Tag Archives: Mr. Carolina

Happy Birthday, Mr. Carolina, Wherever You Are

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Today is Mr. Carolina’s birthday. I think he’s 26 now.

I haven’t spoken to Mr. Carolina since 2013. I was in Texas and he was in North Carolina when he called to tell me he was going back out on the road. We talked a few minutes, then hung up our phones. That was it.

I didn’t realize we wouldn’t talk again, but the next time I called him, I got the recording saying the phone was no longer in service. Did he lose the phone? Did the family member who’d been paying the bill decide not to pay it anymore? Why did he never call me again? Did some glitch in the system cause him to lose my number? I have no idea.

I got reports about him for about a year. When I talked to The Viking or Sweet L, I always asked about Mr. Carolina. The reports were few and far between, but at least I got some information. He’d gotten a dog. He was on some religious trip. He ranted about seeing the demons in people. That’s the last I heard. It’s been a long time.

I sure loved that guy. I suppose I still do. He is a good person, generous and funny. We traveled together for not quite too months, but we were together every day during that time. We were together every day, and he never got on my nerves, never annoyed me, never pissed me off. He listened to all my stories, cheered me up when I was sad, appreciated every thing I did to make our travels possible.

I appreciated him too. Anything he had, whether food, money, beer, or weed, he was willing to share it with me or whoever needed it. I trusted him to drive my van, and I learned so much about driving just by paying attention to how he did it. I never had to pump gas when he was around. In so many ways, he was a real friend to me.

I hope the last few years have been good to him. I hope he’s happy and safe and loved. If you see him, tell him I said hello and give him my phone number. I’d really love to hear from him.

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My Time in Mt. Shasta

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Almost as soon as we pulled into the town of Mt. Shasta, Mr. Carolina saw his friend Milton. He pointed out the guy (an thin, older man), but we were on a mission to drink from the headwaters of the Sacramento River. After we’d filled our bottles and drunk our fill, we headed out to look for Milton. He wasn’t difficult to find, as he hadn’t walked very far from where we’d seen him. Mr. Carolina pulled the van into a nearby parking lot and he and Milton had a huggy reunion.

Milton needed a ride up the road to Weed. Yes, that’s the real name of a town.

Weed is a city located in Siskiyou County, California, United States. As of the 2010 Census, the town had a total population of 2,967…

Weed is about 10 miles (16 km) west-northwest of Mount Shasta, a prominent northern California landmark…

The town of Weed gets its name from the founder of the local lumber mill and pioneer Abner Weed, who discovered that the area’s strong winds were helpful in drying lumber. In 1897, Abner Weed bought the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill and 280 acres (1.1 km2) of land in what is now the City of Weed, for the sum of $400.[7]

Milton said his errand wouldn’t take long and asked if we could give him a ride. He said he’d have some cash after his errand and could give us gas money and treat us to lunch. Mr. Carolina and I readily agreed. I was really hungry, but all our money had gone to buy gas to get us to Mt. Shasta. I’d told myself all day that when I arrived in Mt. Shasta, someone would feed me. It looked as if my prophesy would come true.

After the errand was run and the hamburgers were eaten, Milton invited us to stay at the free camping spot on public land  where he pitched his tent. We drove out there and met the motley crew making up his community. There were several young men living there, a middle-age woman with a history of mental health issues whom they’d taken under their collective wing, and several dogs. These folks planned to spend the whole winter in that spot, living in their tents.

We hadn’t been in the woods long when the group suggested we drive to a free community dinner at a church near town.

The meal was pretty good: pasta with red sauce, salad, and garlic bread.

At the dinner, I recognized a couple I’d met a few years before at a music festival and again later on  Further lot. The world felt really small to me after randomly meeting up in Northern California with acquaintances I’d made on the other side of the country.

After the meal, we went back to Milton’s community for the night. I slept in my bed in my van and passed one of the coldest nights I can remember. I had my sleeping bag spread over me like a blanket, but it didn’t do enough to contain my body heat. I couldn’t wait for the sun to rise. I worried about the folks who planned to sleep out there in their tents in the winter snow.

My recollections of the second day with Milton’s crew are vague, although I do remember a few things. I remember we went back to the church where we’d had dinner for a clothing giveaway where I got a pair of white and blue billowy pants. I barely remember the guys shooting a pellet gun; I took a turn and to my delight, I hit the target. I remember shocking Milton with one of my stories (maybe the one about the man offering me $40 for a blowjob once when I was flying a sign), and him saying, I didn’t see that coming, sister. I remember one of the guys (a Southern boy from North Carolina, I think), always referring to me as Miss Blaize.

Late in the afternoon, the community members invited us to stay for dinner. Mr. Carolina seemed hesitant to stay another night, but I didn’t want to get on the road so late in the day. We agreed to stay for dinner, spend the night, and leave early-ish in the morning.

On the menu that night was chicken of the woods, collected locally by someone in the group. I’d only heard of chicken of the woods a few days before, and had never tasted it.

Wikipedia says,

Laetiporus is a genus of edible mushrooms found throughout much of the world. Some species, especially Laetiporus sulphureus, are commonly known as sulphur shelf, chicken of the woods, the chicken mushroom, or the chicken fungus because many think they taste like chicken. The name “chicken of the woods” is not to be confused with the edible polypore, Maitake (Grifola frondosa) known as “hen of the woods”, or with Lyophyllum decastes, known as the “fried chicken mushroom”.

The mushroom can be prepared in most ways that one can prepare chicken meat…

In some cases eating the mushroom “causes mild reactions . . . for example, swollen lips” or in rare cases “nausea, vomiting, dizziness and disorientation” to those who are sensitive.[5] This is believed to be due to a number of factors that range from very bad allergies to the mushroom’s protein, to toxins absorbed by the mushroom from the wood it grows on..to simply eating specimens that have decayed past their prime.

There wasn’t much food in the van, but we were able to contribute cooking oil for frying the mushrooms, and I think we offered up rice as well. I was glad we had some food to share with the group, food that was actually going to help make the meal delicious. (The Southern boy who was doing the cooking maintained it was the process of frying in oil that brought out the chickeniness of the mushroom.)

The meal turned out to be tasty. The mushrooms did have a meaty texture and a chickeny taste, and I enjoyed myself until the guys did the dishes by letting the dogs lick the cooking pots and then washing the pots with cold water. (At least they did use dish soap.) I tried not to think about the dog germs that were probably on the pots before dinner was cooked. I tried to convince myself the hot oil had killed all the dog germs in that pot, but what about the pot the rice had been cooked in? There was no hot oil to kill germs there. Gross!

After dinner, I retired early to the van. I got inside my sleeping bag, so I stayed plenty warm. However, it wasn’t long before I had another problem: a rumbling tummy. Scary thoughts ran through my mind. Had the person gathering mushrooms gathered something poisonous instead of chicken of the woods? Had I gotten food poisoning from the unsanitary kitchen? Was I going to die?

I needed to use the toilet, but the free camping area was free of amenities; there wasn’t even a pit toilet. I was going to have to dig a cat hole before I took care of my business, and I wasn’t sure I could deal with that in the dark. I cowered in my sleeping bag all night, my stomach rumbling, feeling a bit nauseous, hoping I wasn’t dying, trying not to shit my pants.

I was relieved to make it to first light, when I was able to exit the van, dig a hole behind a bush, and let what was ailing me out of my system. Oh relief!

 

 

Headwaters of the Sacramento

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Mr. Carolina and I bonded over water.

The first thing he and I did together was fill water bottles from the five gallon jug in my van. (You can read about how exactly I met Mr. Carolina here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/19/how-i-met-mr-carolina-and-the-boys/.) During our travels with other folks, he and I seemed to be the only ones who’d remember to fill the big water jug so everyone could stay hydrated. When I found out Mr. Carolina’s birthday is January 22, I got a kick out of the fact that we were both born under the sign of Aquarius–the water bearer–and we were the ones who thought about getting enough water so everyone could drink.

Mr. Carolina was picky about the water he drank. He wasn’t very enthusiastic about the water we encountered in Arizona, and once at a New Mexico rest area, he refused to fill the big jug because he said the water there was crap. He kept talking about the headwaters of the Sacramento River in the town of Mt. Shasta, California. Now that, he maintained, was water.

I didn’t get it. Wasn’t water, water? Wasn’t any water just about as good as any other water? Sure, some water might not taste great, but everything Mr. Carolina complained about tasted good enough to me.

After a couple of days in Las Vegas (read a little about that trip here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/20/the-other-las-vegas/), and dropping off Robbie and Sweet L at the Los Angeles airport and going on a mission to Laytonville, CA and running out of gas in Redding (read about that adventure here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/13/broke-down-in-redding-california/), Mr. Carolina and I headed north to Mt. Shasta.

(Sidenote: Mt. Shasta is a mountain. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Shasta,

Mount Shasta (Karuk: Úytaahkoo or “White Mountain”)[5][6] is a potentially active volcano located at the southern end of the Cascade Range in Siskiyou County, California. At an elevation of 14,179 feet (4321.8 m), it is the second highest peak in the Cascades and the fifth highest in California.

A small town near the mountain is also called Mt. Shasta. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Shasta,_California,

Mount Shasta is a city in Siskiyou County, California, at about 3,600 feet (1,100 m) above sea level on the flanks of Mount Shasta, a prominent northern California landmark. The city is less than 9 miles (14 km) southwest of the summit of its namesake volcano. As of the 2010 Census the city had a population of 3,394…)

I was glad when Mr. Carolina said he would take me to see Mt. Shasta and drink from the headwaters he’d talked so much about. I felt as if I were on some kind of spiritual journey. I needed to see that mountain, if only from a distance. (It was the end of October, and there was already snow on top of the mountain. No way was it a good idea to take the van up there. But I was happy to see the mountain even if wasn’t walking on it.) I needed to taste that water Mr. Carolina had been raving about.

When we got to Mt. Shasta the town, Mr. Carolina drove us directly to the headwaters. According to http://www.exploringnorcal.com/2011/07/sacramento-river-headwaters-mt-shasta.html,

The headwaters of the Upper Sacramento River are located at the base of Spring Hill in the Mt. Shasta City Park. You can park within about 200′ of the spring.

The website of Mt. Shasta Recreation & Parks District (http://msrec.org/) says the

26 acre Mt. Shasta City Park [is located] one mile north of downtown Mt. Shasta City…

Mt. Shasta City Park is the site for the Headwaters of California’s powerful Sacramento River.  Even in the driest years, clear, icy water rushes from the hillside feeding a picturesque pond area.

As soon as Mr. Carolina stopped the van in the parking area, we jumped out with containers.

The headwaters were as Mr. Carolina had described: water came of rock (I can no longer remember if it was a trickle or a gush), then filled a pool which became the river. We (and the other people there) stepped on large stones to collect to collect water as close as possible to the source. (I wouldn’t want to collect water downstream from where people were walking in the pool.) We collected our water and stepped back onto dry ground.

I tipped the jug to my lips and took the water into my mouth. WOW! WATER! This water was the most watery water I had ever drunk. This water was nothing but water. Or maybe it was more than water. All I know is that this was absolutely cold and absolutely delicious and absolutely refreshing and absolutely water. WOW! WATER!

Mr. Carolina was right. This water was the very best water I had ever tasted. It was possibly the very best water in the whole world. It was the only water I ever wanted to drink for the rest of my life.

I miss that water almost as much as I miss Mr. Carolina.

 

 

Barbie Heads

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12568309_976809452404963_1329684302_nIt started in Arkansas. Mr. Carolina and the Okie and I had spent the night in in my van, in a Wal-Mart parking lot. In the morning when we tried to go about our business, we found that one of the tires was flat. We then had to go about the business of getting the tire fixed. Mr. Carolina borrowed an air compressor (a testament to Southern hospitality and Mr. Carolina’s powers of persuasion) and pumped up the tire enough to drive the van to the automotive repair entrance at the back of the store.

Somewhere between eating our McDonald’s sausage burrito breakfast and the actual moving of the van, I walked across the parking lot to the Dollar Tree. I went in and bought a fat black marker for sign-making, then stopped at the Dollar Tree dumpster to get a big piece of cardboard upon which to use the marker. On the ground near the dumpster, I found the head of a Barbie doll.

Of course, the doll whose head I had acquired had not been named Barbie. Real, true, name-brand Barbies are not sold at Dollar Tree. The head I had acquired had once belonged to a nameless “fashion doll.” What happened to this “fashion doll’s” body, we will never know.

As I walked up to the boys, I hollered in an exaggerated Southern drawl, Look what Santa left! as I waved around the cardboard in one hand and the doll head in the other. Then I commenced to poke a hole in the top of the not-a-Barbie’s head so I could impale her on the van’s radio antenna.

Once the doll’s head was on the antenna, Mr. Carolina started laughing. Oh, Blaize, he said, thank you. That’s what I hoped you were going to do with her.

The doll head stayed on the antenna as I traveled through the South. It was in Asheville, NC when the Okie and I delivered Mr. Carolina to his brother. It was at the truck stop east of Asheville where I dropped the Okie off to hitchhike to his further adventures. It went all the way to Austin, TX where I landed in the guestroom of my friend Lou and her new husband.

My first night in Austin, Lou gave me a pair of cowgirl boots I loved (RIP cheap, non-repairable cowgirls boots I wore to shreds) and invited me to a roller derby party.

I’d just spent two months in a warm fuzzy hug of the Grateful Dead, the kindness of strangers, and sweet-young-man friends who recognized and appreciated my inner goodness. My blissed-out hippy self was not quite prepared for the hard-drinking, rather jaded, rough playing, urban roller derby women I met at the party. It’s safe to say those women were not quite prepared for me handing out quartz crystals I’d dug from the Arkansas mud and trying to have real conversations with folks.

Two things at the party got my attention, the first thing being a van parked in the backyard and decked out with colored lights and cushions so people could hang out inside. I could barely wrap my head around the fact that to these house-dwellers, hanging out in a van at a  party was somehow exotic. I was asking Lou perplexed questions about the van, trying to understand, when she gently reminded me that people who don’t live in vans might think it exciting to sit in one at a party.

The second thing that caught my attention was a woman wearing a hat in which the legs of Barbie dolls (real, true, hard-plastic, name-brand Barbie dolls) had been used to fashion a Mohawk. Lou told me the woman had fashioned the Mohawk on the hat herself, and I got really excited, wondering if she still had the Barbie heads lying around.

I was by no means calm when I approached the Barbie-leg-Mohawk woman. I was babbling, it’s true. I told her I loved the hat, then said, I need the heads. She continued to look at me like and who the fuck are you? until I managed to explain live in my van, Barbie head impaled on antenna, need more to fill entire antenna. I think I got her with impaled.

A couple of days later when I went to see Lou play in a roller derby exhibition bout, a grocery store bag filled with Barbie heads was delivered to me. It didn’t take me long to make holes in all of the heads and add them to the antenna lineup.

For the next couple of months, people in Austin noticed those Barbie heads. While stopped at traffic lights, I saw people taking photos of the heads. More than once I saw people stop on the quiet street in front of Lou’s house to hop out of their cars and take photos of the heads. I suppose those heads unexpectedly jammed onto the antenna were an answer to the plea to Keep Austin Weird.

I loved the way those Barbie heads caught people’s attention, and I loved them because the one had so amused Mr. Carolina. But when I hit the elk and left my van behind, I left the heads too. It seemed silly to pack them in my backpack and tote them around as I hitchhiked, but mostly it seemed silly to try to prolong an era I knew had come to an end.

Photo of the Barbie heads on my van’s antenna taken by me. Special thanks to RenRen who helped me get the photo off my phone and into this post.

 

Santa Barbara

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I was feeling tired and on the verge of getting a cold the day we set out for Santa Barbara. I ended up lying in my bed napping wile Mr. Carolina drove the van. I thought the kids had a plan, an idea of where we could park so they could sleep outside. I was willing to let them handle the logistics.

I awoke to bickering, and it wasn’t just the Fighting Couple (FC) arguing. Mr. FC thought he knew where we should park. Sweet L and Mr. Carolina and Robbie didn’t like Mr. FC’s idea, but they didn’t have anything better to suggest. We could see the beach right over there, but all the street signs prohibited us from parking nearby.Park, Signs, Travel, No Parking, Transportation

Mr. Carolina got mad and said he wasn’t driving anymore. Robbie said he’d drive, but he was really bad at it, and we were soon telling him to pull over and let someone else take the wheel. Mr. FC got in the driver’s seat and headed out of town. There was more yelling, and Mr. FC relinquished the driver’s seat. Then Mr. Carolina was back at the wheel, and we were circling through the city again.

I asked about the plan, and it turned out the plan ended at get to Santa Barbara. No one had any idea of what we would do when we arrived.

California, Sea, Ocean, Pacific, Waves, Seashore, BeachSomehow, Mr. Carolina found us the perfect spot. We were on a residential street, although the residences to our left looked like mansions to me. To our right was a park. Bellow the park was a beach and the ocean. We could hear waves crashing below. Best of all, there was no sign regulating parking.

I climbed back into my bed while everyone else tumbled out of the van with their packs to sleep on the beach. Although in the light of day we saw signs declaring the illegality of beach sleeping, no on challenged the beach sleeping during the days we were there.

The next night Furthur played at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Furthur was the whole reason we were there. We didn’t have tickets, but we thought we’d just hang out in the lot. I planned to sell hemp jewelry, but that plan didn’t work out.

The official parking lot was small and the charge was $10, a ridiculously large price for a bunch of kids traveling with empty pockets. Like most of the folks arriving for the show, we found a free place to park on a nearby side street. It turned out to be a good thing we hadn’t scrounged up money for parking because the people in charge of the lot were not allowing vending.

We ended up walking back and forth on the streets between where we’d parked and the entrance to the venue. There were Deadheads everywhere, so there was something of a lot scene, but more dispersed. The Fighting Couple was hawking their hemp creations (necklaces with pouches for stones fashioned in such a way that the stone was removable and replaceable), hustling pretty hard to get money. Me? I just didn’t care much about selling hemp jewelry and quickly gave up.

As we walked through the clusters of Deadheads, Sweet L and Mr. Carolina repeatedly met people they knew, including three guys they’d lived with or near during some portion of the summer. Mr. Carolina had told me stories of these boys, called them his brothers, and that was good enough for me. Anyone Mr. Carolina trusted, I trusted too.

Mick, the eldest of the group, with dark hair and brooding dark eyes, was obviously the leader. When he spoke, everybody listened. The Viking, a young blond man with rocks wrapped in his hair and a reddish beard, was Mick’s right hand man. Karl was the quiet one, and even his birth-control glasses didn’t hide his pretty boy looks.

Some time during that afternoon I sat on the sidewalk of a side street away from the crowds and looked at shiny rocks with Sweet L and Karl and the Viking. Karl made pendants from shiny rocks and wire, and I gave him a piece of rainbow obsidian that had broken when the wind blew it off my vending table. I thought maybe he could wrap the stone in some way to hide the broken part. He was grateful for it and gave me a couple of cool shiny rocks in return.

As we sat there, I told them about my snowflake obsidian experience, and they they thanked me for sharing my story with them. I feared most people would think me a little too woo-woo if they heard that story, so I was glad the boys actually appreciated it.

Day turned to night and none of us had tickets or money to buy them. Maybe the Fighting Couple made money and bought tickets. I don’t remember. By this point in our journey, none of the rest of us wanted anything to do with them. In fact, with Sweet L’s and Mr. Carolina’s backing, I’d told them they’d have to get another ride out of Santa Barbara. In any case, the Fighting Couple (thankfully) wasn’t hanging out with me and the boys.

Mick did, however, have psychedelics, but when he shared them, none were offered to me. I thought that was a little unfriendly, but I figured since he really didn’t know me, he probably wasn’t obligated to make sure I got any.

Later, as Sweet L and I visited with other folks who weren’t going into the show, a friend of his offered us a bump of molly. I took my bit and felt exactly nothing. Later someone gave me what was supposed to be psychedelics. I imbibed that too, and over the course of the night realized it had no effect on me. Weird. I can accept that I ended up with a bunk hit, but having two different drugs from two different people in one night fail to work? No such thing had ever happened to me before.

As Sweet L and I walked through the neighborhood away from the crowds, we came across Mr. Carolina, the Viking, Karl, Robbie, and Mick standing on the sidewalk in front of one of the area’s nice houses. Mick was not having a good time.

The people the nice house belonged to joined us on the sidewalk. They were worried about Mick. They wondered if he were ok. They wondered if he needed medical attention. The wondered if he were having a bad trip. We relaxed when we realized these people knew the lingo, when we realized these people were cool. One of the boys allowed that yes, Mick seemed to be having a bad trip.

The strangers went into caretaker mode. They got cushions from their lawn furniture and placed them on the concrete in front of the house so Mick could have a comfy place to rest. Once we got Mick relaxing on the cushions, the homeowners brought us blankets. The woman brought out a jug of water and toasted English muffins smeared with peanut butter and jam. When the homeowners were ready to go to bed, they told us we could stay in their front yard as long as we wanted and even gave us a permission letter to show to any police officer who questioned us. The kindness of strangers indeed!

(Later in the night, a police cruiser did stop in front of the house. A cop got out of the car and began questioning us. Whoever was holding the permission letter showed it to him. The cop immediately backed off and drove away!)

I spent most of the night next to Mick, trying to offer him comfort. He was tired of this life, he said. He didn’t want to be here anymore. He wanted to float away and leave his body behind. I tried to keep him talking, keep him breathing, keep him with us. I was wearing a bracelet of rose quartz (the stone of unconditional love and infinite peace) on a stretchy cord. I slipped it off my wrist and onto his.

All the time, we could hear Furthur playing in the Bowl. The music was distant and a little distorted, but we could hear it, and it was ours.

We sat in front of that house for hours. I don’t know what the others were talking about while I tried to convince Mick to stay, but they were always nearby. Sometimes they’d come over and talk to Mick and me, but mostly they were doing their own thing.

At some point, Mick was mostly back to himself, and Mr. Carolina, Robbie, Sweet L and I went one way, and the other boys went another. I drove the van back to the spot we’d found the night before and settled in. We stayed there the next day and one more night before Mr. Carolina, Sweet L, Robbie, and I headed to Los Angeles.

 

Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/park-signs-travel-no-parking-39412/ and https://pixabay.com/en/california-sea-ocean-pacific-waves-2666059/.

How I Met Mr. Carolina and the Boys

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Sometimes I don’t know how much background I need to give in order for a story to make sense. Sometimes I can just start in the middle of everything and tell a story, but sometimes I have to give so much background info that I’m a thousand words in and exhausted by the time I get to the story I want to tell. That’s how I feel about how I met Mr. Carolina and the boys.

It all started with the Grateful Dead. Yes, that’s the place to start.

I was not a Grateful Dead fan when the Grateful Dead actually existed. I guess I’d heard of them in 1987 when “Touch of Grey” hit the charts, and my first true love did put “Sugar Magnolia” on a mix tape when he was trying to woo me in 1992. But I’d gone most of my life not being a Deadhead. Then I met the boyfriend who turned out to be not very nice. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but he was a Deadhead. We listened to the Grateful Dead all the time, and we started seeing a lot of Further, and I became a Deadhead too.

(If you didn’t know, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furthur_%28band%29

Furthur was a rock band founded in 2009 by former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. The original lineup also included John Kadlecik of the Dark Star Orchestra on lead guitar, Jeff Chimenti of RatDog on keyboards, Jay Lane of RatDog on percussion, and Joe Russo of the Benevento/Russo Duo on drums.[1] Named after the famous touring bus used by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in the 1960s, Furthur was an improvisational jam band that performed music primarily from the extensive Grateful Dead songbook, as well as their own original music and that of several other well-known artists. In addition to the original members (with the exception of Jay Lane, who left the band in March 2010 to rejoin his previous band, Primus), the band’s lineup included backup vocalists Sunshine Becker of the a cappella ensemble SoVoSó and Jeff Pehrson of the folk rock bands Box Set and the Fall Risk.)

When I finally extricated myself from the not-very-nice boyfriend, I thought I had lost Furthur and the Grateful Dead too. I thought that part of my life was over, and I’d never hear those songs again.

I got over that silliness in a couple of months.

I realized the music belonged to me as much as it belonged to anyone else. My not-very-nice boyfriend might have introduced me to that music, but he didn’t own it.

I’ll fast-forward through the part of the story where I was homeless and living in a highway rest area (if you want to read about that, you can go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/11/hummingbird/.) I’ll skip the part where two friends from college who’d heard I’d disappeared found me and offered love and support. (That’s a story for another day.) I’ll go straight to the part where I used the money I’d earned selling hemp jewelry combined with money friends had donated to my cause so I could buy a van to live in and work out of. One week after I’d gotten the van registered and licensed, I was off to the big city where Furthur was playing.

I drove all alone for hours to get there. My new-to-me van didn’t have a working radio, so I had no music to distract me from my thoughts. Was this trip the right thing to do? Would the van make it? What if I ran into my ex-boyfriend there? Would I make enough money selling jewelry to even get into one of the three shows Furthur was doing? Would I make any friends?

I didn’t really expect to make any friends. In real life, I’m shy, and it’s not easy for me to make friends. And if you’ve ever been to Shakedown Street

(the parking lot, or large area, outside os [sic] Grateful Dead or Phish shows where everything from drugs, burritos, tie dyes, incense and clothing were sold. Shakedown was the place where one could chill before or after a show and find whatever it is one was looking for. Most known for it’s [sic] open air drug supermarket where cats would have nitrous oxide tanks in the back of cars and sell balloons of nitrous for $5. also [sic] people would walk around uttering “trips trips” or “kind bud, according to http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Shakedown+Street)

or a Rainbow Gathering or a music festival, you know those places are not hotbeds of middle-age, single women.

But I was excited to go, excited to be in the hubub of the parking lot, excited to (hopefully) make it into the show.

The first day on the lot was fun enough. I sold a few things, traded for a few things, gave water to thirsty kids and dogs, and generally hung out. That night I tried to sneak into the outdoor show, but I had no idea what I was doing and ended up surrounded by scratching, jabbing plant matter. As I tried to get out of the mess I was in, a security guy (who was probably young enough to be my kid), heard all the noise I was making and yelled, Get out of the bushes! I yelled back, I’m trying.

After I made it out of the cacti and trees, I sat out in the van until after the show, thinking maybe there would be some hanging out. Of course, the cops ran everyone out of the parking lot after the show, so I drove to the nearest Stuff-Mart and got some sleep.

I returned to the lot early the next day. Not long after I parked, a car full of people pulled in next to the van. More people joined them. Most of the people were young men, although there was an older-than-me woman with them and a man younger than her but older than the rest who seemed to dote on her. They hadn’t been there long when the older man offered me a bottle of water. I took it gratefully.

Several hours later when the late autumn sun was beating down, one of the young men asked me if I wanted some shade. He said they had a tarp and asked if they could stretch it from the car and attach one end to my van. I agreed and helped a little to get the cover in the right place. I didn’t spend much time in the shade, but did have short, pleasant conversations with the various people hanging around.

On Sunday, not long after I arrived in the lot, the folks who’d hung out next to me the day before got there without the car. (I believe they came riding in standing on the running boards of a pickup truck.) I went over to talk with them and we exchanged names. Sweet L admired a copper bracelet I was wearing, and I told him a friend of mine had made it. The dogs of the couple who I later found out spent most their time having whisper fights needed water, so I said we could fill the bowl from my five gallon water jug. One of the young men jumped up to help me. That young man was Mr. Carolina.

 

 

 

 

She Talks To Angels

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The Okie and I were in Asheville, trying to sell the huge quartz cluster we’d been given at Coleman’s Miller Mountain Mine in Mount Ida, Arkansas.

The man who gave us the cluster only wanted points a couple of inches long to use in his crafts. He wasn’t interested in the chunk of quartz that probably weighed 50 pounds, so he offered it to Mr. Carolina and the Okie. When the boys asked me if I wanted to keep it, I said hell yeah! They hauled it over to my van and lifted it up into the space under my bed. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. The Okie was convinced we could sell it to one of the downtown rock shops in Asheville for several hundred dollars which I could use for needed repairs on the van.

So the Okie and I were in downtown Asheville on the day after we delivered Mr. Carolina to his brother. When I parked the van, we had no money to feed the parking meter. I figured either I’d panhandle change for the meter or get a ticket I’d pay later. The Okie loaded the quartz cluster into a green army-issue duffel bag and hoisted it onto his back.

Before we made it to the first rock shop, we met some traveler kids hanging around on the sidewalk.

The Okie, who was not the least bit shy, talked to the folks and asked if they wanted to see the cluster he was hauling around. Of course they wanted to see it. While he was showing it off, I pulled out some of the smaller points I had found and traded them to one of the kids for change to put in the parking meter. If I hadn’t needed to feed the meter, I would have given him the crystals. Since he offered the change and I needed it, I took it.

When I got back from putting the coins in the meter, the Okie introduced me to the oldest of the kids, a guy who actually had a girlfriend and a house just outside of Asheville. That guy wire wrapped stones and offered to trade quartz points in exchange for making some pendants for us.

The guy picked out the points he wanted, and the Okie and I gave him the crystals we wanted wrapped. We agreed we’d be in touch the next day, and the Okie and I went on our way. (To read about what else happened to me and the Okie that day, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/05/05/this-is-love/.)

When we heard from the stone wrapper guy the next day, we were at Stuff-Mart where I’d been flying a sign. He and his girlfriend were out and about in a car, so he said they’d meet us where we were.

Upon arrival, they presented us with beautiful pendants made from the stones we had found combined with (as it turned out) the girlfriend’s fabulous wire wrapping work. But even better than the pendants was the girlfriend!

Miz C and I hit it off immediately, which was unusual for me. There are few people I’ve liked the moment I met them. I’ve had to warm up to even my closest, dearest friends. But not Miz C. Right away we were talking as if we had known each other for years. Within minutes, she had invited me to Thanksgiving dinner the next day. I typically don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but I agreed to go over and share the meal.

On Thanksgiving morning, the Okie and I cooked eggs on my camp stove in the Stuff-Mart parking lot where we had spent the night in the van. After breakfast I drove him thirty miles east on I-40 to a Pilot truck stop so he could hitchhike to his next destination. Once we said our good-byes, I headed back to Asheville and Thanksgiving dinner.

Upon arriving, I was introduced to Miz C’s mother. Yikes! Although everyone was very welcoming, I suddenly felt as if I were crashing a family party. I wondered if my presence was going to be awkward for everyone.

Luckily, Miz C’s mother, Em, was as cool and loving as Miz C herself. It was a total case of “like daughter, like mother.”

While Miz C and the boyfriend cooked, I sat with Em and chatted. I told her some about my life and my travels and my very vague future plans which involved New Orleans for Mardi Gras and visiting an old gal friend in Austin. It turns out Miz C had once been quite the traveling kid herself, so nothing I told Em shocked or surprised her. Em was absolutely accepting of the way I was living my life.

When I asked Em about herself, she said received messages from angels. Communicating with angels was a new one to me, but I kept my mind opened and listened to what Em had to say.

She explained that angels are around us all the time and want to help us. We just have to ask them for the help and guidance and protection we need. However, sometimes if we are focused on negative aspects, the angels will think we are asking for a lesson and will send us the very situation we have been fretting over.

She told me both the archangel Michael and the angel Uriel were with me.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_%28archangel%29,

Michael…is an archangel in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

In the New Testament Michael leads God’s armies against Satan‘s forces in the Book of Revelation, where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan. In the Epistle of Jude Michael is specifically referred to as “the archangel Michael”. Christian sanctuaries to Michael appeared in the 4th century, when he was first seen as a healing angel, and then over time as a protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil.

(I found an interesting gallery to help one decide if the Archangel Michael is actually sending guidance.)

According to the Angel Therapy website,

Uriel illuminates our minds with information, ideas, epiphanies, and insights…He’s wonderful to call upon whenever you need a solution…

He’ll whisper correct and appro­priate answers into your ear, which you’ll receive as words or thoughts that are suddenly “downloaded” into your mind.

You can call upon Uriel to guide your intel­lectual pursuits…

Over time, the conversation drifted to other topics. After a while, I excused myself to go out to my van to get more quartz points for gifting and trading.

I hadn’t been outside long when Em joined me at my van.

This friend in Austin you’re going to visit, Em asked, do you call her your sister?

I thought about it, then shook my head. Lou and I were close when we lived in the same city and worked together, I told Em. But I don’t think I’ve ever called her my sister or thought of her as my sister.

Em seemed perplexed. The angels were talking about my sister she said. The message from the angels (which was unclear to Em) was about my sister…

I almost fell over. Although I hadn’t mentioned her to Em, I did have a sister. She and I had been estranged since my bad-news boyfriend said she’d told one of his relatives that she didn’t have a sister. When I explained to Em that my sister had rejected me due to the crazy behavior I’d exhibited while still with my ex, Em wisely pointed out that he could have been lying to me to separate me from one of my main sources of support.

This talk of my sister went a long way in helping me believe that Em received messages from angels. I hadn’t even mentioned having a sister, so how could she have known about her? Maybe she just guessed, but it seemed more than coincidental to me.

I took the photo of the angel.

 

 

a Little Matter with a Bridge in San Francisco

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In the autumn of 2012, I was traveling in California with my friend Mr. Carolina, and there was a little matter with a bridge in San Francisco.

Mr. Carolina was driving my van, and he thought he was taking the way which would save us the toll. We literally had no money to give to any nice toll collector, so he was trying to avoid them. We saw the “last exit before toll” signs, but it was just one of those driving moments when you don’t know what exactly to do, so he just kept forging ahead. When we got to the toll booth, he very sweetly explained to the lady that we didn’t have any money to give her. (With Mr. Carolina’s Southern accent, who knows, really, how much of what he says any stranger understands? I spent a majority of my time with the man for two months, and even at the end I would sometimes have to tell him I had no idea what he was saying.)

The toll booth worker had a pre-printed card for just such an occasion. We were not the first to arrive at that bridge with no money in our pockets. The card said I would be charged $25, which would increase to $70 if I did not pay up in a timely fashion. I put it out of my mind, deciding I would deal with it when I got a bill.

I expected to have a bill when I (finally) got to Austin, but there was nothing waiting for me. I was out of touch with the woman who was checking my PO box in Taos, but when I got in contact with her, she reported she’d found no letter from the state of California in my box. I told Lou the whole story, and she encouraged me to find out what the status was while still in Austin. Maybe it fell through the cracks, my mailbox checker suggested, but I didn’t expect to be that lucky.

Finally, I told myself I just had to deal with it. If Cali was asking for $70, I would try to talk them down to $25 since I had never gotten a notice in the mail. If they insisted on $70, I would ask for a payment plan. If I decided not to pay them, it would at least be a conscious decision and not just an avoiding of the situation.

The woman I spoke to on the phone was polite and efficient. What was my license plate number? When had the situation occurred? It happened in October and I had still not received a notice? That was strange. I should have received a notice by now. (By this time it was January.) Well, there was nothing in her system. Not a thing. My license plate number did not come up. No record of any toll violation. I could call my department of motor vehicles, but nothing showed up in her system and if there was a violation, it would be in her system. I said thank you very much and hung up the phone feeling quite relieved.

I think the toll booth worker was an angel who let us go on our way toward Northern California. Or maybe it was Mr. Carolina’s bubble of safety that protected us once again. In any case, thank you angels, bubble, kindness of tollbooth worker stranger, whatever saved me from giving my money to the state of California.

Ecstatic Posture Meditation

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The following piece is a recounting of real and true events that happened to me while I was staying with friends who own an inn in rural North Carolina. I wrote about the events within the first couple of hours after they happened.

I participated in an ecstatic posture meditation with five other people on the occasion of the full moon/lunar eclipse of November 28, 2012. The other people participating included T and Te, my hosts at the Inn, and three women I met tonight, M (described to me by T as a “shamaness”), Db, and Da. I had drunk two cups of coffee (with sugar, cocoa powder, and half & half) earlier in the day, but had otherwise consumed no drugs.

We started the evening sitting around an outdoor fire together. A cedar smudge stick was passed around, and we each passed the cedar smoke around our bodies in purification. While we did this, M described a ceremony we could each do with sticks. Each person could choose two sticks. (T showed us where to find sticks under some bushes near the park.) Into one stick, we would “blow” things we wanted to get rid of or to honor lessons we had learned. We would then burn the stick completely to release what we no longer wanted or needed. Into the other stick we would “blow” the things we wanted to replace what we had gotten rid of.

After gathering sticks, T said we should be smudged more seriously/completely. He went around the circle and to each of us in turn, swirled the cedar smoke around us, using large brown feathers to move the smoke. He smudged our front sides first, then we turned around, and he smudged our backs. After T smudged all of us, Da smudged him.

When the smudging was complete, T passed around a glass jar filled with cornmeal and instructed us each to take some of the cornmeal into our hands. Db asked if we should throw it into the fire. T said we would sprinkle some of it onto the ground as we opened the ceremony, invoking the four directions in turn. We started facing east and T said a few words, calling on the spirits of the east (including a mention of creativity) to join us. We then turned south, and T invited the spirits of the south (including mention of the midday sun) to join us. We then turned west, and T called the spirits of the west to join us. Finally we faced north, and T called the spirits of the north to join us. I sprinkled cornmeal on the ground as we faced each direction. (I didn’t realize we were going to invoke spirits of the fire and earth as well, and didn’t have any cornmeal to offer them.) We got on our knees and put our hands on the ground when T invited the spirits of the earth to join us.

Once we were again seated, M poured olive oil on the fire to make it friendly as she spoke words to the anaconda, mother jaguar, and hummingbird (and maybe other animals I don’t remember.) She then showed us the Pachamama stick, and instructed us to think about what we wanted for all of humanity. I thought of generosity, love, and understanding for all people and from all people. She said it took two people to put the Pachamama stick in the fire, so she and Te put it in together. (This was symbolic. Although it was a good size stick, it was not too large for one person to handle)

It was then time for each of us to put our two sticks into the fire. M explained that as each of us knelt before the fire, someone else should watch the kneeler’s back, as being down by the fire put us in a vulnerable position. She got down by the fire while Te stooped behind her and protected her back. M scooped the fire’s smoke toward herself, then blew on her first stick and put it in the fire. After the first stick was in the fire, she blew on her second stick, then put it in the fire. M and Te then switched positions, and Te did as M had done.

I was sitting next to Te, so when she was done, it was my turn. Te protected my back while I knelt by the fire. First I fanned smoke toward my body. Next, I blew on the first stick. With each puff of air, I silently thought of something I wanted to let go of. I thought about letting go of fear and greed. I thought about letting go of all the negativity surrounding the recent end of my long-term relationship. I thought about letting go of pettiness. I thought about letting go of other things. It seems like I was blowing on that stick for a long time, but I can’t remember everything I decided to let go of. After I thought about all the things I wanted to let go of, I put the stick into the fire. I blew on the second stick each time I silently thought of things I wanted to take the place of what I had let go of. I thought about embracing generosity and love, joy, patience and acceptance. Again, I can’t remember everything I thought about as I blew on the stick. When I finished thinking of positives I want in my life, I put the stick in the fire.

T was next, and Te motioned me to go behind him and protect his back. I wasn’t sure she meant me, but she specifically got my attention and motioned for me to go to T. I felt awkward and a little silly doing this, but I stood behind him uncomfortably while he burned his sticks.

When everyone had put her/his sticks in the fire, T said he wanted to read aloud something he had read on the internet today. He went inside and got his laptop and then read a piece about the significance of today’s full moon and lunar eclipse. One thing the report mentioned was quartz crystals in Arkansas and Brazil. After he finished reading, I said I just so happened to have a pocket full of Arkansas quartz. (I had filled one of the pockets of my jacket with quartz, knowing I would meet people I hadn’t yet given crystals to.) The women were very excited. M immediately asked if they came from Mt. Ida and was even more excited when I said they had. (She was last there in the late 90s.) I gave pieces to M, Db, and Da. M asked if she could have two pieces, and I of course told her yes. I then told everyone how I had ended up mining quartz with Mr. Carolina and Little T before coming here and how blessed I was to be able to mine quartz with them. I also mentioned the large quartz cluster we got at the mine that I gave to T and Te. (This was the first time I said to them that I was giving it to them.) T said we would be going inside to the room with the large cluster.

We moved inside and sat on couches or in chairs. I sat on a couch facing west with M to my left. I took my jacket and my scarf off and placed them to my right. The smallest dog curled up on top of some throw pillows to my right. Te and T were moving around the house trying to find a book with instructions for different postures, but couldn’t find one (although it seemed as if they own several). Da needed to leave fairly early as she had to get her son to the airport  in the morning, and M had time constraints due to work, so T decided he could lead the meditation without a book. He knew a posture we could use, but did not remember the name of it.

We were instructed to sit with our knees and feet hip width apart with our feet flat on the floor. We were told to place our hands on our knees, tilt slightly forward at the waist, keep our heads up, and close our eyes. T had a rattle (possibly made from a gourd) and he said we were to concentrate on the sound of the rattle as he shook it. He said the meditation would last fifteen minutes.

T started shaking the rattle, and I listened to the sound and tried to keep my mind clear of mundane distractions. Immediately, I felt the essential part of me (my spirit/soul/energy/the essential me-ness) grow light and try to separate from my body. I felt my usual fear and resistance, but tried to just relax into the feeling of that essential part leaving and remember that I was safe. My head felt very light, as if my spirit/soul/energy/essential me-ness was lifting out of the top of my head. Then I felt as if I were shrinking, as if the world were very large, vast, and I was shrinking into a mere speck of dust. (I’ve experience this feeling since I was a very little child, at least since I was three or four. This only happened at night, when I was lying in bed in the dark. It was as if first my room, then the whole world was expanding, while at the same time I was shrinking into nothingness. This feeling always scared me very badly, and I always tried my hardest to pull myself out of the feeling as quickly as possible. The feeling was sometimes associated with the shadow the night light in my room cast on the ceiling.)

At first I had a glimmer of being in a tent or a yurt, as if I were a nomadic woman, maybe Mongolian. The color I associated with being inside the tent was purple or lavender. Definitely lavender, lighter than purple. It was if the light or the very air were that color. I had long straight dark hair and brown skin, buy I couldn’t tell what I was wearing or what I was doing. Then I had a sense of mountains, as if I were living near mountains, but I didn’t exactly see them.

Then the sensation changed to one of growing, expanding. I got larger and larger and larger and stronger and stronger and stronger. I was so big! And I knew I was a mountain. I was enormous, massive, solid, part of the earth. I knew I had snow on top of me, and kept paying attention to the top of my head, trying to decide if it felt cold. I could no longer particularly feel my hands on my knees or my feet on the ground or my butt on the couch. I could just feel I was really really big and taking up so much space. I had a fleeting thought that I was Mt. Shasta, but mostly I had no thoughts at all, just the feeling of my vast expansiveness and my heaviness. And again, I got the sense of lavender light everywhere. I couldn’t so much see the lavender light as sense it, just know it was there. I was so happy. I was filled with joy. I had a HUGE smile on my rock face. Intermittently throughout the meditation, surges of energy would course through my body, and my muscles would jerk, mostly my shoulders and arms tensing, then rapidly releasing the tension.

The whole time I could hear the rattle. I never lost awareness of the rattle.

After some time, I became the slightest bit aware of my usual physical body. I still felt big and mountainous, but I also had an awareness that my usual physical body was growing tired of sitting in the same position for all this time. I wondered how much time had passed, if the 15 minutes were almost over. Not long after that, T stopped shaking the rattle, and the room was silent. I realized I was back in my usual body, that I was no longer a mountain. I opened my eyes and felt at peace and relaxed.

T had each of us in turn say a few words about how we were feeling at the moment. I said I had a new understanding of myself and the earth. I said I felt amazing.

M left the room to change clothes. I hugged Db and Da good-bye. Te and T and I went out on the deck to look at the moon. We could see it to the east, through the trees. T told me that that rattle turns off the left brain. I wanted to tell M good-bye, but I sensed that Te and T wanted me to go, so I said I was going to my room. Terry took me downstairs and gave me some scones. Until I got to my room, I felt normal and fine.

When I got back to my room, I started freaking out. I just wanted to turn on the television or music with words and pretend that I had not just turned into a mountain. I forced myself to focus on what had happened by texting Mr. Carolina. I wrote, “Just did ecstatic posture meditation w/ 5 other people. I was a mountain. Seriously. Please understand this. I think you & L are the only ones who would. Love!” In an immediate second text I wrote, “I was HUGE & solid & purple & had snow on my mountain head. I expanded & got bigger & bigger. & had huge smile on my mountain face. Oh geez, it really happened.”

Mr. Carolina texted back immediately and wrote, “You can be a mountain or what ever you wont [sic] to with out anyone sometimes it helps to have other people but you can do anything by yourself”

I texted him again, “Yes. One person was shaking rattle to turn off right brain [I meant left brain]. Sitting in specific posture to connect w/ ancestors. I’m a little freaked out. [I] was totally gone & I was something else entirely, not even animal, but totally alive. Was not expecting something like this & last time [I] was totally gone, it was so horrible. But this was good! Trying to keep experiences separate & not freak out b/c one thing reminds me of another. I was so strong & solid this time. & snowy.”

He texted again, “I believe you,” then commented on a text I sent him yesterday asking him if he was an angel. “…the way I see it is we can all be angels to someone sometime when they need it.”

I was crying by that time, really overcome by what had happened, but also feeling better that I had connected with someone I care about and love so much and told him about my experience. I texted him again, “You really are the best. Thank you. I think there are bolts of energy shooting out of my head.” [I was not exaggerating or speaking in metaphors. I really felt energy shooting out of my head.] “Most people in my life would think I just went bat shit crazy.”

He texted back, “ Haha I hear ya been called bat shit crazy a few manytimes [sic].” Then he wrote again, “You are the best I wish I was there.”

I sent one more message and said, “Thank you so much for saying that. I wish you were here too. Nothing this wonderful has ever happened to me & I wish you & L were here so we could talk about it.”

At that point, I put on some music with no words and heated some food, then ate, and drank some water. I was really hesitant about writing this down, really resistant, even as I knew I should have started writing the moment I walked in the door. I just wasn’t ready to deal with the experience that quickly.

It’s been over three hours since we finished the meditation, and I can still feel energy rising out of the top of my head. When I stop writing and pay attention to my head, I feel energy rising up and out of me, but can feel it with my hands too when I put them on top of my head. Part of me wants to turn on TV and zone out, but I think I am better off lying down in bed with my meditation stones and seeing what happens.

I wish I had held onto the piece of alabaster Mr. Carolina gave me during the meditation or at least asked my angels for protection and guidance before we started, but I had no expectation of anything like this happening. The best I hoped for was to be able to sit still during the meditation and keep my mind halfway quiet.

To learn more about ecstatic posture meditation, go here: http://www.cuyamungueinstitute.com and here: http://www.ecstatictrance.com/.

Adventures in Cleanliness

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When I tell people I live in my van, I’m often asked Where do you shower?

The answer of course is It depends.

No, my van doesn’t have a shower (or a toilet or a sink or any kind of water hookups or drain).

When I was homeless and living in a picnic pavilion at a rest area, I had two friends who’d let me clean up at their places.

The Jewelry Lady had a tiny little efficiency apartment, but every couple of weeks she’d invite me over. This woman (the picture of Southern hospitality despite being born and raised in New England) would offer me the use of her bathroom so I could take a nice, long, hot shower while she cooked us a fantastic dinner. When I was clean and fed, we’d hang out and talk or make jewelry while listening to Coast to Coast. This woman continues to be my dear friend.

Madame Chile would take me out to her place some weekends. She actually had a guest cottage–a storage shed with electricity. She had a cozy rug on the floor and a reading lamp on the nightstand next to the fluffy comfy bed. It was such a joy to have my own room, even just for one night. Although we’d wake up at a ridiculous hour of the morning to get good spots to sell our wares, I slept so well there, knowing I was absolutely safe.

But for all that goodness, the best part of going home with Madame Chile was her outdoor bathtub! She had a big, plastic livestock water trough nestled in a secluded spot on her property. She even had the hose running to it connected to an outdoor hot water faucet, so I’d get a nice hot bath. I called it her cowgirl bathtub and enjoyed the wonderful decadence of scrubbing up under the sunset sky.

Whenever I’m in the area, of course I visit The Jewelry Lady, and of course she offers me a shower. Madame Chile has moved to another state, so sadly I don’t get to see her or utilize the cowgirl bathtub.

My last boyfriend lives on land ten miles from the nearest convenience store  and probably fifteen miles from the nearest town (which is actually a village). When we were together, he didn’t have indoor plumbing or running water, so when I stayed there, I’d take outdoor showers.

To take a “shower,” I’d heat water on the propane stove. When the water was hot, I’d stand somewhere outside (usually out of the dirt on a wooden porch or large stepping stones) and use some of the water to wet my skin. Then I’d lather up. (I was–and still am– particularly fond of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap.) Once I was clean, I’d use the rest of the water to rinse off the soap. The most difficult part of the process was staying warm. If I waited too late in the day for my shower and the temperature dropped, I didn’t want to get out of my clothes. If I was already naked–or heaven forbid–naked and wet and the wind kicked up, I was a miserable lady.

Whenever I house sit, one of the perks is the indoor plumbing, particularly being able to take a hot shower or bath whenever I want. And when I’m staying with family or friends, of course I have access to showers.

When I’m traveling, I don’t worry about showering every day. During the two months I was on the road with Mr. Carolina, I think I took five showers (one in the hotel bathroom of a regional Rainbow Gathering focalizer we met in Nevada, two in the hotel room we shared with the boys before they caught their flight to Guatamala City, one at Lil C’s mom’s house, and one at the Okie’s great-grandmother’s house), supplemented by a couple of soaks in hot springs. I’ve adjusted to not showering every day (or every week!) especially if I’m staying in places that aren’t too hot or too humid.

For rubber tramps with money who want to clean up, truck stops are an option. Many truckers have sleeping quarters in their rigs, but no running water, so truck stops cater to those folks by offering shower facilities. Showers are usually free for folks purchasing a certain (usually large) amount of fuel. For the rest of us, the cost is usually around ten bucks.

When I was in Quartzsite for the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, I knew about a few options for cleaning up (other than getting naked behind my van and soaping up). Quarzsite boasts both Flying J and Love’s truck stops, so I could have paid to shower at either place, but I was too cheap for that. Instead, I decided to go to a religious outreach place called the Isaiah 58 Project that I’d heard offered free showers.

The Isaiah 58 Project is located in what I can only describe as a compound. It’s fenced. There are several buildings and some camper trailers (and I think a bus) within the fence. I went in the wrong gate and saw what seemed to be people’s homes and decided it was all too weird, and I wasn’t going to take a shower there. I left and went across the street to the Salvation Army thrift store. Later when I left the thrift store and walked back to my van, I realized there was another entrance to the Isaiah 58 Project compound. Through the second gate was a building with a cross on it. A-ha! A church!

I pulled my van across the street, then tried to find an office with a person who could tell me the procedure. No luck. I think I either saw a sign directing me to the showers, or I saw people waiting…I don’t really remember how, but I figured it out.

After I got my stuff together, I found people in line ahead of me. I sat in one of the plastic chairs in the already beating down sun (no shade available) and waited my turn. Some people were waiting, but not in line, so a couple of times I thought I was next, only to have some guy (I was the only woman waiting for a shower) pop out of somewhere and say he was next.

Finally, it was my turn. The first thing I realized was that there was only one working shower and no one was cleaning it between uses. I was grateful I was wearing my purple plastic shower shoes.

The second thing I noticed was that the lock on the door didn’t seem very secure. Or maybe I noticed that there wasn’t a lock on the door. Again, I’m a little fuzzy on the details. In any case I had a moment of doubt about my safety. Was I going to get raped in the religious outreach shower? Then I figured I’d made it too far to back out.

The third thing I noticed was that the shower room (a large room with a toilet, a sink, and two shower stalls–one of which was blocked off because it didn’t work–at the far end) looked really grungy and drab and not exactly sparkling clean. Again I thought about leaving, but again I decided I’d gone to far to turn back.

So I got naked and took my shower. No one came into the room to attack me (and for that I am grateful). The hot water and soap (I’d brought my own  Dr. Bronner’s peppermint) felt good, but I spent my allotted ten minutes not only hurrying and worrying for my safety, but also trying to avoid touching the walls. Not relaxing.

I didn’t go back the Isaiah 58 Project for a shower during my second week in Quartzsite. I didn’t feel desperately dirty enough to go there again. (I was going back to my host family in the city, so I knew I could shower again as soon as I got there.)

When I got my current job as a camp host, my boss didn’t ask about how I was going to shower. I knew the campground didn’t have water, so I figured I’d just go the wet wipe route. (Wet wipes  are quite useful for clean-up without running water, especially when one has the luxury of the privacy of a van.)

Then I met my co-worker. She was pleasant, but the moment we were alone, she asked the question.

Does your van have a shower?

When I told her no, she followed up with, So how do you clean up?

I told her I used wet wipes, and she seemed skeptical. She said she couldn’t go more than a couple of days without a shower.

Uh-Oh! I knew this woman was going to be sniffing me out. I knew that if she detected a whiff–one measly whiff–of body odor, she would  mention it to someone who would mention it to someone, and I would find myself having an uncomfortable interaction with my boss. It looked like I would soon find myself paying for a shower.

To read more about how I stay clean while living in my van, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/18/more-adventures-in-cleanliness/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/09/adventures-in-cleanliness-revisited/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/12/another-adventure-in-cleanliness/.