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Mobile Urban Dwelling

The Utopia 7; Systems of Survival; Mobile Urban Dwelling is a perplexing Project/Position that I embarked upon on Jan. 1, 2006. The Project casts me in a role, one that I am none too comfortable with, but that also reflects the bare realities that I must deal with in this particular moment in my life.

I hope to use this document to help define this Project, if not only for my own understanding. I benignly refer to the project as an experiment in alternative urban living and survival. More plainly, my goal is to survive a Boston winter in my van. There are inherent risks, both pysically and emotionally, that I am placing myself in and anyone familiar with Boston realizes the harshness of the climate (weather and urban place). I chose the word 'experiment' because it denotes choice. While in the near future I may have a wider array of choices, my current circumstances have made this the most practical and reasonable of options, and I admit, I am curious to take on what it might take to succeed.

As mentioned above, I plan to use this space to document the progress of the Project, explore, in diary form, my thoughts and discomforts, as well as pass on tips and tricks, that facilitate winter survival, perhaps in any environment.


Parking is the first concern and, as normal, is difficult at best in Boston. Most neighborhoods are by permit only, and other areas are restricted or have definate time or weather restrictions. I need to park for longer periods, and many of the off-beaten paths are best, if only not to draw attention to myself. Never having owned a car in Boston, I am having to do quick work to find places secure, free, and near where I have to be. My first night I find a place but its only good for the holiday weekend. Back in Beantown!

Jan. 3 2006 - What do I do with my time when I'm not at work? I can't just sit around my van, like I would if I was at home. There are only so many options when you're low on funds and its just too cold and dark to hang outside. Coffee shops and Libraries are the way to go at the moment. (Yes, I really am reading Brave New World.) Free wireless, heat, and alot of time to do things I have to. There aren't as many distractions as you might have at home. When I was in college, I would actually rent a motel room when I had a large paper to write for the same reason. Today was a good day; first day back on the job, and so on, until I got back to the van. I was warming the engine and a cop drove by and turned back around and took down my plate number. I freaked and went to a coffe shop til late, read and tried to calm down. He could have thought I was there for any reason really. Still, it was a pretty sleepless night. I'm looking into the Law to see if and what I might be doing exactly thats illegal. I've broken with the normative social order of things and the State must either realign me or destroy me. Or is that Huxley speaking.

Jan. 6, 2006

Do people really live in their cars? People do, and for a surprising variety of reasons. I was having a bit of difficulty pinpointing a specific law that outlawed car-camping in the urban, so I tried a google query to see if any one had put something on the web that might help direct my search. Lo, I found quite a number of resources and websites dedicated to this lifestyle. Apparently, it's not just for the creepy guy living out of his van anymore. Some were advocates for homeless and homeless families, of course, but others were for rockers, some posted famous people who have lived in their cars, one even tried to make it seem glamorous. I'll put links to some of them at the end of this entry. One site also had a quiz to determine whether the car life was for you.

So, is there a club? No, unfortunately this lifestyle tends toward the paranoid. Not only for ones own safety and well being, but being conscious of the paranoia of others. Such as, avoiding areas where paranoia is a part of life, like Suburbs or financial institutions. The goal is not to be noticed and park where you blend in. In most cases one's home says something about you, your style and aspirations (often this is extended to ones car as well). However if your car is your home, you want it to be silent. Attention will either get you hassled by the police or by someone wanting to rob you. The choice of vehicle is important, if you have a choice, as well as where you park. Ideally somewhere with not much traffic, where your car is similar enough not to stand out, but secure enough that you can get some sleep without jumping at every noise. The lifestyle tends to be a bit solitary, but it was nice to see that there was a bit of a virtual community. Wireless will and has had an extraordinary impact on the we think and do in the city.



A good idea when living in your car is to join your local gym or YMCA. This gives you a decent place to shower and shave, perhaps take a dip in the pool. Sometimes they also have lockers where you can store stuff securely. Also if your really up to it, you might even work out a bit. Beyond having your vehicle blend in, its a good idea to maintain personal upkeep to blend in socially and on the street.

Jan. 8, 2006-

Are you cold? That's a tricky question. Obviouisly, I'm not as warm as I would be in a house with central air and proper insulation.I guess it is more about acheiving a comfort level, both what my body and mind can handle. I did do some insulation before I left Omaha, but I am continuting to try and improve the effieciency. I also equipped myself with tools that both will help me to not only survive but perhaps be comfortable(More on this when I give my equipment list later). Yes, I see my breath. Yes, sometimes the water is frozen in the morning. But discomfort can be a great motivator. And I'm certainly better off than if I was sleeping outside.

Hey Neighbor!

Jan. 16, 2006

Weird weather and a bit of bad luck. First, I haven't been able to post due to a hard-drive failure on my computer. I honestly felt naked without it. I really have been totally dependant on this mobile machine and everything it provides in my life, and I ask alot of it. A bit of good fortune is that I was still under warranty and had almost everything backed up. Learned that lesson the hard way a few years back. Anyway the weather has been crazy, nearly in the 60's and rain, then dropping suddenly overnight into the teens. The doors of the van were frozen shut and the clothes I was wearing in the rain froze solid. Ick. Anything liquid was frozen. More on that later. Thawing out was rough, but sured some studio space where I could store my gear so I was able to insulate more. particularly with carpeting. It is sort of an off white, so I must be yeilding to my inner 80's yuppie. It is a little better but with the wind blowing on all four sides of the van, it still gets a bit chilly. The image above is me lighting my catalytic heater on a cold morn. My camera doesn't seem to want to focus when it's really cold. But, I know I'm alot better off than most of the poor souls out in the open. Overall, most peoples opinion is that this winter is a milder one than years past, but cold is cold.


Do you know someone who works at a coffee shop? or someone who drinks A LOT of coffee? Well, the container that bulk liquid coffee comes in can be used for a variety of different uses. Once the coffee's gone, open the box, and there is a large heat resisant bladder that, once cleaned, can make life living in a van more pleasant. sort of. It can be easily inflated to be a pillow or filled with hot water before bed, a make-do hot water bottle, to warm up your sleeping bag. Just make sure the lids on tight or you'll wake up to a disaster. It is good to remember that the bag doen't make any heat of its own, if you get in your bag cold, it'll only keep you cold. Excersizing breifly before bed also does the trick. Back to the bladder, it also collapses down to a manageable size for storage. Finally, it can also be used as an emergency pee bag. Unpleasant, but a real concern. Where do you go, when you have to go. It's a bad idea to just hold it, one you don't sleep and two, your body wastes alot of energy keeping that liquid warm. So go already(sorry, this only works for the fellas, I think). And if you really have to, you have a nice warm bag of piss. Enjoy.

Jan. 18. 2006

Violation. Standing in a 'No Standing' zone. Well really it was only the ass end of my van that was standing in or out of zone. Apparently they are sticklers around here.. Someone suggested that in a way it was a form of rent paid to the city, but isn't that waht all those fees and charges were about, do we not pay taxes, are there no poorhouses. Bah-humbug. Anyway, after thinking about it I decided to be more positive about the ticket and attempt to solve another dilemma with the same occurance. I had been putting my mind to how to produce a commodity out of this project, also with idea of potentially opening an on-line store, thus helping to support myself as an artist. Another system of personal survival. So I'm going to sell my parking violation. For now I will have to put the ticket on E-bay, but hope to have a area on my site, with a paypal acct., to move product. Anyway hopefully by the end of this week end it will be on E-bay. I have about 20 days to pay, so thats enogh tome to have it on auction. The purchaser paying my violation and recieving the ticket itself, as a one of a kind art object, and a unique signed print in relation to this project. I rather like the idea of returning my public violation back to the public in arena of a public auction.

Jan. 20, 2006


Very human. At least three or four days overdue on laundry day. My current wardrobe has been pared down to a really manageable size for van living, so the truth of it is that I don't have a whole hell of a backup, when everything has been atleast worn once. So keeping clean either requires that I mantain a regular laundry schedule, thrift, or wear my least stinky clothes for one more day.

It has been a rather hectic week with a full work schedule, getting my work together to send to the exhibition in Ga. (opens this week, unfortunately I won't make it there.) and other personal issues (both techno and emo.) Anyway, I began to feel as if I was getting sick. Pretty cliche symptoms; runny nose, sneezing, feeling hot, etc. I just think that the threshold for your body/mind is probably a lot lower than it might be for other situations. And I was beginning to think I needed a break from it all. I've had an experience a few years back, during a project where I was working too hard my mind shut down my body for a week with strep throat. I unfortunately do not have the leeway to do that in this project as it encompasses, or at least affect my entire life. I might need to develop a system of safety valves, to prevent break down. I do feel better now though..

So this how things are looking now in the interior. The white carpet is alright, though tough to keep clean. the insulation is going up into the ceiling with the homosote ontop for more effect. We are working on the drapes, I'd like something mor colorful but drab is a necessity as viewed from the outside, but they need to be thicker though they are good for keeping light out and privacy. I'll probably devote an entry to the importance of organization later. Overall, it is a process.

Jan. 21,2006

So after finishing Brave New World, I've decided to go through as much of the Utopia/Dystopia canon as I can. Some will be rereads, some new, but my current situation may give me new insight into the concept. However much of what I remember is mmore about the relatioship with the state and the individual, and how desire fullfilment acts as a factor in an equation of control and happiness. Maybe not entirely relevant to what I'm doing (perhaps jack london, survival manuals, memoirs of homeless?), but perhaps concept and I'll have them under my belt. I'll post what I'm starting with. The above is a picture of me reading the obvious choice, Sir Thomas More's Utopia.

While not doing serious reading, I've also gone back and have been rereading other classics. I came across a hardcove editions of the great Love and Rockets at the library. An early love, indeed and I had forgotten alot of the storyline and side issues in this fabulous series. Just anothe punk rock fantasy. There is even a section where a few of the characters are homeless on the road. Of course they are in warmer climes.

Homeless Hopey

Good for me-Bad for the polar icecaps.

Feb. 2, 2006

Every now and again it gets cold and nasty, but then its back up into the 40's and 50's in the daytime. At night, it really doesn't often get below thirty, but if it does- man. I've pretty much developed a schedule for myself, but feel I will have to shake things up, it would just be easy for me to get careless. I already lost a glove.

Not quite a tip or trick, but if you get the opportunity, house sitting can be like a mini vacation. For privacy, I won't say where or for whom, but some friends went out of town and let me stay at their very comfy house. As long as I fed the fish and frog, and walked the dogs.....Actually its a pleasure. I would take Mr. Buscuit (pictured) if I could, but he's old and ornery, and much better off with who he's with than freezing in a van. A good idea if you don't know anyone might be to check craig's list to see if anyone needs a sitter. Anyway, it was good for me, I didn't have to be anywhere so I just stayed in and read, watched the TV, and worked on a project (to be posted here later). Private space and Public space have a new dynamic for me and I feel sensitized as to where I am, this possibly the first time in a while where I was securely alone, but even after two days never really felt I lost that 'edge'.


three views of Mr. Buscuit and me

Neighborhood- hell, I swear, my street is the lost shore for refugees from around the country. Everyday, someone new. And from Ohio, or New Jersey, or Tennessee. Sometimes they stay, sometimes they go. But I never see anybody. But they got nice rides.

Also the eBay sale is going gang-buster, already over the 20 mark. I'm sure there will be more tickets and while this might be the first sale, every ticket and accompaning print will be original and the first edition for that series.

Next- TIPS AND TRICKS for what to do with your shoes....

winning print for the winning bidder.







Winter mornings in Ma. can be quite cold, and putting on frozen shoes and clothes can be down right unpleasant. A trick learned in snow camping experience, is to put your shoes (or anything else you want to keep warm) in a stuff sack at night and then place this bag inside your sleeping bag with you. In the morning, your stuff will be warm and the sack will protect the inside of your sleeping bag and keep it from getting dirty.

I forget the date of this series, but we were hit with a pretty bad blizzard. This was around the same time my loft became available again. Given the choice, anyone would prefer comfort, with the option that the project might be renewed in the Spring.

I still had to move my car every couple of days, like everyone in Boston, but a breif respite from the project might help to sort things out, and determine where to proceed from here. Ironically, I drove more living in my loft.









A couple of items I purchased to offset potential emergencies. I had rigged the car battery to run a number of appliances or chargers, like my laptop or cell phone etc. On more than one occasion, I let the car battery run down without recharge. I only had to pay once for an emergency jump, to realize this would be a monetary drain.

The item on the left is a portable charger. It alone cost less than a jump. I can also recharge it when I'm driving around. I've already had a couple of occasions to use it, from leaving my lights on and so on. As a note, I do have jumper cables, but Boston isn't the most convenient to find a friend or stranger to give you a hand.

The item on the right is a dashboard solar panel. I can plug it into my lighter socket to provide an extra charge to my car battery during the day, or plug it in to the portable charger to keep it charged. In the end, These are two items that reinforce the concept of self sufficiency I'm pursuing.






Alright, this my loft where I have lived for about 3 or four years. These fotos were taken shortly before I left to do the residencies last fall. I sublet the space, but during my absence, the building was sold and leases were negotiated. Unfortunately, my space was not in the contract. I was informed, that I was essentially squatting and had no tenets rights. Pursuing every option, I had to make a decision, stay illegally or move on. I stayed for a month, using the time to, optimistically start a new project (Arctic/Antarctic Polar Expedition, coming soon, hopefully) and organize myself into a more perfect system.

A couple of fotos starting on a prototype for the sled. The frame is finished, but lives in storage for the moment.

Goodbye 319 A St.

March 19.2006

Squatting for fun and profit. Well, at least while I was moving out and squatting at my old place I didn't have to pay rent, like in my van but with more space. It really gave me a chance to see EVERYTHING I owned, so I could really pare down what was needed and not. I'm selling alot of it on E-bay and Craig's list, to bring in a little more scratch.

A more perfect system.

So for a portable system, that has low impact on the location where one squats, I've pared it down to these few things. In this situation I still have the van, so clothes, beyond what might fit in the knapsack can be stored there as well as any other bulk food stuffs and on. All this requires is a transfer of a load to go from squatter to van liver. Maybe the title of the project should change from Mobile Urban Dwelling to Mobile Urban Dweller. I'm staying at the moment at a friend's theatre.

Everything folds down into an innocuous pile.

The Porta-kitchen

The purpose of the Porta-kitchen was to have a practical unit that could be used in a variety of situations. It should have everything that might be needed, including back up. My kit has portable butane stove, extra fuel, candles, matches, a 5 pc. mess kit, a set of cutlery, foil, plastic wrap, a few spices, some instant food, cutting board can opener, cups, coffee, and an espresso maker. Just the essentials in a handsome blue half tote.

Hot coffee!

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Are You Ready to Live in your Car?
Take the quiz and see

Glance over these questions to learn a little about yourself.

1.Are you comfortable entering new situations?

2.Are you fairly flexible as a person?

3.Could you handle hardships?

4.Could you handle close quarters?

5.Are you creative in sticky situations?

6.Could you handle being viewed negatively by others?

7.Could you handle not having a permanent home for an extended period of time?

8.Do you like to camp?

9.Can you live simply?

10.Are you an explorer?

11.Could you part with some of your possessions?

12.Do you have family/friends who can receive your mail?

13.Can you afford to store some of your possessions?

14.Do you need complete privacy?

15.Could you handle living on a public street?

16.Do you have access to private property?

      If you answered yes to every question, you could be the quintessential Car-Liver. If you answered yes to at least 10 questions, don’t break your apartment lease just yet; a trial run may be in order. If you answered no to most every question, you’re better off living in a home with a solid foundation, instead of wheels.

*Printed in the Des Moines Register, September 2, 1999, “Live in Your Car?”