Tag Archives: New Mexico

Art at Meow Wolf

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This is what the outside of Meow Wolf looks like. Even the exterior of the building is art.

I’ve already written two posts about my recent visit to Meow Wolf, one a general review and one about buying a piece of art from the Art-o-mat® in the lobby. Yet, I still have a lot of photos I haven’t shared.

What’s weird is that while I felt as if I took a lot of photos while in the House of Eternal Return exhibit, when I look through my photos, I realize there were so many photo opportunities that I missed. I was trying to experience the experience and not live behind my camera, but it seems like I left out so much.

Of course, it would be difficult to adequately explain Meow Wolf to you even if I had carefully photographed every single different thing I saw. (Such a task would take a very long time.) There’s so much going on in the place. There are not only objects and paintings to look at, but there’s music happening and ever-changing lights. Some of the lights and music change because of something someone touches. In some places one can play music by touching lights. Almost every aspect of the House of Eternal Return is a multisensory extravaganza.

The only way to even begin to understand Meow Wolf is to make your own visit. Actually, there may be no way to understand Meow Wolf completely. But I certainly can’t explain it to you.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Meow Wolf for me is that those people have an entire bus in there! Is it a reference to Ken Kesey’s bus Furthur? Are the Meow Wolf artists on the bus or off the bus? Did I mention the bus is vertical, with its engine and front wheels in the air? We first encountered the bus on the ground floor. I was beyond pleased when we went upstairs and found the front half of it sticking up through the floor.

But is it art? Who cares? It’s an entire bus (or most of an entire bus…I couldn’t tell if it was all there) inside a building sticking up through the floor. What is there not to love?

Here area few more random things I saw during my visit to Meow Wolf.

Even the long hallway between the ticket counter and the restrooms was full of art. The whole place was about art and life and thought and coolness.

When I go back to Meow Wolf, and I do plan to go back, I will take more photos.

I’m doing something a little different today. Maybe you noticed. I’m using galleries for the first time so I can share many photos at once with you. If you click on the smaller photos, they’ll enlarge so you can see the better. I’d love to know what you think about this format. Tell me what you think in the comments.

I took the photos in this post unless otherwise noted. The low light in the exhibit made for substandard image quality. My apologies.

Art-o-mat at Meow Wolf

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This is one of the postcards I bought in the Meow Wolf gift shop.

After a little more than two hours in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, NM, The Man and I thought we had seen all there was to see. (Spoiler alert: We didn’t. The Man saw a photo of a ship on a magnet in the gift shop and realized we hadn’t laid eyes on the actual structure. We had no idea how to get to the ship at the time, so we decided we were ready to leave. We think we know how to find the ship now, which is one of the reasons we want to go back.)

Anyway, we were on our way to the Meow Wolf gift shop so I could pick up a couple of postcards (and two is all I bought since they cost $1 each), when I saw it: the Art-o-mat®.

The Art-o-mat® in the Meow Wolf lobby. Isn’t it lovely? I think the color scheme is fantastic! And that sugar skull…swoon!

I’d heard of Art-o-mat® machines, although the term for them in my brain was “art vending machine.” I’d maybe even seen one, somewhere, but I’d never bought art from one before. I figured if there was ever a time and place for buying art from a vending machine, that time and place was now, in the lobby of one of the greatest art spaces I had ever experienced.

What exactly is an Art-o-mat®, you may ask? According to the Art-o-mat® website,

Art-o-mat® machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. There are over 100 active machines in various locations throughout the country.

The site’s About page says,

The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane…

In June 1997, Clark was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie in Winston-Salem, N.C. He used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o-mat®…The machine sold Clark’s black & white photographs mounted on blocks for $1.00 each…

AIC [Artists in Cellophane] is the sponsoring organization of Art-o-mat®. The mission of AIC is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. AIC believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable…

My fortune as given to me by Alva, a robotic soothsayer from Portals Bermuda.

Do you have a $5 bill, I asked The Man. I’d broken my fiver to buy a pair of Meow Wolf chromadepth glasses (a waste of $1, as far as The Man and I were concerned) and spent another buck to have my fortune told by Alva, a robotic soothsayer from Portals Bermuda stationed in a glass cube in the arcade. I was now $2 short of buying a small piece of art from the Art-o-mat®.

Alva the soothsayer from Portals Bermuda

The Man pulled out his wallet, rummaged through it, and produced a $5 bill. Yes! Now we could choose which knob to pull.

Oh! What a decision! We had twenty choices after all! Twenty. Choices.

The top row had the name of a specific artist above each knob. Of course, I didn’t recognize any of the names. There was even information about what kind of art would be dispensed above some of the knobs. Did I want a leather key ring? Did I want matchbox art? I was overcome by choices.

On the second row, each knob was labeled “Random Art.” Maybe I would be better off if I let the Universe decide what piece of art I needed. Of course, there were still ten “Random Art” choices. I managed to narrow my choices down to two.

I narrowed my random art choices down to these two.

Should I go with creating a rainbow by buying art? (Note: I knew that buying art doesn’t really create rainbows even before I read the disclaimer.) Should a take a chance on an unknown artist? Although I’m not much of a gambler, I decided to go with taking a chance.

The Man fed the money into the bill acceptor of the sort one uses to get change at a car wash or laundromat. Now was my moment to pull the knob.

The aforementioned Art-o-mat® website answers the question What do you get? [from the dispenser] this way:

The experience of pulling the knob alone is quite a thrill, but you also walk away with an original work of art. What an easy way to become an art collector.

Pulling the knob was a thrill. Those old machines were built to be sturdy, so I had to give it a strong tug. I was rewarded with a hearty thunk! when the art fell into the tray at the bottom of the dispenser. I reached in and grabbed something the approximate size and shape of a package of cigarettes, although this item was heavier than the packs of cigarettes I’ve held. I thought the art would come in an old cigarette box, but instead it was wrapped in paper to keep it from getting scratched. I peeled off the paper and found a small painting (or maybe the image was created with markers) on a block of wood.

This is the art I received when I took a chance.

I’m not sure what exactly is depicted here. Like all good art, it leaves the viewer with some questions. Is that the sun in the upper left? Is that water on the bottom? Is it a lake? An ocean? Why is it jagged? What’s in the space between the sun and the water? The middle space looks really hot. Is it hell? Phoenix in July? What does it all mean?

This is the artist’s signature on the side of the little art piece. I took a chance on you, Jack. Thanks for this beauty.

You can answer those questions for yourself. You can ask more questions if you like. As for me, I appreciate this piece of art and its randomness and mystery. Most of all, I enjoyed the experience of buying art from a vending machine.

I took the photos in this post.

Meow Wolf: A Review

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Why is the Meow Wolf sign shaped like a bowling pin? Keep reading to find out.

The Man and I finally visited Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM, and we had an awesome time. I want to tell you all about it, but please know that my words and photographs simply cannot do the place justice.

Actually, even if I could tell you all about Meow Wolf and show you all of my photos, I probably shouldn’t. Part of the fun for me was going in fresh, not really knowing what to expect. Before I went, I purposefully avoided doing a lot of research on the place. I wanted to experience what was there without a lot of foreknowledge.

I did know a little bit about Meow Wolf before I went, and I will share some information with you.

According to the Meow Wolf “About” page,

Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment group based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. [The group was] established in 2008 as an art collective.

One painting inside Meow Wolf. It reminds me of art by my favorite surrealist artist, Remedios Varo. That bird does not look happy to be held by that orange and yellow avocado with arms.

The aforementioned webpage says,

Meow Wolf is comprised of over 400 employees creating and supporting art across a variety of media, including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, cross-reality (AR/VR/MR), music, audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming, performance, and more!

Our first permanent installation, the THEA Award-winning House of Eternal Return, launched in March 2016 with support from Game of Thrones creator, George R.R. Martin.

Also, Meow Wolf is housed inside an old bowling alley! According to the Meow Wolf FAQs, the bowling alley closed in 2008 and sat empty for several years. There is no bowling there now and the lanes have been stripped out.

Is this a Meow Wolf?

While reading those FAQs to learn more about the old bowling alley, I learned how Meow Wolf got its name.

At the very first meeting of the collective in 2008, everyone put two words into a hat. Then they picked two random words out of the hat and got “Meow Wolf.”

There are some things you should know about Meow Wolf Santa Fe before you go. It is located at 1352 Rufina Circle, just off Cerrillos Road. Regular hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 8pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 10pm. Meow Wolf is closed on Tuesdays. Check holiday closures here.

The parking lot at Meow Wolf is rather small, but parking is also available on nearby streets. The Man and I visited at noon on a Sunday and had to park about two blocks away. The parking lot is not available to RVs, trailers, or other oversized vehicles; such vehicles must be parked on the street. Vandwellers traveling with companion animals should note that animal control may be called if animals are left unattended in vehicles in the Meow Wolf parking lot. Vandwellers should also note that overnight parking is not allowed in the lot.

The Man is trying to decide if he wants to walk through that door.

Strollers, backpacks and oversized bags are not allowed in the exhibit, but the items can be securely stored for you for a small fee. Stroller/walker/wheel chair storage is complementary.

An important concern for many people is the accessibility of Meow Wolf. This is what the FAQ page has to say about accessibility:

[T]he first floor of our exhibition is ADA accessible and navigable by crutches, walkers, wheelchairs or scooters, but some areas may require additional navigational guidance from our docent staff (they are here to help!). There is almost always more than one way to access to an area…We do not have elevators…to the second floor, though, and the second floor is much more difficult to navigate as well (more single steps up/down and narrow passageways). Areas with flashing lights are located behind clearly labeled doors. You do not need to coordinate ADA accommodations with staff prior to your arrival – just know that we are here to help however we can.

Also note that there are many places throughout the exhibit to sit and rest. From cushions on the floor to sofas and chairs, you do not have to be on your feet for hours on end. There are also several points where it is possible to exit to the lobby so you can visit the restroom, get a snack or beverage at Float Cafe & Bar, browse in the gift shop, or quietly create art in the David Loughridge Learning Center. You can decide to go back into the thick of things as long as you haven’t left the building.

So many pretty lights…and music too.

If you’re concerned about getting overstimulated at Meow Wolf (and this is a distinct possibility for many folks), consider picking up a sensory bag at the front desk. What is a sensory bag? The FAQ page says

[s]ensory bags are a tool guests can utilize to aid in their experience inside House of Eternal Return. Each bag can be checked out upon arrival and has items inside to help ground and re-center folks who might feel overstimulated or overwhelmed while inside the exhibit.

Looks like somebody puked up filthy lucre and glitter.

Admission to Meow Wolf is what I consider pricey. The regular adult admission price is $30. The regular admission price for a child over the age of four is $20. Children ages four and under enjoy free admission! (Anyone under 14 needs to be accompanied and supervised by a guardian over 18 years old.) Students, seniors 65 and older, and members of the military pay $25 to get in.

If you’re a New Mexico resident, you’re in luck because you get a discount. Cost of admission for adult residents of New Mexico is $25. Children who are residents of New Mexico pay only $15, and the student/senior/military rate for New Mexico residents is $20. However, every Monday and Wednesday night (4-8 PM) and Second Sunday of the month New Mexico residents pay only half off the New Mexico resident admission rate.

While I typically enjoy activities that are free and cheap, I recognize that my admission fee is helping to pay artists and maintain the Meow Wolf facilities. I can tell you that every aspect of Meow Wolf from the restrooms to the tree houses to the cushions on the floor were clean and in perfect working order.

I don’t know who these little creatures are, but I love them.

I was also pleasantly surprised that I did not encounter a single person behaving in an obnoxious way. Although there were lots of people at Meow Wolf the day we visited, people were being respectful of one another. Children were having a good time, but no one was screaming or running or annoying strangers. Adults were well-behaved too, and not once did the word asshat run through my mind.

If you haven’t already figured it out, there’s a lot going on at Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return. There is an actual, full-size house, complete with portals (hint: there are five) to other dimensions. (And here’s another hint for you: start with the house. You can start in the other dimensions, but for your first time, I HIGHLY recommend you start with the house.)

There’s a wrinkle in the reality of the bathroom floor.

You will see people stepping into and out of household appliances; you can step through some of them too, if you wish. There’s a mystery you can try to solve as you move through the house. (I’m not sure if it’s possible to solve the mystery or if it is meant to remain unsolved, but look for the clues and decide for yourself.) You can open cabinets in the kitchen and find wondrous things. You can sit in the bathtub or on the toilet of the wavy-floored bathroom. You can look into the cookie jar and see what awaits you there.

A fantasy world awaits you when you step through the refrigerator portal.

Once you move through the portals, you enter fantasy worlds filled with art and music and soft lights and magic. Well, maybe not magic; maybe what you experience is technology cleverly disguised to seem like magic. Even if you’ve never dabbled in psychedelics, you will know you’re in a the midst of some trippy shit.

There’s an entire bus in there and a dinner you wouldn’t want to eat even if you could. There are beams of red light you can play like harp strings (or drums), giant birds, and a multitude of items that will make you wonder WTF? Is it art? you may ask yourself. Does it really matter? It’s beauty and fun and color and experimentation and the chance for childlike wonder.

When we left Meow Wolf (after realizing we’d missed an entire reality but too tired to figure out how to get to it), The Man said he’d enjoyed himself but didn’t really feel the need to ever go back. But the next day, we were still talking about our experiences in the House of Eternal Return, and we both admitted we were excited to explore the place again. (Maybe it’s called the House of Eternal Return because so many visitors want to go back.)

The Man took this photo of me photographing a tiny portal in the bathroom medicine cabinet.

I can’t speak for other people who’ve been there, but The Man and I are saving our pennies so we can visit Meow Wolf again.

I took the photos in this post, except for the very last one. The low light in most of the exhibits and the camera on my cheap phone made for substandard photographs. My apologies.

Oh Taos!

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Recently I asked my Patreon patrons what sort of content they wanted in their monthly email update. One of them responded, “What’s the deal with Taos, it’s freakin weird…”

I can only speak from my own experiences in Taos during the last almost-a-decade during which I’ve been in and out of the area, learning about the place. Why is Taos so freakin’ weird? I have my ideas.

The first thing you need to know is that Taos is both a town and a county. The town of Taos is (perhaps not surprisingly) the county seat of Taos County. The town of Taos has a population just under 5,700 folks while Taos County boasts a whopping 32,795 people.

When I talk about “Taos,” I’m usually speaking about the whole county, including the rural areas surrounding the small town in the mountains of Northern New Mexico with a mean elevation of 8,510 feet [2,590 m] (according to Wikipedia). For example, if someone mentions skiing “in Taos,” that person is not talking about skiing in the town of Taos. There is no skiing in the town of Taos. Skiing “in Taos” really means skiing in the Taos Ski Valley, a village in Taos County about 19 miles northeast of the town of Taos.

Part of what makes Taos weird (or at least interesting) is the mix of people who live there…

Want to read more? Join me on Patreon where you can get extra content from me through periodic posts on the site and a monthly email update. At the Fans support level ($2 per month), you can get access to all the posts on my Patreon page. At the Pals support level ($5 per month), you can get access to all the posts on my Patreon page as well as a monthly email update like the one I teased you with above. You can get those perks and extra goodies if you support me at the Friends ($10 per month), Super Friends ($20 per month), Besties ($30 per month), or BFFs ($50 per month) levels. Anyone who joins me on Patreon and mentions this post will receive all of the content of the update as an email. To join me on Patreon, just click on the button below the search bar in the column to the right.

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Thanks to everyone who supports me! I appreciate you reading my stories, rants, and observations; commenting on my posts; and supporting me monetarily. Thanks for being here with me.

Heather

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The Man and Jerico the dog had gone down to the river while I worked on my blog at a coffee shop. I’d nearly finished scheduling a second post when The Man appeared next to my right shoulder.

As he often does, he began in the middle.

She was down by the river, he said. She said she wanted to come to town, but I think she wants to go back.

I looked past him and saw a very tall woman with very short hair. The hair she did have was entirely grey. She was wearing a bright pink t-shirt and long pants. She said her name was Heather, and I introduced myself.

I told The Man I needed about ten minutes to finish what I was working on, and then I’d be ready to go. All the while I was talking to The Man, I could see Heather was looking over my shoulder at my computer screen. Uncool, lady. Uncool.

The Man asked me to open up some business stuff he needed to take a look at, so I went to the webpage he needed. While I was navigating the internet, Heather came around to my left side. I was sitting alone at a counter. There were several tall stools at the counter, and they were jammed close together. When I’d sat down, I’d only moved the one next to me slightly, so it was still close to me. Instead of moving all the stools over just a little, Heather left the one next to me too close so when she sat down, we were practically touching. As soon as she sat down, I could tell she was again trying to see what was on my computer screen.

In less than five minutes after meeting Heather, I knew she had some problems with boundaries. Not only was she physically closer to me than I found comfortable, but trying to read my computer screen was really over the line. Most people in our society know to keep a physical distance from strangers and not to read over anybody’s shoulder unless invited to do so. Either she didn’t recognize these boundaries at all or she simply chose to ignore them.

I wondered why this person was with The Man. I suspected he’s picked her up hitchhiking. She probably needed a ride to the other side of town, where we were going anyway. No biggie. Hitchhiking is a time-honored tradition in Northern New Mexico, and The Man and I both pick up hitchhikers whenever we can.

The Man and I finished looking at the business stuff, and he went off to get another cup of coffee.

I sure could use a beer, Heather said, and that was another red flag, as it was only eleven o’clock in the morning.

I know I shouldn’t judge, but drinking alcohol so early in the day always seems like a bad idea to me. I suppose maybe Heather hadn’t had a beer in days and was ready for one despite the early hour. I suppose she could have been awake since 4am and was ready for a beer after seven hours of consciousness. I suppose a lot of things are possible, but what I’ve witnessed has shown having a beer so early in the day often leads to trouble.

When The Man came back with his coffee, Heather immediately asked him for a drink, which I thought was a bold move. The paper cup from my earlier coffee was still sitting next to my laptop, so he put about a quarter of his fresh coffee into it and handed it to her.

I was still trying to finish my blog post.

I like your Crystal Bible, Heather said to me.

It took me a moment to realize she was talking about the reference book by Judy Hall I’d left in the truck.

Oh yeah! It’s a good one! I said with a smile, then turned back to my work.

Heather said she needed tobacco and asked if there was a smoke shop nearby. I said I didn’t know, then remembered there was a vape store just down from the coffee shop. I mentioned the vape shop, but said I didn’t know if there was tobacco for sale there.

Heather must have gotten bored because she said she was going to wait in the truck. I didn’t know if that was going to work out for her. The Man had probably locked the truck and Jerico was probably going to bark at her if she approached the truck, but I was confident she would figure something out.

Once Heather went outside, The Man filled me in on how he’d met her.

He was down by the river. Heather started following him from a distance and watching him through the trees. When she got closer, he asked her how she was doing. She said she wasn’t doing very good. She said she’s had bad dreams. She told him she was camping nearby, but she didn’t feel safe there. She said she wanted to go into town. She asked The Man to give her a ride. He agreed. She grabbed her meager belongings, and they got into the truck.

They hadn’t gone far down the road when Heather asked The Man if he had seen the woman with the dreadlocks. He said he hadn’t seen her. Heather wondered if the woman with the dreadlocks had come to help her, and if she (Heather) should go back to the river. The Man said he’d bring her back to the river if that’s where she wanted to go. Heather said she wanted to go into town.

They’d gone a little ways further down the road when Heather said, Pull over! Pull over! She said she was having a panic attack. The Man maneuvered the truck into the next pullout on the mountain road they were traveling on. He told Heather again that he would take her back to the river, but she pulled herself together and said she wanted to go into town.

The Man started driving again. He heard the distinctive sound of his water bottle being opened. He looked over and saw Heather taking a large gulp of water from his bottle. She hadn’t asked permission; she’d just helped herself. Of course, The Man didn’t begrudge her the water, but he didn’t care to have a stranger drink straight from his bottle. I wouldn’t either.

At this point, The Man didn’t know how to help Heather, but he didn’t know how to get away from her either. He told her he had to pick up his girlfriend (me).

She asked me if I had a place where she could camp, The Man told me. I shook my head. She’d already crossed my personal-space boundary, my privacy boundary, and The Man’s drinking-from –his-water-bottle-without-permission boundary. What would she be like if we took her to our home? Would she lie down in our bed and wear our clothes? Would she demand we drive her back to town as soon as we pulled into our driveway? Taking her to our place seemed like a very bad idea.

I finished up my blog post and started packing my things. In less than an hour, I was supposed to show up at my new place of employment to do my new-hire paperwork.

We can give her a ride wherever she needs to go in town, I told The Man. Getting ourselves any more entangle with her seemed like a very bad idea.

By the time I finished packing everything and went outside, Heather and The Man were both milling around near our truck.

I walked up to Heather. She towered over me.

Is there somewhere in town you need to go? I asked her. I can give you a ride somewhere in town.

She said she thought she’d go back to her campsite near the river. I explained we weren’t going that way for a while. I told her I had to do a thing for work and didn’t know how long it was going to take. She said she didn’t want to go any further into town but  was hoping to get some toilet paper and tobacco. I told her I had some toilet paper she could have. I walked around to the other side of the truck, grabbed the roll of TP I had stashed in the truck’s door storage pocket, and gave it to her.

Her things—a rolled up sleeping bad, a tent bag (presumably with a tent in it), and a poorly folded tarp—were in the back of our truck. The Man and I unloaded the items and set them next to a concrete barricade separating the parking lot form the street. Heather was heading to the liquor store next door.

She said something about wanting a water bottle, The Man said to me softly.

I don’t have an extra water bottle with me, I told him. I’ve got some water bottles at home…I trailed off. I don’t really want to give away my $30 water bottle (an Eco Vessel bottle I’d splurged on a couple years back while I was working and had some spending money.)

The Man admitted he didn’t want to give away his water bottle either. Instead, he took his now empty paper coffee cup, rinsed it, and filled it from the big drinking water tank in the back of the truck. He added the cup of water to the small pile of Heather’s belongings.

Heather was almost to the door of the liquor store. I was torn. Part of me wanted to let her go upon her way uninterrupted, but part of me knew I needed to let her know her things were no longer in our truck. What if someone stole her things after we left and before she made it back to the parking lot to retrieve them? What if something was left in the truck and she thought we’d stolen it? I wanted to officially relinquish responsibility of her belongings before I drove away.

Heather, I called out, and she came over. I pointed out her things and told her we had to go. Just as I’d feared, when I walked toward the truck, she followed me.

I sure do like that Crystal Bible, she started in again.

It is a good one, I told her again. I use it when I’m selling my jewelry and shiny rocks.

Oh, she said, sounding disappointed. Do you have another one? she asked hopefully. I really like it.

I don’t have another one, I answered truthfully, and I use that one, I continued, also truthfully.

Before I could get away, Heather asked me about a place where she could camp. I told her about the rest area where I stayed when I was homeless but let her know she would have to dodge the attendant who worked there during the day. She didn’t seem to like the idea of having to dodge a worker but then said she’d go to the rest area with us.

I told her we weren’t going to the rest area. I explained again that we were going into town. Then I hurried over to the truck, got in, and started the engine. Of course, other vehicles were leaving the crowded parking lot, and I couldn’t back out and make my hoped for quick getaway. I was stuck.

Heather went over to the passenger side of the truck where The Man was sitting. Mark! Mark! she called out, although The Man’s name sounds nothing remotely like the name Mark. His window was open, and she stood there and asked him for something. I’d stopped paying attention to her in my focus to back out. When The Man didn’t have what she wanted, she came around to my side. She stood so close to the vehicle, I couldn’t move when my time came.

Do you have a couple of bucks I can have? she asked me.

I fished my wallet out of my bag, but found only a single. I handed it to her and told her it was all I had.

Ok! We’ve got to go now, I said, trying not to sound unkind. Heather moved, and we left.

The Man and I spent the next few days wondering what we could have done to help Heather and feeling guilty for not having done more. Should I have handed over my water bottle? Would Mother Theresa have handed over her water bottle? Should we have dropped everything and driven her back to her campsite or the rest area? Should we have let her come out to our place? Is there anything we could have done to really help her? How do I help others (especially those who may be difficult to help) without jeopardizing my own mental health?

I think too often people tell themselves there was nothing I could have done to make themselves feel better for not having done more. I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t do all she can. Also, I don’t want to be cranky with Heather because she wanted and needed and asked for things. All that said, I still strongly suspect letting her stay at our place would have only led to grief.

I did put another roll of toilet paper in the truck, along with a Nalgene bottle filled with drinking water so I can help the next person who has those needs. I’ve also thought again about how grateful I am to be able to function pretty well in the society I live in. I may suffer from depression and anxiety, but I can typically move through the world without too many problems. Heather reminded me that many people don’t have that privilege.

Off the Cliff

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The Man and I and Jerico the dog took my New Mexico State Parks Pass and went camping at Bluewater Lake State Park between Gallup and Grants, New Mexico. We were staying in the Canyonside Campground near the trailhead for the Canyonside Trail.

Tall, tree-covered canyon walls in the distance. Shallow creek in the foreground.
Bluewater Creek down below

As you may have guessed from the name of the campground and the trail, we were camped on the side of a canyon. Specifically, we were camped above the canyon, but trees and vegetation blocked the view of Bluewater Creek down below. It was easy to forget the land dropped dropped dropped right across from where the van was parked.

It was late September, late in the camping season, so we had the campground loop mostly to ourselves. Some folks in a popup camper were in the area when we arrived on Saturday, but they left late the next day. An elderly couple camped catacorner and across the road from the site we had chosen, but they moved to a spot with a shade cover in a different part of the park after a couple of days when the weather forecast called for rain.

Because the area was underpopulated, The Man felt comfortable throwing the ball for Jerico. He threw the ball away from other campers and kept it pretty close to home.

As I’ve written before, Jerico loves to play ball. He loves for us to pet him, he loves Rachael Ray dog food and any sort of yummy treat, but most of all, he loves to play ball. In the last year, it has become possible to throw the ball enough to wear Jerico out. After fifteen to twenty minutes of chasing and retrieving the ball (depending on the temperature outside) he has to lie down and rest, but in another fifteen or twenty minutes, he’s raring to chase and retrieve the ball again.

A man and dog stand on a rock overhang. Both look down into a green canyon.
Jerico and The Man look down into the canyon.

The Man has thrown the ball for Jerico for countless hours in the last seven or so years. He’s usually very careful to never throw the ball anywhere dangerous because Jerico doesn’t have the sense to stay away from danger. All Jerico cares about is the ball. Jerico focuses entirely on the ball. He doesn’t think about where the ball is going or the relative safety or danger of going after it. Once the ball is thrown, he simply takes off after it.

The Man is usually very careful about where he throws the ball, but this day something went wrong. Whether he was distracted and didn’t think about where he was aiming the ball or if the ball bounced and went off in the wrong direction, I don’t know. Suddenly I heard The Man yelling No! and Stay!

I’m sure you’ve guessed what happened. The ball went toward the canyon and Jerico was not going to hesitate to follow it. Luckily, The Man intervened in time and kept Jerico from blindly giving chase.

The Man put Jerico in the van and searched the area around the drop off in hopes of finding the ball stopped by a large rock or fallen tree branch. No such luck. The ball was gone. No doubt it had rolled and bounced its way down to the canyon floor.

Jerico was not happy about the loss of his ball. He looked at The Man expectantly and barked.

In the past, when the Man was done playing, he sometimes took the ball away from Jerico and put it out of his reach. I think that’s what Jerico thought had happened. He settled down after about ten minutes of barking and expectant looks. However, later in the day, he got more insistent inhis looks and barks. We knew the signs. He was ready to chase the ball again.

A dog plays with a popped soccer ball that's bigger than his head.
Oliver will chase and retrieve any ball, even if he’s popped it, even if it’s bigger than his head.

The Man usually travels with a supply of the blue racquetballs Jerico likes to chase. (Of course, Jerico will chase and retrieve any ball, but the racquetballs are light enough for him to bounce off his nose and catch in midair.) The Man looked all over the van and couldn’t find a single blue racquetball. He realized he’d left the extras in his van which we’d stored in a friend’s backyard over 300 miles away.

Jerico grew more insistent. He really wanted to play ball.

Look dude, The Man said to him, we’re not going 30 miles to Wal-Mart just to get balls.

Jerico obviously didn’t understand.

We had to keep a close eye on the dog. He kept trying to go near the drop off to sniff around. He’s part beagle, so I have no doubt he could have picked up its scent. We were still concerned he would jump off the cliff fof the ball with no concern for his safety.

A dog in an orange harness stands among rocks and tree.

By the next morning, Jerico was being a huge pain in the neck. He would look at us and bark, toss his head, and prance around. We knew what he wanted, but had not way of giving it to him. The barking just went on and on.

I guess we’re going to have to go to Wal-Mart, The Man grumbled.

We had some things to do at the public library in Grants, then The man and I had a lunch date at the local Pizza Hut. It was mid-afternoon by the time we arrived at Wal-Mart. We made a beeline to the sporting goods department, only to find there wasn’t a single racquetball to be found. There wasn’t even an empty space on the shelf where racquetballs should have been.

The Man said we’d have to get tennis ball, but we couldn’t find any of those either.

The Man went to the nearby toy department and asked for help, but the associate he brought back to sporting goods with him couldn’t find racquet or tennis balls either. She shrugged, said she was new, and wandered back to the boxes of toys she’d been unpacking.

Another worker we cornered said to look for tennis balls in the pet department. We found some there, which we purchased, but we wondered where the tennis and racquetball players of Grants get their balls.

Once back at our camp at the state park, The man pulled out one of the new especially-for-dog tennis balls out of the package and played a game of fetch with Jerico. You can bet he was super careful to throw the ball well away from the canyon.

Generator Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quiet hours start at ten, he grumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He asked me if I thought he should report them.

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

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

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

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

Caterwauling

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It was our very first evening at Rockhound State Park near Deming, NM, using our brand new New Mexico State Parks annual camping passes. On our way to the shower house, I saw a cat sitting on a rock just outside the campground.

Silhouette of Cat Under Orange Sunset

Is that a cat? I asked, pointing, and The Man confirmed that it was.

It must belong to a camper, I said. My friend Coyote Sue travels with her cat who is allowed to leave the RV and explore the area, so I assumed the cat I saw was a traveling pet.

The Man said he thought the cat had once been a pet who had gotten away from its people and now lived wild in the park.

I didn’t give the cat much thought until we got back to our campsite and The Man suggested we put away the dishes, pots, and utensils we’d left out to dry after washing up after dinner. He said he didn’t want critters scampering over our clean dishware, and he mentioned the cat. I was still convinced the cat belonged to someone camping, so I didn’t think we needed to worry about it sullying our cooking gear. I did think we might need to be concerned about mice or raccoons, so I helped put things away.

We hung out in my van until the sun set, then The Man went off to his minivan to go to bed. He muttered something about the cat as he was getting into his rig, but I didn’t know what he was talking about until i went outside to brush my teeth. From out of the darkness, I heard not just a dainty meow, but loud feline moaning. The cat was close and it was loud. Its call sounded something like this: mmmmROWRrrrr! Of course, it didn’t make this sound once, but several times in succession.mmmmROWRrrrr! mmmmROWRrrrr! mmmmROWRrrrr!

I looked around on our campsite and out in the darkness saw two glowing green eyes. The situation freaked me out. This cat sound was creepy, and the creature was close. What if it were rabid? What if it decided to attack me? I took a step toward the eyes to find out if the cat would move, and it dashed deeper into the darkness. I felt better when the cat showed fear, but I wasn’t pleased when it continued to moan just out of my sight. I stood in the doorway of my van and brushed my teeth really quick. I was glad when my teeth were clean, and I could go inside the van and shut the door behind me.

In the morning we found no sign of the cat. There was no indication it had climbed up on our picnic table or tried to gain access to our cooler or any of our kitchen tubs. We didn’t see or hear the cat at all during the day, but shortly after dark we heard it again. mmmmROWRrrrr! mmmmROWRrrrr! mmmmROWRrrrr!

We thought it was checking our area for food scraps or begging for a handout. The Man thought other campers probably fed it. Between meeting our own needs and caring for Jerico the dog, we had just about all the responsibilities we could handle. Neither of us suggested we try to take in a stray cat.

The cat must have been discouraged by our lack of food offerings, or maybe it was opposed to the three dogs (and their people) that camped next door to us for nearly a week. In any case, it didn’t come around every night. We heard it a few nights during our two-week stay, but it was not a permanent fixture in our area.

The weather was awful on our last night at Rockhound State Park. The wind blew relentlessly all day, and by three o’clock in the afternoon (before we could even begin to prepare dinner), snow began to fall. Around 5pm, The Man braved the elements to cook four grilled cheese sandwiches on our Coleman stove that sat on the picnic table. I was grateful to have something rather than nothing in my belly, but it wasn’t the dinner I’d been hoping for. I wasn’t happy with the cold or the snow, and I was glad to settle down under my blankets when The Man said he was ready to go to his own bed.

Just like the narrator in “The Night Before Christmas,” I had settled down for “for a long winter’s nap” when something disturbed my slumber. I don’t know what time it was when The Man threw open my van’s side door, but i was in a deep sleep when it happened. His voice woke me right up when he asked loudly, Are you ok?

I sat up, was blinded by the light of his headlamp, and asked, What’s happening?

He continued to ask if I was ok. I’m sure my eyes were huge with surprise and confusion.

Once I stopped asking him what was happening, I began to assure him I was ok. Why did he think something was wrong?

He said he’d heard me making strange noises. He said he though I was having a heart attack or otherwise dying.

I was dreaming, I told him as I woke up a little more and remembered. My dream wasn’t scary, so I don’t think I would have been screaming or making other noises of distress. I wondered what kind of noises I could have been making that were loud enough for him to hear but not loud enough to wake me up.

You were in your van and you heard me making noises while I was in my van? I asked him. He said yes, which seemed unlikely to me, but I didn’t want to argue. I only wanted to go back to sleep. I assured him I was fine, and he went back to his minivan, leaving me to snuggle under my blankets once again.

In the morning light, The Man admitted that maybe it wasn’t me he had heard in the night. Maybe it was the cat he’d heard.

It didn’t sound like the cat normally sounds, he explained. Maybe the cat was upset about the weather, The Man conjectured. Maybe the cat was vocally protesting the cold and the snow. I thought a protesting feline was a likely cause of noise loud enough to disturb The Man while he inside his van. I doubted he would be able to hear any noise less than screaming coming from my van when he was inside his.

We packed up our gear and loaded both vans that morning. By afternoon, we were at a new state park where no half-wild felines caterwauled in the night.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-art-backlight-backlit-219958/.

Ladies’ Underwear

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I was in a coffee shop/café in a small New Mexico town. The place was more café than coffee shop. A waitress met me at the door, menu in hand. I told her I’d be there a while writing and asked if I should sit somewhere out of the way. She said I could sit wherever I wanted, so I chose a spot away from the entrance but near an electrical outlet. The waitress left me with a menu and said she’d be back soon.

I’d never been to this establishment before and (wrongly) assumed I could order a muffin or a glass of iced tea a the counter, then blend in with the other folks drinking coffee and doing whatever work people do in coffee shops. When I walked in around 8:30 on that Monday morning, only one other table was occupied. During the three hours I was there, only a few other customers came in. There’s no blending in when business is so slow.

I ordered a small house blend coffee, which I didn’t really want and shouldn’t have had, but it was the least expensive item on the beverage menu. I also ordered a cinnamon roll, which I’m not usually into, but I’d read online raves about this shop’s variation on the treat.

The waitress asked if I wanted cream in my coffee, and I said yes. She was gone before I could ask for sugar too. I figured there must be sugar packets in the little basket on the table.

Once I got my laptop set up, I looked around the place. There were many arrangements of faded fake flowers, and the titles and covers on the books on the shelves (for sale or only for in-store skimming, I do not know) hinted at religious content. The music drifting softly through the place was of a very calm religious nature. The rendition of “I Saw the Light” playing on the stereo was not the thank God a higher being has saved me from my wicked, wicked self Hank Williams version. I imagine the light this calm chorus saw was a faintly flickering candle barely needed to illuminate the way to the heavenly afterlife the mild singers were sure to find at the end of their gentle lives. Then a woman (the baker?) came from the kitchen and into the dining area. She was wearing the simple, modest dress and white bun covering bonnet that said Mennonite to me. Oh boy. I’d wandered into quite a religious establishment.

The waitress (dressed in a secular pair of jeans and a dark t-shirt) came back to my table bearing a mug of coffee and a cinnamon roll on a disposable plate. I asked her if the shop had WiFi, and (thankfully) she said yes. She was off getting the password for me when I realized there was no sugar in the basket on the table. Drats! What was a sugar fiend like me to do?

I looked down at the large cinnamon roll in front of me. It was topped with pecans and caramel, and I imagined it would be quite sweet. Upon experimentation, I realized if I took a drink of coffee immediately after biting into the roll, I didn’t need even a grain of sugar in my coffee

The cinnamon roll was delicious. Most cinnamon rolls seem to be made with a slightly sweet bread, which I don’t enjoy very much. The base of this roll was more like a sweet biscuit. So yummy!

While I was studying the menu, setting up my laptop, asking about WiFi, waiting for, and then enjoying my treat, a party of three ate breakfast at a table in the front of the café. An elderly couple was visiting with a younger man. I wasn’t eavesdropping carefully on their conversation, but the old people were talking loudly enough for me to pick up a thing or two.

It sounded as if the couple had recently gone somewhere cold on vacation or for a weekend getaway. There was mention of snow, cold temperatures, and a snowmobile.

I had me some ladies’ underwear, the old man said in a voice that boomed through the building.

My eavesdropping ears perked up. This information might be the most interesting ever conveyed in this small-town Christian coffee shop.

My hopes of overhearing a tale of elder cross-dressing kink was dashed when the woman immediately corrected him, saying,Silk underwear! You had silk underwear!

I suppose the man wore a pair of long silk underwear meant to provide warmth during his venture into the winter wonderland. He probably thought about women’s underwear commonly being made of silk and somewhere in his brain silk long johns got tangled into ladies’ underwear. I quickly realized the conversation was not of much interest to me as it was primarily about staying warm in the cold outdoors. Sigh.

Oh well. At leas the cinnamon roll and coffee were delicious.



What You Can Learn from My Land-Buying Mistakes

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If you keep up with my blog, you know that recently my partner and I bought some land in Southern New Mexico. We didn’t do our homework until it was too late. After we bought the land, we realized we weren’t allowed to live in the land in a van, RV, school bus, or any other temporary dwelling. Today I’ll share what I learned from the experience so you won’t make the same mistakes I did.

In several vandwelling/nomad groups I’m in on Facebook, people often bring up the idea of buying a small piece of inexpensive land in a rural location and using this as a home base. It seems they think, as my partner and I did, that property owners can pretty much do whatever they want on their own land. This is not always the case! Before you buy any land to use as a place to park your van or RV, do your research.

If you’re looking at ads for land online, read the whole thing very carefully and be sure to scrutinize the fine print. When my partner’s sister looked at online ads for land in the county where we were, she found several that were aimed at snowbirds who wanted a place to park an RV for the winter. Near the bottom ad, she found information on the limits placed on parking an RV within the county. If you only want to park your van or RV on a piece of property for 245 days a year (or whatever the actual limit is), great! However, if you want to leave an RV on the land year round while you go off exploring in a smaller rig, you need to know about these sorts of time limits.

The same sister told us that years ago, she and her partner were considering purchasing land in a remote area of Wyoming or Montana. There was lots of land available, but upon close scrutiny, she found the parcels had to either be left empty or a house had to be built there within a specified time period. If you have no plans to build a house, be sure you’re not buying land where building a conventional dwelling it the only way you’ll be allowed to live on your property.

Don’t automatically trust what the person you’re buying land from tells you can be done on the property. While I don’t think the woman we bought land from way trying to mislead us, I’m not so sure about the guy who sold the land to her.  She said she asked him if she was allowed to camp on the property and he told her doing so would be no problem. While she only camped on the land a week or two at a time once or twice a year, keeping her within the limits of the of the county ordinance that says an RV can be on undeveloped property for 30 days out of a year, she was breaking the subdivision covenant which says a temporary dwelling on the property can only be utilized while a house is being built. Maybe the guy who sold her the land wasn’t exactly lying. Maybe he’d been misinformed or assumed. In any case, don’t assume what you are told about a piece of property is true. 

Talk to a realtor if possible. I suspect realtors are held to higher ethical standards because they are professionals. I also suspect realtors are better informed than your average Joe trying to sell off some property. On the other hand, realtors are people too. Some of are unethical. Some are lazy. Some are misinformed. So while I might use a realtor as a source of information, I would use that information as a starting point for my own research. I wouldn’t unquestioningly believe everything that came out of a realtor’s mouth.

Speaking of realtor’s, a former realtor gave me some after-the-fact advice in a Facebook group. She said,


you definitely always want to check restrictions both on the deed and county/city. Also make sure you have legal access to the property. And don’t just go by looks. It may look like there’s a nice access road only to find out that’s not actual[ly] yours legally to use. And as mentioned above make sure there’s no zoning restrictions that would prevent what you want to do.

Doing an internet search on the particular area or subdivision you are interested in can alert you to any controversy surrounding the use of the land. What are landowners complaining about? Do their complaints relate to what you want to do with the land you purchase? Complaints don’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy land, but learning about controversy may allow you to go into a deal with your eyes wide open.

Talk to county officials (or folks who work their offices) who can tell you about ordinances, subdivision covenants, and land use restrictions. If you don’t know who to talk to, try the county recorder’s office, the county clerk, the county assessor’s office, or the office of county planning and development. If you call the wrong office, the person you talk to can point you in the right direction.

When you talk to the appropriate county worker or official, explain what you want to do on your land. Be clear and honest. I know sometimes we vandwellers and nomads have to be vague about how we live our lives because bureaucracy is not set up to accommodate people like us. However, I can assure you that it’s NO FUN to buy a piece of land and find out later that you can’t do with it what you intended to. I believe it’s better to find out before you plunk down your money that you’re not allowed to do what you have in mind with the property you are about to buy.

You may have better luck finding a place to accommodate you if you primarily want to own a piece of land to use as your permanent address, but not to live on for several months out of the year. Maybe your plan is to visit the land once or twice a year and live out of your van there for a week or two while you relax or do repairs and maintenance on your rig. This plan may go over better in a rural area than would a scheme to park on old RV or school bus there for long periods of time. I suspect the reason the woman we bought the land from got away with camping there over the course of several years was because she didn’t go there often and when she did, she didn’t stay long.

The bottom line is, know what you’re getting into before you lay your money down. We were lucky; when we realized we couldn’t do what we wanted with the land, the seller returned our money, and we transferred the land back to her. Most people who find out they can’t do what they want on their land will not be able to report this sort of happy ending.