How one feels about my home, feels about me. That’s because my current base of operations – and my sanctuary -- is a solar powered 1952 Airstream trailer. It is the possession that most represents my values: appropriate technology, social responsibility, romance, and elegance in simplicity. For me it is rolling truth and timeless grace.
I won’t part with the $3000 to have its aluminum skin polished to a mirror, the current holy grail of wheeled-travel magazines. This idea is not often discussed: Its creator never intended these trailers to be polished. Instead, oxidation smudges and scratches tell its story, make it authentic, give it gravitas, and ensure it to be entirely absent of ego and pretension. It is three thousand pounds of gorgeous entropy -- with a rooftop solar panel. Inside, it carries the scars of those who tried to improve it but tended more towards misguided butchery, a relic of the same worldviews that spawned ‘70s urban renewal… or the cosmetics of my brutal surgery, lines of rivets down a wall going nowhere and holding nothing. It might even be more beautiful now than new. Instead of the clean order of the factory original, it has been to hell and back, and now it has a soul that cannot be ignored.
It has ancestry shaped by enormous technological events. Its design and construction is a direct descendant of World War II aircraft: Shaped aluminum curves, lightweight monocoque frames and thousands of bucked rivets. I sit in its fuselage and consider the attitudes responsible for its design, the chrome and steel machines that pulled it down empty roads, and the postwar dreams of its original owners.
I have considered trading it for money and convenience to ease my other burdens, but I couldn’t find an honorable way to do it. It represents concepts that we no longer understand, except in understanding that we have lost something. Besides, collectively we don’t want the thing. I know this to be true. Otherwise its presence would not be so often illegal, or somehow a violation of local policy. So there again is the importance, not just in what it represents but also in what it might reveal about our fears. I get that.
I don’t know how long I will be connected to this relic; in the end we possess nothing tangible. But I have lived in and dragged around these aluminum slugs since I was a young man, and it wouldn’t hurt me to never grow out of that. If we all reconsidered our dwellings as sanctuaries we would positively change everything else about us, all of it without the slightest effort.