Tag Archives: friends

Something to Talk About

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When a man and a woman start spending time together, people seem to automatically think the two are a couple of the romantic/sexual variety.

I hate the term “just friends,” as if only romantic and/or sexual involvements are somehow real and friendship is lesser. Calling a relationship just a friendship means it’s only a friendship and puts the friendship lower on the relationship hierarchy.

But yes, my new friend is a man, and it seems like many of the people who encounter us are trying to figure out what’s going on between us. It’s not unusual for me to have male friends, so I didn’t even consider what other people might think they were seeing.

It started subtlely, while we were still at the RTR. A woman I knew stopped by to talk to my friend and very formally apologized to me for possibly interrupting anything.

Oh no, I reassured her. No problem. But I thought her apology was a little weird, since she’d never apologized for walking up on a conversation I’d been having with a lady friend.

It happened more openly the last night we stayed at the RTR site. The stragglers got together for a dinner around the main campfire. I was grateful to have been invited, and part of me wanted to go, but my social anxiety kicked in too. I probably would have talked myself out of going had my new friend not walked across the way with me and carried our contribution to the meal, a big pot of beans and rice and green chilis (in honor of our upcoming trip to New Mexico).

We hadn’t been sitting around the fire for long when a woman stood in front of my friend and said, Are you with Blaize?

Well, bless her heart for asking a direct question, but I’m not sure what the preposition “with” meant to her. It seemed a strange way to phrase the question. Are you Blaize’s friend? I might have asked or How do you know Blaize? But no, she wanted to know if he was with me.

The weird part of the interaction was that I didn’t know the woman. My friend thought the interrogator must have also been my friend, but I didn’t recognize her as someone I’d ever met. Maybe she’d picked up my name at one of the women’s meetings or when I’d held up my book and mentioned my upcoming reading during morning announcements.

I just let my friend field the question of whether or not he was with me. After all, I hadn’t been addressed.

About the time I turned to speak to the woman on my left, I heard my buddy say, Well, I’m her friend, in his slow Southern drawl. The rest of his explanation was lost in my conversation, and I didn’t hear any questions that may have followed.

When I told the woman on my left that my new friend and I would be traveling together, I could tell the wheels were spinning in her head as she tried to understand our relationship. I answered all of her questions. No, we weren’t taking two vehicles. No, we weren’t consolidating our belongings and jettisoning duplicates. We were just going on a road trip together with all our stuff. I could tell she still wasn’t exactly sure what was going on with me and the guy.

The next day when I stopped to say good-bye to the woman who’d so formally apologized for her interruption, she gently probed me for information on the status of the relationship I had with the fellow.

We’re friends, I told her. We’re going to take a trip together.

But you never know, right? she prompted.

Sure, I agreed. You never know.

I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have been talking that way if a woman had been joining me for a few days in the van.

So my friend and I have reached our destination safe and sound. It was a blissfully uneventful trip with no catastrophes to report. We stopped at a couple of free campgrounds along the way, and my friend and his dog slept in a tent while I curled up cozy in my van. We had many deep conversations, as well as a lot of laughs. (On several occasions, this man has made me laugh until tears rolled down my face, my sides hurt, and I gasped for breath. He’s a funny one.)

We’re talking about buying some cheap land together in the mountains, make ourselves a place to stay in the summers. I suspect we’ll continue to field questions about our relationship status if we’re living on the same quarter acre.

 

 

 

 

Answers

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I recently offered my readers a chance to ask me questions. Today’s post consists of the questions submitted, as well as my answers.

Let’s start off with an easy one, shall we?

Dave asked, Pot pie or pizza pie?

While I would not turn down pot pie freely given, my choice will always be pizza. I would choose pizza over most anything else, except maybe ice cream.

Here’s another easy one, from Mary. Do you work for the state or federal government?

Neither. Of course, I am not working at the moment, but when I am working, it’s not for any governmental agency.

Now onto a question with a longer answer. This is a fun one.

Muriel2pups asked, Blaize, What would you do if you won a million dollars?

Funny you should ask, as I do have a plan, although buying lottery tickets is not part of the plan. Not sure how I expect to win if I don’t play…

Over the summer I noticed sometimes my coworker and I would talk about the possibility of some event or reaction and then the thing we talked about happened. I decided we needed to turn this ability to manifest into a million dollars. My coworker and I agreed to share any money sent our way by the Universe. So, if I won a million dollars, half of it automatically belongs to my coworker.

I have a handful of friends and worthy causes to whom I would dole out somewhere between  $200 to $5,000 each.

I would have my van repaired and overhauled in every way necessary.

I would visit Montana and Alaska.

Would I still have money left after that? I have no idea. I don’t have a clear concept of how much half a million dollars is. I guess I would probably do some socially responsible investing with whatever was left and try to live off that money while writing or making art.

Cindy had several questions. Let’s take them (and their answers) one at a time.

 I am pretty interested in the life out on the Mesa outside of the bridge in Taos. Have you ever lived out there? What did you think of it and what was your experience if you did.

No, Cindy, I never lived out on the Mesa. I have a couple of friends who do, one I visited a few times and one I house and dog sat for several times.

Like many neighborhoods, the Mesa is a mixed bag. There are people out there living in huge, seemingly expensive, “nice” houses. There are people out there living in shacks, old school buses, and homes they built themselves, piece-by-piece, over time. There are people out there living in structures somewhere between a mansion and a shanty. Some people on the Mesa use solar power, and other people have no electricity at all. Many people on the Mesa have no running water and have to haul their water home.

Two women I knew have been murdered on the Mesa in less than three years. For me, these killings put a dark cloud over the area’s visually stunning landscape.

Do you keep your money in a bank at all?

 Yes, Cindy, I do have a bank account. There was a time before I had a bank account when I kept my cash on me. Of course, I worried about getting robbed. During that time, I did not keep my money hidden in the van, in fear of the van getting stolen or towed.

Now I worry about a breakdown of the financial system which would leave me without access to my money. I suppose if the financial system breaks down, that paper’s not going to do me much good anyway.

Just a fun question. What is your favorite meal? Like if you could have anything to eat for dinner tonight what would it be? ..and your favorite dessert?

 If I’m cooking for myself, my favorite meal is some variation of brown rice, tofu, and veggies. I particularly enjoy blanched broccoli.

If the Lady of the House is cooking dinner, I’ll take gumbo!

If any food in the whole world could magically appear in front of me, I would go for boudin.

As for dessert, I don’t know if I’ve ever met one I didn’t like. Any sort of concoction with brownies or cookies or cake and ice cream would make me happy.

Camilla said, I was wondering why you never post a photo of yourself anywhere on your blog.

My privacy and security are very important to me. I don’t necessarily want strangers to know what I look like, so I don’t post photos of myself. The same goes for my van. While I don’t think I would be mobbed by adoring fans, I feel safer without my face plastered all over the internet.

Besides, what I look like has no bearing on my writing, my photography, and my art. I would rather you judge me on how I behave and what I can create rather than on how I look.

Louise asked, Do you think this is something that you’ll be doing for as long as you can or do you think that you may choose a more stationary life? Maybe I’m asking when/how/if you would choose a more permanent (or semi-permanent) place to lay roots for a while.

In “Truckin,'”Robert Hunter best explains my life as a van dweller:

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down

 When I’m stuck in one place, I want to hit the road. When I’m on the road, I think about the benefits of settling somewhere.

Don’t forget, I was mostly settled before I started my life on the road. I know what it’s all about.

But yes, I do think about settling down in some shitty little apartment, working some shitty little job, stuck in some city. I wouldn’t want to live in a city where I didn’t already have friends and a support network. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to live in most of the places where my good friends live. I’m not willing to work 8 hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year at some job that’s not doing much good for the world so I can take a two week vacation to visit people I love.

Also, I wonder if I could even get a real job these days. I’m a middle age woman who’s been mostly out of the  job force for seven years. Who’s going to hire me? It’s not like I have any specialized, marketable skills.

I do worry about getting older, about getting sick, about being injured. (I am very careful getting in and out of the shower these days.) However, I’m not willing to sacrifice my now for future unknowns. Maybe I will be able to work as a camp host until the day I die.

Sue asked a long and complicated question. I will try to condense it.

I’m sure you’ve thought about what you went through a LOT. And while you did think about them, did you isolate things he said and did, and then re-identify them from casual remarks into recognizable warning signs? In other words, have you learned to think about what people say and how they act so it will help you in future relationships?

One reason I don’t write much about my ex is because there are many aspects of both his and my life (and our life together) that would immediately reveal our identities to folks who knew us fairly well. I’m not interested in my ex finding me and contacting me, so I don’t share parts of our past that would lead him to me.

That said, during my relationship with him, I was mostly cognizant of what was going on. I don’t have to look back and say, Oh, that was a warning sign. I look back and remember how I knew at the time how some word or action was fucked-up shit.

So have I learned to think about what people say and how they act? I don’t know. What I can do now is identify fucked up men from a mile away and run in the other direction. (I could probably spot fucked up women too, but I don’t get as many opportunities.)

Brent asked, Blaize, I would like to know what you don’t have in your life that you would like to have.

While I have many close and wonderful friends, I spend most of my year far away from them. I’m lonely a lot. When I do visit, my friends have work, kids, relationships, a million obligations they can’t drop just to spend some deep quality time with me. I get it, but it’s difficult for me to feel fulfilled by friendship in passing. I wish I could spend more time with the people I love.

Laura-Marie asked me the following sweet question: how did u get so wonderful? i really mean that. what factors came together to form beautiful u?

Aw, shucks.

But I don’t feel wonderful! I’m grumpy and short-tempered and pushy and annoying. Anything good you see if because I am working against my natural tendencies to talk too much and make stupid jokes. I’m working against feeling irritated and wanting to have everything my way.

I used to do nice things for people because I wanted people to like me. Now when I do nice things for people, it’s usually because it’s the right thing to do. I try to treat people as I would like to be treated. I try to act like the kind of friend I want to have.

 

Gifts for a Family

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I always thought I’d have a family, Lou said to me on more than once occasion as we passed through our late 20s, our 30s, our late 30s. She has her family now.

The husband came first. Lou and I had been out of touch for years when she met him. She and I had just rekindled our friendship when they got married. (By rekindled our friendship, I mean Lou was one of my old friends who worked to find me after I disappeared into the New Mexico night. I remember calling Lou on my new cell phone after I’d been found, and she asked if we could talk later. I’m driving in LA with my boyfriend and his parents, she said, but left out the part about on the way to my wedding.)

Lou’s husband is a nice man. He’s a computer guy and athletic. He’s a good cook too, especially of Korean food and smoked brisket. He generously shared the home he’s made with Lou when I needed a place to stay in late 2012.

After a couple of years of marriage, Lou and her man had a baby, a boy. He’s two, but I haven’t met him yet. I’ve had to be satisfied with viewing his adorableness via photos on Facebook.

And now Lou is pregnant again, this time with a girl. It’s a family for sure.

Some of the first hats I made were fro Lou and her family. The colors of the hats for the adults were weird, and I’d only taught myself the basic hat-making technique. Still, Lou sent me a photo of the three of them grinning

This is the infinity scarf I made for Lou.

This is the infinity scarf I made for Lou.

broadly while wearing the hats I’d made.

I’ve been on a yarn kick this summer. I decided to make an infinity scarf for Lou. I used a pink and brown color scheme.

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This is the tiny pink hat I made for the upcoming baby.

Then I cam across some soft pink yarn and decided to make a little hat for the upcoming baby. The hat turned out so tiny! I couldn’t believe how small it was. It seemed impossibly small. Then I thought of something that size coming out of my vagina, and the hat seemed impossibly large.

Since it’s not fair to send the baby a present and nothing for the older kid, and since the boy’s surely outgrown the tiny hat I made for him nearly two years ago, I made a colorful hat for him.

While Lou’s husband probably does not need another winter hat, I didn’t want to exclude him. Besides, he’ll probably like the colors and design of the new hat better.

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This is the hat I made for Lou’s husband.

If they don’t like the hats and scarf, I’m cool with that. They can take whatever they don’t like downtown and pass it along to people in unconventional living situations.

This is the colorful hat I made for Lou's little son.

This is the colorful hat I made for Lou’s little son.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

 

I Get by with a Whole Lot of Help From My Friends

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I think I’ve been coming off as independent and self-sufficient.

Well, I am independent. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. I want to make my own decisions. I want to follow my own path while listening to my own drummer. But self-sufficient? That’s not really been happening. Since I started this journey of unusual living, I’ve been helped by strangers and friends.

After I left my not-very-nice boyfriend in the middle of the night, I ended up homeless for three months. I was spending my nights outside in a sleeping bag given to me by someone I’d just met, carrying everything I owned in a backpack from the same fellow. I mostly ate food given to me at a food bank, and I brushed my teeth in a rest stop restroom. But even with such a simple existence, I didn’t make it alone. A couple of new friends took me into their homes once or twice a week to feed me dinner and let me shower or bathe. Vendors at the outdoor arts and crafts market where I sold sage sticks (and later hemp jewelry) slipped me granola bars or leftovers or (on a very few occasions) a five or ten dollar bill, which I used to buy supplies. One grizzled old horse trader bought me a sandwich one day and gave me a pep talk about how he liked me because I showed up every day and did what I had to do to earn my own way while not asking for nothing from nobody.

When I was lost (meaning after I left the boyfriend and dropped off the face of the earth) friends from my past lives sent out a search party to find me. I was found, and so many people from my past offered love and support in the form of dollars and open invitations to sleep on their couches and in their spare rooms. I used those dollars (and dollars I had earned myself in long days of selling my handiwork in the wind and the sun and the heat) to buy myself a van and go on a fantastic, epic journey where I met new people who became friends and offered me new and appreciated love and (mental and physical) support.

From Mt. Shasta, California, I ended up North Carolina. A wonderful housed-up road sister I’d just met invited me into her home to share Thanksgiving dinner with her family. A couple I’d met at the Bridge on Labor Day weekend welcomed me at the inn they own on the Tuckasegee River. These folks put me up in a suite, fed me, gave me clothes to wear. In both instances, these people barely knew me but treated me like family.

From North Carolina, I ended up in a major Texas city where old friends turned over their spare room to me, fed me, entertained me, gave me access to their laundry room and their internet service, AND gave me a pair of beloved cowgirl boots. Beginning to see a pattern here?

I could go on and on. I could tell you about my Computer Guy who’s helped me out financially several times, as well as making this very website possible. I could tell you about the walk-the-talk young Christian couple who rescued me (and a mentally unstable young man friend, his dog, the woman he was in love with, and her six-month-old baby) in Hot Springs, Arkansas; drove us all to their home in Southern Louisiana; then with the help of their church paid for my bus ticket back to Texas (at my request) and sent me off with a new purple backpack and a few dollars in my pocket. I could tell you about a different set of friends (college buddies) in Texas who took me in, gave me the guest room, fed me, included me in their Friday night extended-family time, loaned me a car when I was without a van, bought me a piece of memory foam for my new (to me) van, and helped me with my insurance payment. I could tell you about the kind and generous people who gave me gas money so I could get to my job in California last summer.

In the comments to my March spending report one of my readers said,

your expenses were close to $600 for the month. Were you able to earn at least $600 during the month?

My response was

No, I didn’t earn $600 in March. I have been living off the money I saved from working last summer and fall. That money is just about gone…

Anyone who has been paying attention is going to wonder what’s going on when they see my April report in a few days. At the end of March, I said I was almost out of money, but the spending report is going to show that I spent a bundle of money on tires (that is a saga for another day) as well as a bunch on insurance. And how did I afford to stay in a room I found through Airbnb while I worked scoring standardized tests? The answer is that I’ve been making it through with money I’ve earned through house sitting and Craigslist jobs, as well as with gifts and loans from people who care about me.

I don’t know how long this way of life is going to last for me. Right now, it doesn’t feel sustainable. I’m tired of being a burden on people, and I worry that people are getting tired of taking care of me. I’ve been stressed a lot about money in 2016. I know money is just a social construct. It doesn’t even matter and it’s not even real (right?) until transmission fluid is leaking or the fuel pump goes out or the metal threads are showing on the back tires (all of which have happened to my van since February).

I think I’ll have to save $2,000 (of an estimated $5,000 gross income) this summer to make it through the fall and winter of 2016 and the first part of 2017 while being able to take care of any van emergencies. Of course, I when I’m not work camping, I’ll fill in with side jobs if I can get them.

I can’t think of any clever, upbeat way to end this post except to say I’m so grateful to everyone who has assisted me, ever, but especially in the last four years. (And if I you have helped me, and I failed to mention you specifically in this post, please don’t think that means I don’t feel gratitude for everything you’ve done for me.) My life would be impossible without so much help.

Spanish

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When I was in high school (way back in the last century), kids planning to go to college were encouraged to take two years of a foreign language. I took Spanish my junior and senior years.

In college, I think I took four semesters of Spanish, although I can only recall two of my instructors, a woman with blond curly hair and a mean old lady from Cuba.

I got As and Bs in my Spanish classes, mostly because I was able to learn the grammar and do well on tests. I hated speaking out loud in class. My accent was horrible, and my brain was terribly slow at figuring out what I wanted to say, remembering the correct words, conjugating the verbs, and getting the articles right. It was frustrating to know three-year-old kids in Mexico City and Madrid spoke better Spanish than I did.

Many years later, when I was in my mid-30s, I attended free Spanish classes taught by an American university student who was fluent in the language and had been to Latin America several times. In a room full of Midwesterners in their 20s who’d never learned a single word of Spanish, I was the star pupil, but my accent was still horrible and my slow brain kept my speech halting.

I hadn’t studied Spanish in years when I met Miz T, an American woman who spoke English as her native tongue, but had been studying and speaking Spanish for several decades. The next summer, Miz T and I befriended two Guatemalan sisters. The sisters spoke limited English (which was better than my limited Spanish), but when I wanted to communicate something complicated to either of them, I had to get Miz T to translate for me. I practiced my limited Spanish with Miz T and the Guatemalan sisters, but I made mistakes all the time.

One time I tried to tell one of the sisters that I had Miz T’s birthday card for her to sign. Instead of saying tengo la tarjecta, (I have the card), I told her that she had the card (tiene la tarjeta). Actually, I told her she had la carta, which is a playing card. She must have been really confused.

Yo quiero hablar español con mi amigas de Guatemala.

(I want to speak Spanish with my girlfriends from Guatemala.)

When I migrated to warmer lands last winter, Miz T let me take some of her Spanish lesson CDs. Each lesson only lasts half an hour. At first I diligently did a lesson every day. I had a lot of free time, and it was easy to keep up. Then I went to the city, the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, back to the city. I got busy working and playing, and my Spanish lessons were the first (self-imposed) obligation I let slip away.

When I got out to the woods, I barely thought about studying Spanish. I had nowhere to plug in my laptop, so I didn’t use it to do my lessons. I tried to write a letter in Spanish to Miz T and the sisters, but my vocabulary was lacking. I didn’t know important words like trees (arboles), mountain (montaña), or chipmunk (ardilla). One day I bought a small Spanish-English dictionary for ten cents at a thrift store, and I was back on the Spanish train, doing my lessons everyday (for at least a week).

One morning when I emerged from my van, I found campers who’d arrived in the night. As I spoke with them, I realized English was not their native (or primary) language. They were Spanish speakers.

When I explained the fees to one guy ($20 per night for camping, $7 per night for the extra vehicle), he looked confused. I slowed down and explained again, then decided to use a little of my Spanish language knowledge. I meant to ask Entiende? (Do you understand?). I realized ten minutes later that I’d asked Entiendo? (Do I understand?) I bet the camper was thinking Espero que entiende, gringa! (I hope you understand, white lady!)

Perdon. Necesito estudiar español ahora.

(Excuse me. I need to study Spanish now.)

Pimsleur Spanish Basic Course - Level 1 Lessons 1-10 CD: Learn to Speak and Understand Basic Spanish with Pimsleur Language Programs