There is a fine line between being principled and being eccentric (or, eccentric and straight-up strange) and I—all pirouettes and salsa steps—I am dancing all over that line.
When I moved to New York City, I limited my possessions to what I could fit on my bicycle. If it fit into two saddlebags and two backpacks, then I could take it. (see here for more on that). This limitation left me feeling unencumbered, and all was well and good while I crashed at a relative’s apartment. With everything furnished, what more did I need? I had a bed, I had a well-equipped kitchen.
Then I moved into a Brooklyn artist’s community with a friend. No kitchen utensils, no furniture, no bed. Furniture we could scavenge, kitchen utensils, well, my roommate had the basics. But the bed, the bed.
And this is where it got weird. There was no good option. A mattress, a futon, or even an offered air mattress would not fit on the bicycle.
The solution: used army surplus camping mat, $7, Ebay. Still fits on the bicycle, and provides me with a precious inch or two of padding between unforgiving hardwood floors and me.
Problematically, I vacillated a bit too long over my bedding decisions, and while I wait for the mat to come in, have been sleeping on just a sheet. While my back is nice and stretched out, my bony hips are a bit sore from unconsciously rolling onto my side.
Yes, it’s a little eccentric, a little weird. I’ve caught my roommate and friends earnestly debating and imagining the moment when a future girlfriend discovers my sleeping arrangements (Ah, how bachelordom makes this so simple).
In terms of lifestyles, the path from principles to pragmatism is certainly paved with compromises. But I want to emphasize here that I think it silly to get all fire and brimstone on people we perceived to be “compromised”—such a thought makes one go from being an idealist to being an ideologue. Conversely, the worse thing about those who have already swung to the compromising side of the spectrum is their tendency to scoff condescendingly at those at the other end as naïve, silly, soon to learn how “things really are”.
For both sides, humbly and gently encouraging others to live as much—and as honestly—according to their ethical, environmental, and political principles as they are comfortable with is the right way to go.
For right now a bed that is an inch thick and can be rolled up and tied to a bicycle works for me. I made a decision in terms of how much stuff I own, and I am trying, despite the potential bruises to my hips, my love life, and my dignity, to stick by that decision.
Besides, you should see the guest bed.
NOTE: There is a gray zone. At some point, I will own furniture, even if I scavenge it, and I do have pots and pans, even if they are my apartment mates’. So it should be specified that this bicycle model pertains to personal items that I feel a specific need/want to own and am willing to pay for, accommodate.