The isle of misfits

Don’t mess with the vocalist, the vigilante and the vanlifer

David Matthews / December 04, 2017
David Matthews

Mobile home

We all remember the classic Saturday Night Live skit where Chris Farley played a motivational speaker who warned teenage slackers to get back on the right track before they wound up like him: 35 years old, thrice divorced and living in a van down by the river.

While “living in a van down by the river” came to represent utter failure for Gen-Xers, some of today’s Millennials actually see it as an aspirational lifestyle choice.

Take Foster Huntington, a 20-something, lushly bearded hipster photographer who wrote a book called “Van Life: Your Home on the Road,” which celebrates and romanticizes living in a vehicle.

Huntington’s no hobo. He was an up-and-comer in the New York fashion industry when he chose to quit his job in 2011 so that he could move into a trendy retro van.

In his book he interviews other young van dwellers who are “taking a break from conventional life” in order to “explore nature at their own pace and live a debt-free lifestyle.”

While this nomadic subculture has existed since the ‘60s, it wasn’t until Huntington popularized the hashtag #vanlife on social media that it began to coalesce into a community. On Instagram alone there are now over 2.1 million #vanlife posts. 

Of course, gas and food aren’t going to pay for themselves, so many vanlifers fund their lifestyle with freelance jobs they can work remotely in fields like graphic design, web development and photography. Some look for seasonal jobs where they can work intensely for a few months and then live off the proceeds the rest of the year. Others try to sell handmade crafts, find odd jobs online or even participate in paid medical studies.

But despite the challenges, Huntington and his #vanlife community believe that “living in a van down by the river” is the new American dream.

Lost and found

Floyd Hall, a 52-year-old, self-described “hippie biker rocker,” may not have his own hashtag, but he’s just as adept at using social media to improve people’s lives.

Hall lives in Anchorage, Alaska, where theft is on the rise because the overworked police department doesn’t have the time or resources to recover most stolen property.

Enter the A-Team. No, not the one with Mr. T from the 1980s. (“Shut up, fool!”) This is the Anchorage-Team, a crew of locals led by Hall who met on Facebook and use social media to identify stolen vehicles that need to be found.

When they locate a vehicle, the A-Team runs the license plates online, calls the police and then waits with the vehicle until officers arrive.

Unfortunately, Hall’s vigilante justice put him on the wrong side of the law in August when he was charged with reckless driving in what police called a high-speed chase of a stolen truck that ended in shots fired at Hall’s car.

This brush with the law has only increased Hall’s fan base. A dozen or so strangers who each had vehicles recovered by Hall turned up for his first court appearance, some even dressed in black “Let Floyd Go!” t-shirts.

Sour note

A Montreal man is singing the blues after receiving a fine for belting out one his favorite songs behind the wheel.

Taoufik Moalla was driving to the grocery store this fall, cheerfully singing along to the 1990 dance hit “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C+C Music Factory, when he heard a police siren behind his vehicle.

At first Moalla assumed the police car wanted to pass him to attend to an urgent matter, but then the patrol car’s loudspeaker instructed him to pull over.

If that wasn’t strange enough, four officers then approached his car and thoroughly checked the interior before asking Moalla if he had been screaming. 

No, he explained, he was just singing. Afterall, the song clearly demands that you “let the music take control/let the rhythm move you.”

After checking Moalla’s license and registration, officers returned with a $149 ticket for screaming in public. It turns out that the city of Montreal has a bylaw prohibiting “causing disorder by screaming,” that can result in a fine ranging from $50 to $1,000 for a first infraction and up to $2,000 for subsequent offences.

Moalla is planning to contest the ticket in court, but he told CTV News that he won’t be calling his wife as a witness. “She told me, if it was for singing, I’d have given you a ticket for $300,” he said.

About the Author

Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.

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