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.
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.
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?
I slowly approached the door feeling a strange combination of fear, shame and excitement. The house was a small one lost back in a bundle of old growth hemlocks far from the road. It was made from natural edged wood hand planed and lovingly put together. None of the angles were straight and none of the boards were square but it held a strange kind of appeal that most square houses did not. The door started to open and my heart skipped two beats.
When I first met Thilde Jensen she encouraged me to try TM to help with my obsession and depressive nature. We have been together for 2 years now and committed to each other last summer. Meditation has become a daily habit for both of us, one that I hope we will carry with us to the end of our days. This is not a sales pitch for TM, honestly I feel like it’s a total scam, I am promoting the medical benefits of any meditation not just a single ‘brand’. Although Thilde and I have settled quite comfortably into doing TM, there are a lot of different styles of meditation each with their benefits and drawbacks. This is a story of my personal path.
The TM style of meditation has been around since 1955 and seems to have changed very little throughout the years. The biggest change to the movement has been the price of the training. It has gone from being free to several thousand dollars for private instruction. So then the question becomes, why should I pay $2,500 for something that I can teach myself for free?
Dez, Matt, Jops. It’s hard for me to even type those names without starting to cry. Three people I has so much love for made the same choice, to end their own lives. This article is not about their choices, but about the rift that it leaves in its wake.
What do I say about those that are gone? Why did you leave? Why didn’t you ask for help? What more could I have done. The questions haunt me year after year. As someone who has struggled with severe depression for most of my life, I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and lost in the world. Somehow I never gave up. Somehow I just put my head down and kept pushing on. For those that chose to give up, it is the emptiness in the ones they love behind that is so moving to me.
Thilde and I decided last winter that we wanted to do something about her crappy wood-stove. Due to her chemical sensitivities we basically had to burn wood with the flue open so all the heat went right up the chimney. Because we didn’t have an outside air intake the air that whooshed up the chimney was usually the air right around the wood-stove that had heated up a little bit. The house was always freezing and we burned through a ton of wood.
I was asked by my good friend Dr Pamela Moss to submit my vision board that I created under her supervision to a transformational art show. Two long years ago myself and a dozen other people spread out a bunch of old magazines on a table and after a deep soulful meditation we looked through them and ripped out any pictures that called to us. We then spent another hour cutting out the pictures and gluing them on a posterboard. That ‘vision board’ has hung in my kitchen and I’ve looked at it every day for the the last two years. I mounted color changing LED lights around it and I setup a LED spotlight above it so it could have the brightest light in the room. This simple collection of pictures pasted together from magazines that people threw in the trash has completely transformed my life.
Travelling to China about 10 years ago I was surprised and overwhelmed by the proliferation of electric bikes. It seemed like everyone everywhere owned an ebike. Hundreds of them would be lined up inside the super markets for consumers to impulse buy a new bike while they were busy with their morning grocery shopping. They were attractive looking and cheap, but most of them ran off lead acid batteries and in general were heavy and not that powerful. I toyed with the idea of importing them to the US to try to sell them here, but once I started to research the shipping costs and the weights I realized it was pretty impractical.
Over the last 10 years batteries have gotten much, much cheaper and far more powerful. There is a new explosion of interest in electric bikes in the US as people look towards reasonable solutions to deal with the escalating costs of owning a car as well as all the time wasted stuck in city traffic. The traffic in Ithaca has gotten particularly bad on Rt 13 and often seems backed up for miles all the way to Stewart Park. The traffic and lack of parking in town was starting to drive me totally batty.
A new store opened up in town called Boxy Bikes owned by my friend Larry Clarkburg that specialized in selling ebikes. I swung by and tried out a used Giant Twist ebike he had for sale and I instantly fell in love. It was a love affair that would interfere dramatically will my sex life and anything else I would want to do for the next several months. I jokingly thanked Larry for destroying my life every time I saw him. The first time I used my electric bike in town I was amazed at how quickly I could get from one place to another. No more waiting for traffic, no more driving around looking for free parking, I could arrive right at the doorstep of the customer site and had a lot of extra time to spare. The best part was that I was no longer isolated in my car in an artificial environment that separated me from people on the street. People I knew would wave hello, I felt like part of the community instead of an outsider just driving through.
This was just the beginning, I had bought one ebike from Larry, but I started spending countless hours on the online ebike forums reading mods people had made and crazy ebikes that would use tens or hundreds of thousands of watts. An entire community of people were on the cutting edge of ebike development, and they were all doing it in their garage. I had stumbled on the golden age of ebikes and I was hooked. I would stay up till odd hours in the morning trying to learn everything I could and then I would wakeup at 5:00 AM and start in again on the forums. It became a complete and all-consuming obsession.