Author Archives: Blaize Sun

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

I Like to Party

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The Man and I have moved into our new digs out in the dessert, and we are slowly meeting the neighbors.

Most of the people who spend the winters in this area have been doing so for decades. Folks know each other, so newcomers stand out. Are you the girl who bought Coyote Steve’s place? folks keep asking me. They look a little skeptical when I say I am. Is their skepticism because I’m probably 20 years younger than the average person out here or is it because they don’t know if I have what it takes to be a desert dweller? I don’t know the answer to the question.

The other day, The Man and I were trying to get on the road. He had an appointment at a dental clinic, and we were trying not to be late. We’d stopped at the campground office on our way out to check on our mail. The Man was going to throw a bag of trash into the dumpster, and I was going inside to ask after a package we were expecting.

As I got out of the van, the three old guys on the porch eyed me suspiciously. I was in a hurry, so I’m not sure if I said hello.

Are you the girl who bought Coyote Steve’s place? the one standing up called after me. He had longish white hair and a longish white beard. He wore a red t-shirt and khaki shorts. I’d be surprised if he’s celebrated fewer than 65 birthdays.

I am, I said over my shoulder. I know I should have stopped, said hello, introduced myself, but I was in a hurry and feeling more East Coast than Southern.

Well, I’m your neighbor, he bellowed, and I like to party!

People Dancing Inside BuildingI just kept walking while wondering what information he wanted me to take from his statement. Was he offering me an invitation to party with him? Was he warning me to expect noise from his rig? What kind of partying did he like to do? Classic rock and whisky? Electronic dance music and Ecstasy? Was he hoping I was looking for sex with an older man? Perhaps I should have asked for more details, but I just kept walking.

When I got back in the van, I told The Man, That old man told me he likes to party!

I guess I was a little scandalized, not because a senior citizen might like to raise some hell and have some fun, but because he thought I might want to participate.

Well, The Man drawled, you can’t blame a man for putting it out there.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-dancing-inside-building-801863/.

X Factor

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I’d just found out the man who kissed me on Lundi Gras was married. Now I understood why he never game me his home number, why he never called me, why he hadn’t asked me out on a date. I was sad…sad to still be without a boyfriend, sad to still be unloved and alone. I didn’t want to feel sad so I tried to drown my sadness with alcohol.

It started with a box of wine. Some of the guys who lived in my dorm, Iberville Suites, played on an intermural softball team. They had a game that Friday afternoon, and they were we going to prepare for the game by drinking boxed wine. I chipped in a couple of bucks, so the alcohol belonged to me too. The box and two cans of spray paint were taken outside. First the entire box was painted silver, then a black x was painted on each side. The wine was no longer simply wine; it was X Factor.

I drank my fair share of the X Factor and was pretty well drunk when I walked over to the softball field. I’m not exactly sure what happened next, but I have a vague memory of heckling a member of the opposing team by insinuating he was gay. I was relying on the guy’s own homophobia to make him uncomfortable, but I should have really kept my big mouth shut.

One of the guys from the dorm was pretty drunk too, and he was also heckling the opposing team. He got kicked out of the whole area for his efforts; the umpire said he couldn’t even sit in the stands and watch the game.

The next thing I remember was thinking it was a good idea to call my mother and share my woes. Yes, that’s right, I was drunk and thought it was reasonable to call my mother and discuss my newfound knowledge of the marital status of the man I’d thought was into me. For some ill-conceived reason, I called her from the pay phone in the lobby of my dorm and proceeded to broadcast my business in front of God and everybody. It was as if I wanted the whole world to know what a loser I was.

I don’t think I told my mother I’d been drinking. Maybe she pretended she didn’t know what was going on. (My mother has always been very good with denial.) In any case, I told her all about the guy with his smooth DJ voice and his fake DJ name and his wife.

At your age, my mother said, you don’t need this.

She was right, I realized, although I think it’s more accurate that no woman needs to be involved with a married man at any age. Although I knew my mom was right, my heart was still broken, so I kept drinking.

My friends decided we needed more alcohol, so we got into a car and went to the grocery store. I remember standing in a brightly lit aisle, picking out bottles of Boone’s Farm soda pop-sweet wine. In those days a bottle could be had for $1.75, a good price even on a college student’s budget.

While we were out and about, I convinced my friends to take me to Tower Records so I could buy a cassette tape featuring the Ugly Kid Joe song “I Hate Everything About You.” I was feeling a lot of negative emotion and longed for music that would allow me to wallow.

I had a bit of a crisis at the cash register when I found out Tower accepted Visa and MasterCard but not Discover, which was the only form of payment I had on me. Luckily one of my friends agreed to pay for the tape when I said I could pay him back after I went to the credit union on Monday. I’m sure he was willing to do anything in his power to avoid witnessing me meltdown in the middle of the record store.

Back at the dorm, we drank, and my friends tried to cheer me up, although I was really inconsolable. People sing about drinking to forget, but alcohol never helped me to forget. All alcohol did was help me remember my problems in vivid Technicolor detail.

Oh shit! In the middle of the drinking and the moaning, I remembered something important. I was scheduled to work the dorm’s front desk from 4am to 7am that very morning. I sloppily confided my problem to my friend who also worked the desk in the dorm. What was I going to do?

It was about 2am, too late to call anyone and ask him or her to cover my shift. I was going to have to work, drunk or not.

My coworker friend (who’d also been drinking but held her liquor better than I ever did) devised a plan. I would drink a big glass of water, go to my room, lie down in my bed, and try to nap for a couple of hours. She would stay awake but quit drinking. At 3:55, she’d come and get me, and we’d go down to the lobby and work the shift together. It seemed like the best I could do, so I went to my bed and lay down. A couple hours later, my friend and I were in the lobby. I sat behind the desk and tried to hold my head upright and stay awake, while my friend sat on a couch and dozed.

Sometime earlier in the night, I’d heard that the fellow who’d gotten kicked out of the softball game had ended up in the emergency room with alcohol poisoning. I’d been vaguely worried, but hadn’t thought much about it until he sauntered into the dorm around 4:45 in the morning.

Oh my god! I gushed. I heard you went to the hospital. Are you ok?

I’m fine, he shrugged. After they pumped my stomach, I went out drinking again.

I could not believe this fool. This chain of events was one of the dumbest things I’d ever heard.

I jumped to my feet, but didn’t stop there. I stood up on my chair and proclaimed, You are a stupid motherfucker! That’s the official Iberville Suites opinion of you!

He just laughed as he got on the elevator, while my friend talked me down from my perch.

The rest of the shift was uneventful. Time crawled by and I struggled to remain alert. My friend sat in the lobby with me the whole time. At 7am, she opened the curtains and unlocked the front door. We’d fulfilled our obligation, and I didn’t get myself fired. We went up to our rooms to pass out for a few hours until it was time to start our Saturday.

Love Letter to My Own Dear Self

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This post was written and scheduled before I began my new blog schedule, which explains why it’s not of particular interst of rubber tramps, nomads, travelers and van dwellers. I’ll be back on track next week.

Dear Me,

Hand with oil pastel draws the heartI know I don’t often tell you how much I love and appreciate you. It’s easy to get caught up in negativity and criticism and to forget to express gratitude for all the good. So on this day of hearts and flowers, I want you to know there’s so much I like about you.

I love your laugh and your sense of humor. When you think something’s comical, you don’t hold back; you’re not afraid to laugh long and loud. It’s awesome that you’re funny and make other people laugh too. You see what’s amusing even in sad times and amidst irritation. You know how to lighten a situation with humor, a trait your coworkers always appreciate.

I admire your love for the underdog. You have compassion for every homeless person on the street, every panhandler, every sign flyer. You don’t see the poor as a huddled mass, but as individuals, each with a story. You care about all of them. Remember when the dental office lied about the cost of their procedures, then tried to manipulate you into paying too much for services you didn’t want? You weren’t only angry about what they’d tried to do to you. You were also outraged because they are scamming poor people with few choices who may not know how to protest. It’s awesome that you can recognize and speak out about the suffering of others.

I’ve seen you give the shirt off your back to a man who was cold. (You had a t-shirt on underneath and more shirts at home, but it was a favorite shirt, and you were chilly as you walked back to your house.) I’ve seen you give a dollar to a sign flyer when you were mostly broke yourself. I’ve seen you give something you loved to a friend who admired the item. I know you don’t like to brag about your generosity (you’re modest too!), but I see and appreciate the way you share.

Your creativity is fantastic. Not only can you take a few old catalogs and some glue and turn out a beautiful collage, you can problem-solve to make real life better. I’ve seen you make a tasty dinner from a few random ingredients. I’ve seen you extend the life of your favorite jacket by sewing thrift-store patches over stains. I’ve seen you turn an old skirt into a curtain. You’re blessed with an imagination that allows you to see how what you have can be changed into what you need.

Your creativity pairs nicely with your frugality. If you have a need, you don’t rush out to buy a brand new something. You think about what you already have that might solve the problem. You shop at thrift stores and free boxes until you find what you need, or you try to do without. You never buy new clothes, and when new shoes are necessary, you look for a good deal on EBay. You find the free activities in every town you visit, and you know how to cook dinner in the park so you can avoid paying for restaurant food. You never met a bargain bin, reduced-produce shelf, or day-old bakery rack you didn’t like.

I know you are a loving friend. You write cards and letter to people you know will never write back Three Red Heart Balloonsbecause you hope getting mail will brighten someone’s day. You work hard at being a good listener, whether a pal is telling you a funny story or lamenting a sad situation. You call people; you comment on Facebook; you stay in touch.

You’re a great writer, and you keep getting better. Your growth as a writer is evident to anyone who reads your blog regularly. Your writing ability was fine when you started, but the consistent practice has brought you to a higher level. Readers are engaged with what you have to say; you know how to pull them into the story. You’re learning how to be more concise, and you’re not afraid to try new ways of weaving stories so your readers don’t get bored after three years of regular posts.

Of all the things I like about you, your hope is what stands out most. You’ve had hard times, and there are probably more on the way, but you haven’t given up. You may not always believe life will get better, but you hang onto the belief that life could get better. You haven’t given up on improvement. You may say, What’s the point? but you haven’t yet concluded that there is no point. Sometimes your hope is big, but even when your life is at its worst, you hold onto at least a glimmer of optimism.

I know sometimes you want to pull away and hide when you feel unloved and unwanted and unappreciated. Please remember, you are always loved. I love you. I appreciate you. I’m always here to take you in my arms, rock you gently, kiss your tears away.

Love,

Me

beautiful, hands, heart

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/hand-with-oil-pastel-draws-the-heart-6333/ , https://www.pexels.com/photo/three-red-heart-balloons-704748/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/sunset-hands-love-woman-5390/.

Married Man

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I called the DJ I’d met on Lundi Gras a few times at his work. We chatted amicably, but he never gave me his home number or asked me out on a date.

The third or fourth time we talked, he said, You know I’m married, right?

Well no, in fact I did not know he was married. How would I know? It hadn’t occurred to me to check his finger for a ring because I naively assumed a married man would not be kissing a young woman he’d just met in the French Quarter. Evidently I was wrong.

I told him good-bye, hung up the phone, and proceeded to get very, very drunk.

There was a box of wine involved and an intramural softball game where I heckled the members of the opposing team. Later there was a trip to the grocery store where my friends and I bought bottles of Boone’s Farm sangria and Strawberry Hill. Before we drank in a dorm room, I convinced the driver to go to Tower Records so I could buy the cassette tape by Ugly Kid Joe featuring the song “I Hate Everything About You.”

After the softball game and before the trip to the grocery store and Tower Records, I called my mother from the payphone in the lobby of my dorm.

I told her what happened. This man…phone number…married. I don’t remember if I told her about the kiss.

At your age, she told me, you don’t need this.

As if at some other age it might make sense to get involved with a married man? It was a strange way to phrase the advice, but I think she meant, You’ve got your whole life ahead of you; don’t fuck it up so soon.

I honed in on you don’t need this and realized she was right. This man barely seemed interested in me and he was married? Forget it!

(In retrospect, I wonder if he was trying to find a young woman who would pursue him, someone he could blame if his marriage fell apart. Honey, it wasn’t really what I wanted, I imagine him telling his wife. She kept after me until I was worn down.)

I never called the DJ again, and he never called me.

Several months later, I was working retail. We were allowed to listen to the radio, but only the local country music station. I usually worked nights, but one week I picked up a day shift to help out a coworker. The country music station was blasting from the speakers and guess who the DJ was. Yep, the married man who’d kissed me on Lundi Gras. He talked about his wife and his new baby. What? Baby? Yep, he sure was smitten with his new baby and the wonderful wife who’d produced it for him.

Had his wife been pregnant when he kissed me? I did some quick math. Yes, she had. She had certainly been pregnant the night he kissed me. She’d been pregnant when I called him at work. She’d been pregnant when he told me he was married.

What kind of game had he been playing? I thought about calling him and demanding answers but decided I was better off not talking to him.

My mom was right. At my age, I didn’t need such complications.

Now I’m glad I didn’t call and demand answers, didn’t make a scene, didn’t make his life difficult. While I don’t think he should have kissed me while he was married to someone else (especially a pregnant someone else), I hope I was a blip on the screen of an otherwise happy relationship.

So strange to think his baby is now older than I was at the time her father kissed me.

So strange to think I followed my mother’s advice and I’m glad I did.

Lundi Gras

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It was Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras, and the entire city was in party mode. It was the perfect time for kissing a stranger in the French Quarter and bringing a stranger home to share my bed.

I was a student at a university in New Orleans, adrift in-between boyfriends. I’d recently freed myself from my controlling high school sweetheart who’d thwarted my plan to slowly drift apart when I went off to college by following me there. I was looking for love but settling for sex in those party days of my early 20s.

I’d gotten a temporary job for the Mardi Gras season through a friend of a friend. The t-shirt shop where I worked was tucked into a quiet corner of the Quarter and was only open during daylight hours. After closing up shop, the woman I was working with and I met our mutual friend and took our party to the streets.

Our first stop was the convenience store where cans of cheap beer floated in a tall cooler filled with slushy ice. The beer was nasty, but the price was right for working-class collage students at only a dollar for not just one but two cans. I downed one of my beers quickly, while it was still icy cold. I enjoyed the way the alchohol went straight to my head.

Where all did we walk that night? I have a hazy memory of the fountain at the Riverwalk and crowds of people packed in to listen to Dr. John play. It was too much for us, or maybe we didn’t see anyone we knew, but for whatever reason, we wandered back to the Quarter.

I think I met the DJ on Jackson Square. We met in some quiet place, because I was able to hear him when he spoke. He was a DJ at a local radio station. Although his radio name was the same as a classic rock legend, the DJ worked at a country music station. At some point during our conversation, he leaned over and kissed me. It was a rather chaste kiss, but it made my head spin as much as the beer had. He liked me! He was an older man (maybe even 30!), an adult with a real job, and he liked me! Usually my friends got all the guys, but this grown-ass man liked me.

My friends quickly got bored and urged me to come on! There was to be more from this night than me getting kissed. There was bound to be more exitement around the next corner.

I said good-bye to this exciting man who I expected to change my life.

Call me at the radio station, he said to me and told me the hours he worked. I was too naive to know that a man who really liked me would scribble his home phone number on a scrap of paper and press it into my hand.

We hadn’t gone far before we ran into the two boys* from Chicago in town from Mardi Gras. My friend had met them somewhere (a bar probably) a night or two before and befriended them. They were maybe even crashing on my friend’s floor. My memory is fuzzy after all these years. They were dressed like they’d come from the video for a song by the Black Crows–all patched pants and nouveau hippie.

The one guy had dark hair. He was nice enough, but I don’t remember his name or much about him. His friend, however, was lovely. His name was Michael and he looked like a nouveau hippie angel. His blondish hair was longish and curly, but he looked more like a cherub than a Greek god. He was good-looking, but attainable.

The five of us hung out the rest of the night, walking the streets of the Quarter. At some point I’d drunk my second 50 cent beer, but I don’t think I’d had any more alcohol than that. I was tipsy but not sloppy, and I was having a great time.

The more I hung out Michael, the more I liked him, and the more I liked him, the more I wanted him in a carnal way. Emboldened by the alcohol and the earlier kiss from a stranger (which proved I was desirable), I decided I was going to ask this young man to come home (and by home, I mean dorm) with me.

I waited until we were stopped on the sidewalk so my friends could talk to someone they knew and I didn’t. Michael’s friend had wandered out of earshot, and the two of us were standing there a little awkwardly, two wallflowers at the world’s biggest party.

I turned to him and smiled. Would you think I was a terrible person if I asked you to come home with me?

He grinned at me, said, I wouldn’t think that at all, and hugged me.

Michael and I spent the rest of the evening out grinning at each other. We knew what was going to happen next, even if our friends were still clueless.

I don’t remember how we got back to my dorm, but I remember us going to my room where my roommate thankfully was not. We had friendy sex, them grabbed a few hours of sleep next to each other in my single bed. In the morning, I walked him downstairs and watched him leave through the big glass doors at the front of the building.

I never saw or heard from Michael again, but I’ll never forget the Lundi Gras when I was kissed by a stranger and slept with an angel.

* by “boys” I mean two young men old enough to consent

Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress

Play-Doh: A Tale of Adulthood

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I don’t remember why my mother and I were at the mall.architecture, blur, building

I was in my early 20s, home from college for the weekend. My parents’ marriage was in the early stages of shambles, although I may not have realized it at the time. We’d probably left the house to get away from my dad, but why the mall? Neither my mom nor I were big shoppers, except at thrift stores, so the mall seems like a strange choice for us, but there we were.

The one redeeming quality of this small-town mall was a dollar store. This store wasn’t Family Dollar or Dollar General or one of those tricky “dollar” stores. This store sold every item in it for one single U.S. dollar. It was almost as good as a thrift store.

I don’t remember all the stores we visited that day. I don’t remember what we bought, save for one purchase from the dollar store: a can of Play-Doh.

Perhaps I was trying to reclaim my so recently left behind childhood. Perhaps I was planning for a night of psychedelic fun. I do remember being really into toys in those days. I could no longer play with the same abandon I’d enjoyed as a kid, but I kept toys around in the hope they’d provide some relief from a life of exams, ex-boyfriends, and money woes.

The Play-Doh was vivid purple. When I opened the can, I saw it was smooth and unsullied. It exuded that particular Play-Doh odor of chemicals and innocence. It was soft and cool under my fingers as I kneaded and rolled it. I’d never been much of a sculptor, but I’d always enjoyed the tactile sensation of Play-Doh in my hands.

As long as I could remember, I’d wondered what it would be like to sink my teeth into a mound of the modeling compound. I’d never been a glue eater or a paper chewer or a consumer of ChapStick like the girl in my sister’s kindergarten class who ate half the contents of a tube in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. It wasn’t that I wanted to eat the Play-Doh so much as know what it would feel like between my teeth. This chunk looked so clean and inviting.

I told my mom I’d always wanted to bite into a thick chunk of the stuff. As I raised the Play-Doh to my mouth, she used my first and middle names, a sure indication she had on her bossy pants. Don’t you dare!  she commanded.

She was going to forbid me? Game on! I was a grown woman! I made my own decisions! She could no longer tell me what to do!

I brought the purple Play-Doh up to my mouth while my mother looked at me with horror and amazement. Yep, I was really going to defy her. Yep, I was really going to bite into the Play-Doh.

I don’t remember how it felt when my teeth sank into that purple loveliness. I do remember it tasted awful. Luckily we were sitting in the still-parked car, so I was able to open my door and spit the contents of my mouth onto the asphalt. It was so gross, so very, very gross. I spit a few more times to remove all residue.

I’m sure my mother was trying to decide if she should embrace the anger she felt at my willful disobedience or laugh as I suffered my comeuppance. It wouldn’t be the last time I experienced adult independence as something less than delicious.

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/architecture-blur-building-business-449559/.

Update on the 2018 RTR

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It’s just not the same, I heard a variety of people say about the 2018 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR).

Well, no, it wasn’t the same.

This year wasn’t the same as the first RTR I attended in 2015. That year, the people who’d been attending since the early days of the gathering were complaining—or at least observing—that the RTR wasn’t like it once was.

The biggest change is always the increase in attendance. In 2015, when maybe 100 people were at the RTR, founders of the event remembered fondly when only 40 people attended and everyone sat around the fire together and shared food at community meals.

The community meals were one of my favorite parts of the RTR in 2015 and 2016, but they were left off the schedule in 2017 because the group had grown too large for anyone not experienced in cooking for crowds to prepare soup or chili for everyone. No one stepped up to the challenge, so that avenue of socializing was no longer available to me and others who used the excuse of food as a good reason to gather and mingle.

I’ve heard varying estimates of how many people attended the 2018 RTR. I’m sure Bob Wells put up a video on his You Tube channel where he names a figure. A New York Times article about this year’s Rendezvous said the BLM estimated the number to be over 3,000. Even without knowing exactly how many people attended over ten days, I can tell you, the 2018 RTR was huge!

The RTR was already huge the day before it officially started.

I was working with my friend Coyote Sue to make the RTArt Camp happen. Unfortunately, Coyote Sue was stuck 20 miles up the road with her broke down Class C, so the task of finding the space set aside for the RTArt Camp fell to me. When Coyote Sue contacted the main RTR organizer to say I’d be arriving first, she was told no space was being held for the art camp because when the organizers arrived, early birds had taken the area that was supposed to be for us. (I have no idea if those early birds were asked to move or even told they were parked in an area intended for a planned RTR activity.)

Because no space had been held for the RTArt Camp, The Man and I were tasked with finding a good spot. It was before noon on the day before the gathering began, and people were already packed in pretty close. There was no space to accommodate several rigs plus several tables anywhere near the main seminar area.

I was growing increasingly stressed. I could handle claiming a spot that had been earmarked for me, but finding and staking out a spot on my own was not an easy task. I was really worried about picking a spot Coyote Sue was going to hate. (I shouldn’t have worried. Coyote Sue is always easygoing and believes things work out the way they’re supposed to. She is a pleasure to work with, and I thoroughly enjoyed assisting her with the art camp.)

Thankfully, The Man talked to a guy who gave us the tip to immediately veer to the left after we pulled onto the music camp road. We took his suggestion and found a roomy spot in an area that wasn’t too crowded. The RTArt Camp was about a five minute walk from the main gathering area, but the necessary crossing of a quite deep wash kept some artsy folks, especially folks with disabilities, away.

Coyote Sue and I went to the seminar on the first official day of the RTR to make an announcement about the activities going on at the art camp. Literally hundreds of people were gathered to learn the basics of the RTR in particular and Quartzsite in general. Instead of letting us make our announcement first, Bob made us wait until sometime in the middle of his presentation. I hadn’t planned to stay for the seminar, but because I was there, I got to hear some of what Bob told the masses.

After asking everyone in the audience to turn off their recording devices, he said he wanted to be the only person recording and posting videos of the seminars online. Then he asked people to request permission from other folks before taking their photo or including them in videos. He pointed out that some people are in situations where it is unsafe for their image to appear online, but then said if keeping one’s image off the internet was a matter of life or death, folks in such a situation should probably leave because their safety could not be guaranteed.

Bob went on to talk a lot about how all of us there were part of a tribe and how we should be kind to each other and kind to the earth. He said he was happy to see all of us, whether we’d been on the road for 20 years or if the night before was the first time we’d slept in our car. He said we all needed each other and the most important part of the RTR was meeting people and making friends. It was an inspiring little speech, and I left feeling good, although I was happy enough to get the heck out of there after Coyote Sue and I finally make our announcement.

As in years past, the free pile was a highlight of the RTR for me. This year I was much farther from it than in years past, so I was able to check it less often. Still, I found lots of great stuff, including several bags of mostly glass beads and colorful plastic “jewels.” I took what I wanted and donated the rest to the RTArt Camp. I also got an orange t-shirt, an orange striped cloth tote bag, a bright pair of sneakers, a pair of Minnetonka moccasins (which I immediately lost, never to see again), and an easily rolled up sleeping pad from Land’s End. The Man got a really nice, large backpack (so he left his too-small Kelty backpack in the pile for someone else to enjoy), a Nalgene water bladder backpack, and a warm Carhartt jacket in pretty good condition. Jerico wasn’t left out; we got him a soft bed and a thin blanket so he can sleep comfortably and be covered but not get too hot. I didn’t find as much food as I did in years past, maybe because I was being picky about what I grabbed. (I could have acquired ten pounds of white rice, but I’d rather eat brown.) I did get a hug bag of caramel kettle corn, a can of garbanzo beans, and a jar of vegetable spice.

Privacy did turn out to be a huge concern. For one thing, even in our less densely populated area, there were lots of people. Sometimes after dark it would have been easier to squat outside to pee, but there was too much potential of being seen from the rigs all around. I wasn’t so much shy as concerned with offending people who didn’t want to accidentally see me with my pants down.

About a week into the gathering, an old guy with a drone made camp across a small wash from us. He flew his drone for hours each day. The buzz the device made was irritating, and friends camped nearby reported the man flew the drone right into or hovered over their camps several times. We assumed the drone had a camera, but we didn’t know if he was taking photos or video and if he was, if he then posted the media online.

One evening as I was cooking dinner, a young man walked into our camp with a recording device. Can I record that? he asked as he pointed his device towards the potatoes frying in the cast iron skillet.

Sure, I said, as long as you don’t record me.

I found out later that he did record me. He recorded me saying don’t record me, and put my face up on the internet saying those very words.

He apparently was recording other women too, voicing over disparaging comments about the women, then sharing those videos on the internet. My friends said he was also recording the seminars and posting them online along with his comments, despite Bob’s request that folks not record and post the seminars. When my friend contacted the RTR organizers to let them know what this guy was doing, she was told don’t let it bother you. I understand if the organizers felt there was nothing they could do to stop the guy (although I don’t know if any of the organizers sought him out to discuss his behavior), but the response of don’t let it bother you seemed to me and my friends as if the concerns weren’t being taken seriously.

One afternoon a woman approached the RTArt Camp table with her camera pointed at us. When Coyote Sue told her not everyone sitting there wanted to be in the photo, the woman went on a diatribe about how we were at a public event and we couldn’t expect privacy. She said at a public event, anyone could legally take our photos. She went on to say she understood our concern because someone had tried to film an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting she’d been in at the RTR, and she’d had to shut that down.

The facilitator of the women’s meeting asked that no on record the meeting (video or audio) or take photos of the folks there. Hopefully, no one disregarded her request. She also asked that if and when men approached the group, someone get up and gently explain a women-only meeting was taking place. Instead, the men who approached the group were met with shouts and jeers. They know. They know, women muttered when men approached, believing men where purposely trying to eavesdrop and infringe on our privacy. Maybe that was the case with a few of the handful of men who walked up to our group, but I think most were just clueless. It would have been kinder—and far less disruptive to our group—if, as the facilitator had requested, one woman had quietly stood up, explained to the interloper what was happening, and requested he leave.

The first women’s meeting was huge, by the way. There must have been two or three hundred women there. The facilitator reported it was the first RTR women’s meeting where everyone in attendance did not get the opportunity to speak. Instead, new women introduced themselves, then women with lots of experience introduced themselves.  After an hour of introductions, the large group broke up to give everyone a chance to mingle. I mingled by carrying Lady Nell’s chair back to her camp and then helping some women with disabilities coordinate rides. I’m not very good at mingling with strangers.

So no, the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous is not the same. It will never be what it once was. It was a backyard picnic and now [it’s a] state fair, Auntie M said about the RTR. I think the gathering can still be a good place for people to learn how to live nomadically, and—probably more importantly—meet other nomads. For folks who don’t mind crowds and the possibility of having their faces recorded and shared on the internet at every turn, the RTR can be a great place to learn and network. However, I’m pretty sure my RTR days are over.