Posts Tagged With: off grid

Liveaboards, Yachtsmen, Cruisers, and Boat Punks

*This is an excerpt from a piece I first published here. 

Boat Punk

Since a few years now, there is a distinctive fourth group of seafaring people. These are young kids in their twenties and thirties with left-wing progressive views, disenchanted with the capitalist system, and the middle class standards in the United States of America, seeking alternative ways of off-grid living, self sufficiency, and ultimate freedom.

Recently, owning and maintain a boat has become more affordable than ever thanks to the development of new cheaper technologies, the access to on-line information about how to build and repair a boat, and to the global economic collapse. Boat prices have dropped dramatically.

Thus, young rebellious kids can now get an older used boat for as little as a few hundred dollars and fix it up on a very low budget using all sorts of recycled materials, even junk, and go exploring the world.

What sets them apart from the rest of the boaters is their willingness to come and stick together in a tight community, almost a kinship, sharing knowledge and skills,  helping each other, having fun, working together, facing common problems, and doing all sorts of unusual things.

In Key West we met and befriended an interesting crowd of artists, anarchists, environmentalists, animal rights activists, feminists, socialists, musicians, vegetarians, misfits, jacks-of-all-trades, and other non-mainstream enthusiasts, all suffering from incurable wanderlust: Tony and Chopper aboardPisces, Ryan and Stacie aboard Liquid Courage, Becca aboard Dolphin, Miranda aboard Snoopy, and Cherrie and Tyler aboard Rocksteady who have baptised themselves Boat Punks, deriving from the streets and the Punk scene.

Ryan

Punk is a lifestyle, a movement, and a political statement. Since its origins in the 1960s and 70s as an underground music genre, Punk has evolved into a complex ideology opposing the state system and established social structure, challenging the social orthodoxy, political and mainstream cultural establishment, and promoting individual freedom, an anarchic resistance, non-conformity and social revolt, DIY ethics and anti-consumerism.

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Although our shiny 38 feet relatively new catamaran Fata Morgana doesn’t really belong, conceptually or visually (unless we spray some graffiti on her, which I have considered) in this fourth group, our family’s ideology, values, and way of life do. And so naturally we have joined their extravagant community here in Key West. Our experiences with the Boat Punks include:

  • a foot operation without anaesthesia aboard Fata Morgana;
  • sailing to a reef and snorkelling, fishing and jumping off the boat all day;
  • scavenging an abandoned recently wrecked vessel;
  • volunteering at the food bank;
  • hosting a visit by a German journalist and a photographer who came to write a magazine article about Boat Punks;
  • and more. (I will write about all these with more details as soon as I have more time and some internet, so stick around.)

Moreover, we have decided to write a collage article on Boat Punk in collaboration, each person contributing his/her own individual story and reasons for doing what we are doing. I will publish it here soon.

Categories: About Us, Collection of Stories about Cultures, Our Journey, sailing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shrimp Who Became a Shark

I wake up one morning to find a small transparent shrimp on the steps of our boat. Looks like a suicide.

Next day Ivo finds another one. And another one the day after. A dead shrimp becomes a part of our morning routine. We wake up, we make coffee, and we collect the inevitable shrimp.

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There must be a shrimp kingdom beneath our boat, Fata Morgana. The shrimp king, a fat orange fellow with long antennas, probably had concluded, after a restless night full of hallucinations, that Fata Morgana is a powerful shrimp goddess. One who’s anger and might could annihilate in a minute the entire shrimp population for no particular reason. “Therefore, he had announced to all, sacrifice is needed to appease the powerful goddess hovering above our shrimp kingdom”.

* You can find the rest of this story here

Categories: About Us, adventure, conservation, cruising, family, fishing, Florida, food, fun, Key West, Key West Florida, marine conservation, marine life, morning, Nature, off grid, Our Journey, places, sailing, sharks, travel, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Tony

Tony's B-day cake

Tony’s B-day cake

Tony was born thirty something years ago on June 6 sometime in the afternoon. Legend has it that he was born with tine baby dreadlocks which grew longer, darker, and thicker as the years passed. He uttered his first baby words when he was only a few months old, still in diapers. With determination and a very serious expression on his face, he said: “beer” and “bike” (in that order). People thought that he would grow up to be a prophet or a genius. They were pretty close to the truth; he became a sailor, adventurer, punk-rocker, anarchist, freedom-seeker, beer-drinker, and biker. He became Tony Beerbike. He also became our good friend.

Chopper and Tony

Chopper and Tony

We met him and his trusty companion, Chopper, in Stock Island where he is working on his sailboat Pisces, a 28 feet Cape Dory, getting her ready for ocean travel and adventure.

On June 6 this year, we improvised a small birthday celebration and went out for a short sail on Fata Morgana with Tony and a few other friends. Tony made a huge pile of Mexican rice, so good, from now on this is how I will make it.

Tony making Mexican rice

Tony making Mexican rice

The sailing was fun and pretty much uneventful. We had a bit of waves that made the boat jump up and down. At the end we tried to anchor without using the engines, but a minor storm came out of nowhere, wind and rain, and we ended up using them.

The birthday celebration at sea ended with a traditional dinghy ride in the rain to a near-by uninhabited boat which was dragging her anchor quite a bit in the direction of some other uninhabited boats, and so an intervention was needed. Cherri, Tyler, and Ivo went aboard the stray boat and successfully deployed two more anchors to stop her from dragging and crashing into any of the other boats. We received thank you calls from some of the neighboring boats who witnessed the whole thing. We felt good about ourselves. And tired.

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Categories: adventure, Collection of Stories about People, cruising, family, Fata Morgana, Florida, frienships, fun, Key West, Key West Florida, off grid, Our Journey, sailing, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Launching of Fata Morgana

Tuesday, May 27, the day of the launching of Fata Morgana.

The day doesn’t look good. During the 57 days we have spent in 3D Boatyard in Key West FL working on our boat, there were only two gloomy rainy days one of which Tuesday, May 27. The problem with the rain is that we still need to paint a couple of spots on the hulls where the boat has been perched on two wooden props, and this needs to be done when the hulls are dry and the boat is lifted in the air by  the boat crane, an hour before launching.

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

All day we wait for the rain to stop or just give us a few minutes brake, but it doesn’t. It rains persistently, hopelessly: a monotonous female rain, filling the puddles with grey waters. It’s trying to hold us back, to worry and discourage us, and it succeeds for a while. We consider postponing the splash for a dryer day but decide to go ahead and paint in the rain trying to keep the spots on the hulls dry by holding towels above them. This is Tyler’s idea. Tyler, Cherri, and Tony have been helping us with the final works for the last two days, great guys, and together we do a good enough job painting in the rain.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Around 4 pm we are pretty much ready to splash. Tony and I stay on the boat, all the others watching from beneath as the crane gently lifts Fata Morgana like a sedated exotic animal and makes its way among the rest of the boats who watch paralyzed with nostalgia from their places in the boatyard.

The end of the day

The end of the day

Afloat, after so many dry days, Fata Morgana awakens, slightly starts rocking back and forth, feeling content and happy. She doesn’t sink to the bottom of the ocean after being loaded with so many heavy things and that is reassuring for me. The two hulls are submerged exactly to the waterline. Altogether she looks beautiful. She is everything we have imagined.

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And then all sorts of miracles happen. The sun, glorious, makes its way beneath the thick clouds to the west and sets on fire both land and sky. With vengeance.

A rainbow appears in the ocean like a mountain of candies, and you could reach up and touch it.

Three frigate birds like slow kites descend from their usual heights and begin circling above us.

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All this time, a grey carrier pigeon in a cage not much bigger then a shoe box has been sitting on the deck, watching us with one paranoid eye.

Cher Ami.

It becomes evident that we need a ceremony. We are now a tribe of water people aching for a ritual.

Ivo with champagne and hummer

Ivo with champagne and hummer

So, we sacrifice a bottle of champagne (which like the rainbow, the frigate birds, and the caged pigeon, materializes out of thin air) spilling its foamy white blood with a violent explosion over the bow of the boat. Glass shatters, Fata Morgana is christened.

Christening Fata Morgana

Christening Fata Morgana

We decide to take her for a short sail. We motor in the night without stars, with no horizon, only red and green lights blinking in the blackness. We release the pigeon. A ball of feathers disappears in the dark.

In the times of Pharaohs, sailors used pigeons as a sole communication with the land world sending news to their families that they were on the point of returning home. We send a message to ourselves.

It’s time to return to shore and wait for the morning. Tomorrow, we are going to the anchorage near Key West, where Tyler’s boats Rocksteady and En Cavale are too. Tyler and Cherry stay for the night. We are all exhausted.

Categories: Fata Morgana, Florida, Key West, Key West Florida, Our Boat, Our Journey, sailing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Final Touch-Ups. Painting the Name

Last day in the boatyard. Our sufferings will soon be over. The adventures shall begin.

(By ‘sufferings‘ I mean living in a place full of dirt and toxic dust where people are constantly sanding and painting their boats; with one toilet and one shower for all, men and women; no beach near by, nothing much to do; constantly working on the boat, mosquitoes and noseeums every evening; no AC, etc.)

Tomorrow is the big splash, Fata Morgana will finally go back to her natural habitat: the sea. Today, we finished painting the bottom and some final touch-ups.

Maya Painting

Maya Painting

Still, a boat will always look unfinished until you put the name on. Also, that is the most artistic and heroic of all jobs done on the boat (in this case, by me, of course). I am totally being sarcastic here. First, you spend months choosing a font and a design for the boat’s name. Next, you measure and decide how big will the letters be, what color, and where to place them. Usually, you place them on both sides of the hull(s), port and starboard, and on the back of the boat, where the name of the home port has to appear as well. Next, you go to a vinyl shop and you order your signs: big stickers which you stick to the boat.

This is one way of doing it. The guy in the vinyl shop told us it would cost us somewhere between a few hundred and over a thousand dollars, depending on the size and color of the letters. More than a thousand dollars for a name?!!!

Plan B

We went and bought special boat paint, couple of brushes and a clear-coat spray (all for under $80.00, black paint for the name, red and blue for the stripes on the sides) and I painted the name and the stripes myself. Took me a few hours for the two sides.

Here is the whole process of how you can (and should) do that yourself with pictures and all.

1. Design your letters or just choose a font and print them as big as they have to be on paper. I designed mine combining two fonts. I started with the letter A, because there are four A-s in Fata Morgana. Next, I based the letters O and G on the A and used the A again to create the T and the R. The capital F and M were hardest to come up with. I drew them with a pen on paper and I cut them out one by one.

Step 1: Design, Draw, Cut.

Step 1: Design, Draw, Cut.

2. Next, I measured the place where the name will appear on the hull and  Ivo sanded it lightly to prep it. Then, I drew with a pencil contours around the paper letters on the hulls.

Step 2: Measure, Draw contours.

Step 2: Measure, Draw contours.

3.Then, with a tiny brush, I colored the letters. I used tape around all straight edges, but mostly I just held my breath and, with as steady hand as possible, just painted directly on the boat.

Step 3: Tape, Paint

Step 3: Tape

Step 4: Paint

Step 4: Paint

Step 4: Paint

Step 4.5: Ponder

Step 5: Step back and admire your work

Step 5: Step back and admire your work

Note: Have you noticed the red and blue stripes on the boat? Same technique. I used tape to make them as straight as possible and I painted them on.

Also, if you wonder about the name Fata Morgana, please read on here.

Categories: cruising, family, Fata Morgana, Florida, Key West, Our Boat, Our Journey, sailing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Solar Ark

“The overriding goal is to get away from the notion of ‘waste’ – everything natural is food for somebody or something, and therefore a resource.”

– ARVO

Close your eyes and imagine a place:

A mountain desert. Harsh climate. Desolate landscape.

But that is not the place you had to imagine, I’m sorry. Go back, and close your eyes again, and imagine a different place:

In the mountain desert, amidst the desolate landscape, surrounded by beautiful highlands, imagine an oasis. But don’t imagine the typical boring clishe, the one with the small lake in the middle and two palm trees, please. The one I am asking you to envision is much much more complicated and will take a lot more effort and ingenuity from the part of your imagination. But I’ll help you, don’t panic. Here are some of the most important items you need to place in your mental picture of the oasis: 

(You can now open your eyes in order to continue reading and see the visual aids)

 First, imagine HOMES built with a deplorably low budget using natural or recycled materials (such as rock, flagstone, recycled brick, tile, glass and lumber, straw bale, pallets, earth block [adobe], and pumice), powered by sun and wind. Imagine wind turbines and solar panels sending little packages of canned sunlight and wind puffs which come out of the wall outlets of these homes to power ultra-efficient appliances: a light-bulb, a washing machine, a well pump, a ‘solar fridge’. The sun bill of these households never goes up one cent, imagine…

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  Next, imagine a complex of integrated GREENHOUSES where lemons ripen without any supplemental heat while outside temperatures can dip to -25 degrees and where, surrounded by plants and rocks, you can take a greenhouse shower, rain water heated by the sun cascading down from a log.

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Imagine a BEAUTIFUL BACKYARD which we will now call Flushing Meadows as it is irrigated by Greywater from the showers and toilets (after a proper sceptic treatment, of course).

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Imagine a truly sustainable to perfection  ORGANIC FARM where frogs eat the nasty insects, ladybugs dine on pests, earthworms take care of the waste material turning it into prime soil, bees provide honey, wax, propolis and pollen while pollinating the orchard, and when they die, god bless their innocent little souls, become a source of protein for the chickens. And the chickens eat everything and everybody. Cannot blame the chickens, because they make eggs and are tasty, but also, they poop. And that’s good too. In this particular oasis, chicken poop makes biogas for heating and prime liquid fertilizer, which is used to grow duckweed algae as a protein-rich feed, for who?- For the chickens themselves!

Arvo with Carlos

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And finally, imagine, in the middle of it all, A SMILING GERMAN GUY NAMED ARVO who looks dramatically like Klaus Kinski, holding a female raven named Carlos.

Klaus Kinski

Klaus Kinski

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Congratulations! You have now successfully imagined The Solar Ark . And if you like this vision, let me tell you, it is real! And you, if you just imagine it possible, can become a part of it. All you need to do is to get to New Mexico where this oasis exists for more than a decade now. Or, you can simply think about all of this, maybe consider it possible to change your ways a little?

Thanks to Baba Ghanoush, we met Sherri and Nathaniel who told us about all this and who are heading to New Mexico in June to become part of The Solar Arc Project, to live there, to learn, and to help Arvo build and maintain his oasis.

Note:

I took the liberty of getting information and pictures from The Solar Ark’s website which you can visit right here for more information and details on accommodation for visitors and students, the educational program and topics covered, cost, and possibility for work-exchange (you don’t have to pay anything to learn and stay there as long as you work!)

This is something Ivo and me would totally do and we would be perfect, as we come from Bulgaria where everyone had orchards, and chickens, and outside toilets, and wells, and little wood shops. Maybe one day we will do this, when we get tired of sailing the world…

Categories: adventure, Collection of Places, Collection of Stories about People, Green energy, Nature, off grid, solar energy, Sustainability | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sherri, Nathaniel, and Baba Ghanoush

Shortly after I place the add in Craig’s List: Used RV for Sale, we get an e-mail: We are VERY interested in your Fleetwood Pace Arrow, that goes like this:

              Hi there.
My husband and I are looking for an RV and live right up on Big Coppitt.  We’d like to know if we could come and take a look at your Fleetwood this week.  We are moving out of the Keys in mid- to late-June to embark on an adventure across the country and are hoping to buy an RV within the next couple of weeks.  We checked out your blog and it looks like you’ve been living the life we are hoping to start on!  🙂
             Thanks so much and looking forward to your reply!
             Sherri
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 Maybe after all Baba Ghanoush will continue her exciting travels with adventurous people aboard.
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Here is how Sherri and Nathaniel showed up to see Baba Ghanoush for a first time:
Nathaniel and Sherri

Nathaniel and Sherri

Turns out Sherri and Nathaniel are the right guys for Baba Ghanoush. A young couple with three cats: Tigger,  Stinky Pete, and Fink, they are off to New Mexico to learn about sustainable house design and alternative building methods,  harvesting electricity from solar panels, wind generators and hydro turbines, rain water harvesting, filtration and storage; to help build an off-grid self-sufficient community, a complex of  greenhouses, gardens and homes powered by sun and wind and a truly sustainable organic farm using renewable sources, all part of a project called The Solar Ark. I will devote a separate post about it, it is mind-blowing.

Nathaniel and Sherri telling us all about The Solar Ark Project (inside Baba Ghanoush, after many beers)

Nathaniel and Sherri telling us all about The Solar Ark Project
(inside Baba Ghanoush, after many beers)

Sherri, a marine biologist, environmentalist, and teacher at the local college in Key West, and Nathaniel, with a Civil Engineering knowledge  and a building background, plan to eventually build an alternative off-grid college with a program focussed on sustainability, where students will participate in building the campus themselves and will learn everything from history of sustainability to solar and wind power, natural medicine, canning and preserving foods, composting, etc learning not only theoretical but also all the practical skills needed to build and support various alternative green-energy installations. The college will be off-grid politically too: no accreditation, no student loans (which Sherri believes are evil).

Sherri

Sherri

The System uses people, it is not made FOR the people,” she tells her students. “In the Capitalist system, people are not important. Capital is. You are nothing but creators and distributors of capital. You work to make money and your life revolves around spending it. It is all wrong. We are exhausting the planet’s resources and nobody cares. The way we presently live in the USA is so screwed up. I want to change things.”

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Nathaniel studied Civil Engineering in college and when he asked if he could combine his Civil Engineering studies with Environmental Engineering, they told him he couldn’t. Had to choose one or the other.

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

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But isn’t the whole point combining these two fields for a better future of building and housing? It’s ridiculous. We have the knowledge and the technologies at hand, we just refuse to apply them and use them for better purposes. All we need is around us. All is interconnected. I am in love with the idea of having a garden, collecting water, and raising chickens,” he told us.

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We stayed up until 2 a.m. talking with Sherri and Nathaniel that first time we met them, drinking beers in Baba Ghanoush (they instantly fell in love with her and decided to buy her). And it was not enough. So they came back the next day with a bowl of delicious garlic-filled baba ghanoush and pita chips, and we now spend every possible free minute together: at our boat, or at their pool, or at their parent’s house near the river. As a matter of fact, they were just here today again; brought us a bike, gave us a canoe, an underwater film camera, two pairs of sunglasses, books, fishing gear, four limes, and bunch of other things they will not take on the trip. And they are not planning to come back here. They also promised us an aloe plant and a bunch of herbs we will take with us on the boat.

Neith, Sherri, we are absolutely inspired by you guys and so proud that Baba Ghanoush will be a part of your journey!

Way to go, Baba Ghanoush!!!!!!!!

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Pix from the pool party

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Sherri, Viktor, Mira

Sherri, Viktor, Mira

Maya and Viktor

Maya and Viktor

Ivo, Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, and Viktor

Ivo, Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, and Viktor

Nathaniel, underwater with beer

Nathaniel, underwater with beer

Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, Viktor, Mira

Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, Viktor, Mira

Categories: adventure, family, frienships, fun, Key West Florida, motor home, off grid, Our Journey, RV, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Used 1988 Fleetwood Pace Arrow For Sale

Time to sell Baba Ghanoush. We cannot possibly take her with us on the boat around the world, can we?

(You wish )

Best fishing spot on our way to St Petersburg

Best fishing spot on our way to St Petersburg

We started this journey in the beginning of November 2012 leaving home in search of the perfect boat, driving this suspicious-looking motor home from marina to marina all around Florida, living in city parks, marinas, and parking lots, never going near expensive over-regulated  campgraounds.

Laundry time ...in the beach showers...

Laundry time …in the beach showers…

The motor home we named Baba Ghanoush. Her spirit was free and adventurous. She was our home and vehicle, our indestructible spaceship and comfortable refuge, our whale in whose belly we felt safe. We ended up loving her as a person. We took care of her.

The Historical Washing of Baba Ghanoush

The Historical Washing of Baba Ghanoush

But now “home” is Fata Morgana, our boat, and Baba Ganoush is ready for new owners. Only, I worry a lot about her future and I wish the new owners will treat her with love and respect, as we did. We don’t want to just sell her to anyone. There is a criteria to be met by the candidates. They better be good or else.

Early morning exercises, Cape Coral, Florida

Early morning exercises, Cape Coral, Florida

We moved all our stuff from Baba Ganoush on the boat and are mentally ready to sail. Only, the boat is not ready yet and we feel kind of stuck here in the boatyard still working on the keels, still waiting for parts we ordered to arrive . Two weeks ago, we were sure we would be in the water in a few days. Now, we are not so sure any more… Everyone keeps asking us When are you going to splash? And frankly, we don’t know. Maybe in a week, maybe in a month. Whenever Fata Morgana is ready.

In the meantime, Baba Ganoush has been emptied and is ready for new adventures.

Categories: About Us, adventure, cruising, family, Key West Florida, motor home, off grid, RV, sailing, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mi Casa Su Casa

We leave Turtle Beach, direction: Miami Boat Show 2013, right?

We get to South Beach February 13th around 7 p.m. and our old RV (Baba Ghanoush) stops in the middle of Michigan Avenue, not far from the Convention Center (where the boat show will start the next morning), coughs, gasps, and, without any particular reason, dies. We push her large lifeless body away from the middle of the street to the side, in front of a fire plug (the only free parking spot near by). We sleep there, with one eye open, waiting for the police or the parking enforcement guys to show up any minute. Plus, it is humid and hot as hell, it’s South Florida…

The next day, still no parking ticket, the manager of the near-by building complex passes by and we tell him about our misfortune. We tell him not more than a few confused hurried words, trying to explain that we don’t want to take the parking space in front of his buildings, but we are kind of stuck. And than the most surprising thing happens: the manager, Azael, who doesn’t know anything about us except that we have two kids with us, invites us to take shower, use the laundry and even sleep in one of the vacant apartments of the building, furnished, luxurious, with two big bedrooms. For the first time in almost four months we sleep in normal beds! For the first time in almost four months we take showers in a private bathroom, and not in the beach, marina, campground, or sailing school public showers! For the first time in almost four months we have a private clean toilet, and we don’t have to run to the park, Walmart, or any other public restroom! And running water, and electricity, and a laundry machine! All those things people usually don’t even think about, made us so happy. We stay there for three days.

After three days and a few unsuccessful attempts to fix the RV problem ourselves, Baba Ghanoush gets transported to a service center by a tow-truck for $350. It’s Saturday, the service center is closed on Sunday and we have to wait until Monday or maybe Tuesday before we will see her again, running. So we are homeless again.

We go back to the apartment for two more days, before our Baba Ghanoush is finally resuscitated, for a total of $1, 035.

Bad things are always sudden and unpredictable and tend to occur in the worst of moments. But thanks to our RV’s little fit, we got to meet Azael, his beautiful wife Sonia, and their three kids, Shaun, Jasmine, and Kevin, who thought us a lesson of kindness and humanity.

And the boat show?

Well, that’s another story.

Azael and Sonya

Azael and Sonia

Categories: Our Journey | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Volunteering at The Dali Museum

Beloved imagination, what I most like in you is your unsparing quality. 

 

– André Breton, The Surrealist Manifesto 

Not too long ago, I wrote about our Saturday Market volunteering career in Saint Pete:

For about two hours each Saturday, we used to help a merchant to load his produce on a truck, and, as a token of his appreciation, he used to give us one thousand pineapples.

(For a more detailed and truthful account of these events, read  The Pineapple Volunteers)

At about the same time as we found a way to fill our bellies with vital vitamins free of charge, I also found a way to satisfy my hunger for culture and art (also free of charge). I became an active volunteer at the new Dali Museum in Saint Petersburg Florida in order to gain access to the galleries, as well as numerous events and lectures. (Apparently, there is no Green Card or any other type of work permit required if one, no matter from which country of the world, is willing to work without remuneration in the United States. Only a background check is required.)

Me running away from the Dali Museum, Saint Petersburg

Mira running away from the Dali Museum, Saint Petersburg, Florida

Salvador Dali, my favourite artist as a child when I was somewhere between Maya’s and Viktor’s age, had a great influence on me. Looking at the colour reproductions of his paintings in a book, I remember feeling the presence of the marvellous, the magical, the outrageous, the paranoiac. When I found out that a museum full of his paintings is just under my nose, I had to do something about it. And I did the right thing, I became part of it. I volunteered.

The museum opened doors in 2011.

“Designed by architect Yann Weymouth of HOK, the new building combines the rational with the fantastical: a simple rectangle with 18-inch thick hurricane-proof walls out of which erupts a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the “enigma.” The “enigma,” which is made up of 1062 triangular pieces of glass, stands 75 feet at its tallest point, a twenty-first century homage to the dome that adorns Dali’s museum in Spain. Inside, the Dali houses another unique architectural feature – a helical staircase – recalling Dali’s obsession with spirals and the double helical shape of the DNA molecule.”

http://thedali.org/about_the_museum/the_building.php

Via an internet volunteering system, I choose my days and hours of work, about 2-3 hours a week. My job is distributing headphones to visitors on the first floor next to the gift shop.

Hi, would you like a headphone? I need one ID for each adult. No, I can’t take your credit card instead. Press 1 and the play button for general information about the museum and the collection. Each painting has a number on a label beside it. Press that number and the play button again for more information on that painting. All the galleries are on the third floor. There is a guided tour as well every hour. You can take the stairs or the elevator. The restrooms are just around the corner. You can also watch a 7 minute film in the theatre here on the first floor, it’s free and it plays every 15 minutes. Enjoy!

They take the stairs or the elevator and up they go to the third floor. They return to take back their IDs. We keep them in alphabetical order.

What is your last name? Here you go.

I collect the headphones and place them on a rack to charge the batteries. Sometimes, I listen to the recording punching random numbers. A woman’s voice talks about paintings I don’t see. I haven’t been on the third floor yet. I have no idea how the little labels with the numbers on them look like. Only when I accumulate a total of 8 hours of work I will become a member of the museum with free access to the galleries, events, and lectures.

Two weeks pass.

My two-hour shift is almost finished. This makes exactly eight hours total. I gently place a set of headphones on my head. I take the elevator or the stairs. I burst into an open door and there is a painting before me. And I realize then, with an amazement I have not been able to lessen since, I am looking at a canvas touched by Salvador Dali. The painting is literally a record of the painter’s hallucinations. His body, which was there, touched the canvas which radiations ultimately touch me, who am here, like the delayed rays of a star.

I will not spend one hour rushing through the galleries consuming all 96 paintings at once, unable to digest them. I will take one at a time, savour it, enter it, let it melt slowly before swallowing it. I can visit the galleries every day if I want to, and spend time with one painting at a time. I can also borrow and take home books from the shelves of the volunteering office, all about Dali and his art, Surrealism, as well as other painters, photographers, and art movements. I can also attend all sorts of events, lectures, and shows, some of which are for members only and a guest. And I did take advantage of everything! I borrowed a book on double images, where Maya learned about Dali, as well as Archimbaldo’s portraits made out of fruits or fishes; with Maya we attended a lecture about Tattoo art and Dali; another lecture on Salvador Dali’s childhood and early years; and an opening of an exhibition, members only, including a theatre performance, wine, and buffet. It was amazing!

There are volunteer opportunities in almost every museum or art centre in America, and I was considering signing up at the Ringling Museum, after we moved from Saint Petersburg to Sarasota. For me this is a perfect option to stay connected to art and culture, to learn, and to become involved with the local art scene in the places we visit when we are not in a hurry.

Mira. SurrealIn front of The Dali Museum, before a member-only event

Mira. Surreal
In front of The Dali Museum, before a members-only exhibition openning

 notes, inspirations, web sites:

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

The Dali Museum website: http://thedali.org/home.php

Andre, Breton, First Surrealist Manifesto:   http://www.tcf.ua.edu/Classes/Jbutler/T340/F98/SurrealistManifesto.htm

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