Tag Archives: the Bridge

Accusations

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The group of vendors I sometimes sell with on the side of the highway is a varied bunch. Some are serious business people with huge selections of merchandise displayed on multiple tables. Others are just passing through, trying to sell a few things in hopes of earning enough gas money or beer money to make it down the road. Some vendors hand-make everything they sell, while others buy mass produced items and sell them at a big markup. Some vendors are honest about their products and others, not so much. Common lies involve saying a stone is turquoise when it isn’t and telling a potential customer an item was made by the vendor (or a member of the vendor’s family) when the item was actually imported from a developing country.

I don’t believe in lying to customers, but I don’t narc out other vendors when I hear them doing it. Do I think lying to customers is wrong? Yes. Do I think it’s my place to police other? No.

Loyalties are ever-changing among vendors. Two people may be friends today and enemies next week. Folks get mad at each other over parking and (real or imagined) lying and taking up too much space.

I try to stay on friendly terms with everyone, although there are certainly some vendors I don’t like much. I have no use for bossy or nosey behavior, and many vendors act in those ways. The most common nosey question is How are you doing?/How did you do today? What people really mean is, Are you making/did you make any money? When I’m asked how I’m doing or how I did, I start rambling about the beautiful weather or seeing my friends or meeting nice people. Only the boldest of people (or those with no capacity to pick up on my social cues) go on to actually verbalize the word money. (The last time another vendor actually asked me if I was making money, customers approached my table in the nick of time, and I was able to ignore Nosey Nelly until she got bored and wandered away.)

Some of the vendor grudges are old. One woman has been despised for years, long before I crawled out of the sage and joined the community. Part of the reason she’s despised is because she makes a lot of money. She’s a good business woman who knows what merchandise is going to sell and how to talk to customers to get them to buy. She also exhibits unpredictable behavior. One day she’ll be someone’s bosom buddy and the next she’ll scream curses at the same person. The only thing she loves more than being the bearer of bad news is getting other vendors all riled up with negativity and too upset to sell.

This woman has gotten a little nicer since her husband died and she’s all alone in the world, but we’ve all seen her turn against a friend with little provocation. Anyone with any sense treads lightly around her.

The funniest altercation I’ve seen her involved in happened a few summers ago. I don’t remember why people were mad at each other or who was taking what side. I do remember the despised woman was pissed at one of the vendors who drives in from out of state.

This guy allegedly sells pain pills along with his glass pipes, chile powder, osha root, and the baskets and purses he says his wife makes (despite the “Made in Mexico” tags still attached to them). I’ve never bought pain pills from him. (For the record, I’ve never bought pain pills from anyone, even a pharmacist.) I’ve never caught him in the middle of a pain pill transaction. I’ve never heard him offer to sell anyone pain pills, but I’ve heard the word on the street, and the word is he sells pain pills.

It was a hot summer day, and there weren’t many customers. Trouble tends to start when there aren’t many customers. Customers keep vendors busy, and when there aren’t enough of them, some vendors get bored and start picking fights.

The despised woman looked over at the out-of-state vendor and out of nowhere started yelling, Drug dealer! Drug dealer!

Without missing a beat, the out-of-state vendor yelled right back at her with his gravely, Spanish accented voice, Weetch! Weetch!

She had no response, just sat back down behind her table and waited for a potential customer to come along.

Coyote at the Bridge

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I’d been away from the Bridge for a while. When I left in late October, I planned to be back in time for Spring Break, but plans change. By December, I’d decided I wanted to spend the summer working as a camp host. By January I’d applied for several camp host positions. By April, I was on my way to California.

I decided to head back to New Mexico when my work season ended. If nothing else, I needed to say good-bye to friends who thought I would only be gone a few months when I left. Of course, once I was back, I couldn’t resist the siren’s song of making a few bucks at the Bridge. Soon I was unfolding my tables and setting out my wares.

Many aspects of life at the Bridge were unchanged. A dozen or more vendors vied for the tourist dollars. Vendors still fought among themselves but showed each other kindness as well. I continued to arrive early to get a good spot where I could attract the attentions of shoppers. Of course, the scenery was still beautiful; the rugged high desert landscape surrounded by snow-peaked mountains always makes me stop and take notice.

There were differences too. Although still officially fall when I arrived, days were cold. I soon wore a comical number of colorful layers in an attempt to stay warm. Days were shorter too. While in the summer we had until seven o’clock or later to catch the sunset visitors, in October and November, daylight was gone by 5pm. Also, the number of visitors must have been less than half of what we saw in the summer.

This photo shows the wild coyote in the vending area at the Bridge.

My favorite addition to the Bridge community was the coyote.

During the many nights and early mornings I’d spent at the Bridge, first while sleeping in a picnic pavilion and later in my van, I’d heard plenty of coyotes. Sometimes there’d be simple, predictable howling, but often I heard the yipping and yapping I anthropomorphized as “partying”–as in the coyotes are really partying tonight. While I knew the coyotes were relatively close because I could hear them, I never saw one. For all the noise they make, coyotes know how to be visibly discreet, so I was surprised to see one skulking around in the sage on the highway side of the fence, pretty close to where the vendors set up.

I was excited to see the coyote, but other vendors were blasé . They knew this coyote; it had been coming around for a while.

Some of the vendors left food our for it. Early in the morning, when there weren’t many people around and food was available, the coyote would come right into the vending area. That’s when I realized the coyote walked with a limp, which is probably why it hung around close to humans who were willing to leave it food.

By talking to other vendors, I pieced together the coyote’s story.

Sometime after I had left the previous fall, the coyote’s foot had been injured. I don’t remember anyone saying what exactly had happened, but whether by trap or by gun (or some other way entirely), the coyote’s foot had been seriously hurt, and it could barely walk, much less run. The vendors saw it limping around and one of them (a great friend to animals although often causing strife for humans) started leaving meat out for the coyote. Her offerings probably got it through the winter when it couldn’t hunt.

The vendor who told me the coyote’s story repeatedly referred to it as “she.” I wasn’t sure if he could tell the animal’s sex by its size or markings or if he’d been close enough to check out its genitals. While I certainly never saw testicles or a penis, I can’t say I got a definitive look. Maybe because of the months the coyote had been around, the vendor felt confident in what he had and hadn’t seen.

While the coyote certainly wasn’t fat, it was by no means skeletal. I’d expect a coyote that was only living on human handouts to be bony and weak. This coyote was lean, but seemed healthy. I think the coyote was hunting again and only supplementing its diet with what the vendors shared.

Although the coyote obviously limped, it moved around well. It was still quick. It wasn’t difficult to imagine it hunting, especially if it used cunning to get the job done.

I had mixed feeling about the coyote hanging out so close to the vendors. I typically think wild animals should stay wild and humans should stay uninvolved in the lives of wild animals. I worried about how close to the

I worried about the coyote crossing the road, as it is doing in this photo.

road the coyote came when it skulked around the vending area looking for food. I got really nervous when I saw it actually cross the highway. I worried about what might happen to the coyote if it did a perfectly normal coyote thing like snatch a little dog for a snack. Now that the coyote could take care of itself, it was better off leaving humans behind.

On the other hand, I was glad the vendor had fed it when it was injured and couldn’t hunt. I’m glad she saved the coyote’s life. I was grateful for the opportunity to see the animal up close too. Not everyone gets to see the beautiful independence of wild creatures. Even though the coyote was eating scraps left by humans, it wasn’t begging. One look at the coyote and I knew it belonged only to itself.

I haven’t been to the Bridge in over a year, so I don’t know if the coyote still visits with the vendors early in the mornings, but I think of it whenever I hear a coyote howl.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

A Summer of Infinity Scarves

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I know summer is no time for infinity scarves. Most people living in the Northern Hemisphere are not going to bundle up anytime

These are four scarves I made for some of my lady friends back at the Bridge.

These are four scarves I made for some of my lady friends back at the Bridge.

between June and September. However, summer is when I had to time to make scarves, so after initial hesitation when I wasn’t sure I’d remember how to do the last steps of the infinity scarf process (I remembered!) I went on what I can only call a yarn bender. I didn’t want to go to work. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to clean the van. I didn’t want to cook, although I did want to eat. Mostly I just wanted to listen to podcasts and make infinity scarves.

(Read about the first two infinity scarves I made this summer here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/08/26/two-new-infinity-scarves/.)

The yarn bender started when the Chile Lady sent me two skeins of yarn. The yarn was thick, the sort of yarn intended to be used with my round looms. (When using the thin yarn that’s  more readily available at thrift stores, I use two strands at a time. The thick yarn requires only one strand at a time.) One skein of yarn was a charcoal grey. The other was a deep red, nearly a burgundy.

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Esmerelda is modeling the infinity scarf I made for Elsa.

I had missed Elsa’s birthday, so I decided to make her a scarf using the yarn the Chile Lady had sent. I decided instead of using alternating rows of colors, I would keep it simple and use the colors in two blocks. The thick yarn and the large blocks of color made the scarf-making go fast; I had the scarf ready in no time.

I don’t remember which scarf I made next. I just know I made scarves for Mariquita, Dawn, and Rose in quick succession. I remembered how Dawn had most liked the brightly colorful hats I’d had at the Bridge the last time I was there, so I made her a brightly colorful scarf. Mariquita is quiet and somewhat

Esmerelda is modeling the scarf I made for Rose, with a color scheme of rosy pinks and browns.

Esmerelda is modeling the scarf I made for Rose, with a color scheme of rosy pinks and browns.

reserved, so I made her a scarf with a more restrained color scheme of blues and seafoam greens. The color scheme for Rose’s scarf included rosy pinks and browns.

While I made infinity scarves, I listened to podcasts on my phone. One advantage to moving into the current decade where cell phones are concerned is that I can now put music and podcast episodes on my phone. While I made scarves, I listened to Risk, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Stuff You Should Know, and a new favorite Death, Sex, & Money.

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Esmerelda is modeling the scarf I made for Mariquita.

I also did Pimsleur Spanish lessons while I made scarves. I’ve been doing Pimsleur Spanish lessons off and on (mostly off) for about two years, since Tea loaned me the Pimsleur CDs her friend burned for her. I put the lessons on my laptop before my disc drive jammed. Before I realized I could transfer the lessons from my laptop onto my phone, it was a big deal to take out my laptop everyday, do my thirty minute Spanish lesson, then quickly turn off the computer to save as much battery power as possible. The charge on the battery in my phone lasts a lot longer than the charge on my laptop battery, and the phone is a lot easier to charge using an inverter and the van’s battery, so having the lessons on my phone has made my Spanish studying much easier.

These four scarves are not the last I made. Oh no! I made five more scarves after these. But I’ll save those for another day.

 

(Cold) Rain and Snow

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I first heard The Be Good Tanyas sing “Rain and Snow.”

I’d bought their CD Blue Horse on a whim. I hadn’t heard any of their music before, hadn’t even heard of the group, but I was intrigued by what I read about the CD in the catalog.

If I were ordering CDs from a catalog–and that’s what I remember–it must have been the late 1990s or the early 2000s. When I had some extra dollars back then, I’d sometimes ordered CDs from the Ladyslipper catalog.

(While researching this post, I was glad to discover that Ladyslipper Music is still around. According to their website [https://www.ladyslipper.org/],

Ladyslipper is a North Carolina non-profit, tax-exempt organization which has been involved in many facets of women’s music since 1976. Our basic purpose has consistently been to heighten public awareness of the achievements of women artists and musicians, and to expand the scope and availability of musical and literary recordings by women.)

If you’ve never heard of the The Be Good Tanyas, this is what the group’s website (http://www.begoodtanyas.com/about) has to say:

Alt folk trio The Be Good Tanyas have achieved cult status since the band’s luminous debut Blue Horse, an album named one of 2002’s top 50 releases by Q magazine (UK), firmly established the group on the Americana music scene. With subsequent releases, Chinatown and Hello Love, the band has met with ever growing critical and fan acclaim, garnering 4 star reviews in Rolling Stone and MOJO magazine and selling out concert halls across North America and Europe.

Frazey Ford, Trish Klein and Samantha Parton; three women with gorgeous, haunting and plaintive voices accompanied by rustic, sparse and soulful instrumentation, high lonesome harmonies, and intelligent song-writing.

One of the songs on Blue Horse is called “Rain and Snow.” It’s a lament about a hard life. A memorable couplet:

Well I married me a wife
She gave me trouble all my life

I particularly enjoyed the female singer wailing about her wife in the days before the legalization of same sex marriage.

Years later, when I started listening to the Grateful Dead, I was surprised to hear that group singing about the same troublesome wife. They’re doing that Be Good Tanyas song, I thought, until I realized a split second later that my chronology was wrong. Of course, the Grateful Dead had done it first.

The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics
According to The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics by David Dodd, the first documented performance of “Cold Rain and Snow” by the Grateful Dead was February 23, 1966. The song was recorded on the band’s eponymous 1967 debut album.

Dodd explains,

This tune comes from the Eastern-mountain music tradition, most likely the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina or Virginia. Rarely recorded, this white blues has long been popular among old-timey music groups. Pegging an “original” version is impossible, since it dates back (at least) to the nineteenth century and is “folk” music in the truest sense.

So to call “Cold Rain and Snow” a Grateful Dead song is a bit of an exaggeration, although the band did the arrangement of their version.

And it’s not a Be Good Tanyas song either, as I originally thought for over a decade. It’s an American song, by and about the mountain folks of the South.

One day, not so long after I showed up at the Bridge, when I was living out of a backpack and had few possessions to my name, I told Man Kim I’d thought The Be Good Tanyas had done the song first, until I heard the Dead singing it. He asked me if I wanted to hear The Be Good Tanyas’ version. Being starved for music, I enthusiastically said yes. He cued up the song on his MP3 player, and I stood next to his car to hear the song waft from his speakers. It was a small kindness of the sort that got me through those hard times.

Grateful Dead, The (Expanded & Remastered)
Blue Horse - Reissue

Old White People Crossing

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It was a slow weekday at the Bridge. More accurately, it was another slow weekday at the Bridge. The few tourists milling around were not buying, and all of the vendors were bored.

Gregorio was wandering around, talking to vendors, generally just passing the time. He strolled not very far out onto the Bridge and came back chuckling.

This is what he’d seen:

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No one I know has any idea who made the stencil (as it should be with street art), but I think the artist(s) did a great job. I love the details of the people’s hats and their stooped posture. The cane is a nice touch too. I think as a whole, the piece is hilarious.

Tourists and the Crisis Hotline Call Boxes

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Within the last year, the DOT installed crisis hotline call boxes on the Bridge. It was a long time coming. Every time someone committed suicide by jumping from the Bridge, there was an outcry that something needed to be done. One idea offered was to install nets to catch anyone who jumped. Another idea offered was to install phones to connect people with suicidal thoughts to the suicide prevention hotline.

I think people who truly want to end their lives will find a way to do so. However, I also think we (as a society) should do whatever we can to help people who are thinking about committing suicide. Many people having suicidal thoughts need counseling or other assistance, but don’t truly want to die. I’m not opposed to the crisis hotline phones, although I’m not sure they will actually keep anybody from jumping. Until statistics on how many lives were saved through the use of the phones are published in the local paper, we’ll probably never know if they are successful.

In any case, I am glad the phones provide an immediate way for folks who are considering jumping from the Bridge to get counseling from someone with training.

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This call box is out on the Bridge. In addition to the message “YOU ARE LOVED,” someone has also written on it, “Somewhere in the world someone is drinking coffee and smiling.”

When I left the Bridge over a year ago, the phones were in the process of being installed. Since I’ve been back, I’ve watched tourists notice and react to the phones.

Some people are confused by the phones, probably because they don’t much look like telephones. There’s no receiver and no keypad. There’s simply a button to push to connect to a counselor, and a series of holes which make up the speaker. I see people noticed the phone across from the vending area, do a double take, then stop and exam the phone while trying to figure out its purpose before moving on. I guess “call box” is a more accurate term for this equipment, but most of us vendors still call them “phones.”

Some people think the call boxes are pretty funny. When these folks realize what the call boxes are for, I hear them laughing, see them pretend to press the call button. Some of these jokesters (usually older-than-middle-age, ostensibly white men) pose in front of the call box and have someone in his party take a photo.

I don’t think the call boxes are funny. I don’t think suicide or attempted suicide is funny. As someone who’s struggled with (lived with, fought against) depression and suicidal thoughts for over 30 years, I don’t think anything associated with jumping off the Bridge is funny. I’ve been at the Bridge in the hours after someone has jumped, and it’s awful—sad, depressing, demoralizing, sobering. There’s nothing silly or lighthearted or funny about it.

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This call box is the one closest to the vendors. Friends of someone who jumped wrote their words of love and grief on it.

One Sunday at the end of November, the call button on the phone directly across the highway from the vendors was pressed twice.

Business was excruciatingly slow that day. It was cold and overcast, with few tourists and fewer shoppers. I was still at the Bridge less because I actually hoped to sell anything and more because I wanted to spend time with my vendor friends.

Out of the quiet of the day, I heard what I thought was a cell phone set on speaker ringing. The sound was louder than it would have been if someone nearby had actually had their phone set on speaker and was waiting for the person called to answer. I looked around to try to find the source of the sound.

No one else seemed to notice it.

I continued to look for the source of the sound. I glanced across the road and saw an Asian tourist family—a mom with two kids under ten years old—hanging around the crisis hotline call box. The mom looked confused, but the kids were giggling. I realized the ringing was coming from the call box.

I began screeching, They dialed the suicide phone! They dialed the suicide phone!

Vendors turned to look at me. I was pointing at the tourist family and still screeching, They dialed the suicide phone!

The crisis counselor came on the line and asked how she could help. The tourist mom said, Wrong number! quite loudly, and we all had to wonder how one could dial the wrong number on a phone that only connects to one place.

Hours later, only three vendors were left, and two of us were packing to leave. As Tea helped me fold my tablecloths, the other vendor told us that some kids had pushed the call button on the crisis hotline call box as they walked by. Sure enough, I could hear the ringing, then the counselor’s voice. The other vendor said the cops would be sent out if no one responded to the counselor.

What a waste of time and money and human emotion it would be if first responders were dispatched to look for a potential jumper or a body that wasn’t even out there. So I hurried across the street to talk to the counselor on the other end of the line.

When I walked up to the phone, the counselor was saying, Are you there?

I explained I was a vendor and one of us had seen some kids press the call button, but everything was ok. She thanked me, and I went back to finish packing before the snow started.

Wouldn’t you know, the car full of kids (teenage boys) who’d pressed the call button stopped on the highway right in front of the call box. One young man got out of the car and stood next to the call box.

I started screeching, Don’t press that button! as I stalked across the road. The boy looked confused and a little frightened.

I forget what I look like to other people. Here I was, this short little woman with fleecy, black sweatpants peeking from beneath a light summer skirt that didn’t match my heavy, multicolored wool sweater, the hood of the jacket under the sweater pulled up over my handmade wool hat that didn’t match anything I was wearing. And not only was I wearing weird clothes, I was also yelling and walking toward the kid. No wonder the young man looked concerned.

As I was repeating, Don’t push that button! the young man said, They (his friends, I presume) wanted me to hear what it said.

By that time I was standing in the road in front of the car so the boys couldn’t drive away until I was finished with them.

Do you know what that it? I asked him as he climbed back into the passenger seat.

He said he didn’t know. I told him it was a suicide hotline phone and if someone pushed the button, the cops would come out.

About then, I saw a truck hauling wood approaching in the lane behind the car full of young men. Tea saw the truck too and started shrieking at me, Blaize! Get out of the road! Get out of the road!

I yelled across the street to her, I see it! It (meaning the truck) can stop!

Then I turned back to the car full of young men and said, Don’t fuck with it! (meaning the crisis hotline phone.) I stepped up on the sidewalk and let the car full of young men drive away, then waved at the confused people in the truck as they slowly went past me.

I don’t have a job description at the Bridge, but if I did, I guess I’d have to add “crisis hotline call box monitor” to it.

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This is the call box that was getting all the attention.

We Feel for Your Situation

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It’s been a hard week at the Bridge so far. On Monday (after my usual 8+ hour day), I made $7. Yesterday, I did not have my table properly anchored, and the wind blew the whole thing (rocks, cholla cactus display “tree,” cinder block “tree” stand) over. I left in frustration after making $20 selling rocks to a very nice French woman. Today, the winds were worse (but I anchored both tables with rocks, tied down the table clothes made from sheets so they did not turn into sails, moved the van to block the wind, tied the “tree” to my side mirror to stabilize it, spent the majority of the day standing nearby so I could grab the “tree” and my flowerpot bracelet display in the event of movement). By about 4:45, I had made $10, and the wind had been blowing hard nearly nonstop for almost nine hours.

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About that time a man and woman stopped at my table. The man was quite a bit younger than the woman, who was probably ten years older than I am. They looked at some of my jewelry and tried to  pick up a necklace with a pendant I made from a skull carved out of yak bone and amethyst beads. The necklace was pinned to the cloth wrapped around the trunk of the “tree” to it wouldn’t blow away. When I offered to unpin it, the woman said they would go look at the Gorge, than come back and shop. I thought that if they bought the necklace, I would go home. (Home being my friend J’s place, where I am house and cat sitting.)

They came back from the Bridge, and I unpinned the necklace.The woman held it up to the guy’s neck, and before I could grab my mirror so he could see how it looked, he decided he didn’t want it. They looked at some other things. We talked about the wind, how it had been blowing hard all day. They admired my work. The woman asked where I lived, and I said, In my van, because it seemed too difficult to explain my complicated living situation to them. (Well, right now I’m house sitting, and I do that as much as I can, and there’s a trailer on my sweetheart’s property that I stay in when I’m out there, but it’s 40 miles from here, so when I’m working, I sleep in my van at night…) The woman got a really startled look on her face and did not seem to be thinking (as many people do), Cool! You get to travel around and see the world. I told them I live simply and don’t need a lot of money.

They walked away from my table. I told my friends selling next to me that I’d thought I was going to make the sale, and it was a bummer those people hadn’t bought the necklace.

Not five minutes later, a car pulled up right in front of my table. When the window rolled down, I saw it was that man and woman I’d just been talking to. The man was driving, and he asked if I provided car side service. I said sure, and saw that he was holding a bill in his hand. He said he’d decided to take the necklace. I grabbed it for him and was going to say, Where else can you get smoked yak bone? Before I could make my little weak joke, he said, We feel for your situation. I think I said, Oh while handing him the necklace and taking the twenty dollar bill. He said, Not like it’s a tragedy…It’s paradise right? I think he realized how awkward what he said sounded to me. (I don’t know what my face looked like.)

I wonder which part of my situation they are feeling for. The situation of living in my van? The situation of being in relentless wind all day? The situation of living simply and not having lots of money? And what is it that they feel about my situation? Pity? Envy? Astonishment? I’ll never know, but I can guess.

 After that I packed up. I’m at J’s place now. The cat is fed. Rice is cooking and when it’s done, I’ll add beans and green chiles and cheese and have myself a dinner. It’s a good life, despite the wind, despite the fact that money is slow right now.

Today I traded a necklace for a pin with a Grateful Dead dancing acid bear on it. The guy I made the trade with is 24, on the road, trying to see every state in the U. S of A. The pin was special to him, but he liked the necklace made with green and black hemp and a serpentine pendant so much he made the trade and excitedly had me put the necklace on him, even though he doesn’t usually wear necklaces.

It’s a good life. I get to meet people from around the world and no boss, nobody tells me what I have to do. I make my own decisions. I decide to stand in the wind and look at the mountains.

To read about more customers, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/26/turtle-ass/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/10/red-letter-day-2/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/12/hard-times-on-the-highway/ here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/14/mean-daddy/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/03/17/how-much-are-these/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/09/selling-hemp-again/