-old Talley. “They auctioned 10 buses, and one man bought the other nine—and tried to buy this one, as well.”

Talley held his own, however, and came away from the auction the proud owner of a 1997 International 3800 full-length yellow school bus, mileage approximately 200,000—give or take a few rural routes. The auctioneer claimed it was gently driven only to and from school by a little old lady who never pushed it above 25 miles per hour. OK, I made up that last part.

For Talley, the auction was the easy part. “Oh, I’ve worked on it after work and on weekends since May,” he said, “but I picked the worst year to do something like this, with all the ridiculous weather Central Texas has been having.”

Though Talley has tall plans for a total makeover inside and out of this 72-passenger behemoth, his first order of business—after removing every one of the seats—was to raise the roof. Literally. Talley, just like his talented dad, is what you’d call not short. As in 6’ 6”. As soon as he brought the bus home, it hit him. Literally. “I couldn’t stand up.”

187d. Bus Photo 2

So Talley recruited a few friends to build a scaffolding rig inside the bus, cut the bus in half, and employ leveling jacks to extend the ceiling. “We raised the roof nearly 18 inches,” he said. “It took four guys, but in the end it wasn’t as difficult as you would think. The hardest part was the sleepless nights leading up to it, worrying about all the things that could go wrong.”

So far so good. But the kid’s got a long way to go. I asked him what he envisioned as the finished product. The Talley Transporter (my name, not his—more on this later) will include, and I quote, “a 27-inch iMac, 24-inch external monitor, home entertainment system, spacious kitchen, shower, composting toilet, heating/AC system, manual washing machine, water purification system, onboard 50-gallon fresh-water storage tank, cedar interiors, hardwood floors, and LED lighting.”

187f. Michael the ManTalley spent a lot of time studying ultra-compact living spaces, and he’s keen on avoiding the pitfalls. “Most people who design a tiny house try to take advantage of every nook and cranny, often resulting in a very cramped living space,” he said. “I wanted my bus to feel more open, so my kitchen is larger than most tiny-house kitchens. My bathroom isn’t as cramped—and by sacrificing a dining table, I was able to accomplish all of that, as well as install a large desk in my workspace.”

Will there be a generator for power, I queried? Nope. Talley, a graphic designer by trade, envisions “a 720-watt solar system, with state-of-the-art 3,000-watt/50-amp inverter/charger system, and six six-volt rechargeable batteries.” Aha! No noisy generator required. “This is key,” Talley stressed. “If I invest in this system, then I’ll save lots of money down the road by avoiding costly hookup fees at RV parks and state parks.”

And speaking of money, this is where you, the gentle reader, may come in. The labor Talley can do; he’s a strong, ambitious sort. The dinero, however, is another story. Talley, like most twenty-somethings, pretty much lives paycheck to paycheck, and his ambition of living in his magic bus won’t run on play money. He figures he needs about $4,760 to finish the job. You can take a look at his progress at www.gofundme.com/TalleyBus. If you want to help out, by all means. For a $10 donation, you can be an honorary bus passenger; for $20, you’re a crossing guard—for $100, you’re a driver! Actually, the soft-spoken Talley will take any amount that can send him a little farther down to road to his dream. He’ll even reciprocate with graphic design work, if you’d like.

Talley may be young, but he’s no dilettante dreamer. He’s dedicated to seeing this through. In fact, he’s living in the bus shell now. It’s parked on a small farm in Manor. “I got rid of all my belongings, with the exception of my books and my records,” he said. “I want to explore the country and explore myself. Read all those books I own that I keep telling myself I’ll get around to, maybe learn a few new skills, hike every day.”

Talley noted that everyone—well, almost everyone—around him has given him tremendous assistance and encouragement. “My family has been super supportive; my friends think it’s great. My girlfriend at the time wasn’t too keen on the whole idea, though. Living in a school bus certainly isn’t for everyone.”

Oh, and about the name. Does the magic bus have a name? “Ahhh, not yet,” he said. “For a donation of $1,000, I’ll name her whatever you want, though.” There you go. Pony up, and you can be immortalized as the namesake of a sweet-looking homemade RV with state-of-the-art composting toilet. Keep the dream alive, Michael!

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely female spouse, two precocious offspring units, a very obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

 187e. Bus 3D Model

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Question for the Ages: Do Snails Get Mad?

31 Mar

by Roger White

 

So I’m sitting on my front porch on a gorgeously sunlit Sunday morning, while Ralph the dog slinks ever so farther into the fringes of the yard and out of my line of vision. He does this so he can stealthily nose through, roll around in, and snack on various dead bugs, worms, and other dogs’ indiscretions in our yard. And to think we let him sleep in our bed with us. Max the fat cat reasonable maxsimilelazes next to me, casually observing a snail making glacial progress across the sidewalk. I begin watching the snail, as well. The little guy is near the edge of the walk, mere inches from the luscious black earth of our garden. It must have taken this tiny gallant gastropod all of this morning and most of last night to ooze his way this far from the driveway, judging from his slimy trajectory, and I marvel at his determination. I figure there’s some greater life lesson here, presumably about fortitude and believing in oneself and putting your best foot forward and all that. Although technically, snails don’t have feet.

Well, to be scientifically correct, the word “gastropod” is derived from the ancient Greek term that literally means “stomach foot,” which would indicate that a snail does indeed have a foot formed from its stomach. However, this is an anthropomorphic misnomer, based on the fact that to humans it appears as if snails and slugs crawl on their bellies. In reality, as we all know, snails and slugs have their stomachs, the rest of their digestive systems, and all the rest of their molluscal viscera in a hump on the el gastropodoopposite, or dorsal, side of their bodies. In most gastropods, this visceral hump is covered by, and contained within, the shell. This will be on the test, and, no, Leonard, you can’t be excused, just hold it in.

So, technically, I’m still not sure if snails have feet.

Anyway, um. Oh, yes, well, just as Eddie Escargot is about to reach the promised land, Max the cat jumps up and bats the unfortunate mollusk back across the sidewalk. The little guy sits there, stunned, back at square one. I swear I hear a tiny, little expletive. Another life lesson, I’m thinking. You know, if at first you don’t succeed, Rome wasn’t built in a day, cats are evil bastards. Stuff like that.

I shake my head at Max’s playful cruelty, wondering if he realizes what he’s done. “Was that necessary?” I lecture. “That is one pissed-off snail.”

Then it hits me. Is it? Is that snail mad as hell and not going to take it anymore? See, these are the things that I ponder. This, among many other reasons we won’t go into in this forum, is why I don’t own or manage a productive business, am not a best-selling author, and never made it to the professional tennis circuit. I am engrossed, wifey would say distracted, by matters such as this: Do snails get angry?

one pissed snailMy curiosity piqued, I dash to the computer and google the question, “Do snails get angry?” I’m not really expecting an answer, but you never know.

Sure enough, the query comes up word for word on the WikiAnswers site. Some bozo replied, “No, slugs and snails can’t get angry because they don’t have faces and therefore can’t frown, smile, or laugh.”

Wait a minute. Snails have faces. Don’t they? So I google “snail face,” only to find a host of sites about snail facials, a Japanese spa treatment in which they smother your head in live snails, which is apparently supposed to retard the aging process because of the incredible properties found in mollusk mucus. Tokyo spas are charging $250 to slather your mug in slugs–$300 if you want to eat them later.

But again, I digress. So I dash back outside to see for myself if our torpid little traveler has a face, only to find Ralph the dog rolling all over the poor thing in the driveway. Yes, Eddie Escargot is escargone. I pick the little guy up and place him gently in the garden, his final resting place. I swear I see a hint of a grin. Snail heaven. Gastropod Valhalla. Hey, there’s a name for our garage band.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Lenticular Haiku, by Sir Archie Ferndoodle

9 Jan

by Roger White

Fellow time/space voyagers and other occasional devotees of “This Old Blouse,” I am more tickled than a duffel bag full of marsupials to announce the return of my dear friend, front porch sartorial mentor, and fellow breakfast-nook philologist, Sir Archie Ferndoodle (applause, applause, applause).

Yes, the former poet laureate of the Greater Southwestern Scribes Society, which meets every third Thursday in the back of Sue’s Salon in Cement, Texas, has been gently coaxed out of quasi-retirement to once again bless us with phrasings, words, syllables, parts of syllables, and renderings of nocturnal animal sounds from the Ulan Bator region as only Sir Archie can. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get 10 percent off a five-ounce jar of Sue’s Coconut Heel Scrub with the purchase of at least $20, not including her patented Tomato-Lye Jamboree Hair Tonic.)     

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Fernie holds an associate’s degree in postmodern comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College and has been featured five times in the American Anthology of Poetry. Just a few of his classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” and his latest, “A Stitch, a Horse, and a Can of Pearl,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

The more astute of you may have seen Fernie’s hand in the Christmas edition of “This Old Mouse.” Raise your hand if you had the notion that Sir Archie was the ghostpen behind“The Nitrous Before Christmas.” Well, you’re dead wrong; I wrote that while flying low in my dentist’s office, but I did have ol’ Fernie in mind. In fact, he may have actually inhabited my body during that whole experience, but we digress again.

So anyway, without further magoo, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle, who has just returned from a five-month sojourn at the Tao Sendaha Haiku Sweat Lodge, just north of Pittsburgh.

 

Lenticular Haiku

by Archie Ferndoodle

 

Hand old, withered

Extended to young happy boy who

Smiles and

Coughs up a small border town near

Flagstaff.

 

Deposit slip with no meaning flutters

In brown surge of empty day. I find Julia at

Home making love to the Buick

Again.

Better judgment whispered

Toyota, Toyota.

Toyota. Smash hindsight with

Bitter hammer of stoli rocks. Ah.

 

Three grateful invertebrates argue

On who passed

Wind while each ascends

The assistant professor’s

Mortgage.

 

 

 

Trees and earth know much more

Than they sing

To man accused of listening of listening

Of listening to Alex

Trebek and his minions. Only refuse

And then hear again, the daily

Double. Oh! Bodies of

Water for Four

Hundred.

 

Heat. No heat. Heat. No heat.

Damn toaster. Fling the

Shiny monster down the hillock to

CRASH waves of filament element

Parchment and wire. No heat toast is mere

bread and

Sorrow.

Dear Julia. I’m trading it

In.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

I Played Drums for Frank Zappa — Didn’t I?

8 Jun

by Roger White

One of the few nice things about growing old is that the more ancient you become, the less you can be blamed for how quirky and oddly selective your memory is. We boomers (aka flower children, hippies, yippies, Owsley’s owls, hepcats, heads, groks, hipsters, space cadets, longhairs, psychedelic cosmonauts, merry pranksters, etc.) are also able to bask in the added bonus of being able to point the flying fickle finger of forgetfulness at all that, um, consciousness-expanding experimentation of our salad days as yet another source of our cumulus-dotted craniums. Or is that cranii? Craniundum. Whatever.

As one sage and far out philosopher once pined: “If you remember the ’60s, then you weren’t there.” At times, I regard this statement as the deepest of the deep—an epistle of the era; other times, not so much. “Let’s see, so if I remember being at Woodstock, then I wasn’t really? But Santana was there, so does that mean he actually wasn’t? It sure looked like him. Could have been a body double. Hmmm, what’s Wavy Gravy’s phone number?…”

Regardless, what I’m chirping about isn’t just the occasional fortuitous forgetting, such as conveniently deciding to help a buddy configure the surround sound in his far, far West Texas cabin on the very weekend your wife’s sister’s extended family was slated to hit town.

And it’s not just about ungraciously unremembering, like hiding comfy in your cube while your coworkers render the fourth “Happy Birthday to You” of the week in yet another forced bonding ceremony in the breakroom, complete with dry cake and strained smiles and laughing hard at all the boss’s jokes, ha ha ha, oh, God.

And it’s even more than just a nice, fat case of what I call the “lazily laying asides.” You know what I’m talking about here: cleverly delaying emptying the dishwasher, mowing the lawn, putting your dirty clothes away, or cleaning up the dog’s indiscretions on the carpet until somebody else takes care of it—all in the name of thick fog in the old noodle. “I didn’t see it, I swear. Without my glasses, it looked like a dark, skinny chew toy.”

No, as satisfying as these little geriatric perks are, I’m referring to good old (are you ready for this alliterative ace?) narcissistic nostalgia. Witty words, eh? Just call me an emperor of expression, a duke of declaration, a guru of, uh, some word that begins with “g.”

Friends, narcissistic nostalgia is that endearing trait we old-timers display now and again that involves taking a mental bicycle pump to a personal brush with greatness from long ago and puffing up that memory into a full-blown, if somewhat fraudulent, fat tire of genuine stardom. These episodes generally occur in social settings, such as parties, class reunions, corporate happy hours, or waiting in the endless line for the john at the most recent Stones concert. (I hear they’re on the road again, by the way. Rumor has it this tour’s going to be called either “Steel Wheelchairs” or “A Bigger Bed Pan.”)

Narcissistic nostalgia, or NN as it’s known by those who study this sort of thing, is nothing new. Folks rustling through the autumn leaves of their years have been exhibiting traits of NN since Biblical times, when a graying David kept rehashing to his tribe about how he beaned the 30-foot-tall Goliath with a single tiny pebble. David’s peers actually recall that Goliath stood only about 5’ 8” and that David was packing heat—but by the time David was a doddering old king, his buddies figured it was better to let him tell the story his way.

Thus it is with us geezers today. I had my own NN experience recently, and it took my wife to gently sweep my cobwebs (thankfully out of earshot of my rapt audience).

Now, as I recalled it, it was about mid to late ’70s. I was living in Dallas-Fort Worth with some musician pals of mine. Frank Zappa was tooling through town when his drummer got hold of some bad herbs just before the Mothers were scheduled to play the Tarrant County Convention Center. One of Zap’s bandmates had swung by our place with the news and asked if anybody could sit in on the skins for the evening’s gig. “I’m your man,” I said—and the rest is history.

Well, NN history. My dear wife knew me then, and here’s what really happened: It was 1985. Jimmy Carl Black, Zappa’s drummer from the Mothers of Invention days, dropped in to see a mutual friend I was living with in Arlington. Jimmy Carl scored an impromptu gig at a place called The Hop in Fort Worth but didn’t have his drum kit with him. So he played on my little old set that night, and those babies never sounded cleaner.

And that, dear compadres, is the closest I came to playing drums for Frank Zappa. I still say the NN version is better.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Oak Hill with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.