Category Archives: My True Life

Welcome Back! (An Update on My Current Situation)

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I hadn’t beein in the forest three minutes, and already a tourist was asking me a question.

The Man and I had been boondocking on public land just outside a mountain town, waiting around until we were

This was the view the last time I dealt with snow in May.

closer to the day we had to report for training for our summer jobs. We could make the trip from where we were to where we needed to be in two days. We were more than a week away from when we planned to leave when I checked the weather forecast and saw we were facing a cold snap. The report said the high on Wednesday was predicted to be 44 degrees with a 70% chance or rain or snow. Snow! In May? Snow in May is not unheard of in the higher elevations.

I could wait out a day of cold at the library or a coffee shop, and The Man and the dog and I could cuddle down for a night in the mid 20s, but I was concerned about what rain and snow would do to the road that brought us into and out of our camping spot. It was a red dirt road, already rutted and rocky. I was afraid a day of rain or a melted blanket of snow would turn it into a mudyy, mushy, soupy mess. I didn’t want to get stuck in the mud, and I didn’t want to get stuck on our campsite because I was avoiding the road. The Man and I decided we’d leave on Tuesday, before the weather turned bad.

We were up Tuesday morning early. We cooked and ate breakfast, packed up our kitchen and the last few items we had lying around. Our last two errands in town were to dump our trash and hit up the food bank. We were on the road by 9:30.

We drove through rain, but made it to our stopping point just fine. We hadn’t been there long when my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, I found The Big Boss Man on the other end of the line.

He had a favor to ask, he said. Maybe we could help him. The crew was coming to the main campground on our side of the mountain in the next few days to put up the yurts. Once the yurts were up, he’d need someone to babysit them, especially at night. Did we think we could get up the mountain before the training?

That might work, I said and told him we were already more than halfway there. We could be there in the next couple of days, I let him know.

I asked him if he actually had work for us so we could start earning money and he said we could rake and paint and clean firepits, and do whatever needed to be done to get the campgrounds ready to open. He could certainly keep us busy and pay us for our work.

When I got off the phone, I talked to The Man about the situation. We agreed we were ready to get up the mountain and get to work so we could start making money.

We drove the next day and made it up the mountain. Before we’d left cell phone service behind, I’d called The Big Boss Man and left a message letting him know we were on our way. I knew once we got on the mountain, we’d have no cell service and wouldn’t be able to call anyone.

I decided to go to the main campground first to see if the boss was there supervising yurt construction. I found myself driving behind a medium-sized rented motorhome. It passed the trail’s parking lot and pulled into the lower part of the long, wide driveway of the campground next door. I pulled my van into the campground’s driveway too, and The Man followed me with his van. The gate was closed and appeared locked. I jumped out of my van to determine if the padlock was actually locked or only dummy locked. It was actually locked; no one was working in that campground.

I walked over to The Man’s minivan to let him know the gate was locked. We decided to go to the campground where we would be living for the summer and wait for the Big Boss Man to come to us. The Man zipped around the motorhome and was out of there fast. I was climbing back into my van when I saw a woman emerge from the passenger side of the motorhome. She walked over to my van, a yellow sheet of paper in her hand. Oh no! Here we go! I thought as she approached me. Then I realized if I let myself be annoyed in my first three minutes back, it was going to be a long season.

I opened my door (because my window doesn’t roll down) and said, Yes?

She pointed to the map on her yellow sheet of paper. We are here? Her accent was definitely not American. She was looking for the trail.

I pointed back the way we’d come. The parking lot for the trail is about 200 yards that way.

The tourist season had officially begun for me.

I took the photo in this post.

In Praise of a Toothbrush

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The student hygienist at the dental hygiene clinic told me I should use an electric toothbrush. I told her I often had no access to electricity because I work part of the year in a remote location in the mountains. She didn’t tell me about battery operated toothbrushes, but I figured it out on my own.

I was in a Wal-Mart a few weeks before Christmas. I was just doing my normal shopping when I remembered the dental hygience student telling me about electric toothbrushes. I decided to see what the store had to offer. I walked over to the toothbrush aisle, and there was an entire endcap of Arm & Hammer Spinbrushes priced at just $5 each. Oh! That wasn’t too expensive.

ARM & HAMMER Spinbrush Classic Clean Battery Toothbrush
In addition to the Arm & Hammer battery operated brushes, I saw some made by Oral B, and a few from the Wal-Mart Equate brand. Unsurprisingly, the Equate brushes were the least expensive, but I wondered if they ware made as well or would work as well as the name-brand brushes. Even after reading the packages of the different brushes, I couldn’t determine any significant differences. I decided to splurge a little and go for a $5 brush. I grabbed an Arm & Hammer Spinbrush in a color I liked (hot pink) and called it good.

That night I brushed my teeth with the new brush. My teeth felt clearner, slicker, but perhaps I was imagining the difference. Maybe I was experienceing some sort of toothbrush placebo effect.

One night The Man was at my van as I brushed my teeth with my new, powerful brush. I guess I’d been brushing a while because he told me, You’re going to wear your teeth to nubs if you keep at it with that thing. I had to laugh through my toothpaste.

I knew the real proof of the brush’s success would be the plaque score assigned to my teeth when I returned to the dental hygience clinic.

After the preliminaries (checking my blood pressure, checking my neck and face for lumps and bumps, asking about any changes in my medical history in the last month), the student hygienist smeared the substance on my teeth that would make the plaque show pink. Then she counted the pink surfaces of my teeth and used a mathematical formula to calculate my plaque score. After using the Spinbrush for about two weeks, my plaque score dropped from 39% to 16%. (At a subsequent visit after using the Spinbrush for three months, my plaque score was 20.5%)

Before I brought the Spinbrush, I wondered how often I would have to replace the batteries. The batteries that were included with the brush when I purchased it did not last very long, maybe two weeks of brushing twice a day. I replaced those batteries with super cheap batteries from Dollar Tree, and they lasted slightly longer. When I had to replace the batteries a third time, I splurged on Duracells and have gotten much better (longer lasting) results. Many less-expensive items really are as good as their more expensive counterpoints, but I’ve learned with batteries you really do get what you pay for.

If I lived somewhere year round with electricity, I would get an electric toothbrush I could plug in and charge, thus eliminating the waste of dead batteries. Maybe I’ll eventually get a plug-in toothbrush for when I do have access to electricity and just use the battery powered one when I’m in the woods. For now, I’ll continue to buy batteries for my Arm & Hammer Spinbrush.

You Got This

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When I’m in the right city, I have my teeth cleaned–for free–at a school for dental hygienists. The students are well supervised, and I feel like I’m getting complete and thorough dental care. Once a year x-rays are taken of my teeth, and there’s a dentist on staff who examines my mouth and consults with the student whenever necessary throughout the process.

I hadn’t been in the city for quite a while, and the last dental appointment I’d paid for had left me feeling traumatized, so my teeth hadn’t been cleaned in over a year. As soon as I was close to the city, I made an apppointment for a cleaning at the dental hygiene school.

One of the drawbacks of getting my teeth cleaned at the school is never being able to form a relationship with my health care provider. Ove the last six years, probably as many students have worked on my mouth, and I’ve never seen any of them more than twice. I don’t remember the names of any of them.

The skills of students vary. I’ve had my teeth cleaned by students just weeks away from graduation; as expected, folks who’ve been at it a while do a better job and by better job, I mean, cause less pain.The most recent student who worked on my mouth must have just started her training when I met her in December 2017.

Her name (not her real name) was Pansy. She seemed very young, like teenager young, which I guess she could have been if she had started training to be a dental hygienist the moment she graduated from high school. More likely, she was in her early 20s. She was pleasant as our first visit got under way, but I was a nervous wreck.

Dental appointments make me very anxious. I’ve had a string of dental problems in the last several years, so I worry about what’s going to be found when someone starts poking around in my mouth. Will I have a cavity? Is a tooth rotting away? Will I need a root canal? Is someone going to freak out about my impacted wisdom teeth or the cyst around the roots of the one tooth or the evidence of my once fractured jaw? Will someone recommend a treatment I can’t afford?

As our first session played out, I learned Pansy was slow and not very gentle. The x-ray process was painful because she shoved large equipment into my small mouth. (In the past, an instructor had come around to give my student hygienist tips on making me more comfortable during x-rays, but that day no one came by to give Pansy advice.) Once back in our cubicle, Pansy used the tiny handheld mirror to reach into my mouth and pull my soft mouthparts away from my teeth. She did the pulling with gusto; it felt decidedly unpleasant. When she had my mouth adequately opened, she rested the mirror on my upper gums, which caused additional discomfort. As to be expected, the pain increased when she started poking at my gums with pointy instruments. To make it all worse, Pansy was excruciatingly slow in her every process. I was in her chair for more than three hours during my initial appointment with her. Despite being on time for my 8am appointment, I wasn’t sure if she’d be finished with me when her class was dismissed at 11:45.

One of the steps Pansy had to complete was calculating my plaque score. She stained my teeth so the plaque showed up red, then documented on a paper chart every tooth surface with plaque on it. I peeked at the chart and saw there was a mathematical formula used to calculate the patient’s plaque score. Pansy crunched the numbers and gave me my result: 39%. This score was higher than the dental powers-that-be thought it should be, so Pansy began interrogating me.

Did I floss?

Yes.

How often?

At least once a day.

Could I show her my technique?

Sure.

She handed me a length of dental floss, and I demonstrated my flossing technique.

Your technique is pretty good, she conceeded. She seemed perplexed about how to solve this plaque problem.

Have you ever thought about using an electric toothbrush? she asked.

I said no.

Why not? she demanded.

I should have said, because no one ever suggested it to me, which was the truth. Instead I said, because I spend a lot of my time in places with no electricity, which was also the truth.

Have you ever thought about getting a power generator? Pansy asked me.

I busted out laughing. I thought she was joking. I looked over at her and she was looking at me expectantly, completely serious.

(Later, when I discovered battery powered spin brushes, I wondered why she hadn’t suggested one of those instead of going directly to a noisy, costly solution.)

When it came time to make our next appointment, Pansy offered me a date, recanted her offer, then offered me a different date. When I said that date was fine (although a month away), she didn’t have an appointment card to give to me after writing down the date and time. She ended up using the school’s regular business card and writing the date of my appoitment on the back.

Tilt Photography of Calendar Schedule Number 18The next day the clinic’s office manager called me saying Pansy had not given me an appointment and tried to give me one on the date Pansy had first mentioned. When I explained Pansy had already given me an appointment for a different date, the office manager said the student hadn’t put any information about my appointment in the system. I assured her I did have an appointment and we said goodbye. She called me later and left a message saying she’d tracked down the student and confirmed the appointment. Now I was in the system.

I spent the next month dreading my upcoming appointment with Pansy. It was going to hurt, and it was going to take forever, I knew. On several occasions I considered canceling the appointment. In the end I stuck with it becasue free trumped painful and inconvenient.

On the mornig of my second appointment with Pansy, I arrived a the appointed hour. I was not happy to see her. I couldn’t tell how she felt about seeing me.

She did seem glad when she calculated my plaque score and found it had dropped a whopping 23%! I told her I’d gotten a battery powered toothbrush and it really seemed to be making a difference. Thanks for the good advice, Pansy!

At on point in the procedure, I thought I detected Pansy shaking. I figured I must have imagined it until I heard her whisper, You got this. My heart melted for the woman. Here she was, trying to get schooling so she could get a decent job, and she was nervous enough to shake. I don’t know if she even realized the pep talk she was giving herself was audible to me. Maybe she thought she’d whispered You got this in the privacy of her own brain. In any case, I bucked up and tried not to complain so she could do what needed to be done. I knew we both wanted to get out of there.

I saw Pansy once more. She had me on an every-three-month cleaning schedule, which was ok with me since I wasn’t paying for anything. What a difference three months of practice had made for Pansy. She appeared much less nervous and much more confident. When her instructor asked questions about her work, Pansy answered immediately and confidentally instead of thinking for a long time then answering softly. She worked at a brisker pace, and I would have been out of there in under three hours if the instructor hadn’t been delayed when Pansy was ready for the woman to check her work. She did still wield the mirror like a pry bar, but I guess no one is perfect.

Pansy told me she graduates in December 2018. I think with another nine months of practice, she’s certain to make a fine hygienest.

 

Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/dentist-space-treat-teeth-3069416/, https://pixabay.com/en/floss-oral-dental-hygiene-care-668215/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/tilt-photography-of-calendar-schedule-number-18-60032/, and https://pixabay.com/en/graduation-graduation-cap-2394130/.

 

 

Tire Disaster (Part 2)

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Hitchhiking Hand Sign2018 started out with a bang! The Man and I got back together and decided to go camping on BLM land. We ended up getting three flat tires (two on his minivan and one on my van) in less than 24 hours. Today our saga picks up with us hitchhiking back to our vans after purshasing a $17 can of Fix-a-Flat in the nearest town.

The vehicle that did stop was a pickup truck. The driver said he was just going a mile or so down the road, but we were welcome to hop in the back. When we tried to hop in, we found the truck’s bed full of stuff, mostly cabinet doors. There was no room to sit anywhere but on the doors, and I didn’t want to damage anything. I ended up perched on the top edge of the truck’s bed. The Man got the dog on top of a door lying in the bed and held him there while he perched on top of the closed tailgate. The driver pulled the truck back on the road before I felt safely situated, and I hung on for dear life. I knew what we were doing was dangerous, especially as the truck picked up speed, but it seemed too late to change our minds. It took a long time to go that mile or two, and I reverted to my Catholic ways and said a few Hail Marys to take my mind off the danger we were in. christianity, jesus, maria

I was grateful and a little woozy when we were dropped off, but we still had miles to go before we got back to camp. We kept walking until a truck hauling an open cargo trailer stopped ahead of us. We rushed over to find a man and a boy in the truck. The Man explained where we wanted to go, and the boy (probably no older than nine) translated for his father. They were going our way, so we climbed into the second seat of the extended cab. The driver offered us a beer, and our polite refusal did not keep him from sipping on the can he already had open.

Soon we were zipping down the road at 75 miles an hour (in a 55mph zone! while pulling a trailer!), and it didn’t’ take long to get us back to our camp. We said our thanks and felt gratitude not only for the ride but for the fact we’d made it back to our vehicles safely.

The Man had to take apart his van’s set up to get to the spare tire stored in a compartment in the floor. When he pulled the tire out, he found it was somewhat flat, but put it on his vehicle anyway to keep as much weight as possible off the rim. After he loaded the hopefully salvageable flat tire into my van, we added the Fix-a-Flat to my tire. It didn’t pump up the tire very much, but we had no choice but to drive very slowly to the tire repair shop in town.

The worker at the tire shop pumped up my flat and said while the Fix-a-Flat had ruined the tire for long-term use, it would probably make it the 25 miles to Discount Tire. He looked at The Man’s flat tire and said since the puncture was in the sidewall, the best he could do was put in a plug. After he repaired the tire, I paid him an additional ten bucks to grind off the bolt holding my spare tire to its rack, then replace it with a bolt that could be removed.

It was early afternoon when we arrived at the very busy Discount Tire shop. When it was our turn at the counter, the very nice worker was sympathetic to my plight, especially the part where another worker at another Discount Tire location had cross threaded the bolt holding on my spare, thus making it impossible to remove. He confirmed the Fix-a-Flat had basically destroyed my tire, but because I’d purchased the warranty on it, he was able to replace it for free.

Once the new tire was on my van, we went directly to Wal-Mart where I purchased a large can of Fix-a-Flat and a Slime brand portable air compressor that runs off 12 volt. I was not going to be caught unprepared again.

It was after dark when we returned to the road down which The Man’s van was parked. I dubbed it Three Flat Tire Road, and I didn’t go far down it in hopes of decreasing the risk of another busted tire. I pulled off the road into the first flat spot my van would fit in.

In the morning, The Man removed the spare from his minivan and put on the repaired tire. Then he removed the second flat tire and put the spare in that spot. We drove 25 miles to a used tire shop that had a tire to fit The Man’s van. Once back at camp, he replaced the spare with the good used tire and put all of his belongings back in their places. The next day we left the area, fearful of getting another flat.

My new tire is working great! I appreciate the customer service I received at Discount Tire, and I’m glad I splurged on warrantees for all of my tires.

The good new tire The Man bought is working fine too, but the brand new tire with the plug had to be replaced. Apparently, damage in a sidewall is just about impossible to repair. The plug never set well; every couple of days the tire was flat, and we had to use our new 12 volt air compressor to pump it up. The Man was going to buy a plug repair kit at an auto parts store, but when he took it up to the counter and asked the worker about it, the guy told him not to waste his money. The worker also warned him that the tire would likely blow out at 65 miles an hour on the interstate. Since then, The Man’s replaced the plugged new tire with a good used tire. It was sad to see the new tire go to waste, but there was nothing else to be done.

One flat is an unfortunate inconvenience. Three flats on two vans and no usable spare surely qualifies as a disaster. Wednesday’s post will be about things folks can do to prepare for and/or avoid tire disasters.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/hitchhiking-hand-sign-889086/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/maria-mery-sant-51524/.

Tire Disaster (Part 1)

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2018, celebration, colorfulThe Man wanted to get back together. I was skeptical, but I agreed to meet him when my dog sitting gig was over on New Year’s Day. It was good to see him. We talked, then decided to camp on nearby BLM land.

I’d brought black-eyed peas and kale so we could eat for luck and money in the new year.

The tire on my van wasn’t entirely flat when I took this photo, but it wasn’t in any condition to roll down the road.

While I was preparing dinner, The Man looked over at my van and asked, Is your tire flat?

We investigated the back tire on the passenger side. It was not entirely flat, but it was definitely too low. It was getting dark, so The Man said he’d put the spare on in the morning and we’d drive the 25 miles to the nearest Discount Tire to have it repaired. In the meantime, he used the jack to lift the van off the rim so it wouldn’t be damaged from having too much weight resting on it.

I was in the van when I heard The Man cursing outside. When I asked him what was wrong, he said he had a flat too, also on the back passenger side. What are the chances of that happening? we asked each other, then went to bed.

We discovered the flat tire on the back of The Man’s minivan first.

In the morning, we lingered in the van until the sun camp up and the temperature rose. The Man was outside first. When I came around the front of my van, I saw him standing on the passenger side of his minivan, looking down in disbelief. The front tire on the passenger side was flat too! The chance of having three flat tires on two vans in less than 24 hours has to be exceedingly low.

We discovered the flat on the front of The Man’s minivan in the morning.

While the back tire that went flat on The Man’s minivan was old and in need of replacing, my tire and the one on the front of his vehicle were both only about two months old. As we realized later, all three punctures were in the sidewalls of the tires. In one of the flat tires on The Man’s van, we found small pieces of wood protruding from the puncture. WTF? We’re still not sure what caused the flats, but we ruled out roofing nails since none of the punctures were in the treads.

At this point, we decided after breakfast the first order of business would be for The Man to take the flat tire off my van and put on the spare. However, when the time came, he couldn’t get the spare tire off its mount. Two years ago when I bought new tires and asked the folks selling them to me to save the best of my old tires for my spare, they’d put the spare on the mount attached to my backdoor. I’d had no need for the tire since then, so I didn’t know the bolt holding on the tire was cross threaded. Nothing The Man did would budge that bolt.

We put on our walking shoes and headed to the nearest town—about twelve miles away—in hope of buying a can of Fix-a-Flat.

Fix-A-Flat S60430 Aerosol Tire Inflator with Eco-friendly Formula, 20 oz.

We were on a road with very little traffic, but when vehicles approached, we stuck out our thumbs. Most of the vehicles we saw were commercial trucks, which I never expected to stop, but the infrequent passenger cars we saw just rolled on by too.

Finally a young guy in a really clean, sporty car stopped for us. The Man and the dog got in the backseat, and I sat in the front. I tried to make friendly chitchat until I realized the young guy barely spoke English. I took a careful look around the car and found it extremely clean—no dust, no fast food wrappers, no cigarette butts. I did see a beverage can in the holder between the seats. I couldn’t quite see the can’s label, but something about it whispered beer. I glanced into the back and on the floor behind the driver’s seat was a twelve pack of Modelo. Our boy was a morning beer drinker. I hoped he wouldn’t crash the car.

Thankfully, he drove us safely to the Shell station by the interstate. He went on his way, and I thought about how angels sometimes drink beer for breakfast.

I asked The Man to go into the Shell station and choose the proper product for my flat tire while I stayed outside with the dog. Once he used his mechanical expertise to pick out the best product available, I’d go in with my debit card to pay. He wasn’t gone long. He said he’d left the can on the counter by the register and told the lady working that I’d be in for it shortly.

When I went in, the can of Fix-a-Flat was indeed on the counter. I told the lady working the register I’d take it, and she rang it up. I almost passed out when she told me the total was $17 and some cents! I suspected the stuff wouldn’t be cheap, but $17 seemed excessive. But what could I do? I needed the stuff, so I paid up. (I found out later, the same can of the stuff cost under $8 at Wal-Mart.)

So now that we had our Fix-a-Flat, we started our long walk back to our vans. Every time a passenger vehicle passed, we stuck out our thumbs, but it was a long time before anyone stopped.

This post turned out to be a long one, so I’m going to make it a two-part saga. Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait too long to read the rest; the conclusion will run tomorrow. On Wednesday, I’ll share what I learned from the experience and give you 10 Ways to Avoid and/or Prepare for Tire Disasters.

Image of fireworks courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sky-lights-night-new-year-s-eve-66277/. I took the photos of the flat tires. The image of Fix-a-Flat is an Amazon associates link. If you click on that image, I’ll get paid a small advertising fee on anything you put in your cart and buy during your shopping sessession.

Dancing with the Lights

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Nolagirl and I were out and about at night in Phoenix, off to see the art of Aileen Frick at a locally owned hotel called FOUND:RE.

We’d discovered Aileen Frick at the Grand Avenue Festival. Actually, Nolagirl discovered her.

She called me over quietly but urgently. You’ve got to see this, she said with excitement in her voice. I joined her in front of a large-scale painting…but wait! It wasn’t just a painting…it was a collage too, but collage in a way I’d never seen done before. Say the artist wanted a tree in her scene. She wouldn’t go through magazines, find an image of a tree, cut it out, and stick it to her canvan. Oh no, not this artist. This artist found different shades of green in magazines, ripped out green bits by hand, then reassembled the paper into a tree! By reading her bio, we learned that later in the process, she painted over and around the images made of paper to tie together all of the elements of her creation. Her finished results were amazing! It was from the bio that we learned the name of the person who created this collage magic: Aileen Frick.

Frick creates large-scale beautiful cityscapes through which featureless people walk while living their ordinary lives. The cities are recognizable to those in the know, and it’s fun to identify places you’re been, but there’s something dream-like about the landscapes too. They’re based in reality, but they’re not quite real.

Image of A Fresh Spin used with permission of Aileen Frick.

From a distance Frick’s pieces look misleadingly like photographs, but upon closer inspection, the viewer can appreciate the time-consuming tearing and matching of colors that went into the work. In some of her creations, words that match the theme of the piece have been discretely included in the scene.

It may be cliché to say I was moved by Frick’s art, but it’s an easy way to explain how I felt. My heart was moved. My brain was moved. My spirit of creativity was moved. Frick’s technique and her end results left me feeling breathless and giddy. Frick’s art inspired me to create, not by copying her but by getting in touch with my own style. I think I had an immdiate crush on Frick’s collage/painting hybrids.

We came around a corner and there was Aileen Frick in the flesh! She was working on a new creation right there in the gallery.

When we walked up, she was talking with another fan. We waited patiently for our turn.

The other woman walked away, and we stood there with Frick and her easel. I tried to stay coherant as I gushed about how much I was enjoying and appreciating her work. She was so friendly and personable and gracious! I wanted to take her and her art home with me. (Of course, I lived in a van, so I had no room for her or her large-scale art. She probably had her own place anyway.)

A few weeks later, Frick posted on her Facebook page information about an upcoming showing of her work at the FOUND:RE hotel in Phoenix. Can we go? Can we go? I asked Nolagirl. She said we could.

FOUND:RE was full of art that night. We saw a lot of good work, inclduing at least a half dozen pieces by Aileen Frick. As a special treat, we got the see the recently completed piece we’d seen her workig on during the Grand Street Festival.

Frick was there too, and she recognized me and Nolagirl. Maybe she didn’t remember when and where we’d met, but she did remember we were fans. She stopped to talk to us and thank us for coming out on opening night. Once again, she was very gracious and kind. Aileen Frick is not just a fantastic artist; she’s also a friendly and sweet person.

A highlight of the evening (in addition to seeing Frick’s art and telling her hello) was when an art dealer tried to sell me and Nolagirl some art. We were looking at some pop art pieces near the bar when a slick-looking man came up to us and started talking about prices. We expressed scant interest, and he wandered away. We agreed we appreciated being mistaken for people who could afford to buy art.

I think we were on our way out when we walked across the lobby and noticed the colorful patterns projected onto the floor. What are those? I wondered. That’s when the lights moved.

We realized quickly that the patterns were motion activated. Our movements made the light patterns move across the floor, then we reacted to the movment of the lights. Soon Nolagirl and I were dancing, skipping, swooping, whirling, and twilrling across the lobby as we played with the lights. It was interactive fun.

Nolagirls says, “This one would drop confetti when you walked/ran/danced through.” That’s me in the upper left of the photo in my red boots and elephant skirt.

I think the guy at the front desk who controlled the projector was amused by us. I’m sure it’s not every day that a couple of middle aged ladies dance through his lobby and play with the lights on the floor like cats going after the red dot of a lazer pointer. Several times he changed the patterns, telling us each time that we would like the new one. He was never wrong.

Nolagirl says this pattern reminds her of Charlie’s Angels. I’m twirling right out of the photo.

A couple of times, tipsy peoiple leaving the bar saw us having fun and joined in our play. They seemed to enjoy themselves too, but soon wandered off to the next stop of the night. Nolagirl and I must have played with those light patterns for twenty or thirty minutes. Finally, we thanked the front desk worker for indulging us, then we too walked out into the night.

As we exited the building, we took the time to take photos of the neon message on the front of the building. “Find Yourself” it commanded. I think we already had.

Thanks to a kind friend who–when Nolagirl and I told her this story–asked why I hadn’t shared it in a blog post. Also, endless gratitude to Nolagirl who’s always up for an adventure and can talk to anyone from the Queen of England to a dirty trainhopper kid with interest and respect. Nolagirl’s friendship makes me brave.

First two photos courtesy of Nolagirl. The last photo was taken by me. Nolagirl also contributed to some of the writing about Aileen Frick’s art.

 

 

 

Kindness of Strangers

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I was driving in Las Vegas, NV on my way to the Goodwill Clearance Center in North Las Vegas. As I approached a traffic signal, I could tell there was a problem. The light was green, but the traffic was not flowing.

The car in my lane that should have rolled when the light turned green was not moving. The pickup truck second in line zipped into the left lane and zoomed away. I didn’t have time to follow the truck before other cars were blocking my entrance into the left lane. I had to stop behind the stalled car. The light turned red again, and cars stopped in the left lane.

A man got out of the car at the front of the left lane line. I’m going to help you, bro, he called out to the guy blocking the right lane.

I ran out of gas, the man in the stalled vehicle said.

I’m going to pull into the gas station across the street, the good Samaritan said. Then I’ll come back over and help you.

At first I thought the men probably knew each other. I figured a dude saw his homie in trouble and stopped to help him. However, as I stayed stuck behind the stopped car through several light changes, I wasn’t so sure. When the helpful man trotted over from the gas station, the men didn’t embrace or shake hands or chitchat or ask about each other’s mammas. Neither man indicated in any way that they were friends or even friendly. They just got to work figuring out how to move the car across the street to the gas station.

I was touched when I thought the one guy had stopped to help his friend, but I teared up when I realized the guy had stopped to help a stranger. Sometimes we think only people in small towns will help people they don’t know. It’s good to remember that people in big cities help each other too.

Sometimes strangers are kind. Sometimes we are a beautiful species.

Easter Eggs

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I was a very tiny child, so young, I don’t even remember the events of this story happening to me. I only know what happened because my parents repeated the story throughout my childhood until it became part of our family folklore.

bright, colorful, colourfulIt was Easter. My sibling either hadn’t been born or was too little to play with the gang of cousins, which means I couldn’t have been more than four. We were at the home of my godmother, my mother’s eldest sister. My godmother had six children, and her home was one of my favorite places in my small world. The house was full of kids and excitement. There was always someone around to play with or at least give me some attention. I particularly enjoyed being with my girl cousins who are a year and a half and three years older than I am. The three of us rocked girl power before the media gave the phenomenon a name.

My dad didn’t much like for me to visit at my godmother’s house. I suppose being there gave me what he considered a bad attitude. My cousins were living a rather free-range childhood; they have no supervision, my dad once said. I suppose after being unsupervised with my cousins, I desired less supervision when I went home, but my parents weren’t standing for that. I was an over-supervised child, and my parents had no intention of loosening their hold.

So it was Easter. The kids were going in and out of the house to hide Easter eggs in the large yard. My mom had added the brightly colored eggs she and I had dyed together to the pile of brightly colored eggs her sister had dyed with my cousins. There were a lot of eggs to hide and seek.

Long after the other kids had grown bored with Easter eggs and moved on to other activities, my cousin Sherry and I were still at it. Sherry was the cousin closest to me in age, just a year and a few months my senior, so she was often stuck playing with me. I think I was probably a little too young to hide eggs, so that task fell on Sherry. After she hid all the eggs, we went outside to together so I could find them. Sherry had to stay with me to make sure I didn’t hurt myself and to provide clues on where to find the eggs she had hidden a little too well.

The adults must have noticed the lapse of time between my going out to find the eggs and coming inside to announce they had all been found was growing increasingly shorter. When my mom peeked into my Easter basket, she noticed the supply of eggs had also diminished.

Sherry, go outside and help Blaize find the rest of the eggs, my cousin was encouraged.

I suppose the adults wanted to be alone so they could gossip about other family members and the state of the world outside the earshot of children who might repeat what had been said.

Sherry and I went outside, but it wasn’t long before we were inside again with no additional eggs in the basket. In fact, we now seemed to possess fewer eggs than we’d had the last time we’d come inside.

Sherry, why didn’t y’all find all the eggs? one of the adults complained.

We did find them all, Sherry burst our miserably. Blaize ate most of the eggs she found!

Mystery solved. I was a tiny girl who loved hard boiled eggs, and I’d eaten most of our bounty. My cousin either couldn’t stop me or (more likely) hadn’t even bothered to try. Thankfully, neither salmonella nor high cholesterol took me out on that holiest of days.

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/bright-colorful-colourful-decorate-356339/.

A Day of Miracles and Wonder

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Postbox, British, Red, Monday, Post, LetterIt was Monday morning. I left my friend’s house at 7:30, when she left to drop her kid off at school. I ate breakfast at Taco Bell and drank a cup of coffee while I wrote in my notebook. I left when I needed to so I’d get to my tire rotation appointment right on time, even with delays for traffic and road construction, but the Discount Tire wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I drove in circles for a while, but couldn’t locate the tire shop.

I was in one of those cities where the main street turns numbered avenues into numbered streets, and east or west in an address is important,. I hadn’t paid attention to east and west, and now I was screwed. I was going to miss my appointment.

I know there’s one around here somewhere, I muttered to myself, and there it was up ahead. I was on the right street but at the wrong number. I parked and went into the customer service area anyway.

I think I’m in the wrong place, I said apologetically to the guy behind the counter. He checked his computer. I was definitely in the wrong place.

He told me not to worry about it. It happens all the time, he said. People go there looking for us–people come here looking for them. He could take care of me right where I was. He’d text the other store and let them know what had happened., I should be out of there in about an hour.

Not only did I get my tires rotated even though I ended up in the wrong place, I didn’t receive any bad news. I wasn’t told I neeed new tires or an alignment. There was no talk of tires wearing unevenly or unusually fast. Nothing was amiss, and I got out of there in 45 minutes.

The second miracle involved money. I’d been super stressed about money the past few days. I’d received the lastCoins, Currency, Investment, Insurance, Cash, Banking of my unemployment benefits, and I was about two months away from the start of my seasonal work. I had money saved, but would it last? Also, I was planning to take a long-anticipated road trip with my sibling, but maybe the financially responsible thing to do would be to sit in one place and conserve until it was time to report to work.

I pulled into the supermarket parking lot and stopped the van in a designated space. I grabbed an old flyer so I could jot down my grocery list. When I unfolded the flyer, I noticed somehting flutter. I looked down and saw money! A one dollar bill and a five were on the floor. Where did that come from? I wondered as I reached down to grab the bills. I figured The Man had given me cash for his share of something I’d paid for, and I’d tucked the money in the catchall box I keep on the console above the dog house. It was good to have a $6 surprise.

I finished writing my list, grabbed my bag, and climbed out of the van. When I turned around to close the door, I saw more bills on the floor. I picked up three fives. My bounty of $6 had turned into a bounty of $21.

I chuckled and shook my head. The miracle wasn’t finding $21 I’d forgotten I had. The miracle was the message from the Univers advising me to stop worrying about money. I had all I needed. Money would come. I felt all  my money worries disapate, and I walked inot the supermarket with a light heart.

As many miracles are, my third miracle was born of potential disaster.

Tyre, Burst, Karoo, Flat, Road, Rubber, Car, VehicleI was on the interstate, headed home. There was a lot of tire debris on the road. Vehicles attached to tow trucks and the remains of blownout tires always make me think, There but for the grace of God go I. Tire pieces strewn about the road also trigger me to make a mental sign of the cross. I haven’t been a practicing Catholic in nearly 30 years, but I hope the mental sign of the cross will ward off evil spirits of tire destruction.

I was following a dump truck. The Man always tell me not to follow trucks too closely because they’re prone to throwing rocks. What was thrown at me wasn’t a rock and it wasn’t thrown by the dumptruck. A chunk of tire came flying from one, maybe two, lanes on my right, thrown by a car. It hit my windshild with a loud thunk, then ricocheted off to my left.

I scanned the windshield for a ding. Sure enough, I now had an imperfection in the glass, but it looked more like a chip than a ding.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! I shouted while pounding my steering wheel before calming down and trying to figure out how to solve my problem. When I’d had the windshield replaced a little more than a year ago, the company I’d bought it from said they’d repair dings for free as long as I was in the county of purchase. I decided I’d stop two exits before my turn-off towards home and investigate getting the windshield repaired.

Problem #1 I didn’t know the name of the company I’d bought the windshield from.

Problem #2 I didn’t know if I’d still be inthe county of purchase when I got off the interstate.

Problem #3 My receipt for the windshipd was in an email. I didn’t have a paper copy.

Problem #4 I didn’t have my phone to access my email account.

I did have my laptop, and I decided my best option was to stop somewhere with WiFi and use my laptop to find the receipt. If I found the name and  phone number of the seller, I could call to find out if they would send a mobile unit to deterime if the problem could be fixed.

I exited the interstate and headed to a supermarket I knew offered free WiFi. I turned too soon and ended up in the wrong parking lot. I decided to stop there and assess the situation. I pulled into a parking spot and hopped out of the van. From the outside, what had looked like a chip from the inside looked more like paper stuck to the glass. I reached up and–miracle #3–wiped my problem away.

I hopped back in my van, disaster averted, and continued on my way.

I need a miracle every day, but that Monday morning, I was blessed with three.

 

Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/postbox-british-red-monday-post-15502/https://pixabay.com/en/coins-currency-investment-insurance-1523383/, and https://pixabay.com/en/tyre-burst-karoo-flat-road-rubber-1614265/,

Strays

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Dog on Concrete RoadI was on my way home from a festival where I’d sold my handicrafts and shiny rocks. I’d just turned my van into my neighborhood when I saw a dog racing down the street ahead of me.

The people where I live take the county leash law very seriously, and I never see dogs running loose around here. As I drove very slowly behind the dog, I looked around for its person. There were no humans in sight.

I stopped the van and got out. Hey dog! I called. The dog whirled around and looked at me.

Here doggie! I called calmly, and it ran right up to me and let me pet her. What a sweetie!

She wore a collar, so I checked for a tag. She had a county registration tag, but nothing wih a name or phone number on it. She was obviously somebody’s dog and I didn’t want her to get hit by a car on the nearby highway or be torn up by the neighborhood pack of coyotes, so I decided to try to help her find her people.

I opened the van’s side door and moved some things around. As soon as there was space, the dog jumped right in.

I called the office of the place where I live. The manager answered the phone, and I asked her if she knew of anyone whose dog was missing. She said the dog had been running around for a while and other folks had called to notify her.

I’ve got the dog in my van, I told her, then asked if there was a nearby animal shelter where I should take it.

She gave me a phone number, which I called. I talked to a woman whose position I still don’t know. Was she an animal control officer? Was she a local pet rescue volunteer? I still have no idea.

I told the woman on the phone my location and described the dog I’d just ushered into my van. She said other people had called about the dog, whose name was Milly. Her person hadn’t answered his phone earlier, but the woman knew where he lived. (I suppose this information was found via the county registration on the dog’s tag.) The women on the phone gave me the dog’s address, and I said I’d drive Milly home.

As I pulled out onto the main highway, I saw a most unusual sight. Two travelers were walking on the side of the road. The guy had long salt and pepper hair pulled back into a low ponytail, and the woman had dread locks in a neat bun on the top of her head. Each carried a big backpack and held a leash hooked to a big dog. Both wore clothes made drab by long wear and road dirt. These were traveling kids, although I could see in their faces that these folks were well out of their 20s.

Seeing them there was strange because my winter home is truly in the middle of nowhere. It’s 10 miles from the nearest small town, 50 miles from the next small town, and ninety miles from the nearest Wal-Mart. These folks were over 100 miles from the next city in the direction they were headed, with practically nothing but tribal land between their current location and the city. Of course, they could have been headed somewhere on the tribal land; surely there are Native American traveling kids on the highways and backroads of the U.S. Maybe these two were almost home.

In any case, I didn’t have time to stop for them. I was trying to get the stray dog home, and the travelers and I were headed in opposite directions. I decided I’d look for them upon my return and continued on my dog rescue mission.

I found the street where Milly supposedly lived and a mailbox with the correct house number. I had a leash in my van, so I hooked it to Holly’s collar, and we went together to find her people. The houses were laid out in an odd configuration, and I had trouble finding the right one. I knocked on a door without a number and an elderly woman with thin hair and unfortunate eyeliner answered. I politely asked her if this dog was hers. She said it was not. I told her the address I was looking for. She was unsure of the location, but told me where she thought it was.

From inside the house, an unseen man hollered, She’s looking for Marv!

Marve doesn’t have a dog! she called back impatiently.

I thanked her for her help, and Milly and I were on our way.

I drove just a little ways down the street and found the number I was looking for. It was Marv’s house, if the painted rock labeled Marv and Betty was to be believed. Maybe Marv had gotten a dog without alerting the neighbors.

I leashed Milly again, and we walked up to the door. I knocked. The door was opened by an elderly woman I presume was Betty. Like the woman I’d just spoken to, she wore jeans and a sweatshirt, but Betty’s hair was a perfectly white frizzy poof surrounding her head like the nimbus of a saint in a Renaissance painting.

I politely asked her if this was her dog. She said it was not. She said she currently didn’t have any dogs. I explained I’d been given her address as the home of the dog, but she firmly maintained that Milly did not live there. I thanked her and took Milly back to the van.

I called the woman who’d given me the (mis)information about where Milly lived and told her the dog’s person didn’t live where she thought he did. She asked me if I could meet her ten miles away at the animal shelter. I agreed.

When I arrived at the county complex housing the shelter, I leashed Holly yet again and walked over to the entrance. The woman I’d been talking to was waiting for us. She was middle age, blonde, and dressed Saturday afternoon casual. She told me she’d called Milly’s person again, and he’d answered this time.

He’d been drinking, and I woke him up, she told me.

Apparently, when she asked for his address, he couldn’t tell her. Get up and wash your face, she’d told him, and figure out where you live!

I felt bad about leaving Milly in the dark concrete kennel, but she did have the company of a fuzzy white dog named Buddy.

I don’t want anything bad to happen to her here, I told the woman, meaning please don’t euthenize this sweet dog just because her person is a dumbass and lets her run around.

Nothing bad’s going to happen to her here, the woman said. If you leave her running around out there, she might run onto the highway…The woman shuddered and didn’t spell out what might happen if Milly were to run onto the highway. She didn’t need to spell it out; I know cars and animals can be a dangerous combination.

I left Milly, trusting the woman to get her home. I suspected the woman would also give Milly’s person a stern lecture on the dangers of letting her run free.

Gray Concrete Road Beside Brown Mountain during Golden HourI was almost home when I thought about the traveling couple again. I wonder what happened to them, I thought moments before I saw them sitting on the side of the road just past my turn. I purposefully missed the turn and stopped my van near them.

Where in the world are y’all going? I asked as I approached them on foot.

As I suspected he would, the guy named the city 100+ miles away, then asked hopefully, Where are you going?

I live over there, I pointed. I could tell they were disappointed.

We heard there’s a truckstop about a mile down the road, the woman said hopefully. Do you think you could drive us there?

I don’t think it’s a truckstop, I told them. I think it’s just a gas station. But yes, I can drive you there.

They loaded in their packs and their dogs, all the while tickeld that a Grateful Dead rendition of “Scarlet Begonias” was coming through the speaker attached to my phone.

What are y’all doing out here? I asked as soon as the van was rolling.

That’s a long story, the guy said. I’ll let you tell it, he said to the woman.

She kept it short. They were looking to settle down, she said, and they had friends in the nearby small town. They’d come to stay with the friends who had immediately started acting weird, so now they were heading back to the city.

I pulled int the gas station’s parking lot and handed the woman a few bucks. She was very thankful, as was her guy, who lifted his shirt to show me the word “LOVE” amateurishly tattoed high on his stomch. (Yes, that part of the encounter was as awkward as it sounds.)

I briefly toyed with the idea of offering to drive them to the city, but I really didn’t want to make a 200+ mile round trip that overcast afternoon, especially the part where I’d have to come back alone. Besides, they were old enough to have been around the block a time or two. I think they’d been on the road a while and (hopefully) knew how to handle themselves.

They unloaded their packs and their dogs, and they thanked me again before I drove off.

I hope all the strays I picked up that day eventually made it home safely.

 

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/dog-on-concrete-road-688835/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-concrete-road-beside-brown-mountain-during-golden-hour-163848/.