Monthly Archives: April 2016

Tires (A Cautionary Tale) Continued

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After crying for a couple of hours after arriving at my house sitting job, I calmed down a little. Actually, I calmed down after crying for a tires-maintenance-replace-georgetown-exxoncouple of hours, eating lunch, and communicating with my friend Mr. Prius through instant messaging and then an actual voice conversation. Mr. Prius helped me clarify my thoughts by asking questions and making suggestions, but never told me what he thought I should do.

The more I thought about the offer from the salesman at Discount Tire to give me a free tire if I bought three, the sketchier it seemed. I didn’t believe the tires I’d bought should be worn to the point of needing replacement after a year’s use.

As I told Mr. Prius, after the salesman saw the front tires, he acted surprised by how worn down they were. That’s when he told me I needed to get two new front tires too. I thought if the tires were wearing down faster than they should have been, it was Discount Tire’s responsibility to replace them. If the tires are supposed to last x number of miles and the tires were not going to last that long, I didn’t think that was my fault.

Once I was calm, I called the Discount Tire regional office. I explained the situation to the woman who answered the phone. She suggested I  talk to a store manager, but I said I wanted to talk to someone higher up. She said she would have a vice president call me back.

The VP called me back that afternoon. He was very nice to me, listened to me, and answered my questions. He said they could  give me $50 to $60 (depending on what replacement tires I bought) credit on each tire. That seemed like a better deal than getting one tire free, which is the “deal” the salesman was going to give me to “help me out.” Also, by giving me a credit on the prematurely worn tires, I felt as if Discount Tire were talking some responsibility, which made me feel better.

The next morning I paid a visit to the Discount Tire location closest to where I was house sitting. I talked to Larry, the manager. I felt good about what he told me.

First, despite what I understood the vice president to say, the manager said they could not give me a credit for the two tires damaged due to improper alignment. The manufacturer viewed that damage as due to my negligence and would not accept them as a return. While that decision didn’t make me happy, I understood it and thought it was fair. While I didn’t think it was my fault the tires were damaged (I didn’t even know the van was out of alignment and as soon as I did, I had it repaired as soon as possible), I could accept the damage to the tires as my responsibility.

The salesman I spoke to initially told me I needed bigger tires. The manager said it was not bigger tires I needed, but stronger tires. He said vans and big trucks are heavy and need really strong tires. Lesser tires simply wear out too fast.

The first four new tires I bought were a higher quality than what the manufacturer recommended for the van. When I went in to have the tires mounted, the recommended ones were out of stock, so they gave me a free upgrade to the next higher quality. But as far as I can remember, no one tried to tell me maybe I needed better tires. Of course, I would have probably just thought they were trying to upsell me and not bought the better quality tires anyway. Also, I was working with very little money then, so I don’t know if I would have been able to afford the better, more expensive tires.

Larry made two recommendations to me. He said Michelin tires are the best of the best. They were running about $109 per tire. He said second best, but still very good, are Yokohama tires. They were running about $10 less per tire than the Michelins. He told me he has Yokohamas on the Jeep his family uses for both driving on dirt roads and hauling around kids.

He also told me both companies were running rebate specials. He said Michelin would give a $70 rebate on the purchase of four tires, and Yokohama would give a $60 rebate on the purchase of four tires.

I had a really difficult time deciding which tires to buy. Was it woth $50 out the door to get Michelins? How much difference would having Michelins make? Would I be sorry if I bought Yokohamas in order to save a few bucks? I thought reading online reviews would help me make my decision, but my research only made making my decision more difficult. Plenty of people hate Yokohama tires, and plenty of people hate Michelin tires. What to do?

I’d decided to go with Michelin shortly before arriving for my installation appointment. However, when I told Larry I wanted the Michelins, he got a pained look on his face and said he didn’t have them in stock. He said he thought I’d decided on Yokohamas and had made sure he had those available for me. I’m not sure how he reached his conclusion, as I don’t recall a conversation when he said, so you want to go with the Yokohamas?  and I answered, yes, Yokohamas, please. As far as I was concerned, I’d only made a decision an hour before. But whatever. Larry offered to reschedule my appointment for Monday, at which time he’d have the Michelins, but I said no. I was ready to be done with the entire tire situations. The universe spoke, and the universe said Yokohama.

I got another surprise when it was time to pay. I told the worker running my debit card that I needed whatever I needed for the rebate. He said he thought the rebate hadn’t started yet. Larry was walking by, and when the worker asked him about the rebate, he said to give me an instant rebate. So the worker deducted $60 from the total, which was awesome.

This is the point in the post where I was going to give advice on buying tires. However, I realized the only advice I have about buying tires is to spend as much as you can afford to buy the best, strongest, tires you can get. Vans are heavy, especially when one is hauling around a bunch of stuff. I suspect when the manufacturer made their tire recommendations, the experts were thinking the van was going to be driven around town and/or on camping trips a few times a year. They were probably not thinking folks were going to be hauling around all the things people living in their vans are hauling around.

Invest in the best. I’ve been told the best are Michelin and Yokohama. Other people may have different opinions. That’s fine. But apparently, when it comes to tires, we get what we pay for.

 

 

Tires (A Cautionary Tale)

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In April 2015, I went to Discount Tire and bought four new tires for my van. I was so excited. I’d never had four new tires before. Heck, I’d never even had one new tire before. Any time I’d replaced a tire on any vehicle in the past, I’d bought a used one.

The four new tires cost around $400 out the door (which is tire sales speak for including installation, balancing, and tax). My host family paid for a warranty for each tire. The Discount Tire website (http://www.discounttire.com/dtcs/infoCertificate.do) says,

This warranty, called the Certificate for Repair, Refund or Replacement…cover[s] the tire problems that really frustrate people-road hazards and defects-from the moment they bought the tires to the final mile of legal tread depth (3/32″).

In October, I proudly took my four new tires in for their first rotation. My good mood was shattered when I was told the front tires were wearing unevenly because the van needed a front end alignment. When I took the van in for the alignment, I was further disappointed to find out the van needed $300+ dollars worth of work on the front end before it even made sense to do an alignment. I worked, worked, worked, saved my pennies, and within a week had enough money to pay for the repairs and the alignment.

Fast forward to April 2016. I stopped at a Wal-Mart and noticed a Discount Tire location across the street. I’d been meaning to find out if I were due for a rotation, so I decided to pull in. I thought if I did need a rotation, maybe the shop could take care of it right then and there.

I told the guy working the counter what was up. We walked out to my van to look at the tires. The salesman showed me the silver metal threads showing on the back passenger side tire. WHAT!?!?!?!?! I told him the tires weren’t even a year old. He said the tire (and the one on the back driver’s side too) were prematurely worn because of the time they’d spent on the front when the van was out of alignment. (Yes, I told him about the alignment problem and the uneven wear. I figured it was in my permanent Discount Tire record anyway.) He said driving the tire in the condition it was in was REALLY dangerous. He said I needed two new tires back there.

I asked about the certificate on the tire. He told me it didn’t cover wear, only road hazards and defects.

I asked him if it would be ok if I only bought new tires for the back wheels and kept the two that were on the front. Well, as a matter of fact, he told me, the tires on the front were worn way more than they should be, dangerously worn, and if I were going to buy two new tires, I really needed to buy four new tires.

By this point, my head was spinning. I thought I was just going to deal with a tire rotation, but suddenly I needed to replace four tires that were barely a year old.

He’d do me a favor, the salesman said, because he wanted me to be safe. If I bought three new tires, he would throw in the fourth one for free. I explained to him that I didn’t currently have the money to buy four new tires. He tried to tell me about the Discount Tire credit plan. I shook my head while laughing ruefully. Discount Tire was not going to approve me for any credit, I told him. Perhaps I could get a co-signer, he countered. When I told him that wasn’t going to happen either, he said I should at the very least let them (free of charge, thankfully) replace the badly worn tire on the back passenger’s side with the spare. I thanked him for the offer and handed him my keys.

While waiting, I called a couple of friends and ranted and cried. While I was ranting and crying, the service technician came out and asked me what tire needed to be changed. I probably sounded like an asshole when I told him he should change the tire the service order he was holding in his hand specified. He told me the salesman had written two different things on the service order. So I stopped ranting and crying long enough to walk over to the van with the guy and show him which tire was in the worst shape. After the guy got the van into the repair bay, he walked back over to where I was sitting on the sidewalk (once again ranting and crying) to ask me if he could get me into four new tires today. It took all of my self-restraint not to yell, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I explained (while trying to refrain from laughing maniacally) that I didn’t have money for four new tires. Then he tried to suggest I use the Discount Tire credit plan. So I explained I had already told the other guy that wasn’t going to happen, and he finally left me alone.

I cried all the way to my house sitting job. Just when I thought I’d have a couple of hundred dollars (the extent of my savings left after paying for transmission work in February and a new fuel pump in March) to live on until my temp job scoring standardized tests started, I needed more money than I had for tires. I’m tired of being a burden, I thought. My life is not sustainable.

But also, I was really mad. What’s the point of buying new tires if they’re just going to wear out in a year?

Once again, what I thought was a short story has turned into a saga, which I will continue tomorrow.

 

I Get by with a Whole Lot of Help From My Friends

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I think I’ve been coming off as independent and self-sufficient.

Well, I am independent. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. I want to make my own decisions. I want to follow my own path while listening to my own drummer. But self-sufficient? That’s not really been happening. Since I started this journey of unusual living, I’ve been helped by strangers and friends.

After I left my not-very-nice boyfriend in the middle of the night, I ended up homeless for three months. I was spending my nights outside in a sleeping bag given to me by someone I’d just met, carrying everything I owned in a backpack from the same fellow. I mostly ate food given to me at a food bank, and I brushed my teeth in a rest stop restroom. But even with such a simple existence, I didn’t make it alone. A couple of new friends took me into their homes once or twice a week to feed me dinner and let me shower or bathe. Vendors at the outdoor arts and crafts market where I sold sage sticks (and later hemp jewelry) slipped me granola bars or leftovers or (on a very few occasions) a five or ten dollar bill, which I used to buy supplies. One grizzled old horse trader bought me a sandwich one day and gave me a pep talk about how he liked me because I showed up every day and did what I had to do to earn my own way while not asking for nothing from nobody.

When I was lost (meaning after I left the boyfriend and dropped off the face of the earth) friends from my past lives sent out a search party to find me. I was found, and so many people from my past offered love and support in the form of dollars and open invitations to sleep on their couches and in their spare rooms. I used those dollars (and dollars I had earned myself in long days of selling my handiwork in the wind and the sun and the heat) to buy myself a van and go on a fantastic, epic journey where I met new people who became friends and offered me new and appreciated love and (mental and physical) support.

From Mt. Shasta, California, I ended up North Carolina. A wonderful housed-up road sister I’d just met invited me into her home to share Thanksgiving dinner with her family. A couple I’d met at the Bridge on Labor Day weekend welcomed me at the inn they own on the Tuckasegee River. These folks put me up in a suite, fed me, gave me clothes to wear. In both instances, these people barely knew me but treated me like family.

From North Carolina, I ended up in a major Texas city where old friends turned over their spare room to me, fed me, entertained me, gave me access to their laundry room and their internet service, AND gave me a pair of beloved cowgirl boots. Beginning to see a pattern here?

I could go on and on. I could tell you about my Computer Guy who’s helped me out financially several times, as well as making this very website possible. I could tell you about the walk-the-talk young Christian couple who rescued me (and a mentally unstable young man friend, his dog, the woman he was in love with, and her six-month-old baby) in Hot Springs, Arkansas; drove us all to their home in Southern Louisiana; then with the help of their church paid for my bus ticket back to Texas (at my request) and sent me off with a new purple backpack and a few dollars in my pocket. I could tell you about a different set of friends (college buddies) in Texas who took me in, gave me the guest room, fed me, included me in their Friday night extended-family time, loaned me a car when I was without a van, bought me a piece of memory foam for my new (to me) van, and helped me with my insurance payment. I could tell you about the kind and generous people who gave me gas money so I could get to my job in California last summer.

In the comments to my March spending report (read that report here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/02/spending-report-for-march-2016/), one of my readers said,

your expenses were close to $600 for the month. Were you able to earn at least $600 during the month?

My response was

No, I didn’t earn $600 in March. I have been living off the money I saved from working last summer and fall. That money is just about gone…

Anyone who has been paying attention is going to wonder what’s going on when they see my April report in a few days. At the end of March, I said I was almost out of money, but the spending report is going to show that I spent a bundle of money on tires (that is a saga for another day) as well as a bunch on insurance. And how did I afford to stay in a room I found through Airbnb while I worked scoring standardized tests? The answer is that I’ve been making it through with money I’ve earned through house sitting and Craigslist jobs, as well as with gifts and loans from people who care about me.

I don’t know how long this way of life is going to last for me. Right now, it doesn’t feel sustainable. I’m tired of being a burden on people, and I worry that people are getting tired of taking care of me. I’ve been stressed a lot about money in 2016. I know money is just a social construct. It doesn’t even matter and it’s not even real (right?) until transmission fluid is leaking or the fuel pump goes out or the metal threads are showing on the back tires (all of which have happened to my van since February).

I think I’ll have to save $2,000 (of an estimated $5,000 gross income) this summer to make it through the fall and winter of 2016 and the first part of 2017 while being able to take care of any van emergencies. Of course, I when I’m not work camping, I’ll fill in with side jobs if I can get them.

I can’t think of any clever, upbeat way to end this post except to say I’m so grateful to everyone who has assisted me, ever, but especially in the last four years. (And if I you have helped me, and I failed to mention you specifically in this post, please don’t think that means I don’t feel gratitude for everything you’ve done for me.) My life would be impossible without so much help.

Good Night, Sweet Prince

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I’d just been thinking about Prince, too.

Not two weeks before, a video of Prince singing “Starfish and Coffee” on the Muppet Show popped up on my Facebook feed. I don’t know why. It hadn’t been posted by anyone I know. It was really random, the posting of a friend of a “friend,” I suppose. But I stopped and watched it.

You should watch it now. Go ahead. Watch it. It’s kinda magical.

On Facebook, I wrote,’

I’d forgotten how much I love this song. And Prince. And Muppets.

Listening to the song made me think of a friend of mine, so I asked her if she’d turned me on to it way back in the day. She said,

Oh yea! This was one of my faves on that album.

And I said,

It is so good! Gives me goosebumps and tears. Thanks for sharing it with me way back when.

I love how everything is the song’s video is in black and white except for vivid, full-color Cynthia Rose. I love the line If you set your mind free, baby Maybe you’d understand. I love the part where Prince and the Cynthia Rose Muppet are dancing, and I loved how much fun Prince seemed to be having with the whole thing.

And then less than two weeks later, I talked to my Computer Guy on the phone before we went in to do our respective jobs. We were just shooting the shit, because neither of us knew yet.

Two hours later I went out to my van for my break and turned on my phone to check my messages. Nolagirl and I texted our usual good mornings, then she wrote to me,

FYI Prince died. 57 years old.

I wrote back,

WHAT??????? How? Fuck! Fuck! Fuck. That is fucking tragic. Goodbye my youth.

I was just watching the Muppet Show video the other day and remembering how brilliant he was.

Part of me is not sure I should even be mourning. It’s not as if I listened to Prince’s music all the time or bought any of his albums since the last century or even had any idea what the man was up to, musically or otherwise. But honestly, I felt like there was suddenly an emptiness in my heart.

I went to the grand opening of a 10,000 square foot international grocery store with a friend. It was a Sunday afternoon and the place was packed. The soundtrack? A tribute to Prince. On a loop. It kept playing over and over again. We heard it four times before we got out of there.

The shocking part was when “Darling Nikki” was pumped out over the noise of a couple hundred people shopping. I gasped, honestly shocked. You remember “Darling Nikki,” right?

I knew a girl named Nikki
I guess you could say she was a sex fiend
I met her in a hotel lobby
Masturbating with a magazine

Let me tell you, circa 1984 when a girl name Desiree told me about the song while we stood in the junior high lunch line, I NEVER thought I would hear that song in public, much less in a supermarket crowded with Asian people of all ages. I was glad I was not on drugs because then I’d have to spend the rest of my life wondering if it had really happened. But yeah, it really happened. Prince was dead, and I was hearing “Darling Nikki” played in a supermarket.

(Side note: For years, I thought the magazine was the actual instrument of masturbation. Only embarrassingly recently did it occur to me that Nikki was simply looking at the magazine while masturbating, only using it as visual stimulation.)

I just kept getting sadder and sadder.

Of course, as I believe is often (usually) the case with death, it wasn’t Prince I was feeling sorry for as much as I was feeling sorry for myself. I believe wherever Prince is, he’s feeling no pain. I’m not sure if he’s in Heaven, although Prince in Heaven does lead to some delicious scenarios.

Prince in Heaven scenario #1: Prince and Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia are jamming for eternity and they never get tired, and they never get sad, and they never even have to stop the music to do drugs because who needs drugs anymore because they’re in Heaven and Dude, the MUSIC!

Prince in Heaven scenario #2: My grandmother who was a racist on earth is now up in Heaven listening to Prince and Michael Jackson and Ray Charles and Whitney Houston and Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye sing to her, and she is digging it.

But I digress.

I feel like losing Prince is really the loss of my youth.

I didn’t feel that way when Michael Jackson died, although his death was a shock too. I never felt as if Micheal Jackson belonged to me. My parents liked Micheal Jackson, for Christ’s sake. They bought the Thriller LP. It sat in the stereo case with the Jan and Dean record given to my mom by an old suitor, the Footloose soundtrack, and my dad’s Cajun music records.

When I was in junior high and on into high school, Prince was dirty and sexual and naughty and exciting and everything my stupid, boring life in a small Southern town was not. And he had great clothes. All that velvet. All that lace.

Prince was hope, to this small town Southern girl who didn’t fit in, who was never going to fit in. Prince was hope that there was a big world out there with parties and fun, a world where it was ok if I was weird, a world where sex wasn’t terrifying, but fun.

And now he’s gone, and so is my hope.

I’m right in the middle of my middle age, fat and unattractive, and it’s all downhill from here.

I should have drunk more beer and taken more drugs and fucked more while I could, because it’s all downhill from here. Prince is gone, and I’m not getting any younger.

Is this how our mothers felt when Elvis died?

 

Free Yoga

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Around the beginning of each new year, I feel more open to trying new things. This will be the year I say yes to every opportunity offered to me, I tell myself. So when Lou asked me if I wanted to go to yoga class with her, I quickly agreed.

I didn’t have much yoga experience.

In the 90s, when I had a real job and pretensions of respectability, I belonged to a fancy, expensive gym. I joined primarily to participate in the popular boxing workout class, but one night I wandered into a yoga class for reason now obscured by my foggy memory. The class was fine, until we were told to curl our tongues and breathe through those curled tongues in order to detoxify our livers. I was skeptical then, and I’m skeptical now. How is that even possible? How does breath moving through a curled tongue detoxify? How does the liver know the detoxification is for it? If the breath passing through a curled tongue led to detoxification, wouldn’t it be a general, overall, full body, every organ detox?

I never went back to yoga there, partially because I was turned off by the woo-woo liver detox method, but mostly because I was busy being 25 years old.

Several years later, I tried yoga a couple more times when I met a grad student who was also a trained yoga instructor. She was trying to spread the word of yoga and make some extra bucks by holding yoga classes in her living room a few times a week. One problem was that the living room in her small house couldn’t accommodate many stretching students; if there were more than two people in attendance, we all felt cramped and constrained. The other problem for me was that the yoga classes were held across town from my home, and I often didn’t want to bike there (and home again) in the cold or the dark or after several hours of doing my job as a dishwasher.

I did enjoy the few classes I attended. The grad student was a patient yoga teacher. She didn’t throw around lingo I didn’t understand, she helped me get my body into the correct positions, and at the end of class, we always got to close our eyes and relax.

So when Lou invited me to join her for a yoga class, I wasn’t an absolute beginner.

One giant perk of the yoga class was that it was free for first time students. I’d rolled into town with no more than $10 to my name. I’d made some money dog sitting and house cleaning for a woman I’d found on a Craigslist ad, so I wasn’t totally without funds, but I didn’t have much disposable income. Free entertainment was good entertainment as far as I was concerned.

Upon arrival at the studio, Lou checked us in as first time students. We took off our shoes, went into the big empty room with all the mirrors, and laid out our mats.

Amidst the hubbub of setup, a hugely pregnant woman in workout clothes came into the room. She announced herself as the teacher. She was about 9 and 1/2 months pregnant she told us, liable to go into labor at any moment. She was going to take it easy during the class, she told us, and not bounce around too much. However, she said, she was going to work the class hard because she knew people in lunchtime classes were looking for really good workouts.

Oh shit! How had I gotten confused for someone who wanted a really good workout? I mostly wanted to do some gentle stretches and relax.

(A few weeks later, I went to a free [of course] lecture on tantra at the same yoga studio. The guy giving the talk mentioned as a side note that yoga developed as a spiritual practice and the idea of yoga as a workout was quite an American [although he may have said Western] phenomenon. I didn’t [and don’t] know much about how and/or why yoga developed, but I wasn’t surprised by what the man said. I wouldn’t be shocked to find out some enterprising American has turned the stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand routine of a Catholic mass into a workout.)

Lou is a trained yoga instructor herself, and when we left the studio, she told me the yoga class had been hard. If she thought it was difficult, imagine how I felt.

The instructor did say at the beginning of the class that we should each do our own workout and not compete with anyone there. I tried to do as she instructed. I didn’t bounce from one pose to another. (Although the instructor said she wasn’t going to bounce, due to her delicate condition, by the end of the class she was certainly bouncing out of one pose into another.) I tried to gauge my abilities so I could push myself a little further, but not far enough to injure myself. I was trying to concentrate on my own practice, but if I already felt like a loser because I could barely keep up with other members of the class, the hugely pregnant woman kicking ass at the front of the room did not make me feel more competent or capable.

It didn’t help that I don’t speak the language of yoga. Oh sure, I know the downward dog and the child’s pose, but this instructor was using lots of terms I’d never encountered: The eagle? The spread eagle? The split beaver? Most of her references meant nothing to me.

Finally, the workout part of the class ended, and we all lay on our backs with our eyes closed and relaxed. I don’t know what that pose was called, but it was my favorite part of the day.

The last few times I saw Lou, she suggested we go together to a hot (bikram) yoga class. It was April or May by then and my beginning-of-the-year enthusiasm had waned. She liked to go before work, she said, around six o’clock in the morning, to get her day started with physical activity. (Lou and I are very different. I like to start my day after the sun has risen, with breakfast tacos and a good book to linger over. Well, Lou does like breakfast tacos, so I guess we are not totally different.) I was already leaning towards declining, but then Lou told me sometimes people vomit during hot yoga class. At that point I said, Forget it! Throwing up is never fun, even for free!

 

Ajo Copper News Mural

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I recently wrote about murals on the walls of an alley in Ajo, Arizona. (You can read that post here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/15/ajo-murals/.) In the comments of that post, one of my readers asked me,

Did you happen to see the mural on the bookstore?

Why yes. Yes I did. You can see a photo I took of the mural at the top if this page.

The building with the mural on its side does not only house a bookstore. It’s an art gallery as well, and the home of the Ajo Copper News. According to http://www.cunews.info/,

The Ajo Copper News is a weekly newspaper. It has been serving the communities of Ajo, Why, and Lukeville in Western Pima County since 1916.

Although I did browse in the bookstore (and bought fantastic, reasonably priced postcards with lovely color images of Ajo and Why), I didn’t really know anything about the mural. It was cool. I looked at it. I took a photo. I moved on.

While writing this post, I found more information about the mural on the website of Rocky Point Times newspaper (our of Puerto Peñasco, Mexico). The article (http://rptimes.com/rocky-point-times-2/2014/08/ajo-copper-news-and-copper-news-book-store/) says,

When the current location of the newspaper and bookstore was purchased, it was the goal of Hop David, (the artist, also the publisher) to have a mural on the front of the building. That dream came to fruition, when in 2012, Hop completed the current mural with the help of another local artist, Mike “DaWolf” Baker as part of ASAP (Ajo Street Art Project).

My reader told me,

Someone saw me ogling and was kind enough to point me to the footprints on the sidewalk that give the oblique (and intended) view of the whole thing.

No kind person saw me ogling and pointed me to footprints! I had not idea. I never saw any footprints, so I guess I looked at the mural all wrong.

The aforementioned article in Rocky Point Times says the mural

is best viewed from the painted footprints on the corner of Pajaro [Street] and Highway 85 by the tiny park in order to get the complete effect of the trick-perspective mural. The Native American figure playing saxophone in the mural is a Tohono O’odham musician — the notes emanating from the instrument are “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, a popular chicken scratch tune. Those who spend a few minutes gazing at the mural will see the ghost riders and cattle in the clouds along with dozens of other hidden pictures in the mural.

I guess I am going to have to go back and take a better look.

Ohio State and Marijuana Leaves

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The woman who sits directly behind me seems to be in her 60s. She has the sort of hair I see on “respectable” older woman with money: curled, by not necessarily naturally so, sort of sculpted, and definitely maintained. I don’t think any of it is gray, although at her age, I think it would be, think it probably is, under the very tasteful dye job she has going on. She wears glasses, and on her feet sandals that say “casual, but still put together” to women of her age-group and socioeconomic class. I’m making a lot of assumptions of a person I’ve never spoken to, but that’s my assessment of her at a glance.

HOWEVER.

This woman has a travel cup that sits next to her computer screen. I see it every time I’m walking back to my desk. It’s a tall, black travel cup, upon which is emblazoned “Ohio State.”

But that’s not all that’s on the cup. There are also multiple white circles on the black cup. In each white circle is a green leaf. The leaves looks something like this:

 

For two weeks, every time I saw those leaves on that travel cup, I thought why does that lady have marijuana leaves on her mug?

These were some of my ideas:

The woman is a stoner and she doesn’t care who knows it.

The woman is a proud supporter of medical marijuana.

The woman’s kids (or grandkids) gave her the cup as a joke, and she thinks it’s hilarious.

The woman’s kids (or grandkids) gave her the cup as a joke, and she has no idea why they giggle whenever they see her sipping her coffee from it.

Today I saw the cup and the mysterious leaves right before break, and it occurred to tell my friend about them. My friend is from Ohio and know one or possibly two things about marijuana. I thought my friend would think the whole situation was really funny.

This is what I texted to my friend:

A woman sits in the row behind me. I’d say she’s in her 60s. She has an Ohio State mug. The mug is black, with white circles. In the white circles are–I Swear–pot leaves! I am so curious, but what if I ask her and they are not pot leaves or her kids gave it to her as a joke and she doesn’t know?

My friend texted back:

Ha!! It’s the buckeye leaf but it totally looks like weed!!!!

Apparently, I am not the only person who’s been confused by the buckeye leaf.

While googling to find images to go with this post, I stumbled across a 2013 article titled “Marijuana vs. Ohio State Buckeyes leaf: Jonas-Boggionis pulled over after decal confused for pot.” You can read the (short) article here,http://www.wptv.com/news/local-news/water-cooler/marijuana-vs-ohio-state-buckeyes-leaf-jonas-boggionis-pulled-over-after-decal-confused-for-pot, but basically a 65 year-old woman was driving down South (the website belongs to a West Palm Beach news station, but the article references Memphis and Shelby County) and after being pulled over,

[t]he deputy asked her why she had a marijuana sticker on the back of her car.

The woman

looked back at her car, dumbfounded, and wondered if someone had stuck something on there when she wasn’t looking.

What she saw was an Ohio State Buckeyes football helmet, which is traditionally decorated with the buckeye leaf to signify gridiron success.

When this was pointed out to the officer, the situation came to an end and the couple got back on the road, without receiving any sort of citation…

The article continues,

…the buckeye leaf bears little resemblance to a marijuana leaf. The Buckeye has five points while marijuana leaves generally have seven.

For folks like me, with little knowledge of the public plant life of Ohio, I’ll leave you with this image of a buckeye leaf and a marijuana leaf for the sake of comparison: