How to be a Bumkin

A description of how one puts the bum in technobum

I've written about what the techno side of technobumming entails and having just had my first dumpster diving experience, it seems like now is a good opportunity to relate what I do to put the bum in technobum. Trust me, it just looks easy.

There are many forms of bum and many ways to live a bum lifestyle, from the standard hobo with a shopping cart to elaborate forms of rich bumming ala Paris Hilton. I'd say I lie somewhere in-between these bumming worlds. But, whatever type of bum you are there are some basic concerns that you will have to address.

The most pressing concern for any bum is food, followed shortly by sleep, and then the more flexible bum-needs like hygiene, transportation, bum-friends, and bum-entertainment. In addressing the needs for food I'm fortunate in having saved up some money for my bumming. Still, I'm no Rockefeller, so I can't be spendthrift.

I've found the best source of instant cheap nourishment is found in a delicate balance between $2 hot dogs and fresh fruit, which may be procured from a variety of gas stations and grocery stores, respectively. Enough of these will give you vitamins and calories to keep you going. There's an added bonus of availability here which is useful for my sort of bum, a traveling bum. Using my recommended hot-dog and fruit diet you can maintain yourself on about $6 a day, provided you can avoid the siren call of milk shakes from the In and Out Burger.

There are a number of more puritanical bums, who will insist that it isn't bumming if you can't get it for free. For them there are a variety of options, some of which I have employed. The nicest, perhaps, is the soup kitchen which will give out a warm meal to most anyone. I haven't tried this yet, as I don't really feel justified in taking the kindness of others given that my homelessness is entirely by choice (as opposed to drug or insanity inflicted). For my money, some of the best free eats come from lectures which sometimes dole out fanciful trays of fruit, cookies, coffee, a variety of hour devours and even wine or beer at the top notch ones. All of this bounty and you get to learn too, its a pretty incredible scam these academics have going.

However, lecture food isn't a reliable thing, nor is the free meal on Sunday night at the Hare Krishna center, so one of the best pieces of advice I can give, is to have a back up plan (hot dogs) and keep your eyes out for a free score. Which brings me around to the topic of dumpster diving that I know you've all been holding your breath for (certainly I was). As I said, my first real dumpster dive was last night and it was with the seasoned guidance of couchsurfer Wes and his friend Kevin. If you want to become a dumpster diver, I highly recommend having an experienced somebody show you the ropes, because its not so simple as walking over to the dumpster and taking some nicely placed ham on a bed of roses. This is dumpster diving and it can be a messy process.

Here are some rules I've drafted for those of you who insist on doing this yourself without a guide, all based on the know-how of Wes and Kevin:

1. Go sometime after midnight
2. Wear crappy clothes
3. If a guard approaches you just tell him your looking for food and he'll either leave you alone or just tell you to leave.
4. You have to dig.
5. You might have to go in the dumpster.
6. Wash off everything after you haul your take.
7. Freeze all meats and breads.

The whole dumpster diving process seems really gross till you get back and have the food washed off. The next morning you look at what you have and all of a sudden you are like: 'hey this is some pretty tasty food I got here'. So far I have eaten three dumpster meals, tortellini with clam sauce, a mushroom and potato omelet, and Naan-wrapped sausages. They were all delicious and usually accompanied by steamed vegetables or fresh fruit (strawberries and clementines).

How this dumpster-bounty can exist is a mystery that's worth considering. Essentially, the good dumpster food we found usually fell in one of the following categories.

1. It was at the expiration date
2. It was dented or had a label torn
3. It was sliced open somehow
4. It was covered in some milky substance

These things make the food slightly riskier, but the price is certainly right. Plus, anything you are even a bit unsure about can very easily be trashed, because there is a dumpster conveniently located all around your body.

As you might have noted from the rules, it really helps a dumpster diver to have a base of operations with a fridge/freezer, sink and stove. So the whole dumpster diving thing is not the best solution for me right now, being on the road and all. But, you better believe that when I do settle down again I'm gonna scope the area for Trader Joe's and never buy food again.

Now, on to the matter of the other bumming needs, which I will address briefly. As I've noted in another post, finding sleep is relatively easy if you join couchsurfing and prepare ahead. You can also camp in state parks or illegally in just any old wooded area provided that you have some relatively simple camping equipment (my tent is this 6x5 pup tent that I have to sleep diagonally in). You can also stay up all night and then spend your days sleeping legally on the beach or in a park. I've done this, but its quite disorientating and not my fav.

As per hygiene, its very good to have a toiletries case. I think I take better care of myself on the road than I did at home. I have soap, shampoo, conditioner, tooth care items, a washcloth, comb, razors, chap stick, lotion and some Tough-Actin' Tinactin to combat foot-reek. Its nice to get a shower in, which couchsurfing and legitimate camping can afford, but you could also use the cold showers at a public beach in a pinch. When its time to wash your clothes, laundromats are plentiful, though if you're like me you have to stand around half naked while your pittance of a wardrobe goes through the wash. And be sure to have extra socks and underwear, everything else can be worn for multiple days if need be, but undergarments ought be changed frequently.

As per transportation, well the bike pretty much handles that, but I supplant it with a little train action from time to time and its very good to stop at an Internet hub and figure out where you are going, lest you accidentally find yourself riding for 50 miles only to end up where you started (a story which I will relate shortly).

Bum friends and bum entertainment... you hardly need to worry about this. After a few days of isolation you get to a point where your so happy to talk that you'll find yourself chatting up every store clerk you run into for a half hour. More seriously, couchsurfing friends are really my primary source of entertainment when I'm not engaged in the rapid fire Internet lifestyle that the techno side of things demands.

Well, there you have it. Following these rules, you can be a bum too. Being a bum isn't really so hard once you get the hang of it. And I must say its certainly a ton of fun. Bum-fun.

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