Monthly Archives: December 2015

Spending

Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year, New Look

Standard

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the new Rubber Tramp Artist site. It’s still me, Blaize Sun, sharing my stories, rants, and observations.

Rubber Tramp Artist used to be Throwing Stories Into the Ether. Although almost a year ago when I started writing, I really did feel as if I was sending my words out into the clouds, I now know I have readers (followers, even). The new name, Rubber Tramp Artist, says more about me and my life (and is shorter and–hopefully–easier to remember).

If you are a subscriber, thank you. I’ve transferred my subscribers to this new site. However, if you don’t get a notification of a post from me tomorrow, you can scroll down this page and subscribe again

I’ve transferred all the previous posts here, so you should be able to find your old favorites (or click around and see what I’ve been up to, if you are a new reader).

I wouldn’t be on this beautiful new page right now if it hadn’t been for the help of a dear computer-savvy friend. (Thank you.)

Thanks also to all of my readers, especially the folks who took time to write comments.

I hope 2016 is great for us all.

 

In appreciation,

Blaize Sun

Xmas Book Reviews

Standard

In celebration of the virgin birth, I am giving my readers a collection of reviews of Xmas related books today.

The Twelve Terrors of Christmas by John Updike with illustrations by Edward Gorey  (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29019.The_Twelve_Terrors_of_Christmas)

I really enjoyed this sort of anti-Christmas book. It points out how weird the Christmas holiday really is. Isn’t the idea of Santa going down the chimney really strange?

Scared of Santa: Scenes of Terror in Toyland by Denise Joyce and Nancy Watkins (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3675574-scared-of-santa)

How this book got published, I will never know.

It is full of hundreds of photos of kids sitting on Santa’s lap, crying, screaming, trying to escape. Yep, the whole theme of this book is getting a laugh out of the misery of little children.

Don’t get me wrong, twenty-five or thirty photos of kids having negative reactions to Santa Claus might have been funny. However, hundreds and hundreds of the same kinds of pictures quickly becomes totally boring. Yawn!

The captions are even worse than the photos. I’m sure the caption writers were trying to be clever, but most of what they came up with is just plain dumb.

I can’t imagine who would buy this book. (I borrowed the copy I read from my public library, and I’m a bit miffed that my tax dollars were spent on this dreck.) Will families buy this book and look at it lovingly every year until it becomes part of their family tradition? Yikes!

Merry Christmas Ernest and Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/447764.Merry_Christmas_Ernest_and_Celestine)

My sister gave me this book. I love it because the (adult male) bear and the (little girl) mouse who live together go dumpster diving to get the supplies they need for a Christmas party. This book shows kids a non-typical family and that it’s ok to get what one needs out of other people’s trash. Hasn’t the Christian right banned this book yet?

The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/790197.The_Worst_Case_Scenario_Survival_Handbook)

This book is hilarious. It gives all sorts of simple step by step instructions for surviving whatever catastrophe may befall your holiday season. I love this whole series.

Hilary Knight’s The Twelve Days of Christmas by Hilary Knight (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1417921.Hilary_Knight_s_the_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas)

This is another Christmas book from my childhood.

It’s the traditional “The Twelve Days of Christmas Song” paired up with lovely pictures. An anthropomorphic bear giving the presents to his bear lady love. (I just found out a female bear is called a sow, just like a pig. A male is a boar.) It’s the super cute illustrations that make this book worth reading.

My very favorite part is the supporting character raccoon cat (ha!) burglar trying to open a tightly closed trash can.

The Twelve Days of Christmas in California by Laura Rader (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6851913-the-twelve-days-of-christmas-in-california)

The emphasis of this book is on California, not on Christmas. I think even a family who doesn’t celebrate Xmas (but does like California) could like this book.

There are three components of this book.

#1 Bright color illustrations showing the California themed things (4 hummingbirds, 6 otters smiling, 12 redwoods swaying) that the California cousin gives to her young relative from out of state. The illustrations are nice.

#2 The basic story of “On the first day of Christmas…On the second day of Christmas…”, etc. This short version of the story is in bold print and would be appropriate for young children (toddlers) who can’t sit through a long, involved story.

#3 The longer, involved story, told through letters written by the visiting cousin to his parents back home. These letters include lots of additional information about whatever California-related thing the kid received from the cousin that particular day. These letters are appropriately read to or by an older kid who can sit through the longer story.

The book contains a LOT of facts about California. A kid in elementary school could use this book at any time of year to do a report on the Golden State.

One thing I didn’t like about this book was “Cali” the “talking” California valley quail (the California state bird). The book did NOT need the gimmick of a talking quail.

One thing I did like about the book is that except for the talking quail and the small redwood tree she comes in, the cousin doesn’t actually give any physical items. Most 12 Days of Christmas stories are overrun with the consumerism of a dozen pear trees and a score of gold rings.

Cajun Night Before Christmas by Howard Jacobs, illustrated by James Rice (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/910399.Cajun_Night_Before_Christmas)

My sister and I had a copy of this book when we were little. I don’t know where it came from.

My cousin Denise’s husband Mark could do the accent for reading this book, as could my dad. I don’t think I could do it so well, but I haven’t tried for years.

This is the classic Christmas story told with a Cajun twist and illustrated beautifully. No Cajun household is complete without a copy.

 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Standard

IMG_4081

The other morning I was driving through downtown just before the sun came up. It was still rather dark out when I passed by the town’s Christmas light display. I should take photos of all that, I thought. Instead of putting it off for another day, I pulled over and took a walk through the tiny winter wonderland.

View from a distance.

View from a distance.

Lights up close.

Lights up close.

Christmas lights on bushes and a rock. (This town obviously does not have much to decorate if they are lighting up rocks.)

Christmas lights on bushes and a rock. (This town obviously does not have much to decorate if they are lighting up rocks.)

Blue lights on fountain.

Blue lights on fountain.

Happy Holidays from Santa Claus.

Happy Holidays from Santa Claus.

Lights on rock and cactus.

Lights on rock and cactus.

IMG_4060

Oh no! It’s a Nativity scene on public property. Quick!  Call the Freedom from Religion Foundation (http://ffrf.org/). (According to the group’s website, “The Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.” I heard about this group recently because it wants the New Mexico town of Belen to remove a twenty-five year old year-round Nativity scene made of metal. (Read more about that controversy here: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/a2105edede2645ffbde3285fbe65421e/new-mexico-town-belen-fight-keep-nativity-scene.)

Seriously, although I am not religious and not super into Christmas as a holiday, I don’t feel hurt in any way when I see a Nativity scene on a patch of land owned by the city. In fact, I’d be happy if they brought on every symbol of winter religiosity available. Let’s get a giant menorah out there and maybe candles inside paper lampshades in celebration of Las Posadas and somethings to represent Diwali, the five-day Hindu festival. While we’re at it, let’s add a kinara  for Kwanzaa and a sun to represent the winter solstice. (Information about different winter celebrations from http://www.unitedplanet.org/blog/2013/01/03/from-christmas-to-diwali-winter-holidays-around-the-world.)

I just like looking at the lights. IMG_4077

IMG_4074

 

IMG_4057

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Feliz Navidad!

Happy Hanukkah!

Shubh Diwali!

Happy Solistice!

Habari Gani?

All photos except the one with the Solstice info were taken by me.

Husband and Prayer

Standard

Back in the early days of the 21st century, all the people I knew had a telephone in their home–what we now refer to as a “landline.” Those telephones connected with a cord to a phone jack, although some people–fancy fancy–had cordless phones where only the phone base had to connect to the phone jack; the phone itself could be carried around the house. We paid the telephone company each month to use their phone lines.

We also usually paid by the minute for each long-distance call we made. Some folks had long-distance plans where they paid a flat fee to make as many long-distance calls as they wanted, but those plans were costly and not much used by the college students and activists I mostly hung out with. But just about everyone had some kind of long-distance plan.

In those days, there was a lot of competition among long distance companies for customers. Companies were always trying to get consumers to switch from their current carrier. Each company promised their service was clearer (remember when you could actually hear and understand the person on the other end of the phone?) and cheaper. Each company  promised the consumer could switch to the new service with no hassle. Sometimes we fell for the pitch, especially in the early days of such competition, especially when  company promised that if we switched to their service, they’d send a check for $20, $30, $40, maybe even $50. But there always seemed to be some sort of hassle after all, and the new company always seemed to charge more (usually through unmentioned taxes and fees) than the representative had promised.

Annoyingly, representatives from those long distance carriers were always calling. We’d be eating dinner, taking a shower, having sex, reading a book and the phone would ring. Instead of being a cute crush or Mom or Grandpa calling, it was some poor schmuck working for AT&T or some new never-heard-of-before company wanting to talk about long distance service. Such calls became commonplace and irritating.

One night I was at a friend’s place, hanging out with several other folks while the lady of the house cooked dinner. The phone (and by “phone,” I mean “landline”) rang, and for some reason I no longer remember, I answered it.

I was hardly surprised to hear the caller was a representative of a long distance company. Of course, the representative assumed I was the lady of the house and wanted me to change my long distance provider to the company for whom he was working.

Change my long distance provider? I repeated aloud while the person who actually lived in the house vigorously shook her head no. Everyone in the room looked at me, interested in what I would say next.

I listened to the representative’s spiel. I listened to the representative extol the virtues of the service, the clarity of sound, the vast savings of dollars.

When the representative asked if I was ready to make the change, I allowed that everything he’d said sounded great, and I was very interested in the new long distance plan. However, I said, before I can make any decision, I have to discuss it with my husband.

My friends started snickering. They knew I didn’t have, had never had, a husband, and even if I did, I was capable of making a decision about long distance service on my own.

While my friends giggled, I continued talking to the representative. Once my husband and I discuss your offer, we’ll have to pray about it, I told him. My friends laughed harder, as they knew me and my imaginary husband were not the praying kind.

Once we pray about your offer, I continued to the person on the other end of the line, if we decide it’s right for us, I’ll get back to you.

By this point, the stunned company representative was pretty much speechless. Probably this whole praying over long distance service was a new response. Who asks for divine guidance in choosing a long distance provider? Apparently I did, which got a big laugh from my friends, gave the representative a good story to tell in the break room, and got me off the phone without being rude.

 

How I Met Mr. Carolina and the Boys

Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

I got over that silliness in a couple of months.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

She Talks To Angels

Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(I found an interesting gallery at http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/Angels/2008/12/8-Ways-to-Recognize-Archangel-Michael.aspx?p=1 to help one decide if the Archangel Michael is actually sending guidance.)

According to the Angel Therapy website (http://www.angeltherapy.com/archangel-uriel),

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

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

You can call upon Uriel to guide your intel­lectual pursuits…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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