Life Drain? Money Drain? Or Both?

I ought to have learned this lesson from my The-Great-Depression surviving maternal grandparents; or, from my WWII surviving paternal grandparents, who managed to immigrate penniless to the former “Land of the Free” with 6 kids; to Ellis Island, in 1952. Greyhound Bus cross country to their sponsored settlement in Reno, Nevada. Five of them still live, including my dad. He was 14 when he got to America.

If not them, then I ought to have learned this crucial lesson from my maternal great grandmother, who had my grandmother at the age of 15 in 1919—after she ran away from home. Later, she had a son who went off to a great war in the Pacific as a navy enlisted man. I have the ironwood busts he acquired in Indonesia, to the left in the photo, to show for it. The busts to the right—slightly less weighty but still dense & heavy—as well as the centerpiece—I got myself in Penang, Malaysia, in 1988.

photo 2

Sometimes, I impose wife swapping.

photo 1 1

Grandnana raised two kids as a single mom during the Depression. Maxine (she had too many last names in her life for me to assign a specific one), my great grandmother, lived until I was 28 and was of sound mind until I was about 25. In my earliest youth, she was literally my favorite person in the world, and I think my mom had the wisdom to want it that way. Every trip from Reno, over Donner Pass, to see Grandnana at the San Joaquin River Club rural development south of Tracy, CA, was like a trip to a theme park (It was far greater in the 1960s than it is now: it’s a dump now).

It was a great big deal to me.

The hardships she faced in her life and overcame… Wow. That would include a head-on collision in the mid-60s, when she was 65, on the 2-lane road up to Tracy at night, in her big Dodge sedan. Nobody wearing seat belts. She lived, though she spent 6 months in a body cast in a convalescent home but years later, in her 70s, took an international, month-long trip to The Holly Land—now the Middle East Conflicted Region, in perpetuity. The six people in the VW—including an infant and a dog—all perished. They crossed the line, not her.

On my mother’s side, they always tended to know real assets from fluff. Go through the garages, and they’re filled with forged and machined tools—of personal capital value. They bought used cars, usually. Paid cash, usually. They had very little debt. The failure of State, i.e., the Depression (pawned off on “Capitalism”), motivated this. Unfortunately, they later all fell victim to the regurgitate scam: Fucking Franklin fucking Delano fucking Roosevelt. Successful scam, though. Still going strong. Snake oil that has the magical power to steal from other people to finance your values is strong medicine.

My grandfather owned a number of undeveloped properties and a few rental houses he and his brothers built. He owned all of them outright and he’d come to California in the 30s or 40s as a poor Idaho Mormon from Malad, ID, the oldest of about 13 kids. Over the decades, he financed all of his siblings to come out to California. Paid for their weddings too. He was no magnate of capitalism. He was an artist. A deer hunting, bird hunting, fly tying, fisherman artist. But his artistic, hand painted signs in and outside of all the Reno casinos in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, are what all the cheep plexiglass you see now, replace.

Place your bets!

…I grew up at 4040 W. 4th St. in Reno, NV, now 4040 Goodsell Ln. You can Google Earth or map it. Check the satellite view. What’s notable now is that though the long greenbelt to the north, along the Truckee River that was our playground looks the same, the general housing landscape has changed from solidly rural to quasi-suburban. That house to the right of 4040 was where the classic river house my artist grandfather, Clarence Goodsell, built, stood for decades…now replaced by a Billionaire’s monstrosity encompassing even the large lot that stood between our two places and where, as a kid going to nana’s place in the dark, I had to run faster than the assuredly evil monsters behind me.

Monsters are evil and they want to eat your fresh flesh. That’s the point. Even they understand glycogen depletion.

…The last two weeks I’ve been doing exactly what I told you I’d do. Friday, about noon, I left the cabin, drove to San Jose, got stuck in debilitating, life-draining traffic at 2PM in San Jose.

I told Beatrice last night:

Understand me. If it was not for you and the doggies, I would never ever set foot in the South Bay, ever again. Ever. Eventually, I would take pride in never coming to this shit hole.

To me, the entire thing is 99% vampire, and I feel my blood being drained by the minute. There is simply no language created yet that would allow me to express my depth of loathing for the whole fiasco without just tossing off a few fucktard-esque epithets.

All I ever care to do is have a visit now and then to a dense, urban environment: San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, Paris. Yea, that’s it. My 4 favorite (left a ton off the list I have been to). There are a few I’d still like to see. Buenos Ares. Sao Paulo. London. Berlin. Kuala Lumpur. Santiago. Miami. Milan. Havana?

Otherwise, it’s rural and ruraler, for me.

Do you know what a pleasure it is to walk into the hardware store in Placerville, California, walk on 2×6 planks worn from over a hundred years of foot traffic, get any piece of obscure partage you might need—even if they only sell 2 units per year—vs. going to Home Depot, Lowes, or OSH (now owned by Lowes) and having only available what they sell a lot of?

Trickle Down Collectivism.

So what I sit here, wondering—having done most everything, including starting a company from a bedroom and doing millions per year with dozens of employees—is what I really wanted to do. What did that 20 years of life earn me? What did it cost me? I don’t know. Would I give up the experience? Maybe no, but only because I knew no alternative (confounding variables). What if, for instance, I had set off, again? I don’t know. I’m attempting to give hindsight, as a clue to foresight.

I’m not writing this post for voters over 30. You’re already lost, have to make your own way. I write this post for high shoolers and 20 somethings.

You do not have to do what everyone admonishes. You should go with your heart. Hopefully, I touched it, if just a bit. You have the essentials. That’s all I ever want to give. Beyond that, you think for yourself and you’re on your own.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. AS on August 25, 2014 at 13:32

    Thanks for this Richard. Long time lurker here.

    I just turned 26. Left a big east coast city and finance-world job at 23 to figure things out. My current situation is: decent savings, live with gf, and currently working in the environmental non-profit world. There are clear issues with this, but doing what I can to promote nature and “Green” solutions over stupid development feels good at the moment.

    At the same time I’ve started the checkout process. I haven’t bought veggies since May (big garden). We have chickens, goats, and a variety of fruit growing too. I recently bought a hunting rifle and am getting ready to go for deer this fall.

    However we are technically in a city of 40,000 (a few miles from the center). Subdivisions are popping up closer to the land we rent on which is a bit depressing.

    I struggle with whether to say fuck it and get further away and more self-reliant (the girlfriend may or may not buy into this) or to stick around and accumulate some more financial capital (while doing a job that may make a small difference).

    • Richard Nikoley on August 25, 2014 at 20:57

      Wait, you’re 26, living with a gf, presumably hot, and you’re worried?

      Shit Jesus. Eat and finger every night until exhaustion then tell her your plan, and make no “bones” about it.

      She’ll love to be by your side.

      But no matter what, have it your way. Women fall for less, but never respect more.

    • MeThinks on August 25, 2014 at 22:41

      Hey AS,

      You said that you’re looking to get “more self-reliant.” Typo. That should have read just “self reliant”, correct? You do, after all, work in the environmental non-profit world. Just thought I’d let you know, and point that out, so that no one would get confused. Thanks.

    • Dan on August 26, 2014 at 03:02

      Nothing to add that others haven’t already other than to say your mid 20’s and have it figured out, mid 30’s it took me, I was too busy trying to make it in the city before I figured it out.

      Grateful I figured it out when I did.

  2. Eugenia on August 25, 2014 at 16:29

    I live in Milpitas, a few miles away from you. Like you, I come from a rural place (Greek mountains to be exact, so the change was even bigger for me). I personally hate big cities. I want my vegetable garden, my domestic animals, my space. I dream of going back, fix my parent’s old home in the mountains, and live a permaculture life.

    However, I have to ask myself what I want the most. Do I want to live that life I just mentioned, or do I stay in the Bay Area? You see, the Bay Area has its perks to: it has my husband (who doesn’t really want to live a permaculture life, since he’s coming from an urban French background), and it has very open minded people (the exact opposite of the villagers I’d socialize with in Greece).

    So I need to make up my mind: do I want to live an ancestral life (which entails loneliness and no one interesting to talk to), or live at the most advanced place on Earth?

    So far, I have decided this: live the first 50 years advanced, and then go back to the roots. This way, I’ve done both, and I’d have served both civilization, and ultimately I’ll get your peace (my husband would be too old at that time to not follow me too, plus, he’d eventually want his peace too).

    At least this is how it is in my case. I’m 41 now btw.

  3. Regina on August 25, 2014 at 16:35

    Michael Pollan’s interview is a good metaphor for de-centralizing yourself. “The best thing that ever happened to microbes is this centralization of agriculture.”


  4. MeThinks on August 25, 2014 at 16:51

    Whenever I’ve turned on the news lately, I’ve been reminded of the tragedy that is America’s geographic complexion. I see rioting lumpen-proletariat angry over something they can’t even be certain of, and I think: why are THOSE people THERE? Why are the people who would wait until they were certain it was okay to riot, before they rioted, having their lives drained in traffic jams and higher-priced food? Or having to live in the middle of freaking nowhere – and suffer the cultural “blah” that is that – just to avoid it? If it weren’t for the welfare state, as well as the egalitarianism that made every factory worker and clerk thing that he deserved “a home in the country” just like the “Robber Barons” (only to end up having the cheapest imitation possible: a suburban home) …if it weren’t for those two things, cities would be wonderful, clean, safe, convenient-to-navigate “polises” just like they were intended to be (by our Greek and Roman-inspired forefathers). All of the ne’er do wells would be out in the country (and yes, the suburbs would still be part of the country), leaving the better people alone, having meaningful work growing our food (which means that they themselves live better lives, since agrarian existence is an outlet for all of that otherwise-criminal energy, as well as almost demands a nuclear family). No traffic, no mass-produced (but cheap and convenient) “frankenfoods”… just cities for CIVILIZED people, and cheap, but high-quality, food from the “sticks.”

  5. RC on August 26, 2014 at 00:07

    Left canada after uni for Japan. Made a ton of mula and spent 3 months of every year traveling the wonderfull sesspits of Asia. Felt pressure and got an MBA in UK… Came back to my senses after graduation and moved to Bergan to work in a fish market-living in a small red house overlooking the fijord- beautiful girlfriend- life was good. Came back to canada to live in my chalet and ski for a year. Sold chalet and moved to Singapore. Then back to Japan. No house or car only simple life with nice size investments that look after themselves. People think I’m a bum but then I speak 3 languages- highly educated blah blah… I could stay at Hilton but prefer bungalows– and experiences mean way more to me than stuff. Money is for freedom not stuff.

  6. Roelant on August 26, 2014 at 07:37

    Havana is nice, but pretty run down in a lot of places. Best Cuban food I ever had was in a small dive there though. Still have cars from the 1950’s running around

  7. gabkad on August 26, 2014 at 18:29

    I get it, Richard. Can’t say as I blame you. The peace of not being in the hubbub of humanity is crucial for mental health. We need to create a place of calm for ourselves, however we do it. I can never understand people who are all the time going for intense distraction of mind. Are they afraid of silence? Are they afraid of what the mind will throw up? I think with all this technology, people constantly texting and ignoring their environment, it indicates a fear and unfamiliarity of themselves.

    Saying this, I can’t find a place elsewhere because I don’t want my cats eaten by coyotes. It would be good if they had a nice garden to hunt bugs and voles. But alas, we live on the 9th floor. Besides which using the stairs keeps my busted knee in good shape. I need lots of stairs (it’s easy and convenient and part of normal activity of life). There are pluses and minuses to everything. It’s quiet here. Marie can verify. The trees are as high as the 9th floor. I can access all the ingredients I need to make good food and nutrition is very important. Marie appeared to all intents and purposes to enjoy the meals. 🙂

    There you go. I’ve become too old for existential angst and I’m too shallow to wonder ‘what if’. It’s ‘just is’. I’d miss all the interesting people I interact with every day if I lived somewhere out in the country. I enjoy my solitude as well. This arrangement gives me both.

    There’s lots of things I do not like around here. And there’s lots I do like. Some days the good outweighs the bad. Some days it doesn’t. That’s life.

  8. William on August 26, 2014 at 19:59

    I sold my California properties in Alamo, Berkeley, Martinez, Walnut Creek, Concord, and Ukiah back in the 90’s in order to make my exodus from the bay area to Oregon. I never looked back! Now, I’m about to continue northbound to Washington where no income tax, compared to Oregon’s 10% income tax is more favorable. Hell, I’ll have more freedoms, regardless of what the Mercatus Center’s freedom index tells us.

  9. Pauline on August 27, 2014 at 02:17

    I think whatever path you choose you look back, there are regrets for the path you didn’t choose. We just choose different sufferings, they are there whatever choice we make. The cards just hand out differently each play. But to play the game, to get lucky and unlucky, to roll the dice, to live – this is the true artists way. The stories come out of the loss, the adventures, the trials, the mishaps, the unknowns…whichever way we live and how there are stories and this is the richness of life. I find living in the northern hemisphere that the tales are similar to the southern, the climate is different but the egos and the histrionics are the same. Tribes fighting tribes, only now it is all drip fed through the media, minute dose at a time. Civilisation has made us who we are. We can now can diagnose our illnesses more rapidly but the cure is still slow and meditative. Finding our own way on the paths not taken, this is the old heart crying for new ways of seeing.

    • gabkad on August 27, 2014 at 05:07

      Pauline, regrets are a waste of energy. We all make decisions and choices for reasons. Looking back we can see perhaps that our trajectories could have been different, maybe somehow better. But we made those decisions on information available at the time and 20:20 hindsight is a fool’s game.

      I just live. I’m not interested in rehashing the past because ‘what if’. My life is an ‘is’. Living in the past or living too much in the future means not living in the ‘now. Forward planning is not a bad thing but getting too attached to all the details means for disappointment. Shit happens and the most important thing is to be flexible about whatever it is we want for ourselves. Roll with the punches, so to speak. Adapt.

      I think that is a big part of Richard’s message. His ancestors found themselves in entirely new and different circumstances, but they adapted and by doing so, thrived. That is true survival instinct. Be aware, be conscious and make decisions accordingly in order to succeed.

  10. Pauline on August 27, 2014 at 06:51

    I think looking back is natural part of learning and growing. Regret is just the wish that you could have lived many other versions of your self. It is not negative just useful, maybe spurring you on to seek new ways of living that take courage. Because wherever you find yourself there you are but along the way you live and leave parts of yourself behind. This is the nature of love too, you love many in one life time and yet each is different and unique. Whether this relationship is one of parent, lover, friend, brother. To adapt and change does not mean you cannot miss the people and places you relinquish along the way. There is the innocence and wonder we experience when younger yet I would not want to let go of all the wisdom gained through experience.

    • gabkad on August 27, 2014 at 19:26

      Pauline, have you ever been a refugee? The old fashioned kind who couldn’t ever go home again? Perhaps your wishy washy ideas are based on lack of life experience? I don’t think you understand what it is to ‘re-invent’ the self out of necessity. There is no room or time to waste on all this sentimental rubbish. Live or die. Obviously you not only elevate this but can afford this for whatever it’s worth. So what is it worth? Aside from sitting around in a semi trance state enjoying the mental pictures and emotions, what is it worth?

      Hard scrabble living doesn’t have all this ‘innocence and wonder’. There is not time for that. Good thing too.

    • natty on August 28, 2014 at 13:33


      heard from somewhere/one recently; to regret is to have empathy. in a general sense, that is neither unhealthy nor wasteful.

      you seem to be describing specific depressed like states of mind or therapy like sessions, not regret.

  11. steve W on August 27, 2014 at 13:52

    Fuck man how come you won’t make the connection to immigration? San Jose was great 30 years ago.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 28, 2014 at 15:06

      “Asian language anarcho libertarian political philosophers”

      I actually know one personally.

      Yasuhiko Kimura.

      “East San Jose was a beautiful place two generations ago”

    • Richard Nikoley on August 28, 2014 at 11:42

      “Fuck man how come you won’t make the connection to immigration? San Jose was great 30 years ago.”

      I know. All of those Nevadans and Oregonians are driving me nuts.

    • steve W on August 28, 2014 at 13:29

      Such a strange phenomenon: The anarcho libertarian that denies ethnic/racial difference.

      There are no Asian language anarcho libertarian political philosophers. (bureaucrat/court governance in their blood)
      There are no African language anarcho libertarian political philosophers. (“big man” governance in their blood)
      There are no Spanish language anarcho libertarian political philosophers. (socialists to their core)
      It’s a wholly Anglo-sphere ethos. The Asians, Africans and Hispanics that have immigrated here have no interest in limited governance. None whatsoever.
      Drive through East San Jose Richard. Our welfare state future. East San Jose was a beautiful place two generations ago.

  12. Pauline on August 28, 2014 at 01:21

    The unexamined life is not worth living. I cannot make your judgements, not having lived any one else’s life but my own.

  13. Doug McGuff, MD on August 29, 2014 at 14:36


    When I was a kid, we had the EXACT same bust that is on the far right. My dad got it while stationed at Hickam AFB. Supposed to be a Polynesian king I think. I remember as a little kid, that the sight of the thing used to scare the shit out of me.

    I have always admired your ability to avoid the “sunk costs fallacy” as it relates to life decisions. I still like to read how you shut your company down in one fell swoop just to give the government your four word manifesto…”fuck you, I quit”.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 29, 2014 at 16:08


      I reserve the sunk costs fallacy for when a little inebriated, wondering what might have been on all sorts of levels, including women. It gives me writing ideas, which I email to myself from my iPad so I don’t forget.

      I have a life’s worth. I think I’m about ready to do my first short story, too.

      Anyway, here’s the post Doug’s talking about:

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