Friday, November 11, 2016

Master of Melancholy

Leonard Cohen was honest. His lyrics had some poetic elements but most of all they were honest and he sang honestly. Maybe he decided to memorialize only the melancholy aspects of his life, or maybe he was always melancholy. Either way, he demonstrated that with honesty and a few chords then you can make some music worth listening to. Karen Carpenter can sing melancholy, but I think she faked it. She was a good actress and her voice can capture melancholy in a way that is perhaps more poignant than Cohen, but Cohen was honest and melancholy in the way Bukowski mostly told fake stories but did it in a way that you knew he was bending the facts for the good of the story, not for his own benefit. He was often the villain of his stories but only because the truth wasn't that interesting. Cohen was not as gifted a singer as Dean Martin or Bing Crosby and his songs are not up to Cole Porter's or Burt Bacharach's standards and his melodies are monotonous, but they always suit the words. Cohen had his finger on the pulse of the broken heart. I'd like to record a cover song from his songbook but he deserves his own voice. Go search for a video with him singing. Somewhere, angels have stopped strumming on their harps because the real artist has arrived. Cohen is not smiling, he sits down, takes his time, grabs his guitar, tunes it slowly, strums a minor chord, and sings something true.

Tales from the Road

Survival, no other explanation needed

I don't want to fill the internet with more photos because it diminishes my ability to describe. A picture is worth a thousand words or more, so every picture is 1000 words I can ignore and my brain shrivels and my writing powers ebb.

what you might see in Navajo land

I'm touring the great South West Indian lands. Zuni, Navajo, Pueblo, Hopi, Mescalero Apache. The land was different in 1000AD so it's not fair to imagine how these cultures survived since I would also have to imagine 1000 years difference in climate and grasslands, imagine western farming practices never existed, etc.

Today we have the Bureau of Land Management basically safeguarding land from illegal squatters but they do tolerate hippies and non-conformists like me for 15 days at a time in any given location. So, a person simply finds a State Forest or BLM land reserve and then finds a road into the land and parks. Usually, the locals have already cut a good road to throw teenager parties off the grid so simply follow the beer cans. Sometimes they are pristine. New Mexico and Colorado and Utah are names the White Man gives to this ancestral land of the First Nation people.

I refrain from describing my experiments in winter heating of the van because I do not want to encourage others from attempting these madman stunts such a...
...putting a woodstove and chimney in your van.

No, it's a bad idea. It's also a bad philosophy because it rejects the nomadic tradition of moving to climates that suit the skin, rather than torturing wild animals so one can better survive the climate one is forced into due to changing seasons. Move south or north or higher or lower to adjust the climate. Do not install a woodstove in your van. You lunatic. What is wrong with you? Well, now that the disclaimer is out of the way I can say that a woodstove is also a bad idea because if you are trying to survive with found fuel then where the hell are you going to find good hardwood and mesquite in a Walmart parking lot? I ask you. You won't. You will find cardboard and white pine wooden pallets behind the Big Lots nearby and you will burn these and they will keep you warm for 20 minutes (insert image of yourself patting your own back) and then vanish like the sweet scent of your first girlfriend's hair shampoo in the summer breeze. You will then freeze and think that Oggy is some kind of sadist for making you put a woodstove in a van and neglected to tell you that it will not keep you warm for even half an hour. Bastard! Well, the deal is that even if you found an unlimited supply of hardwood to burn the stove will have to be the variety to burn sticks.
Small fatsco woodstove in van.
And if you can burn sticks of hardwood in your stove then maybe you can survive a night. But my stove is no designed for sticks of anything. It is a Fatsco Pet stove and it is designed for charcoal. Oh, I burned wood in it for 3 evil winters while processing lobsters in Maine and wandering Labrador but I tell you this was not easy nor comfortable. I knew that the stove was designed for charcoal but I figured where am I going to put a huge bag of charcoal? And do I want charcoal dust on everything? And when I run out of charcoal then I will use wood so why not start with wood?

Well, one day I will describe all the gory details but my experiment with wood is over. The kind of wood that one has easy and free access to is not suitable for heating a van for a few hours let alone an entire night. So, I decided I must experiment with charcoal because it's always around 20 degrees in Navajo November so coal is the next step.

The bags of Charcoal caution the user that it emits carbon monoxide and can not be burned in vehicles. They actually have a drawing of a van with a big X through it so that the illiterate Trump supporter might still grasp that charcoal ought not be burned in their van. BUT, everything that burns emits carbon monoxide, including wood and gasoline, so it's a risk we all take every day because engineering has made it possible to produce tons of CO but not immediately be sick from it. The charcoal manufacturers simply don't want to leave any excuse to get sued and they are not going to say that burning charcoal is perfectly fine in a well ventilated van or in a van with a chimney because that's a ridiculous disclaimer, like car manufacturers telling you not to run your vehicle inside your living room. So, I have a well ventilated van with a functioning chimney and I can burn anything in my stove because all the gases and smoke go straight outside. The combustion heats the cast iron and heats the van and the poison goes up into the air where magic fairies churn it into rainbows and unicorn fetishes.

So, I bought two bags of charcoal and started a fire per normal with some old Honduran newspaper, broken-hearted letters to imaginary lovers and some wax firestarter log. And when I get flames then I poured some charcoal onto the flames and opened the air flow door and the damper on the chimney for full air, and the coal blazed up as expected. I always knew the coal would burn, and I suspected the gas would all vent through the chimney with the smoke but I was suspicious that the time of heating would not justify the expense. In order to fully perform this experiment and post information on the internet where foolish van dwellers will get the wrong idea and try this and die, I purchased a Carbon Monoxide detector. I did not get a smoke alarm because that would go off every time I burn the eggs in the morning. The CO monitor I put right by the chimney so there could be no doubt that it would alert me before I entered the long sleep. The alarm, I should add, does not alert the instant it senses CO, but after 5 minutes or 10 minutes depending on the concentration of CO it senses for that length of time it will sound the alarm.

I was hesitant to fill the stove at first so the first two nights were spent testing the lower limits of functionality. Only after a successful two nights that I did not die and charcoal dust did not annoy me did I fill the chamber completely and let it rip. I will say that it's a success. A properly vented chimney with good draft will vent all the gasses and smoke. The charcoal is a huge improvement over the wood because when I used sticks I had to put all the sticks into the fire standing vertically and they burned to ash in about 5 minutes. Charcoal burns the bottom briquettes first and slowly works up, the ash falls through the grate and the higher lumps of coal slowly fall into the burning chamber. The stove was designed for coal with a slope to feed the chamber so one can fill the chamber completely and know they will not have to push the coal into the chamber since it will roll that way as the chamber empties when the lower lumps have burned to ash. The designer of this stove would say, "No shit, why do you think I say, "USE CHARCOAL" on the instructions." But Oggy must learn the hard way because I don't like doing the right thing until I know what the consequences are from doing the wrong thing.

The only problem is the ash that accumulates from an entire stove full of charcoal actually fills the ash chamber to the point that air flow is reduced. So, I would call this a 6 hour stove. I put a bunch of charcoal in at 9pm and there were still red hot coals at 7am the next morning...but the van was cold because I did not get up at 1am and empty the ash and refill the chamber with new coal. I believe that if I can streamline the disposal of the ash then the stove will keep the van warm all night long so that Oggy does not freeze in Zuni land.

this panoramo is worth more than 1000 words. and the van is actually in there somewhere.
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.