This Campground?

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It was Sunday, and I was on my mid-shift break from my duties at the Mercantile. I was hanging out in my van which was parked in the overflow parking lot at the front of the campground where the Mercantile was located. Javier the camp host was sitting in the shade right outside my van, jumping up to collect access fees whenever a new vehicle pulled into the lot. When people stood next to his chair to converse, I heard every word through my van’s open windows.

While Javier was sitting there, a young tourist couple approached him to ask how to get to a nearby waterfall.

This is the waterfall the young tourist couple wanted to see.

We got asked about this waterfall a lot, and I hated giving directions to it. No sign marks the spot, and the directions involve noticing an unmarked road that should not be turned down but simply used as a landmark. At some distance past the road is an unmarked dirt turnout where waterfall seekers must park before going off into the forest on their quest. Usually the eyes of the person who’d asked for directions to this place glazed over before I finished giving all the necessary information, and I had a strong suspicion the person would never even find the right place to park, much less the actual natural attraction.

When I heard the young man ask about the waterfall, I groaned inwardly. I was glad it was Javier giving the directions and not me.

Javier started in. Take a left out of the campground, Javier told tourists.

This campground? the young man interrupted.

Yes, this campground, Javier said like the professional he is, then continued with the directions. I sat in the van shaking my head, thinking of all the things I would have liked to have said to the tourist in response of his question of This campground?

Oh no! Not this campground? Why would I refer to the campground we’re currently in? Just go into any campground, then make a left out of it.

Or course this campground! Why would I be talking about any other campground? Yes! This campground!

My patience grew thinner every day.

I took the photo in this post.

 

How to Help a Sad Person

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The portions of this post in italics were written by me, Blaize Sun, the Rubber Tramp Artist. The other portions of this post were written by Laura-Marie River Victor Peace and first appeared on her blog.

When I read my friend Laura-Marie’s blog post about helping a sad person, I immediately wanted to share it. The post is so important, not just because it suggests ways we can help each other, but also because it acknowledges that sadness exists. Too often we try to pretend life is all happiness all the time. Laura-Marie shatters that myth with her beautiful words.

Laure-Marie recently got really sick while she and her spouse were visiting me and The Man. She and her partner left early and went directly to the hospital where Laura-Marie stayed for several days. The first part of her post is about her time in the hospital and the immediate aftermath.

The second part of her post is a wonderful list of 70 things to do to help a sad person. So many of us don’t know what to do in the face of a friend or loved one’s sadness. This list gives ideas for concrete steps we can take to show a sad person that we really do love them and care about their well-being.

People ask Ming how I am.  They know I was in the hospital.  They wanna know if I’m better.  They care, for his sake and for mine.

I’m doing much better physically.  When I first came home from the hospital, I was so bad.  I could barely function.  I was at one percent.

There are the reasons you were in the hospital.  Well, you were not looking too living for a minute there.

Then there are the problems the hospital causes.  I had a terrible cough.  From lying down too much, maybe, in a hospital bed?  I was super weak.  Maybe from the same?

Or it could have been other reasons–the anemia, the sadness, how I wasn’t eating food for four days, losing weight really fast?

Weird stuff happened to me, in the hospital.  It’s not normal to get four bags of other people’s blood pumped into you, for example.  That’s not part of everyday life.  Or the strong drugs, the thing they put down my throat, what they did to my stomach, etc.

I had to get strength back, to become again capable of walking from a parking lot to a building, of walking through a store.  I took those things for granted, before.

And I thought it would take weeks, for my blood to be good again.  I didn’t understand it would take months!  I wish a doctor had told me that.  I wish I’d had a more realistic timeline.

Anyway, my friend asked Ming how I was.  I’m really up and down, emotionally.  Ming said no one knows what to say about that.

I told Ming they could help.  My blood, what could they do?  Buy me a bottle of iron pills?  For my emotional health, there are a hundred things they could do.

Ming was thinking the opposite.  He asked, “What could they do?”

“How do you help someone who’s sad?  Have you lived to be 52 years old and never helped a sad person before?”  I didn’t ask something so snarky, then, but I’ve said similar things in the past.  Sorry, honey.

I remember, talking about mental health struggles at Justice for our Desert.  Some people looked away.  Like I was talking about sex or money.  I think they were hurt, about it.

Maybe, well, you never know.  Something happened a long time ago?  Or for whatever reason, they’re not ready to go there.   So they wish I’d shut up.

Well,  I make a lot of lists–brainstorming self-care, what is comfort in this world, things I want or need, things a volunteer could do to help with Nevada Desert Experience, different to do lists, questions for doctors, foods I want to eat more of, people I like writing letters to.

Here is a list called how to help a sad person.

1.  listen
2.  offer hugs
3.  offer to hold hands
4.  don’t get defensive
5.  ask what you can do for them
6.  write them a love letter
7.  bring them a present that doesn’t require anything additional
8.  be very patient with them
9.  hand them tissues if they’re crying
10.  help with something on their comfort list
11.  like make them tea
12.  tell them something you like about them
13.  tell them a funny memory of something you did together
14.  say something unrelated really briefly to see if they want to be distracted
15.  take some pressure off them, like see if you can do one of their chores
16.  flowers in vase with water
17.  card with a pretty picture on it
18.  support their main support person
19.  give them a food they like, if they can eat
20.  check up on them often
21.  check up on them after everyone else stops
22.  grocery run, gift card, money, housecleaning
23.  offer rides
24.  offer to bring something needed
25.  offer to go with them to an appt
26.  pray with them, if they like that
27.  offer to sing them a healing song
28.  invite them to something
29.  offer to tell them a story of a predetermined length
30.  cry with them
31.  validate them
32.  give them a cheering zine or book
33.  tell them they can call you day or night
34.  research a local warmline number
35.  give them a small colorful art
36.  say “I love you”
37.  assume they’re understating their pain
38.  offer to take them to nature or just a park
39.  offer to braid their hair, paint their nails, hand massage
40.  draw them a picture
41.  write them a poem
42.  bring them a quote about how things change
43.  offer to play a game with them that they like
44.  be realistic about what you can offer
45.  don’t over-exert yourself
46.  offer to look together at their postcard collection, stamp collection, scrapbook
47.  ask them to dance with you
48.  offer to make something together: cookies, paper airplanes, jello
49.  offer to collaborate on a project like a zine or garden
50.  offer to play with playdough together or some other toy
51.  offer to blow bubbles
52.  offer to make art together
53.  offer to do a simple healing ritual together
54.  offer to meditate together, if they like that
55.  offer to walk, swim, or exercise together, if they can
56.  get consent, respect boundaries
57.  use your intuition as well as your everyday thinking
58.  get creative
59.  don’t blame
60.  offer to gratitude journal together
61.  research signs that someone wants to kill themself and watch for them
62.  offer something you have too much of or don’t need anymore
63.  invite them to visit a community you belong to
64.  invite them to volunteer with you
65.  ask them a question you’ve always wondered about
66.  brainstorm a list of ideas they might like
67.  offer to tell a joke
68.  ask them to help you with something possible and finite
69.  offer to bring over your pet, kid, Mom, or other liked being
70.  offer to read them something they’ve been wanting to read

Laura-Marie told her spouse there must be 100 ways to help a sad person and gave us 70 examples. Because I like a challenge (and a list) and I’ve been a sad person myself, I thought of an additional 30 ways to help.

#71 offer to clean their glasses (if they wear glasses)

#72 bring them bubble bath

#73 give space to be sad

#74 walk their dog for them

#75 put food in the freezer for later

#76 invite them to watch a funny, upbeat movie with you

#77 offer choices

#78 orchestrate the petting of puppies or kittens

#79 provide childcare if needed

#80 take them to an art museum with an upbeat exhibit

#81 take them to float in the water

#82 wrap a cold sad person in blankets

#83 give cheerful socks

#84 offer water to drink

#85 hug trees together

#86 mail postcards with pretty pictures to them

#87 give them lotion that smells really good

#88 tuck them into bed at night

#89 make the bed for them in the morning

#90 don’t be afraid to sit together in silence

#91 don’t try to fix things

#92 remember, a sad person is not broken

#93 give them a new journal and fun pens

#94 make them a song playlist with upbeat tunes

#95 play your musical instrument for them

#96 give a bright, handmade hat

#97 look at the stars together

#98 go to an ice cream shop together and try all the flavors

#99 offer to sleep over so they don’t have to be alone at night

#100 don’t be overwhelming

If you are a sad person, I hope this list gives you some ideas for self-care, as well as things to ask for when someone wants to know what they can do to support you. If you want to support someone who is struggling with sadness, I hope these suggestions assist you in your desire to do so. Please know that different people need different kinds of help at different times. Don’t expect every one of these suggestions to work for every sad person during every bout of sadness.

If you are feeling suicidal or you know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273- 8255 or check out the agency’s website for more information or to chat with a counselor. According to the website,

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Laura-Marie River Victor Peace is a radical mental health activist, peace activist, and writer. See her main blog at dangerouscompassions.blogspot.com See her zines at facebook.com/functionallyill.

Generator Justice

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The people camped next to us ran their generator all night.

The Man and I were camped at Bluewater Lake State Park between Grants and Gallup, New Mexico. We’d used my New Mexico State Parks Pass to get a developed campsite, which in this instance meant a picnic table and a fire ring. We’d taken a site next to people in a popup camper. Usually we wouldn’t take a spot right next to other campers, especially when there were many empty campsites throughout the park, but the site we chose was flat and had a tree providing afternoon shade. It was the best unoccupied site in all the camping areas.

A tree stands above a body of water. In front of the tree is a wooden cross surrounded by stones.
Tree and cross, Bluewater Lake State Park

I pulled the van onto the asphalt parking spur nose in. The side doors opened toward our picnic tables and away from our next door neighbors, giving us all a bit of privacy.

The Man and I spent the afternoon relaxing. In the evening we cooked dinner, cleaned up after ourselves, then got into the van for bed.

We were awake later than usual. At some point we realized we were hearing the motorized hum of a generator. The noise was coming from the site next door.

The Man asked me what time it was, and after consulting my watch, I told him it was a little after ten o’clock.

Quiet hours start at ten, he grumbled.

The park brochure clearly stated that generator use is prohibited during quiet hours. The generator was not supposed to be running, but continued to hum in the night. Despite the noise, I went to sleep with no real problem.

The Man and I both woke up early, and nearly the first thing we noticed was that the generator next door was still humming.

That thing’s been on all night! The Man grumbled.

Maybe they have a medical need, I suggested generously. Maybe one of them uses a CPAP.

The Man countered by saying the people should have stayed at a site with electrical hookups if they needed to use electricity all night.

Well, yes. There seemed to be empty electrical sites when we drove through the park. Maybe the couple didn’t want to pay the extra $4 for a site with electricity, although I think doing so would have been less expensive than buying the gasoline it took to run the generator all night. Maybe the people thought because they took a campsite in a side loop away from other people, there would be no problem if they ran the generator all night. However, if they wanted to be sure they didn’t bother anyone, they could have gone to the sparsely populated primitive camping area by the lake and parked far away from everyone else.

It’s not like we had pulled up on remote booondockers and camped next to them; we were both in designated developed campsites.

Usually I’m the complainer and The Man is the voice of reason, but on that Sunday morning our roles were reversed. The Man couldn’t let his problem with the generator next door go.

They ran it all night…It’s againt the rules…I’m going to report them to the camp host…or the ranger…I’m going to knock on their door…

I reminded him that it was Sunday. I told him the people next door were probably leaving that afternoon. The thought of them leaving comforted him a little, but he was still irritated.

People like that…They think they can do whatever they want…It’s not right…I’m going to report them…

He asked me if I thought he should report them.

I considered the question, then asked him if the generator had kept him awake the night before. He thought a moment, then admitted it hadn’t .

I told him it hadn’t kept me awake either. In fact, I had slept just fine. I told him if the generator had kept us awake and the people next door were staying another night, I would consider reporting them. But if the noise hadn’t kept us awake and they wouldn’t be there another night, what was the point in reporting them?

The Man thought about what I’d said, then nodded. He agreed.

Usually I’m the person complaining (in my head, even if not aloud) because something just isn’t right or that’s not fair.I have a strong sense of justice, of fairness, of wanting people to do what’s right for the greater good. However, I’m trying to learn to stay out of other people’s business, to stay away from drama, to embrace the attitude of live and let live. Maybe it’s not my place to be a crusader for generator justice when the generator didn’t really bother me in the first place.

What to Do When the Weather Is Bad and You Don’t Want to Be Outside

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I’m an indoor kid, so even when the weather is nice, I spend a lot of time in my van. Other folks are the type who say they “live out of” their vans. Sure, they sleep in the vans and store their belongings in there, but during the daytime they’d rather be outside. Sometimes those folks are out hiking or rock climbing or kayaking or just sitting in the sunshine. Those outdoor kids are often perplexed when it’s too cold or wet or windy to leave their rigs. What should I do? they often ask in Facebook van groups when faced with inclement weather. Today I will share 15 ideas for what to do on those days when even the outdoor kids can’t stand to be outside.

#1 Clean your rig. If you’re like me, on any given day you rig could use some cleaning or at least reorganizing. Granted, you may not be able to haul everything outside and do a thorough deep cleaning, but you can put away everything that’s out of place, as well as make your bed. You can also wipe down the surfaces in the front, and perhaps use a whisk broom and small dustpan to sweep your floor.

Grayscale Photography of Woman in Laundry Shop

#2 Do your laundry. If you’re in civilization, a rainy/windy/cold day is perfect for washing, drying, and folding your clothes. Laundromats tend to be toasty (all those dryers!), so you can warm up while you wait. Since you’re trying to pass the time anyway, go ahead and wash your curtains, bedding and rugs too. Once everything is washed, dried, and folded, you can remake your bed, rehang your curtains, and put all your clothes away in the proper places.

#3 Shop for groceries. If you’re in town anyway, get your grocery shopping done. No one will care if you walk down each aisle slowly to maximize your time in this warm, dry place.

#4 Visit the public library. If it’s too cold to comfortably sit in your rig and

Selective Focus Photography of Bookshelf With Books

you don’t want to use fuel to run a heater, spend some time at the public library. The heater is already running there, and there’s plenty to do for free. Read books or magazines. Utilize WiFi (from your own computer or phone or via the library’s public access computers). The library might even be offering a free movie or informational talk while you’re there. Check the bulletin board or ask at the information desk.

#5 Visit a museum. If you can’t afford an expensive admission fee, look for a museum with free admission or a donation system where you decide what you can afford to pay to get in. You may also luck out and decide to go on that one day of the week or month when a pricey museum doesn’t collect a fee. Perhaps it’s a day to splurge so you can get out of the bad weather and into a place with beautiful art or informative exhibits about nature or history.

Group of People Walking Inside the Mall

#6 Go walking at a mall. If you’re one of those people who can’t sit still, and you’re in a town or city with a mall, you’ve got it made because you can go to the mall and walk, walk, walk. No one will care that you’re not spending money, and you can get some exercise without getting cold, wet, or windblown.

#7 Work out at the gym. If you have a gym membership, a bad-weather day is a great day for a workout followed by a long, hot shower. If you don’t have a gym membership at any of the places in the town you’re in, you may be able to get a day pass at a local indoor pool, community fitness center, or YMCA.

#8 Read. Whether you’re in town at a library or stuck in your rig on remote public land, a rainy day is good for reading. Although I live in a van and have limited space, I have at least a dozen books tucked away for my reading pleasure. You can find free books at Little Free Libraries across the United States. You can find inexpensive books at library book sales, garage sales, and thrift stores. If you’ve gone paperless, EBook Friendly offers a list of 12 sites from which you can download free ebooks for Kindle. Whether you have a Kindle of some other device, check out BookBub which offers free books in over twenty genres, available on all devices. If you’d rather listen, Open Culture offers links to over 900 free audiobooks. For more options, Book Riot offers a list of “11 Websites to Find Free Audiobooks Online.” These are all legal audio book options.

#9 Listen to podcasts. If you like audiobooks, you may like podcasts. If you

Black headphones with mobile smartphone

like myths, legends, and folklore, try Jason Weiser’s Myths and Legends Podcast. If you like classic fiction told in modern language try Weiser’s Fictional. If you want to learn something, give Stuff You Should Know or Stuff You Missed in History Class a listen. If you like personal stories recounted with enthusiasm, listen to The Moth or Risk! There are hundreds (probably thousands) of podcasts available for free.

#10 Watch movies. If you don’t have a DVD collection at your disposal, you can rent a movie from a Red Box for under two bucks. If you have some disposable income and a subscription to Netflix or Hulu, you can watch hundreds of movies (and television shows) on your phone, tablet or laptop as long as you have internet access. If you’re in civilization, you can even sit in a warm theater to view the feature attraction, just like we did in the old days.

#11 Cuddle. If you’re traveling with your sweetheart, bad weather gives you a great excuse to lie in bed and cuddle. Snuggle up under the covers and tell each other your hopes, fears, and dreams. Cuddling might lead to kissing, and kissing might lead to…(You might want to close your curtains before you start your snuggle session.)

#12 Nap. If you’ve followed some other suggestions, the weather is still bad, and you’re bored or tired, why not take a nap? I love a little daytime sleep, especially if it means being warm under the covers and/or hearing rain tapping on my metal roof.

Round Black Analog Compass on Blue Labeled Box

#13 Plan your next outdoor adventure. Perhaps you don’t want to be outside right now, but maybe you will want to be outside as soon as possible. Use your downtime to plan what you’ll do the next time you can be outside. Grab your maps and your guidebooks and plan the route of the hike or bike ride you’ll go on when the weather clears.

#14 Write postcards.Have you been meaning to drop a line to your far-flung friends but can’t find the time? If you have to stay inside anyway, why not write out some postcards? Postcards are quicker to write and cheaper to send than letters, and if you send postcards of with pictures of local scenery, the recipients can get a feel for where you’ve been. If you’re not set on the idea of sending postcards from the place you’re visiting, you can often find inexpensive postcards in thrift stores, or you can make your own from old magazines and cardboard. If you need some postcard inspiration, give a listen to the Postcardist podcast.

#15 Sit in a coffee shop. Many of the activities you can do in your van can

Panda Printed Paper Coffee Cup on Table

also be done in a coffee shop. For the couple of bucks it takes to get a beverage, you can spend hours in a coffee shop reading, writing postcards, listening to podcasts (headphones, please!), or just people watching. If you’re suffering from cabin fever, a coffee shop is a good place to stay warm and dry while spending time outside your rig.

So there you go! Fifteen things to do when the weather’s too bad to spend time outside. What things do you do when the weather keeps you from exploring the great outdoors?

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-clean-housework-launderette-4414/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photography-of-bookshelf-with-books-1370296/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/crown-group-modern-motion-374894/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-headphones-with-mobile-smartphone-6320/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adventure-ball-shaped-blur-book-269818/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/panda-printed-paper-coffee-cup-on-table-885021/.

Don’t Forget the Tent

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Last summer while working at the Mercantile, I heard of not one, but two sets of campers who got all the way up the mountain only to realize they’d forgotten their tent. Groan.

Sandra the camp host told me the first story.

Photo of Blue and Yellow Lighted Dome Tent Surrounded by Plants during Night Time

Two couples showed up at her campground for the night. They arrived around 4 pm. Sandra checked them in and told then the Mercantile closed at five o’clock. Around six that evening, one of the couples was on Sandra’s campsite begging her to open the Mercantile so they could buy a tent.

What?

Apparently as they unpacked, they realized their tent hadn’t made it into their car. They didn’t have a tent. They needed a tent. Couldn’t Sandra please open the Mercantile so they could buy a tent?

Sandra explained she could not open the Mercantile so they could buy a tent. Not only did she not work at the Mercantile, meaning she had not been trained on the store’s procedures, but the cash register was closed and there was no money in the drawer. There was nothing she could do to remedy the couple’s lack of tent.

Sandra was perplexed. She’d told them the Mercantile closed at five o’clock. Why had the people waited two hours to try to buy a tent? Perhaps they didn’t started unpacking right away, I offered. Maybe the Mercantile was already closed when they realized they had no tent.

Sandra also wondered why the couple needed their own tent. Their friends

Man and Woman Sitting Beside campfire and in front of tent during Night Time

had a huge tent, Sandra said. It was an 8 or 10 person tent with plenty of room for four adults.


Maybe the tentless couple had been planning a romantic evening that didin’t include their friends, I guessed. Sandra just shrugged. I guess she figured people hoping for a romantic interlude would have planned better.

The second story of a tentless camper came from one of the other clerks in the Mercantile. This clerk’s husband was the camp host at the busy campground down he road. One weekday afternoon, a camper approached the camp host and said he’d forgotten to bring his tent. The camp host suggested the camper drive down to the Mercantile and buy a new tent. The camper said he would do just that.

Later that day, the camp host saw the camper again. The camp host asked the camper if he’d gotten a tent. The camper said he hadn’t. He said he’d been to the Mercantile but there were no tents for sale. The camp host said all the tents that had been in stock must have sold out.

When his wife came home, the camp host mentioned the camper who’d gone to the Mercantile to buy a tent only to find there were none left. His wife assured him there were at least a couple of tents available at the Mercantile. She also told him that no one had asked her anything about tents that day. She thought the camper had gone into the Mercantile and looked around but didn’t see the tents. Not seeing any tents (and perhaps not wanting to admit to another person that he’d gone on a camping trip without one), he simply left without asking for assistance.

I wonder if the camper even made it to the store where I worked. There was a general store very close to the campground where he was staying. I wonder if he thought that was the store the camp host suggested. The general store was going through a transition of ownership and had very limited stock. I would have been surprised to know that store had any tents for sale.

Person in Blue Denim Jeans Standing Outside the Rain

Of course, people forget things. When I was in my mid-30s I went on a fishing trip without shoes.I was barefoot when I got in the car. I thought I’d put my shoes in the trunk. Apparently not. When we arrived at the lake, I found I was without footwear. Luckily my friend had a spare pair of sneakers in the car. I wore them even though they were several sizes too big.

However, a tent seems like an integral component of a camping trip, especially if the camper is not driving a motor home or a camper van and isn’t towing a travel trailer or a fifth wheel. It seems as if one is going on a camping trip and is planning to sleep in a tent, the tent would be the most important item to pack.

On this day, the cultural beginning of summer, I offer you a bit of advice. If you’re going camping this summer or any time, be sure to pack the tent. Check to make sure you have it before you leave home. Ask yourself, Do I have the tent? Go ahead and double check, triple check, and check one more time. If you find the tent is not in your vehicle with the rest of your camping gear, you’ll be glad you looked for it yet again.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-blue-and-yellow-lighted-dome-tent-surrounded-by-plants-during-night-time-712067/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-and-woman-sitting-beside-bonfire-during-nigh-time-776117/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/feet-rain-wet-puddle-105776/.

Unprepared in a Giant Motorhome

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The giant motor home pulled into the campground on a day I was working alone at the Mercantile. The camp hosts were on their day off, so if anyone was going to keep the driver of the RV from getting stuck in the campground, it was going to be me.

The motor home was the size of the ones I’d seen in RV lots with price tags of a quarter million dollars. I don’t know if it had marble countertops and a full size bathtub like some I’ve seen, but there was no denying it was big.

The campground, on the other hand was small. It only had 14 sites. The road through the campground was only one lane wide and looped through an inner and outer circle of campsites. I wasn’t sure a motor home that size was going to make it around the turns necessary to drive through the campground. I certainly didn’t want that behemoth getting stuck back there.

I went out on the Mercantile’s porch. The motor home was stopped and the driver was no longer behind the steering wheel. A woman in a romper was talking to the driver of a small car stopped behind the motorhome. Did the woman in the romper belong to the motor home?

Excuse me? I called out. Is this yours? I asked, gesturing to the massive RV. It was. The woman in the romper came over to talk to me.

She was probably in her 30s with long, messy hair. She was friendly and hyper. She’d hoped to camp in the campground where we stood but didn’t have a reservation. I told her the campground was very small, and I was afraid her motorhome wasn’t going to fit anywhere in it. There was one site that might have accommodated her rig, but getting to it and in and out of it would have definitely been problematic.

She wanted to walk the trail and buy a map. She wanted to know where she could park while she did those things. I directed her to the second overflow lot, little more than a long, narrow dirt driveway where we sent rigs too big to park in either of the two regular lots.

The woman got the giant motor home out of the campground, but she and her tween daughter were in the Mercantile a short time later. She’d parked in the second overflow lot, she told me. She repeated that she’d hoped to camp in this campground and I said again that I thought the campground was too small to accommodate her rig.

It’s really intended for tent camping, I told her, then suggested she try the larger campground 15 miles down the road or the privately owned RV park in the little community 25 miles away. Maybe one of those places would have a site large enough for her motor home.

The woman had a list in her hand and started asking me about places she wanted to visit. Neither of the places she mentioned were anywhere near us. She seemed really confused. She said when she’d found information about the campground online, the website suggested these other places as also fun to visit, so she’d assumed they were nearby. The problem, I explained to her, was that the National Forest is really big and just because two attractions are both in the National Forest doesn’t mean they’re necessarily close. The woman seemed disappointed but undaunted.

She then asked about water, as in swimming, as in where could she and her kid go to get in the water. I told her about the river, then asked if she’d be going in the car. Oh no, she said. Her friend had driven the car I’d seen her next to, but her friend was leaving. She’d be driving the motor home wherever she went. I told her I wasn’t sure where she’d be able to park it. I wasn’t really familiar with the area around the river, so I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to find a space for something so big.

I didn’t know where to recommend she go to have fun or see things. All of the places I normally recommended were at the end of winding, rutted dirt roads. No way was I going to suggest she take that massive RV off the paved road. I didn’t want to be responsible for her getting stuck in a place where roadside assistance would never go.

She said she still wanted a map, so I pulled one out, opened it, and showed here where we were. I scanned the map’s barcode and told her the total with tax, which was $21 and change. She pulled out a $100 bill. It had been a slow morning, and I didn’t know if I had enough money in the drawer to give her correct change.

Do you have anything smaller? I asked her.

She rummaged through her wallet, and I saw she had several $100 bills. The lady must have been walking around with at least $1,000 in her purse. She determined she didn’t have any smaller bills.

I went to the bank and cleared out my savings, she said apologetically, implying the bank had loaded her down with big bills.

Let me look in the drawer again, I offered, and when I did, I found there were four twenties instead of the three I thought I had. I told her I could break her hundred after all, and she seemed relieved. I think she knew she needed that map.

She ended up buying a necklace for her daughter, so I got one of my twenties back. They left after the necklace purchase, but I continued to think about the woman. She was obviously spending a lot of money to show her kid a good time on this road trip, but her half-ass research and big-ass motor home were leaving her in one lurch after another. She didn’t find out until she arrived that the campground she wanted to stay in couldn’t accommodate her giant RV. The places she wanted to visit were more than a hundred miles away (I learned later from Google Maps), and she couldn’t get to the places nearby because the roads weren’t big enough for the rig she was driving. She’d have been better off throwing a tent and a camp stove into the trunk of a car or spending her money on a Jucy van or an Escape Campervan.

 

I Feel Happy

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According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, May 23 is Clinical Hypnosis Day. In celebration of this upcoming “holiday,” today I’ll share with you the story of my father’s (and by extension my own) experimentation with clinical hypnosis.

You may be wondering what exactly is clinical hypnosis. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis answers this question (and many others) on their website.


Clinical hypnosis is an altered state of awareness, perception or consciousness that is used, by licensed and trained doctors or masters prepared individuals, for treating a psychological or physical problem. It is a highly relaxed state.

Pink and White Key Chain

My parents were two of the squarest people I can image. They may have come of age in the turbulent 60s and been a young married couple in the swinging 70s, but as far as I can tell, during my childhood they lived their lives as good Catholic Republicans. My dad went to his grave proud of the fact that he’d never been drunk, something he held over my mother because of the one time she drank too much while partying with her brother before he shipped off to Vietnam and was puke sick for two days. I honestly believe–after viewing my parents through the critical lens of my adulthood–that neither of them took an experimental puff of weed or snort of coke, never had a psychedelic experience; never attended a key party; never so much as sampled a dish containing tofu, lentils, or curry. Even in the most experimental decades of their lives, my parents showed themselves to be nothing but straight. All to say, I was quite surprised when I remembered my father’s dabbling in hypnosis.

It all started with our family physician. Somehow that old boy had gotten himself mixed up with hypnosis. Want to stop smoking? Want to lose weight? Want to be a better salesman? Want to do well in school? Want to feel happier? Want to be more successful? Dr. Carrol could help.

I’m not sure if Dr. Carrol did in-office hypnosis treatments. It seems to me

Skc Cassette Tape on White Surface

that a busy physician wouldn’t have time to sit with folks while they counted back from ten. Instead, Dr. Carrol made and sold hypnosis tapes.

It was a brilliant scheme. Dr. Carrol probably went into a recording studio, ran through the steps required for achieving different goals, then had the cassette tapes of each program manufactured. Once the tapes were ready, Dr. Carrol could sell them to his patients. The patients could use the tapes whenever it was convenient (immediately prior to falling asleep was recommended), and Dr. Carrol could rake in the money without sacrificing any precious office hours.

To be fair, I don’t know if Dr. Carrol actually raked in money from his hypnosis tapes. Yes, it was the 70s, and people were trying all sorts of new techniques for better living, but Dr. Carrol was practicing in a small town in the heart of Cajun Country. I suspect most of his patients were too conservative to try something as far out as hypnosis. Perhaps if one of his tapes was a big success it was probably the one purported to help people stop smoking. In the 70s the dangers of smoking were coming to light and people were strongly encouraged to kick the habit. Perhaps even in Cajunland, people were desperate to quit smoking and would try just about anything that might help change their unhealthy ways. If a medical doctor said hypnosis was the way to go, why not give it a try?

How Dr. Carrol sold my dad on hypnosis tapes, I have no idea. My dad was not–had never been–a smoker. My dad did struggle with his weight, so maybe he got hooked up with a set of weight loss tapes. What surprises me the most was that my dad was tight, not prone to spending money unnecessarily. He was a young man with a wife and two little kids and not much money. How did Dr. Carrol convince him to buy hypnosis tapes?

Maybe Dr. Carrol got my dad with tapes that were supposed to make him a better salesman. My dad was a salesman by profession. If you’ve ever read or watched Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, think Willy Loman.

Brown Wooden Plank

My dad should have been a carpenter or maybe a plumber or even an auto mechanic. He could fix almost anything, build almost anything. I once asked him how he knew so much about car and home repair, and he said he’d had to learn because he could never afford to hire someone to do the work for him. He said he’d go into an auto parts store or plumbing supply shop or lumberyard and ask questions until he figured out what to do. This was in a time before YouTube, and I never saw him pouring over a library book from the do-it-yourself section, so he really must have had innate mechanical abilities to supplement the information he gleaned from the people who sold him supplies.

My father should have been a tradesman, not a salesman. I believe he would have been happier working with his hands. However, somewhere in his life my dad had picked up the notion that being a salesman was more prestigious than working in the trades. He may not have attended collage, but he could move one rung up the social ladder if he got a job in sales.

I believe my dad wanted to be a good salesman. He wanted to be considered a success. He wanted to bring home enough money to keep his wife and kids comfortable. I suspect my father did not have the innate knowledge or personality traits of a natural salesman. I suspect he felt he could use a little help. I suspect he hoped hypnosis would do the trick.

I was vaguely aware that my dad was listening to the hypnosis tapes at night. I was 7 or 8 a the time and mostly unconcerned with the affairs of the adults in my life. My dad did share with the family a motivational catchphrase he got from the tapes. I feel happy! I feel healthy! I feel terrific! he’d say enthusiastically, probably trying to convince himself. Sometimes my mom and sibling and I would say it too. Sometimes I still say the words (out loud, enthusiastically) when I’m trying to pep myself up.

I don’t know who decided it would be a good idea for me to listen to

Red-and-brown Pencils

hypnosis tapes before bed. I don’t know if my parents bought something intended for kids or if they just used what my dad already had. I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to listen to a tape, but I don’t remember being opposed to listening. I remember being told that listening to the tape would help me do better in school, even though my grades were fine.

Every night after tucking me into bed, my dad would press the play button on his tape player that had been moved into my room. Dr. Carrol’s voice was soothing and relaxing and because I listened to the tape as I was falling asleep, it didn’t take time away from anything I wanted to do.

I wish I remembered what Dr. Carrol said on the tape, what instructions he gave. Better yet, I wish I had the tape now so I could listen to what I was told on those nights decades ago.

I remember being skeptical of the whole hypnosis thing. Even as a little kid, I wondered how what someone said on a tape could help me do better in school. I don’t think my parents told me anything about the subconscious or how hypnosis is supposed to work. What I do (very clearly) remember thinking is that while what I was hearing on the tape probably wasn’t going to do anything for me, I was going to pretend it worked in order to please my parents. So in the mornings after listening to the tape, I would pop right out of bed and pretend to be excited and happy about going to school.

Of course, now I have to wonder if the hypnosis actually did work. Was I in fact only pretending it was working? Could my skeptical brain only embrace hypnosis if I could continue to disbelieve it but accept the changed in my behavior it caused by telling myself I was only pretending? Why would I feel the need to pretend it was working if it wasn’t?

I don’t remember how many nights I listened to the tapes as I drifted off to sleep. It doesn’t seem like I did it for very long, but memory has a way of distorting time. I also don’t remember why I stopped listening to the tape. Even complaints wouldn’t have necessarily gotten me off the hook, as my parents made me do plenty of other things I complained about. If my parents thought the tapes were valuable, one of them would have pressed the play button every night whether or not I wanted to listen. I can only imagine my parents decided Dr. Carrol and his hypnosis were not worth our time after all.

In retrospect, I wish my patents had continued to play the tape for me. Maybe the messages it contained would have helped me live a better life. Maybe whatever instructions given on the tape would have saved me from the depression that settled over me within a couple of years and has been with me on and off (mostly on) for most of my life. If I had the tape now, I’d listen to it at bedtime every night and hope for a change.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/dark-vintage-table-keys-67094/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/skc-cassette-tape-on-white-surface-1219113/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-blur-carpenter-carpentry-345135/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/desk-pens-school-design-2172/.

Two Horses

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Two bronze horses stand facing in opposite directions. The texture of the sculpture is irregular, as if the bronze is thickly applied.
Two Horses by William Barnhart

It’s difficult to adequately capture the sculpture Two Horses in one photograph because the piece has many angles to explore. I’d taken one shot of it (the photo above) during my visit to downtown Mesa in the spring of 2016, but I never thought this photo was enough. During my exploration of a few blocks of downtown Mesa with Nolagirl in March of 2018, I was able to get a few more shots.

Close up of the face of a bronze horse. The texture is irregular, as if the bronze is dripping.
This bronze horse has quite an expression on its face.

Two Horses was created by artist William Barnhart. According to Barnhart’s website, he received a BFA from Brigham Young University in 1984 and continued with graduate studies at Arizona State University in 1985. He is a resident of Mesa and has been a professional artist for over 30 years.

You can see more of William Barnhart’s sculptures on his webpage, which shows both sculptures in a pre-cast state and those that have been cast in bronze.

I love the texture of this piece, which begs to be touched. The plaque on the base of this piece explains how Barnhart made the horses look this way.

The sculpture’s unique surface was created by layering wet plaster over modeled forms of two horses, then allowing the plaster to run and drip. The effect is a texture with a random, organic appearance over a highly controlled form. Subsequent processes were used to transform the sculpture into its final bronze state.

One bronze horse turns its head to the right. The other horse is turned away from the viewer. We see its tail. The surface of the sculpture is irregular as if the bronze is thickly dripping.
A different view of the two.

Two Horses can be viewed on the southwest corner of Main and Center Streets in downtown Mesa, AZ. You can find this piece of public art and many others on the guide to Downtown Mesa’s Permanent Sculpture Collection.

Two bronze horses on the corner of a city street. The bronze is irregular as if it is dripping from the statues.

I took all the photos in this post.

In Praise of Visitor Centers

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I like visitor centers, those places of tourist information paid for by states to let folks know all the fun things they can do while in the area. There’s a lot to like at these informational pit stops.

  • Clean restrooms Visitor centers want to make a good impression, so they tend to keep their restrooms impeccably clean. If you’re picky about restroom cleanliness, visitor centers may be where you want to stop.
  • Free beverages When I entered Louisiana from Mississippi on Interstate 20, the visitor center  I stopped at offered free coffee. It was even Community brand, a very popular Louisiana flavor. Years ago the visitor centers in Florida offered tiny paper cups of free orange juice. (Certain visitor centers in Florida apparently still offer free citrus juice to guests!) If nothing else, a visitor center is bound to have a water fountain where you can fill your water bottles.
  • Free state maps  If you’re entering a new state, a visitor center is a great place to pick up a free paper map to help you find your way around. When I looked at the free info at the visitor Center in Deming, NM, I saw paper maps New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas up for grabs.
  • Tourist brochures  Every visitor center I’ve ever been in has offered tons of brochures advertising attractions throughout the state. From pistachio farms in New Mexico to swamp tours in Louisiana, to ghost towns in Arizona, there’s a lot to do in every state. These brochures tell you where to go and what to see and sometimes include money-saving coupons!
  • State tourism guides  All states have a department of tourism and most publish a guidebook to tell visitors what’s special about their particular state. These guides typically divide the state into regions and give details about what to see and do in each region. The guidebooks may also tell about the state’s history, Native peoples, and special foods; they give a good overview of each state. Visitor centers typically have free copies of their state’s guide free for the taking.
  • Informative exhibits  If you want to learn more about the state you’re in, visitor centers often have exhibits explaining the state’s history, its Native people, the flora and fauna of the region, geologic features, and the area’s history.
  • A live person to talk with If the visitor center is staffed, don’t pass up your chance to ask questions of a local. At the visitor center in Deming, NM, a young woman and an elderly man answered all my questions about the town’s annual duck race. Most people working at a visitor center are going to be knowledgeable about the area and the entire state. Ask the worker for directions. Ask about road construction and free camping.  Ask what attractions in the state can’t be missed. Ask what food you should eat and the best places to find them. Ask about upcoming festivals and special events. Ask about the weather. If the people working at the visitor center don’t know the answers to your questions, they can find out for you.
  • A place to stretch your legs Even if you don’t need a paper map or information about tourist attractions, visitor centers are often nice places to get out of your rig for a while and walk around. If the sound of your own wheels is about to drive you crazy, get out of your vehicle at a visitor center and move around a bit outside.
  • Pet walking areas While you’re stretching  your legs, let Fido or Lassie move around too. Many visitor centers have special areas where you can walk your dog and allow it to relieve itself. (Many even offer poop bags to make it easy to clean up after your pet.) You’ll probably need to keep your pet on a leash, and you’ll definitely need to pick up any droppings.
  • Picnic areas  Many visitor centers have picnic tables or at least a bench where you can sit to have a snack or eat your lunch. Some sitting areas are even under shade structures so you can get out of the sun. If you can park your rig close enough to a table, you should be able to pull out your stove and kitchen supplies and cook a complete meal for yourself.
  • Dump stations  If you’re driving an RV with a black water tank, some visitor centers (especially if they are part of a larger rest area complex) may offer a dump station. You can find a state-by-state guide to dump stations at RVdumps.com.
  • Free water for your tanks  Some visitor centers offer free water to fill holding tanks if you have an RV or jugs if you’re living the vanlife. Pay attention to signs telling you if water is potable (safe to drink) or non-potable (not safe to drink).
  • Safe overnight parking  If a visitor center is within a rest area, you may be able to park for the night after you get your fill of tourist info. Overnight parking at rest areas varies by states, but many states do put the “rest” in “rest area” by allowing folks to park for several hours at a time. Once you grab your free state map and tourism guide, get some shut-eye before you get back on the road. If you get to a visitor center late at night and anyone asks you why you’re parking there, just say you want to get some information as soon as they open in the morning.

Now that you’ve considered all visitor centers have to offer, maybe you’ll stop in at the next one you see as you’re tooling down the road.

Bohemian Rhapsody Art Car

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Nolagirl and I were at spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity in the spring of 2018, looking at art cars. We’d looked at California Fantasy Van, the J Gurl art car, and Zalafayra. Next up: Bohemian Rhapsody.

As you might have guessed, this car is a tribute to the rock band Queen. The art was done by Rebecca Bass and her students at Reagan High School (now known as Heights High School ) in Houston, Texas. This high school is so cool, it has an art car club on its official list of activities available to students!

Art car covered in bling with a life-size representation of Freddie Mercury holding the Union Jack flag.
Freddie Mercury lets his freak flag fly. Oh wait! That’s the Union Jack!

According to an ABC 13 Eyewitness News website (which features a video of Bass and her students creating an art car),

Rebecca Bass is famous in the Art Car community. She’s created about 30 art cars in her lifetime, almost all of them with kids.

Bass leads the art car club at Heights High School. She and her students were even in a movie! The 2011 documentary Art Car: The Movie follows Bass and her students as they prepare a car for the Houston Art Car Parade.

A keyboard projects from the back passenger side door of a meticulously decorated art car.
That’s a full size keyboard on the side of that car!

The city of Houston calls the Art Car Parade the city’s

largest free public event [with] more than 250 rolling works of art …

A fake woman projects from the torso up from a meticulously decorated art car.
I think this woman is holding bicycle handlebars. Perhaps she represents the Queen song “Bicycle Race.” That song was really popular during my childhood. “I want to ride my bicycle/I want to ride my bike!” I didn’t realized until I was writing this post that there’s an official video for the song and it features naked women!

I think it’s really cool that high school students did the majority of the work on this car. While I do like Queen, I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan of the band. What I am a huge fan of is the meticulous embellishment work done on Bohemian Rhapsody. Wow! So much bling! I don’t think there’s one inch of space on this car that’s not covered in shine, sparkle, or flash. This is my kind of three-dimensional collage.

A red guitar is attached to the driver's door of a meticulously embellished art car.
There’s a guitar to go with the keyboard. The band is almost complete.

Bohemian Rhapsody seems to have found a permanent home with ArtoCade out of Trinidad, Coloroado. The ArtoCade website calls itself

a parade!…a festival!…a party!

Art car meticulously embellished with bling.
Bohemian Rhapsody seems to belong to ArtoCade out of Trinidad, CO.

ArtoCade also has an art car museum. The information was a bit unclear, but from what I could ascertain, the museum once known as the Bizarre Car Garage had to vacate its space prior to September 2018. It seems to have relocated and been rechristened as Art Cartopia. I think admission to Art Cartopia is free. That’s my favorite price! (The information I found about Art Cartopia was on ArtoCade’s Facebook page.)

Bohemian Rhapsody detail. “Somebody to Love,” perhaps?

If you’re ever anywhere near Trinidad (a small town just off Interstate 25 near the Colorado/New Mexico border), I suggest you stop at Art Cartopia and take a look at Bohemian Rhapsody. There are so many details to look at on this car! I could have stared at it for hours.

Figures of a drummer and a woman with an ample bottom adorn the back of a meticulously embellished art car.
I’m pretty sure that’s a fat bottomed girl on the left. And look! There’s the drummer Roger Taylor on the right!

I took all the photos in this post.