Category Archives: My True Life

Spittle

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There’s a certain noise a person makes before spitting up a wad of phlegm. I have no clue how to convey the sound in writing, but I’m confident my readers have heard it before. It seems to come from deep within the body. It sounds nasty, just plain gross.

I was walking down St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans when I heard the noise we Cajuns call crache. It was a sweltering summer day, and I was rocking shorts, a tank top, and a cute cap my friend in the National Guard had given me. The cap was originally camo, but I’d died it black and removed the bill. I thought I was hot stuff.

I heard the sound and knew someone was about to spit, but I just kept walking. Someone else’s mucus was none of my business.

The mucus became my business seconds later when I felt something hit my head. I looked around and saw an old African American man who seemed nervous and embarrassed. His spittle had just landed on my cute little cap!

Ahm so sorry, ma’am, he drawled.

He produced a paper towel from some pocket and began dabbing at my cap.

I didn’t mean to do that, he said.

I never for one second thought he’d purposely spit on me, but that didn’t make my situation any less gross! Oh dear lord, the man’s mucus was on my person!

Ah can’t see right, he continued, ‘cause Ah got this cataract. He used the hand not swabbing at my cap to pull down his lower eyelid.

I found myself looking at an eyeball both milky-cloudy and bloodshot. Ewwww! Why did he have to show me his sick eye? The situation was getting worse by the moment. God forgive me, but I just wanted to get away from the man.

It’s ok, I said.

No problem!  I told him

He continued to apologize and smear his bodily fluid all over my hat.

I finally extricated myself from his apologies and ministrations and went home to scrub my cute little hat with hot water and lots of soap.

Honesty

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mail by arnelsxThe Man and I needed to pick up our mail one last time before the camping season ended and we left the forest. The post office where we got our mail via general delivery was in a community about 15 miles from our campsite and was only open on weekday mornings. We’d missed it on our days off that week, so we made a special trip on Thursday before starting work.

Johnny's Cup of Coffee Coloured by GrumpyDad

As we wound our way down the mountain, The Man said he’d like a cup of coffee. The little market near the post office sold coffee, so I pulled in there first. The Man made it almost to the store’s front door, then turned around and came back to the van.

What’s the matter? I asked when he opened the door.

His wallet wasn’t in his pocket.

The Man loses things on a regualr basis, but he typicaly finds his possessions eventually. In fact, the night before he’d been unable to find his headlamp, but it had turned up in the morning in his gym bag. I was confident the wallet was in the van and would be found.

The Man looked through his things, but the wallet wasn’t there. I even got in the back of the van to check the back pocket of a pair of work pants where I was sure I’d recently seen the wallet. Nothing. After five minutes of looking, I offered to loan him a couple of bucks so he could get coffee and we could head to the post office. I knew he’d have to tear the van apart later, but the small parking lot in front of the market was probably not the right place for such an activity.

Could it be in the tent? I asked. Maybe in the red bag?

The Man seemed skeptical on both counts.

He was in the post office before I could get out of the van. He came bounding down the stairs as I was about to go up. The labradorite cabochons he’d ordered from India had arrived! However, the postal worker needed to see The Man’s ID before he would release the package. The Man was going  back to the van to look for his wallet again.

While I was completing a change of address form, The Man came back into the post office holding his work badge. He explained to the postal worker that his wallet was missing, so he didn’t have his driver’s license, but he did have the photo ID from his job. Would that be acceptable?

I didn’t think it was going to work. I didn’t think a representative of a federal institution would recognize an ID issued by a private corporation instead of a governmental agency, but I was wrong. The postal worker turned over the package.

I have to find that wallet as soon as possible, The Man said as I drove us back to the campground. He knew he was going to worry until it was back in his hands.

It’s got to be in here, I reassured him, or maybe in the tent.  We’ll pull everything out of the van if we have to.

When we arrived at the campground, the old guys dismantlilng the mercantile yurt were already at work. The three of them stood looking at us, which made me surly because I don’t enjoy having an audience while trying to park. I guess the men were waving because The Man said, They want to talk to you.

I don’t want to talk to them, I muttered, so The Man went over to find out what was up. Turns out he was the one they wanted to talk to.Hands and Money by j4p4n

Is this your wallet? the goofy one asked The Man while showing him the nylon trifold. I found it behind the outhouse.

It was The Man’s wallet. His driver’s license was in it, along with his debit card and the cash he’d gotten at the ATM before we left civilization earlier in the week. How and when it ended up behind the restroom, we have no idea, but we’re very grateful an honest man was back there looking for a tool he’s left behind weeks before.

Images courtesy of https://openclipart.org/detail/180093/mail,  https://openclipart.org/detail, and /188782/johnnys-cup-of-coffee-coloured.

In Praise of a Pen

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My hands go numb when I write or type or make a hat or do macramé. Seems everything I do eventually causes a feeling of pins and needles in my hands, followed by pain, followed by numbness.

The problem started in the mid 1990s, and I blame it on alcohol, my friend The Computer Guy, and his friend Dan, on whom I had a crush. We were out drinking and The Computer Guy got an idea for a cool photo. The woman he was in love with was with us, and she was—conveniently—a photographer who, as always, had her camera.

Dig! The Computer Guy said with excitement in his voice. Dan can put Blaize on his shoulders and I’ll put Dan on my shoulders. We’ll stand under the Dragon’s Lair sign, and Gretchen can take our picture.

My beer addled brain thought it sounded like a fun idea. I certainly liked the prospect of having my legs around Dan’s head. The problem was—although I was at the thinnest of my entire life—I was still heavier than Dan. The photo Gretchen took shows The Computer Guy—strong as an ox—easily holding us both up while Dan seems to be crumpling under my weight.

Still, everything went fine until the photo was taken and we tried to disengage.

The Computer Guy lowered Dan to the ground gently, but Dan didn’t do so well with me. He must have bent over, as he tried to put me down, and I felt myself sprawling, falling. I put my arms out in front of me and caught myself with my hands.

My arms hurt for weeks. At the time I worked in a souvenir shop and the pain made even folding t-shirts impossible. When I told my dad how much I hurt, he asked if I’d seen a doctor. I just laughed. My minimum wage job didn’t offer insurance. I asked where I was going to get money to pay a doctor, hoping he might kick some down to me. He offered nothing.

The pain eventually subsided, but my hands have never been the same. There have been times when I couldn’t hold a pen long enough to sign my name. Whenever I bring my thumb and pointer finger together for more than the briefest period of time, my fingers tingle, then I feel pain, then they go numb until I can’t feel them at all, which means I can barely control them. Shaking my hands helps, as does stretching them and taking a break from the activity that’s causing the problem, but after 25 years, I think my hands will be this way for the rest of my life.

The situation has improved since riding a bicycle is no longer my main source of transportation and my job doesn’t require the use of power tools. I can hold a pen now, but I do better using a fat pen instead of a regular skinny pen if I’m going to handwrite more than a few sentences.

For months and years, I’ve been using whatever pens I’ve come across as free promotional items or paid for by the pound at a Goodwill Clearance Center. Of course, most of the free and cheap pens were skinny and numbed out my hand quickly. I was so happy when I found free fat pens, but they always ran out of ink too fast.

A few months ago, I’d had enough. I was tired of trying to write with pens that were too skinny for my comfort. I was tired of finding fat pens I liked only to have them run out of ink. I went into Wal-Mart determined to find a comfortable pen I could get refills for. I found just what I wanted in the Pilot Dr. Grip gel.

My Pilot Dr. Grip gel pen. Photo by me!

The pen cost around $6, and a two-pack of refills cost under two bucks.

If I don’t lose the pen, I’ll use it for years.

The pen fits nicely in my hand; its fatness minimizes the numbness my fingers experience. I really appreciate the rubber cushion on the area where my thumb and fingers rest while I’m writing.

The gel ink flows smoothly, which means I don’t have to hold the pen with a death grip and press into the paper so my words will show. As an added bonus, I was able to dismantle some of the darker color gel pens I bought from The Man when they no longer served his needs and use those cartridges as refills in my Dr. Grip.

I like the clip on the pen which lets me attach it to my notebook or my shirt. I also like being able to put the tip away by pushing the button on the top so I don’t have to worry about losing the cap.

I’m totally happy with my Dr. Grip, and I plan on using it for a long, long time.

 

How You Can Help the Rubber Tramp Artist

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Before I get into all the ways folks can help the Rubber Tramp Artist, I want to say thanks to everyone who’s already helped. Thanks to everyone who’s bought a hat or a necklace or a collage. Thanks to everyone who’s purchased my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods either through  Amazon or directly from me.  Thanks to everyone who’s made a donation through my blog, handed me a giftcard, or helped me out of a financial pickle. Thanks for every comment, every “like,” every word of encouragment and support. I get by with the help of my friends and fans.

All that said, I can still use help, financial and otherwise. There are lots of ways you can support me and my writing. Perhaps yo can take one or more of the following actions?

#1 Do some holiday shopping through my blog. My creations make great presents, and wouldn’t it be cool to support a struggling artist?. You can give friends and family warm winter hats, hemp jewelry, and colorful collages I made with my heart and hands. (If you don’t see exactly what you want, just ask. I have many many more necklaces than what’s shown on the jewelry page, and I may be able to make a custom piece for you.)

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
If you order copies of my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods from me, I’ll sign them and write something super nice to your recipient.

#2 If you do need to buy from a big business (and I know my wares may not please everyone on every holiday shopping list), you can go through my affiliate link when you shop at Amazon.

Say a reader wants to buy something from Amazon. The reader can go to my blog first and click through my site to get to Amazon. A reder can do this in a couple of ways.

The first way is to find the Amazon.com link in the column to the right of the main body of the post. The words “Just click here!” are in orange; that’s my link to Amazon. That link will take readers to Amazon and get me credit for items placed in their carts within 24 hours and purchased (usually) within 90 days.

If that link is too hard to find or too small on a cell phone, there’s another way to do it. On the top of every page of this blog, there’s a link for the page about my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. Go to that page. The image of the cover of my book is a link to Amazon. Click on the image of the cover of my book, and you’ll go to Amazon.com. Once a reader has gone to Amazon via either of these methods, s/he can shop for any item. Any item s/he puts in her/his cart in the next 24 hours and purchases within 90 days (usually) will earn me an advertising fee.

Going through the Rubber Tramp Artist blog to shop on Amazon costs the reader/shopper nothing extra. Amazon pays the advertising fee, not the reader/shopper.

Every month, I receive a list of items folks who clicked through my blog purchased from Amazon, but there’s absolutely no names linked to these purchases. I’ll never know who bought what items.

Of course, I’m not encouraging folks to buy things they don’t want or need. However, by going through my blog to make Amazon purchases they’d be making anyway, readers can help me earn a little money to keep me on the road.

#3 If you read Confessions of a Work Camper, review it. Whether on Amazon, Goodreads, or your Facebook page (or all three!) reviews of my book help get the word out. Reviews help people find the book, which hopefully will lead to people buying the book.

#4 If you read one of my blog posts and you like it, click the “like” button with the blue star at the bottom of the post. (You will be asked to sign in. You can either sign in with Word Press or with a Google account.)

#5 If you like a post, please please please share it. Everything on the Rubber Tramp Artist blog and the Rubber Tramp Artist Facebook page is public. If you think your friend(s) would like something I wrote, share it with them.

#6 If you see one of my posts in your Facebook feed and you like it, click “like” (or any of those other emotion icons). The more likes a post gets, the more likely it will get more attention. It’s a snowball effect, my friend The Poet says.

According to a 2014 article in Time,

If your posts keep people engaged, as measured by likes, comments, shares and time on screen, the social network will reward you with further reach.

Enough “likes” could help expand my audience.

#7 Invite your friends to like the Rubber Tramp Artist Facebook page. It’s easy! On the right side of the Rubber Tramp Artist Facebook page, under the blue “Send Message” button and rating stars, you’ll see “Community” and “Invite your friends to like this Page.” Click on the “Invite your friends” link, and you’ll be taken to a page where you can click to invite people.

#8 Leave a comment on either Facebook or at the end of a blog post. To leave a comment on blog posts, click on the “Leave a Comment” link above my bio. (The first time you leave a comment, I have to moderate it, so don’t worry if your first comment doesn’t pop up immediately.)

If you’re on Facebook, I trust you already know how to leave a comment.

I really do want to know what you think! Also, comments encourage me by letting me know folks are reading my posts.

#9 Subscribe to my blog. Subscribers get an email whenever a post pops up, so subscribers don’t have to worry about missing something new.

#10 Hit the yellow “Donate” button to the right of each post, right above “Subscribe.” I don’t charge anything for my blog posts because “free” is my favorite price. However, if you like something you read and you have a few bucks to kick down, I promise to put your dollars to good use.

Thanks to everyone who has helped and will help. I couldn’t do what I do without my fans and friends.

Photo of the Rubber Tramp Artist and Jerico by The Man.

 

Fatherless Daughter

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It’s been a year since my dad died of C. diff, and I feel as if I need to say something in recognition of that fact.

In most ways, my life hasn’t changed much without my dad. Before he died, we didn’t talk very often. I’d call him once a month or so, out of obligation, if he didn’t call me first. I tried not to bring up anything controversial during those conversations because I didn’t want to fight. I was weary of having conflict with him, although he didn’t seem to have any such aversions. He said whatever he wanted whenever he wanted with seemingly no thought of whether he might upset me.

Once we both had cellphones, I found texting with him was ok. Maybe he thought about his words before he tapped out the letters or maybe it was just more difficult for him to bait me in writing, but texting made checking in less likely to end in my anger or frustration. When he got his last smartphone, he somehow changed his settings so every text he sent to me was marked urgent. I laughed at his technological imcompotence, but I’d be glad to see one of those red exclaimation marks on a text from him now.

I miss my dad whenever something goes wrong with my van. My dad and I could discuss automotive issues without getting too personal. He enjoyed showing off knowledge I didn’t have, and I honestly appreciated his advice. Recently my van stalled and would’t start again. More than anything, I wanted to call my dad and ask for his opinion. It hasn’t fully sunk in that I’ll never be able to ask him for automotive advice again. When I do remember, recognition comes with a jolt of–if not quite sadness–a sense that something is missing from my life.

I think about him too when I get a good deal or have a frugal success. Dad will be so proud! I think when I realize I’ve tucked away screws I can use in place of the ones I’ve just lost in the dirt or get a flat repaired for free at a friendly tire shop. Again, I feel as if something is missing when I realize I’ll never be able to share my victories with my father.

Recently a friend of my sibling was watching the news and saw a report about extreme weather in the Gulf South. The friend wrote to my sibling, Dad ok? in reference to my father.

My sibling wrote, Hahah! He’s fine…sort of; he died last year.

The friend replied, I’m sorry…Was watching the news…and thinking of him.

I found the whole exchange hilarious, and it took me a long time to stop laughing. I chimed in, Hurricane ain’t gonna hurt Dad no more!

My sibling responded, I know, right?!!…it actually made me oddly happy and I laughed, that I don’t have to worry about the weather in Dad’s life anymore.

For me, it’s a relief to not have to worry about anything in Dad’s life anymore. I don’t have to worry about him being washed away by a hurricane. I don’t have to worry about him not having enough money to pay his bills. I don’t have to worry he will get sick and I’ll be the one expected to care for him. I don’t have to worry he’s going to say something to piss me off, and I don’t have to worry that he’s going to die because he’s already dead.

Despite the title of this post, I don’t actually think of myself as a fatherless daughter. Having a dead father is not some huge part of my identity, but every now and again, I do miss the best parts of my dad.

Leaving the Mountain Again

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I left the mountain this morning. I won’t see it again for at least seven months.

I didn’t sleep well last night. I hardly ever do before a big trip, but last night I was filled with worry. I was wide awake at 4:30 this morning. I went ahead and got out of bed and prepared to roll.

Yesterday was foggy and drizzly at the campground. When I tried to open the doors on my van this morning, I had to give them an extra tug because they were a little bit icy and the ice was holding them extra shut. My windshield was iced over too. As soon as I got the door to the driver’s side open, I started my engine and kicked on the defroster. The ice was melted by the time the van was packed.

The Big Boss Man sent me an email last night and asked me to stop by his trailer before I left this morning, so I did. He wanted to tell me that my name had come up twice at the company meeting he’d just returned from. I was the only non-managerial employee mentioned. Two highers-up in the company said what a great job I did in the mercantile this summer. They really want me to come back next summer, which means The Big  Boss Man really wants me to come back next summer. He said when his employees do a good job, it reflects well on him.

It was still dark as I made my way down the mountain. I got to see the sky gradually lighten until morning broke and the earth was blanketed in a beautiful golden brightness. I stopped in the first little town on my route, gassed up and bought a rather disappointing breakfast burrito. This is what I left behind me:

The highlight of my drive was a forest of Joshua trees. I’d driven through this forest in 2015 and have always regretted that I didn’t stop to take photos. Today I remedied the situation.

Despite my worries of last night, my van and I made it fine to tonight’s destination. I did have to get a jump start in the truck stop parking lot. I drove through one of those safety corridors where drivers are supposed to turn on their headlights. I dutifully turned mine on, but forgot to turn them off. My laundry was almost dry when a man in the Subway portion of the truck stop asked who the van belonged to. When I said it was mine, he said, Your lights are on. Oh no! I rushed outside and turned them off, but it was too late. After folding my clothes and putting them away, making my bed, and tidying the van, I tried to start the engine, but it just wasn’t happening. The nice man parked next to me helped, much to my relief.

I’m very tired, and I can’t wait for the sun to set so I can hunker down at the truck stop and get some much needed sleep. Tomorrow, my adventure continues.

I’m happy to move on to something new, but as always, I’m going to miss those giant sequoias.

I took the first two photos in this post. Photo of me hugging the giant sequoia by The Man.

Increasing Weirdness

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Have you ever started doing something fairly normal only to have your actions turn into high weirdness? That’s the story of my life.

One morning at the campground, I opened a garbage can in order to deposit trash inside. Sitting on top of the trash in the can, still perfectly clean, was a pretty little padded envelope. I’m a dumpster diver from way back, and I often need such envelopes when I send out jewelry, so I scooped it up. I saw the envelope had been addressed to the camp host. He must have tossed it after he’d emptied it.

I started peeling the post office stickers from the front of the envelope. I knew I could cover up any leftover sticker residue with whatever I wrote the recipient’s address on.

This is when my perfectly normal (at least for me) action of reclaiming something useful from the trash started getting weird.

I looked over at the little pile of sticker peelings I’d set on the garbage can lid. If I threw them into the garbage can and the camp host noticed them, then noticed the envelope was gone, would he think that was weird? I told myself I was being silly. He probably wouldn’t even notice the padded envelope was gone. (Most people aren’t aware of the contents of garbage cans, right?)

As I was about to walked away from the garbage can, I looked into the padded envelope.  Inside was a plain white envelope. I removed the plain white envelope. I knew I needed to return the plain white envelope to the camp host, but that would require me telling him I’d been digging in the trash (although the padded envelope had been right on top and I hadn’t actually had to do any digging to get to it) and had taken something he’d thrown away. Would he think my taking his trash weird and stalkerish?

My next thought was that I should maybe throw out the white envelope and keep the padded one. The thought after that was I should check the white envelope and make sure there’s no money in it. I swear I had no intention of keeping any money I found. Any money I found would have gone directly to the camp host.

I could have stopped the weirdness right there. I could have told the camp host, I dumpstered your discarded padded envelope and found this in it, while handing him the sealed white envelope. Did I do that? No. Instead, I ripped open the white envelope. I found no money in it, only a pretty little notecard. I opened the notecard to check for money. There was no money, only words.

Then I did the unthinkable. I read the words written on the notecard!

I’m going to blame my breach of etiquette on my lack of sleep (less than five hours) and the coffee I’d drunk to get through the day, but the reality is, I knew better. I knew and I know it’s not ok to read someone else’s mail.

So there I stood, padded envelope and open white envelope in hand. My first impulse was to put the white envelope in the garbage can. Actually, I hid the white envelope under some other trash. Then I realized I’d only added to the weirdness instead of ending it. What if the camp host talked to his friend who’d sent the mail and she mentioned the note? What if he went to the garbage can to retrieve the padded envelope in order to find the white envelope and the padded envelope wasn’t there? What if he dug around in the trash can and found the opened white envelope?  He’d know someone had opened his correspondence, then threw it away. Every scenario I considered as a way to solve the problem only added to the potential weirdness if the camp host got involved.

There was only one thing to do. I had to confess, even if I was confessing to being the world’s biggest weirdo freak. Sigh.

I dug the open white envelope out of the trash. Thankfully, nothing gross had happened to it.

As soon as I saw the camp host, I explained the whole situation. He didn’t seem upset, even when I told him I’d read the note on the card. (Maybe it helped that the card wasn’t highly personal.) Luckily the camp host has seen a lot of weirdness in his life. Perhaps my weirdness barely registered. One can hope.