Life On The Road And Minimalism

Before my trip began, and to this day, these have been my only expectations:

– That I’ll have good and bad experiences
– To learn, grow, and transform from those experiences
– Spend most of my time outside
– Meet new people
– See my country and it’s different culture
– Visit family along the way

That’s it.

Now living in such a small space forces you to spend most of your time outside, and that was a desired and intended effect. One of my reasons for the trip was to dodge the Maine winter. I didn’t want to be couped up all the time because of cold grey weather. I like being outside in the sunshine. The biggest purpose of the house on my truck is really to provide shelter from bad weather, have a comfortable place to sleep, and to carry cargo, even though it’s very cozy to sit and hang out in with up to 3 people, not including myself. Otherwise, I’m pretty much always outside. Why stay in when you can be out, especially when the weather is nice?

Another great thing about living in a severely micro dwelling; everything is at arms reach. If you were to add up all the time you spend walking through your house to get one thing or to do another, you’d find a chunk is eaten up simply going from room to room, and back. I once heard that Einstein only had a couple wardrobes so that he didn’t have to waste any time thinking about or choosing what to wear from day to day. Likewise, I don’t lose any time when it comes to doing things in and around my house. Maybe that’s why everyone wears jumpsuits in the future.

Some more of the benefits are that I have less square footage to keep clean and maintain; no need for a mop and I have an oriental rug that I just shake out as needed so no vacuuming. No bathroom to clean either. I have everything I need and nothing I don’t. My only appliances are a camp stove and a fan. No toaster, microwave, oven, dishwasher, or fridge to clean, or have breakdown. I have no TV either. And on that note, I actually haven’t really watched any at all since I left Maine six months ago, which has been very gratifying. They really do rot the brain (don’t get me wrong though, I love a lot of different shows and am quite a movie buff). The only exceptions are the occasional youtube video on my phone, or watching a funny show once in a great while on HULU with one of my friends here in NOLA. That also means I haven’t played any video games, which for me is a guilty pleasure, but I honestly haven’t missed it. Just stepping outside my door, wherever I happen to be, is more than enough for interactive entertainment.

So, there’s also no yard to maintain, no gutters to get clogged (however, I do have a gutter, it’s just small and it’s design prevents clogging), and here are the big ones; no rent, no landlord, no electric or internet bill, and no neighbors unless I want them. The only downside I can think of at the moment is that I don’t have a garden, and no place for raging bonfires. But I’ll make up for that when I get back to Maine.

As for showers, I have a camp shower which is just a black bag of water that heats up in the sun and has a hose with a sprinkler. I don’t always heat it either; a few months before I even thought to go traveling I got into a habit of taking cold showers fairly often for their health benefits, as in, improving circulation, which has a cascade of nice effects for the body and is subsequently good for mind of course. And, the “unpleasantness” of the experience itself each time is also a way to train your mind to better face unpleasant situations by focusing on the fact that great rewards often demand you go through a little discomfort first. Anyway, I take showers outside with a limited supply of water, with minimal pressure, and it’s not always hot, so I spend only as much time as I need to in order to get clean, which is generally between 5 and 10 minutes. I do it with the same approach as brushing my teeth or shaving… Its not something I do for pleasure, and the quicker the better. Bing bang. Time is precious, and half hour showers weren’t uncommon for me when I was living in an apartment. But now, it takes up the least of my time. My “bathroom” consists of a folding toilet seat for you know what, and a glass jar for number one. I try to use public restrooms or shops when I can for both, but if I can’t, I’m prepared.

Life on the road with a minimalist mindset is definitely conducive to living in the moment and reducing stress if done properly. And if you’re like me, one learns to eagerly and enthusiastically let go of and be very content without so many of the things we’re taught growing up are necessary for happiness. You eventually come to embrace the new lifestyle as you shed the majority of your old possessions, habits, requirements, and expectations for everyday living. Thoreau, and all the rest who have said that less is more and simpler is better, are all correct. More things, more space, more obligations, more concerns, more this and that and so on and so on is just more fragmentation of every aspect of your life; more complication. Part of my mantra has always been “no worries,” and “no big deal,” or, “keep it simple.” And if you ever met me, you’d immediately notice that I’m mellow to the extreme. I’m not passive or shy, I just always have a very laid back attitude, relaxed demeanor, and an easygoing presence. Calm, cool, and collected as they say. If you can’t be happy with nothing, then you can’t be happy with everything. In fact, it gets harder to be happy with more, and easier with less. But don’t take my word for it. Go out there and see for yourself.

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Rebirth Of A Poet

I’ve been writing poetry off and on for about 15 years, and up until recently, my primary focus has always been on music, visual art, and photography. One of the first people I met and really connected with in NOLA is a poet named Beatrice, coming from Detroit. She was walking down the sidewalk with a cat on her shoulder and I had to take her picture for my other photoblog. We became friends from that moment and a week or so after meeting, we started to hang out fairly often. Eventually she introduced me to some of the other local poets in the French Quarter who basically setup as poets “for hire” on Royal St. during the day. They also typically sit all together in a row.

IMG_20160402_150351“Cubs” was one of the first I met and is a mainstay for the Royal St. scene. Anyway, the process is simple; a person can ask for a poem about any topic or subject, then the poet might ask a few questions or chat with the person for a bit, then write them a personalized poem on the spot using a typewriter. When it’s complete, the pay is based on whatever a person wants to give or tip.

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Poets lined up on Royal St. (I’m farthest left)

I definitely thought it was a pretty cool and interesting concept but never actually thought to try it until over a month later, only after meeting and having a conversation with another visiting poet named Tania, from Spain. While we were talking about street poetry, and to be specific, how she got into it, I said I’d like to try it and she responded by saying that I should, and that it’s like a drug.

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Tania, on Royal Street

What happened was, I picked up a job at a donut shop a couple weeks after I landed in town, and it was alright, just like any other relatively mundane or menial line of work, but for better or worse, it didn’t last. Now I’ve had a lot of different jobs, and they all seem to get derailed sooner or later, regardless of how “good” it seems to go, so because it happened once again, I took it as a sign that time that maybe the cosmos really want me to be doing something else, something I’m truly passionate about and good at, which is anything creative and artistic.

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Having fun with chalk. It was just Cubs, Dante, and I that day.

Now I’ve learned that street performing as a musician can be tough as a solo act in NOLA, and I don’t consider myself to be that special compared to the other musicians here, so I didn’t count that as an option for getting by. I also didn’t have much art on me to be able to sell. But what I did have was this poet for hire thing on the brain, and since I live in a micro house, a heavy, bulky typewriter was out of the question, not to mention what it would cost to get one and maintain it. Luckily I packed my pen and ink set. So, instead of typing poems, I decided I would write long hand in cursive calligraphy. I figured I’ll make one more genuine shot at really following my dream vs. settling with a day job. So I started about a month ago now, and I’ve averaged about 12 hours a day, everyday, except when it’s raining. Basically I’ve been doing it non stop since I started. Royal St. by day, and Frenchmen St. by night. I’ve never had a better job or “worked” with such beautiful souls. I don’t think I’ve had as much success with anything before in my life.

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On Frenchman Street. The girl wearing the glasses is Kaile, proprietor of “The Spontaneous Prose Store.”

Over the course of my poeting career so far, I’ve seen some interesting things at poetry corner (our unofficial name for the operation… also known as Writer’s Block); I’ve seen a fellow poet so drunk he peed on the sidewalk as children were walking by, all whilst sitting on a milk crate, I’ve seen myself and the other poets that were with me get sprayed from a balcony with a hose from a miserable woman that spends her summers in New york, and when she comes to New Orleans she hates on the poets. She said she was “watering her plants” but was literally hosing us down, typewriters and all. I’ve seen people cry, I’ve seen people be rude, but most of all, I’ve seen people be very kind, appreciative, and generous for what we (street poets everywhere) are doing and for what we’re putting out into the world.

There’s so much to be said for how we as individuals come to do something in our lives or how we discover a new path. A lot of the time, it’s something outside of us that inspires us, to try doing what we’ve witnessed, but in our own unique way, or, doing something totally new. Before I came to New Orleans, I had written poetry only sporadically, but now, it’s like I’ve had an awakening, or, reawakening of a talent with lots of passion behind it. At the same time, I finally found a way to make a fair living at doing something I enjoy. It’s just one more thing I can be thankful for, and attribute to my New Orleans experience. It’s also how I’ve been able to give back and be a part of the culture.

So when I first started, I was using my dip pen, which is just a basic plain old black inkwell pen. But by my 3rd day I glued an osprey feather to it that I found back in Maine to give it an authentic look. After a couple weeks of saving, I also picked up a beautiful handmade inkwell from Venice, Italy, as well as a wax seal to give the whole process that extra bit of class. My seal is a skeleton key, which I chose for two reasons; one is, my last name, Chavez, comes from the Spanish word for key, and the second is that poetry, like any form of art or literature, is a metaphorical key. Also, I can proudly say I’m the only poet in New Orleans, and perhaps the country, that is hand writing poems in calligraphy. And to be genuinely original in NOLA is not easy.

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Writing poetry on Oak Street by the Maple Leaf Bar, during a block party and crawfish boil

There’s something special going on here. It’s a very sacred place, and I knew it before I ever arrived, but I never could have imagined just how profound the experience really is, especially for anyone who is open minded and eager. It’s not just a place where you can walk around with open liquor, party all day, and find music everywhere. NOLA is alive, and she pulls people in from all over the world; artists, musicians, writers, photographers, singers, and all, and shapes them or reshapes them or fixes their compass, and gives them a key to unlock any door, and sends them on their way.  Treat her right and she’ll do wonders for you.

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