A friend was over at my apartment one day about six months ago. By then I’d cleared out all furniture except for a kotatsu and a desk in one of the bedrooms for my desktop. The dressers had been reduced to a series of small cardboard boxes against the wall. I was sleeping on the floor.
Said friend was looking at my kitchen garbage can, a tiny plastic green bucket lined with a plastic bag from the vegetable aisle. I filled it up every four or five days.
“You’re so Greta,” she said.
“So Greta. You’re so Greta.”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“Don’t you know who Greta is?”
“She’s the little Swedish girl who stood up to world leaders and told them they were bastards for ruining the earth and leaving her generation with nothing.”
“That’s how you live. Like Greta. You don’t have hardly anything and you don’t use hardly anything.”
“I use my bike.”
“Like I said … “
From that day forth “to be Greta” became an adjective. We used it all the time, usually in jest. But on my life through the Pacific Northwest I realized that being Greta is a lot easier when you are on a bicycle, divested of the normal consumption opportunities offered by retail/online outlets, and more importantly, being deprived of having the space at home to store your junk.
It’s what irked me most about the RVs, their un-Greta-ness. Here’s a list of Gretaisms that became part of my life. Hope they stay with me forever.
- Non-Greta: Buy water when you’re out. Greta: Buy one thick, sturdy, 1.5 -liter bottle and reuse it forever. Deja Blue bottles were way better than any of the others.
- Non-Greta: Toss the unused half an onion. Greta: Stick it back in your pack and use it the next day. It will make your stuff smell like onions, and WHO DOESN’T LIKE ONIONS? Cf. Chaucer’s General Prologue, describing the summoner: Wel loved he garleek, onions, and eek leeks. It was good enough for the summoner; it’s fuggin’ good enough for me.
- Non-Greta: Stock up and buy in advance. One friend advised me to keep at least one day’s food on hand at all times, as if I were crossing the Sahara. I followed this bad advice for a couple of weeks before realizing that it meant weight and spoilage, the twin dogs of the bike tourist apocalypse. Greta: Buy when you run out.
- Non-Greta: Carry your conventions with you, for example, “I can’t travel without organic coffee made in a mini-French press,” “I can’t sleep without an inflatable pillow,” “I refuse to drink coffee without fresh milk,” … they are endless and wasteful. Greta: Jettison your necessities and the things that go with them. Instant coffee is fine, and on the days you have to drink it bitter and black, you’ll appreciate the milk and sugar all the more.
- Non-Greta: I have to have a flush toilet. Greta: Piss outdoors, and always opt for the Forest Service stinkhole poop chutes. Pissing outdoors is a huge water saver, and as long as you’re not doing it in your coffee mug it’s generally good for wherever you deposit it, inoffensive, and no one even knows it’s there. Shitting is trickier, but there are Forest Service toilets everywhere, always water-free and usually with gossamer t.p. that is economical and environmentally friendly. If you want to really do it the right way, dig a deep hole, use your hand, and rinse liberally with water. You might want to refrain from eating regularly with that hand, but it’s your call.
- Non-Greta: Don’t get caught with your pants down, i.e. have multiple clothing items for the same thing. Greta: One of everything, never two. Think you can’t live without two pairs of socks or underwear? You’re wrong. I jettisoned my second jersey and second pair of bibs early on. Never missed ’em.
- Non-Greta: Have bike clothes and street clothes. Greta: Use them interchangeably and cut your load by half. Baggy MTB pants work as normal shorts. Commuting long pants like my BetaBrand jeans worked on cold riding days and for being in camp, shopping, etc.
- Non-Greta: Bathe daily. Greta: Don’t bathe often, if ever. You get dirty and a bit smelly. So what? This isn’t a debutante ball, and people didn’t evolve in evening gowns, they evolved with dirt under their broken fingernails. If you gotta bathe, use cold water. It gets you clean enough. And the natural oils in your hair and skin are healthy beyond belief.
- Non-Greta: Lycra, polyester, even cotton. Greta: All wool all the time.
- Non-Greta: Cleaning with soap. Greta: Cleaning with sand. It usually works pretty well, but don’t make the mistake of trying to do it with dirt cuz you only get what’s called “dirty.”
- Non-Greta: Buying purified water. Greta: Boiling river water.
- Non-Greta: Buying all your fruit. Greta: Picking berries when they are in season as a supplement to what you might buy at the store.
- Non-Greta: Deodorant. Greta: Being comfortable with the natural smells and grit and dirt that accumulate from an honest day’s effort and not spending silly amounts of money to strip your skin and your hair of every naturally occurring scent and oil.
- Non-Greta: Makeup, skin scare, daily toiletries. Greta: Being comfortable with a face that looks tired because it has worked or it has been out in the sun, and spending less time and less money on things to cover up the way you really look, which by the way, no one is fooled by anyway. Because you are fucking old and wrinkled and sunburned and you have grandkids you old fuck.
- Non-Greta: Exercising for fitness, “performance,” and appearance. Greta: Replacing fitness, which exists to burn off all the excessive shit that you excessively ate that excessive time at that excessive restaurant for an excessive amount of money, with physical effort that is required to get you from place to place, and to allow you to set up shelter, eat, sleep, and do the same thing the next day.
- Non-Greta: Buying it new. Greta: Picking up shit that other people have thrown away that is perfectly good instead of buying a new one, such as bungee cords which grow on the side of the road by the hundreds. One of my best tools was a perfectly good green bungee cord I found on the side of the road in Washington, and a close second was an old blanket some people had fornicated on and thrown away, which I wasn’t too proud to wash, use, and keep.
- Non-Greta: Having the right tool for every occasion. Greta: Having a few things and using the fuck out of them. Using them hard, but using them carefully so that they last. For example my Fierce Hazel wallet. My Kershaw pocketknife. My SPY sunglasses. My pot and pan. Etc.
- Non-Greta: Haul your shit in a car, pick-them-up-truck, or junk hauler aka RV. Greta: Don’t own what you can’t carry. When you are the one who has to generate the energy, then you become amazingly concerned and efficient about what things you carry because nothing takes more energy than carrying things. I thought about that every time I saw a badass logging truck or a badass truck driver or a badass junk hauler, and reminded myself that all they were doing was being badass with the help of a primeval forest from hundreds of millions of years ago that had compacted into petroleum. On their own they could no more pedal a bicycle loaded with their belongings up a hill than they could shit diamonds.
- Non-Greta: Be fast and wasteful. Greta: Go slow and be efficient. Riding on a bicycle quite obviously slows you down, but the slower you go the more efficient you become. That is the paradox and it runs counter to what we are taught from infancy, i.e. “I want it all and I want it NOW.”
- Non-Greta: See America by car. Greta: Ride yer fuggin’ bike. At $.60 per mile operating cost for the average American’s car, this trip would have cost almost $2,200 in transportation alone. The annual operating cost for my bicycle is about $.07 per mile, or $252 for the entire trip. That is about 1/10 of doing the trip by car, and instead of running on money and making you fat, the bicycle runs on fat and saves you money.
- Non-Greta: Stay in a hotel. Greta: Stay in a tent. The amazing Gretaness of staying in a tent at a campsite instead of in a hotel, one of the most wasteful and environmentally hideous things ever invented, is beyond the power of words to describe. Starlit nights. The sounds of nature. Gurgling brooks. Wind in the boughs.
- Non-Greta: Stay at home. Greta: Bike travel is the best way for avoiding the covids and the antifas, staying healthy and away from crowds of people during a time when the population at large is spending huge amounts of money on mental health care, medication, alcohol, alcohol, and more alcohols. Oh, and self-medicating with food.
You can Greta. You CAN!
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