We have slipped back into a different kind of life than what we had in Europe, so perhaps that makes sense.
For one thing, I can't really imagine posting any pictures in this post.
Everything in Europe was so new, so novel, so different. It all deserved to be photographed and uploaded to the internet.
Everything here feels familiar, kind of the same as it always was. I find I have taken basically no pictures at all since returning.
I guess it might be appropriate to remember that many potential readers of this blog don't know exactly what our little slice of desert paradise is all about, and so maybe some pictures might actually be appropriate. But they will come later. I haven't taken any.
Two topics present themselves, compelling me to write.
1) Cultural differences between Europe (especially Germany) and America as reflected through vehicles.
2) Old familiar traps of being in New Mexico, activities which make me feel productive but which might just be wastes of time.
It's often said that Europe has a WE culture, and America has a ME culture, and I find that driving etiquette presents perhaps the best example (or maybe one of the easiest to perceive) of this disparity.
In Germany there is a huge importance placed on courteousness while driving. If you misjudged your freeway exit and are in danger of missing it, you don't swerve wildly across three lanes to make the exit; instead you carry on to the next exit and retrace your steps. It would be discourteous to those around you to do otherwise. You yield for pedestrians and bicyclists and left turners. Accidents are rare and police presence is minimal. Granted, Berlin had a fair amount of police on the streets but they never seemed to be doing anything.
I feel that I became a better, more courteous, and more conscientious driver during our year in Berlin.
Freeways in America still feel like the Wild West. People will swerve in front of you to get to their exit, pass you on any side that suits them, and seem blissfully unaware that the left lane is for faster cars. And all this unregulated driving-madness apparently demands police. In the first hour of our time in America last week, driving a rental car on Colorado's highways, we saw more flashing lights and emergency vehicles than we had seen in our entire time in Germany. Seriously.
Another funny thing struck me a few days ago while waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles. A typical Taos hippie type came in and, seeing a friend of his, proceeded to talk about how all his vehicles (and his mother's vehicles) were breaking down, but he was sort of still driving them anyway. Later that day I saw a guy driving a truck with a completely smashed front end. In Germany, vehicles have to pass a rigorous inspection once a year (even a ripped seat will cause a car to fail the inspection!). If the vehicle passes, it gets its sticker for the year and can be driven. All the cars look new. There are no police stopping you for a broken tail-light, because there are no broken tail-lights, and very few police. On the autobahns where there are no speed-limits, there are literally no police. None.
In some ways these differences in the culture of vehicles parallel the differences between socialism and capitalism we see in these places. Sure, Germany is nominally a capitalist country, but everyone there has good state-run healthcare, is compelled to have their car inspected annually, and drives as if they are one small stitch in a large social fabric.* In capitalist America it is every man for himself, in socio-economic terms and on the road. OK, maybe I am simplifying things to make a point but there is a kernel of truth in it.
*In the interest of honesty, I should point out that even in Germany there were a handful of entitled and rude drivers. They were always the ones in the black expensive cars. To me, this is just an example of the 1% acting like the 1% usually does. Look at this link. The other 99% of drivers in Germany were polite socialists, as noted above.
Before we left Taos two years ago to move to Barcelona, I was in a slump. This was largely because I was under the threat of being sued by a former friend. That was a shitty situation which has since been resolved, thank Jeez, and one day I still might write a blog post about it. But in any case, I was in a slump and I wasn't really doing anything creative. But I was keeping plenty busy. I was rather obsessed with motorcycles and my Datsun 240Z and building / decorating my office (or, embarrassingly, my "man cave"). And there is always plenty to do around here, from maintaining all the other vehicles to maintaining / improving the house, landscaping, re-organizing the workshop and the shipping containers, etc etc.
It's very easy to fall into these traps, in part because to a large degree it is all (or almost all) legitimate work that needs to be done. But I guess there's an issue of priorities here. All these activities that chew up the hours, days, weeks take time away from creativity and creative productivity. I guess that when one is home-steading, one needs to consciously carve out time for creativity, because home-steading is labor-intensive. Creativity doesn't happen by itself. You need to work... to carve out time for that kind of work.
I guess it comes down to that old and slippery idea of balance. Right now we are overwhelmed with very legitimate logistical tasks, primarily associated with getting vehicles up and running and getting the house up and running. I am also inspired by my time working at BBK to get a lot of the clutter out of the workshop and make more room for a few new tools (plate roller is #1 on the list!). Decluttering the shop will be a fair amount of work. I think the trick will be to know when enough is enough, to not putter around endlessly with tinkering on things that don't need tinkering.
The last few days have been really focused on the cars. Suddenly, a reason to take some pictures!
Our main car, a Honda CRV, became home to a healthy colony of mice. This is now the second time we've disassembled the interior of the car trying to get the mouse poop and piss and smell out of the car.
In New Mexico there is the ever-present danger of the very scary Hanta Virus, so one has to be careful.
The Datsun ...
mercifully escaped a mouse infestation. I had it up on jack-stands for those 2 years to save the suspension from sagging, but I think that was the reason the mice did not move in. I guess mice can't climb jack-stands.
The Scout needed, and still needs, some work.
3 tires were flat and the mice made a hotel in this car as well. Here is the engine:
I did not hate mice before moving to New Mexico, but now I do.
My big crane truck had a fair amount of mouse activity, but not overwhelming. Amazingly, the engine started. In fact I've been able to get most of the vehicles started up again without much trouble. Some of the motorcycles needed new batteries, brake-bleeding, and carb cleaning. The forklift needed a new hydraulic hose.
We had dinner last night with our friends Kate and Sam, and Kate referred to all this work as "unglamorous." I agree.
But hey, a sunrise hot-tub every day of the week is nothing to complain about.