Monthly Archives: January 2018

Little Free Library (Family Practice Associates of Taos)

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Like the Little Free Libray at the Youth & Family Center and the one on the Mesa, the third Little Free Library I discovered inTaos County was a complete surprise.

I needed to use an ATM, and there was only one in Taos that partnered with my credit union. I could use that particular ATM and not pay a fee, so that’s the one I headed to. Unfortunatly, there was a problem with my withdrawal, so I had to pull into a parking space to call my credit union. While I was dialing the number, I noticed what appeared to be a Little Free Library across the way, in front of the building housing Family Practice Associates of Taos. When I finished my call, I walked over to investigate. Yep, it was a Little Free Library.

Unlike the other two Little Free Libraries I found in Taos, this one was not made from a a re-purposed newspaper vending machine. This Little Free Library was built from wood and had a door that opened and a glass window in the door. While I really appreciate the fact that the other Little Free Libraries are making use of something that was probably otherwise headed to the landfill, I also appreciate the beauty of the library near Family Practice Associates of Taos. I think the color scheme of the library is lovely, as are the two decorative birds above the door. If there were a contest going on, this library would win my vote for prettiest in Taos.

Of course, it doesn’t really matter what a Little Free Library looks like. What matters is that people can get free reading material out of a Little Free Library. What matters is that a Little Free Library is a gift economy. What mattters is Little Free Libraries build communities. Of course, being pretty doesn’t hurt.

I didn’t leave any books in this Little Free Library, and I didn’t take any either. I had plenty of books to read and my van was full to bursting with all my stuff and The Man’s too. I simply took a few photos and left the Little Free Library as I found it.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

(Guest Post) How I Traveled to the UK in My RV for 14 Days (Real Life Story)

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Have you always dreamed of traveling but did not where to start from? Have you ever thought about traveling in the so-called recreational vehicle? It is a trailer equipped with living space and amenities found in a home – thanks to the wheels that can take you anywhere in the world and the comfort of home, people can travel for a really long time without any problems. The big size of the trailer lets the traveler take several fellow-passengers. If you wish to get inspired, simply read this real-life story about how I traveled to the UK in my RV for 14 days.

 

“RV Europe” has always been the combination of words that made my knees tremble – I wanted it so much! Because I live in Berlin, the way had to be quite long – the Google Maps told me I had to drive approximately 12 hours non-stop to reach London. It was a quite responsible and serious trip, that is why I had to prepare for it properly. First of all, I had to decide on the people I was taking with me, the quantity of days I wanted this trip to be, and the things I would need in my adventure.

I decided to take my three friends who dreamed of traveling so far, too. I thought about how many days would be enough for our company to spend in the UK, and 14 days seemed the perfect period. As for the things to take with me, it was, in fact, not a big problem. The trailer had enough space for all the clothes I needed, the fridge was able to hold a lot of food, and there was enough space even for the laptop and video games. I needed to plan a trip across Europe – that was the most difficult part.

When I looked at the map with the biggest cities on my way, I decided I wanted to stop in Hannover, Dortmund, Antwerpen, Gent, Dunkerque, and, finally, London. I was not confident whether we would travel around the UK or stay in London throughout the whole time. I googled the places to see in those cities – listed buildings, cozy parks, and atmospheric pubs and cafes. And, of course, I did the same research for London – the latter took much more time because the city is huge and really diversified.

I have been thinking a lot how to plan a trip through UK and decided to visit Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool as well.  We would stop in the beautiful villages and towns on our way, too. When the plan was ready, we were ready to go. We decided to leave early in the morning to see the beauty of the road trip in the daytime.

The road was empty because our trip started on Saturday. Just riding on the highway was a pure pleasure – watching the beautiful forests and fields on the sides of the road was incredible. After riding for more than four hours, my friend replaced my position as the driver – this is another benefit of traveling with a big company because you are not obliged to sit at the steering wheel all the time.

Among the cities that we passed by, for some reason, it was Dunkerque that impressed me most. The reason might be the film of the same name shot by Christopher Nolan that I have seen recently. The place was breathing with history, and the fact that it is situated near the sea made it an amazing experience for us to stop and spend a couple of hours there.

 

Finally, we went inside the Eurotunnel, and it was a surreal experience to drive for one hour and a half in the closed space. The feeling that space was surrounded by water was absolutely amazing. When we finally came to London and saw Big Ben, I felt pure happiness. Berlin is a beautiful place to be but the architecture suffered a lot during the World War II, and the majority of the city is quite contemporary. However, the beauty of London cannot be expressed by words. The city combines both contemporary architecture and the old one.

We stayed in London for a week – during this time we saw all the listed buildings, visited all the beautiful parks, and drank beer in all the atmospheric pubs. We slept in our trailer at the roadside rest stops – in spite of a number of warnings of my parents about possible robberies, nothing bad happened to us, and we were happy we had such an amazing experience.

After London, we went to see Birmingham – I have not heard about this city much, but it turned out to be the second after London and a pretty beautiful one as well. We went to its famous Bullring to do some shopping, and we were amazed by the quantity of shops there. After that, we visited The Old Crown – the oldest building in the city where we drank amazing cider and ate some fish and chips. Finally, we dedicated a whole day to a tour of in  Cadbury World not far from Birmingham and saw how the chocolate is made.

In Manchester, we went to the museum about the city and were amazed how interactive and interesting it was. In Liverpool, we visited the museum dedicated to The Beatles and drank a couple of beers in The Cavern Club where they used to perform. When it was time to drive home, we were already a bit tired and looked forward to it.

When the trip was over, I felt like a could write a book on how to travel through UK, and I was really proud of that. I felt like now, I can make even the bigger trip – it seemed challenging and exciting simultaneously. I started thinking about exploring Russia, but this trip needed a really good plan and an awesome preparation.

 

Bryan Davis has been working for https://australianwritings.com.au/essay-writing-service for more than one year, and he has already become one of the best writers on the website. His hobbies are traveling and mobile photography, and he successfully combines those with his job.

 

Stupid Questions

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There are no stupid questions, educators like to say, but that’s clearly a lie. I’m no stranger to stupid questions. Anyone who works with the public has probably heard plenty of questions eliciting an eye roll or shaking of the head. Of course, we think we’ve heard it all until the next one comes along. I didn’t think I was capable of being surprised but in about 30 minutes one September afternoon, I heard two of the dumbest questions to ever stimulate my eardrums.

I walked out of the back door of the mercantile, step stool in hand, ready to close the yurt’s windows. An SUV was stopped on the road between the mercantile and the camp host’s site. A woman jumped out of the SUV, smiled, and said hi to me. I greeted her, and she asked, The ones with the open signs? Are they open?

She was referring to campsites. Any campsite that’s not been reserved is marked with a sign that reads “open.” Apparently the woman didn’t trust signs and didn’t believe the campsites clearly marked “open” were actually available. I didn’t trust myself to answer her question without saying something snarky, so I simply directed her to the camp host.

After closing the windows, I went back inside and told the mercantile manager what the woman had asked me. We shook our heads and rolled our eyes and felt assured this one took the cake.

But wait! There’s more!

Just as the manager was about to shut the doors for the day, a car pulled into the parking area in front of the store. The people in the car wanted to walk the trail, so the manager said we could sell them the access pass before we closed the register.  The tourist lady was talking a mile a minute as she walked up the ramp to the mercantile. She must have asked the manager what the platforms throughout the campground were for. The manager said, yurts, but before she could explain what a yurt was or say that the actual structures had been taken down for the winter, the tourist lady busted out with Do you have to bring your own yurt?

Perhaps the woman didn’t know what exactly a yurt is. Maybe she` thought “yurt” is just another name for “tent.” She must not have known that yurts are big (the ones the company I work for rents out to campers are 15 feet in diameter) and expensive. While yurts are movable, it’s quite a bit of work to set one up, then take it down. Most people probably don’t have a yurt and those that do probably aren’t traveling with them.

I couldn’t help giggling a little when I heard the woman ask if she needed to bring her own yurt. I had settled my face into a neutral expression by the time the woman entered the store. I took her money and handed her an access pass, and she went on her way.

Bring your own yurt? the manager and I said to each other and laughed. This question really did take the cake.

I’d planned to end this post here, but on my last weekend working at the parking lot, I got what is quite possibly the stupidest question ever. I can’t imagine a dumber question, but then again, people never cease to amaze me.

I was working at the parking lot on the very last day of the season. The sky was hazy with smoke from a wildfire fifty miles away. The fire had been burning for at least a week, and every morning, the sky was hazy from its smoke. By the afternoon, the smoke cleared and the sky was blue until the sun set.

All day people had been asking about the smoke and the air quality. Campers from one campground I was covering decided not to stay another night because they were worried about hiking the next morning with smoke in the air. Honestly, I don’t know if the air quality was dangerous. No one bothered to give me that information. We were’t wading through low-lying smoke and there was no ash falling on our heads, so the air quality seemed ok to me.

A car pulled into the parking lot, and I wasn’t surprised when the passenger’s first question was about the smoke. It’s what she asked that earned her the distinction of stupidest question ever.

Is the smoke from fire?

I didn’t even ask her if it’s possible for smoke to come from any other source.

Bellagio

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I’m sure I walked into some part of Bellagio during my my first time in Las Vegas. Well, I was sure until I went in with The Poet and The Activist in October of 2017.

Every time I had visited The Poet and The Activist in Las Vegas, we had talked about going to Bellagio to see Dale Chihuly’s glass art. I didn’t really remember seeing the glass art, but I felt sure I had. I always told The Poet and The Activist I didn’t need to see it agian, and we always had many other things on our itenerary of fun, so we never went.

This visit, however, we had more free time in our schedule, so we decided to go to the casino on a weekday morning in hopes of missing the crowds. We got a later start than we’d planned, so our morning visit turned into an early afternoon excursion.

I’d also been confident all the casinos in Vegas offered free parking; Bellagio does not. Maybe Bellagio charges for parking because it has a parking garage. The Hard Rock Hotel has a garage too, and I know the Love Kids and I parked my van there overnight and for free in 2012. Maybe the Hard Rock offers free parking because it’s not on the main drag and has more room. We parked for free at Hooters too in 2012, but that was in an outdoor parking lot, not in a garage. Maybe Bellagio is just trying to be exclusive. I’m (obviously) unsure, but Bellagio wanted $7 and up for cars that parked in the garage for more than an hour.

So yes, the first sixty minutes of parking was free.

I think we can see everything in an hour, I said. The Activist was skeptical, but I was confident.

We parked, then found our way through the maze of the parking garage. We got on an elevator that took us up a couple floors, then followed a sign directing us to the casino.

The Activist found the Chihuly flowers right away. He’d walked ahead while The Poet and I hung back and took in the hustle and bustle of what seemed to me like a very high-end shopping mall. The ceilings were incredibly high and the floor was impeccably clean. I remember all the casinos on the strip being very well maintained, but this was Disney Land level spotless. There was not a streak of dirt on the floor nor a scrap of paper.

The Activist beckoned us, and we walked into a large open area near the reception desk serving the luxery hotel within the casino. I suppose we were in the lobby, although I didn’t see any luggage.

The Activist pointed up, and my gaze and The Poet’s followed his finger. Hanging from the ceiling were many, many, many colorful glass blossoms.

Glass flowers by Dale Chihuly installed on the ceiling over the lobby of the hotel within Bellagio

According to a 2013 article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the official name of the piece is Fiori di Como, and it cost $10 million. The article continues,

The sculpture consists of 2,000 hand-blown glass blossoms that weigh about 40,000 pounds. They are supported by a 10,000-pound steel armature. Every morning between 2 and 5 a.m., a team of eight to 10 engineers cleans and maintains the sculpture…

I suppose they look like flowers. I know they’re supposed to look like flowers, but I think they mostly look like colorful blobs.

I wish the flowers had been lit better. The light coming from behind them was quite subdued. Was this the choice of the artist, or was the hotel management using low lighting to keep the mood of the lobby mellow? I don’t know, but I would have liked to see the glass flowers lit by natural light. I think they would have popped had the strong Las Vegas sun shone through a skylight behind them.

When I heard there was Chihuly glass at Bellagio, I thought we were going to see an entire exhibit of different colorful pieces. There were a lot of flowers, sure, but they were simply variations on one theme. Besides, because they were on the ceiling, it was difficult for me to see much detail.

I took a few photos. They didn’t come out so great because of the dim, artificial lighting. (I love natural lighting for my photos.)

A little further into the lobby, there was a horse upon wich sat a person in an eleborate costume. I realized pretty quickly that the horse was a statue. I thought the person on the horse was eventually going to move (and even warned The Poet to expect some movement), but I guess that’s in another casino. This person did not move and turned out to be a statue too. Other people were taking photos of the spectacle, so I did as well. I failed, however, to stoop down and read the explanation of why this statue was in the lobby.

Perhaps the statue is related to exhibit showing at Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art called “Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection.” According to the Bellagio website, the exhibit runs until April 29, 2018 and

honor[s] the culture, lifestyle and art of the samurai warrior. Spanning hundreds of decades of Japanese history, more than 50 pieces of samurai armor will be on display.

After we got our fill of the Chihuly glass flowers (which took about three minutes, actually), we wandered over to the conservatory.

When we’d told a friend of The Activist and The Poet we were going to see the Chihuly glass, she said the conservatory would be done up for autumn and we’d certainly enjoy that. When we saw the conservatory, I thought What’s the point?

What’s the point of a talking tree in the conservatory?

While the display was colorful (which I certainly liked), I wouldn’t say it was beautiful. I would say it was gawdy. I’d also say it was more Disney Land-esque than even the spotless lobby. Talking trees? Come on!

Maybe the conservatory is meant to appeal to children, an attraction helping to make Vegas a family destination. Maybe it is supposed to be gawdy, over-the-top, like so much else in the city. Personally, I looked at the display of plants and flowers and saw wasted money. How many hungry people could be fed with the money spent on that display? How many homeless people could be housed with the money spent on that display? How many books for libraries or supplies for school kids could be bought with the money spent on that display?

I’m not opposed to spending money on art and beauty available to the masses, but this gawdy disply for the elite who could make it into the building left me wondering, What’s the point?

What’s the point of giant peacocks?

What’s the point of fake trees that roll their eyes and talk?

What’s the point of larger-than-life acorns and animatronic birds swishing their tail feathers?

My friends and I wandered around the conservatory for 10 or 15 minutes. People all around us were taking photos, and there were cameras flashing in all areas of the large room. I took some photos too. It seemed like the thing to do.

When we all agreed were were ready to go, we followed the signs back to the elevators, which we took down to the level where we’d left the car. As I’d predicted, we finished our looking in less than an hour and didn’t have to pay a penny for parking. It wasn’t a terrible excursion for free, but I know someone was footing the bill for the thousands of blossoms and all the talking trees.

 

The Rubber Tramp Artist wonders, What’s the point?

I took the photos in this post except the last one, which The Poet took for me.

 

Eek!

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I knew I was behaving like a stereotype, but I couldn’t help myself.

I was standing on the living room couch, shrieking at the top of my lungs after seeing a mouse skitter across the floor.

animal, apodemus sylvaticus, brownI don’t know how it happened, but at some time during my 16 years of life, I’d developed a fear of all things rodent. I didn’t think hamsters and gerbils were cute (although for some reason I could tolerate guinea pigs). I didn’t think mice were cute either, and rats were straight-up deplorable.

Once when I was about twelve, my family was leaving my grandmother’s house late in the afternoon. My grandmother lived on the outskirts of a small town surrounded by crop fields. She had a huge front yard, and I don’t know how many acres in the back. There was plenty of room for wild critters to live all around her.

On this particular day, as my family was about to walk out onto the back porch to say our lingering good-byes, we saw a horrible site. In the utility room accessible only from the porch, rats come pouring out of a metal trash can close to the door. I’m not exaggerating when I say “rats.” These animals were not mice. These were pointy-nosed, long tailed rats. There was not one thing cute about them as far as I was concerned.

I may be exaggerating when I say rats were pouring out of the trash can. In my first recollection, there were at least a dozen rats jumping one after another from the trashcan and running around helter-skelter as if they were trying to desert the proverbial sinking ship. But could there have really been twelve rats in my grandmother’s utility room? I know there was more than one rat, more than two, definitely more than three. I know I must be correct if I say there were between three and twelve rats running willy-nilly in the utility room and on the porch.

My grandmother kept a clean house, but she said she’d been having problems with the rats in the utility room. I think my uncle hadn’t been around to burn the trash, so the rats had taken over the trash can. My grandma moved the trash can into the utility room thinking the rats wouldn’t venture in there to get the garbage. WRONG! The rats had no problem going into the utility room to get to the trash. They must have made their move into the can while we were in the house visiting. When they heard us near the back door, they rushed out of the can in search of better hiding places.

I had never seen a live wild rat in real life, but I was certainly terrified by these. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was terrified. I was not just uncomfortable, not just bothered, not just scared. I was losing my shit. I was acting bat-shit-crazy. I was unreasonably, illogically terrified. I was immediately screaming, sobbing, bawling. I refused to leave the house and walk five steps across the porch, down the concrete steps, and across the carport to the family car. I simply refused.  My father had to carry me—still sobbing—to the car. I was too old—and certainly too big—to be carried, and my dad was not accustomed to indulging such foolishness, but he must have known I wasn’t going to leave if I had to rely on my own two feet.

The fear I felt was primal and deep. I was not just a little scared. I had moved into the realm of phobia.

(More than three decades later, a friend said maybe my fear of rodents was some sort of ancestral memory left in my DNA by people who had avoided the Black Death by avoiding rats due to a fear of them. This theory makes as much sense as any other reason I’ve come up with.)

On the day the mouse was in the house, I felt the same primal fear. I was afraid, and I wanted to be as far away from the mouse as possible. I didn’t weigh my options, consider my choices, then decide the sofa was the place to be. No, there was no careful thought process. I simply jumped up on the couch and began shrieking.

What was I afraid of? The only concrete fear I can name is the concern that the mouse was going to run up my leg. Is that even a thing outside of slapstick comedy? Has any mouse anywhere ever run up a human’s leg? Does flight ever bring a wild animal into closer proximity to the flailing, screaming bigger creature? Doesn’t the concept of “flight” necessitate movement away from danger?

In any case, there was no good reason for my fright.

It’s just a little mouse, said my annoyed mother.

It’s so cute, said my animal-loving sibling.

I’ll set a tramp, said my practical father.

I stood on the couch long after I stopped shrieking, long after the mouse had hid itself somewhere safe. My family didn’t understand, but to our reptile brains, sometimes the tiniest thing is really the biggest and most important.

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-cute-little-mouse-301448/.

Garbage Can

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I do reuse plastic grocery store bags for garbage, but I don’t always want a plastic bag crinkling in the van. Also, a bag holding only a few light items sometimes gets caught by the wind and the contents are dumped on the floor. Even having to pick up a few items–especially if they’re nasty–after they’ve already been disposed of once can get be really annoying. I wanted a trash can, but I didn’t have room for even a small one meant for a bathroom. Something meant for a desktop might have worked, but I didn’t find anything adequately small at any thrift shop.

The Man was eating a lot of oatmeal at the time, so he had to dispose of an empty oatmeal container every couple of weeks. Those containers were sturdy, had a lid, and wouldn’t take up too much space. I thought one would work great for my trash can needs, so I snagged the next one The Man emptied.

Of course, a plain oatmeal container wasn’t good enough for me; I had to decorate it. I grabbed my supplies: my accordion file stocked with images cut from magazines and catalogs and intented for collages, scissors, The Man’s spray adhesive, and peel & stick adhesive laminate.

Since I didn’t want to spend hours on the project, I used big images. I cut the pictures to proper size, then one by one sprayed the adhesive on the back side, then stuck the image to the oatmeal container. I didn’t measure anything, just held pictures up to the container and eyeballed things. I wasn’t very concerned with straight edges either. This project was a quick one. I just wanted to pretty-up something practical; I didn’t need perfection. (I find I need less and less perfection in my life.)

Duck Brand 1115016 Peel N' Stick Laminate Adhesive Shelf Liner, 18-Inch x 24-Feet, Clear
My final step was to cover the container with sticky-on-one-side clear peel & stick adhesive laminate. I brought this product at a fairly small Wal-Mart. I’d used clear Contact brand paper before, and found it would eventually peel off my project. Upon investigation of the products available at the Wal-Mart, I found the Contact brand clear product was labeled “repositionable” which means “non permant.” I found Duck Brand peel & stick laminate; it was labeled “permanent.” That’s what I used for this project, and I haven’t noticed any peeling.

The clear sticky paper could be skipped, but it served two purposes on my project. First, it protects the cardboard the container is made from and the paper clippings glued to the cardboard. Second, the spray adhesive left sticky residue on some of the clippings, so the clear covering keeps the residue from attracting dirt and keeps me from touching stickiness whenever I touch the container.

With about an hour’s time commitment, I used mostly items that would have otherwise gone to the dump to make something attractive and functional to enhance my van life. (The spray adhesive and protective clear film were investments; those supplies will be used for many future projects.) For pennies, I got a pretty little trash can in just the size I needed.

This photo shows the result of my garbage can project.

I took the photos of my supplies and the end result. The photo of the Duck Brand peel & stick laminate is an affiliate link from Amazon. If you click on that link, I get a small advertising fee on anything you buy from Amazon during your shopping experience.

Lovies

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The family in the mercantile was an interesting one.

There were two older people—a man and a woman—who seemed to be the grandparents. With them was a younger adult male who seemed to be the dad of the two kids on the group. The girl was the older of the two children. She was probably 11. The boy was quite a bit younger, maybe four. Everyone in the group except the girl had some sort of British (or of British heritage) accent.

 

The little boy was immediately drawn to the plush puppets. He grabbed a bunny puppet and hugged it close. I love him, the boy proclaimed in his adorable accent. The boy held onto the bunny puppet as the family milled around the store.

I thought the dad might buy the puppet for the boy, but no. The dad told the boy to return the bunny to its friends. The boy didn’t seem happy to reunite the puppets, but he did as he was told without throwing a tantrum. (I’ve seen many tantrums thrown over those puppets.)

I thought the family would leave after the puppet was put away, but they continued to walk around Rana | Frog by Mawthe store aimlessly. The little boy picked up a green plush backpack in the shape of a frog. It was nearly as big as he was, so he struggled a little to carry it around the store.

After a few more minutes, the dad told the boy to give the frog a hug and put it away. The boy gave the frog not only a hug but several kisses on its head. The manager of the mercantile and I couldn’t help but grin at each other like the childless middle age women we are and whisper Oh! How cute! a few times.

As the boy put the frog back into its bin, the father said they’d be bringing home no more stuffed animals.

The girl looked at me and explained that in their house, each family member had a small bin (she demonstrated the size with her hands) to put stuffed animals in. All stuffed animals owned had to fit in the bin with no parts sticking out. If anyone wanted a new stuffed animal, he or she had to discard from the bin so the new one would fit.

The dad piped in that he and his wife had as many stuffed animals as the kids did. Then the older man added that he and his wife were still storing stuffed toys from the dad’s childhood. These were some serious stuffed animal lovers!

Multicolored Teddy Bears Background by GDJThe girl went on to tell me about the downsizing that happened before the bin storage system was implemented. Everyone in the family chose their favorite animals to keep in his or her bin. They gathered up all the stuffed animals they had decided to discard, and she and her dad took them down to Tijuana where they donated the toys to an orphanage.

I was happy to know this family had donated their excess to people who had less, rather than chuck it into a landfill. I bet it felt just like Christmas to those Mexican kids when the girl and her dad handed over those toys.

 

Images courtesy of https://openclipart.org/detail/159691/rana-|-frog and https://openclipart.org/detail/230149/multicolored-teddy-bears-background