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.
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.
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.
I have a lot of quirks about my personality. One of the strangest quirks is my preference for flying oversized high aspect ratio race kites in overhead surf. It’s clearly ‘the wrong tool for the job’ so why would I risk life, limb and overpriced kites by not flying a nice tiny inflatable kite that turns and maneuvers much faster in the surf?
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.
70,000 people came and went where none were before. A place so barren it is without insects, and yet I saw a hawk swooping through our camp at dusk.
Black Rock City. A place like no other on earth. You have either been there and know it, or you are an outsider. There is no in between.
There is no place I feel more alive, more insane, more in touch with the emptiness inside my own soul. That personal struggle to add meaning to an intrinsically meaningless life.
I didn’t want to go, but I had already bought a ticket and a plane ride, there was no turning back. Doug and I planned for months to build a giant 22 foot walking puppet bug we were going to stride across the playa with. I knew it would be a nightmare building it there, it always is. I knew the wind would make our lives miserable as we tried to cart around this giant creation. Last year I built a 43 foot tall puppet man and moved it around with 6 others on guide wires. I swore never again, but here I was building this bug in the middle of nowhere, right back at it again.
Tug Hill Kite Festival 2014 was the best day of snow kiting in my entire life. I had made plans to spend the weekend at The Flurry Festival, a 3 day dance festival in Saratoga Springs, but I decided to cancel at the last-minute because of an impending snowstorm. Instead I packed the van with 6 kites, 2 Snowboards, 3 pairs of Micro skis, XC skis, Ski, XC and snowboard boots, some food, my portable heater and camping gear and a couple sleeping bags and started on my personal Mecca to Tug Hill, the promised land for snowkiting.