Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Touring the West

We're in Seattle now, staying at the house of Mark's friends, Jim and Laura.  Our book tour is almost done (at least for now?).  We plan to go to Olympia, Washington today, then to Bellingham on Friday.  Then it looks like I'm riding back to Missoula, Montana with Mark, hitching to Moab, Utah, and probably snagging a ride with a friend to Vermont, to see another old friend.

Before I go on, please, before making general comments or questions about my life, please read the FAQ on Living Without Money.  Then, if your question or comment is not addressed, I'll try to answer it.  I hope to add more FAQs when there's opportunity.

A big one that I haven't addressed yet in the FAQ is about publicity and the book:

Are you making profit from this book, and a media whore promoting yourself?

Yes I do have an ego, and I feel sure I'll be okay if I acknowledge and admit it, and then I won't become a slave to it.  And I am human, I do have a mouth and like to speak.  Speaking draws attention to ourselves, even as crying did when we came out of the womb.  I don't believe it's right to suppress our nature of speaking, to hide our lamp under a bushel.  Lights shine and flowers bloom for a reason, and why be a liar by pretending I don't enjoy it?  I enjoy quiet anonymity also, for which people condemned me equally in the past, too!  And we all recede into quiet anonymity in the end - every one of us.

That said, the book is not and never was my idea, and I am making zero profit from it.  In 2009, after an article was written about me by Chris Ketchum in Details Magazine (also not something I sought out or asked for), Penguin/Riverhead books initially asked me if I wanted to write a book back in 2009, and I told them I'd only do it if it could be totally given away for free and I, of course, make no profit.  They then asked Mark Sundeen to write it, and I agreed to it after he wrote to me and told me his vision of what the book would be.  Mark was already going on this book tour and invited me along in his car.  We have been staying at friends' houses and camping out.  I have not once stayed in a hotel.  Mark is making money from the book, because he works in the money system and has to make his very, very modest living as a writer.  Contrary to public opinion, he is not rolling in the dough and makes way less money than most average Americans I know.

Also, Penguin/Riverhead has honored my request and given hundreds of books away for free at many events, as well as to libraries all over. 

What I find comical about the thousands of negative comments is I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.  Before, when people decided I spent most my days hiding out in a cave, there were thousands of comments condemning me for being a recluse, not "contributing."  Now that I'm more in the spotlight, thousands say I'm both a mooch living off society as well as a media whore trying to get attention and profit, and that if I were truly living moneyless I'd be hiding out in the wilderness away from society!

A seed falls to the ground and dies, hiding in the soil.  It grows up into a plant that flowers in fluorescent color, attracting bees and hummingbirds and humans.  Condemn it for hiding.  Then condemn it for blooming.  Condemn it for wilting.  Then it might produce fruit.  What condemnation then?  Are we resentful because the plant knows only to follow its own nature, both hiding and blooming in glory and bearing more seeds?  I don't know how any of it works, it just does, and it's beautiful and I'll enjoy it, whether or not people like to crush plants under their feet.

What if we spoke as fact only what we know, and not what we assume, in every part of life?  How lovely life would be if everybody were innocent until proven guilty, huh?

What if we saved our anger and venom for actions that are actually bringing harm to the world? 

But I have to admit I get a kick out of the negative shit.  It's comical and entertaining, even wiping away my doubt.  Even Taiwanese capitalists have jumped on the bandwagon.  Might as well enjoy it:

Positive Response

If most anonymous Internet comments have been negative, most human-to-human response Mark and I have gotten have been positive.  And the negative criticisms to our face have been constructive and helpful.  People who have the guts to give face-to-face criticism have an integrity and courage that I'm grateful for. 

Yeah, we've been astonished at the turn-out and the openness and receptiveness of people at all these book events and media interviews.  There have been lots of hugs and even tears from "strangers."  The love I've felt has been indescribably heart-warming.  Every one of them through-out the west have been standing room only, except in Eugene and Seattle.  Seattle, in fact, had the smallest turn-out of all, which surprised us.

The Second Leg of Our Tour

Our event in Missoula was splendid, and I feel like Missoula has become another home.  We had a Quit Money Day panel discussion at the Missoula Public Library with Kate Keller (Missoula Community Food Co-op), Pastor Christian Cryder (Imagine Missoula), Bob Giardano (Free Cycles), Josh Slotnick (Garden City Harves), Mark, and me.  What was beautiful about this was that this wasn't about a single dude living in a cave, but about getting heads of experience together to discuss ways of bringing out cooperation and gift economy into community!  And I got to hang out a bit with all four of these Missoula folks in the following weeks that I stayed in Missoula, & be a little part of some of their projects.  Kate & I became close friends, I got to attend the All Souls Church that Christian pastors, help out a little with one of Bob's Free Cycles events, and play in the dirt at Josh's farm, as well as strike up a friendship with the librarian, Molly, and the dude working in the library coffee shop, Evan (who also happened to work at Free Cycles).  And Evan's friend, Drew, had a wonderful 2 hour discussion with me on his morning radio show on KBGA.  I even ran into a couple old friends from Moab passing through, Val (scout for the Rainbow Gathering), and Dan (son of my good friend Roberta)! 

After Missoula, we had events in Boise & Ketchum, Idaho.  Then we went to Santa Cruz, a farm in Pescadero, San Francisco, Arcata, up to Ashland, Eugene, and Portland, Oregon, then to here.

In San Francisco we stayed a few days with Mark's childhood friend, Tim Bluhm, and Tim's spouse Nicki.  Little did I know this was the Nicki with the band Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, and Tim plays with her as well as in his own band, The Mother Hips

In San Francisco I was also was overjoyed to see my twin cousins, Sue and Annie (and her boyfriend Mark), as well as my old friends Kristen, Felix, and their Mother, Louise.  In Arcata I didn't expect to see anybody I knew, but an old friend named Mystery, who lived in Moab years ago, showed up!

After Arcata, we went to Ashland, Oregon and stayed at the house of my friends, Frank and Sara and kids, joined by my old friend Tim Wojtusik and his daughter, Logan (Tim is one of the two Tims who provided years of my letters for Mark's book).  After Ashland we went to Eugene, where I was overjoyed to see my old friend Jennifer.

Then it was Portland, which turned out another grand event.  I stayed with my old friends Satya and Sara at the house of Alex (who so generously has opened up his house for wandering penniless folks, including me, for years, and happens to be the son of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi).  Sara and Satya cooked up a big feast for Food Not Bombs friends beforehand.  Then we all made a street procession to Powell's bookstore for the book reading.  Food Not Bombs folks even served free food on the sidewalk after the event.  The love I felt was astounding.  It was grand seeing and hanging out with so many other old and new friends, but I'm out of time and space to mention them.

We talked to an Everett Community College class, taught by Mark's friend Cobi, the day before yesterday.  They had already read and wrote analysis of the book, and taking their questions and comments was fun but also strange.  It feels quite bizarre having whole classes study things I used to only tell my closest friends. 

Though our Seattle event was the smallest of all, my inspiring friend Irv Thomas showed up, as well as a friend from my days in Ecuador I haven't seen for 25 years, Melissa!  It's amazing seeing friends from my distant past coming out of the woodwork!

Now we'll see what's next.  I'm excited and sometimes a little nervous about the wonders that keep unraveling.  Part of me has visions of moneyless community unfolding (and I still don't know how, but with so many heads and hearts together, we'll see).  But the other part of me warns me not to have any expectations.  Maybe my life will go back to quiet obscurity, or maybe not.  It's really out of my hands.  What is natural will unfold naturally, without our manipulation, if we're open to it.  So Be It.  Nature is absolutely splendid, isn't it?

How is all this publicity affecting me?

I still say the same as in my last blog post, Fickle Fun.