© 2018 by MADELINE MCNEILL

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MADS VAN LIFE




Two months ago I made the announcement that I was going to live in a van, traveling and living the romantic life of being free to roam. I bought a trusty Toyota Sierra (the blue whale) and with Jeremy's help--okay, he did most (all) of it--we built a platform bed in its belly with a foot of storage underneath. I stuffed my stuff beneath, bought a mango scented candle for one of the back seat cup holders, tied hanging storage racks to the backs of the front seats (Walmart argghh), and stocked the plastic pockets with fork, spoon, can opener, scissors, sponge, tea tree oil, bandaids, knife, and other normal doodads for easy access.

So how's it been? Good. Ya know...I've managed to crack a smile everytime someone says, "Livin' in a van down by the river!" I've been able to find a bathroom when I gotta go and have therefore avoided my ominous and unmarked white container with wide-ish opening and black screw-on lid. It's laying on its side under the bed in case of emergencies.

Probably the most surprising thing of these last two months is...I haven't left! I've been in Spokane this entire time hahaha, sneaky me. I've been calling up friends to crash on couches or park in driveways. I've had two housesitting gigs, one with cats, one with dogs and marijuana plants. Everyone has been really nice. (Thank you everyone) It's been lovely to spend time with you in a way I don't normally. I call you up or show up at your door like a little kid asking you to play. Then we hang out until bedtime, at like 10pm. It's great. You have to go to work, and I, well, I just like to sleep at night.

What do I do with my time? I conjure up plans to change the world while driving myself (get it?) crazy. Most of you know that I'm in love with my work--body philosophy, my baby going on nine years now. My art baby blew my mind in my late twenties and I've been trying to document that experience and subsequent explosions ever since. I've been writing music, drawing, writing, thinking, going on walks, figuring out new projects and feverishly sketching them out on the lined pages of a spiral notebook. I keep my notebook near to me like a baby blanket. It contains a swirl of thoughts that I threw up. blah. I get them out and feel better.

Besides projects and writing, I make money giving massage. Many of you probably don't know that I give a mean deep tissue and trigger point massage. At my old apartment, I used to sleep on my massage table in my tiny room. When a client would come over for some work, I'd put my bedding in the closet and turn my bedroom into a massage studio. Now I travel to people's houses. I still love it. I love getting to know someone by working on them. I don't just mean conversation (sometimes we don't say much), rather I feel for who they are as a body. Where is their tension? How does it refer pain? How dense are their muscles? How sensitive? How strong? How agile? I'm fascinated with bodies and humbled when I get to artfully work on one. I exercise compassion and tough love, sculpting flesh along bone with disciplined awareness. I feel for knots and with slow, steady pressure, I press releasing the tension. It hurts, I know, but I try to keep to the pain good, the kind that allows for trust. And I still sleep on my massage table. It lays on my wooden platform bed in my van providing padding for my nights rest.

I'm still singing gigs here and there. I think I need an agent. It can be hard hustling. Also, I dislike trying to get people to come my gigs. Ugh. I have no problem saying about someone else, "Come to this show, it's going to be amazeballs, because this person is AMAZEBALLS!" It's different saying that about myself. I feel like I have to market myself in a coy and cool way. "Come to my gig, because it will be cool and I'm cool and we're all cool." It's really annoying. So, if anyone wants to be an agent or knows someone who wants to get me gigs and give the amazeballs schpeal to get people there, let me know. You're welcome to a cut of the dough to spare me from pretending to be cool.

So why am I living in a van if I'm not traveling? I like it. I like opening my door in the morning and being outside. I enjoy when I find a good spot to park. It's given me a new way to experience my hometown. Even though I experienced Spokane walking and riding the bus everywhere when I had a place, living this way has made me feel a little more connected to the street and nature. I prefer street and nature.

The bad of the van? I hate gas. And I hate driving. Sometimes I'll be driving and see the bus and be sad that I'm not on it. The bus is beautiful. Seriously, ride the bus if you can. You'll not get a better dose of humanity. People will surprise you. Most people are content to sit quietly with one another. Some exercise the most lovely acts of kindness. I like when the bus arrives like a faithful parent who cares about getting me where I need to go. I get on and give attention to the people around me instead of the ridiculous car culture on the streets: status symbols and billboards and bumper stickers. Who cares? We're all sitting in metal boxes. It's not that impressive.

Part of the reason I haven't taken the van out of town is because I wanted to ease into the lifestyle, and what better way than to be in the place where I've built community and clientele. Also, I really don't feel like going anywhere unless I have a gig. Yes, I enjoy traveling, but I'm also practical. I still need to maintain myself and make enough to live. As far as how I charge, I prefer the sliding scale. I charge people different rates based on what they can afford. Sometimes I trade food and services. This goes for massage and music. Why? Because fuck this class-based economy. Everyone has muscle tension and everyone needs human connection and everyone is a body. If you have more means to support my work, great. Thank you. You are helping me and someone else who needs healing and human connection. The status money game is boring anyway. I'd much rather help create a vibrant and healthy human ecosystem.

So that's my short van update. I will be taking it out of town in a week to go to Redmond to sing and be a body philosopher at a festival called Fluidity. I'm excited to do what I do, share my work with people and make a living. Thanks everyone for supporting me.

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