Category Archives: #minimalism

Fishing Mexico with a Handline

When I fished as I child I was generally handed a cane pole pre-baited and set up and sometimes already cast. The crappie, usually, would bite and I would pull it in and someone would take it off the hook and put it on the stringer and put another cricket on the line for me until I was big enough to learn the whole process myself.
Of course, as a Southern teenage girl more interested in listening to Muddy Waters than spending all my time around actual muddy waters, I lost touch with fishing. To be honest, there wasn’t a lot of appeal to the culture I perceived to surround fishing down South. I associated it with a lot of things I spent the following years trying to separate from entirely which is too bad, because I kind f threw the baby out with the (muddy!) bath water for a while there.
When I moved to Alaska, fishing took on this new mystique for me. Suddenly it involved people who were interested in culture and conservation AND beer and camp fires! This was the REI version of fishing I never knew existed, and it turns out fishing cleans up really well. I wanted in, but I didn’t even know where to start. This was uncharted territory and my cane pole and crappie experience was laughably useless.
Consequently, fishing became one of those things I waited a long time to take up on my own because people always said they would take me, teach me, and they never did. I didn’t grow a set and buy my own stuff and start figuring it out on my own until, oh, maybe two years ago.
Today, I own a small collection of gear stuck in storage up North, mostly selected for various Alaskan salmon runs, costing perhaps $800 or so in total. This is an extremely modest collection as I mentally survey my friends and their respective kits. Fishing, like pretty much everything, can quickly become a total gear head hobby, and as a fisherman here in Mexico currently without the gear she’s become accustomed to, I have been frustrated.
Enter the handline.

Hand line spindle with old line and a rebar weight for practice casts.


I noticed a lot of people here along the Banderas coastline carrying around fresh catches and standing on the rocks or on the beach casting…but there was never a rod or reel of any configuration in sight. Finally up at Boca de Tomates I got close enough to watch a handline in action. It was a weird eureka moment—people have been successfully catching fish for millennia with extremely rudimentary tools and it’s a craft that is alive and well here on the Pacific coast of Mexico.
The locals here seem to prefer a small black spindle, about 8″ in diameter with a groove down the outside center formed by an up-turned lip on either side—one straight up and one angled out—to hold the line. The rigs I have inspected so far really only have three things in common—a length of heavy line, a weight, and one or more hooks. The tackle has been arranged in all the same arrays of configuration that you might see in other salt water fishing rigs, as have all other techniques.
To cast, a length is pulled from the spool and swung lasso-style above the head before releasing towards the water. (Apparently. With practice. At least Paul can show you how it’s done in the video below.) I had a lot of trouble coordinating this motion while holding the wheel just so to allow the line to spool off over the edge without gripping the whole thing in a death grip and stopping the line short. It is certainly something that takes a lot of practice and skill to achieve accuracy and distance and I particularly enjoy the extreme hands-on approach. My beginner casting was so poor that I spent most of my time on the beach spinning just the weight above my head in practice casts so I never got to experience a fish on, but the thought of bringing one in on such a simple rig is quite a thrilling prospect and now that I finally have my own handline all set up, you’ll probably be able to find me on the rocks most mornings.
[wpvideo l1Qd66hH]
Aside from the extremely intimate and organic feel this kind of fishing produces, there is another benefit—literally all you need to replicate it where ever you may find yourself is a length of heavy line and a hook. These rigs are often recreated using household objects and actual garbage (glass and plastic bottles, especially those that narrow a bit and have a good neck, are perfect,) and I have seen weights consisting of rocks, short bits of rebar, spark plugs, and yes, even traditional fishing weights all used. You can get fancy with your tackle if you want, but I’ve seen a lot of fish pulled in without it.

My current salvaged set up.


The funny thing is that suddenly…I’m not feeling that much urgency to get my gear down here. This has stirred up all kinds of funny Swiss Family Robinson, can-do make-do sorts of feelings. Somehow I feel inspired to master this most simple version of fishing—partially out of necessity and partially because the challenge is irresistible. Looking back, I find it funny that I eschewed those early days with bamboo poles and crickets in favor of expensive rigs, frequent frustration, and gear woes.
It is liberating to lose the excess in these things, too, it turns out.

A few of my favorite handline resources

Extreme Adulting Day 2: Clarity

Clarity is a funny thing. You can go through life doing things blindly without understanding why, or even realize that you are, until…wham. One day you’re confronted with proof positive that other people think the same way you do on certain matters.
It’s kind of an amazing thing.
Recently, I’ve read two books that have done that. These two confirmed to me that I was on the right path on matters I’ve felt compelled to invest myself in without really knowing why, or even realizing there was a subconscious method to my madness. Goodbye, Things and The 4 Hour Work Week are not necessarily groundbreaking reads…unless, that is, that these happen to cover issues that pluck a chord.

  • Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism was actually a quick and easy listen via Audible. It was really helpful in clarifying some of the ideas and philosophies behind minimalism that had already made it appealing to me and reaffirmed my interest in maintaining as few belongings as possible. One particularly memorable passage discussed the link between excess belongings and anxiety. The author, Fumio Sasaki, absolutely nailed the scene that would play out nearly every single day back in Alaska—waking up in the morning and feeling so overwhelmed by your to-do list, largely revolving around the various and sundry maintenance of “stuff”, that it became incapacitating and the day would be wasted under the weight of indecision. This happened to some degree every single day I had off. All of the days, in other words, that didn’t command a specific starting point to the day’s activities.
  • The 4-Hour Work Week has a long-established cult following and more or less is the authority, and perhaps the inventor of, ::dun, dun, dun:: lifestyle design. First published in 2007, Tim Ferriss uses the book to outline a lifestyle I’ve been kind-of sort-of striving to achieve without his guidance for quite some time. Most of the information in the book is nothing new to me, but I enjoy the anecdotes and the organization of the information. It, too, is reaffirming in that it assures me I’m not the only one who thinks it’s ridiculous to willingly work harder rather than smarter. Clearly I haven’t mastered any of his crazy money generation methods, but being confronted with the potential of a lifestyle I’m already largely living is…motivating. And confusing. It makes me question whether or not it’s actually something I want and whether or not I want it for the right reasons. (The answer to the former being boredom and the latter being no.) At any rate, his weekly e-mail, Five Bullet Friday, was also part of what inspired me to work on this—my bastardized version of bullet journaling. (It also reminded me that I used to do very similar things on Pulp Faction and it was awesome then, so why not.)

In Other Bullets:

  • Pesos Spent: $220 for mineral water and cheesy beefy quesadillas. $18 for bus fare. $238 total for dinner on the beach while Porkchop played. ($12.75 USD)
  • TV watched: Zero! I watched enough yesterday for the entire damn week.
  • Books Read: Also zero, but I’m putting together my Epic Mexico Summer Reading List, so stay tuned.
  • Homework Done: Not enough. Deadlines Sunday and Monday.
  • Spanish Studied: Argued with the bus driver about letting the dog on, and spoke only Spanish to my waiter. (It’s the small things.)
  • Pitches Sent: Officially, one. Several contacts were made for collaborations, and I researched several outlets for my work. Also made arrangements to write a band bio and press release for a very interesting up-and-coming Memphis act.
  • Beverages Consumed: Alcohol, zero; Caffeinated, lost count; Water, only about 60 ounces. (Sad.)
  • Weather: Chilly with a chance of rain? IE; 76 degrees, 6 mph winds, 85% humidity, overcast with the tails of Tropical Storm Beatriz churning our way across southern Mexico, but apparently little to no chance of getting rain from it.
  • Shared: The National Institutes of Health reveals a study that links autism to an increased incidence in heavy metals in baby teeth. The study covered a small sample size, but is particularly interesting because it utilized twins who would (presumably) have the same nutrition en utero at the stage in which some of the significant differences in heavy metal levels between autistic and non-autistic children were noted.
  • Shared: An 18-year old from Oaxaca was crowned men’s world champion surfer in France yesterday.
  • Shared: KFC reveals a pizza utilizing flattened fried chicken as a “crust”. Earlier I asserted that I was fine with this. That was before dinner. It is a natural next step from the “double down” thing of whatever that was in which they used two pieces of fried chicken breast in place of bread in a sandwich, but this is a food evolution that is just…not ok.

Extreme Adulting Day 1: Welcome to Sobriety

I started my sober month with a hangover because…well, of course I did.
Nothing coffee and chicken tacos couldn’t take care of, but I have to admit—there wasn’t a whole lot of adulting going on today. I mean, I binge watched the entire second season of UnREAL on Hulu.
Aside from that, I guess my big adulting accomplishment involved a lot of self-reflection on my relationship with drinking. I already talked about how I acknowledge the considerable negative impacts alcohol has on my life. Let’s delve a little further into that shit show, shall we?
My last name is Drinkard, in case you didn’t know. A name like that comes with certain expectations, it seems. Realistically, I’ve probably been an alcoholic since I was 18 or so. I definitely was by the third or fourth 21st birthday I had and by the time I got fired from my first job at Princess in Denali because I’d made myself so ill with alcohol that I couldn’t get out of bed to get to work for a week. It’s pretty much always been a central character in my adult life, which is odd because my family is mostly made up of non-drinkers and I wasn’t raised around that at all.
Maybe that’s what attracted me to it, in part. It was a part of an identity of my own, not just a part of my name. It helped me find a voice and an angle as I developed my first blog and came to be known as a party girl. And frankly, I did need it in my own ways—I was shy and alcohol helped me forget that. Sometimes too much so.
As an adult it has become a crutch for all kinds of things. It helped me forget about things that upset me and it helped quiet the constant noise and chatter in my mind. Actually it was the only thing that could put a stop to the hamster wheel of thought that kept me up all night creaking away the hours.
It certainly wasn’t a healthy way to self-medicate, but when I consider the things so many of my friends and aquiantances turned to as their own solutions, I feel lucky that I’m “just” a bit of a drunk. And since I’ve begun to acknowledge the unhealthy relationship I have with alcohol, I’ve been better at controlling its influence over me when it starts to be too much.
The problem is, however, that I suck at moderation. I have an addictive personality and it tends to manifest in all kinds of “all or nothing” sorts of ways, including drinking. So, when I need to get a handle on it and reel myself back in a bit, I’ve got to haul my ass back up onto the wagon for a while because “taking it easy” ain’t gonna happen. Abstinence, however, I can do.
I realized I was past due for this sober month earlier this week when I literally had to take a shot of tequila in order to work up the courage to send a big pitch out. It shouldn’t be like that. I don’t get to talk about being brave and finding your courage when I’m hobbling along propped up by the liquid version. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever done anything “brave” while I was sober. I don’t think I applied to work in Alaska when I was sober. I don’t think I decided to go back to school when I was sober. I don’t think I booked my tickets to move to Mexico when I was sober.
And let’s face it—Mexico isn’t an easy place to be sober. Like Alaska, it seems like alcohol is a particularly large part of life here. Yesterday, for example, I met business contacts and discussed plans over drinks, as I usually do. I don’t think I’ve ever put a toe in the sand at the beach unless a margarita was involved and like a pony with a carrot dangling in front of it, a good beer or cocktail propels me through everything from errands to workouts. It will be interesting to experience these things without this weak reward mechanism and I’m looking forward to seeing if I replace it with something else, or if the activity itself becomes its own reward.
Who knows, maybe I’ll like Mexico when I’m sober. Maybe we’ll go more than a month.

June 1, 2017 Bullets

  • I don’t really understand bullet journaling, but I’m going to do it anyway because it’s supposed to have the power to change your damn life. I figure between bullet journaling and maybe an increase in my kale consumption, I should be good to go.
  • I had dinner last night up at this crazy weird restaurant called Las Carmelitas. Hands down the most stunning view of all of Puerto Vallarta I can imagine, but I was amused by a review I read today about how a lady felt totally creeped out by the place and many reviews lamented poor service and less than stellar food. I can see it, kind of. They have this beautiful place up a creepy one lane road at the top of a mountain. There was nobody there but a couple of staff and some chickens and goats. The place has this odd unfinished, isolated feel to it, but I personally thought the food was pretty good and I’d totally recommend it to anyone wanting a quiet place with a stunning view. Then again, I like weird shit.
  • Today was gloomy. The sky was overcast and the sea was choppy. I put a sweater on a bit ago. It was supposed to get hot in June, but June didn’t get the memo.
  • I don’t feel like I started this big month off very strong, but I did send a pitch out, I did practice my Spanish (for like ten minutes,) I talked to my awesome sister, and I got some studying done.
  • Also made plans to have my first booze-free beach day with my friend Robina tomorrow and she doesn’t know it, but she’s going to be my first business networking meeting for the month because her shop, La Sirena, is awesome and she’s an inspiration.
  • I also made my grocery shopping list. Ten ingredients, 30 days of food. Should be good.
  • What I’m thinking about: Two websites have hit my radar this week and I can’t stop turning them over in my head. What could I do with Patreon that would be worthwhile? Also really into Help a Reporter Out (HARO). There’s something to these two and I’m still working it out…but they’re both playing into my bigger picture.
  • What I’m watching: UnREAL. It’s such a sleeper. Everyone’s being all classy and cultured and watching the latest House of Cards, and here I am totally unable to get enough of of this trashy network drama about reality TV show production. You should check it out.
  • What I’m listening to: “Extremely Bad Man” by Shintaro Sakamoto

On the unique challenges of thriving on lateral change

It can be bewildering to finally get what you want.
I’ve always been an obsessive person. I obsessively do just about everything I do, whether it is wallowing in my own misery, researching an interesting topic, dieting, or planning a trip. I’ve been planning on moving to Mexico since February of 2015. Since then, I took a lot of very big steps to get here (getting rid of all of my things, moving out of my house, buying an RV, saving money,) but ran into a series of infuriating road blocks that prevented success in achieving my goal until this past February, nearly two years to the date that the idea was formed and about a year and half later than I had hoped.
I’ve been here a touch over two months now and it feels “real,” finally. The shiny is wearing off and the reality of this new existence is setting in. My routine feels like a routine rather than a novelty, I barely hear the waves crashing outside my window, and the iguanas are more of a dog teasing annoyance than an enjoyable wildlife encounter. I get a lot of work done, but I spend a lot of time alone. Aside from the amazing view, my studio isn’t that much different from a concrete jail cell: sparse, functional, and isolating.
This is what I wanted, right? Two years, so much planning and preparation, so much worry, so much money. It was all for this. I made it.
Now what?
As you can possibly tell from my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalism lately and this week I read Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki. It’s the latest in a spate of literature that has modernized a lot of ancient ideas about the joys of simplicity and owning less. I was taken by a number of notions and plan on sharing a couple of other posts loosely related to subject matter within its pages, but the first idea that really struck me is that happiness and joy are things that are best triggered and maintained by change.
Not really a novel concept. In fact, this is something my gut has always known and I’ve done quite a good job on acting on it throughout my life without the affirmation of scientific studies or any form of philosophy to influence me. I have always struggled with stasis but spent a good portion of my life trying to combat that instinct to seek change, to keep evolving, because change is not compatible with traditional notions of American success. In American culture the only change we are supposed to strive for is progressive change. We are always building on past accomplishments and “leveling up” in a beguiling form of progression. This kind of change calls for a foundation to be built on though. It is a kind of change that requires stability, and roots. We go to to school to get an education to start a great career and achieve financial success through promotions and building wealth. We start a relationship to get engaged, to get married, to have children, to have grand children. We get a home to decorate and fill with things and put our stamp on it and call it our own. All of these seem like change—they are changes. But because of the systemic progression they aren’t dramatic changes and I suspect that that is not only sufficient, but preferable to most.
I’ve always needed something…more. I think I thrive on lateral change. The whirlwind, totally uproot your life, fake your own death kind of change. Or, you know, quit your job, sell all your stuff and move to Mexico kind of change. I’ve always thrived on the kind of changes that take every damn thing I’ve got in me to accomplish, and when I accomplish them the novelty tends to wear off quickly and I find myself looking for the next “project” to stimulate joy and engage my senses and creative efforts.
Which brings me to now. That dreaded “now what” that follows success. It’s not a bad place to be, really. It means I accomplished a huge goal. But that accomplishment comes with the burden of choosing my next adventure, which is a distinct privilege I am grateful to have these days.
So bear with me as I sort through the options, because there really are so very many. So many business ventures that are calling my name, so many places I could go next. Sometimes your direction is obvious and others it is much less so, but honestly…figuring it out is half the thrill.

On the slow path to minimalism.

I’m not a minimalist by nature, anyone that knows me at all would scoff at that idea. But I am slowly becoming a minimalist by force of circumstances and it’s so. damn. liberating.

I guess my path towards minimalism started a couple of years ago when I decided that my little house in downtown Anchorage, the one actually so packed to the brim with stuff that it was suffocating me, had to go. It was unhealthy physically and psychologically and I couldn’t keep subjecting myself to the weight of so many belongings. I was living in a prison of my own creation. I had collected that prison in piecemeal through six years of depression and manic episodes of inspiration in which I thought somehow buying more things to contain my other things would make the things less…overwhelming.

When I moved out of that tiny one bedroom house there were bags full of things intended to hide or organize or contain other things. Bags that had never been unpacked after I brought them home. Bags that maybe had three year old receipts in them because I wanted to return them when I walked in my door and realized how inadequate and ridiculous I was to think this was somehow my solution, or my salvation. Most of the time hopelessness or embarrassment kept me from following through with those returns, so they languished on a shelf or in a closet or in the basement, mouldering with the other forgotten toys of organized homes and neat spaces. Thousands of dollars worth of things that never left the bag they entered the house in.

Getting rid of it all was hard. Not because I still wanted it, I hated it all and if I could have walked away and dropped a match I would have been relieved. It was hard because sorting through things to get rid of them forces you to confront the sadness that brought them into your life. It forces you to acknowledge the mental illness you’ve been denying for so long and all of the things that goes with that suddenly surface, when you’re sitting alone in a heap of crap you don’t want too embarrassed to ask for help. Hoarding has a complicated relationship with isolation and depression. It often begins with depression which can make even basic house keeping and organization seem overwhelming. It quickly spirals into isolation because you’re embarrassed to have people over and you feel guilty if you go out to do things because you should be getting your shit together at home. Once these two things are in place, you’re set up for the real business of hoarding to get underway because people don’t understand it and they are cruel and judgmental about it—usually unintentionally—and it creates an environment which makes asking for help seem impossible and therefore it keeps getting worse. It just keeps snowballing until you break, if you break.

Luckily I did. I got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore. That rock bottom kind of thing. I knew I wanted so much more in life and my belongings…all that CRAP…was keeping me from doing it. I was 30 years old and living like a goddamn spinster cat lady and it was no longer acceptable, no matter what the cost of breaking free. I’m so glad that I was able to get to that point and get just enough help to get rid of it all and start a new life for myself. I know not everyone is so lucky, but all it took was one friend saying they would be there full of understanding with their work gloves on and no judgment to help me do the heavy lifting. Bless her heart. I was salty to work with because it really is such a difficult thing, but she put up with it like a champ. That’s a real friend.

I moved out of that house two years ago in June. I didn’t get rid of everything, but I got rid of at least 3/4’s of everything I owned. When I moved to Mexico in February, I left some things in storage in Alaska (yet to be purged) and came here with two rubbermade totes, two suitcases, and my dog. In the last month I’ve realized even this is too much for me. I’ve worn less than 1/4 again of the clothing I brought, the desktop iMac and DVD collection has sat unused, the toiletry bag full of my slimmed down makeup collection has not been opened, and my colored art pencils remain in their zippered pouch with factory points intact.

I have added a few things: a pot with a lid to replace my small camping pot, a lounge chair for the balcony, and some plates, bowls and coffee cups.

I have also added to my wardrobe, surprisingly. I bought three spaghetti strap bamboo rayon slip dresses, two wrap skirts, and a pair of leather Mexican sandals called hauraches. These items, in addition to my sports bras, bathing suits, and capri leggings, are literally all I have worn for the last month. Not one other thing from the pile of clothing I brought from Alaska has been touched, and today it is being packed up to go away.

This is a lighter way of life in every way and I feel so lucky to be living it.