Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Following The Yellow Brick Road: By Jimmy Petrol

A couple of years ago, during the "boom", my household cut its expenses to the bone. We looked at the equity that had magically appeared in the house and thought perhaps it would do just as well to leave it there, rather than take it out to do something "else" with it. After all....magic is magic.

We quit spending in the manor in which we had become accustomed because we weren't really doing the things we wanted to do most. What we were doing is working all the time, trying always to increase our income, so that we could reach some economic level that would allow us to do those things that were always in our hearts to do "if only we could".

What started the ball rolling was a call to spend a year or so on a project that would yield no income for Jimmy Petrol during its course. It was something that was unanticipated and expected all at the same time; one of those things I would do "if only I could afford the time".

What happened was that I took a year-and-a-half to get this thing done; half that time I was far from Tucson and home, living in conditions that would be unacceptable to most anyone from the "first world"; I had placed myself in a position that would allow me only the living conditions of the "third world". When I was away from Tucson, I lived outdoors in the Mojave Desert. Fortunately, food still came from American sources, medical care still bought and paid for by fortuitous circumstance. But the time was long, the distance great and the work arduous.

The end result has more to do with the way we live now than with the project that set us on this aesthetic.

Today I spend my time doing mostly the things I have always dreamt of. There is a new little enterprise with a new, smart partner. There is a non-profit in the works that will provide an avenue for conservation and invention. There is a book in the works. Then another....and all of this is without the fears of failure or economic insecurity that used to plague me.

Of course, as in all things, I have fallen for the idol of excess; I have been away from home so much for so long that my "passport" has been confiscated by the other half of Petrol-Town's residents. I am homebound for the first time in years, having had to go out into the deserts and forests alone to find the strength to work only for us and our dreams.

There is plenty to do at home, too; there is an Inca/Spanish throne-room in the back yard, half-finished. The space it encloses is sacred to us, as it will make our home a castle, giving us a little desert paradise to burrow into while we work and plan our schemes and dreams.

Of course, my sentence of hard labor at the homestead will be short-lived; we will be holding court in the throne-room by the Holidays. Then it will be back into the general work-force for a little of the butter-and-egg money we all need; but at a different pace, and homebound has a pleasant ring to my travel-weary ears.

To have left the mainstream for hardship and risk, to throw the advise of Wall Street out the window, was madness, of course. What guarantee of safety; how to live in a world of uncertain and doubtful income?

Our answers turned out to be easy. We just quit paying more than we had to for anything. No more movies at the mall; the "cheap" theater is close by and quite acceptable. No more frivolous meals at expensive steak-houses; I burn a better steak at home. No more driving about willy-nilly, no more suits from retailers, no extravagant gifts without great need. Our car gets 38 MPG. We have no cable, no television to taunt us with Calvin Klein and Cadillac ads. Our phones are all Crickets, our Chiles are roasted at Food City and our spices will come from the garden by fall.

At first blush, we may appear insular. Rather, our travel, our world and our acquaintances have expanded; when we aren't busy chasing dollars we spend our time chasing rainbows.

We are happier in our house than I thought could ever be; the ability to pursue whatever we choose has had it's effect.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

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