Saturday, December 28, 2013


TO SAVE THE HUMAN RACE.  And before you roll your eyes---let me introduce Joseph Smyth---architect and visionary whose work includes the Children's Hospital of Washington DC and the groundbreaking planned community of Glade Springs, Pennsylvania.  

I met him in Cottonwood, Az---chatted a bit ---immediately sensed that I had stumbled across a true visionary.  Of course I asked for an interview.  Soon I was sitting across the table from him --learning a bit about his favorite subject SUSTAINABILITY.

He has made presentations around the world on this subject---most notably at the Rio conference.
Old enough to be retired but going strong---he shows me this upcoming presentation to local high school students.
He was acquainted with and inspired by  Palo Solari, designer of Arcosanti--the futuristic city under construction between Phoenix and Flagstaff.

 Here's what I gathered  from  my interview of  Joseph Smyth::

1. Civilization began when humans clustered in agrian based communities/cities---communicating, cooperating, creating culture--enriching each other in a thousand ways.
2, Urban sprawl (auto centered living) by requiring vast, massively wasteful and destructive infrastructure--is incredibly expensive--enslaving us in long work lives to pay for it--- divides and isolates us--- swallows up our resources.
3. Creative Clustering can reduce the cost of city building / housing to a small fraction of its current cost and preserve our environment.  Building  pedestrian friendly cities--can make life more interesting and  liberate us from much drudgery.
4. Sustainability must be our prime goal or we will wreck ourselves and our world.  What humanity  needs is a design revolution.  We can have the good life---indefinitely---when we design and live sustainably.
HE WENT ON TO SAY: (I paraphrase ).
Sustainability  is about a true sense of ownership. (i.e. enough personal control to feel accountable and responsible for a thing)
Rent is the opposite of sustainability. (i.e. not enough investment to feel responsible for a thing)
He asked me a seminal question:  Who washes a rental car?
Honoring natural and man-made beauty is a principle of sustainability. (what we hold dear is what we will take care of )

Those traveling just north of  Springerville, Az---stop at AVERY'S and see his influence.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  How lucky I am to meet such interesting people.---people who care about the good of the world. The good life. The long lives we enjoy are the gift of visionaries, designers, inventors like my friend Joseph.  To whatever extent we are "tweaking" our own life and the things we own---we are also visionaries and inventors---participators in the process.     . 

Saturday, December 14, 2013


He's parked every day at Hwy 89A and Cornville, Rd---Cottonwood, Az----declaring his message to the world via chalkboards.  (better than painted signs because you can easily update your message)

I've seen many and so have you----decided to engage this gentleman---see if I could get a new slant.  He told me his personal story:  was a drunk---got saved---found conventional churches unsatisfactory---felt "called" to take his message directly to the public.  Been at this for some years now. 
Has three dogs for company---mother and two pups---they sleep with him in the mini-van in a secret location at night.
Then we get to his "message":  Churches have it all wrong, he said---pointing to scripture to prove his point. His theology is convoluted ----difficult to summarize.
What interest me is his GALL---to declare himself---go PUBLIC---along the roadside--override the shame/embarrassment of doing so in this manner.  I asked if he likened himself to old testament prophets---they too were often odd outsiders.  He said yes.
He and his dogs sleep, eat and live here.
his home a metaphor for the chaos in his head.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  What he does not lack is PURPOSE and identity!  He is vigorously ON PURPOSE and he's positive that he is a child of God.  He aches to be understood however. (I can do that and more:  I can appreciate--and I did.  It's my payment for the story---I also gave him money) 
I weep for this man like I weep sometimes for myself and  all humanity---burdened with existence without an obvious point.  He DECLARES his purpose----without any proof.  AND THAT IS WHAT WE ALL MUST DO.  There is no proof to any point of living----only confirmation by others.  We are all like the Mormons and other religions--generating a comforting culture and a chorus of consensus---without an ounce of proof.
But this oddball man is hanging out there all alone---without a chorus of confirming friends.  Holding maverick views that  the world will never even listen to.  Weep with me for him and all his kind.  Only the love given him by his dogs  keeps him marginally sane. 
And to make good on my title question: What he is really saying is NOTICE ME.  What he is really doing is PUSHING AWAY NOTHINGNESS.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


IT'S JUST DOWN THE ROAD A MILE----from my campsite---I'll go get the story for you.

A lovely little valley perhaps 10 miles as the crow flies from Sedona, Az.

Through this entrance, down a steep drive
Till the road ends here.
Into a private drive across this bridge
I park and walk around
looking for headquarters and permission to walk around---which I received
A giant labyrinth (a confusing network of paths or passages)
Don't know what this is---Assume it's used in rituals of some sort.
Or this---but it's lovely
Those fabric covered sheds may not be related to the deaths I mentioned.  Probably not----suspect it was destroyed.  Anyway it was a temporary building covered like these to make a sweat lodge that the deaths occurred.  Are you beginning to remember the story?  It made national news.
Here is where a "guru"--charging thousands for the "experience" persuaded a large number of people to endure a super heated enclosure for the spiritual growth it promoted.  Two went beyond their limit and died.  The guru is now in Jail.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  I'm not proud of this story---am reluctant to share it with you because it is too easy a target---maybe even a "cheap shot".  Nor does this "accident" fairly represent spiritual seekers.  People suspecting there is more to life than the obvious----go questing on every continent for that something more:  American Indians in their spirit quest----Australian Aboriginals in their walk-abouts.  Sedona and its environs is the American mecca for such quest.  People herebouts believe incredible things----take the new-age philosophy to wild extremes.  I've met several just camping in this spot.
People I respect and love are believers---and the new-age religions are less toxic than the old age religions (fundamentalist) so that I don't know exactly where to draw the line between harmless and harmful believing.  I think I need help from my readers. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013



We are intrigued:  What's down this strange road in the middle of nowhere?

It's one lane and goes steeply down into a canyon.

With a lovely view 
quickly turns to dirt.

Runs along the edge of a sizable creek---great fall colors.

On and On for some miles---to its end---AND THEN---AND THEN---THIS APPEARED.

It's abandoned---nary a soul around.  I'm a little hesitant to investigate---Laurie gives me a one sentence lecture: "Life is too short not to be bold!"  So we investigate.

She sees evidence that the dwellers here left suddenly.
This is what she saw:  a buttered knife suddenly put down---long ago.  Dead plants.
And outside,  a moldy cooked meal just sat down on the edge of a tank.

And speaking of tanks---there were several of them flanking the walls of the dome.

And a seemingly decent car---unmoved in years.

It's owner---a Vampire admirer.

We climbed the spiral staircase to the upper deck----were surprised to find that a coyote had been here--and marked his territory on the top step.
Laurie surveys the scene---notices that rope.

And with no hesitation---does this.

Clear to the top and looks in.
And saw this---a brilliant solution to the need for light in the dome.  Each room has natural light and ventilation.

From the top I look across at million dollar homes---wondering how they access them.
A sizable creek runs down the canyon.
Laurie descending---quite athletic.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Bold people sometimes need to drag us along into adventure as Laurie dragged me this day.  What a splendid mystery is this giant dome.  Housing for many---beautifully engineered.  Clearly an "enterprise of great pith and moment---gone  awry".  My mind flashed on the famous mystery of the Mary Celeste--an intact ship found floating off Spain with no one aboard.  Evidence here suggested a sudden departure during breakfast.  Perhaps a reader knows what happened here?  Perhaps I will inquire further.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Meet David--the king of Frugality
He and his faithful coc-a-too live in this vehicle.
 The bird is as free as the man---allowed to fly wherever it wishes---but comes back often to its favorite perch.
 I strike up an acquaintance and we begin walking and talking daily.
 Leaving day and I ask for a formal interview.  He agrees.  Here's what I learned:
He is a college graduate---age 54---an engineer---worked a number of years as a draftsman.  Job expired---couldn't find another---began living in his car to avoid rent---has lived this way for several years---has come to like it.
Enjoys the game of frugality---says he could live on $150 a month if necessary.  He gets $200 a month from the government for food---that is more than enough---he could feed himself and bird on $100 if spent well.  Visits food co-ops and other organizations selling damaged and expired goods at bargain prices. 
Spends about $100 a month for gas---has now saved up $700 for emergencies.
Is happy and healthy (says about 7 on a scale of 10)---has a tiny internet business selling one of his inventions on e-bay----nets about $150 a month.
Feels passionately about freedom, efficiency, invention---takes Mcguiver as a role model----hopes to upgrade his living arrangements to a van---leans politically right--is biblically religious---describes himself as eccentric without being weird.
I enjoyed his company on long walks---was often startled when his avian companion
would whoosh upon us---settling on his shoulder.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Here is a man quietly and efficiently making his way in the world.  He has shaped a life for himself---enjoys freedom and does not suffer anxiety about tomorrow.   He travels the LOW ROAD with easy grace.
AND YOU COULD TOO!! This very day millions of you could be free---on the low road---wake up when you wish and fill your day with adventures.  The Low Road awaits all with the courage to travel it.  (as Walt Whitman says) "it is not far---it is within reach---perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know---perhaps it is everywhere--on water and on land.   Shoulder your duds and I will mine and let us hasten forth----wonderful cities and free nations shall we fetch as we go---for after we start, we never lie by again" (Song of the Open Road)

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Ask your gun loving friends this question and watch them turn cowardly---hem and haw---wiggle and lie, evade and accuse.  Almost none of them have the courage to confront this question rationally.  But I found one---Here he is:
He was having his morning coffee---I asked the question---expecting the usual evasiveness.  BUT SURPRISE:---he answered succinctly and un-defensively: SEMI-AUTOMATIC WEAPONS.  And he added:  There is no legitimate need for automatic weapons. (other than military)
I had stopped to photograph this provocative sign.  He told me  people stop often with their cameras.
In Prescott, Arizona---
This may be the biggest gun store in Arizona---
a veritable supermarket of deadliness.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  The range of deadly weapons extends perhaps from a low of POCKETKNIFE to an absolute high of Atomic bombs.  The question at issue is where along this spectrum shall we draw the line legally.
 I salute this brave man---did you notice he is carrying a sidearm? (Arizona has perhaps the most permissive gun laws) He operates this store.
I think I agree with his answer----to draw the line between semi automatic and automatic weapons.  At least for now, It seems a reasonable middle ground between too much and too little--- until so many mass murders occur that it will seem logical to begin restricting them even more---as happened in Australia.  I feel safe in Canada because they have so seriously restricted firearms. 
Only twice in 8000 nights of boondocking I have  felt comforted by my weapons---outside Sheridan, Wyoming In a lonely place-- 4 (drunken?) teenagers roared up yelling and began to rock my rig.  I was not afraid--because I was armed---having a weapon comforted me---I waited quietly--- they soon went away-- no harm done.
More seriously, in Lafayatte, La I was accosted by a carload of angry youths--yelling and cursing me for some supposed traffic infraction.  I apologized profusely several times---not knowing what I had done---while just out of sight I held my equalizer.  Luckily they did not attack.
All in all my guns have caused me more trouble than they are worth.  In Concord, Massachusetts the cops took my weapon---disassembled it and gave it back the next day. 

Monday, October 21, 2013


IT'S LOCATED JUST OUTSIDE COTTONWOOD, ARIZONA----5 miles from a super Wal-Mart---and close to an inexpensive gym, swimming pool and rec center.
Camping is free---my fellow campers are interesting---and longtime friends are within earshot.  The temperature is near perfect---the scenery magnificent.  What more could a full-timer ask.
The view from my door.  That cliff is 2,500 feet higher than here----and 10 degrees colder.  It's the famous Mogollon rim---7000 ft high---Flagstaff is up there.

Some of my fellow campers----one day I counted 30 total.  There are no official campsites---folks just find a spot that suits them.  No water or garbage or electricity-----NO PROBLEM for campers like this---we are all self contained or know how to deal with our necessities. 
 Having tea with my nearest neighbor---meet Nicole--a professional anthropologist---terrifically knowledgable about world cultures--fun to chat with.
Dave and his best friend. He lets it fly free around the campground---it comes back when hungry, thirsty or lonely. 
 Bob Parker (left) and helper---long time friend---re-engineering his automatic pop up solar panel array.
 Meet Bunny---new to the world of camping---and yes that's a Corvette she's driving.
Stan----he built his little home on the back of his truck---loves his splendid simplicity---thinks he's still too complicated---wants to sell the truck and go backpacking through Mexico and Central America.
Bob---a cowboy poet.  I asked for a poem--he delivered one on the spot---Invited me to perform for his group. 
 That's his group---"PHOENIX PHUN PHOLKS" having dinner together.  They have camped together---once a month---for 40 years.
 Meet Melvin----bought his pop up home for $200---has no vehicle to pull it with---gets his son to move him when he must---works at odd jobs for minimum wage.
 And you all know my favorite neighbor Laurie---here engaged in an interesting experiment:  Moved out of her rig into this tent for a month to reacquaint herself with the earth and the joys of simplicity.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I say temporarily happy--because  be-cause that is about the best anyone can do.  This wonderful place and these wonderful people are the best argument against settling down on a piece of land.  Traveling folks crossing paths are a hundred times richer experience that laboring away on your private nest.  YES, I KNOW----WE HAVE TO KEEP ON MOVING---EVERY 2 WEEKS OR SO.  I accept that inconvenience to reap the joys of ever-fresh scenery and personalities flowing through my life. With Thoreau I say "ENJOY THE LAND----BUT OWN IT NOT."