Thursday, May 16, 2019


I go in for a tracheostomy this afternoon. I don't know how long it will be until I get my computer back. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


The hospital called to get intake information for tomorrow. Among the many questions were some from Medicare to see which benefits I might be entitled to (or what things some other program was paying for so Medicare wouldn’t need to).

“Are you checking into the hospital because of an accident?”

I couldn’t resist. “Does anyone get cancer on purpose?”

There was a pause, then she gave a forced chuckle. I guess not all hospital staff have a dark sense of humor.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

And I guess it's cyber-begging time

Medicare doesn't cover everything. Feel free to help with the shortfall by using the donation button on the right.

What should I say?

I don’t use cancer patient slogans. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up. That doesn’t mean I’m depressed. It’s just that high octane positive thinking is not my style.

I’m pragmatic, less emotional, and maybe a touch more reality-based. I try to avoid self-delusion. (Maybe I’m deluded about my pragmatic, less emotional, reality-based lack of self-delusion. Hmmmm…)

My slogan (if I were the sloganeering type) might be, “We’re going to give it our best shot and see what happens.” Or, “If I remain cautiously optimistic I’ll be all the gladder if I’m cured rather than even more crushed if I’m not.” Neither of those work well on walkathon T-shirts.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Well folks, here’s the deal with my throat. The mass shown in the CAT scan is a stage 4 tumor on the base of my tongue. Surgery would mean removing the tongue and probably vocal cords. No one wants that, so it’s radiation and chemotherapy for me.

First they’ll do a tracheostomy—making a hole in my throat and inserting a breathing tube—so I won’t suffocate when the tumor swells from radiation treatment. That’ll be done in Tucson. It means a week in the hospital, part of it so they can train me on using and maintaining the trach tube.

A van in the boonies is a bad place to deal with cancer treatment. Even though a patch of land with a partially built house is slightly better, Lou’s place is inconvenient to medical care. So during the six weeks of daily radiation and chemo, I’ll be staying in Los Angeles with my former wife who is still my dear friend. She has cared for cancer patients before; first her mother and then her father. Also, if I need to feel like crap, I’d rather feel like crap somewhere with beaches.

So… my glorious nomadic life is on hold. It might even be over. I’ve said many times I don’t want to live in a building ever again, but, you know, it doesn’t always work out that way.

I’ve also said that if I was ever faced with something like cancer and the inability to live the way I wanted I would just go out in the desert and shoot myself. But the survival instinct insists I don’t do that. I argued with it and we came to an agreement that I would do the therapy and see how it goes, then reassess the situation later.

I’m lucky. I have supportive friends and family. I have Medicare. And I’ve had at least seven years as a free man wandering the country, experiencing amazing and beautiful places. If I had contracted cancer while still stuck in my old life, a cog in the system, I would be angry and resentful and I’d feel like my life was a waste. But I don’t. I’m at peace with life. I’m contented. If this new adventure turns for the worst (and it eventually does for all of us) so be it.

If you have a bucket list, if you've been wanting to change your life, do it. No one assessing their life wishes they had spent more time in a rut.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Wall two

A new adventure

An exclusive look at the inner Al

If you’ve been following this blog the past couple of months you know about my quest to find out what’s wrong in my throat. There were times I thought the medications were working, but the improvements were minor and brief. So yesterday they sent me to have a CAT scan. The findings:
There is a large, slightly enhancing soft tissue mass identified superior to the larynx, in the vallecula region. The mass is inseparable from the epiglottis. The mass measures 4.7 x 4.1 x 3.9 cm in size and has a slightly lobated contour. It is noted to produce significant narrowing of the airway in this region. The larynx itself is not involved. Note is made of a minimal amount of adenopathy in the upper neck bilaterally adjacent to the neuromuscular bundle. This is consistent with a neoplastic process with associated metastatic lymphadenopathy. 
The parotid, submandibular, and thyroid glands are normal in appearance.
Okay, some translations:
Vallecula: a depression just behind the root of the tongue between the folds in the throat. These depressions serve as "spit traps"; saliva is temporarily held in the valleculae to prevent initiation of the swallowing reflex. 
Epiglottis: a flap in the throat that keeps food from entering the windpipe and the lungs 
Adenopathy: a disease of the lymph nodes, in which they are abnormal in size or consistency 
Parotid and submandibular glands: salivary glands
Lymphadenopathy: swollen lymph nodes 
So Friday Lou is driving me to Tucson to see an ear-nose-throat specialist. There might be some endoscopy and a biopsy. And I might end up in the hospital for surgery. That means I’ll probably not be posting for a few days.

Now to make this relevant to the nomadic life. I’m lucky in two ways. One is that I have Medicare, so I can afford treatment. The second is that I have someone I can depend upon for whatever help I need. A round of applause for Lou.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

It’s allowed

In 1995, when I was living in an apartment on Long Beach, California, I took a drive around the country in my Honda Accord Coupe to see what there was to see. About 4,000 miles later, in Burlington, Vermont, I figured it was time for an oil change.

Up until that point there was this idea in my head, implanted by more than four decades of conventional living. Things like oil changes were supposed to be done when you were home, not while you were traveling. Because that had always been the case, and what had always been must always be, Right? But an uninfected part of my brain said, “There’s no reason you can’t have it done here. Or anywhere else. There’s no rule.”

This memory came to mind as I was having the Rolling Steel Tent’s oil changed this morning in Silver City, New Mexico. Many many oil changes since Vermont.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

It’s up

It turned out the three of us could raise several hundred pounds of wall without help. In a wind. Without injuries. Because we are studs. (That’s sort of a framing joke.) (One that’s not very good.)

Wall time

After much measuring and remeasuring, the framing for the first wall is done and it’s time to add the exterior sheathing. Everything was built on the floor and it might take something more than us three retirees to lift it into position. Are these Amish guys available this week?

Monday, May 6, 2019

Size matters

My spoon is barely small enough to fit into a Yoplait container. I knew there must have been a reason (other than taste) I usually bought other brands of yogurt.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Where is home?

When I was a kid my concept of home was as simple as the rest of my developing brain. It was where my family and my stuff was.

Then, when I was sixteen years old, the family moved 2,000 miles away. Even though I still had my family and my stuff, the new city didn’t feel like home. I didn’t fit in.

After college I moved to Southern California, and I felt much more at home. A decade later I moved to San Francisco. I lived there only four years, but thirty years and three other cities later, that’s the place I consider home, in the conventional sense.

But what about now that I’m living unconventionally? Well, you’ve probably seen the stickers: Home Is Where You Park It. That’s me. Except I’ll take that slogan a step farther. Home is even where I’m not parked. To me, home is not a building, not a spot on a map. This nomadic life is my home. I am my home. I’m always there.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Ghost town

Lake Valley, New Mexico, is another mining town that dried up when the ore did. However, a couple of people hung on there until the late 1990s.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Much happiness

A corner of the floor and insulation had been on hold until the bathroom plumbing could be hooked into the existing pipes and roughed in. John the plumber came today and got ‘er done. Now it’s time to wait for the inspector.

Meanwhile, I’m happy I don't own a house anymore. So much happiness in one place.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

More wandering

About noon yesterday I told Lou, “I’m gonna go wander around for a couple of hours.” I had no plan other than to drive and explore. I headed to Silver City and… oh… kept going on US180, north, toward, oh, some of the stuff that’s up that way. Through rolling grasslands, past cottonwood-lined creeks, up into coniferous forests. The west side of the Gila Mountains.

I turned east on highway 12 to Reserve, got some gasoline. The free Apache Creek campground was twelve miles down the highway. I called Lou to tell him I was staying the night, that I’d be back the next day.

I was at Apache Creek in April of 2014, but I didn’t stay. Rain and fear of flooding chased me away. But this time the sky was clear and the forecast was good. No problem.

In the morning I contemplated my route options. I could go back the way I came, but that would be less interesting.

I could continue clockwise around the Gila Mountains, but that would be twice as far, and I had been that way before, too.

I could do the semi-crazy thing and go northwest to Alpine AZ, then south through the highest, twistiest, slowest section of US191, then connect back to US180. I’d get to mark off another section of 191—a part I missed when I abandoned my Border-to-Border-On-191 quest last summer in order to go to a friend’s retirement party in California. Hey, I’m semi-crazy, so…

The road gets serious

I don’t know about other times of the year, but on this particular early Sunday morning at the end of April the highway was practically deserted. And beautiful. I saw a herd of elk, a flock of turkeys, and about a dozen clusters of deer. Taking that route wasn’t the crazy thing after all. What’s crazy is not having gone that way several times before. And stayed a while. I’ll be back.

Something new

I’ve started a video series about my approach to van living. There are many ways to do it and I’m not saying my way is best. I’m just presenting what works for me. That’s why the videos aren’t titled  “How Everyone Should Do It.”