You’re probably tired of hearing about the housing crisis in Jackson Hole, especially if you are currently homeless here or find yourself among the thousands of working class locals enduring overpriced, overcrowded living conditions.
It is depressing to be reminded that your living situation sucks, will continue to suck, and is forecast to suck worse, at least by conventional standards and certainly when compared to the posh living situations enjoyed by nearby rich people.
Of all the recent bad news for working class locals, the worst of it came last week when Blair Place — Teton County’s largest apartment complex — announced an abrupt 44% rental rate increase. Hundreds of people who were already paying a hefty $1250 per month will soon be forking out $1800, searching for a new place to live, camping out, couch surfing, or leaving our community completely.
Valleywide, rents are rising at obscene rates. Just yesterday I talked to a friend whose monthly rent doubled from $800 to $1600 overnight. He’ll be living out of his truck starting August 1st.
Of course this is unacceptable, but you’re tired of hearing about housing issues because the mainstream media has had a bonafide field day with the chronic homelessness and skyrocketing rental rates affecting us locally, nationally, and personally.
Instead of pointing fingers at “institutionalized theft” and “extreme inequality”, the mainstream focuses the public eye on imaginary “housing shortages” which — like many imagined things — do not actually exist.
Nationally, there are currently six empty housing units per homeless person. There are plenty of perfectly good houses available, but rich people and corporations hoard them while poor people can’t afford to rent or buy them.
Locally, at least 43% of housing units are empty, largely due to extreme inequality brought on by a prolonged period of institutionalized theft.
The vast majority of land in Teton County is still off limits to development, controlled by the same government that stole it from the Sheepeaters ~140 years ago via institutionalized theft. The small scraps of private land here are covered with thousands of vacant houses owned by people with offensive amounts of money they “earned” through an economic system based on institutionalized theft.
It’s a shitty system that sane people concerned about humanity and ecology are sick of. Working folks struggle to squeak by while the leisure class gobbles and squanders the ill-gotten fruits of extreme inequality.
Mainstream coverage consistently concludes that there are no potential solutions to the imaginary housing problems aside from raising taxes to subsidize building more housing or letting the free market — which is rigged — deal with the “housing shortage” that doesn’t actually exist.
This “solution” implies that working folks should keep calm, suck it up, and work longer hours to stack more worthless paper money to pay increasingly outrageous fees feeding our bloated scam of a system and its many parasites.
I advocate dropping out instead, which is easier said than done because the current system is designed to deter defiance by destroying dropouts and rebels of all stripes.
Fortunately, dropping out can be done to various degrees and in stages. Stepping out of the rat race called rent is a big move towards sanity, and it can be done without sacrificing health and happiness — unless you have children to take care of — in which case you’re pretty much stuck getting screwed by the system. Strange, isn’t it?
A month and a half ago I meant to finish this series on happiness, homelessness, and the Hole, but lost my mojo to do so because the situation is so sad and the overall trend seems unstoppable via conventional methods.
The middle class in America has been dying a “death by a thousand cuts” for decades. It has happened so slowly and discretely that most people don’t even realize how badly they’ve been and are being bent over.
I’ve struggled to write this because the short-term solutions I can suggest here seem a bit contrived and could actually be counterproductive to the happiness of our homeless community if local authorities glean this tutorial for counterintelligence. I don’t want to give away anyone’s secret camping spots and such.
I also have to admit to feeling contrite because I’m not actually homeless anymore, having recently purchased a house in Alpine.
Frankly, I’m currently more concerned about my garden here than the fate of Teton County’s homeless population: I don’t live in JH anymore and have no control over how badly the financially powerful people who love that place as much I as do — ironically –continue to fuck it up.
None of them — no matter how much money or land they have or how long they’ve lived in the valley — can stop the suicidal System either. Jackson Hole is merely the latest in a long line of beautiful places loved so hard by modern man that they cease to exist.
Some say we always hurt the ones we love the most, and the glorious Tetons are much loved by many, as they have been since at least the era when Natives constructed their Enclosure near the top of the Grand Teton.
Perhaps the Natives knew something we don’t because they left this place in relatively pristine shape for 12,000 years. We’ve trashed it in 1/100th that time.
For the sake of full disclosure, I had no intention of buying a house in Alpine or anywhere stateside. Prior to the purchase I was roughing it in my truck, working a shit ton, and stacking as much worthless paper as possible with hopes of sailing a small boat full of tools back to Central America and building a surfside shack on a half acre of Nicaragua.
Rather than spending my days surfing closeout kegs and drowning my brain in Toña like last time, I hoped to bear witness to, overstand, and report on the second largest engineering project of the 21st century: the new Chinese Canal through Lake Nicaragua intended to replace the Panama Canal.
In case you’re wondering, the world’s largest ongoing engineering undertaking is climate engineering, aka geoengineering, aka endless global weather modification, but we don’t have time to get into that here.
On paper the Nica-Chino canal is currently being built, but ground may or may not have been broken yet: actual developments are shrouded in secrecy. My goal was to go find out what’s happening and to share that information with anyone who cared to listen.
Investigating, opposing, and exposing a gigantic Chinese ecological catastrophe in a Third World country probably isn’t the safest hobby, so I couldn’t make my true intentions known online and a target of myself before I even got back to Nicaragua. DangeRuss and I concocted Ski Bum Surf Pirates in hopes of raising the funds to at least get there without spilling the beans about our actual intent.
Kickstarter rejected our project because we were “too political”, and very few people contributed to our IndieGoGo campaign. I hadn’t harbored high hopes for handouts anyway, so I was stuck making money the best way I know how: bartending in downtown Babylon, Wyoming.
My loving Mother got sick of worrying about me and what seemingly stupid shit I would do next, so she discussed options with my Dad, and they made me an offer I decided not to refuse.
I went from living out of a 1988 Jeep Comanche pickup truck to owning a home overnight. Actually, that’s not true: I had to keep living out of my truck for another 42 days after buying the house while various segments of the System funneled away our money and adjusted paperwork according.
The down payment came from my parents. The ongoing payments are on me. Wage slaving cuts into my time for real work. My activism suffers because I am no longer hungry and homeless. My awareness and resolve fail me because I have become a walking contradiction that seemingly sold out by buying in while encouraging others to do the opposite.
Fortunately — or perhaps unfortunately — I have a housemate that pays me something I hate: rent. I guess that makes me a landlord and a hypocrite.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, brace yourselves! I secretly want my property value to go up, even though I know such silly hopes lie among the roots of our overall societal problem. As such, a rather pointed question confronts my core: who am I to advocate breaking out of the bullshit as I simultaneously buy into it?
Frankly, I don’t really feel too bad about it. Maybe I’m just trying to let you know that nobody is perfect, including me. Maybe I’m just reminding you that dropping out must be done by degrees and in stages. Suicide is the only way to drop out entirely, and I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone.
No, I’m not going to be hard on myself for currently having a home any more than I hate you for being born into and conforming to the System as well. A Vonnegut quote seems appropriate right now:
I have to say this in defense of humankind: no matter what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got here. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were already all these games going on that could make you act crazy, even if you weren’t crazy to begin with. Some of the crazymaking games going on today are love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf, and girls’ basketball.
Perhaps my ongoing existential crisis reflects that of the Hole community as it struggles to preserve its character and avoid getting too big while parlaying profits within the global casino called consumer capitalism. Perhaps I have struggled to address this topic because the community as a whole is so conflicted on the underlying issues our corporate media refuses to address:
Institutionalized Theft & Extreme Inequality.
Maybe Jacksonites love suckling at the Tetons almost as much as they love the money they make off milking, bottling, and selling the Tetons.
Maybe we only need to tug our communitys’ heartstrings a little bit to tip the scales and shift what actually happens here. Maybe we need to use our imaginations — not to conjure up solutions to “housing shortages” — but to conjure mass awareness of actual reality. I don’t know.
I do know that I currently enjoy having a home in Alpine more than I used to enjoyed being homeless in the Hole.
I also know that I’d tossed this half-written script onto my psychological scrap heap until a few days ago when one of Jackson’s most prominent realtors and legendary skiers told me he was looking forward to Part Two of How to Be Happy While Homeless in the Hole. This was the first time anyone offline told me they appreciated this series, and the support came from a very unexpected source.
He said he reads everything I write, and while he doesn’t agree with some of my ideas he sees them as an important part of our community dialogue. He said that vocal free thinkers like me are crucial to our community. He said he hopes that I’ll write more, so I’m fulfilling his hopes right now.
He has been here for 30 years and feels that the Hole is currently losing its soul at an unprecedented pace. He said that we need to work together to steer things in saner directions. I told him that saving the Hole is a lost cause, that Alpine sucks, and that he should tell his friends. We both laughed.
All jokes aside, I was floored to receive such positive criticism from a prominent real estate agent, and felt bad for labeling them all as “dirt pimps” in Part One of this series.
I felt a welcome sense of connection and shared purpose — I think they call that community — and recalled the wisdom Jonathan Schechter shared in his recent JH News and Guide column Cool heads needed during hot times:
Being exposed to public wrath is part of what elected officials signed up for when they chose to run. But at the end of the governing day, just like the rest of us, they go home to walk the dog, cook dinner, put the kids to bed, pay the bills and maybe even make love to their spouse. Viewed through that prism, it’s far easier to imagine them responding positively to a few facts and a little kindness than to challenges to their integrity or that of the institution they represent.
We live in highly charged times. Politicians and interest groups feel compelled to not only win every news cycle but to do so in a way that attacks — and ideally cripples — their opponents. Indeed, friends of mine in Jackson Hole have built careers around crafting political attack ads, and your nose doesn’t have to be too sensitive to catch the occasional whiff of scorched earth emanating from state and local politics.
The problem with such tactics is that they leave no room for humans to be human. At its essence, government is an expression of the human condition, capturing and distilling all of our species’ strengths and weaknesses. Fallibilities are hard-wired into us as individuals, and God knows they manifest themselves in our institutions on a daily basis.
When our institutions do manifest our human fallibilities, people are right to be concerned and upset, are right to try to alter the outcome. But my fervent hope is that we do not let our umbrage at our institutions cloud our ability to see the people who comprise those institutions for what they are: the same imperfect souls that we ourselves are. If we do let that clouding occur — if we do let our umbrage overwhelm our recognition that institutions are collections of all-too-fallible people — then we do real harm to something foundational about this place, the sense that Jackson Hole is a community rather than an uneasy aggregation of clans or tribes.
Few of us live in the Tetons because we have to; most are here because something about this place speaks to us. And although it’s sometimes hard to see in the heat of a moment, few of us are complete idiots or truly evil. But to the extent we lose sight of these core realities, we risk losing sight of something far greater than ourselves.
Please, be kind. It’s not the answer, but it’s the necessary start.
That, my friends, is some good shit. Bravo.
So, out of a sense of community and with nothing but love and kindness in my throbbing heart, I have to say that the current situation in Jackson Hole totally sucks, and it’s nobody’s fault.
I’m not pointing fingers at anyone in particular when I say that…
…Local realtors lick their chops, local renters get raped, most local landowners must make mortgage payments, and local lenders laugh all the way to the banks they “work” at. Bratty billionaires recline reclusively while retaining buku dolares, and local philosophers like myself roll our eyes at the absurdity of a valley where 43% of houses are empty while hundreds of people are homeless and thousands more live in substandard and slummy situations.
Local leaders propose everything from raising a temporary tent city to raising sales taxes to build subsidized housing in hopes of helping the hundreds of people currently sleeping in cars and camping out “illegally” on the 97% of Teton County land that assorted government agencies staked a claim on after the US Army stole it from the true Wyoming Natives.
Currently there are no simple solutions to the housing problem short of moving away or saying to hell with conventional standards and shamelessly enjoying slum life. Most of us aren’t going anywhere because most of the rest of this country has become a sprawling suburban shitscape.
I say to hell with societal standards and conventional accommodations. We’d rather be homeless here than saddled with mortgages elsewhere.
Caveat lector! Being homeless is a lot of work and can be very uncomfortable, unhealthy, and frustrating. It’s hard to be happy while homeless. The same is true of slumming.
Being happy while homeless or crammed into a crappy crib is a lot like learning to laugh and smile while in traction with a badly broken body.
In all seriousness, the starkest example of suffering and desperation that I’ve encountered this summer is worth sharing now.
About a month ago I was bellied up with a buddy at one of the Hole’s classier bars enjoying a double tall Jimmy Beam and ginger beer with quadruple lime. A relatively intelligent and attractive young lady sat down beside us and started up a conversation.
Like me she was early 30’s and hailed from the Midwest. Unlike me she was well dressed and coiffed. I like to help keep the dress code very casual around here.
She had recently transplanted to take a full time, white collar office job. She was stressing because she and her cat had no place to live aside from out of her small car, and the recent record heat wave was just getting started.
She asked my friend and I — and the other bar patrons in the vicinity — if we knew of any affordable rental options. None of us did.
After ingesting a little liquid courage she asked us if we had room in our homes, even a place where she could stay short term while paying whatever we wanted per night. None of us did, or at least none of us offered.
I considered letting her crash on my couch 40 miles South of the Hole in Alpine, but am severely allergic to long haired cats which was a deal-breaker for me. I bought her a drink instead, which may have been a bad move.
She informed us that she’d only found one remotely obtainable rental option and that it would cost her $6000 to move in, and $2000 per month after that. She knew rent alone would eat up most of her monthly income, but she was desperate, driven largely by concern for her cat. She didn’t have $6000 to put down: she had $3k in savings and needed another $3k to get her foot in the door.
In true “last of the old west” style, a drunk cowboy offered to kill the cat for her. He was only half joking. Everybody laughed, including the cat loving woman desperately seeking a place to live. Her’s wasn’t happy laughter. It was nervous laughter.
Shortly thereafter things got strange when she started soliciting strangers with sex in hopes of getting the additional $3k she needed to put a roof over her head. She really didn’t seem like the type to turn tricks, and I’d never experienced anything like this in NW Wyoming before. It was a shocker of a situation.
I felt ashamed just being there, so I got around to paying my tab.
As I was walking out I overheard her offering an older guy what amounted to a month long subscription for a sex slave in exchange for $3k up front. She was passing him her number on a napkin. Another guy seemed interested as well.
Rather than running a train on recent transplants, perhaps we should empower them with the skills they need to be happy while homeless instead.
In case you’re just joining us and would care to catch up, part one dissected America’s eco-illogical financial and social systems built on greed, lust, deception, competition, aggression, and inequality. These fundamentally flawed and borderline suicidal systems are currently geriatrically gentrifying wild & wonderful Wyoming while — apparently — driving witless white women into the arms of wealthy, wanna-be Westerners.
Part one also established my credibility for commenting on the art of cultivating happiness in a time of homelessness: I’ve been officially “homeless” — sometimes by choice and sometimes out of necessity — for most of the last decade.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot about how to be happy while homeless. Hopefully what I have to share can help you.
Here are thirteen things you can do to enjoy being out more, aka home less. It’s all a matter of perception.
1. Know yourself and your actual needs. Most Americans have been brainwashed into believing that they must work most days from age 18-68 to earn magical digital currency so they can feel financially secure while feeding the System and consuming crap they don’t really need.
At school we’re conditioned to accept an externally imposed schedule and are required to do what’s expected of us with minimal questions and maximum obedience. Kids that don’t conform are punished and medicated to change their behavior.
Thirteen years of mandatory brainwashing throughout our most impressionable years usually has its intended affect. By age 18 we’ve been so thoroughly snookered that many of us spend money we don’t have on more education we don’t need in hopes of getting a job we don’t want to make the money we’ve been told we need to survive. We literally put ourselves in debt buying our own brainwashing.
After college most of us conform to the System and work 40+ hours per week until we get rich enough to retire or our health fails us, whichever comes first. Over time the System breaks us down completely as it has its way with us. It’s sad.
The System is set up in such a way that stacking enough magical digital money to eventually stop working requires subservience, sacrifice, and speculation in stocks or similar markets which serve primarily to sustain the System itself.
The System is a scam unknowingly perpetuated by the wealthy and the elderly upon the working class and the youth. It’s an outdated tradition in need of change.
Within the System all the essentials of modern life like food and shelter cost money, and most people make just enough to scrape by: 76% of Americans currently live paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2013 survey by Bankrate.com. Think about that.
Obtaining housing is the single largest expense for most modern Americans. Official government statistics tell us the average American spends ~19% of their income on “shelter”, ~7% on “household operations and furniture”, ~4% on “household energy fuels”, and ~3% on “telephone and water”. This amounts to 1/3rd of total income devoted solely to maintaining a household and saddling oneself with a tracking device that helps bosses summon their slaves to work: smartphones.
The official government table above conveniently fails to mention all the money most Americans are required to spend on state and federal income taxes and local property and sales taxes. This glaring omission alone proves that official government statistics cannot be accepted as accurate assessments of actual reality any more than Federal Reserve funny money should be accepted as the world’s reserve currency or the measure of our individual successes and failures.
For example, twenty percent spent on rent is certainly not the case here in Jackson Hole, officially the most expensive mountain town in the United States with the median cost of a one bedroom rental coming in at a whopping $2,000 per month.
According to the Jackson Hole News and Guide, 58 percent of the county’s renters pay more than $1,000 a month. Over half of workers in Teton County (50.2%) work in the hospitality and retail industries, earning an average of $27,627 annually. Factoring out $1500 for federal income tax drops these workers take home pay to $26,127. It’s no surprise to find that many Teton County residents spend half or more of their income on rent alone, nevermind the other expenses associated with running a household.
Our little valley provides an extreme example of the corrosive poverty, inequality, and societal skullduggery that is destroying modern America. This is a country where — in stark contrast to the official government statistics — 50% of renters spend more than 1/3rd of their income on housing and 26% of renters currently spend more than half of their income on housing.
Factor out an additional ~20-30% for state, local, and federal taxes, ~16% for transportation, ~13% for food, ~12% for insurance, ~8% for assorted utilities, ~6.5% for healthcare (yeah, right!), etc, etc, and it’s no surprise that most people have very little wealth despite working a lot.
Way back in the day Marvin Gaye described the situation succinctly in his epic song Inner City Blues:
…Money, we make it
Before we see it you take it
Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
This ain’t livin’, this ain’t livin’
No, no baby, this ain’t livin’
No, no, no
Inflation no chance
To increase finance
Bills pile up sky high
Send that boy off to die
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life…
Ironically, homelessness provides a great way to save money — and time — to truly enjoy the finer things in life. Embracing an outdoor, semi-nomadic lifestyle eliminates expenses like rent, utilities, mortgage payments, property taxes, home furnishings, home maintenance, etc. Being homeless also diminishes the effectiveness of corporate advertising telling you to consume conspicuously and frivolously because buying crap becomes a lot less appealing when you have nowhere to safely store all that stupid stuff.
If you do it right, being homeless makes you less of the System’s bitch.
Knowing yourself includes overstanding the difference between your actual needs and frivolous wants induced by corporate advertising, societal standards, and peer pressure. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides a nice visualization to play off of while considering such concepts and how they factor into your everyday decisions and activities.
If you have access to clean air, pure water, healthy food, a stress free sleeping situation, a steady source of income, a place to bathe, a laundromat, a place to store some stuff, and a way of getting your rocks off your Physiological and Safety needs are more or less met.
The higher needs like Love/Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization are fortunately free, as the best things in life tend to be.
Having an affordable home on a few farmable acres is ideal, but within the constraints of the current System and among the relatively crimeless confines of a mountainous paradise a rig like this can suffice:
There are a lot of different ways to be homeless in Jackson Hole. I can’t tell you how to do it, because everyone’s situation is different. Options include car camping, bike camping, foot camping, couch surfing, house sitting, squatting, and cougarbaiting. 🙂
Know yourself, your needs, your wants, your dreams, your strengths, your weaknesses, your assets, your friends, and your limits. If you don’t know these things already, being homeless begs the question, weeds out the frivolous, and can serve to generally sort this stuff out.
There’s a reason this is number one on the list, and Bill Shakespeare said it best:
2. Rein in your sense of shame. In 1997, Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin made a movie called The Edge. The gist of the movie is that three people survive a plane crash in the wilderness and must embark on a long, dangerous trek back to civilization. It’s a pretty good flick.
During one scene, Anthony Hopkins’ character has the following insight:
You know, I once read an interesting book, which said that most people lost in the wilds, they die of shame…Yeah, see, they die of shame. “What did I do wrong? How could I have gotten myself into this?” And so they sit there and they die. Because they didn’t do the one thing that would save their lives.”
Alec Baldwin asks what that one thing is. Anthony Hopkins answers with a single word: Thinking.
Surviving in the wilderness might require different skills than enjoying homelessness in and around a mountainous tourist town, but shame is big factor in both situations. If you’re ashamed of living out of a car, camping in the woods, or crashing on a friend’s couch you’re probably not very happy with yourself or your situation. If you’re embarrassed to be seen filling up way too many water bottles at the Whole Grocer or airing out your rig in front of the laundromat, you’re probably feeling ashamed about being homeless.
Shame is a social emotion, like shyness, guilt, and pride. You cannot feel shame without feeling self-conscious and being concerned about how others may see and judge you.
Shame keeps us conformed to society’s expectations, punishing us brutally for the slightest imagined wrong doing. In school and with the media the System brainwashed us to feel ashamed about a lot of things like being poor and homeless. A person’s first experience of shame is an initiation into human society. Shame sustains society’s standards by making us feel awful for stepping outside the norm.
After childhood, usually no one has to make us feel ashamed. We do it to ourselves.
There are certainly some situations where shame is an appropriate emotion to feel. If you did something really stupid, really wrong, or really hurtful to another person then shame on you. If you are homeless due to fucking up or burning out, the shame is similarly on you.
If you choose to be homeless to save money and in hopes of living a relatively free and healthy life I say shame on the System for putting you in a situation where you must choose between having a home or having an affordable and appealing life. If you work full time, manage your money wisely, and are forced into homelessness through no fault of your own, shame on the community for failing to accommodate the working class folks who truly make it run.
In summary — according to Anthony Hopkins — shame kills. At the very least shame is definitely a buzz kill. Properly directed shame can keep you on the right track through life. Uncontrolled shame can make you feel like shit. Don’t feel ashamed about being homeless unless you really did something wrong. If you choose to be homeless because you have better things to do than work all the damn time, why feel ashamed about it at all?
3. Refine your sense of humor. Laughing at and through uncomfortable situations is a time tested approach to dealing with bullshit.
When I learned to laugh in the face of adversity instead of getting all grumpy I became a much happier and healthier person. I could go on and on about this one, but for the sake of brevity and keeping things moving along, here are two memes worthy of consideration:
This prompts an obvious train of thought.
If you take life so seriously that you rarely crack a smile, how can you laugh at anything?
If you don’t know how to laugh at yourself and your situation, how could you possibly make other people laugh?
If you can’t make other people laugh, how will you make friends and get laid?
If you have no friends and can’t get laid, how can you be happy?
Answer: you can’t, so lighten up and laugh as much as possible, especially when homeless.
4. Health is wealth. Homelessness and ski bummery can put a lot of stress and strain on the body, mind, and spirit. If you’re not consciously taking care of yourself you’ll get sick and age prematurely while couch surfing or camping out.
If you save ~$30-50 per day by being homeless in the Hole, why not spend half that money improving your diet? If you’re stuck hanging out in public parks, why not do yoga there? If you’ve got oodles of free time because you don’t have to work a lot, why not spend more of it exercising and sleeping?
I used to eat crap. Now I eat well, and am happier and healthier.
I used to sweat the small stuff. Now I let it slide, and…
I used get drunk as a skunk. Now I avoid hangovers, and…
I used to rush until I collapsed. Now I know how to relax, and…
You get the idea.
The cheapest food produced by the System is poisonous. Literally. That’s why Organic food exists and is so expensive: the poison is for the poor people and anyone too stupid to see what’s really going on. They call it “Natural Selection” but in reality it’s Systemic — as in man made — just like toxic GMO foods, carcinogenic additives, plastic packaging, and pesticides are.
Health is a big topic. Fortunately I’ve already created a viral video that addresses it in depth.
About a thousand people currently watch this video every week, and that just tickles me pink.
Hydration and rest are two of the most important aspects of health, so drink a lot of clean water and…
5. Dial in your sleep systems. If you’re not sleeping well you won’t be happy, so make it a priority.
Jackson Hole is a land of extremes. The days are long and hot in the summer, short and cold in the winter. Some spots are extremely crowded and noisy, others offer the sweetest sense of solitude available in the lower 48.
If you’re camping out here in the busy summer months, cool, shady, secluded spots are the ideal to strive for. In the winter you want as much sun and warmth as possible. Any time of year, the best situation is probably posting up a buddy’s back yard or at least having that as an option for once in a while.
If it’s summer and you don’t have a sleep system that affords you shade and seclusion, I feel for you. If it’s winter and you don’t have a nest of comfy sleeping bags to curl up in, get your ass to the Peruse & Purchase or Headwall Sports and outfit yourself properly.
A Paco Pad is ideal in all seasons, if your tent or vehicle can accommodate it.
If your vehicle is not adequate for camping out, consider upgrading to something more spacious. Just remember that most RVs and camper vans get horrible gas mileage and attract the wrong kind of attention from law enforcement and other box builders — aka squares –upset that you’ve escaped from the Matrix and are living freely near their prisons.
A happy compromise is any vehicle you can
lay down in get laid in without appearing obviously homeless. AWD minivans or front wheel drive windowless work vans are pretty clutch. Trucks with toppers work pretty well too, but getting in and out of them can be awkward.
Having a vehicle you can stretch out in is pretty important, especially in the winter or when there’s bad weather. If you can’t comfortably lay down completely flat you need more length. If you can’t do Camel Pose somewhere in your vehicle, perhaps you need more headroom. Again, these are ideals to strive for, and making the best out of what you’ve got may be better than wasting money on a new vehicle.
Regardless of the size of your vehicle you’ll want to…
6. Get organized and shed or store unnecessary stuff. Clutter is the enemy. Whether you’re car camping, cyclo camping, foot camping, or crammed into a skid crib, having too much stuff can be extremely frustrating and counterproductive. One of the most gratifying things about moving outdoors is casting aside all the frivolous crap you somehow accumulated.
Storage is also an option, although it is expensive in Jackson Hole proper. Consider storage in Victor, Driggs, or Alpine to spend a lot less money for more space. An added bonus of storing things outside of the Hole is that it gives you somewhere to go for mini-vacations and forces you to rely only on what you can carry with you in your day to day life.
Another option if you don’t have much to store is finding a friend willing to hold on to it for you. This option can result in lost stuff and lost friends, so I don’t recommend it.
Regarding storage for car and small boat camping I have found milk crates to be extremely effective, especially when paired with an old Yakima or Thule car top ski box. The stuff goes in the crates, the crates go in the box, the box goes on the roof, and — in theory — the clutter in your vehicle disappears.
I am pretty proud about my storage system from last summer. It was affordable, mobile, and convenient. I used an old truck, a free topper, some scrap lumber, and K-Mart spray paint to make this rig:
I found a private place to park it in Jackson for $50 per month. I filled it with all my winter gear, books, tools, technology, and assorted crap. It was cheap and convenient, as storage should be.
Before setting sail for Central America we removed the boat’s toilet and poop tank, converting the whole bathroom into a storage locker. We ditched the 35 year old poop tank in the dumpster at a McDonald’s across the street from the marina. That was fun, and it worked out great long term.
The bottom line is you have a choice between getting crafty or being filthy, so choose wisely.
7. Budget wisely for food and fuel. It’s really easy to waste a lot of money by eating out when homeless in the Hole. There are so many great restaurants here that it’s almost impossible not to get lured in by tantalizing aromas wafting down the streets you’re living on. I’m all for good food and not opposed to wasting worthless money, so all things in moderation is my motto.
Fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts should have been my staples while homeless in the Hole, but I ate a lot of packaged, processed crap and 1/2 price Silver Dollar Bar fare back then.
Dining bellied up to the bar wasn’t all bad though.
I hardly cooked aside from warming water for tea, coffee, and oatmeal because cleaning the kitchen is a bitch when you live out of your car.
A cooler can be nice, but it can also get very nasty overnight. I found that a small, dry cooler without ice stored in a shady spot in the truck kept things fresh for up to a week.
While boating around Central America it was so damn hot that a cooler would only hold ice for a couple of hours before becoming a sloppy mess, but the dry cooler method worked fairly well there for preserving fresh produce and keeping beverages cooler. All the fish we caught had to be eaten fresh because there were too many flies around to salt cure the meat in the wind and sun.
It’s also easy to waste money driving around while homeless in the Hole. The people who camp out up Curtis or on Shadow and have to drive to work most days end up spending a lot of money on gas. They also beat the shit out of their vehicles on bad roads the Forest Service fails to properly maintain. They end up spending a lot of time sitting in traffic too, which sucks.
I got into the habit of camping in and around town when I had to work or run errands. By parking the truck for several days at a time and riding my bike or skateboard I saved a lot on gas, got some exercise, and had more fun. In the summer TOJ streets have a 72 hour parking limit, and if you’re sleeping out in the woods or in a lover’s bed nobody can hassle you for merely parking your car on a public spot.
8. Lump work or dump work. On a similar vein, it’s important to get your work schedule dialed in when camping out. If you have to work every day of the week your life is going to suck bad.
I know because I worked nine shifts over the course of seven days per week most of last year to get ahead of the silly bills that come with home ownership. If you’ve wondered why I haven’t been writing very much or making many videos this last year, now you know.
If you rarely have two or more days completely off in a row, you are severely limited in your options by being chained to a job. Lumping work and free time into blocks is a great way to get out on more adventures, camp in cooler spots, avoid crowds, save gas money, and be happier.
In the summer time — as a downtown bartender — I have found that the ideal schedule is working a double on Friday, a double on Saturday, and that’s it. By working 32 hours in two days a person gets to enjoy five glorious consecutive days of FREEDOM! That’s not my current schedule, but I wish it was.
In the winter time — as a downtown bartender — I have found that the ideal schedule is working Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday football doubles. That way I’m free to ski six days a week, and I won’t be stuck rushing to work most days. Hopefully that’s my schedule next winter.
I don’t like football at all, which makes me a better bartender than a person easily distracted by big men in tight shorts tackling one another.
If you have some money saved up and really want to have a good time, try cutting crappy jobs out of your life entirely, cropping bills down to an absolute minimum, and contemplating how nice it would be if you didn’t have to worry about money at all.
Lump work, dump work, and work to help expose the silliness of the System as we now know it because…
9. Develop options and don’t over-exploit any of them. When it comes to meeting your physical needs for food, shelter, shitters, and showers it’s important to have options.
If you take an option for granted and take advantage of it odds are you’ll eventually lose it. This is especially true when it comes to the generosity of friends, and generous friends are the best thing to have, especially — in my experience — if they happen to be beautiful vagenerous ladies.
Let’s not forget that sex lies at the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for a reason. Fewer priests would be raping little kids if they were allowed the freedom to fuck other consenting adults openly. Maybe monogomy made rigid by marriage is part of our systemic screwing up of sex as well. I’m still not sure about anything regarding sex except for knowing that I like it.
Regarding all other needs, remember that more options make for more happiness. For example, if you can eat, shit, and shower at work, at a few different friend’s houses, and at a semi-permanent camp somewhere out in the woods you’re not at risk of losing any of your basic needs overnight.
Many homeless people disengage from friends and family out of shame and other negative emotions. Doing the opposite is a more effective strategy to obtaining your needs and being happy while homeless.
I do know that at a time when I had no friends, was totally broke, and felt like a stranger in a strange land, the Universe brought me a little white dog who was in an even sorrier state than I found myself.
She was pregnant, homeless, and half dead from hunger and assorted infections. I was drunk, depressed, and my little sailboat lacked direction. Deciding to take care of her forced me to take care of myself.
She took care of me too. She taught me a ton, helped me make more friends, and classed up our whole operation.
Now we’re both doing better than either of us could have even imagined at the time when we met because we became a tribe of two.
Maybe you have lots of friends. Maybe you only have one. I think everybody needs at least one true friend to be happy.
11. Find a psychological home. This is the big secret that I discovered last summer. Everybody needs a place where they feel safe and comfortable, even if that place only exists in their mind.
Maybe home is a comfortable stump hidden deep within a special grove of trees. Maybe home is the back of a windowless work van parked on a quiet country road. Maybe home is circling skyward with the smoke from spliffs shared in a backcountry ski shack.
As cliche as it sounds…
… and home can be something as simple as a scrap of paper in a pinch.
12. Get out of road. If you really want to experience Jackson Hole’s natural splendor and enjoy a true sense of freedom, you need to get off the roads and away from the crowds.
Last summer my psychological home was a semi-permanent camp just outside of civilization. It felt like I was in the wilderness but a short stroll brought me back to a trail back to a road back to town. I didn’t keep any food at my camp, just sleeping stuff. Basically it was a comfortable place to read, write, and relax.
Most homeless campers run into trouble with the law because they’re in the street or they’ve got a vehicle parked in or around their camp. Getting out of the road will keep you out of trouble, as long as you bring bear spray and don’t have anything around that attracts wildlife or authorities to your spot.
13. Read books, not screens. In the era of smart phones and lap tops this is especially important. No matter how far from civilization you venture, an everyday reliance on wireless communication technology tethers you to the System.
Flat screened devices of all sorts are the modern equivalent to television in the sense that they rot your brain, steal your imagination, sap your creativity, and waste your time on Earth.
Television has been so effective for brainwashing people since the 1940s because the cathode ray tube of older televisions were designed to emit alpha waves which stimulate the dream state in the human brain. That’s why people — especially little kids — stare at the TV screen like zombies.
In the artificially induced dream state people are not critically analyzing the messages they are being subjected to. Basically, they’re hypnotized and absorbing propaganda which is what TV has always been intended to do. That’s why TV programs are called programs. Watchers brains are literally programmed using TV.
Smart phones, smart TVs, and other wireless devices are tools of mass mental standardization and domestication that also track and irradiate their users. These convenient and affordable devices emit alpha waves and can emit all sorts of other artificial electromagnetic waves. Whether intentional or not, these artificial electromagnetic waves affect your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Trust me.
If you’re sleeping in a car with a lap top running, odds are you’re not sleeping as well as you would in a more natural electromagnetic environment. If you’re meditating on a mountaintop with a smart phone in your pocket, maybe the messages you’re receiving aren’t the ones you climbed so high in search of.
I’m not gonna go into this one too deeply because people always call me crazy when I do. Just remember the existence most Americans embrace and ask yourself why that is.
In conclusion, many great locals have had to give up their spots on this paradise island of private land amid a sea of officially untouchable national forests and parks. These peoples’ spots were essentially sold to leisure class, tax-dodging tourists desiring and acquiring multiple homes.
Pressures brought on by record economic growth have uprooted hundreds of families and thousands of longtime locals in recent years. Jacksonites work two or more jobs just to squeak by, their thoughts of one day raising a family here entirely forgotten.
The wiser workers have already jumped ship to Victor, Driggs, and Alpine, where slightly saner strategies and more usable land makes the cost of living much more reasonable.
During Jackson Hole’s ever-extending ON Season old motels get stuffed with cheap labor imported from overseas.
The traffic has gotten bad and is guaranteed to worsen no matter how many new roads they build or lanes they add to the existing ones.
The pace of life has sped up dramatically and everything is expensive, but hey that’s the price we pay to play, right?
Apparently so, short of a revolution in human consciousness. But why?
Why is it that the better Jackson Hole looks to Ivy League economists, billionaire investors, and real estate speculators, the harder it becomes for the actual community to sustain itself? Why are there more empty homes as more money flows into the valley?
Forty-three percent housing unit vacancy is 3x the statewide average and despite sounding insanely high — which it is — the reality is quite worse: many “occupied” homes are in fact empty because the “residents” are jet-setting tax evaders who actually spend most of their time elsewhere. Over a thousand existing guest houses cannot legally be rented in Teton County. Also important, dozens of “occupied” rental units are actually short-term VRBO, hundreds more are vacation rentals managed by dirt-pimporations, and at least 19% of rental units remain vacant most of the time partly because the local working class can’t afford the requisite rents. Even the homeliest and unhealthiest housing in Jackson Hole is offensively overpriced, so hundreds of people “choose” homelessness while hundreds more shack up in the shrinking slums. Every month more skid cribs get torn down and are replaced with high priced condos and hotels. Very few developers are even trying to cater to the working class here.
More affordable housing would certainly help some people, but it won’t solve the underlying issues: extreme inequality and institutionalized theft.
Strangely, in the midst of Teton County’s perfect storm of inequality, more money is spent assuring that the growing fleet of public transit buses have comfortable homes than is devoted to housing the people who live and work here.
The cavernous new START Bus Operations and Maintenence Center provides climate controlled parking and repair facilities for dozens of buses. I think these buses are intended to ship slaves in up the Grand Canyon of the Snake and over Teton Pass.
Currently 35% of Teton County workers commute from outside the valley. That number grows every year. This trend is bad for the regional environment, the roads, the commuters, and the community as a whole.
The mountain men and trappers who “discovered” this area spin in their simple graves at what it has become. The lingering ghosts of genocided Sheepeaters have cried for a long time, but they’ve recently burst into laughter.
Me? I’m currently gone, but the Hole will inevitably pull me back in.
Take care. One Love. Peace.
PS: If all else fails and you find yourself drowning in despair, I’ve found that putting this song on repeat helps a lot. In fact, the whole album does. Yeah, it’s that easy.