Archive for June, 2010


When people ask me about safety in the van I say that I’ve never had a problem and don’t expect to. Even sociopaths don’t go looking in parked vans for people to harm; the only likely mishap is that someone might try to rob the van, and that’s really simple to avoid. Stealing things from a car is risky: a thief will only break into a car if he or she can see something of value (or something that could have valuables in it like a purse), *and* if it looks quick and easy to grab it and run. So I don’t leave anything worth stealing in view, and I keep the doors locked. Easy. I also suspect that most thieves tend to avoid vans that look like someone might be sleeping inside, but of course some thieves aren’t bright enough to think about that, and others may desperate enough to take larger-than-usual risks.

So imagine my surprise last night when I woke up to someone reaching in the front seat of the van. I’ve always wondered how I would respond in that situation; in my fantasies I would wake up to the sound of someone trying to pick the lock, and I would let out a huge RRRAAAWWWWWRRRR!!!! and the would-be thief would run away terrified. But you don’t get time to think these things through when they’re really happening. What I said was “excuse me!” with the kind of mild indignation you might have after someone butts in front of you to get on the bus. Silly as it must have sounded, the thief did indeed run away… with my bag in his hand. For a brief second I considered jumping out and chasing him down the street (buck naked: I’m sure that would have really terrified him) but he jumped into a beat-up little white pickup and drove off.

Strangely, the bag he got was a courier bag full of all my bike gear. I’d just brought it back from my mom’s house that day, thinking that when I move to Halifax I’ll want to bike to school. Nice stuff, expensive to replace I suppose, but nothing I was desperately attached to. Still stunned, I was thinking about this when I realized that my other bag, which contained my credit card, cash for the next two weeks, computer, and most importantly my math homework, was still in the front where I’d left it in plain view, with the door unlocked.

So… big thank you to whatever god or faerie or random swirl of chaos was looking out for me last night. From now on I promise I’ll be less cocky, and more careful!


a civilized bed

Last fall various internet sites picked up a story about a fellow doing a masters degree at Duke University who chose to finance his education by living frugally in a van instead of going into crushing debt (you can read his essay about it here). While I feel kinship with this guy in many ways, I was a little dismayed that he helped promote the stereotype of van life as squalid. He describes unwashed dishes, weird smells, ants invading… I want you all to know, van life doesn’t have to be like that!!!!

Since renovating the interior, I’ve come to really enjoy the time I spend converting the space from its daytime configuration into the nighttime one, and back again. It’s not a quick process; it can take between 20 and 40 minutes, and at first I thought I’d resent that loss of time. But it’s actually become an important ritual that doesn’t just transform the space, it also changes my state of consciousness, getting me ready for the outside world, or ready for sleep. The other benefit is that it means I’m constantly maintaining my space, keeping it organized and clean.

For me one of the key markers of being civilized in the van has always been my sleeping arrangements. It was never enough for me to use a sleeping bag, which would have been more convenient; instead I needed fitted sheets, blankets, pillows… a nest that didn’t just do the job, but would look warm and inviting to anyone.

So now we come to the real reason for my post. Now that summer is sort of almost really almost going to be here soon, flannel sheets and piles of wool blankets just aren’t necessary, and I felt that the bed needed a new character. Yesterday I bought some new sheets and they’re AWESOME!!!! 500 thread count per inch, cool blue and slippery (they also come in a burgundy that perfectly matches the window panels but I didn’t want to overdo the sex-mobile effect, ha ha), not allowed-for in my budget at all but totally, totally worth the cheating. Also swapped the pile of wool blankets for this lovely light soft stripey furry thing and I now have the perfect summer bed, in a van or anywhere. In fact last night it felt so good just to keep moving my legs around that it took me a while to get to sleep!

I can’t wait for bed-time tonight.

home #99

Robson & Richards, Thursday night. Two reasons this was a significant vandwelling evening: it marked my first night parking/sleeping right in the heart of downtown, and it was also the night of the very first post-renovation van party! After the super-testosterone charged Glitch Mob show, four friends and I piled into the van and had wine and late night appies, laughing our asses off and making fun of the downtown crowd passing by the window… then along came a group of very attractive steampunkish kids we recognized from the show. We asked them how their night went and their answer was to offer us some freestyle rhymes and beatboxing in through the window, all mushroom-warped dub style… it was these guys! Bottomless thanks to Trevor, Jay, Miranda, Niki, The Funginears, and the GM for a night of ridonculous fun. And an especially big thank you to Trevor for his quick draw on the iphone, capturing the moment forever… Here’s the clip: