Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

more about life on the wild side

A Day in the Alpine Ranchos 40s, east of Flagstaff near Navajo Nation.
Awaking late, almost a half hour after dawn, I noticed that an unusual amount of light was coming in from outside. Maybe I'd slept even later? No - all was snow white outside. Juniper trees more than just dusted, the ground wholly carpeted. Beautiful. The wind hadn't even gotten strong yet, although it did soon after.
First order of business: wheat chex and cheerios with rice mild and some banana. No refrigerator here; beer I don't drink filling the ice cooler. Oh yeah, maybe a can of V8 too. If so, I'll drink it. After cereal, Hopi radio with hot green tea. The Hopis play really good music sometimes (early and late, mostly)but in my opinion, too much pow-wow dance music, usually of pretty redundant pounding beat. So I re-tuned to some NPR news.
There was V8. Ah. Rounds out my early dinner of fried potatoes, garlic, onion, Polish sausage and hot pepper cheese, quite well. Happy stomach.
I fetched in a borrowed charge-controller I'd purchased a replacement for, dis-attached wires and took a nap. Then walked the little regulating device over to my neighbor's place. No car here now, just a wide-tire bike with a flat. Too much wind for it anyway.
My neighbor Bo treated me to tea, and returned a large solar panel. For a week and a half I'd been using only one, with two deep-cycle 6-volt batteries which sometimes ran out of sufficient power. Yesterday I got two more of a bigger variety and was fixing the wires from the new panel to them when Dennis stopped by. Which reminds me that I'm narrating wrong. Early this morning the old batteries were outside, on my old Coleman 5000 generator, which Dennis has nicely repaired. They were snow-covered, which worried me. I put them on some wood boards inside before my nap - heavy lifting!
Dennis helped me with the electrical system a while, linking the charge controller, while I also swept the roof of the stone tool shed, the awning above the front door and a puddle in the middle of the roof. I dug extensions to ditching for rainfall Dennis had done earlier, and we examined some small leak areas as things dried up. Then Dennis left me to splicing wires, which took long frustrating hours. Couldn't things be done easier with alligator spring clips? Stripping and splicing, for connect from the smaller batteries replaced on a ledge by the front door (more heavy lifting) to the smaller solar panel, then more wiring to a 12 volt light, and a Sure-Flo pump. Then a hot shower! Wow! Clean hair! Felt real good, despite having to get out and go around to adjust the gas water heater a couple times. Sorta made up for some of the frustrations and hand abrasions. Lay down for 15 minutes, put on fresh clothes then back to work. Sequence organizing here went haywire again: I used a 110-volt pump Dennis provided for my shower, then replaced that with the 12-volt one I bought a couple days ago after. I've been spending as much money as if I were staying in hotels, renting a car and eating all restaurant meals!
The wind got hard and noisy, even in this underground house (must be awful in motor-home trailers, even double-wide ones). A little more snow too. Perhaps several inches to come tonight. My wood stove's pipe isn't connected; for heat I’m dependent on an efficient propane space heater, also borrowed from Dennis (who once, long ago, saved me from carbon-monoxide effects from a couple inefficient ones "for outdoor use only" - I coulda died, really). Dennis is using my missing stove pipe segments.
So anyway, when everything I wanted connected a week ago finally was, I turned on the radio again, got two stations at once, so straightened a metal clothes-hanger and stuck it in the broken antennae. It doesn’t seem to really do anything, but I got a decent NPR show about computer hacking, then a good blues show (it's Saturday). Now I've got some left-overs in a cast-iron pan on my Coleman camp stove, and a few dirty dishes. I wrote this by hand, but can power up my new lap-top without fear of using up all its power. I can plug it in (but haven't; 73% power remaining). No internet, though, despite the connector dish on the roof I've yet no idea how to get service for... and these two batteries I've got inside: that'd be a big hazard with my son here. Like a pet raccoon, he gets into absolutely everything. I'd tried to buy a big wide maintenance-free 12-volt battery, but it didn't arrive as "guaranteed" so I got 2 batteries with more power, for $38 less (with a tube of recommended goop I've yet to use and some connectors, the big one was $700). The laptop was 350 or so, I got a Kindle "tablet" for about 100, and I’ve had to buy wire, extension cords, plastic keep boxes, a mop, some kitchen stuff, new fittings for propane tanks (an expensive legal requirement – no-one’ll fill ‘em with the old fittings now), a sleeping bag... the list goes on. Would've taken pictures of the snow, but the camera's got no power. Old rechargeable batteries no longer charge! Always more things to tend to, out here...

That was done by 5 p.m. But wood collecting and cutting, fire tending, propane filling, water hauling, garbage hauling, repairing things, and making things more civilized remain as never-ending tasks, the price of being neither urban nor suburban, for being off the grid, feeling self-reliant, able to endure and independently self-determining. It’s become hard to imagine any other life-style in the USA for me, but I’ll be happy to get back to my other home, near where my wife, like many others, had a happy childhood in much, much more primitive fashion.
It’s still light out. In ChiangRai we’re usually in bed and asleep before 10; here I’m happy to retire much earlier! Late tomorrow it’s expected to warm up; who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get in a little bit of the touristic sight-seeing I told myself I’d try to do while here….
7 a.m. No more snow, no wind noise, the heater’s still burning on low. Cool inside my house, but OK. I’ve still lots to accomplish – e-mails and financial stuff, sending things off to friends, firming up water and electrical connections (when I’m well decided just where and how I consider things best laid out), more cleaning, firming up arrangements with Dennis for improvement work he’ll do, writing meaningfully enough to help save the world from the immaturity of humanity… right now I’ll see if I can upload the picture or two I was able to take. Whoops, no, can’t do that one – no battery power for the camera at all!

Thursday afternoon, 4 days before flight home time: the hot water problem I had was my fault for failing to be cognizant that black wires for 12-volt are positive, unlike the negative black wires for 110 volt. Among a few other problems and mistakes I made... anyway, I'm finally up to the accomplishment level I'd hoped to be at a while back (for the second or third time, now this trip). My US home is livable again, sort of anyway. And I've only spent $10,000 in the process. Half for construction, improvements, necessities, a quarter for transportation and most of the rest for food and gifts to myself and others. Perhaps I'll not be as cold as on my first night here again, and on my next visit will be able to unpack boxes of personal possessions long stored with a friend in Ohio (most of my things on Ohio were lost due to a gas explosion, most of my things here were lost due to my generosity to a nephew seeking escape from his long-separated mother nd father). No way is this place ready for my wife and kids, but it seems that it might get there. Whether my place has any actual utility for apocolyptic scenerios has become a point of discussion, and I think not, but practice at self reliance has other value, including, but hardly limited to, learning and exercize. It's good to recognize one's dependencies, be they entertainment, phones, friends, or a wide variety of conveniences. Now, once again, I have lights, sink, toilet, hot water, reliable power, bedding, organized storage, and a reasonably priced tax accountant.
After I started this, we saw Grand Falls and the World's Biggest Hole - either of which you could jump across, and one of which I did. The "hole" is is more a long, deep crack in the Earth, no-one knows how deep. And arriving back home, I correctly re-attached the thick cord for the 12 volt light and water pump, having had to dis-attach it to close and lock the stone shed door.


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