What a long strange trip it’s been. For the last 4 years Thilde has worked tirelessly on traveling around the US and photographing homeless in different cities. Most of these trips we took together, living out of our minivan. The work was hard, waking at 5 AM before the sun and heading into the city to photograph all day. By the time the day was over, we would both always be exhausted. Our trials paled in comparison to what the homeless all over this country have to endure every single day. This book is about them, and their struggle, captured in an authentic and real way.
The Kickstarter campaign can be found here. Please consider funding it and sharing it on your social media accounts. I know it’s a big ask, but I’ve seen all the photos and I can tell you that no one who buys this book is going to be disappointed.
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One of our biggest concerns in our family is food security. One of the easiest ways to get food security is to grow most of your own food. With a very small garden, we have managed to easily grow and harvest about 75% of the food we eat on a daily basis. The only foods we don’t grow are things like rice which is water and labor intensive and beans which are also incredibly labor intensive. At some point last year we decided to build a greenhouse to grow food year round, but we didn’t want to heat it (we are off grid) and we had a budget of $4000. After about 500 man hours of labor and less than $4000 for materials, we’ve created something we are pretty proud of and that doesn’t seem to usually dip much below freezing even without heat.
I’ve been kitesurfing for a long time. Years before there was even water relaunchable tube kites, I was flying foil kites on land and in the snow. I remember how excited I was when I first discovered there were other people who flew kites in Ithaca one winter long ago on the ice shelf at Stewart Park. Together we worked to figure out how to ride on the lake and failed tragically to stay upwind until Wing Eng finally went out on a 4.9 non-water relaunchable Blade II buggy racing foil kite and a 6′ long piece of plywood strapped to his feet with chopped up mousepads. Oh, how the times have changed.
After thousands of hours riding over almost 2 decades the sport was starting to lose interest for me. At 44 I had reached the peak of what I was able to do without seriously injuring myself. I tried lots of harder powered tricks, including some kite looping tricks and always ended up hurting myself bad enough to wonder why I was trying them. For the most part, I wanted to just get out on the water and jump 30 feet in the air and do nice slow front rolls all day long. The kites got better and better until the kites I ride today are what I really wanted to ride when I started but had not been designed yet. The Flysurfer Speed and Sonic FR kites I fly today are what I wanted to by flying back when I first started to ride. I laugh when I think about the first water relaunchable tube kite I bought, a 13.5 AR5 Naish with a wrist leash attached to a rear line and no chicken loop release. If I ever had to dump the kite, I couldn’t and it probably would have ripped my arm out of it’s socket if I did. That kite was so bad that I didn’t even sell it, I just threw it away because it was so dangerous. $2000 down the toilet. Such is life.
Returning to Reno from the Playa this year Doug and I were high on life. This year had been the best burn yet and the desert had left us feeling raw to the bone. We had a bunch of food left over that we wanted to give to a homeless person. The first homeless guy we found could not accept any food as he had just had his last supper. He was dying of cancer and was headed to the hospital to be fitted with a feeding tube. Oh yeah, this is reality. Full of pain and suffering and death. Somehow after 10 days at Burning Man we had completely forgotten about the real world.
About 5 years ago I was first introduced to Hydrofoiling with a kite by my good friend Norman McGuire (forum name kiterider) from Montreal, Quebec. He didn’t know me well enough to know what a risk he was taking to let me use his fancy carbon fiber Carafino hydrofoils as I pretty much destroy everything I touch. I first tried it at the Magdalen Islands which is about 15 hours of driving and then a very long 6-hour ferry ride that costs more than most plane tickets I’ve bought. Over the years, I have been to the Magdalen Islands for about 2 weeks in the summer at least 5 times, and each time Norman would show up with a new hydrofoil to try. One year he told me it was time to go strapless. I thought he was nuts, no one is riding these things strapless. After a few hours of flailing around in the water like a Noob, I finally figured it out. I was hooked.
As I laid in bed meditating this morning in the arms of my beautiful partner staring out into the surreal snow covered landscape I was left with this incredible feeling of gratitude.
How did I get here, how could my life possibly be so good?
Was it luck, hard work, did the universe finally reward me for decades of suffering? It’s really hard to tell.
I consider myself a depression survivor. In many ways it’s kind of like being a survivor of something more like cancer, but for people who struggle with depression most of American’s attitude is ‘just get over it’. Not only is this incredibly unfair, it’s also unrealistic to judge others harshly for a condition that they really have little or no control over. I read a statistic online that said 50% of Americans will struggle with mental illness at some point during their life. If so many people suffer from it then why is there so little support and compassion for it?
Normally in this blog I focus on writing stories about quality of life and love, but there is something that has been deeply troubling to me since the financial crisis that has been literally keeping me up at night. When the financial crisis hit I spent a lot of time doing research to understand the root of what caused it. In the end, I discovered some deeply disturbing facts that NO ONE is talking about. There is a belief that people hold that the US government is the one creating the capital in this country, but most of the capital is created by private banks. If Bernie Sanders wanted to become president he would just focus on one simple fact;
That private banks are creating capital in the US monetary system out of thin air causing everyone else’s money to be worth less. For ever $1 that a bank takes in for deposits they can loan out $10 to someone else who then takes that newly created $10 and deposits it in their bank who can then loan out $100 to someone else that then gets deposited … ad infinitum.
Thilde and I were ready for vacation in early October until her car got hit in Syracuse. After months of hell fighting with the insurance company, we finally got a settlement and got her RAV4 fixed and hit the road. By the time we were able to leave it was December so we decided to drive down to Florida since Thilde had never been there and we knew it would be warm. We ended up having one of my best trips yet and found lots of great spots to SUP, hike, bike and kite at. It was a trip to remember and gave me a new appreciation for our southern flat land state.
When I read Orwell’s 1984 30 years ago I never felt like it was that unrealistic. When Edward Snowden released information on the spying that the NSA was doing on American Citizens I wasn’t particularly surprised by that either. As more and more police brutality is caught on camera and published on youtube, well that was to be expected as well. In modern times, almost every US citizen has the ability to record anything they are seeing and with only a press of a button can upload it for the world to see. Within minutes, it can go viral and if the abuse is serious enough then the world can raise its voice in outrage. This is honestly a very good thing.
Love has taken me a lot of places in this world. You could add Denmark as another country that I’ve visited for love, and then afterwards fell in love with. So often in the US I feel that my life is so good and that I am so blessed that I find it hard to imagine that things could be even better. The two weeks I spent in Denmark with Thilde made me feel even better than that, which I didn’t really think was actually possible.
A year ago Thilde and I committed to each other in a beautiful ceremony in the middle of Cayuga Lake with 150 other kayakers and standup paddle boarders in attendance. It was an amazing ceremony which was attended by no less than 6 Danes who crossed the pond simply to support Thilde. They were great company and seemed to laugh and smile a lot more than your standard American. I was more than a little curious to find out if Denmark really was as great as people kept making it out to be. Free universal healthcare for all, 50% of the urban population bike commutes, you get paid $1000/mth to go to college and new mothers can get 3 years of paid vacation time to take care of their babies. It sounded like a fantastic fantasyland that was too good to be true. Although I was skeptical, after spending 2 weeks there I can confirm that it is a real place and the Danes really do live that way. No wonder they are consistently polled as the happiest people on the planet although they were recently surpassed by Costa Rica probably because they have unmolested rain-forests and Denmark doesn’t. Not liking to be 2nd in anything I’m sure the Danes will buckle down and redouble their happiness efforts to beat the Costa Ricans again.