Now Posted – Further Reading and massive bibliography for the classic new book Gypsies of the New Millenium. Check it out on the GNM page on the menu. You will want to save this bibliography and get to the library and start reading.
Here’s a clever solar cooker made from an old satellite dish. The dish is covered with a reflective foil, and the design of the dish reflects heat from the sun into a small area above it. A pan is suspended from the old satellite arm. It might take you a couple of minutes to get the exact spot that will pin-point the most heat to the pan. You put your food inside the pan, and in a few minutes you will have warm food. Be careful sticking your hand in the center of the dish, it gets hot. You could use a clamp to hold a pan for your food over the dish. This guy has a BBQ brush hooked on the top of the arm. A clever “stove” that could be handy for a campsite, even an urban one. Hey the “fuel” is free!
Those of you following the great work in progress “Gypsies of the New Millennium” now have 3 new chapters to read: Chapter 7 – Money, Chapter 8 – Van Living, and the Epilogue, where Skip tells it like it is. Soon to come is a chapter entitled “Further Reading”. I suggest that you PRINT THIS book out and put in in a binder for future reference. If you get a nice fat 3 ring binder you can add information to it as you find it. Skip’s book, published on this web site exclusively is the only classic modern nomadic living book that delves into the deep shadows of our life-style. This book tells it like it really is, and Skip is providing it here, right now, free of charge. This is an invaluable gift of information and I sincerely hope you appreciate it. The information in his book, and on this site has taken years to accumulate.
If you carry a bike with you in your van (or if you don’t have one, go to a thrift store and buy a bike helmet and become an illusion of a biker), note that this very cool major bike shop in Santa Monica offers a lot of services, including showers! A low $15 bucks a month and you got showers! Towel and/or locker is extra, but is still very reasonable. They offer a lot of services, bike repairs, education, tours, etc. If you are camping out in your van “gypsy cool” style on the Westside this might be a spot you will want to go to, it’s near the beach on 2nd near Colorado. They are open until 10pm. If you are camping in the area for an extended period, the yearly rate is only $299 for membership, including locker, towel and showers. That’s less than $1 per day, so don’t be stinky, check out this place. Here’s the link:
Tell a friend about this one. Paulie is going to try to get some video soon! If you have a bike, Santa Monica has a lot of great rides. With the new rail line, the Expo line set to extend that way, you could get to Santa Monica from almost anywhere in LA, (you can also take your bike on the bus). Or just get there and rent a bike from them. Lot’s of possibilities here for fun, healthy bicycling, shower, sunshine and great weather on Southern California’s beaches. You can enjoy the world’s greatest weather and laugh at all your dumb friends stuck in their hot-box apartments in the Valley. (Anyone who has spent a summer in the San Fernando Valley knows that hell is just an afterthought. In fact, rumor has it that the Devil came up to the Valley one day to check it out, but it was so hot he had to scurry back to Hell to cool off.)
Cabela’s has lots of great stuff for vans and RVs, including portable toilets, some portable showers, and tons of misc. stuff. I wish they had a store in California, but they offer good mail order service, and free shipping for orders over $99, which you could easily spend buying essential stuff and bargain prices. Check out the website:
Here’s a great van conversion company, located in Texas (They also have a Fresno outlet and one in Indiana). You can choose your vehicle, then choose floor plan and inside equipment. This company has been around a long time and knows what they are doing, with a very well organized website. I wish I had the money for one of these, because unlike an RV which stands out in the city, these are “stealth” vehicles and can be parked anywhere. This is very professional stuff, you could live in one of these indefinitely. Here is the link to their website:
Ron McDowell has some nice photos of his Ford E-350 custom built Sportsmobile van. Here,s the link to his web page.
I Live In A Bowling Alley
My Life Went Down The Tubes
My name is Ben. I live in the San Fernando Valley. I’m retired now, but when I was working I had enough money to pay my rent, buy food, and have some fun, mainly bowling. I love to bowl. I mean I really love, love, love bowling. My friends even got to calling me “Benny the Bowler”. It is my passion, or I should say it WAS my passion. Since I retired and started collecting Social Security, my life went down the tubes, and bowling, among other things, went with it. Here’s my story.
The money I got from Social Security just barely covered my rent. And I didn’t live in a fancy place. Just a dumpy single apartment. Oh, the rent was more reasonable in the past, but it kept going up and up, until it was just under $900 per month. So there wasn’t even enough left for very much food. Some seniors get a lot more than me, they worked for the government or a big corporation and get a nice pension. Me? I started out in retail sales and stayed there.
My first job was a shoe salesman. I was good at selling shoes, but you need a strong stomach for it, smelling the stink of people’s socks and nylons. Shoe stores should have a heated pond when you walk in, sort of a mini-car wash for feet. You take off your shoes and then go through this little pond, which gently soaps up your toesies and gives everything a scrub-a-dub. Next is the warm blow-dry to get off the water and warm you up. Then, instead of wax, you get a shot of perfume on your ankles and feet. At that point, your feet are clean and smelling g-o-o-o-d! Then the shoe salesman sashays in, ready to show you some cool klompers. I might still be selling shoes if that dream was real. But unfortunately, it ain’t.
So, I decided to move up the sales ladder, which means move up the body so to speak. I got into a nice shop selling men’s wear, suits, ties, shirts. I liked the job, so I stuck around for 30 years until the owner died and the merchandise was taken away by the legions of unpaid creditors. Needless to say, I didn’t get a pension. But while I was there I made enough to have a very modest living and I could bowl my brains out.
I learned a lot at the men’s shop. I learned how to dress nice, the different fabrics, ties, everything about men’s clothing. When I first started working there, my boss gave me a pamphlet to read, called “How Clothing Symbolically Defines a Civilization”. It explained the psychology behind the design of men’s clothes. Like the businessman, who needs a conservative suit; the actor needs something sporty and stylish with a fun tie; the politician needs a power suit, not too conservative, power without looking too expensive; a banker needs a very conservative power suit, with a tie that jumps out and whispers in your ear “trust me”! Something for everyone, even clowns and their hip-hop imitators.
I Never Had Enough Food
After I retired, my small savings went quickly. The landlord took everything. I never had enough food. I started to obsess about food. There was no money for anything else, no more bowling, no more eating out, no dating, just trying to get some cheap food, which was usually junk stuff on sale somewhere. I got to the point of putting food purchases on my credit card, then I got behind in my payments and they tagged a high interest rate on me. Then they canceled the card and sent me to collection. This meant if I left the apartment for cheaper diggs I wouldn’t be able to get another one because of bad credit. Things escalated. I was dreaming about food, waking up with night sweats at 4 am. I dreamed I had become like one of the millions of starving people of Africa, like a skinny starving kid with my face on his body. But I had actually gained a lot of weight. Although my fear was starvation, it drove me to eat and eat. I didn’t have any money to go anywhere, so I just sat on the couch watching tv, drooling over the food commercials, and eating junk because it was cheap. I had turned into a sickly fat slob, riddled with fear – fear of when the next rent increase was hitting, fear of going hungry, fear of life itself.
I still had my old computer, and would send out a few emails, but I mainly used it to look for food coupons and market ads. I somehow stumbled on your gypsy cool website. At first, I didn’t pay much attention, I actually laughed out loud that there would be a website for someone living in a vehicle. What a joke, I thought. Then one morning at 4 am I woke up with the usual anxiety, sweating like a pig, my heart racing. I was at the end of my rope. What the hell was I going to do?
I remembered your website. Could living in a vehicle solve my problems? I somehow knew that I was finished at the apartment. I was done. Ready to take the pipe as they say. Life was no fun, no joy, I was miserable. I went back to the gypsy cool site, I started reading everything on it. I got out a notebook, and for the next week I made notes from your website and a few others that were similar. I was desperate, but reading about others in the same boat started to give me courage. I learned there are tens of thousands of people in America living in vehicles. Yeah, in some spots it’s illegal. So what? How “legal” was it for the stinking bankers to steal all the wealth of the country? Besides, the West was settled by people who lived in vehicles: COVERED WAGONS. Remember them?
I Decide To Go Stealth
I followed all your advice. Once I had made my decision it was full steam ahead. I gave notice to the landlord. I sold my car and bought a used van for stealth living. I put in carpet that I got used for almost nothing, then put down a pad and bedding. I got it fixed up like a mini RV. I rented a cheap storage unit and moved my dresser and some bookcases and my computer into it. I plan to get a laptop soon, but amazingly the storage unit has power, but no internet. I fixed up my unit like a mini apartment, since I have power I can use a hot plate and a small toaster oven. I picked up a small refrigerator and plugged it in, I’m just hoping they don’t catch on or care about that. Most of my clothes are in the storage unit, I found a couple of large cardboard boxes that had held water heaters and I rigged up a pole inside to hang suits and slacks.
Your articles mentioned a health club, so I joined one. I go there every couple of days for a shower. And since I’m there, a sauna and some exercise. Your advice about food was great. I signed up at the local senior center. They serve a hot lunch every day of the week for $2. It’s a nutrition deal, low calorie meals. So in the last 7 months, since I moved out of the apartment and started living in the van and eating at the center and exercising at the health club, I’ve lost a lot of weight. I look a lot better and I feel a lot better.
My budget is simple, no more rent or electricity. Only gas and occasional service for the van, which I had with the car anyway. So my Social Security check is almost all bottom line. My lunches at the senior center run $40-50 per month, the storage unit is $150, the health club is $40. I had a lot left over and I realized that I could easily get back to bowling! A wave of emotion ran over me, I literally started to cry. Years of my precious life had gone by. Now I could bowl again. I can’t describe my happiness about that, I know it must sound stupid, with all the things going on in the world, but there it is.
Most lanes charge by the game or by the hour. I could bowl for an hour a day for $15 bucks, meaning I could bowl almost every day, even on my s.s., and still be able to eat, go to a Dennys or a Sizzler once in a while. You get the idea. My life has totally changed. The sounds in the bowling alley, the balls skidding down the alley, crashing into the pins, the low murmur of the bowlers, the smell of popcorn. And then there’s the sports bar. A big-screen TV set to watch the games. I can duck in there on a hot day for a beer and watch baseball for hours. I thought life couldn’t be better. But it got even better.
I Live In A Bowling Alley
I was checking out bowling lanes all around the L.A. Area. Many have deals on certain days, so I travel around to different alleys, I now have kind of a “bowling route”. I got noticed by people and started getting some “students”, people who wanted to improve their skills, so now I’m making a little “geeda” on the side. I got friendly with some of the managers, and a couple of them let me park the van all night, so I’m off the street and snuggled up to the wall of one of the alleys. I’m living on the property, having fun, making extra dough, no more rent sweat, eating regular. Life’s so good I could squeal. Thank you gypsy cool for making my life fulfilling again!
Benny The Bowler (Once Again!)
Urban Living on a Roof
Aside from living in a vehicle, there are other unusual places to reside, at least on a temporary basis. (In a future series of posts I will cover squatting situations). One of the weirdest I have discovered is roof-top living. You see some of it even in movies. In cities like New York, the hot summers in those squalid apartments with no air conditioning drives thousands of people to camp out on the roofs. Hey, it’s cooler up there on a hot, sweltering night!
The first time I noticed this on the West Coast, I was visiting a friend in a small California city. She had a shop in the downtown area. One night late, we were sitting in her shop chatting and I heard a noise outside. I looked out the back window and saw this guy going up the fire escape. Even though it was dark, I recognized him, a homeless guy who hung around the area. He was basically harmless, would pan-handle for food, and sit on a bench and talk sports to anyone who would listen. He avidly read the sports pages of all the newspapers he could find abandoned in trash cans and Starbucks, and he was a sidewalk sports commando first class.
One day I went up on the roof to check out his lair. He had put his bed roll in the shade of a giant air conditioner, and leaned cardboard over it. Smart. Best to be hidden from the searchlights of the ever-present helicopters at night. He was tucked away from those eyes in the sky, a sleeping bag, a portable radio, a bag with a few personal items, a water bottle. He would only go up the fire escape late at night, and come down early before people would notice him. He had the perfect free apartment in the summer time in sunny Southern California. During the winter months, when it got colder, he disappeared, who knows to where. As long as he stayed out of sight, he was OK. I imagine that once in a while an air conditioning repair man would see his stuff, maybe say something to the building owner, maybe not. Once in a while he might lose his gear, but the local temporary aid would restock him with new stuff. Go ahead and laugh, the dude was around for years, living free while YOU (and I) were paying thousands of dollars in rent. Who’s the smarter one?