Wal-Mart and the Drug Culture

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In January of 2016, I wrote about seeing a t-shirt decorated with Grateful Dead dancing bears in a Wal-Mart in a small Southwestern desert town. (Read that post here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/01/08/what-a-long-strange-shopping-trip-its-been/.) I thought it was a strange and maybe one-time experience, but now it seems Wal-Mart is in the drug culture business.

I saw another Grateful Dead t-shirt in a larger, urban Wal-Mart late in 2016. This shirt had a red, white, and blue (on grey) color scheme; long sleeves; and roses and a Stealie on the front. You’re killing me, Wal-Mart, I posted on Facebook, along with a photo of the shirt. I wanted the shirt, but it was made for a smaller person, or at least one with a body shape different from mine. Besides, it wasn’t 100% cotton, and polyester makes my armpits stink. The shirt wasn’t for me.

But what did it mean that the shirt was for sale in a Wal-Mart? I’d thought maybe the first Dead shirt I saw was an anomaly, maybe the store’s buyer was an old hippie. But now it was starting to seem maybe Wal-Mart was in the Grateful Dead business.

I found myself back in the town where I’d seen the dancing bear shirt. I found myself back in the Wal-Mart. I found myself back in the men’s clothing department, back in front of the t-shirt display. This time there were no Grateful Dead t-shirts to be had, but that didn’t mean Wal-Mart had walked away from the drug culture. Oh no. Wal-Mart hadn’t walked away from the drug culture. Wal-Mart had, in fact, expanded its connection with the drug culture.

The first drug-themed shirt I saw featured a spiral of colorful, happy, laughing anthropomorphized mushrooms. WHAT!?! I’m not sure I can think of anything that says drug culture quite as clearly as colorful, happy, laughing, anthropomorphized mushrooms. I think even my mother (the picture of innocence, only drank alcohol to excess once, never took a street drug in her life) would know those mushrooms had something to do with drugs.

But if the mushrooms left any doubt in anyone’s mind, the shirt immediately below surely dispelled any confusion. It was decorated with the red, yellow, and green of Rasta (the same Rasta famous for the use of marijuana) in a tie-dye-esque spiral, and across the chest was emblazoned the word TRIPPIN. What!?! TRIPPIN!?!

Does anyone not know that trippin’ means being high on drugs? Doesn’t even my mother know that? Or do I just know that and assume everyone else knows it too simply because I am part of the drug culture?

To be fair, I looked up trippin’ on the Urban Dictionary website (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=trippin) and found as many references to overreacting and being crazy as to being under the influence of psychotropic substances. Maybe my mother and others of her ilk could make a case that the shirt is merely referencing blowing a situation out of proportion.

But, but, but THEN I saw the Cheech & Chong t-shirt on the bottom shelf. Cheech & Chong? Do any two men in the history of the world say drug culture more loudly and more clearly than Cheech & Chong?

For anyone who doesn’t recognize the faces of the men riding the bear (riding the bear?), the shirt is conveniently labeled CHEECH and CHONG. And if anyone needs just a few more drug culture references, there’s the green, yellow, and red Rasta spiral again.

I’m not all that upset about Wal-Mart profiting from the drug culture. I’m accustomed to Wal-Mart profitting. Wal-Mart profits from everything it can get it’s (metaphoric) corporate hands on. Besides, not every stoner can afford head shop prices. Isn’t it high time (giggle) for stoners to be able to get druggie t-shirts at affordable prices?

Mostly I’m just surprised. Doesn’t Wal-Mart present itself as a bastion of wholesome American-ness? How is Wal-Mart getting away with selling such unwholesome, drug culture promoting items? Why aren’t the store’s upstanding conservative Christian clients protesting such goods? Could those customers possibly not know what those shirts are all about?

I know what the shirts are about, and they amuse me whenever I see them, especially when I stumble into the store first thing in the morning.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

 

 

 

I Can’t Tell You Why*

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You can ask me about the giant suit of armor standing next to the Dude Motel & Apartments sign on the main drag in Truth or Consequences, NM, but I have no answers for you.

When I left Truth or Consequences in late December of 2015, I can assure you, there was no giant suit of armor in front of the Dude Motel. When I returned in late January of 2017, there it was. I don’t know who, what, when, or why.

The where is pretty obvious (608 N Broadway Street) as a thin security cord keeps the armor tethered to the Dude Motel sign. Is that to keep the wind from blowing it away? The Man asked me. Probably to keep hoodlums from stealing it, I replied. On second thought, it would probably take a whole gang of hoodlums to steal the thing, and they’d probably need a truck to transport it. Also, where would thieves store the armor without the whole town seeing it and figuring out who’d committed the (probably much talked about) crime? Better for hoodlums to leave it where it stands, unless they’re going to cut it up immediately and sell it for scrap.

I did some searching on Google and found no information about the suit of armor. There’s no mentionit online, at least as far as I could see. Not a peep. I put a call out to my T or C informants, but none of them had any particulars to offer. One said rooms at the Dude are being rented through Airbnb. A couple of my local connections suggested I go down to the Dude and speak to the manager. If I were an investigative reporter, I might go down there and investigate. However, I’m a mostly lazy blogger, so I’ll allow the armor to remain a mystery.

*With thanks to the Eagles for the title

I took all of the photos in this post

 

 

Fruit Squish ‘Ems!

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Sure, I accept food from food banks. I live my life below the poverty level, so I supplement my diet by frequenting food pantries when I can.

One of the services offered by the Isaiah 58 Project in Quartzsite, AZ is a free bag of food once a week. I partook of their offerings twice while I was in the town last January.

While getting free food is always awesome, what I like best is getting delicious free food I normally wouldn’t buy. I was pretty excited to find Fruit Squish ‘Ems! in my food bag. I have to admit, I’d never even heard of Fruit Squish ‘Ems! but what could be bad about a squeezable fruit pouch?

I’m not a stickler for expiration dates. Usually I don’t even check. Those dates are typically “best by” dates anyway. Most processed and packaged food is so full of preservatives, it would take a LONG time to go bad. Heck, I even buy “expired” food, as long as it’s deeply discounted.

I’m not sure why I even looked for an expiration date. Maybe I did it because I’d been shopping at one of Quartzsite’s temporary scratch-and-dent grocery stores and had gotten in the habit of making sure items I wanted to buy weren’t too old. Maybe my guardian angel told me to do it. In any case, I did look for a date and found it: June 2014. I received the Squish ‘Ems! in January 2017, meaning their “best buy” date had come and gone over two and a half years before.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that date made me a little nervous.

Sure, there was a time when the date wouldn’t have even made me blink, but I’m older now, and a little wiser, I hope.

My sibling has a Mormon friend. The Mormon friend is into food storage. (Learn more about Mormons and food storage here: https://jozhaus.wordpress.com/food-storage/.)  The friend told my sibling that when it comes to wet and dry food, it’s much easier to tell if dry food has gone bad. The wetness of the Fruit Squish ‘Ems! had me a little worried.

(While writing this post, I did a Google search on wet vs. dry food going bad. I found nothing to indicate the Mormon friend is correct. I did, however, find an informative article about food spoilage on the Business Insider website [http://www.businessinsider.com/expiration-dates-are-bogus-heres-how-to-tell-if-food-has-gone-bad-2016-7]. The article by is called “Expiration dates are bogus — here’s the best way to tell if a food’s gone bad” and covers bread, eggs, fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, and more.)

I wondered if maybe I was just being a wimp. Was squished fruit that had “expired” over two years ago likely to be spoiled? Would it really be “bad,” or just not “best”? Might it make me sick?

I decided to ask for the opinion of my soon-to-be-traveling companion, the man I’d been spending a lot of time with. He’s been a traveler and dumpster diver for the better part of his 46 years. I knew he’d eaten food in a variety of expired and less-than-best states. If he said he thought it would be alright, I’d quit worrying and eat the stuff.

I showed him the “best by” date on the package. I asked him what he thought. He immediately gave me a resounding NO! We did not need to eat that stuff, he told me. I was relieved. He’d validated my fears. If he thought eating the fruit was a bad idea, it was easy for me to go along with him.

I don’t blame the food bank for giving such wildly out-of-date food. I’m sure the pantry gets a lot of donations, and in the haste to get the food to the people, “best by” dates are sometimes overlooked.

I don’t even blame the folks who donated the out-of-date Fruit Squish ‘Ems! They were only trying to help.

I don’t feel the need to blame anyone, but I’m glad I took it upon myself to check the date. Our trip could have been decidedly awful had we sucked down bad Squish ‘Ems!

I took the photos in this post.

The Ten Best Things About Taos, NM

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The town of Taos is a rather small place, but there’s so much to see and do throughout the county. I really fell in love with New Mexico as I explored Taos County, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Today I’ll share my favorite things about the Taos area.

The Ten Best Things About Taos

#1 I love the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge! At somewhere between 565 and 680 feet above the Rio Grande Gorge, the bridge is high. In 1966 the American Institute of Steel Construction awarded the bridge “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the “Long Span” category. (Read more about the Gorge Bridge here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/03/25/rio-grande-gorge-bridge/.)

#2 A community of vendors sells on the side of the highway just off the west end of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. At various times since 2012, I’ve been a vendor there. I sell hemp jewelry and warm, colorful yarn hats that I make with my own two hands, as well as shiny rocks. (I can’t take credit for the shiny rocks; Mother Nature does all that work.) The vendors at the bridge are like an extended family in many ways; sometimes we argue and get mad at each other, but overall, there is a lot of love and generosity flowing among us.

#3 At almost 7,000 feet, Taos is cooler in the summer than a lot of other places. The

relative humidity typically ranges from 17% (dry) to 88% (very humid) over the course of the year (https://weatherspark.com/averages/31627/Taos-New-Mexico-United-States),

which helps too. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to drop 30 degrees overnight, even in the summer, at least giving folks respite from the heat of the day. If day time heat gets too bad, I drive fifteen or so miles to the Rio Hondo, sit among tall pine trees, and put my feet in the icy snowmelt river water.

#4 Someone has added UFOs to many of the the cow crossing signs in Taos County! Sometimes the Department of Transportation removes the stickers or puts up new signs, but the UFOs always seem to reappear.

#5 I’ve never encountered a goathead in Taos County. I’d never even heard of a goathead until I traveled to Sierra County in southern New Mexico. If you’ve never heard of a goathead, here’s a description from http://www.sdc.org/fattire/goatheads.html:

A mature goathead is a solid lump of wood a quarter inch or more in diameter, with several very hard, very sharp, quarter inch spikes arrayed around it…Goatheads are basically tetrahedral in shape, meaning that–no matter how they fall to the ground, no matter how they get kicked around–they will always have a spike pointing straight up…

As you may have guessed, if a goathead goes into a foot, it HURTS! They are a nuisance at best and a REAL PAIN at worst. Oh, how glad I am to be away from them when I leave Truth or Consequences and return to the Taos area.

#6 Taos (and especially the Gorge Bridge area) is known for its sunsets. Unfortunately, the camera on my phone does no justice to a Taos sunset, but believe me when I say I’ve seen some gorgeous ones.

#7 I’m also seen fantastic rainbows in the rural parts of the county. During my first summer and fall in the area, I saw more rainbows than I had seen in the previous forty years of my life.  Some of those rainbows were absolutely vivid too! One afternoon I saw a rainbow so bright, I imagined someone had given a second grader a box of crayons and instructed the kid the draw a rainbow across the sky.

#8 There are natural, free, clothing-optional hot springs on public land in Taos county. My favorite is Blackrock Hot Spring near the John Dunn Bridge, but there’s also Namby (also known as Stagecoach) Hot Spring. I’ve never been to Namby, but you can read about my experiences at Blackrock here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/25/john-dunn-bridge/. I’ve heard rumors of other hot and warm springs, so I may have new Taos County explorations ahead of me.

#9 The mountains around the town of Taos are fantastic! I grew up in the flatlands, and I didn’t even know I was missing the mountains, but now that I’ve met them, I love them! I especially enjoy the mountains when there’s a little snow on the top, but I could look at them all day, any day of the year.

#10 Most people around Taos don’t think it’s too strange when they hear someone is living in his or her van or car or an old school bus or even just camping out in the sage. Folks in Taos have seen a lot of people living in a lot of different ways and have maybe even lived in some unconventional housing themselves. There’s not a lot of judgment placed on people getting by without electricity or running water or even a permanent place to call home.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Any questions about the town of Taos or Taos County can be left in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ten Best Things about Truth or Consequences, NM

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The New Mexico towns I’ve spent the most time in are Taos and Truth or Consequences. Each is special in its own way to me. In my next two posts, I’ll share my ten favorite things about each town. Since I was in Truth or Consequences when I wrote this post, I’ll start there.

The Ten Best Things About Truth or Consequences

#1 My favorite thing in T or C (as the locals call the town) are the historic bathhouses with hot mineral water for soaking. Especially when it’s cold out, I love to soak in that hot, hot water. (Read more about the Truth or Consequences bath houses here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/05/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/06/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs-my-experiences/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/08/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs-my-experiences-part-2/.)

#2 The town has a really cool name. Originally the town was called Hot Springs, NM, but in 1950, it became Truth or Consequences to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the radio program of the same name. (Read more about the name change here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/04/truth-or-consequences-nm/.) I appreciate the reminder to tell the truth or face the consequences.

#3 T or C is warm (or at least warmish) in the winter. When Northern New Mexico is too cold for me, I head south to this town in the Chihuahua Desert. According to https://weatherspark.com/averages/31751/Truth-or-Consequences-New-Mexico-United-States,

The cold season lasts from November 22 to February 14 with an average daily high temperature below 59°F. The coldest day of the year is December 25, with an average low of 28°F and high of 50°F.

#4 Miner’s Claim (318 N Broadway Street) is one of the best rock shops I’ve ever visited. The store is crammed packed with gems, minerals, beads, incense, jewelry, knickknacks, and shiny rocks. The guy behind the counter owns the store, and he’s friendly and knowledgeable. While he does stock high-end items, his prices are fair, and there’s plenty in the store for folks on a limited budget.

The turtle that gives Turtleback Mountain its name.

#5 There’s a turtle reclining on one of the mountains overlooking the town! I love geological formations that look like animals!  (To read more about Turtleback Mountain, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/25/another-geologic-formation-that-looks-like-an-animal/.)

The sculpture Joy, by R. William Winkler with one of the Pelican Spa buildings in the background.

#6 Truth or Consequences is an art town, and I don’t just mean the work on display in galleries. The town boasts lots of great art on public walls and in front of businesses. From murals to sculptures, there’s lots of cool art to see while walking around T or C. (Read more about the art in T or C here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/10/art-in-truth-or-consequences/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/12/more-art-in-truth-or-consequences/.)

#7 The town is so into art, it has an Art Hop on the second Saturday of each month. (https://www.facebook.com/Truth-or-Consequences-Art-Hop-2nd-Saturday-of-every-month-6-9pm-188812578899/) The Art Hop is a great excuse to meet up with friends and see what’s new in the galleries. (For a list of art galleries and shops in Truth or Consequences, go here: https://www.sierracountynewmexico.info/shopping/art/.)

#8 The plants are cool in T or C. There are more cacti here than in the Taos area, and the ornamental rosemary grows in huge bushes. I like to break a small branch of rosemary off a bush and tuck it behind my ear for a smell more delicious than any perfume. The last time The Man and I left T or C, we cut several large pieces of rosemary from a plant in front of a gas station and arranged it on the dashboard for a great smelling van.

The Rio Grande as seen from Rotary Park.

#9 Folks can get up close and personal with the Rio Grande in Truth or Consequences. The river runs right through town. It’s accessible from Ralph Edwards Park, as well as Rotary Park. People fish in the river from Rotary Park and south of it too. If a person wanted to, s/he could wade right into the Rio Grande in T or C.

A panoramic view of Elephant Butte Lake from the campground in the state park.

#10 If the Rio Grande isn’t enough water for a desert dweller, T or C is less than ten miles from the 40,000 acre Elephant Butte Lake State Park. According to https://www.sierracountynewmexico.info/attractions/elephant-butte-lake-map/, Elephant Butte Lake is New Mexico’s largest body of water. The lake offers miles of trails, two marinas, sandy beaches, fishing, boating,  and a campground.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Any questions about Truth or Consequences can be left in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

More Kindness

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In the late 90s, when I was in my late 20s, I worked the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

For folks who never heard of it, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Womyn%27s_Music_Festival) says,

The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival…was an international feminist music festival held every August from 1976 to 2015 in Oceana County, Michigan, USA, near Hart Township, in a small wooded area known as “The Land.” The event was completely built, staffed, run and attended by women. The 40th Festival, in August 2015, was the last one.[2]

Several of my lady friends had worked at the festival, some for multiple years. After hearing their stories of music and empowered women, I decided I wanted to work there too. I applied for a short crew position and was given a spot on the Disabled Access Resource Team (DART).

Some of my experiences at the festival were wonderful. Three times a day, I lined up in the workers’ dining area and received a plate of delicious food. I became friends with many delightful women and engaged in hours of stimulating conversation. I attended a workshop on bisexuality and found I wasn’t the only bisexual woman among the thousands of lesbians. I also listened to incredible music.

All these years later, I only remember one of the performances I witnessed that August in Michigan. Her name was Toshi Reagon. She was a woman of color in her mid-30s, and she sang and played her acoustic guitar. I liked the way she sounded.

I ended up with her CD Kindness. I can’t remember if I  bought it at the festival or if I ordered it later from the Ladyslipper catalog. (Read more about Ladyslipper’s support of women’s music here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/03/cold-rain-and-snow/ or on the Ladyslipper website: https://www.ladyslipper.org/.) I do remember listening to that CD over and over and over again.

One of my favorite songs on the CD is called “Kindness.” To this day, I love to hear Toshi sing

If you are down and troubled

and you have not got a dime

you can come over to my house

and this is what you will find

there ain’t much to go around

but I will give you my hand

if you are down and troubled

and you have not got ten cents

because I believe in kindness

I believe in sweetness

I believe in peace and love

that is all I’ve been thinking of

Every since I titled my last blog post “Kindness,” I’ve been thinking of Toshi Reagon and singing her song of the same name. If you believe in kindness, sweetness, peace, and love, take four minutes and twenty seconds and have a listen to this wonderful song.

Kindness

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The man and the little girl were walking past the tables of goods set along the side of the highway. I don’t know if any of the other vendors noticed them, but I heard the man say to the girl, We could spend all our money buying something from every table.

The man was probably in his 30s, bearded, rugged and outdoorsy. The girl was six or maybe seven, slender and pale, with longish, straight hair. They didn’t look like hippies or travelers or a family in any way down on its luck. They just seemed like normal people, a dad trying to teach his daughter the limited nature of money compared to the limitless number of desirable items available for purchase.

The girl was drawn to the jewelry on Poppy’s table. She went right up to look at the bracelets and necklaces and rings laid out in black velvet boxes. Her father followed close behind her.

Poppy is a native woman in her late 50s. She is a good friend to me, always quick with a smile, a kind word of encouragement, rocks for my table, supplies for my crafts, or a snack when she has extra food. She is a talented, prolific jewelry maker who supports an extended family (children, grandchildren, brothers, sister, father) by selling her wares.

The man asked his little daughter if she wanted to pick out something for her mother. Her mother’s in the hospital, I heard him explain to Poppy.

Pick out a bracelet for your mom, Poppy immediately said to the little girl. Pick out a bracelet your mom would like, she said, and I’ll give it to you so you can give it to her. Poppy showed the girl which bracelets she could choose from.

As the girl weighed her options, I heard Poppy tell her, My mommy was my best friend! She was sick for a long time, and I took care of her. She had a bad disease, and she fought it for a long time, but now she’s up in Heaven. At least three more times, she told the girl, My mommy was my best friend!

The girl chose a bracelet and Poppy put it in a little plastic bag for her. I’m going to pray for your mom, Poppy told the girl.

She could die, I barely heard the child say softly to Poppy.

Your mom is going to be ok! I heard Poppy tell the girl with complete conviction. I’m going to pray for her!

I glanced over and saw the man looking at Poppy with wonder and gratitude. Thank you. Thank you so much, he kept repeating to her. I’m sure it’s not every day he meets a craftsperson willing to give away her wares so a little girl can make her sick mamma happy.

Of course, the interaction was about something more important than a craftsperson giving away a $5 bracelet. The interaction was really about a stranger affirming the special connection between a mother and a daughter, a stranger comforting a little girl by reassuring her that her mother would get better.

When I glanced over again, the little girl was on Poppy’s side of the table, standing next to the chair where Poppy sat. The woman and the child were hugging, the girl’s pale little cheek pressed against Poppy’s dark round one.

I witnessed the love passing between Poppy and the child, and I was blessed by the reminder of the power of kindness.