Empty Days

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Playing camp.

I decided to play camp, went on the lawn under my balcony and experimented with tarp-as-tent - it's kind of noisy and will be especially noisy under falling rain but it should do the job. Messing around with rope and tarp was fun - I felt like a kid again.

If there is a deluge I don't think I will be able to stay dry with the triangular tarp-over-rope between two trees construction - maybe I should experiment with some other designs tomorrow, in case there are any. Simplicity is the goal - I don't want to spend hours arranging shelter every evening. I suppose I would want to sleep without anything overhead as much as possible, and will only use tarp in case of rain. I would probably stretch the rope over sleeping bag so that if there is rain in the middle of the night I can throw the tarp over it and go on sleeping. So far what I have to decide is the ideal size of the tarp sheet (what I have now is a bit much and is hard to handle) and the height at which to put the rope. I think 2.5-3 feet of the ground is ok, but only for the night because it's a bit hard to sit in there. I will likely take a long metal stake with me, so that I can use it as a second post in case trees are too far apart or something, and then it will be a reclined triangle construction - less space but still good enough.

The minimum length of the triangle appears to be 8 feet - it looks pretty long already but anything else will leave me exposed to some rain getting in. My bright-blue sheet of tarp, the one I agonized over, was ideal I think - 8'x10'. This green one is supposed to be 9x12 but it measures 8.5x12. I believe I will have to cut it to 8.5x8 to make sure there are grommets on all four courners.

I feel like I am missing the best days of august right now - nights are very warm and days are sunny yet not too hot. At the same time I wasn't ready to go on Monday because there is a million little things that I need to figure out first - basic stuff like how to fasten a backpack as a rear-pannier for istance, and how to do the same for a simple shoulder-bag. It's easier said than done and all these poor-man's tricks require time and finding various materials to realize this idea.


Another funny thing is that I am completely mystified by how sleeping-bags are supposed to work. The one I have feels a bit like a baby blanket, but it doesn't keep me especially warm unless it's already quite warm outside. Which is kind of ridiculous, because I am actually worried about colder nights - in warm weather you hardly need any sleeping bags at all, I would say. So I am going to take a thin wool blanket with me - I certainly hope the goddam bag will at least keep the warmth from the wool if it can't produce any by itself. But I am not even sure of that, because polyester is a lousy heat-keeper in sweaters and I don't see how it's gonna be any different for a sleeping-bag.
In the end, the only thing I can count on, it seems, is that this mystic bag would keep the humidity out - I don't know if it will do that but if not, then I don't see what's the point of having a sleeping bag at all :-0

The sleeping bags I used to know were pretty fat with filling - they were heavy and this very heaviness garantied some warmth. But when you get a bag that is light as a feather, what on earth can you expect from it? That's where I cease to understand. I saw a very thin light bag in the store filled with some ultra termal fiber - it was supposed to work at -5C and it cost around $100. But the only way I was going to believe this, would be when I got inside and immediately started "feeling the heat". This thin bag didn't feel like that at all. So I am totally mystified with these things so far - I don't understand how this works.


On the other hand, I am terrifically impressed with the soft nylon convertible-pants that I got from second-hand store the other day ($4 compared to min $25 on sale if new). They're super-light in hot weather and keep warm when it gets frisky - here too I don't really understand how this can be. The sturdy cotton short I got at the same time feels heavier and yet doesn't get me as warm compared to these far lighter pants... I am mystified.


Perhaps the thing about polyester sleeping bags is that not only you have to generate your own heat but you also need some additional liner inside - to creat a warm cocoon inside the bag which it will then keep for you (theoretically). The bag itself won't really let you warm up. So the wool-blanket idea has to work. I don't have a mat to put under the bag but I will take some sturdier plastic sheet with me, just to keep ground humidity off. The ground is actually not too cold in summer but it gets really damp on frisky nights and that makes for some cold touch.


In any case, I think the main problem will turn out to be cold feet in the morning dew - I already tried my sneakers on such a morning and it wasn't fun. Even wool socks don't work with these canvas shoes because rubber is so close to the foot, I think.

Shoes have always been a problem for me - good shoes are too expensive and bad shoes are a torture. I've looked at sports sneakers that everybody wears but I wonder about those little air-holes - how waterproof can they be? I am used to leather shoes - which have no holes since leather lets the foot breath and absorbs moisture and they can be very waterproof too. At the army surplus store the guy was selling used army boots for a hundred bucks a pair - used shoes for such a price. I was surprised but the shoes did look impressive - he told me they were both water and fire-proof. Of course I will not be able to get that kind of stuff but this is what I would prefer over sports sneakers. Perhaps I will get exceptionally lucky and find them in a second-hand store one fine day. Not something I would count on however.

What I like about such boots is that you can wear them like hell - it's all-terrain shoes, you can kick stones with them and let them get scratched and walk in water and mud and not worry about killing the leather. Something you can't really do with fine shoes found in most stores.


Basically, I will need to look into this question more closely because my lifestyle has gradually changed ever since I stopped working yet all my clothing comes from a different era, so to speak - most of it is unsuitable for my current needs. I don't wear the long winter coat from that time because now I bike in winter - so I wear a small down jacket I got from a garage sale. It's too small for me but I simply have no other choice so I wear it regardless and look like an overgrown kid in it. It's too small to be fully warm so I can't really go out when temps get too low. The situation with winter shoes is also getting bad because my city shoes got worn out already from indiscriminate use and all the winter muck that gets on them when biking, so I will need to buy another pair before I freeze my toes out of service this winter. I've been wanting to find a thick wool sweater with a neck - sailor style - and I only ever see it in men's wear and it's usually either too big or out of price (usually both) so I don't think I will ever get anything remotely similar. And so on and so forth.

Women's clothing is pitifully inadequate for my taste - there is always this sad tendency to make things fancy and intricate which is perhaps supposed to make the body look attractive, but in the end it's not form but fashion that makes the rules. And for some reason women's fashion never seems to coincide with either practicality or comfort. Such basic features are to be found in men's wear exclusively - if you want something that will still be wearable 10 years from now, forget women's wear.

This is something interesting, actually - this obsession with fashion and latest style. It expresses a certain system of values that impacts on taste and the concept of beauty. A woman dressed to the latest fashion appears more attractive but this is not because the style of clothing is any good - more often than not it's actually pretty awful. Nevertheless, latest fashion expresses participation in current life and the desire to be attractive - and it is this mental concept that makes that little beaming bitch wearing that awful ugly stuff look so beautiful and so desirable: it's the fact that she wears it and not *what* it is she wears. The ridiculous side of this can be observed in the way all these clothes go out of style practically in no time, and if that same beauty wears that same stuff a year later she looks "terrible" - that is, she looks terribly out of fashion.

Men's wear, except for sex-crazed teens and rabid socialites, is much more conservative and is based on different values. Unfortunately for me and my place in the world, I like those values quite a bit more than the above-described madness. I would wear classic straight-leg jeans all my life if I could find them in my size whenever I need to. But I can't - it went "out of fashion" for women so long ago I have to go to the men's section where everything is usually too big so I end up wearing my jeans to the thread instead of replacing them in good time. I can't find basic stuff my size or fit, that's one of the reasons I hate shopping - not only lack of money but this endless difficulty of finding what I want. I don't fit well into this world - and it doesn't catter to me.


Perhaps if I were about a hundred times more energetic, I could hunt down the kind of stuff I need - but I consider this sort of effort excessive for this sort of objective. Clothes are a basic necessity and I am not gonna spend my life running around looking for basics. It's like toothpaste: would you spend weeks and months looking for some toothpaste you like? I hope not.

As a result I look like a bum - combination of lack of cash and lack of product. Which is really bizarre since this world is over-brimming with "product". But I don't correspond and have to suffer the consequences. Maybe I am just crazy, come to think of it - I can't compromise.


Great - I vulcanized my prestine nylon trousers with a cigarette... Already. And so it goes for everything else.

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