Always Take The Long Way Home

Money’s just something you throw
Off the back of a train
Got a head full of lightening
And hat full of rain

And I know that I said
I’d never do it again
Oh well I love you sweet baby
But I always take the long way home

                               Tom Waits

It took me a few hours, but I finally conjured up a few errands that could not wait—so then I had to get on the big two-wheeler and go chase them down. A spectacular day. 82 degrees and perfectly sunny. I rode up and down Lakeshore a couple of times and then started looking for the FedEx drop and a grocery.

And, a good bike ride today after sanding the canoe. Nice to have good weather. Rode to edge of downtown, but turned and headed up MLK and through that beautiful park.

This weekend and last were mostly working weekends. Sort of. Yesterday I went to two Home Depot’s, a Lowe’s and a Menard’s. An absolute insane, comedy of frustration. At the first Home Depot, my local, their saw was broken. I cannot get 48” wide piece of ply into my rig. So off I go 12 miles down the road to another Home Depot. This location had no 1/2” plywood. They had enough 3/4” plywood to build the pentagon, but that is too heavy for the camp trailer. So off I go to Lowe’s. They have great wood; but their brand new-saw, replacing the old broken-down saw, is semi-installed but not yet operational. Two miles away is a Menard’s. They also have great wood, but don’t even pretend to cut wood pieces for customers. They just didn’t even care.

So, this morning, off I go at opening time to another Lowe’s. They are not cutting wood either; the manager at first tells me it’s because they have a shortage of workers, but later switches his story to say their saw is also broke. Crazy crazy shit. Now it is a quest. I must get this wood, although by this time, weekend work time is nearly gone. In the car, I call a Home Depot a few minutes away and am told their saw is working. I make the drive and they have some beautiful birch covered 1/2” ply and the saw man is on duty. I help him load and unload the saw. I told him I wanted to give him a big hug afterwards, but he said it was cool. He could sense my love and appreciation. So now I can build the kitchen slide-out for the prototype Brian and I are working.

But a lot of time lost driving around town looking for materials.

Last weekend was good. Not great. Brian and I made some headway. Not as much as I would have liked, but we solved a few engineering and design problems. We still have work to do, problems to solve, business operating model to nail down, suppliers to identify, figure out our cost model and how to scale, if we should be so lucky. But progress. I am impatient by nature and always disappointed when others do not share my enthusiasm and energy. We will get there I think. We are close to a serviceable model that I think will have potential as a commercial camp trailer. From there we can alter designs specific to specific demographics.

I left here last Thursday mid-day and drove to Elkhart Indiana. RV capital of the world. Friday morning, after a couple of con calls, I busted down to RecPro and picked up some doors I had ordered. Then, back to the hotel for another call and after, headed down the road to Challenger RV door Manufacturer to look at their samples and pick up some brochures and marketing materials. Finally, a 45-minute drive to Columbia City to get a U-Haul trailer and then to 80/20 aluminum for our infrastructure pieces. Then the 3.5 hour drive to Brian’s — getting there just in time for martini’s and pizza.

There are a lot of Amish in Southern Illinois and the buggy’s slowed me down as I was flying low through farmland. Beautiful horses, but a pain in the ass when I am in a hurry.

My neighbor Ed is slowly cleaning his garage and basement in preparation for his eventual move to some sort of assisted living facility. He is 82 and a super cool guy; bit of a pack rat it seems. He has already given me two sawhorses and some hand tools. Last week when I invited him for drinks and snacks, he brought me a single small kayak oar—suitable perhaps for a 12-year old with 12” arms. Today, he texted me and said he had propane tank for me. A 5 lb’er—which I can use. Can never have too many propane tanks when you are about to create a camping empire. So he brought it over.

In the summer, I mostly wear sarongs around the house. Easy, light, breezy. Ed seemed a bit taken aback, although he did admit that he saw a lot of guys wearing them in the South Pacific when he was there sailing with his brother. He just never saw a white guy wearing one apparently.

Another black man killed by a white police officer; face down on the pavement, with the cops knee on his neck for over 8 minutes. The man was pleading for relief because he could not breathe. Unmoved, the policeman ignored him. The victim has a name. George Floyd. The police just fucking killed him—calmly and not even really bothered by the fact that it was being recorded. The cops always get off scot-free when they murder a minority, and this cop seemed totally at ease while he slowly strangled the life from Mr. Floyd.

This time in Minneapolis. It’s fucking criminal and heartbreaking how dysfunctional our police organizations have become. Their mission, their only reason for existing, is to protect the public. And to a large degree, they fail miserably. In most large cities, police are mostly viewed as an organization to be wary of, rather than viewed as a protector. In some cases, as happens 100 or so times a year it seems, they cross the line in to criminal behavior by killing a minority or someone otherwise disenfranchised and vulnerable. Their methods, increasingly, are excessive force and intimidation. So much of police behavior is driven by the need to aggressively assert authority. They dress in combat gear and present themselves, not as an extension of the community, but as an occupying force who are free to assert their authority over anyone at anytime using whatever means they deem appropriate. They are rarely questioned about their tactics and even more rarely held accountable.

They are so accustomed in this country to being able to treat anyone however they please, that many of them just seem to thrive on their power trip. Because I am white, and because I have enough money to live in decent neighborhoods, I am mostly removed from their heinous acts.

But I’ve got a story. I had just moved to Chicago in 2004, soon after returning from Namibia. One night I was on my way home from the airport, I stopped to eat at a restaurant. A nice place and I was sitting at the bar when a homeless man walked in. Or, he appeared to be homeless, and a little disoriented. He found a sliver of standing space at the bar and ordered a hamburger—he had a handful of $1 bills in his fist. The bartender was very nice to him—took his order and gave him a glass of water. He was between me and another guy and neither of us was bothered. The dude was fine—not bothering anyone.

Then, in come two cops, apparently called by the manager. A short cop with buzz cut took the guy by the elbow and told him he had to leave. So I said, ‘he’s not hurting anybody and he just wants something to eat’. The cop immediately got up close in my face and told me to stay out it as this was a police matter. I got flushed and super pissed off, as I do. The bartender came back with his burger and she was upset. The other customers were also upset at how the guy was being treated. Nobody had a problem with this guy—just another customer from a different demographic. I put some money on the bar and walked out. My car had been valet parked, so the cop saw me get in as the attendant brought the Porsche around. And so I was not surprised when the cop car lit me up before I had gone more than 100 yards or so. He said I was driving erratically and he wanted to give me a BAC test. I refused even though I had not even finished a single glass of wine. My lawyer friends have always told me to refuse the test if you’ve had any drinks at all, so I did.

So I get out and he handcuffs me and when he does, he put his knee hard into my back and pushed my face down onto the top of my car and said ‘stop resisting’. Well, I had not resisted at all. I had by now got my wits about me and accepted the situation. I knew at this point that conforming completely was best course of action and getting a good lawyer. But this little sawed-off dickhead just had to make sure I understood he was boss and could do whatever he wanted.

With cops, it’s about control. Fear. Humiliation. I prefer to think that it is a minority of cops who act this way, but of course we see it so often now that there are cameras everywhere. And it’s institutionalized completely. When someone is arrested in the US, even in non-violent situations, they are always handcuffed, even though we are meant to be ‘innocent until proven guilty’. So at the point of arrest, the person is by definition innocent, and yet they are handcuffed even when offering no resistance and are not a threat. This is simply to humiliate and establish dominance.

Anyway, because I had a good job and because I am white, I got off. I paid a small fine for running a stop sign, even though we were on private property and there was no stop sign. But this allowed the prosecutor to save a little face over this dickhead’s trumped up charge. My lawyer told me the small towns on the outskirts of Chicago are full of unqualified dipshits that want to get on Chicago police force, but are basically too stupid or otherwise disqualified, but the small towns have lower standards.

This happened to be a year I made damn good money. So a few months later, when I got my W-2, I made a copy and sent it to the cop’s precinct to his attention. Sort of a dick move of my own, but fuck him. Not too proud of that now, but I still sleep at night.

On any given day, throughout the day, I will chat or talk or both on FaceTime, iMessages, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Google hangouts, and Skype for Business and Skype for personal. We have a lot of ways of communicating in the digital age. Including this blog I suppose.

My home desk has a high window in front of it. Starting about 5’ and around 2.5’ tall and 5’ wide. So I have a view of the sky through a big tree just outside. Every day, dozens of birds will come by and land on the branch just there. All sizes and colors and I realize how pathetically bad my bird identification skills are. I’ve seen more than two dozen species I would say. Some are the obvious, like robins, cardinals, bluejays, sparrows and a woodpecker (Woody style), but lots of others that I don’t know. Some very beautiful. I’ve tried to snap a few photos, but because the window is there, the movement seems to spook them and they fly away. But seeing them is enough.

I’ve opened a page on birds on my browsers and will try to learn some new species.

Canoe project has taken a back seat to Earth Explore and camp trailer design. But I did manage today to do the first long, hard sanding of the epoxy on the outside. I sanded both sides, about 4-hours in total, with 80 grit paper. I now need to go over the whole thing with 120 and then 180. Will chip away this week at lunch and evenings and I also need to build out the kitchen slide-unit for our next prototype. We are targeting July 4 weekend to build our next, and hopefully next to last prototype model.

While I was in the hotel in Elkhart, I kept the TV on but muted while I was working. Just faux company. But between calls I watched a little. Since I don’t have a TV at home, I just don’t know what is what. But I do find it amazing, just how totally crap TV is. I mean ‘Lets make a deal’. What the fuck is that? Who are these morons dressing up like idiots and jumping around like coke-heads to try to win a washer and dryer?

Ellen? She’s is not funny and not a skilled interviewer—her show seems to be more about her than her guests.

Channel after channel of more and more crap. And, honestly, who has time to watch daytime TV? I mean these shows have millions of viewers apparently, and Ellen seems to be worth about a billion dollars. But who is watching TV at 10:00am? The unemployed? 2nd shift workers? Who’s advertising and marketing to these demographics?

There is a raccoon that I see occasionally on my morning walks. He seems to favor this house and today I caught him having a little early morning forage. Cute little fella.

One of the big mansions across the street has a wrought iron gate in their big fence (locked), but there is a sort of mystical row of hedges bordering a narrow path towards the house. It’s beautiful and intriguing.


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