THE CULDESAC TEMPLE: A PLACE TO TURN IT ALL AROUND
This neighborhood I'm in right now was probably built from start to finish in 3 weeks. The nuclear family dream. Leaving a landscape as flat as if a nuclear bomb had gone off and melted every tree into vinyl siding and every animal mutated into a certified preowned midsize SUV. The colors approved by the HOA are "Nothing to see here" - Beige, or "I promise you're not in a communist country, it's just an insurance agency's waiting room, but keep the thinking for yourself to yourself "- Grey.
I was not prepared to be stranded in a place like this, so f#?k it, I might as well find god.
For decades, I have traveled a lot, both as a dirtbag artist, and when that panned out, and art became a career, I became a well-treated, well-dressed dirtbag artist. There are just as many small differences as there are similarities to traveling dirt poor and with actual resources.
Both keep you off trains and in other vehicles, but one is hitchhiking or using some crappy van that you're also sleeping in; the other is being able to separate what you drive and where you sleep. You may even get a driver to take you to your actual house. Both ways have a lot of free meals, just one you have to beg for, and the other way, they're begging to serve you. Both have their perks, and experiencing the contrast helped with my humanity. We are all teetering on the fence between luxury and poverty, and like showering outdoors, the only time I did it more than living in my Jeep was when I had a luxury spot on the beach.
Lately, the purpose behind travels has been to connect with nature, ground out, and create space for silence and peace so I can transition into writing and creating films and courses, basically a career change, so I can grow old without having to be some super athlete. Although I'm good at what I do, if you know me, the last thing on my mind is athleticism or sports. I'm a music nerd and a fancy food snob. Throw a ball at me, and you're going to have to go get it; sports are on the list of things I refuse to acknowledge.
Here's the list:
- Brunch: it's a stupid waste of money. Don't defend it. Yeah, yeah, you're hungover, it's fun, you don't want to cook, it's a great place to meet up on a Sunday. I've heard it all, "not even if you cook it?!?" I am not attacking you; I have cooked brunch for ten years. I am very well versed in your reasons; they don't make me think anything different about it.
- Politics: Please stop partaking in this form of separatism; we need diversity of culture and ethnicity but also diversity of mind and point of view. As an example, New York is rad because liberal weirdos make the art, and conservative people fund it. If you can't see the relationship there, please stop making choices that affect others; silly pants. No one has ever visited NYC to see the bank. I've met a lot of politicians; as people and intellectuals, they were mostly cool, but when they "clock in," their wisdom clocks out. One of my favorite moments with a politician was talking about the concept of "win win." He admitted to never considering it. That can be dangerous.
- The News: The easiest way to make you feel helpless and fearful is to show you something that makes you emotionally charged that is outside your control. So you take that energy around the people you can affect and wonder why our damn communities and relationships are weird. I know you feel it necessary to stay "informed" because when you know the facts, you will definitely be the one person who fixes it by changing their habits. The only time the news works is if you're a comedian or have a radio show or something. Other than that, a good rule is to keep up once or twice a week; the rest will be told to you by all the righteous, fearful ones who can't keep their eyeballs off the things they can't control.
- Sports: The only thing I get about sports is that I just don't get it. However, in the 80s, the NFL also branched off to the USFL, and my dad was an announcer for the Birmingham Stallions football team. We lived in the same complex, and they were the best! I was 6 or 7 years old, and I'm not a doctor, so I can't speak on the dangers of steroids, but as a kid, I can say that it's a recipe for fun. A bunch of roided-out football players, a country club pool, a diving board, and me, a 45-pound sack of Little Debbie snack cakes and store-brand grape soda ready to become a projectile. Maybe they're the reason why I got into stunt performing. Either way, thanks to them, I am one of the few people with first-hand experience of what a football goes through during a game. That football is having some serious fun.
Oh yeah, back to the traveling. For the past three years, I fumbled my way through the cliches of backpacking, overlanding in my Jeep, Air BnB's in beautiful places, and then living off the grid for a while. On farms, in the woods, jungles, the gross desert, mountains, beaches, rivers, and lakes. Basically, I'm a montage of unrealistic expectations and a perfect demonstration of how to waste money, time, and energy in the most photogenic way possible. Because, in each of these places, my only goal was to sit down, meditate, practice, and write. Because all the wisdom is inside me, just like it's inside you, too. Since it takes time and stillness for that wisdom to begin to speak, It would be cool to swim and do some trail running between meditations and writing while waiting for that inner voice to start feeling welcome again.
But now I'm here in this culdesac, the manila envelope of landscapes, and I've never felt more alive.
Pure self-generated inspiration is all there is when there's nothing to do, nothing to see, and nothing to get in the way of creating and practicing. Inspiration is easy when life is changing; this place doesn't change, and the HOA will come down on you with beige fury if you try.
Camping or swimming with whales isn't connecting with nature. I was using it for entertainment. Just channel surfing through the landscape while trying to get something that I already had. I was trying to get peace, trying to get inspiration, trying to get a connection, but the culdesac was the real hero. I am connected, peaceful, and inspired.
Like many of my favorite teachers, this culdesac was testing me with something boring but challenging; I could turn around and walk out or sit and find the lesson. There is no getting; there is only connecting. Wisdom is not a captivating modern teacher, where the teacher is a great performer like Bill Nye the Science Guy, keeping every student enthralled through production value. Wisdom is quiet, and it's not keeping anything a secret; you gotta listen. The lesson was one that, of course, I already knew.
I am nature; you are nature; why was I trying to connect with something that I am not only connected to, I am a part of it? As far as peaceful and quiet goes, being next to a waterfall isn't that quiet, and being on a beach is beautiful and peaceful, as long as you're not trying to use sensitive electronics, but if the manifestation is to bring my creation to life out of nothing. This culdesac nailed it; it was giving me nothing, so I had room to create something.
Do you remember when the world went into quarantine? National parks and epic vistas became overrun with people. Places that were easy getaways, local parks, and secret hikes were now hard to find parking. Nature became the mall. I feel there was a news bulletin that I didn't get that said, "You'll be ok as long as you never stop hiking." So we tore into parks like a Walmart on black Friday.
I was one of those people, but worse, because I thought I had a better idea. I built out a rig set up to go further out, to be alone in the middle of nowhere, and to sit and glamp on a level where the only thing my glamping rig was lacking was an actual culdesac.
The constant race for stillness and natural environments to write in was stressful and more trouble than it was worth, but I'm not one to learn any other way than by doing. No lesson integrates better than a three-year montage of mistakes.
Getting to a place was a job in itself. I would research, then map it out, then get my gear ready to trek there by either 4x4 trail or hike in. Then there's the whole setup, learning the terrain, and then figuring out my workflow. The first night I was out, I woke up early and was doing some qigong, just finding my peace, and from out of nowhere, I was attacked by a German shepherd and a pitbull. They got out of a meth trailer during a late-night domestic dispute more like "Dumb-meth-dick dispute," apparently, that was about a half mile through the canyons. I survived, and since my pepper spray was right next to my 9mm. The dogs survived, too.
So I went deeper into the mountains and forest. Rock crawling and winching may way up to a perfect location. No one would find me there. It was a little cold, I admit. However, I travel with enough cashmere and fancy blankets to deal with most temperatures south of Minnesota. I set my gear up and was ready to work my first night under the stars; I opened my computer and immediately learned what it was like to be the only light in the forest. So now the stars are blocked out by every bug within a quarter mile. So, I added a new line to my checklist. Are there bugs? The solution was to get a large screened in room. Problem solved.
I started to look deeper into the environment and ask more questions
Is there a waterfall nearby, and is the mist going to destroy another piece of electronic gear? Where is the mud? Ireland taught me that beautiful forests were really wet, and under all that green grass was enough mud to sink you down to your knees. When in mud or a motorcycle wreck, you'd be surprised how easy it is to lose a boot that you had thought was certainly not coming off.
The sun. It's nice to have it wake you up in the morning, but it's also hard to work in a hot tent or hot vehicle. Plus, If my computer wasn't overheating, I couldn't see my computer screen to edit videos, so waiting for nighttime was mandatory; however, I was also running solar, so power was very limited.
What animals will eat me? What animals can I eat? There were places to fish, places to stab things, catch things in traps, and plenty of problems could be expedited with a bullet. However, to take apart a boar, you need water, and I was alone, so fish is best. Some nights, I was around a lot of elk and bear country, and I learned that no matter the species, the noise they make when trying to attract a mate is sleazy. We should be proud to be human because we have two things that make us special: consent and slow jams.
Since I had solar, I could run a small refrigerator. I made sure I hit the store and had plenty of food and supplies with me, and decided that short, week-long outings were the best frequency for survival for me and my skill level. However, I ended up needing at least a week to get my workflow right and settled in so that I could feel creative and not terrified of animal sex sounds and coyote massacres close by. Thus, by the time supplies ran out, I was finally ready to work and needed to leave. So, breaking down and cleaning up was my focus, which, leaving no trace, is a whole other monster of a job.
There were so many things to take up my time and energy that I barely wrote a word. I would sit and meditate, practice, train, run, swim, and make fire, but creating something was unnecessary because every day was creating a way just to live and be. I admit, it was nice to live a simple life of "chop wood, carry water."
The culdesac had so little that two times, I threw an apple core because nature wants your waste, and both times, it bounced and ended up landing on either the sidewalk or some sort of cement thing. There were no bushes to hide my apple core; there were no places where it wasn't the most obvious thing on the landscape, like trying to hide an apple core on top of a manila envelope. Somehow, my apple core seemed like litter.
This disconnected, unnatural suburban grid was the perfect place to reach my awareness out wide, beyond the surface and beyond my senses. I wasn't in an eco-retreat, but I was around nature because no matter what, we are nature. I am nature, and all these neighbors are nature. They are a community; I was in another interpretation of an anthill or a village. Humans gather to survive. Maybe these places are here because, in order to survive this world of constant busy work, we need to find a sterile place to tune out the fact that there's a living world that we are working against, but that's just me. Suburban sprawl is to avoid the FOMO of nature. FOMOON
I was challenged to look deep and connect to myself, then zoom out and become an observer, and it was way easier in the culdesac than being in a rainforest. It's quiet, the perfect canvas to connect, and if you don't zoom out and extend your awareness beyond yourself and out beyond the senses that are not being stimulated at all. There's nothing to do other than watch TV.
Which, by the way, how can there be zero smells in the culdesac? Not even the grass had a scent.
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