Saturday, September 15, 2018


I am aware that my blog is approaching its Tenth Year anniversary. I embarked on this journey with El Conquistador for one year exploration of The Baja Peninsula. I suspected the van would not survive the trip or maybe I wouldn't survive the trip either. To sum up my mindset at that time requires some ad lib and reliance on foggy memories but I recall my disillusionment with the status quo was very high. Nearly 5 years on the fringes of Los Angeles entertainment industry confirmed that all my idealistic hopes and starry-eyed artistic visions were obsolete. Drugs and underage sex were the main commodities in Los Angeles and I wrote a script about Henry David Thoreau's life on Walden Pond. The timing was not right. The economy collapsed along with the fraudulent housing mortgage scheme. Bush danced off into the sunset and Obama arrived with Hope that I suspected was a big scam. I knew that drugs and underage sex were all that kept Los Angeles humming and I didn't see Obama embracing that reality. Obama represented the collective delusion. Everyone I knew was stoned all the time. It was at the point that I knew no one who was ever sober and I started to question the definition of sobriety when no one is not under the influence. Doesn't the definition change? Isn't sobriety then defined as only moderately influenced by drugs? If one still knows they are human and on earth then that's sober. If they believe they are an Alien transplant whose real home is Atlantis then that is the new 'high'. If you snort cocaine, smoke pot and try to have sex with every warm body that walks in your office then you have embraced the status quo; you fit the paradigm and the paradigm rewards conformists.

I tried to embrace the status quo. I tried to conform but my ultimate goal was to explore Central America and in the Summer of 2008 I realized I did not have to sell my Thoreau script to reach that goal. I could throw the script in the trash, sell everything I owned and buy a disposable van in which I could fulfill that goal. The fact I did this at the beginning of the financial collapse that gave me a front row seat to the street culture that was about to explode was pure coincidence. I already knew poverty and its many faces, the moans, the drunken utterances of the hobo and the wino camped on the grey sidewalk. I spoke that language fluently and had no desire to hear the midnight rantings of a new generation of filthy dispossessed. I associated with neither the ragged and derelict Poor nor with the aloof Rich who threw their crumbs to the rabble on the damp curb. The Grapes of Wrath had not changed the world so why would any essay or script I write do anything? Furthermore, what audience was there for the rantings of a couch philosopher and closeted social activist? I held a vigorous disdain for all parties and wanted nothing more than to evaporate into the Venice mist that crawled off the Pacific Ocean each evening to cloak the miserable RV gypsies and self-professed visionaries who congregated between the Self-Storage and Gold's Gym. 

I found El Conquistador, already rich with character but still affordable, in nearby San Pedro and saw my escape vessel. Hardly incognito, I would enter the stream of disillusionment in full freak regalia. I was so consumed by the process of transition that I almost didn't realize that it was a period of great personal and tribal and global change and I had a chance, maybe even an obligation, to record my thoughts for posterity. Thus The Man in the Van was born in the bloody placenta of my anal surgery and the dawning of a digital age of narcissism. At the time, 2008, I knew of zero digital travel logs involving van dwellers. Now it's a popular trend with coffee table books, art districts, music festivals and virtual donation hats. In September 2008 I only had my drug dulled instincts to guide me. I could only publish daily entries by visiting the local library and uploading data. I believe Blogger had no video feature at that time and the only way I could include video was by uploading video to a secondary site like photobucket and then linking the html video info to my blogger entry. It was not difficult as the brains of these entities were aligned with one another. They made it easy to accomplish what I wanted. I could embrace the 1st amendment without censorship nor moderation. I was unhinged and unleashed.

The tale of these last 10 years is too vast to summarize. I did intend to spend one year in Mexico in the van but it was easier to embrace the gypsy life than to leave it. One year turned into a decision to cross North America from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to Happy Valley, Labrador in Canada to raise awareness about the Arctic Wolf's perilous position as a predator who lives in fragile, at-risk environments that are becoming accessible to oil development. That quest broke me financially but through it all El Conquistador remained loyal and serviceable. I burned many bridges as I decided a true quest through Central America was my next expedition. This was only possible with the assistance and sponsorship of Shell Energy who paid some of my salary while I was working in the hydro-fracturing fields of South and West Texas where the earth is cracked like an egg to fuel our feverish travels.

Years piled on years. Apartments, keys, friends, tears, stray dogs, moons, police encounters: these are too numerous to count. I hoped that life as a gypsy would slow life down, make me appreciate it more, keep me young, but I think it is a blur no matter what path you chose. My brothers in the domestic class have the same complaint as the gypsy: where does the time go? Indeed, ten years are gone. For a man who counts his savings in experience and wisdom I can say the investment has paid off though I am basically in the same economic status as I was when I moved into El Conquistador back in 2008.

I'm not finished with this blog, but I will be soon. I'd planned a grand send-off exactly on the 10th anniversary but it will have to be some grand send-off on the 10+th anniversary. The level of insanity that I deal with daily is laughable. Starting wood fires regularly in a vehicle to stay warm, defending myself against police attacks, for years and years. It's no good. I discourage anyone who wishes to follow in my footsteps. The world simply has chosen to vilify any man living in a van and whether I think it's right or wrong does nothing to deflect the attacks. The answer is obviously to NOT live in a van. That's the best approach and my only advice to anyone. Don't live in a van. No. Don't do it. Read my blog, imagine a life in a van, but stop just short of buying a van and living in it. There is no room in the world of men for such a lifestyle. That's my conclusion. I also have an adventure planned that can not include El Conquistador. At some point in 2015 I decided that a decade in the van, if I could last that long, would be sufficient. "A Decade Behind The Wheel" would be the title of my future recollection on this time period. (Believe it or not, there are many episodes I couldn't confess to) It sounds better than "Six Years Behind The Wheel". After a decade I would be going in circles, learning the same lessons, spinning my tires in the sand. In fact, I tried to escape the circle earlier but was foiled several times. If Fortuna had worked her magic in different was I could have lived a number of other lives in these past 10 years but the life I lived on this blog is the one I chose to share. It's not 100% true but the lies were told because they were more colorful. The blog has always been for entertainment purposes, mine and that of the audience. Often circumstances involving 70 or 90 hour work weeks preclude writing about my life and the work itself does not inspire me so I go silent. I equate writing with music, Jazz, specifically, so I don't edit because the writing is the melody I hear as I improvise. That's not to say I don't prewrite in my pre-sleep evening repose under my cowboy bed sheets and lion print comforter. I hear the music, develop it in my mind before my fingers touch the keyboard. The keys are merely the final phase bringing the music to life. That's a dimension of instrumental music that I've explored these past ten years. Does a musician play notes that his fingers dictate or has the music already existed in his mind before the instrument is even out of the case? Isn't 'music' a mental exercise that doesn't involve vibrating air waves? Musicians don't train their fingers to play melodies, they use instruments to communicate what is already fully developed in their minds. Well, it's debatable, but that's my approach to writing: I write the music that's already developed and can not be left unwritten. Some of it is improvised and misses the mark but to change it would be dishonest in my opinion because my objective is not concise communication. I'm not crafting an essay for mass appeal, I'm liberating the thoughts that harmonize in my mind during the quiet hours before dawn. Mass appeal is for professionals; I'm not a professional.

There are other lessons that the past 10 years have taught me but I'm running out of mid-Autumn light and I must work tomorrow. One of the lessons was that 10 years ago I set out to write a book that I have not yet written, but in the meanwhile I wrote ten years worth of blog entries. I tell myself that I may have to force myself to write the book, but that is contrary to Jazz. Miles Davis would schedule recording session dates and then not show up. Why? Because The Muse didn't show up on the recording date. Hey! That's life! Producers gave Davis a lot of shit for skipping session dates but his response was basically that he's not going to force the music because music that is forced isn't worth playing or listening to. It's his opinion. An artist doesn't 'produce' Music; the Music compels the artist to play. There is a big difference. Some of my music has missed the mark and what entertained me then does not entertain me now. Maybe that was the material that was forced but I deceived myself into thinking it was inspired. I don't want to start deleting entries now so I'm going to leave it as a record of trial and error. My objective was to entertain and for ten years I was guided by that objective. In these times of rampant punditry, alarmist media, disillusionment and despair my goal was not easily satisfied. An entertainer has a sick job of commercializing laughter, that can not be captured or reused. It's sick because the entertainer, as soon as he is not entertaining, is just another asshole. There is some satisfaction with building a fence or gate because the gate lives on after the craftsman is gone. Laughter, however, evaporates like mist over the ocean.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.