Hell, everybody wants free stuff. And, damn, you see a book called Free Stuff and you’re just absolutely, hyperventilatingly certain that you’re gonna flip that thing open and behold a step-by-step guide to skating by without dropping a penny. Jackpot! With the quarter found on the floor!
But sensitive-man-about-town Fhyre Phoenix has got more depth than that. His self-published manual, an eight-and-a-half-by-eleven office-paper affair in plastic black comb binding, is no crafty directive to leech off society. Quite the opposite: It’s a gentle — fatherly — nudge toward being a better citizen while nurturing yourself with costless or severely discounted treats as you travel that high road.
In other words, Free Stuff isn’t so much about all the free rides, eats, shows, dental care and pens to be scooped up in NoHum (although those are in there) as it is about taking a peek — no, a skull-wide-open gander — into Phoenix’s perpetually pondering brain. And because it is neatly arranged in alphabetical order — the book, not Phoenix’ brain — the overall effect is one of sheer, disconnected ramblings. Delicious. Maddening. Let’s take a look:
Page 19, top of the page: “ The Raven Project , 523 T St., Eureka, 443-7099, offers free clothing and shoes for youth ages 10-21 ...” Bottom of the page and most of page 20: “ Coffee Cost Comparison .” Phoenix has clearly done his research, because he’s listed the price of a cup o’ 12-oz joe at 21 NoHum bean-friendly establishments, everywhere from Cafe Mokka to Muddy’s to Heuer’s Cafe.
Page 26, near the top: “ Dance (also see: Exercise, Yoga) . For joy, social connection and good health. Enough said.” He lists a community dance jam with a sliding scale/nobody-turned-away pricing system and the Folklife Society’s gigs, to which you can “gain free entry by volunteering for one hour.”
Page 27 (after the listing for College of the Redwood’s low-cost dental care clinic), under “Department Stores,” is an entry for Mervyn’s 50- to 75-percent discount sales “every Wednesday.” That’s followed by “Depression Stoppers.”
Page 32-33: The Elders of the Hopi Nation Speak. (An uplifting poem.)
Page 42, top of the page: Food Stamps . Middle of page: Free Tibet .
Page 43: Fun : “Never underestimate the value of fun, intense fun and laughter.”
And so on. Phoenix covers everything: fuel efficiency (“Take un-needed stuff out of your car and truck!”; exercising in your car (“grip the steering wheel at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock...”); St. Joseph Community Resource Center’s free postal and message services; free mechanical chair massages at Living Styles Furniture Gallery (they’re gonna love that); legal assistance; nuclear weapons (that is, peace groups); free emergency access to police (9-1-1); free monthly potlucks (“call Wendy”); tax help; tea (“Both Moonrise Herbs ... and Humboldt Herbals ... offer one, small, free cup of hot herbal tea to customers”); Loleta cheese (free nibbles!); used mattresses; medical travel grants, and on and on.
Two of my favorite entries, back to back, are on page 73: “ Pens : Free pens are available at the front counter of many local businesses...” and “ Persons of Integrity .”
You’ll have to get the book to read what that means. Ah, but here’s a catch. Phoenix’s book is an admitted compilation of free and not-so-free stuff, of good deals and free advice. But one can’t help but wonder about the price of the book itself. It’s going for 12 bucks (check local bookstores; flag down Phoenix). What’s a poor gal to do?
Well, me, I liberated mine from a colleague’s mother, who bought it full-price and read it cover to cover in one night. It was worth the price.
— Heidi Walters