Tag Archives: money

Honesty

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

Johnny's Cup of Coffee Coloured by GrumpyDad

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

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

His wallet wasn’t in his pocket.

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

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

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

The Man seemed skeptical on both counts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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 (read that report here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/02/spending-report-for-march-2016/), 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.

Spending

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Last year I formulated a two-year plan. Part of the plan involved keeping track of every penny I spent. The other part of the plan involved visiting and writing about all of the New Mexico state parks. When I decided not to do the state park part of the plan, I mostly forgot about the keeping track of spending part of the plan.

The other day on one of the vandweller Facebook groups I belong to, someone asked how much money people “need” to live in their vans and travel. The same question came up at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous last year. I never know how to answer such a question. I’ve been on the road with no money in my pocket, literally living off of the kindness of strangers. If I didn’t have as much money as I needed, I did without or asked strangers for help.

But it got me thinking…How much do I spend? Can I spend less? How much (money, things) do I really need?

So I’ve decided to go ahead with the keeping track of every penny part of my original plan.

I’m not going to go out today and stock up on a bunch of things so I can spend less in 2016. (I’ve got some food in the van and three propane canisters, and I filled up the gas tank two nights ago because I needed to.) I’ll just buy what I need when I need it and note it down in my little black book. (I found an old, blank black book when I was organizing the van last week, so I didn’t have to spend any money to buy a new one.)

I think what’s going to happen is that #1 I’m going to see that I buy a lot of stuff (mostly from thrift stores) that I don’t need and #2 Some things I won’t buy because I’ll be embarrassed to admit to it in writing. (I don’t mean sex toys or tampons. I mean yet another skein of yarn or a book I’m not totally excited about or more postcards when I already have plenty of postcards.)

Every month I’ll post an accounting of my spending here. By the end of the year, I’ll have answers.