Like most of you who read the story about how the famous motorhome-bike was destroyed Wednesday night, I instantly assumed it was the work of vandals.
But as the day wore on, evidence mounted that the bike’s creator, Brian, might have done it himself: a commenter who has spent time with him said he’d been wanting to “trash it and start from scratch”; Ayleen Crotty reported that he needed help with repairs; and Jonathon Severdia, who wrote an article about Brian for WorldChanging called to tell me he wouldn’t be surprised if Brian did it.
Despite all this, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions until I heard what happened directly from Brian.
Fortunately last night, on my way to catch the B:C:Clettes at the Clown House on Alberta, I happened to see Brian entering the Safeway at MLK Blvd. and NE Ainsworth.
“Nothing ever lines up for me, no jobs, no nothing…I’m invisible out here, like a ghost. People only notice me now that this happened.”
I felt awkward introducing myself to him. No matter what the circumstances are around his bike, I knew he might not be in the best mood right now. Not to mention, I was a complete stranger.
At the outset of our conversation, things did not look good. I quickly realized he had destroyed the bike himself and he was mumbling and going on about how sick and tired he was of everything: living on the street; living in his “camper”; not finding work; not having many friends; being hungry; and so on.
He didn’t really look me in the eye and he was angry, frustrated and depressed.
I let Brian know that while I couldn’t relate to his experiences, I could understand why he felt angry and bitter at the world. Mixed in with my empathy, I let him know that there was a community of people who cared about him and who were willing to help; but only if he wanted it.
As we walked back to the site of his tattered bike, the warm breeze blew the wayward pieces of tattered foam all over the street. He had a few plastic trash bags and I asked for one to help him clean up the mess.
As we picked up bits of glass, metal, and foam, the picture of Brian’s breakdown became clearer.
After decades of traveling the country in his camper-bike and living a seemingly carefree, nomadic existence, Brian had had enough.
Still upset, he said, “Nothing ever lines up for me, no jobs, no nothing…I’m invisible out here, like a ghost. People only notice me now that this happened.”
I offered (and he agreed) that perhaps people mistakenly assumed he was happy and content with his existence. After all, he was free-and-clear, without the stresses of work, mortgages, and other rat-race responsibilities. He was on an eternal bike tour, living off the land under his own power…how bad could that be?
As we talked, many people would honk and wave as they drove by.
He explained that last winter he reached a breaking point. The dark, cold, wet days found him “just lying there, in my cabin, staring out, losing weight from not eating.” “I can’t do that anymore,” he said “I felt like I was in jail in that thing, trapped…”
He pointed out mold that was spreading through sections of the cabin’s foam walls and expressed concern about breathing it in.
Despite his anxieties over the state of his life, I noticed that the more we spoke, the more stable, and less upset he became. Slowly but surely the fog around his mood began to lift. Eventually the conversation turned to how he could get rolling again and he even started joking and smiling.
With a huge grin he said, “This is what happens when you build a camper that’s not big enough for a woman.”
I told Brian that if he was interested, I would help him raise some money and maybe even have a little work party. He said he definitely wants to rebuild, “I can get this all fixed in just a couple of days.”
Staring at his bike and thinking of rebuilding, he said, “It will be like the big family argument that gets better when you buy a new car and everyone’s happy.”
That “joke” is actually a true story from Brian’s past. He told me about a “big blowout fight” between his mom and dad. Then, the next morning he noticed a brand new car in the driveway, and “the house was silent…and everyone seemed OK.” With a confused look and a sheepish grin, he said, “I could never figure that one out.”
I was relieved that his spirits seemed to be getting brighter. At this point, he was talking less of his frustrations and sadness, and more about how he could get rolling again.
Brian said he could re-build his camper for around $200 in supplies. Here’s a list of what he needs:
- 6 1″ thick, 4×8 feet Armax (?) double foil-backed sheets.
- A big roll of duct tape.
- A can of spray paint.
- A roll of silver flashing.
- Some glass.
- A front moped wheel.
Before I left, I wrote my name and phone number down and told him to stay in touch (he said he would). I offered my backyard as a backup place to crash if he needed it (he’s currently got a place to stay that’s off the streets).
Then, at his request, I went to Safeway and bought him a 40 oz. of Pabst and two cans of spaghetti.
If I do hear from Brian, and if there’s sufficient interest from the community (which I think there will be), I will coordinate a work party to happen in the next few days. Stay tuned to this post for more details.
In the meantime, I’ve created this PayPal button for anyone who wants to make online donations. All proceeds will go to help Brian rebuild his bike (and maybe a show of support from the community will help him rebuild his zeal and outlook on life as well.)
UPDATE: As of today (8/31) at 4:15 pm, we have raised $515.00 for Brian. Wow. Stay tuned for more info…
UPDATE: We’ve set up a work party for tomorrow. If you’d like to join us, meet Brian, and show your support, come to the Walgreen’s parking lot at MLK Blvd. and NE Ainsworth at 3:00 tomorrow, on Saturday, 9/1.