I met with Graham, Rozina and their son Thurman in Portland, OR. We first bonded over our mutual love for Toyota RVs. They had been traveling around the States for 5 months in a 1985 Toyota Escaper, (similar to my Seabreeze, but a slightly different layout and about 2ft shorter). After finding out their son had elevated blood lead levels, caused by paint in their Minneapolis home, they decided to pack up, sell most of their belongings and go travel around the US; in some ways to re-group and figure out their next step.
Graham spoke with me about what it has been like to be on the road with their son and what they hope to find in their future.
"Anyone who knows us would say we should have shut the fuck up a long time ago. Yeah our son... He had elevated blood lead levels at a young age. And we went through a lot of different programs and dealt with stuff in our house, it's just because we have an old house. Over the 15 years that Rozina has owned it, 30+ some people have lived in it. You know, not where you bring your infant son home to necessarily... Obviously we had done work for when he was born, but we hadn't thought about the impact of lead on him. So we have been kind of just dealing with, what are potentially long term psychological or neurological effects. He has a delayed speech development that we are dealing with... So it was easier, for us currently, to travel around in the RV, then to rent or buy another house."
"So the situation we are in now is we are just cruising... I have all my musical equipment packed up. Rozina has her sewing machine packed up. And we are just trying to go through creative endeavors. Sold almost everything else we own. To sort of fund this and to just be on a sort of vacation, while we figure out sort of what to do in a more permanent way." - Graham B.
Graham talked about the way him and his son see what they are doing differently.
"Sometimes, we are trying to be cool... About just parking outside a park in a city. We are gonna sleep here, we are gonna cook food here... And he's got the screen open and he's hanging out in the street yelling at people pointing at their dog. And I'm like; 'Stealth mode! Stealth mode!' We just assume something is a way, but to him it is all the same.
He wanted to fly a kite, not so long ago... In Long Beach, Washington, we went to the kite museum. Built a kite, he got to fly it. It was totally amazing! Totally cool.
We have been trying to find a place for the winter to sublet... So during the colder winter days we can have some space. Set up our stuff, leave it set up and be a little more creative. Not have to worry about being wet and cold and sad and dark.
So what if we stayed out here and built kites all winter you know? So its that kind of thing, I had never heard of that town, or thought about the coast in southern Washington, in my life. I'm not from this part of the world. We were just driving and we saw it on the atlas. World Kite Museum. Well great, lets go there!" - Graham B.
On what it is like living by choice in an RV, for the sake of their son.
"What is chic and desirable? We play a game called 'camping or homeless?'. As you drive around and you look at other peoples vehicles. And you go to a campground and there is that one, that one, and that one, and then there's us. And we realize... Labor Day has passed. Every day passed Labor Day, the divide between camping or homeless… The needle is swinging way closer to homeless. It's weird to think about, looking back on this, if I was like 17 years old, I would think, 'Oh this is Awesome! This is great. This is perfect'. But Im 38 and she's 39 and we are just like, well this is the best idea we can come up with. And it's a great idea and I am into it, but it points us away from being capable of living in a more mainstream method of living. I don't know. I guess we will have to see how it plays out.
In retrospect, I can't answer any of these questions. There is no one way anymore of seeing what people are doing. And to see how they affect our lives, or our commonality. There are people that are willing to talk to us because we have this one Toyota RV. So they see nothing but the fact that we have this thing, either their dad had, or they have one broken in their backyard. But if we have anything else to talk about, you hate me. You know? I am very low on the social standing in their eyes. But it's a weird thing. We could have just stayed home and been at home and been fine... And been in a house that we had just done a ton of work on. But just mentally, we had to move on.
It's impossible to say all of the effects of having lead poisoning. They have never taken a kid and locked him in a cage, fed him a bunch of lead, and then taken their twin brother and have them grow up independently. I don't know... I guess we want to say he is better. He has just been in the woods, he has been outside. Poking slugs. We have been on the ocean, on rivers. He's just hanging out. If anything it's mentally kind of relieving. 'Cause we did something. Instead of just being in this one place." - Graham B.