Tag Archives: Nevada

Goddess Temple Revisited

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Every time I’ve visited The Poet and The Activist in Las Vegas, we’ve made a trip out to the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet. (Read my prior post about the Goddess Temple here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/21/the-temple-of-goddess-spirituality/.)

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This photo shows the exterior of the Temple of Goddess Spirituality including the seven interlocking copper hoops made by Richard Cottrell and three of the four turrets constructed by ceramist Sharon Dryflower.

The Goddess Temple is about 45 miles North of Las Vegas, with a lot of desert in between. To get to the temple, visitors from Las Vegas pass the the tiny community of Indian Springs, as well as the military industrial complex in the form of Creech Air Force Base and the prison industrial complex in the form of High Desert State Prison. There’s a lot of sadness on that stretch of Highway 95.

img_5447Thankfully, the land the Temple of Goddess Spirituality sits on is both a literal and metaphoric oasis in the desert. As the Genevieve Vaughan, the woman who envisioned and financed the temple says on the temple’s  website (http://www.sekhmettemple.com/temple-of-goddess-spirituality/goddess-temple-herstory/84-2/),

Hundred-year-old cottonwood trees dot the oasis. Sweet-smelling creosote bushes, mesquite trees and salt cedars drink from the precious underground water. Many birds and wild animals participate in the delicate and beautiful ecosystem.

The temple holds its ground in the midst of many negative energies. Like the land herself, the temple’s energies remain positive, delicate, down to earth, and sane.

When I visited the Goddess Temple for the second time in March 2016, the sun was out and the sky was a

The Goddess Sekhmet with flowers

The Goddess Sekhmet with flowers

gorgeous blue. It was quite a contrast with my first visit on an overcast day. During my second visit, I took more photos. I took photos of things I’d photographed during my first visit, hoping for better shots. I think I got several really nice images.

I really enjoy visiting the Goddess Temple. I like walking around the grounds and seeing little offerings people have left. I like looking at the art that’s been created there too, but mostly I like going into the temple and sitting with Sekhmet and other representations of Goddess(es) there. (Are there many different goddesses or only one Goddess in multiple forms?)

On my most recent visit to the temple grounds, The Activist, The Poet and I had tea and poppy seed cake with the resident Priestess and another woman who is living and working there. After bidding farewell to the two older women, The Poet, The Activist, and I walked the long way to the sanctuary. Two women were sitting on the floor of the temple, having a tarot reading. We three newcomers gave them their space. I walked around outdoors taking photos while The Poet and The Activist sat outside to sing and chant. (Hearing the two of them sing and chant from a distance brings me great comfort. I feel like a little child who knows all is well even though I can’t see the adults because I can still hear them.)

Madre del Mundo by Marsha A. Gomez

This statue Madre del Mundo by Marsha A. Gomez sits inside the Temple of Goddess Spirituality.

After the tarot card ladies left, I went into the temple and sat on a low bench. I lit a white sage bundle I’d brought from my van and offered up the smoke to Sekhmet and the Goddess in all of her guises. I enjoyed the smell of the sage smoke too. When the sage had burnt almost all the way down, I set it in one of the containers filled with sand next to the statue of Sekhmet. I relit some incense sticks that had gone out and savored the tranquility of the place.

I don’t consider myself a highly spiritual person, but I appreciate the Temple of Goddess Spirituality as a place of peace and healing. It is definitely one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in the Las Vegas area.

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I took all of the photos in this post.

Feeding People in Las Vegas

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My friends are part of the Las Vegas Catholic Worker community, although neither of them identify as Catholic. I think it’s unusual to be a non-Catholic Catholic Worker, but I can’t say I’ve surveyed any other Catholic Workers about their beliefs or religious affiliations.

One of the Catholic Worker activities my friends participate in is serving food to hungry people. (My friends  also do peace work focused on the elimination of nuclear weapons development, production, and testing. In addition, they also cook and serve with Food Not Bombs once or twice a month.)

When I mention I’m heading to Las Vegas to visit friends, the person I’m speaking with tends to get a knowing look, all wink wink nudge nudge. People say things to me like Have fun! or Be careful. Although I do have fun with my friends, I try to explain to people that my trips to Vegas are not what they’re thinking. My first visits to Vegas, the three nights I spent there with Sweet L and Mr. Carolina, eating and drinking out of trash can and wondering at the sights of the Strip, those night were maybe a little closer to what people think Las Vegas is about. (Read about those nights in the first part of this post: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/20/the-other-las-vegas/.) But since I’ve been visiting The Poet and The Activist, my visits to Las Vegas have not involved one foot touching the Strip or casino property.

The Activist participates in the Catholic Worker food service several times a week. The Poet serves food and helps with washing dishes once a week. Whenever I’m visiting, I volunteer with one or both of them.

Las Vegas Catholic Work house surrounded by a circle of people holding hands.

This photo shows the Las Vegas Catholic Worker house. Image from http://lvcw.org/

The serving of food starts at 6:30 in the morning. I’m not usually out and about so early, but other people are accustomed to it. When we arrive at the Catholic Worker House to meet up with the other volunteers, the food is cooked and people are bustling around, loading everything on the trailer to transport it to the empty lot where the food is served. People have been in the kitchen since 4am, preparing the meal.

The kitchen is warm when we walk in, always a contrast with coolness of the desert morning,but especially pronounced in early December. The people inside are warm too, although they must be wondering who I am and if I’ll be back. I’m sure they see many volunteers who help once to fulfill some sort of obligation and never return. In any case, people say hello to me, tell me their names, shake my hand. If The Poet or The Activist is standing next to me, I’m introduced as a friend.

When we arrive, people are typically sitting around a table in the next room, finishing their prayer meeting. I usually hear some portion of the Lord’s Prayer drift from the room. While the prayer meeting is wrapping up, other people are carrying industrial-size metal pots outside to load them on the trailer which an SUV will pull to the site of the serving.

After all the food and tea and paper bowls and plastic utensils and folding tables and condiments and cups are loaded and the prayer group has dispersed, all the volunteers circle around the wooden counter in the middle of the kitchen to join hands and pray together. I hold the hands of the people on either side of me and bow my head respectfully, but I don’t pray. Other folks recite aloud a prayer, often the following one by Samuel F. Pugh:

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Amen.

The food is served in a vacant lot at G & McWilliams Streets , far enough away from the Catholic Worker house so it makes sense to go in a car. I ride with The Activist (and The Poet too, if it’s Saturday). We always arrive a few minutes before the SUV and trailer.

When we arrive, the hungry people are lined up and waiting. Most people would probably say those people standing in line are homeless. I’m sure some of them are homeless. Maybe even a majority of them live on the streets, but I’m not willing to lump the whole bunch into one category. I know every single one of those people has a unique life, an individual story that’s brought each of them to a vacant lot in Las Vegas, NV on any particular morning.

The vast majority waiting to eat are men. Out of a couple hundred people there to eat, I’d be surprised to see more than five women. Where are all the poor, hungry, and/or homeless women? I feel confident they are somewhere in Las Vegas. I hope they are getting their needs met by some other organization(s).

When the trailer arrives, volunteers scurry to set up. Two tables are unfolded, condiments and utensils set out on them. Plastic milk crates are placed at the head of each line, and giant pots of steaming food are set on top of them. Another table is set up with the day’s side dish and is staffed by two volunteers. Someone else prepares to distribute jalapeño peppers from a large plastic tub to folks who want to spice up their food.

Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg – mural outside the Catholic Worker Houses – painted by Q, photo by Tami Yaron. Image from http://lvcw.org/

The Catholic Worker group also provides warm, damp towels to the folks they serve. I’ve never seen another group provide this service. I think it’s a great idea. A volunteer distributes the warm towels from a 5-gallon bucket. Folks use the towels to wash their face and/or hands, then deposit the used ones in a second bucket. The dirty towels are taken back tot he Catholic Worker house where they are laundered for reuse.

When I volunteer, I usually help hand out bread. (One time I helped hand out the hot main dish.) After putting on gloves, The Activist or The Poet and I take bread out of a 5-gallon bucket and set a variety of choices on the inside of one of the lids, which we use as a tray. The available bread can vary, but I’ve seen it include bagels, sliced wheat bread, hamburger buns, raisin bread, and chunks of baguettes.

I try to be really friendly to people who come up for bread. Good morning! I’ll say with a big smile. Can I get you some bread?

Some people know exactly what they want and how many slices. Others seem confused by the choices. Some seem grateful for whatever they’re handed. I do my best to give folks the kind of bread they want, then sincerely say, Have a nice day! before they leave. I like to think a friendly face and voice and word are as important as the food, but maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel good.

I wonder what the other people in that vacant lot see when they look at me. Do they assume I have a house to return to? Do they think I’m financially secure? Do I seem comfortable and complacent? Do they realize I’m closer economically to the the people there to eat than to the other people serving? Does anyone look at me and imagine I once lived on the streets, that I’m only one step out of my van away from homeless again? But for the grace of the Universe (or God or the Higher Power or Goddess or whatever one chooses to call it), I’d be lined up to receive food instead of serving it.

Squashing Pennies

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I have a friend who collects squashed pennies. Well, I think she collects them. At some point she collected them, but I didn’t ask her if she still did before I went to Las Vegas. She might be over the squashed pennies while I am still blissfully mailing them off to her.

What’s a squashed penny, you may ask? According to Wikipiedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elongated_coin) squashed pennies (aka squished pennies, aka pressed pennies, aka elongated coins)

are coins that have been elongated (flattened or stretched) and embossed with a new design with the purpose of creating a commemorative or souvenir token.

Do you know what I’m talking about now? If you don’t, have a look at the two pressed pennies in the photo below to get an idea of what I mean.

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According to the Penny Collector website (http://www.pennycollector.com/history.html), elongated coins have been around for over 100 years.

Although an example of an elongated coin is rumored to have been produced some years earlier, it is generally accepted that these tokens were first made during the 1892-1893 World’s Columbian Exposition that was held in Chicago, Illinois to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. There were four different designs utilized during that event.

If you’ve never seen a pressed penny before, you probably don’t know how they are made. First of all, the penny pressing machines I’ve seen require 51 cents: two quarters (to pay for the pressing process) and the penny that will be pressed. Again, from the Penny Collector website:

An elongated coin is made by a coin, token, medal or metal blank being forced between two steel rollers. An engraving is on one or both of the rollers and as the coin passes through the rollers it is squeezed or elongated under tremendous pressure from the original round shape to one of an oval and the engraved design impressed into the coin at the same time.

On my way to Vegas, I stopped at the Alien Fresh Jerky store in Baker, CA store because I’d read online about a penny squashing machine there. However, I found the store devoid of penny pressing machinery. So sad! No pennies pressed with an alien theme for my friend!

When I got to Vegas and told my friends about my failure to squish a penny for my pal, they too got into the coin pressing spirit. It was The Activist who found the Penny Collector page listing the locations of pressing machines across the U.S. and around the world. (Start your search for a penny presser near you here: http://www.pennycollector.com/AreaList.aspx.)

Penny pressing machine at the Ethel M. chocolate factory.

Penny pressing machine at the Ethel M. chocolate factory.

Before we headed off to the Ethel M. chocolate factory in Henderson, NV, I said I hoped there was a penny

presser there. The Poet said it would be nice if there was a machine there, but I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up. But guess what! The Ethel M. factory does have a penny squishing machine. I quick put my two quarters and one penny in the appropriate slots and turned, turned, turned the crank. It wasn’t long before the Ethel M. elongated coin clinked and rattled out of the machine’s innards and into the retrieval cup.

As we headed back to West Las Vegas, The Activist announced we were going to pass the Bonanza (World’s Largest) Gift Shop. He remembered from looking at the Penny Collector location page for Nevada that there was a penny presser there. He asked me if I wanted to stop.

Hell yeah! I said. The more pressed pennies, the merrier. Besides, that penny portrait of Ethel M. is a little bit boring. I thought my friend needed something with a little more pizzazz to represent Las Vegas.

This photo shows the penny presser outside the Bonanza (World's Largest) Gift Shop.

This photo shows the penny presser outside the Bonanza (World’s Largest) Gift Shop.

The Activist parked the car and I said, Now the problem is going to be figuring out which door I should go in, since the Bonanza has multiple entrances. Then I saw it! The penny presser was outside the store. I didn’t even have to go inside to squish my penny. Quick, quick, I put my coins in the slots and turned, turned, turned the crank. After a clink and a rattle, I had a squashed penny featuring the Welcome to Las Vegas sign in my hand.

You may be wondering if this whole business of squashing pennies is legal. The answer is YES (in the United States)! The Penny collector website gives the following information in it’s FAQ:

The United States Codes under Title 18, Chapter 17, and Section 331, “prohibits the mutilation, diminution and falsification of United States coinage.” However, it has been the opinion of some individual officers at the Treasury Department, though without any indication of approval, the foregoing statute does not prohibit the mutiliation of coins if done without fraudulent intent or if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently.

You didn’t think I was out there breaking the law in Las Vegas, did you?

Pinball Hall of Fame

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img_7801When I was planning my third trip to Las Vegas to visit The Poet and The Activist, I asked The Poet what fun things we should do. She knows I live frugally, so she and The Activist always try to think of free and cheap activities for us to do together. For this visit, she suggested we go to the Pinball Hall of Fame, which has no admission fee.

According to the Hall of Fame’s webpage (http://www.pinballmuseum.org/),

The Pinball Hall of Fame is an attempt by the members of the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club to house and display the world’s largest pinball collection, open to the public. A not-for-profit corporation was established to further this cause. The games belong to one club member (Tim Arnold), and range img_7802from 1950s up to 1990s pinball machines. Since it is a non-profit museum, older games from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are the prevelant [sic], as this was the ‘heyday’ of pinball.

The Pinball Hall of Fame is located at 1610 E. Tropicana, which I guess isn’t too far from the Strip. In my last three visits to Vegas, I’ve only been on the Strip if the car was crossing it to go somewhere else, so I don’t have a very good idea where the Hall of Fame is in relation to the rest of the city.

The Poet, The Activist, and I went to the Pinball Hall of Fame after dark one evening. I highly recommend visiting at night. The folks who run the place keep the overhead lights down low in the evenings, so the lights on the machines really pop! With all the flashing lights and bells and music and other sounds from the games, being in the Pinball Hall of Fame was a lot like how I imagine being in a pinball machine would be, but without giant metal balls trying to flatten folks.

img_7804The museum is set up with several wide aisles with pinball machines on each side. A few machines were out of order, but the ones that were working were available for play. The aforementioned website says,

All machines are available for play, so not only can you see them, you can actually play your old favorites. The pinball machines are all restored to like-new playing condition by people that love pinball and understand how a machine should work. All older pinballs are set to 25 cents per play, and newer 1990s models are set to 50 cents per play.

Although the website claims to have

pinball and nothing but pinball for 10,000 square feet,

After sliding a quarter in the slot, folks can make this clown "dance" by pressing buttons on the machine.

After sliding a quarter in the slot, folks can make this clown “dance” by pressing buttons on the machine.

we saw 80s era arcade-style video games, as well a few other older novelty games. One machine housed a clown. I put in a quarter and The Poet and I banged buttons to move the clowns arms and legs so it could “dance” to the theme song from The Jetsons. It was a ridiculous use of 25 cents, but The Poet and I laughed uproariously, so I guess it was money well spent.

Another non-pinball game at the Hall of Fame approximated bowling. The Activist bowled his ten frames and seemed to have a good time.

The Hall of Fame also boasts a photo booth. For $3 folks get two copies of a four pose, black and white strip of pix. I didn’t partake of the photo booth, but The Activist and The Poet got in there and had some pictures made.

There are several claw machines at the Hall of Fame. I had no interest in any of them, so I didn’t take any photos. I’m not sure what seemingly modern claw machines have to do with pinball, but whatever. It was easy to ignore them in favor of the stars of the show.

Pinball wizard, I am not. I’ve never been very good at keeping those metal balls going, probably because I never practiced very much. When I was a kid, the only place I went with pinball machines was the skating rink, and my visits there were few and far between. My parents were never the type to give me a handful of quarters and drop me off at the arcade in the mall. However, even though I’m not good at pinball, I find playing really fun.

img_7816I tried a few different machines at the Pinball Hall of Fall, and mostly lost immediately. I did the best with a Gilligan’s Island machine. Oh, Gilligan, my first true love! I was happy to see him immortalized by pinball.

The Hall of Fame’s website says,

The Pinball Hall of Fame is a registered 501c3 non-profit. It relies on visitors stopping by to play these games, restored pinball machine sales, and ‘This Old Pinball’ repair dvd videos (available for sale at the museum)…[A]fter the PHoF covers its monthly expenses for rent, electricity, insurance, endowment savings, the remainder of the money goes to the Salvation Army.

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This photo shows the Pinball Hall of Fame repair shop.

Speaking of pinball repair, the service area for the machines is at the back of the museum. Although no one was making repairs when we visited, we could see the whole shop.

For only $2, I had an hour’s worth of fun with my friend at the Pinball Hall of Fame. What a bargain! I highly recommend a visit to the Pinball Hall of Fame to anyone looking for a good time in Vegas. Don’t worry if you don’t have quarters in your pocket; there are change machines on site to hook you up and get you playing right away!

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

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Yarn

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I thought I was done with the business of making hats. That’s what I told the world on December 1.

I’m not making any more hats for a long time…Yarn takes up storage space…The completed hats take up up space too…Yarn cost money…I’m not really selling enough hats to make creating them worth the effort.

(Read all about it here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/12/01/the-last-of-the-hats/.)

Less than a month later (less than two weeks later, actually), I went to the Las Vegas Goodwill Clearance Center on what must have been yarn clearance day. I found so much yarn, in many great colors. Yarn doesn’t weigh much, right? So yarn sold by the pound is cheap. I couldn’t pass up cheap yarn in good colors. I threw all the yarn I found into my basket. Some of it was all tangled up in other items, and I had to cut the yarn to get it in my basket. (Good thing I found some scissors being sold off by the pound.)

This photo shows the yarn I got at the Goodwill Clearance Center in Las Vegas, NV.

This photo shows some of the yarn I got at the Goodwill Clearance Center in Las Vegas, NV.

I actually didn’t buy all the yarn I found that day. I went through the yarn before I took my selections to the register for purchase and put back the colors I didn’t like so much. I got rid of a couple skeins of a dark green that made my head hurt. I left behind some dingy looking white. I only kept the yarn I thought would make really nice hats.

Why do I have such a hard time walking away from yarn? I guess I’m going to have to face it: I’m addicted to yarn.

Also, I just like making hats. I like the ways the colors come together…or how they don’t come together when I make poor color combo choices. I like starting from a couple balls of yarn and ending up with a hat. I get great satisfaction from creating.

As soon as I bought the yarn, I could barely wait to start making hats again. I’ve already made several, and yesterday I loaded up my phone with podcasts to listen to while I work with my new yarn.

I guess I’m back in the hat business. Let me know if you want to buy one. I’ve got plenty.

These large hats were made from yarn bought by the pound at the Goodwill Clearance Center. All three have rolled edges and cost $13 each, including postage.

These large hats were made from yarn bought by the pound at the Goodwill Clearance Center. All three have rolled edges and cost $13 each, including postage.

 

These are two more hats I made from yarn I got at the Goodwill Clearance Center. Both are large, both have a finished edge, both have sparkle white yarn in them, and both cost $13 each, including postage.

These are two more hats I made from yarn I got at the Goodwill Clearance Center. Both are large, both have a finished edge, both have sparkle white yarn in them, and both cost $13 each, including postage.

 

This green and grey hat is extra large. It has a rolled edge and costs $13, including shipping. The yarn came from the Goodwill Clearance Center windfall.

This green and grey hat is extra large. It has a rolled edge and costs $13, including shipping. The yarn came from the Goodwill Clearance Center windfall.

 

I made this hat before I left the forest in October, but it just resurfaced when I cleaned the van. It is an extra large and has a rolled edge. It costs $13, including postage.

I made this hat before I left the forest in October, but it just resurfaced when I cleaned the van. It is an extra large and has a rolled edge. It costs $13, including postage.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

(Guest Post) Three Vignettes by Laura-Marie

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Today it is my great honor to present as a guest blogger my friend Laura-Marie. Laura-Marie is a sweet person and an awesome poet and writer of personal prose. Today she is sharing with us three vignettes that are part of a forthcoming zine called lost child 2.

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We were in Reno visiting a crazy friend, the one who kept broken mirror fragments in his pockets and read difficult books.  He found things on his late night walks, looking in dumpsters.

His sister, the house they shared, a meal made with dumpstered veggies.

We woke up and I needed to pee, so we walked to the In & Out but it was closed.

Later that day there was an eclipse.  We went back to the In & Out and people were in the parking lot looking at the sun.  We ate grilled cheese sandwiches.  It got dark for a moment then light again.

manic

When I had my first manic episode, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I thought I’d have a lot more manic episodes.  So I took a ziplock bag and stole a lot of Benedryl from my mom.  The pills were hot pink.  Then I put that bag into a tin, like a tin for mints.

I thought when I started having another manic episode, I would take some Benedryl and it would help me sleep.

This was ten years ago.  I still have the Benedryl, bright enough to burn your eyes.  I never took any of it.

soap

Mom had a glass jar in her bathroom with pink soaps in it.  The soaps were shaped like seashells.  I wanted to wash my hands with them so badly.  But they were for decoration only.  They smelled perfumey, and my longing for them was mixed up with my longing for all the childhood things I was denied.

Lite brite.  A certain kind of bedside lamp the neighbor kids had.  When my brother was being potty trained and I was banished to other rooms.

I feel sure that color of pink will always be with me.  The soaps got dusty.  She must have thrown them away when we moved.

Laura-Marie is a zinester and peace activist living in Las Vegas, Nevada.  She likes cold brew tea, writing letters, and visiting friends.

The Rainbow Gathering That Wasn’t

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When I first talked to Sweet L, he told me that he and the crew (Mr. Carolina. Robbie, and the Fighting Couple), as well as Buttons and his mom and her guy were heading to a Rainbow Gathering in Nevada. Buttons (who was in this mid-30s) was riding with his mom (who was in her late 50s) and her guy (who was in his mid-40s) in a car that could seat one more person, but the other folks had no ride. I told Sweet L they could ride with me until I got to my stopping point.

I found the group the next morning, and we loaded up. Robbie got in the car with Buttons and his family, which meant I had Mr. Carolina riding shotgun, Sweet L and Mr. Fighting Couple in the middle seats, Ms. Fighting Couple and all the packs on my bed, and the Fighting Couple’s two dogs on the floor.

Fast-forward through me having so much fun I decided to go to the Rainbow Gathering too and offered my van as our means of transportation. Fast-forward through (literal) rainbows and hot springs, sign flying and gas jugging, Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, and Robbie moving into the van in Flagstaff. Fast-forward through all of that, and we were in the small Nevada town closest to the area where the Rainbow Gathering was to be held.

Sweet L was doing most of the internet research to get us to the gathering. He wanted to be at the gathering because he had been told it would be a jumping off point for folks traveling to Guatemala for an intergalactic Rainbow Gathering peaking on 12-21-12. Buttons was talking about caravans driving through drug-runner tunnels stretching across the U.S./Mexico border and on to Guatemala. This Nevada Rainbow Gathering was supposed to be the place to meet the people making such transportation happen.

Sweet L had been in touch with one of the gathering’s focalizers, a man staying in a small, locally owned motel. The man invited us to come to his motel room, take showers, and hang out.

The man—George, I’ll call him—was probably between 55 and 65 years old and friendly enough. I was glad for the chance to take a shower and took him up on his offer right away. Robbie and Sweet L jumped at the chance to use his laptop, as they were trying to figure out how to get to Guatemala if the drug tunnel plan didn’t work out.

When I got out of the shower, I started picking up clues that George was a little strange and there were some problems with the Rainbow Gathering. First, although seven adults (and two dogs) were crammed into a small motel room, George had the television on with the volume turned up. The TV rendered communication quite difficult. It think it’s rude to have a TV on when folks are visiting, but it seemed strange to have it turned on when we were trying to talk to the guy about a Rainbow Gathering he was helping to organize.

From what Sweet L had said about what he’d read on the internet, I’d understood the Rainbow Gathering was about to begin and ten or so people were already on site. Upon talking to George, we realized the six of us had been counted among the people on site. And the site? It hadn’t been chosen yet! George wanted us to go out scouting for potential locations.

I’ve never been scouting for a Rainbow Gathering site, but I know certain things are desirable, like flat ground, trees, and a source of water. I knew nothing about the Nevada desert. I certainly had no idea where to find trees and water.

While we had food (and toilet paper) to contribute to a gathering, we were by no means prepared to provide for our own six selves (much less anyone who might join us) in the wilderness. We thought we’d be going into a gathering with an infrastructure in place. We’d had no idea we’d be expected to set up the infrastructure of a seed camp.

A few days after the gathering was scheduled to begin, Furthur would be playing in nearby Las Vegas. Those of us traveling in my van had already decided we’d leave the gathering and go to Vegas on the night of the Furthur show. We knew that even if we didn’t get into the show, we could have a lot of fun hanging out. After Furthur, we planned to go back for the duration of the gathering.

When one of us mentioned our plan to George, he said he was going to Vegas for Furthur too. He said he’d planned to pay a shuttle van to drive him to Vegas and back, but said he’d rather ride with us and give us the money. He then said he had a hotel room booked for the night of the show, and all of us could stay with him. I didn’t say it in front of George, but the last thing I wanted to do in Vegas was get stuck in some stranger’s hotel room.

Around 4:30, George got really weird. He said he was going to have to kick us out at five o’clock. He said he didn’t want us to wait until dark to find a place to make our camp. His attitude was strange for a couple of reasons. First, although it was fall, the time hadn’t changed yet, so at five o’clock there were still a couple of hours of daylight left. Second, he didn’t even know how great the kids were at finding places to sleep at night. Third, we were surrounded by public land where we could camp for free.

In the following days, we had much discussion about what we thought had really been going on with George. Why had he really kicked us out at five o’clock? Was he afraid we were going to try to take over his motel room and spend the night there? I thought he had a 5:30 appointment with either a drug dealer or a prostitute and wanted us out of there ahead of time.

As we were gathering our things in preparation for our exit, George pulled out his sleeping bag and said he wanted us to take it with us so it would already be in the van when we gave him the ride to Vegas. By this point I was getting paranoid and was more than half convinced that George had dealings with the FBI and there was a bug or a tracking device in his sleeping bag. I was cool though, and said we really didn’t have room for it in the van. Although the sleeping bag was rolled up quite small, I wasn’t really lying about there being no room for it. Where were we going to fit in a stranger’s (possibly bugged) sleeping bag in a van crowded with six people, all their possessions, jugs of water, two dogs, and only four seat belt? (Sweet L thought George wanted us to take his sleeping bad so we’d be obligated to come back for him later.)

We did find a place to camp well before dark. We also decided a few things. We decided we were not scouting for this sketchy Rainbow Gathering or helping with seed camp. In fact, we decided the Rainbow Gathering sounded as if it had too many problems, and we’d rather stay in Vegas. We also decided George would not be riding with us.

The job of calling George and breaking the news fell to me since I was the van owner. I felt awkward, but not as awkward as I’d have felt being stuck with an unwanted passenger. It was a good thing we hadn’t taken his sleeping bag.