I couldn’t have found a better situation for myself than I did in Ashland. My friend Larry has a big house close to downtown, and he welcomed me to stay for as long as I liked. At first I planned only to stay for two or three nights, but it didn’t take me long to realize that it was an opportunity too good to pass over quickly.
I first met Larry back in 2010, when he was a guest teacher in my permaculture design course. Larry studied soil science in college, and went on to study with Masonobu Fukuoka in Japan, living on Fukuoka’s farm for three years. Larry is one of the main reasons why Fukuoka’s famous book, One Straw Revolution, was ever published in English, and Larry was Fukuoka’s host whenever the master of natural farming came to tour in the United Sates, following the success of his book. Larry recently published the book One Straw Revolutionary, about his time on Fukuoka’s farm and the time they spent traveling the US together. I did an interview with Larry last year, in the backyard of the house where I now found myself staying.
It was great getting know Larry more. He and I had some great conversations, and he had some good advice for me, regarding the promotion of my book Portlyn. He also had fast wifi and a baby grand piano, so I was good to go!
Larry was generous to offer me not only his home, but also ample time to work. I ended up spending over a week at his place, during which time I began to finalize meetings, tours, and venues for my travels. Even though we always had good conversations, he gave me plenty of time alone to get cracking on my work. I got lots done, and I still had time to do some yoga, meditate in the backyard, and play the piano. I also took a few really nice walks around Ashland. I’ve walked around Ashland many times, but I still took tons of pictures, to add to my collection. I plan to make a mini-documentary video someday about Ashland, which is a unique and wonderful place.
During my stay I also met Tracie, Larry’s housemate. Tracie is a relationship coach and a yoga instructor, and she also just published a book, The Missing Manual to Love, Marriage and Intimacy, which Larry lent me a copy of. She told me about a retreat she is putting on in July, in Naples, which I wrote about in a previous article. I very much hope to go, though I’ve got lots of work to do before that might happen. My family is Mexico, and I’ve got to get up to Canada and back down to Texas (and then even further down to Mexico) before we can head over to Europe. It’s a long road ahead, and everything hinges on the success of this tour. I’m not looking to make a million bucks, but I’ve at least got to sell enough books to offset the cost of the tour.
My goal is to sell 1000 copies this year. I think it’s achievable, if ambitious. If anyone out there who enjoys the work I am doing with Permagora and wants to help out, then please buy a copy of the book, or tell others about it if you’ve already bought one. I’m all about grassroots growth, and I want to reach as many people as I can who might appreciate the message.
I didn’t do any promotional events while in Ashland because I didn’t have any copies of Portlyn to sell or even show. I sold all but one of my first print run while I was in Mexico. (That last copy went to James Evan Pilato, up in Portland, who hosted me for a night when I first flew in. Thanks buddy!) I ordered more copies, but they wouldn’t have been delivered in time to Ashland, so I had them sent to Florida, where I am now staying, readying myself for the tour. Since Portlyn is set in Ashland, I will definitely have to do some sort of an event there at some point, but I’m not sure when I’ll be back up that way. Maybe in the fall...
I enjoyed hanging out with Tracie, with whom I have many mutual friends. We had a dinner party one night with a couple we both know, Bob and Peggy. Bob appears in Portlyn, in tribute to the night when I first met him at the anti-GMO party that Matthew Human organized back in 2014. The night of that party was a pivotal moment in my life, the first time I actually met Human in person, which led to me caretaking his place down in Costa Rica. The most memorable part of that party, for me, was Bob Miner, musician, actor, and teacher of the performance arts, who was there in character, dressed as Abe Lincoln. He delivered a riveting speech about freedom, and he later came on stage while Human was playing, accompanying with a mean harmonica. I had the characters of Portlyn attend the same party, and the narrator was just as impressed by Bob’s portrayal of Abe Lincoln (and harmonica jam) as I was. After the show I went up to Bob and introduced myself, telling him how much I enjoyed his speech and his music.
I didn’t get to see him again until over a year later, when I saw him at a party at Indigo’s house in the Colstin Valley. There I met his wife Peggy, and we chatted a bit, deciding that we really ought to get together sometime. Yet we never had time to. Our lives back then were really busy, and when the harvest season came on, I had almost zero time for socializing and going out. So it wasn’t until Tracie called up Bob and Peggy and invited them over to Larry’s for dinner that I finally got to hang out with them again. Larry was out of town visiting his daughter, so he missed out on the fun, unfortunately. Tracie also invited some other friends of hers, whom I didn’t know. It was a great evening, which went undocumented, as I was having too much fun to bother with cameras.
It was very nice to have time to kick around Ashland. I walked through Lithia Park several times, and I got a chance to meet with several other friends, including Kristina (of Pollinator Project Rogue Valley) and Curtis, both of whom I’ve written about before here on Permagora. Curtis and his wife had just gotten back from Panama, where they attended a really cool festival called Tribal Gathering. Curtis and I had a good talk about life love and travel, and we enjoyed taking turns jamming on the piano. Curtis is a really good musician. He and his wife Willow actually performed at the festival they attended.
Though I was able to see several people, I didn’t really go out a whole bunch. Mostly I worked on the computer, catching up on articles and contacting ecovillages and permaculture projects up the coast. It’s a whole lot of work to plan out two months of visits!
I also had to figure out a ride down to San Francisco, where I was to visit my cousin Todd before flying out to Florida. We left our car with Laura’s sister in Naples, so I had to get back there to pick it up. To get down to San Francisco, I posted an ad on Craiglist rideshare, which usually works out for me.
If you’ve never used rideshare, it’s a great system, though I’ve noticed an increasing number of people who use it like a business. Nothing wrong with that, but it seems to me that such should be clearly specified. Basically there are two separate categories: people who are driving somewhere already and want a passenger to split the gas, and people who are acting more like Uber drivers, setting a flat rate and aiming to make some money. The ads I post always specify that I want to split gas costs. So when I get offers to take me down to SF for $260 bucks, I am slightly insulted. That’s more than I paid for my plane ticket to Florida.
I got several other ride offers from people wanting forty bucks, which is still a bit pricey. I mean, unless you’re driving a low gas mileage beast, it only costs about forty bucks to drive from Southern Oregon to the Bay Area. Twenty is more like a fair price, maybe thirty if you’re asking for door to door. At least by my reckoning.
Still, as the day of my departure approached, I didn’t feel in a position to be too picky. I accepted an offer to go for forty. Then, the day before I wanted to leave, I found out that I had made a mistake. My ride was actually going to San Fran a day later than I thought. I wanted at least a full day to hang out with Todd, who was celebrating his birthday and wanted to go out sailing. Not wanting to miss that, I went back through my list of people who had offered me a ride. I found one guy who I thought was leaving early in the morning (which I hadn’t wanted) only to find that he bumped back his departure until afternoon. Perfect. Only he already found another passenger.
When I talked to him on the phone, he threw it out there that if I wanted, I could ride in the back of his truck. “I’ve got a camper shell and it’s all set up with a bed platform, so it’s comfy, but you’d have to be lying down the whole way,” he told me. This was just fine with me.
So just in the nick of time, I got my ride figured out. He came to pick me up, and he was a really cool guy, heading down to Mexico for some surfing. And, to my delight, he only expected me to split the gas costs. I took a nap for the first third of the journey, and then I got on the computer and did some writing. We landed in Oakland and I took the BART across to the Castro, looking forward to seeing Todd again. It had been a while. My stay in San Fran was to be short, but it would be a good time. Article on that adventure will be coming soon.
One more thing! About year ago, my daughter Eva was playing around on the xylophone and she played a melody that instantly stuck with me. I tried playing it myself, elaborating on it until it became a beautiful song. I included this song in Portlyn, having Portlyn come up with it off the cuff on the piano during a jam. I recorded a decent (though still far from perfect) version of it while staying at Larry's place, which I will include here.