Happy Birthday, Weird Al


Today is the birthday of Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic.

To help folks separate the truth about Weird Al from the fiction, here’s a Diffuser.fm video:

To hear songs by Weird Al, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/03/05/national-grammar-day/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/10/23/happy-birthday-weird-al/.

More About the Man Who Died


On my last Saturday on the mountain, I was working at the parking lot when Mr. Jack, one of the sheriff’s department volunteers, pulled in. Mr. Jack is about eighty years old, has totally white hair, and likes to talk…a lot. I don’t exactly cultivate friendships with cops (even volunteer cops), but I try to stay on friendly terms with Mr. Jack.

We chatted for a few minutes about it being the end of the season before I asked him if he had heard anything else about the dead man I’d found in a pickup truck the week before. (Read about that experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/11/something-terrible/.) At first he said no, but then he said something, something, suicide.

I said something aloud, maybe oh, no! or maybe even damn!

Mr. Jack said, Oh, you didn’t know… I could tell he felt pretty bad about blurting the news out that way. Obviously, he thought I’d already heard.

He told me a note had been found in the truck. He didn’t say where. He didn’t tell me exactly what the note said, either (maybe he didn’t know), but whatever the note said, the sheriff’s department decided it meant the man had lit a charcoal fire in his tightly closed truck with the intent to kill himself. I suppose he succeeded, although I bet to his family, it felt like a failure.

Mr. Jack said the young man was only twenty-four.

I teared up. I couldn’t help it. I felt so sad for the young man and his family.

I’ve dealt with depression since I was a child. I’ve had suicidal thoughts at various times throughout my life. I know depression can be immobilizing. I know depression has kept me from achieving goals. I know times of suicidal thoughts are dark and scary times. So when I say I feel sad for the young man and his family, I don’t mean I feel sad in some abstract or theoretical way. I’ve felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, felt like I couldn’t go on. I’ve longed for oblivion. I don’t know what exactly this fellow was facing, but I have a pretty good idea of how he felt when he decided he just couldn’t make it through another day in this world.

To me, in most circumstances, folks who chooses suicide are not in their right mind. Barring terminal illness, I can’t see a mentally healthy person making such a choice. Many people have negative things to say about individuals who have ended their own lives. Because I’ve felt hopeless and useless and low myself, I have great compassion for people who’ve had suicidal thoughts, people who’ve attempted suicide, and people who’ve completed this desperate final task.

I keep thinking about IF I had crossed paths with the youmg man at some point before his death, would I have known he was in crisis? Would I have been able to say or do anything to help? Could I have stopped him from killing himself or at least helped him live one more day, maybe one day long enough to get over being suicidal? What could I have possibly done or said?

I wonder why I was the one who found the dead man. I know someone had to find him, and I was the logical person, since no one had been staying in that campground and I was the camp host on patrol. But was the Universe sending me a message? I know we humans tend to want to find meaning even where there is none, or maybe we simply overlay our own meaning where none was intended.

I’ve found a meaning in this experience. Whether the Universe sent the man to me to teach me this lesson, I don’t know. But if the Universe is saying something to me here, this is what I think it is: Don’t do that suicide shit, because someone is going to have to find you, and why would you wish that on anyone?

Point taken, Universe. Point taken.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline’s website (http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/#) says,

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, [as well as] prevention and crisis resources…

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

On the website, folks can click on the phone number in blue to Skype or on the word “CHAT” on the top left of the page to instant message with someone. I added the phone number to the contacts in my phone.




A Summer of Infinity Scarves


I know summer is no time for infinity scarves. Most people living in the Northern Hemisphere are not going to bundle up anytime

These are four scarves I made for some of my lady friends back at the Bridge.

These are four scarves I made for some of my lady friends back at the Bridge.

between June and September. However, summer is when I had to time to make scarves, so after initial hesitation when I wasn’t sure I’d remember how to do the last steps of the infinity scarf process (I remembered!) I went on what I can only call a yarn bender. I didn’t want to go to work. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to clean the van. I didn’t want to cook, although I did want to eat. Mostly I just wanted to listen to podcasts and make infinity scarves.

(Read about the first two infinity scarves I made this summer here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/08/26/two-new-infinity-scarves/.)

The yarn bender started when the Chile Lady sent me two skeins of yarn. The yarn was thick, the sort of yarn intended to be used with my round looms. (When using the thin yarn that’s  more readily available at thrift stores, I use two strands at a time. The thick yarn requires only one strand at a time.) One skein of yarn was a charcoal grey. The other was a deep red, nearly a burgundy.


Esmerelda is modeling the infinity scarf I made for Elsa.

I had missed Elsa’s birthday, so I decided to make her a scarf using the yarn the Chile Lady had sent. I decided instead of using alternating rows of colors, I would keep it simple and use the colors in two blocks. The thick yarn and the large blocks of color made the scarf-making go fast; I had the scarf ready in no time.

I don’t remember which scarf I made next. I just know I made scarves for Mariquita, Dawn, and Rose in quick succession. I remembered how Dawn had most liked the brightly colorful hats I’d had at the Bridge the last time I was there, so I made her a brightly colorful scarf. Mariquita is quiet and somewhat

Esmerelda is modeling the scarf I made for Rose, with a color scheme of rosy pinks and browns.

Esmerelda is modeling the scarf I made for Rose, with a color scheme of rosy pinks and browns.

reserved, so I made her a scarf with a more restrained color scheme of blues and seafoam greens. The color scheme for Rose’s scarf included rosy pinks and browns.

While I made infinity scarves, I listened to podcasts on my phone. One advantage to moving into the current decade where cell phones are concerned is that I can now put music and podcast episodes on my phone. While I made scarves, I listened to Risk, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Stuff You Should Know, and a new favorite Death, Sex, & Money.


Esmerelda is modeling the scarf I made for Mariquita.

I also did Pimsleur Spanish lessons while I made scarves. I’ve been doing Pimsleur Spanish lessons off and on (mostly off) for about two years, since Tea loaned me the Pimsleur CDs her friend burned for her. I put the lessons on my laptop before my disc drive jammed. Before I realized I could transfer the lessons from my laptop onto my phone, it was a big deal to take out my laptop everyday, do my thirty minute Spanish lesson, then quickly turn off the computer to save as much battery power as possible. The charge on the battery in my phone lasts a lot longer than the charge on my laptop battery, and the phone is a lot easier to charge using an inverter and the van’s battery, so having the lessons on my phone has made my Spanish studying much easier.

These four scarves are not the last I made. Oh no! I made five more scarves after these. But I’ll save those for another day.


Book Review: North of Ithaka


North of Ithaka: A Granddaughter Returns to Greece and Discovers Her Roots
This book tells the true story of Eleni Gage, a young American woman who spends almost a year in the Greek village where her father was born, overseeing the restoration of her ancestral home. The home had been abandoned for decades after communists used it as a headquarters and a jail in the late 1940s during the Greek civil war. Those same communists executed Gage’s grandmother for helping her children escape the village and for (allegedly) hiding treasure.

Despite these unhappy circumstances, Gage keeps this memoir fairly upbeat. This book is not a downer. It didn’t make me cry. It didn’t make me sad.

I did get a little tired of Gage’s self-doubt. There was more waffling here than in an Eggo factory. She wondered a lot if renovating the house was the right thing to do. Members of her dad’s family were upset by her decision to remodel the place of so much pain. But what were the neighbors thinking? Were they upset by her actions too? Of course, Gage never asked because she was afraid of the answer. I’m all for questioning motives and actions, but it just kept going on and on in every chapter. Am I doing the right thing? Am I upsetting people? Should I just quit? If Gage were truly concerned about the feelings of her fellow villagers, perhaps she should have actually discussed those feelings with them and explained her motivation. Instead, she did what she wanted to do without soliciting input, but tried to look good in the eyes of her readers by letting them know she really did (constantly) question whether or not she was doing the right thing.

I found two aspects of the book very strange.

#1 Gage got the idea to go to Greece and restore the ancestral home “the weekend after Thanksgiving 2001.” (For those who may have forgotten, that was less than three months after the September 11th attack on New York City.) At the time, Gage was living in New York City, yet there is not one single mention in this entire book about the September 11th attack. Gage does not mention how the attack influenced her decision to leave the U.S. She doesn’t mention how the aftermath of the attack made getting her paperwork in order or her actual travel more difficult. One could read this book and think the attack of NYC on September 11, 2001 never happened.

I lived in the Midwest at the time of the September 11th attack, and folks there couldn’t put the attack and related events out of mind for a long time. To New Yorkers, the attack was (understandably) a HUGE deal. It seems strange for a New Yorker to fail to even acknowledge the attack and related events in a book covering the time period from late 2001 through December 2002.

#2 Where’s the money coming from? Gage mentions (at least twice) that her father (the author Nicholas Gage) is paying for the renovation of the family home. Fair enough. But Eleni Gage quit her job in NYC to spend almost a year in a tiny Greek village where she never references a paying job. Who bought her plane ticket? Who’s paying for her rental car (and its fuel), her Greek cell phone, and the internet access on the new computer she bought in the city? Who’s paying for her to eat? Who’s paying the expenses for the several side trips she writes about? Is she living off her savings? Is she getting paid for free lance writing she’s doing about her time in Greece? Is she living off the advance she received on the deal for this book? When a twenty-seven-year-old woman spends a year abroad and doesn’t mention gainful employment, I think the reader deserves to know how such a thing is possible.

The parts of this book I enjoyed most were the ones where Gage explained the cultures of her region of Greece. Although I’m not religious myself, I enjoyed reading about the villagers’ Easter preparations. I liked reading about the “Gypsy” wedding. (Isn’t the proper term “Roma”? If so, someone should mention that to Gage.) I liked reading about festivals and dancing and name day celebrations.

Gage does a great job of weaving Greek history (ancient and more modern) in with her own experiences. I like having context for why people do what they do. Gage knows how to give that context.

The book ends with six recipes and a bibliography. A glossary of Greek terms would have been nice. (Greek words were defined in the text, but I certainly don’t remember every new word I encountered while reading this book. A glossary would have been a handy reference tool.)

All in all, I did enjoy reading this book, but I have no desire to read it again.

Self-Publishing Books Online


I recently announced I am planning to self-publish a collection of my work camping stories. (Read that post here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/09/in-which-i-decide-to-write-a-book/.)

In the post, I mentioned asking the Poet for all the information she had about self-publishing. She graciously sent me an informative email within a couple of hours.

In response to this information, one of my readers asked, Is there any chance that you could pass this on? I just recently heard about it, but don’t know much about the where and how-to. I would be grateful for any info.

I asked the Poet if I could share her information in a blog post, and she said, yeah for sure! 

The following is the information I received from the Poet, with names removed and only lightly edited. I hope this information helps other folks who aspire to self-publish.

The two main ones are CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com/) through Amazon and Lulu (https://www.lulu.com/).  I think they’re similar, but Lulu if you get on their mailing list sends lots of discount coupons/promotions for publishing through them.  I’ve received 30% off coupons from them a few times…

I have a good friend who uses CreateSpace to publish ebooks, mostly lesbian erotica.  I don’t know if you want to publish it ebook and paper book simultaneously?  I think you might need Microsoft word for that, but I’m not certain.

Also you need if you’re going to sell ebooks (or maybe paper books too) to link it directly to your bank account so you can get the funds you earn direct deposited, at least through CreateSpace.  That turned me off because I wanted to route things through PayPal, but when I was researching a few months ago, maybe half a year ago?, that wasn’t an option.

You have all these options–they try to sell you packages that include cover art options, editing, and other kinds of help.  Of course the more work you do yourself, the cheaper it is.

So you upload your text in the right format, you check and make sure everything’s okay, you do your cover.  You get an ISBN.  Then you pay them something.  They mail you a proof, which I think takes a little while.  Then you okay the proof and I think there’s a little time delay after you tell them the proof was okay before the book is actually available.

There are different packages where you get so many copies for yourself.  But the main appeal about print-on-demand is that you don’t have to buy a thousand copies of the book yourself and store them and sell them yourself–people order them directly through Amazon or Lulu or other ways.  You can do a package where they make your book available for booksellers to sell, like Barnes & Nobel can pick it up, for example.

My friend just wanted to get 30 books printed for him to sell and give away himself, not to sell print-on-demand or ebook, so he was able to do that and I guess he found the shipping to be expensive. But he got what he wanted.

I think this whole process takes a while so if you want it in time for Xmas probably other people are thinking the same thing so I’d hop to it.

I know more about CreateSpace than Lulu.  Most of the info I give you above is what I learned about CreateSpace.

I think one of the main ideas is that you self-publish and your book gets noticed so a regular publisher decides to pick it up.  Then you’re in a good position and will get an advance and some promotion maybe and the book will take off.

That’s about all I know.  And hopefully things haven’t changed much since I researched it.  Good luck!

Steller’s Jay


I can’t say I’m really into birds. I’m certainly not a birder. But after two seasons on the mountain, I have a deep appreciation for some of the feathered creatures I’ve encountered there.

Previously, I wrote about the pileated woodpecker I saw in the parking lot near the trail. (Read about the woodpecker here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/06/12/pileated-woodpecker/.) The pileated woodpecker was beautiful, and I am grateful to have seen it and shared a habitat with it.

Stellers Jay Photo

I did NOT take this photo of a Steller’s Jay. This image is from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Stellers_Jay/id.

The other bird species I enjoy on the mountain is the Steller’s jay. The first time I saw one, I wondered if I’d been dosed. I’d seen blue jays before, but this bird was iridescent, psychedelic, WOW! This blue jay was a brilliant blue unlike anything I’d seen before.

I wondered if something the bird ate way up in the mountains gave its feather that deepness of blue. (I knew flamingos are pink because of their diet, so I thought maybe blue jays in the mountains ate something special to maintain that vibrant blue.)

In time, I saw more of the jays of the vivid blue and learned they are called Steller’s jays.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steller’s_jay, the bird’s scientific name is Cyanocitta stelleri.

The All About Birds website (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Stellers_Jay/id) says,

A large, dark jay of evergreen forests in the mountainous West. Steller’s Jays are common in forest wildernesses but are also fixtures of campgrounds, parklands, and backyards..When patrolling the woods, Steller’s Jays stick to the high canopy, but you’ll hear their harsh, scolding calls if they’re nearby. Graceful and almost lazy in flight, they fly with long swoops on their broad, rounded wings.

Steller’s Jays are large songbirds with large heads, chunky bodies, rounded wings, and a long, full tail. The bill is long, straight, and powerful, with a slight hook. Steller’s Jays have a prominent triangular crest that often stands nearly straight up from their head.

At a distance, Steller’s Jays are very dark jays, lacking the white underparts of most other species. The head is charcoal black and the body is all blue (lightest, almost sparkling, on the wings). White markings above the eye are fairly inconspicuous.

Look for Steller’s Jays in evergreen forests of western North America, at elevations of 3,000-10,000 feet (lower along the Pacific coast).

"Pacific coast" form

Look at that BLUE! So vivid! I didn’t take this photo either. This image is also from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Stellers_Jay/id. This is a Steller’s jay of the “Pacific Coast” form.

Apparently, Steller’s jays vary in appearance depending on where they live. The aforementioned All About Birds website says,

Scientists have described 16 subspecies of the Steller’s Jay in North and Central America, showing varying combinations of black and blue on the crest, head, and body. The Queen Charlotte Islands off British Columbia are home to the largest and darkest race. In mainland North America, you can notice differences between darker Pacific forms, with blue streaks over the eye, and lighter Rocky Mountain forms with white streaks and a partial white eyering.

For a while, three Steller’s jays made their home in the trees of the parking lot. While waiting for cars to arrive, I’d sit in my chair and listen to birds chatter and fuss. I didn’t see them often, but their voices made their presence known. I thought of them as the Three Amigos, and I was always pleased to know they were in the area.

I think all jays are beautiful, but the jays of the lowlands literally pale next to the Steller’s jays of the mountains. I guess it’s obvious with which species my heart lies.



Leaving the Mountain


Today’s the day.

After twenty-one weeks on the mountain, today is the day I leave.

What I will miss:

Deep silence

A steady paycheck

A safe place to sleep at night

Having giant sequoias for neighbors img_6344

Laughing with my coworker

The opportunity to see Steller’s jays and pileated woodpeckers

My creek sanctuary

Trees upon which I can hang my hammock

What I won’t miss:

The smell of pit toilets

Cleaning the smelly pit toilets

Idiots (although I know I can encounter dumb folks anywhere)

Being required to be friendly when I want to be left alone

The twenty-five mile round trip to the post office

Intensely curvy mountain roads

Answering the same questions repeatedly

The plague of flies I’ve lived with most of the summer

Sap on my windshield

What I will be glad for:

Frequent hot showers

Cell phone service

Internet access

Easy communication with people I love

Access to ice that doesn’t involve a twenty-five mile round trip

Activities I am eagerly anticipating:

Reuniting with friends

Attending my first opera

Collaborating on my first mural

Self-publishing my first book

Visiting new places

Nolagirl says the trick to fighting off depression is to keep moving forward. Today I’m taking one step, two steps, three steps, four into the future.

Goodbye mountain. I hope to see you next year.


I took the photos in this post.