What a Long, Strange Shopping Trip It’s Been

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I spent the night in my van in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in a small (population less than 10,000) Southwest desert town. I woke before daybreak and bundled up for the long walk from my van to the store’s entrance.

After my visit to the restroom, I wandered through the store, trying to remember what supplies I needed. I took a shortcut through the men’s clothing department on my way to the propane canisters in the sporting good section. I ended up walking next to a wall of t-shirts and slowed down to see what was on display.

WHAT!?!?

There among the shirts featuring SpongeBob and Patrick, the Pink Floyd prism, and a kitten with a bandana around its head (captioned “Hug Life”) was a bright tie-dye with a spiral of Grateful Dead bears.

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One might think those Grateful Dead bears are all about dancing and joy and love. If one thought such a thing, one would be only partially right.

Bear (Owsley Stanley) was for a time the Grateful Dead’s sound guy. He was also, for a time, the Grateful Dead’s LSD guy. Yep, Bear was manufacturing lots and lots of delightful acid. (According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owsley_Stanley, Bear

was the first private individual to manufacture mass quantities of LSD.[1][2][3] By his own account, between 1965 and 1967, [Bear] produced no less than 500 grams of LSD, amounting to a little over a million doses at the time.[4])

And according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grateful_Dead,

A series of stylized dancing bears was drawn by Bob Thomas as part of the back cover for the album History of the Grateful Dead, Volume One (Bear’s Choice) (1973). Thomas reported that he based the bears on a lead sort from an unknown font.[103] The bear is a reference to Owsley “Bear” Stanley, who recorded and produced the album. Bear himself wrote, “the bears on the album cover are not really ‘dancing’. I don’t know why people think they are; their positions are quite obviously those of a high-stepping march.”[97]

Those bears–dancing or not–in their most basic sense represent Bear, and Bear represents LSD to lots and lots of folks. That LSD connection might explain the bears’ bright colors and the psychedelic backgrounds often seen behind them. (Whenever I see some little kid on the lot dressed in a tiny t-shirt with one of those bears on it I snicker to myself and wonder if the Deadhead parents–or grandparents–even realized they’ve made their precious darling a walking advertisement for lab produced hallucinogens.)

So there I was in Wal-Mart, faced with tie dye and dancing bears and the Grateful Dead–representations of drug culture, hippie culture, counterculture–all before 7am.

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I wanted one of those shirts! Lord, the price was only $7.50. I pawed through the display and found a size XXL. I really wanted one of the shirts. I put the shirt on over my jacket, and it felt a little too tight. I peeled off the shirt, then the jacket, put the tie dye on over my long sleeve t-shirt. I still didn’t like the way it fit. Damn!

I put the shirt back in the stack and went about my life. Even $7.50 is not a bargain if I don’t like the way the shirt fits. But I was sure sad to not be able to sport those bears and tell folks they’d come from Wal-Mart.

I took the photos.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

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  1. Pingback: Wal-Mart and the Drug Culture | Rubber Tramp Artist

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