Extreme Living
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    Gunco Maniac Black Blade's Avatar
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    Default Extreme Living


    In Utah, a modern-day caveman has lived for the better part of a decade on zero dollars a day. People used to think he was crazy

    By Christopher Ketcham; Photograph by Mark Heithoff

    DANIEL SUELO LIVES IN A CAVE. UNLIKE THE average American-wallowing in credit-card debt, clinging to a mortgage, terrified of the next downsizing at the office-he isn't worried about the economic crisis. That's because he figured out that the best way to stay solvent is to never be solvent in the first place. Nine years ago, in the autumn of 2000, Suelo decided to stop using money. He just quit it, like a bad drug habit.

    His dwelling, hidden high in a canyon lined with waterfalls, is an hour by foot from the desert town of Moab, Utah, where people who know him are of two minds: He's either a latter-day prophet or an irredeemable hobo. Suelo's blog, which he maintains free at the Moab Public Library, suggests that he's both. "When I lived with money, I was always lacking," he writes. "Money represents lack. Money represents things in the past (debt) and things in the future (credit), but money never represents what is present."

    On a warm day in early spring, I clamber along a set of red-rock cliffs to the mouth of his cave, where I find a note signed with a smiley face: CHRIS, FEEL FREE TO USE ANYTHING, EAT ANYTHING (NOTHING HERE IS MINE). From the outside, the place looks like a hollowed teardrop, about the size of an Amtrak bathroom, with enough space for a few pots that hang from the ceiling, a stove under a stone eave, big buckets full of beans and rice, a bed of blankets in the dirt, and not much else. Suelo's been here for three years, and it smells like it.

    Night falls, the stars wink, and after an hour, Suelo tramps up the cliff, mimicking a raven's call-his salutation-a guttural, high-pitched caw. He's lanky and tan; yesterday he rebuilt the entrance to his cave, hauling huge rocks to make a staircase. His hands are black with dirt, and his hair, which is going gray, looks like a bird's nest, full of dust and twigs from scrambling in the underbrush on the canyon floor. Grinning, he presents the booty from one of his weekly rituals, scavenging on the streets of Moab: a wool hat and gloves, a winter jacket, and a white nylon belt, still wrapped in plastic, along with Carhartt pants and sandals, which he's wearing. He's also scrounged cans of tuna and turkey Spam and a honeycomb candle. All in all, a nice haul from the waste product of America. "You made it," he says. I hand him a bag of apples and a block of cheese I bought at the supermarket, but the gift suddenly seems meager.

    Suelo lights the candle and stokes a fire in the stove, which is an old blackened tin, the kind that Christmas cookies might come in. It's hooked to a chain of soup cans segmented like a caterpillar and fitted to a hole in the rock. Soon smoke billows into the night and the cave is warm. I think of how John the Baptist survived on honey and locusts in the desert. Suelo, who keeps a copy of the Bible for bedtime reading, is satisfied with a few grasshoppers fried in his skillet.

    HE WASN'T ALWAYS THIS WAY. SUELO graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in anthropology, he thought about becoming a doctor, he held jobs, he had cash and a bank account. In 1987, after several years as an assistant lab technician in Colorado hospitals, he joined the Peace Corps and was posted to an Ecuadoran village high in the Andes. He was charged with monitoring the health of tribespeople in the area, teaching first aid and nutrition, and handing out medicine where needed; his proudest achievement was delivering three babies. The tribe had been getting richer for a decade, and during the two years he was there he watched as the villagers began to adopt the economics of modernity. They sold the food from their fields-quinoa, potatoes, corn, lentils-for cash, which they used to purchase things they didn't need, as Suelo describes it. They bought soda and white flour and refined sugar and noodles and big bags of MSG to flavor the starchy meals. They bought TVs. The more they spent, says Suelo, the more their health declined. He could measure the deterioration on his charts. "It looked," he says, "like money was impoverishing them."

    The experience was transformative, but Suelo needed another decade to fashion his response. He moved to Moab and worked at a women's shelter for five years. He wanted to help people, but getting paid for it seemed dishonest-how real was help that demanded recompense? The answer lay, in part, in the Christianity of his childhood. In Suelo's nascent philosophy, following Jesus meant adopting the hard life prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount. "Giving up possessions, living beyond credit and debt," Suelo explains on his blog, "freely giving and freely taking, forgiving all debts, owing nobody a thing, living and walking without guilt . . . grudge [or] judgment." If grace was the goal, Suelo told himself, then it had to be grace in the classical sense, from the Latin gratia, meaning favor-and also, free.

    By 1999, he was living in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand-he had saved just enough money for the flight. From there, he made his way to India, where he found himself in good company among the sadhus, the revered ascetics who go penniless for their gods. Numbering as many as 5 million, the sadhus can be found wandering roads and forests across the subcontinent, seeking enlightenment in self-abnegation. "I wanted to be a sadhu," Suelo says. "But what good would it do for me to be a sadhu in India? A true test of faith would be to return to one of the most materialistic, money-worshipping nations on earth and be a sadhu there. To be a vagabond in America, a bum, and make an art of it-the idea enchanted me."

    The morning ritual is simple and slow: a cup of sharp tea brewed from the needles of piñon and juniper trees, a swim in the cold emerald water where the creek pools in the red rock. Then, two naked cavemen lounging under the Utah sun. Around noon, we forage along the banks and under the cliffs, looking for the stuff of a stir-fry dinner. We find mustard plants among the rocks, the raw leaves as satisfying as cauliflower, and down in the cool of the creek-where Suelo gets his water and takes his baths (no soap for him) -we cull watercress in heads as big as supermarket lettuce, and on the bank we spot a lode of wild onions, with bulbs that pop clean from the soil. In leaner times, Suelo's gatherings include ants, grubs, termites, lizards, and roadkill. He recently found a deer, freshly run over, and carved it up and boiled it. "The best venison of my life," he says.

    I tell him that living without money seems difficult. What about starvation? He's never gone without a meal (friends in Moab sometimes feed him). What about getting deadly ill? It happened once, after eating a cactus he misidentified-he vomited, fell into a delirium, thought he was dying, even wrote a note for those who would find his corpse. But he got better. That it's hard is exactly the point, he says. "Hardship is a good thing. We need the challenge. Our bodies need it. Our immune systems need it. My hardships are simple, right at hand-they're manageable." When I tell him about my rent back in New York-$2,400 a month-he shakes his head. What's left unsaid is that I'm here writing about him to make money, for a magazine that depends for its survival on the advertising revenue of conspicuous consumption. As he prepares a cooking fire, Suelo tells me that years ago he had a neighbor in the canyon, an alcoholic who lived in a cave bigger than his. The old man would pan for gold in the stream and net enough cash each month to buy the beer that kept him drunk. Suelo considers the riches of our own forage. "What if we saw gold for what it is?" he says meditatively. "Gold is pretty but virtually useless. Somebody decided it has worth, and everybody accepted this decision. The natives in the Americas thought Europeans were insane because of their lust for such a useless yellow substance."

    He sautés the watercress, mustard leaves, and wild onions, mixing in fresh almonds he picked from a friend's orchard and ghee made from Dumpster-dived butter, and we eat out of his soot-caked pans. From the perch on the cliff, the life of the sadhu seems reasonable. But I don't want to live in a cave. I like indoor plumbing (Suelo squats). I like electricity. Still, there's an obvious beauty in the simplicity of subsistence. It's an un-American notion these days. We don't revere our ascetics, and we dismiss the idea that money could be some kind of consensual delusion. For most of us, it's as real as the next house payment. Suelo doesn't take public assistance or use food stamps, but he does survive in part on our reality, the discarded surfeit of the money system that he denounces-a system, as it happens, that recently looked like it was headed for the cliff.

    Suelo is 48, and he doesn't exactly have a 401(k). "I'll do what creatures have been doing for millions of years for retirement," he says. "Why is it sad that I die in the canyon and not in the geriatric ward well-insured? I have great faith in the power of natural selection. And one day, I will be selected out." Until then, think of him like the raven, cleaning up the carcasses the rest of us leave behind.

    Last edited by Black Blade; 04-23-2010 at 09:55 PM.
    When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America , you get a front row seat. - George Carlin

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    Gunco Maniac Black Blade's Avatar
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    Default Buffalo Man Lives In Underground Bunker

    Buffalo Man Lives In Underground Bunker

    Clarence Rounds and his Bunker Home

    Posted by: Stefan Mychajliw

    Believe it or not, there's a guy that's been living in an underground bunker in Buffalo for the past six years.

    His name is Clarence Rounds. He's 47-years-old. His home is literally down to earth.

    2 On Your Side's Stefan Mychajliw: "Why this lifestyle?"

    Rounds: "I just wanted something simple, and basic, down to earth."

    Mychajliw: "What is it about this lifestyle that suits you?"

    Rounds: "I pretty much, am on my own. And I'm my own boss here. I do what I want to do."

    The Buffalo man said he was living on Squaw Island and had to leave once the area was cleaned up and turned into a park.

    He was walking in the section of the City where he lives now, found a fairly wooded area, and decided to build a bunker as his home.

    It took him about two years to dig the roughly 16-by-20 foot underground home. It's close to six-and-a-half feet deep.

    Mychajliw: "How did you do it?"

    Rounds: "With a bucket and a shovel, day by day. I'd go to the soup kitchen, and then I'd just start digging the hole. The bunker is more energy efficient and loses less heat. I wouldn't be exposed to the wind. And I wouldn't need to build any walls. I'd just use the dirt for the walls. So I'd only need a roof. So it was more economics that I did it for."

    Clarence went to the Buffalo Public Library and read engineering books to learn how to make the bunker as structurally sound as possible. The initial fear was that heavy winter snow would cause it to collapse.

    "I got books on roof framing, post framing, and things like that, so that I would have the formulas available to calculate the loads properly so the roof wouldn't collapse on me while I was sleeping," added Rounds.

    A car battery serves as the main source of power for a small light and clock just above his bed.

    That car battery is also connected to a spliced extension cord that powers a radio with speakers inside and outside of the bunker.

    There's a fireplace with a vent that serves as a heat source and stove.
    And then there's the issue of a bathroom.

    Mychajliw: "This is somewhat of an embarrassing question, it's the first thing I thought of: what about a bathroom?"

    Rounds: "The bathroom? I use the porta-john that I got from one of the elderly people in the neighborhood. They donated it to me, because they knew I needed that."

    It isn't exactly a porta-john.

    It's a walker that has a toilet seat positioned over a bucket.

    Some canned goods like peanut butter and pork and beans are on a small shelf, as well as a number of books, including a Bible and a paperback copy of "The Black Marble," by Joseph Wambaugh.

    Mychajliw: "Do you ever get lonely?"

    Rounds: "I don't get lonely. I try to keep myself busy. I've got my drafting. I love to read books. And I always try to learn stuff."

    According to Rounds, he didn't know his father and his mother passed away at the age of 29. He grew up in an orphanage, spent time studying at Seneca Vocational High School, and served two years in the Army "during the Carter Administration."

    He is Native American, states his family is from the Arapaho tribe.

    Mychajliw: "Do you feel as though growing up in an orphanage either led to this or this type of lifestyle?"

    Rounds: "It changes you for sure, especially at a young age. I grew up in an institution. I didn't have much family around me. So I didn't have a support network there to help me out with that."

    Money for food is earned through a number of odd jobs like landscaping, construction and roofing.

    That's how he learned how to put together his bunker.

    Mychajliw: "What about the property itself? Anyone ever give you a hard time about being here?"

    Rounds: "Nobody has given me a hard time. I've never bothered my neighbors. I support my neighbors. I keep people away from their fence line."
    There's a fire pit outside of the bunker and some touches of home, including a Sabres flag and a "Welcome Friends" mat near the ladder to the bunker.

    Mychajliw: "I think a lot of people would think, Clarence, why doesn't the guy just get a house, get an apartment?"

    Rounds: "A lot of people have asked me that question. I like it here. I like nature. I like to be in the woods. I grew up as a child; I always wanted a cabin in the woods. Like Michael Landon in Little House On The Prairie."

    Mychajliw: "People could think, this guy is nuts?"

    Rounds: "I'm not nuts. I'm a clever person. I use clever ideas. I use the materials that are given to me in life and God's talents that are given to me, to make this a possibility. It's not easy hanging here; it's a lot of work."

    Mychajliw: "Why not just get an apartment?"

    Rounds: "I know. It just seems to me this is a worthwhile thing to do. It's down to earth, and it makes me happy."

    Mychajliw: "How happy are you?"

    Rounds: "I'm happy. I'm a happy, go lucky guy. Life in general is pretty good. I don't think of my life as being bad. Life is just a continuation of yesterday."


    Black Blade: When things look bleak and hopeless, you sometimes come across stories like this showing that people can survive anything. Actually this looks more like an adventure and a test of survival skills.
    When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America , you get a front row seat. - George Carlin

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    Administrator sniper69's Avatar
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    Some interesting stories. Thanks for sharing these.

    I'm not sure how many would go to these "extremes" but it does show how little is needed to live in this world.
    "To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot 'em."
    Ted Nugent - speaking at the NRA convention April 17, 2005

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    THE 9mm ADDICT MUSIBIKE's Avatar
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    It is not what I would call living well but, these folks would survive the very worst other than a direct hit by a bomb.
    M U S I B I K E

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    Gunco Member Dasanii19's Avatar
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    I wanna do that!! Screw money!! lol

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    Hang them high Judge. jimmy t's Avatar
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    The streets of our cities are full of these people. They are called homeless.
    We all dream of living off the fat of the land, but when it comes to it, the land is anything but fat. Just not the kind of life I have in mind.
    Your in my Mind, and in my Sights

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    Gunco Maniac Black Blade's Avatar
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    Default Freegans forage for food, loathe waste

    Freegans forage for food, loathe waste

    Sunday 08.09.09

    Shoulder-deep in a Coral Springs commercial trash bin, Brian Sprinkle was feeling hot and sweaty -- and lucky.

    Dented boxes of spaghetti and containers of croissants, plus potatoes, onions, bananas, plastic-wrapped hunks of watermelon and baby portobello mushrooms were stacked outside the Dumpster, in cardboard boxes he had also found inside.

    ``This is what happens when you have a consumer society,'' Sprinkle said, pausing for a moment between gloveless dives to the bottom of the metal bin.

    ``Corn in the husk,'' said Sprinkle, 25, of Fort Lauderdale. ``That's my favorite.''

    Meet the ultimate anti-consumer.

    Since a time long before double-digit unemployment, widespread foreclosures and the collective closing of American wallets, a sliver of society has gotten by on the rest of society's discards. Sprinkle, his friends and thousands of others across the country are freegans, people who eschew capitalism whenever possible and loathe waste.

    ``Freeganism is kind of a protest, a boycott against a society that is pretty much run on slavery and genocide,'' said Brian Mulligan, 22, of Coral Springs. He frequents Dumpsters on his own and with Sprinkle. To avoid contributing to a system he dislikes, he doesn't work.

    Indeed, the freegan movement is a reaction to the modern global economy, said Janet Kalish of New York-based freegan.info. Many freegans believe that nearly everything produced harms the earth or its creatures in some way.

    ``We're trying to resist buying and contributing to this system,'' she said. ``We're built on overproduction. We have an economy based on destructiveness. For the big machine of our economy to keep on rolling means we have to be exploitive of our planet.''

    Freegan practices can vary from Dumpster diving to backyard gardening, Kalish said. And though freegans get their name from a contraction of the words free and vegan, not all are vegetarian, she said.

    ``We're just trying to provoke creativity. People can pursue their own way of being apart from the system,'' she said. ``There are people who squat. Or build their own wigwams. There's people who manage to live on very little money. I don't think it matters whether they call themselves freegan or not.''

    Ivania Reyes of Pembroke Park doesn't have a label for her daily trips to the back entrance of grocery stores, where she has become a fixture. She just wanted to figure out a way to help people get by in the mobile home park she manages.

    She became friendly with store employees, who now supply her with food that is trash-bin bound.

    Sympathetic workers have provided her with birthday cakes, mangoes, brownies, pineapples and watermelons. A recent coup: 86 unopened boxes of Danish she distributed door-to-door in the Lake Shore Mobile Home Community.

    ``I really enjoy helping people,'' said Reyes, 51, who is also motivated to rescue food that would otherwise be thrown out. ``I do it to help a lot of people who don't have jobs. I never did this before'' the economy was so bad.

    Leftover food is the biggest single component of American trash, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Americans throw away more than 25 percent of all food prepared -- about 96 billion pounds of waste annually.

    And the country spends about $1 billion a year to get rid of it.

    Reyes said many of the tenants in the mobile home community where she works can barely afford their rent -- 47 of the nearly 100 tenants are behind on their payments -- and she hopes her contributions of salvaged food will help cut their expenses.

    Sprinkle and his friends also pay forward the fruits -- and vegetables -- of their labor.

    They cook their finds into curries, soups and stews that they share Friday afternoons in Fort Lauderdale's Stranahan Park with anyone who cares to join them.

    Kalish, Sprinkle and other freegans acknowledge that, at the moment, the waste products of the very capitalist economy they dislike fuel their ability to live the way they do.

    ``A certain amount of capitalism has to prevail or there won't be any free stuff or cheap stuff for the rest of us to find,'' said Anneli Rufus, 50, who published The Scavenger's Manifesto with her husband Kristan Lawson, 48, earlier this year.

    The pair don't consider themselves freegans -- they pay for medicines, housing, eyeglasses and some of their food. But they abide by their own philosophy of ``scavenomics.''

    ``We like to get whatever free that we can get for free,'' Rufus said.

    The Berkeley, Calif., residents haven't bought new clothes in at least five years and grow some of their own food using seeds from fruits and vegetables they've eaten or seeds they acquired for free at seed swaps.

    ``Sometimes all you can do is cut coupons out of the newspaper. Sometimes all you can do is go to yard sales,'' Rufus said.

    ``Some people are in it for the environment. Some people do it to save money. Some people do it for political reasons.''

    Snowbird and businessman Russ Erickson, who winters in Key West, spends nearly nothing on his modest life of thrifting and foraging for food. He lives much of the year in his van, gets his clothes from yard sales or second-hand stores and showers at truck stops.

    ``Everybody's got too much stuff in their life,'' said Erickson, 67, a former contractor who turned bitter about the American consumer lifestyle.

    Now, he is co-owner of a doggy daycare business in North Carolina where he works occasionally. But he is more likely to be found waiting outside buffet-style restaurants until the end of the evening to eat what would otherwise be thrown away.

    ``People are afraid to take chances and live on the fly because they want their creature comforts and stuff like that. They're spoiled. The whole society is spoiled,'' he said.

    ``My philosophy in life is that less is more. You can be happy with almost nothing.''

    Sprinkle said he and his like-minded friends feel the same way.

    They find spending time together as fulfilling as others may find shopping.

    ``We're not a very materialistic bunch. We don't have the craving to buy lots of things. Our main goal is to have lots of good food and get together,'' he said, although the occasional Dumpster score of discarded books is welcome.

    But a lifestyle of finding treasure in others' trash isn't the ultimate goal of freeganism, Kalish said.

    ``A better vision is that we won't have supermarkets the way we are now. We won't be Dumpster diving. We will have changed the system so we're not exploiting people and habitats and animals. We'll be growing more locally,'' she said.

    ``I would think that we can picture a system where it's about responsible disposal of things, responsible production of things and making things that are built to work -- not built to break.''


    Black Blade: Yep, we call it "Dumpster Diving".
    When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America , you get a front row seat. - George Carlin

  9. #8
    White Cracker 4thIDvet's Avatar
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    Post Huh Interesting.

    That is kinda neat. But I have to have my beer.
    So I guess I would have to be like the guy panning for gold for booze.
    "Man needs but two things to survive alone in the woods. A blow up female doll and his trusty old AK-47" - Thomas Jefferson 1781

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    Gunco Good ole boy kernelkrink's Avatar
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    Grow your own wheat and hops and brew your own.

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    NoWorkCamp4Me railbuggy's Avatar
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    It would taste better also I think.
    SOON-We already lost the war. You are the resistance.

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