Category Archives: My True Life

Helping Hand

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I’m not telling you this story so you’ll think I’m cool. I don’t think what I did was really so special. I’m telling you this story to inspire you to help someone who might need a hand.

I think we had just turned down Indian Route 15.

The Lady of the House and I were on our epic road trip through Arizona and Utah. We’d just left Winslow, where yes, we stood on the corner. Now we were on a long leg of the trip to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. We’d left the I-40 just east of Winslow, and were currently in the Navajo Nation.

I think we had just turned down Indian Route 15 when we saw the man and the woman standing next to a dusty SUV pulled off on the shoulder of the road. I don’t remember how we determined they were having trouble. They weren’t waving their arms or otherwise trying to signal drivers to stop, but trouble was the only reason I could imagine for pulling off the road there.

We should see if we can help them, I said to The Lady as I passed the people and their vehicle, then slowed down to pull off on the shoulder ahead of them.

You jump out and ask if they need anything, I said to The Lady. She’s the more outgoing of the two of us, so I figured she’d be better at approaching strangers.

She did jump out and was back quite soon. The people had a flat tire, she reported. They had phone service and water, so they didn’t need our help with those things. The woman wanted to know if we could give her a ride just down the road to a supermarket so she could buy a can of Fix-a-Flat.

I didn’t mind giving her a ride. While my van only has two passenger seats with seatbelts, there was room for her to perch on the edge of the bed. I could drive slowly so she wouldn’t feel her life was endangered without a seat belt.

Too bad I didn’t have the 12-volt air compressor I’d bought earlier in the year after a tire disaster on BLM land. I’d purchased the compressor along with a can of Fix-a-Flat in preparation for future tire disasters. Unfortunately for the people with the flat, I’d left the compressor with The Man who was rolling on three used tires and more likely to need it. If I’d had the compressor with me, I would have used it to try to pump up their tire. Maybe the tire would have held air long enough to get them to a tire repair shop. Since I didn’t have the compressor, all I could do was give the woman a ride so she could buy herself a can of Fix-a-Flat.

Oh wait! I had a can of Fix-a-Flat. I could just give her my can of Fix-a-Flat which would save us both time and save her money too.

I jumped out of the drivers seat and went around to the back of the van. After opening the doors, I had to move bags of food and a large plastic tote so I could rummage around in a small tub, but I finally put my hands on the can of Fix-a-Flat.

Is this what you were going to get? I asked the woman who had come closer to the van when The Lady beckoned her. When she said yes, I handed the can to her and told her she could have it.

She thanked us, and The Lady and I jumped back in the van. I don’t know what else we could have done to help.

The supermarket the woman had said was just down the road turned out to be about six miles away. I wouldn’t have minded driving that far, I told The Lady, but it was father than I’d expected.

When she asked for a ride, I asked her how she was going to get back, The Lady told me. She said she would walk. That would have been a long walk!

I would have waited for her, I told The Lady. I would have given her a ride back to her truck.

However, since we still had a long way to go to get to the campground where we planned to stay that night, I was happy I was able to simply hand over what she was planning to buy anyway.

I replaced the can of Fix-a-Flat a couple of days later while we were in civilization. When we got back to Babylon, The Lady gave me her family’s old air compressor that no longer works when plugged it into a regular electrical outlet but does still work when I plug it into my van’s 12-volt outlet. Now The Man and I are both prepared for tire disasters.

I hope the people on Indian Route 15 were back on the road in no time.

This photo is on the side of a laundromat in Kayenta, AZ.

I took the photos in this post.

 

 

Step Back

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I was in a suburb of a large metro area, at a gas station in the parking lot of a supermarket that is part of a big chain. I walked up the the booth to pay rather than run my debit card through the reader and risk identify theft or a drained bank account. One person was already standing at the window, waiting for the attendant to return.

The person was presenting a female gender identity. She was younger than I am, and dressed in tight clothes. She didn’t mind showing off her body.

I took my place in line behind the woman. I was standing the normal distance I would stand behind a person in a line in front of me. I don’t like people all up in my business, so I try to avoid  getting all up in the business of others. My desire for space means other people have space too. However, my definition of enough space was different from this woman’s.

She turned around, quickly looked me up and down and said, Could you take a step back? I don’t like people too close to me.

What could I do? I took a step back.

I didn’t feel like I was excessively close, but she used her words (if not quite politely, not exactly rudely either) and made a not unreasonable request. It was a strange request, maybe, but not an ureasonable one.

I did wonder if my underarms were particularly smelly that day or my clothes particularly dirty. (I usually dress decently and deodorize my underarms before I go to the big city, I swear.) Maybe the woman likes space in any situation, but I did worry that somehow I specifically was offensive to her.

She seemed satisfied with my one step back and went about her business with nothing more to say to me.

 

Hard Headed Woman

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Cat Stevens sang of looking for a hard-headed woman. He certainly would have found such a woman in me. What can I say? It’s got to be genetic. I inhereted my tete dure (as we Cajuns say) from my mawmaw.

My father’s mother was the most stubborn person I’ve ever known. (Lest you think being hard headed passed only to the females of the family, my dad was the second most stubborn person I’ve ever known.) My grandmother was born in the early days of the 20th century and lived through the Great Depression, which is maybe what made her so careful with money. She’s so tight, my dad would say about his mother, she’ll squeeze a nickel until the buffalo moans. (The joke’s not so funny now that Thomas Jefferson is on most U.S. nickels.) Inadditionm to being what might be called hyper-frugal, my grandmohter did not easily let go of an idea once she made up her mind.

My grandma had four husbands before she died at nearly 90 years of age. I never knew my grandfather, and I was an oblivious child during her marriages to #2 and #3. (The woman was a good Catholic and never divorced anyone; all of her marriages ended in death. She was a good Catholic, but not a perfect one; I learned as a teenager that marriage #2 was of the common law variety.) I was a teenager during her last marriage and more interested in what the adults were talking about.

During one of our family visits, my grandma and her husband were discussing their disagreements. Whenever they had an argument, my grandmother said, and she couldn’t sway her husband to her thinking, she eventually just walked off and finished the argument by herself! My whole family thought that was hilarious! (I don’t remember if her husband was amused.) It wasn’t difficult to imagine my mawmaw going off on her own to fihish an arguement in her head, in her favor, of course. Her husband wasn’t going to change her mind, so why keep talking when she could wrap things up on her own? Tete dure indeed!

My grandmother’s funniest case of stubbornness involved the use of her air conditioner.

She lived in Louisiana, always had. She knew the summers were hot and humid and difficult to get through. She also knew cooling her house with one small window unit cost precious money, money she’d sooner not part with. She knew once she turned on the air conditioner, she wouldn’t want to turn it off, so she tried to last as long as possible without it.

At some point, she set a date for turning on the air conditioner. Her arbitrary date for using the air conditioner was June 1. Before June 1, she would not use the air conditioner, no matter what. She didn’t care ir it was May 28, the temperature was 96 degrees and humidity was at 98%–the air conditioner was not coming on. Mawmaw had made up her mind and there was nothing that could change it.

My grandmother’s stubborn refusal to use the air conditioner before June 1 was a family joke, but it was no joke if we had to pay her a visit late in May. For all intents and purposes, it was summer, but no way was she turning on the air conditioner early. She wasn’t going to change her mind and waste precious pennies simply because she had company. No amount of begging or complaining was going to soften her hard head.

Visiting once it got hot but before the air conditioner came on was miserable, but having to spend the night there was torture. It’s hard to sleep through hot and sweaty nights even with a ceiling fan blowing overhead. Why my parents even went there in those in-between days, I’ll never know. I suppose there were adult reasons why it couldn’t be avoided.

Sometimes while passing through her town, my family would stop at my grandmother’s house and discover she wasn’t home. My dad had a key to the side door, so we were able to go inside to use the bathroom and get a drink of cold water from the glass jug in the refrigerator. At least once we stopped late in May to find my grandma gone. My dad unlocked the door and made a beeline to the air conditioner, which he not only turned on, but cranked to the coldest setting. My sibling and I were scandalized, but exhilarated too. It wasn’t June 1st yet! Dad was clearly breaking the rules, but that cold air sure felt good.

We didn’t stay long enough for the cold air to cool down the whole house, but I wonder if my grandmother returned  home soon after our departure and wondered why the house didn’t feel as hot as it should have. I wonder if she came home so many hours later that all the cool air had dissipated completely and she was absolutely unaware of my father’s transgression. I wonder if she looked at May’s electric bill and thought it seemed higher than it should have been. Maybe she was confused. How could it have been so high? she might have wondered. I didn’t even turn on the air conditioner until the first of June.

Welcome Back! (An Update on My Current Situation)

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I hadn’t beein in the forest three minutes, and already a tourist was asking me a question.

The Man and I had been boondocking on public land just outside a mountain town, waiting around until we were

This was the view the last time I dealt with snow in May.

closer to the day we had to report for training for our summer jobs. We could make the trip from where we were to where we needed to be in two days. We were more than a week away from when we planned to leave when I checked the weather forecast and saw we were facing a cold snap. The report said the high on Wednesday was predicted to be 44 degrees with a 70% chance or rain or snow. Snow! In May? Snow in May is not unheard of in the higher elevations.

I could wait out a day of cold at the library or a coffee shop, and The Man and the dog and I could cuddle down for a night in the mid 20s, but I was concerned about what rain and snow would do to the road that brought us into and out of our camping spot. It was a red dirt road, already rutted and rocky. I was afraid a day of rain or a melted blanket of snow would turn it into a mudyy, mushy, soupy mess. I didn’t want to get stuck in the mud, and I didn’t want to get stuck on our campsite because I was avoiding the road. The Man and I decided we’d leave on Tuesday, before the weather turned bad.

We were up Tuesday morning early. We cooked and ate breakfast, packed up our kitchen and the last few items we had lying around. Our last two errands in town were to dump our trash and hit up the food bank. We were on the road by 9:30.

We drove through rain, but made it to our stopping point just fine. We hadn’t been there long when my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, I found The Big Boss Man on the other end of the line.

He had a favor to ask, he said. Maybe we could help him. The crew was coming to the main campground on our side of the mountain in the next few days to put up the yurts. Once the yurts were up, he’d need someone to babysit them, especially at night. Did we think we could get up the mountain before the training?

That might work, I said and told him we were already more than halfway there. We could be there in the next couple of days, I let him know.

I asked him if he actually had work for us so we could start earning money and he said we could rake and paint and clean firepits, and do whatever needed to be done to get the campgrounds ready to open. He could certainly keep us busy and pay us for our work.

When I got off the phone, I talked to The Man about the situation. We agreed we were ready to get up the mountain and get to work so we could start making money.

We drove the next day and made it up the mountain. Before we’d left cell phone service behind, I’d called The Big Boss Man and left a message letting him know we were on our way. I knew once we got on the mountain, we’d have no cell service and wouldn’t be able to call anyone.

I decided to go to the main campground first to see if the boss was there supervising yurt construction. I found myself driving behind a medium-sized rented motorhome. It passed the trail’s parking lot and pulled into the lower part of the long, wide driveway of the campground next door. I pulled my van into the campground’s driveway too, and The Man followed me with his van. The gate was closed and appeared locked. I jumped out of my van to determine if the padlock was actually locked or only dummy locked. It was actually locked; no one was working in that campground.

I walked over to The Man’s minivan to let him know the gate was locked. We decided to go to the campground where we would be living for the summer and wait for the Big Boss Man to come to us. The Man zipped around the motorhome and was out of there fast. I was climbing back into my van when I saw a woman emerge from the passenger side of the motorhome. She walked over to my van, a yellow sheet of paper in her hand. Oh no! Here we go! I thought as she approached me. Then I realized if I let myself be annoyed in my first three minutes back, it was going to be a long season.

I opened my door (because my window doesn’t roll down) and said, Yes?

She pointed to the map on her yellow sheet of paper. We are here? Her accent was definitely not American. She was looking for the trail.

I pointed back the way we’d come. The parking lot for the trail is about 200 yards that way.

The tourist season had officially begun for me.

I took the photo in this post.

In Praise of a Toothbrush

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The student hygienist at the dental hygiene clinic told me I should use an electric toothbrush. I told her I often had no access to electricity because I work part of the year in a remote location in the mountains. She didn’t tell me about battery operated toothbrushes, but I figured it out on my own.

I was in a Wal-Mart a few weeks before Christmas. I was just doing my normal shopping when I remembered the dental hygience student telling me about electric toothbrushes. I decided to see what the store had to offer. I walked over to the toothbrush aisle, and there was an entire endcap of Arm & Hammer Spinbrushes priced at just $5 each. Oh! That wasn’t too expensive.

ARM & HAMMER Spinbrush Classic Clean Battery Toothbrush
In addition to the Arm & Hammer battery operated brushes, I saw some made by Oral B, and a few from the Wal-Mart Equate brand. Unsurprisingly, the Equate brushes were the least expensive, but I wondered if they ware made as well or would work as well as the name-brand brushes. Even after reading the packages of the different brushes, I couldn’t determine any significant differences. I decided to splurge a little and go for a $5 brush. I grabbed an Arm & Hammer Spinbrush in a color I liked (hot pink) and called it good.

That night I brushed my teeth with the new brush. My teeth felt clearner, slicker, but perhaps I was imagining the difference. Maybe I was experienceing some sort of toothbrush placebo effect.

One night The Man was at my van as I brushed my teeth with my new, powerful brush. I guess I’d been brushing a while because he told me, You’re going to wear your teeth to nubs if you keep at it with that thing. I had to laugh through my toothpaste.

I knew the real proof of the brush’s success would be the plaque score assigned to my teeth when I returned to the dental hygience clinic.

After the preliminaries (checking my blood pressure, checking my neck and face for lumps and bumps, asking about any changes in my medical history in the last month), the student hygienist smeared the substance on my teeth that would make the plaque show pink. Then she counted the pink surfaces of my teeth and used a mathematical formula to calculate my plaque score. After using the Spinbrush for about two weeks, my plaque score dropped from 39% to 16%. (At a subsequent visit after using the Spinbrush for three months, my plaque score was 20.5%)

Before I brought the Spinbrush, I wondered how often I would have to replace the batteries. The batteries that were included with the brush when I purchased it did not last very long, maybe two weeks of brushing twice a day. I replaced those batteries with super cheap batteries from Dollar Tree, and they lasted slightly longer. When I had to replace the batteries a third time, I splurged on Duracells and have gotten much better (longer lasting) results. Many less-expensive items really are as good as their more expensive counterpoints, but I’ve learned with batteries you really do get what you pay for.

If I lived somewhere year round with electricity, I would get an electric toothbrush I could plug in and charge, thus eliminating the waste of dead batteries. Maybe I’ll eventually get a plug-in toothbrush for when I do have access to electricity and just use the battery powered one when I’m in the woods. For now, I’ll continue to buy batteries for my Arm & Hammer Spinbrush.

You Got This

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When I’m in the right city, I have my teeth cleaned–for free–at a school for dental hygienists. The students are well supervised, and I feel like I’m getting complete and thorough dental care. Once a year x-rays are taken of my teeth, and there’s a dentist on staff who examines my mouth and consults with the student whenever necessary throughout the process.

I hadn’t been in the city for quite a while, and the last dental appointment I’d paid for had left me feeling traumatized, so my teeth hadn’t been cleaned in over a year. As soon as I was close to the city, I made an apppointment for a cleaning at the dental hygiene school.

One of the drawbacks of getting my teeth cleaned at the school is never being able to form a relationship with my health care provider. Ove the last six years, probably as many students have worked on my mouth, and I’ve never seen any of them more than twice. I don’t remember the names of any of them.

The skills of students vary. I’ve had my teeth cleaned by students just weeks away from graduation; as expected, folks who’ve been at it a while do a better job and by better job, I mean, cause less pain.The most recent student who worked on my mouth must have just started her training when I met her in December 2017.

Her name (not her real name) was Pansy. She seemed very young, like teenager young, which I guess she could have been if she had started training to be a dental hygienist the moment she graduated from high school. More likely, she was in her early 20s. She was pleasant as our first visit got under way, but I was a nervous wreck.

Dental appointments make me very anxious. I’ve had a string of dental problems in the last several years, so I worry about what’s going to be found when someone starts poking around in my mouth. Will I have a cavity? Is a tooth rotting away? Will I need a root canal? Is someone going to freak out about my impacted wisdom teeth or the cyst around the roots of the one tooth or the evidence of my once fractured jaw? Will someone recommend a treatment I can’t afford?

As our first session played out, I learned Pansy was slow and not very gentle. The x-ray process was painful because she shoved large equipment into my small mouth. (In the past, an instructor had come around to give my student hygienist tips on making me more comfortable during x-rays, but that day no one came by to give Pansy advice.) Once back in our cubicle, Pansy used the tiny handheld mirror to reach into my mouth and pull my soft mouthparts away from my teeth. She did the pulling with gusto; it felt decidedly unpleasant. When she had my mouth adequately opened, she rested the mirror on my upper gums, which caused additional discomfort. As to be expected, the pain increased when she started poking at my gums with pointy instruments. To make it all worse, Pansy was excruciatingly slow in her every process. I was in her chair for more than three hours during my initial appointment with her. Despite being on time for my 8am appointment, I wasn’t sure if she’d be finished with me when her class was dismissed at 11:45.

One of the steps Pansy had to complete was calculating my plaque score. She stained my teeth so the plaque showed up red, then documented on a paper chart every tooth surface with plaque on it. I peeked at the chart and saw there was a mathematical formula used to calculate the patient’s plaque score. Pansy crunched the numbers and gave me my result: 39%. This score was higher than the dental powers-that-be thought it should be, so Pansy began interrogating me.

Did I floss?

Yes.

How often?

At least once a day.

Could I show her my technique?

Sure.

She handed me a length of dental floss, and I demonstrated my flossing technique.

Your technique is pretty good, she conceeded. She seemed perplexed about how to solve this plaque problem.

Have you ever thought about using an electric toothbrush? she asked.

I said no.

Why not? she demanded.

I should have said, because no one ever suggested it to me, which was the truth. Instead I said, because I spend a lot of my time in places with no electricity, which was also the truth.

Have you ever thought about getting a power generator? Pansy asked me.

I busted out laughing. I thought she was joking. I looked over at her and she was looking at me expectantly, completely serious.

(Later, when I discovered battery powered spin brushes, I wondered why she hadn’t suggested one of those instead of going directly to a noisy, costly solution.)

When it came time to make our next appointment, Pansy offered me a date, recanted her offer, then offered me a different date. When I said that date was fine (although a month away), she didn’t have an appointment card to give to me after writing down the date and time. She ended up using the school’s regular business card and writing the date of my appoitment on the back.

Tilt Photography of Calendar Schedule Number 18The next day the clinic’s office manager called me saying Pansy had not given me an appointment and tried to give me one on the date Pansy had first mentioned. When I explained Pansy had already given me an appointment for a different date, the office manager said the student hadn’t put any information about my appointment in the system. I assured her I did have an appointment and we said goodbye. She called me later and left a message saying she’d tracked down the student and confirmed the appointment. Now I was in the system.

I spent the next month dreading my upcoming appointment with Pansy. It was going to hurt, and it was going to take forever, I knew. On several occasions I considered canceling the appointment. In the end I stuck with it becasue free trumped painful and inconvenient.

On the mornig of my second appointment with Pansy, I arrived a the appointed hour. I was not happy to see her. I couldn’t tell how she felt about seeing me.

She did seem glad when she calculated my plaque score and found it had dropped a whopping 23%! I told her I’d gotten a battery powered toothbrush and it really seemed to be making a difference. Thanks for the good advice, Pansy!

At on point in the procedure, I thought I detected Pansy shaking. I figured I must have imagined it until I heard her whisper, You got this. My heart melted for the woman. Here she was, trying to get schooling so she could get a decent job, and she was nervous enough to shake. I don’t know if she even realized the pep talk she was giving herself was audible to me. Maybe she thought she’d whispered You got this in the privacy of her own brain. In any case, I bucked up and tried not to complain so she could do what needed to be done. I knew we both wanted to get out of there.

I saw Pansy once more. She had me on an every-three-month cleaning schedule, which was ok with me since I wasn’t paying for anything. What a difference three months of practice had made for Pansy. She appeared much less nervous and much more confident. When her instructor asked questions about her work, Pansy answered immediately and confidentally instead of thinking for a long time then answering softly. She worked at a brisker pace, and I would have been out of there in under three hours if the instructor hadn’t been delayed when Pansy was ready for the woman to check her work. She did still wield the mirror like a pry bar, but I guess no one is perfect.

Pansy told me she graduates in December 2018. I think with another nine months of practice, she’s certain to make a fine hygienest.

 

Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/dentist-space-treat-teeth-3069416/, https://pixabay.com/en/floss-oral-dental-hygiene-care-668215/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/tilt-photography-of-calendar-schedule-number-18-60032/, and https://pixabay.com/en/graduation-graduation-cap-2394130/.

 

 

Tire Disaster (Part 2)

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Hitchhiking Hand Sign2018 started out with a bang! The Man and I got back together and decided to go camping on BLM land. We ended up getting three flat tires (two on his minivan and one on my van) in less than 24 hours. Today our saga picks up with us hitchhiking back to our vans after purshasing a $17 can of Fix-a-Flat in the nearest town.

The vehicle that did stop was a pickup truck. The driver said he was just going a mile or so down the road, but we were welcome to hop in the back. When we tried to hop in, we found the truck’s bed full of stuff, mostly cabinet doors. There was no room to sit anywhere but on the doors, and I didn’t want to damage anything. I ended up perched on the top edge of the truck’s bed. The Man got the dog on top of a door lying in the bed and held him there while he perched on top of the closed tailgate. The driver pulled the truck back on the road before I felt safely situated, and I hung on for dear life. I knew what we were doing was dangerous, especially as the truck picked up speed, but it seemed too late to change our minds. It took a long time to go that mile or two, and I reverted to my Catholic ways and said a few Hail Marys to take my mind off the danger we were in. christianity, jesus, maria

I was grateful and a little woozy when we were dropped off, but we still had miles to go before we got back to camp. We kept walking until a truck hauling an open cargo trailer stopped ahead of us. We rushed over to find a man and a boy in the truck. The Man explained where we wanted to go, and the boy (probably no older than nine) translated for his father. They were going our way, so we climbed into the second seat of the extended cab. The driver offered us a beer, and our polite refusal did not keep him from sipping on the can he already had open.

Soon we were zipping down the road at 75 miles an hour (in a 55mph zone! while pulling a trailer!), and it didn’t’ take long to get us back to our camp. We said our thanks and felt gratitude not only for the ride but for the fact we’d made it back to our vehicles safely.

The Man had to take apart his van’s set up to get to the spare tire stored in a compartment in the floor. When he pulled the tire out, he found it was somewhat flat, but put it on his vehicle anyway to keep as much weight as possible off the rim. After he loaded the hopefully salvageable flat tire into my van, we added the Fix-a-Flat to my tire. It didn’t pump up the tire very much, but we had no choice but to drive very slowly to the tire repair shop in town.

The worker at the tire shop pumped up my flat and said while the Fix-a-Flat had ruined the tire for long-term use, it would probably make it the 25 miles to Discount Tire. He looked at The Man’s flat tire and said since the puncture was in the sidewall, the best he could do was put in a plug. After he repaired the tire, I paid him an additional ten bucks to grind off the bolt holding my spare tire to its rack, then replace it with a bolt that could be removed.

It was early afternoon when we arrived at the very busy Discount Tire shop. When it was our turn at the counter, the very nice worker was sympathetic to my plight, especially the part where another worker at another Discount Tire location had cross threaded the bolt holding on my spare, thus making it impossible to remove. He confirmed the Fix-a-Flat had basically destroyed my tire, but because I’d purchased the warranty on it, he was able to replace it for free.

Once the new tire was on my van, we went directly to Wal-Mart where I purchased a large can of Fix-a-Flat and a Slime brand portable air compressor that runs off 12 volt. I was not going to be caught unprepared again.

It was after dark when we returned to the road down which The Man’s van was parked. I dubbed it Three Flat Tire Road, and I didn’t go far down it in hopes of decreasing the risk of another busted tire. I pulled off the road into the first flat spot my van would fit in.

In the morning, The Man removed the spare from his minivan and put on the repaired tire. Then he removed the second flat tire and put the spare in that spot. We drove 25 miles to a used tire shop that had a tire to fit The Man’s van. Once back at camp, he replaced the spare with the good used tire and put all of his belongings back in their places. The next day we left the area, fearful of getting another flat.

My new tire is working great! I appreciate the customer service I received at Discount Tire, and I’m glad I splurged on warrantees for all of my tires.

The good new tire The Man bought is working fine too, but the brand new tire with the plug had to be replaced. Apparently, damage in a sidewall is just about impossible to repair. The plug never set well; every couple of days the tire was flat, and we had to use our new 12 volt air compressor to pump it up. The Man was going to buy a plug repair kit at an auto parts store, but when he took it up to the counter and asked the worker about it, the guy told him not to waste his money. The worker also warned him that the tire would likely blow out at 65 miles an hour on the interstate. Since then, The Man’s replaced the plugged new tire with a good used tire. It was sad to see the new tire go to waste, but there was nothing else to be done.

One flat is an unfortunate inconvenience. Three flats on two vans and no usable spare surely qualifies as a disaster. Wednesday’s post will be about things folks can do to prepare for and/or avoid tire disasters.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/hitchhiking-hand-sign-889086/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/maria-mery-sant-51524/.

Tire Disaster (Part 1)

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2018, celebration, colorfulThe Man wanted to get back together. I was skeptical, but I agreed to meet him when my dog sitting gig was over on New Year’s Day. It was good to see him. We talked, then decided to camp on nearby BLM land.

I’d brought black-eyed peas and kale so we could eat for luck and money in the new year.

The tire on my van wasn’t entirely flat when I took this photo, but it wasn’t in any condition to roll down the road.

While I was preparing dinner, The Man looked over at my van and asked, Is your tire flat?

We investigated the back tire on the passenger side. It was not entirely flat, but it was definitely too low. It was getting dark, so The Man said he’d put the spare on in the morning and we’d drive the 25 miles to the nearest Discount Tire to have it repaired. In the meantime, he used the jack to lift the van off the rim so it wouldn’t be damaged from having too much weight resting on it.

I was in the van when I heard The Man cursing outside. When I asked him what was wrong, he said he had a flat too, also on the back passenger side. What are the chances of that happening? we asked each other, then went to bed.

We discovered the flat tire on the back of The Man’s minivan first.

In the morning, we lingered in the van until the sun camp up and the temperature rose. The Man was outside first. When I came around the front of my van, I saw him standing on the passenger side of his minivan, looking down in disbelief. The front tire on the passenger side was flat too! The chance of having three flat tires on two vans in less than 24 hours has to be exceedingly low.

We discovered the flat on the front of The Man’s minivan in the morning.

While the back tire that went flat on The Man’s minivan was old and in need of replacing, my tire and the one on the front of his vehicle were both only about two months old. As we realized later, all three punctures were in the sidewalls of the tires. In one of the flat tires on The Man’s van, we found small pieces of wood protruding from the puncture. WTF? We’re still not sure what caused the flats, but we ruled out roofing nails since none of the punctures were in the treads.

At this point, we decided after breakfast the first order of business would be for The Man to take the flat tire off my van and put on the spare. However, when the time came, he couldn’t get the spare tire off its mount. Two years ago when I bought new tires and asked the folks selling them to me to save the best of my old tires for my spare, they’d put the spare on the mount attached to my backdoor. I’d had no need for the tire since then, so I didn’t know the bolt holding on the tire was cross threaded. Nothing The Man did would budge that bolt.

We put on our walking shoes and headed to the nearest town—about twelve miles away—in hope of buying a can of Fix-a-Flat.

Fix-A-Flat S60430 Aerosol Tire Inflator with Eco-friendly Formula, 20 oz.

We were on a road with very little traffic, but when vehicles approached, we stuck out our thumbs. Most of the vehicles we saw were commercial trucks, which I never expected to stop, but the infrequent passenger cars we saw just rolled on by too.

Finally a young guy in a really clean, sporty car stopped for us. The Man and the dog got in the backseat, and I sat in the front. I tried to make friendly chitchat until I realized the young guy barely spoke English. I took a careful look around the car and found it extremely clean—no dust, no fast food wrappers, no cigarette butts. I did see a beverage can in the holder between the seats. I couldn’t quite see the can’s label, but something about it whispered beer. I glanced into the back and on the floor behind the driver’s seat was a twelve pack of Modelo. Our boy was a morning beer drinker. I hoped he wouldn’t crash the car.

Thankfully, he drove us safely to the Shell station by the interstate. He went on his way, and I thought about how angels sometimes drink beer for breakfast.

I asked The Man to go into the Shell station and choose the proper product for my flat tire while I stayed outside with the dog. Once he used his mechanical expertise to pick out the best product available, I’d go in with my debit card to pay. He wasn’t gone long. He said he’d left the can on the counter by the register and told the lady working that I’d be in for it shortly.

When I went in, the can of Fix-a-Flat was indeed on the counter. I told the lady working the register I’d take it, and she rang it up. I almost passed out when she told me the total was $17 and some cents! I suspected the stuff wouldn’t be cheap, but $17 seemed excessive. But what could I do? I needed the stuff, so I paid up. (I found out later, the same can of the stuff cost under $8 at Wal-Mart.)

So now that we had our Fix-a-Flat, we started our long walk back to our vans. Every time a passenger vehicle passed, we stuck out our thumbs, but it was a long time before anyone stopped.

This post turned out to be a long one, so I’m going to make it a two-part saga. Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait too long to read the rest; the conclusion will run tomorrow. On Wednesday, I’ll share what I learned from the experience and give you 10 Ways to Avoid and/or Prepare for Tire Disasters.

Image of fireworks courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sky-lights-night-new-year-s-eve-66277/. I took the photos of the flat tires. The image of Fix-a-Flat is an Amazon associates link. If you click on that image, I’ll get paid a small advertising fee on anything you put in your cart and buy during your shopping sessession.

Dancing with the Lights

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Nolagirl and I were out and about at night in Phoenix, off to see the art of Aileen Frick at a locally owned hotel called FOUND:RE.

We’d discovered Aileen Frick at the Grand Avenue Festival. Actually, Nolagirl discovered her.

She called me over quietly but urgently. You’ve got to see this, she said with excitement in her voice. I joined her in front of a large-scale painting…but wait! It wasn’t just a painting…it was a collage too, but collage in a way I’d never seen done before. Say the artist wanted a tree in her scene. She wouldn’t go through magazines, find an image of a tree, cut it out, and stick it to her canvan. Oh no, not this artist. This artist found different shades of green in magazines, ripped out green bits by hand, then reassembled the paper into a tree! By reading her bio, we learned that later in the process, she painted over and around the images made of paper to tie together all of the elements of her creation. Her finished results were amazing! It was from the bio that we learned the name of the person who created this collage magic: Aileen Frick.

Frick creates large-scale beautiful cityscapes through which featureless people walk while living their ordinary lives. The cities are recognizable to those in the know, and it’s fun to identify places you’re been, but there’s something dream-like about the landscapes too. They’re based in reality, but they’re not quite real.

Image of A Fresh Spin used with permission of Aileen Frick.

From a distance Frick’s pieces look misleadingly like photographs, but upon closer inspection, the viewer can appreciate the time-consuming tearing and matching of colors that went into the work. In some of her creations, words that match the theme of the piece have been discretely included in the scene.

It may be cliché to say I was moved by Frick’s art, but it’s an easy way to explain how I felt. My heart was moved. My brain was moved. My spirit of creativity was moved. Frick’s technique and her end results left me feeling breathless and giddy. Frick’s art inspired me to create, not by copying her but by getting in touch with my own style. I think I had an immdiate crush on Frick’s collage/painting hybrids.

We came around a corner and there was Aileen Frick in the flesh! She was working on a new creation right there in the gallery.

When we walked up, she was talking with another fan. We waited patiently for our turn.

The other woman walked away, and we stood there with Frick and her easel. I tried to stay coherant as I gushed about how much I was enjoying and appreciating her work. She was so friendly and personable and gracious! I wanted to take her and her art home with me. (Of course, I lived in a van, so I had no room for her or her large-scale art. She probably had her own place anyway.)

A few weeks later, Frick posted on her Facebook page information about an upcoming showing of her work at the FOUND:RE hotel in Phoenix. Can we go? Can we go? I asked Nolagirl. She said we could.

FOUND:RE was full of art that night. We saw a lot of good work, inclduing at least a half dozen pieces by Aileen Frick. As a special treat, we got the see the recently completed piece we’d seen her workig on during the Grand Street Festival.

Frick was there too, and she recognized me and Nolagirl. Maybe she didn’t remember when and where we’d met, but she did remember we were fans. She stopped to talk to us and thank us for coming out on opening night. Once again, she was very gracious and kind. Aileen Frick is not just a fantastic artist; she’s also a friendly and sweet person.

A highlight of the evening (in addition to seeing Frick’s art and telling her hello) was when an art dealer tried to sell me and Nolagirl some art. We were looking at some pop art pieces near the bar when a slick-looking man came up to us and started talking about prices. We expressed scant interest, and he wandered away. We agreed we appreciated being mistaken for people who could afford to buy art.

I think we were on our way out when we walked across the lobby and noticed the colorful patterns projected onto the floor. What are those? I wondered. That’s when the lights moved.

We realized quickly that the patterns were motion activated. Our movements made the light patterns move across the floor, then we reacted to the movment of the lights. Soon Nolagirl and I were dancing, skipping, swooping, whirling, and twilrling across the lobby as we played with the lights. It was interactive fun.

Nolagirls says, “This one would drop confetti when you walked/ran/danced through.” That’s me in the upper left of the photo in my red boots and elephant skirt.

I think the guy at the front desk who controlled the projector was amused by us. I’m sure it’s not every day that a couple of middle aged ladies dance through his lobby and play with the lights on the floor like cats going after the red dot of a lazer pointer. Several times he changed the patterns, telling us each time that we would like the new one. He was never wrong.

Nolagirl says this pattern reminds her of Charlie’s Angels. I’m twirling right out of the photo.

A couple of times, tipsy peoiple leaving the bar saw us having fun and joined in our play. They seemed to enjoy themselves too, but soon wandered off to the next stop of the night. Nolagirl and I must have played with those light patterns for twenty or thirty minutes. Finally, we thanked the front desk worker for indulging us, then we too walked out into the night.

As we exited the building, we took the time to take photos of the neon message on the front of the building. “Find Yourself” it commanded. I think we already had.

Thanks to a kind friend who–when Nolagirl and I told her this story–asked why I hadn’t shared it in a blog post. Also, endless gratitude to Nolagirl who’s always up for an adventure and can talk to anyone from the Queen of England to a dirty trainhopper kid with interest and respect. Nolagirl’s friendship makes me brave.

First two photos courtesy of Nolagirl. The last photo was taken by me. Nolagirl also contributed to some of the writing about Aileen Frick’s art.

 

 

 

Kindness of Strangers

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I was driving in Las Vegas, NV on my way to the Goodwill Clearance Center in North Las Vegas. As I approached a traffic signal, I could tell there was a problem. The light was green, but the traffic was not flowing.

The car in my lane that should have rolled when the light turned green was not moving. The pickup truck second in line zipped into the left lane and zoomed away. I didn’t have time to follow the truck before other cars were blocking my entrance into the left lane. I had to stop behind the stalled car. The light turned red again, and cars stopped in the left lane.

A man got out of the car at the front of the left lane line. I’m going to help you, bro, he called out to the guy blocking the right lane.

I ran out of gas, the man in the stalled vehicle said.

I’m going to pull into the gas station across the street, the good Samaritan said. Then I’ll come back over and help you.

At first I thought the men probably knew each other. I figured a dude saw his homie in trouble and stopped to help him. However, as I stayed stuck behind the stopped car through several light changes, I wasn’t so sure. When the helpful man trotted over from the gas station, the men didn’t embrace or shake hands or chitchat or ask about each other’s mammas. Neither man indicated in any way that they were friends or even friendly. They just got to work figuring out how to move the car across the street to the gas station.

I was touched when I thought the one guy had stopped to help his friend, but I teared up when I realized the guy had stopped to help a stranger. Sometimes we think only people in small towns will help people they don’t know. It’s good to remember that people in big cities help each other too.

Sometimes strangers are kind. Sometimes we are a beautiful species.