The Junky American Life of a Renaissance Redneck

We’ve been back in the USA for a little over three months now, though it seems like it has been longer – while there is good and bad to be had in America, one thing is for sure. This American Life can be difficult. For us, it’s been pretty easy thus far – far easier than it is for immigrants who come here with nothing. Sacramento, California is filled with immigrants from Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Mexico, the Philippines and elsewhere in the world and we’ve met many of them and shared stories of life here.

Most of them, we’ve met at the two garage sales we’ve had since we got here or at garage sales where they were either selling or shopping. Hanane has also befriended an Afghan family at a free lunch program for kids that is held at a nearby park. Like I said, for us, it is relatively easy since we both speak English fluently, I have friends and family who are supportive and helpful, and I at least, literally wrote the book about how to survive in the USA without a job – so I have a good understanding of how to maximize my resources, earn money through hustle, and leverage good deals through eBay, craigslist, used book stores, and garage sales.

Our income since we got here has been about 1/3 from my writing and web development, 1/3 from ad renewals on, and 1/3 from garage sales, ebay, junk, and craigslist. We are extremely fortunate in that I’ve created a lifestyle where we can earn money no matter where we are so long as we have an internet connection. Even so, we have burned through 3/4 of our savings and still don’t have a house of our own.  We have been staying with our friends in Sacramento but that time is coming to an end very soon.  I’ll explain that in a second.

As I mentioned, we have had two garage sales since getting here – primarily from  a huge garage sale I bought the remnants of for a hundred dollars but also from picking things up from the free listings on craigslist, bargain hunting at Goodwill, other thrift stores, and garage sales, and always being willing to take what other’s don’t want. Even with the two garage sales we still have a truck load of possessions now and our daughter has great educational toys, clothes, and all she needs. We have the best bed I’ve ever owned, beautiful oriental carpets, and plenty of hobby items and decorative stuff.  And…it’s time to move on.

The Afghans are living three families to a small apartment here, don’t speak English, and can’t find work. They push their kids around in a grocery cart because they don’t have a stroller. We’ve given them a lot of kids clothes, toys, and baby things and Hanane has tried to explain about garage sales, thrift stores, and the free section of craigslist but they don’t speak Arabic or English and she doesn’t speak Farsi – for them, life is much harder. The Iraqi’s seem to be faring better as they gather at the Arab American Learning Center and all seem to have cars and a bit of money – some left Iraq with money but left behind property and family, many of them have suffered huge losses. In every case, they have been extraordinarily kind.  We gave an Iraqi family all of the leftovers from our last garage sale rather than take it to Goodwill and they told us that they were going to distribute it to new immigrant families who are arriving here.

Sacramento is cheaper than the Bay Area but it’s difficult to find a two bedroom house for less than $1200 a month and landlords want first, last, and deposit.  Apartments run from $500 up but the neighborhoods and conditions tend to be pretty rough. We could easily do that, but when I started considering life here, I realized that we’re in a medium city that is far too hot and far from the ocean or forests. While there is some culture here in the form of museums and theatre – I would much prefer to have beach access, hiking trails, and lush forests. I’d rather live in a small town and have nice trips to other places than live in this big city and have no money left over to spend. I’ve always loved the Oregon Coast and so after a trip there to confirm that Hanane too enjoyed it – we’ve decided to move there. My writing and online income can easily pay our rent and expenses and I will have more time, energy, and focus to spend on new projects and enjoying life (not to mention more money because the rents where we are looking are significantly lower than in California).

So, I bought a jeep, had a tow hitch put on it, and we’ve started packing our stuff. In a few days, we’ll go celebrate Sophia’s 2nd birthday with my mom and I’ll do a little work over the weekend and then I’ll take a quick solo trip up to Oregon to rent a place for us. After that, it will be time to pack up the family and move to our real American life. I can’t wait to go crabbing and I’ve always wanted to learn to fly fish – I’m heading towards the life I’ve always wanted – that of a Renaissance Redneck. I just hope my wife can get into food preservation, gardening, and home crafts…but we will see.