I’ll admit it I got a little tipsy last night. It wasn’t on purpose. We went out for a pizza and a movie and the margartita was enormous and strong. I don’t normally enjoy the sensation of intoxication but it felt right in the moment and I’m fine today. A little tired and still sad but okay. Mimi had a seizure this morning on top of it all. She started having seizures about three years ago. They were rare until this month. So rare that we only observed three in three years. But this month we’ve seen three in a bout 5 weeks. There’s no telling how many we are missing when we are away. After a few minutes of convulsions and drooling she regains her composure and appears normal. La-di-dah, I guess I’ll go eat, I feel fine now that’s over. At 18 years of age it’s hard to take these as a crisis. I presume one day she might give it up mid seizure. She’s had a long and pampered life. She has been a bonny road warrior. It would be a fine and dramatic end to the creature I’ve spent more years living with than any other in the world. But also an enormously sad end. Of course I was relieved she came out of it today. It’s not that I’m ready, it’s that she’s so old I’m trying to accept it as imminent. Yesterday when I was messily bawling she rolled over and over and rubbed on me trying to cheer me up. The dogs ignored me. People that say cats aren’t connected are idiots.
I thought about a number of different objects for today’s writing. Mandolin, fiddle, iPhone? But this month I get more comfort spinning this ring on my right ring finer than playing music or surfing the internet. I pull it on and off. I fiddle with it a lot. As a child I always liked the magnitude of this wedding band. It’s grand and stylish. Purely of the age. My brother says there was a different one she wore before this. He’s probably correct. There was definitely one after this. The last one. A Dynasty-era engagement ring/wedding band amalgamation custom made to Mom’s specifications. Her large solitaire set in a sea of smaller stones. Flashy. Even heavier. She was always remodeling stones and pieces she found or inherited to suit her current tastes. Mom did this with houses, too. The ring I wear is the one I associate with her and it fits me style and size wise. She wore it through the seventies. I inherited it last month.
To me this ring symbolizes a long and dynamic relationship, a successful but not easy marriage. It represents the idea that things can change and not lose their relevance. It takes me to a master bedroom where we watched Star Trek and played with mom’s treasures. The room was small, the bed spongy. Mostly we lay on the floor. Mom kept the bed as her space. We all outgrew the gap between the foot of the bed and the dresser where the TV stood. Our feet climbing higher and higher up the drawers as our heads rested on the foot board. Mom had to walk over us to get to the bathroom. I felt safe in that space with the TV on.
The ring also represents the union that created me just 10 months after their marriage. The first accident. My brother Christian, the second accident, came thirteen months later. They thought she couldn’t get pregnant so easily. Both times. The last kid, Matthew, spaced 3 years after the second, was planned.
It’s my 51st birthday. Wahoo. A prime number is a good number. Well. it’s a combo of two primes, not not actually prime. I almost didn’t arrive. The last several days traveling up the Baja peninsula were uneventful but I almost died and we suffered a trailer breakdown. Life on the road.
So there we were. Driving north in our annual migration. We were traveling a little later than usual so the sights were different. Cirius cactus were up right instead of bent over because they’d increased internal pressure with the recent rains. There were leaves on some trees. Near Vizcaino the terotes or elephant trees were fuzzy with white blooms. The poofy white topped trees contrasted delightfully against the red-brown lava rock surface. I was inspired to photograph. Burt was inspired to stop but as so often is he case along MX-1 there were no pullouts. Finally on a long stretch of straightaway Burt simply stopped and put on the flashers. I hopped out and peeked down my side of the 48′ long trailer-truck complex to check for cars. Nothing. I RAN around the front end. The engine was roaring. My flip flops were waggling. I got to Burt’s side and nearly ran right into a red car blazing along at 80 MPH. It was a Wile W. Coyote moment. I wobbled on the center line as Burt issued a primal scream as the nearly-killed-me car blew by. I don’t know what stopped me at the edge of mortality. Was it the thought that I needed to check again? Did I suddenly realize the blind spot of our vehicle was massive? Was it the realization that I couldn’t hear anything over the massive diesel engine? Did I hear something over the engine? Did I hear Burt scream? Impossible to know for sure.
I think I felt Burt’s scream. The look on his face was devastating. He had nearly seen me run to my death. I did what the still alive but don’t know why always do. I laughed. Then I wobbled on my shaky legs and took this lame picture. I returned to the car and felt sick to my stomach for the next few hours. I have no recollection of a conscious thought telling me to stop. It was if an invisible wall just plopped down and I crashed into it. Burt’s wall of love.
So here I am. Birthday in LA. Happy to be alive. We’re going to visit the La Brea tar pits. We are going to replace the broken spring on the trailer. That’s the royal we. I’ll have nothing to do with the repairs. We broke the spring in a remote place in Baja. Mechanics repaired it as best they could with the wrong parts. It got us here. We are parked on friends’ street. These friends, Barry and Laura from Portal came to see us in Baja this winter. Barry is a former car mechanic and a retired rocket launcher. He has a lot of tools and knows how to fix things. How lucky are we? Yesterday Barry and Burt went off and ordered a replacement spring while I napped and Laura cooked. Actually, I called PIMW attendees and chased down money. I just said I was napping. The spring should be ready today. While Laura and I look for a new handbag, Barry and Burt are going to replace the spring. Wish them luck.
Breakdowns are a part of life on the road. They offer the chance to do things you might never have done. I’ll try to avoid another near death experience for a while.
Today marks one week since our arrival in El Pescadero. Things are going well. Our tarp blew out on day two. I can’t overstate how important the shade tarp on the trailer is to our general comfort. Shading the trailer on all sides makes it livable and it allows the propane fridge to keep working. We were using a massive but sun-degraded tarp left behind by Robin and Jen. It lacked integrity. The first mild breeze ripped the grommets and brought it down onto the trailer. Instead of shade we had a blanket. So we decided to run to Cabo ASAP to find a replacement. While we were at it, why not buy a bed? Our mattress was 11 years old. The peso is weak. WEAK. Really, really weak. 17.5 pesos to the dollar. It was 11.5 five years ago. In the last five years more luxury goods are also available. I presume it’s a post-crash investments by beach hungry gringos.
So, we decided to look for a bed. A run to Cabo, while much easier than it was a couple of years ago due to improved roads, requires many calls to neighbors to see if they need anything. In ten minutes I had a list of cat food, asiago cheese, and toilet paper added to our mattress and tarps. Three out of four calls yielded results. Our first stop was the bed shop. Mattress dealers the world over are notorious for the obscurity of their pricing. Mexico outdid the US. No mattress in the store had a price. When I asked how much a particular bed was I got a fleet of answers: Mexican Queen? U.S. Queen? Cama Matrimonial? Every number had a better number than the first number. This was the standard response: This bed is 17,000 pesos. Pause. But really it is 13,000 pesos. Pause.
This kind of haggling makes me crazy. Burt and I finally found a rather firm Simmons Beautyrest we liked. Have you shopped for mattresses recently? They are really thick. In a trailer every inch counts. We pondered the extra height. Would Burt hit his head during certain maneuvers? Could Mimi the cat make the leap with the added altitude? Having no alternative to the super padded slabs we decided we’d just have to take a chance. We settled on a price of $730 US. My mattress from 11 years ago was $1200. I felt like we’d made a good deal.
Humans are notoriously ill prepared to make decisions in the short term and understand the long term ramifications. I like to pretend I am exempt from this general flaw in humanity. I can defer short term enjoyment for long term benefits pretty well. Clearly mattress buying is my Achilles’s tendon. Burt and I told the guy we’d be back in an hour and a half to pick up our new American Queen sized mattress. Adding to our human nature for short term gratification is a thing called decision fatigue. Watch what happens. We left the mattress store and headed to Home Depot.
This excursion took place during a Mexican national holiday. The Home Depot was jammed. Una carambola. People everywhere. We just wanted a tarp. What is the word for tarp? It’s not what my handy phone dictionary gave me. SpanishDict dicked me over and gave me the word for tent. We persevered and found the tarps. We had to buy three tarps to match the size of the previously installed shade. Done. Now to Costco.
Costco was also overrun. We picked up asiago cheese and some groceries and dog food for us. We left to pick up our mattress. As we arrived at the mattress store we realized we failed to buy toilet paper and cat food. At the mattress store the salesperson said. I have your Queen ready but it’s 84″ long. Burt asked me what I though. I (will regret these words for a long time) said,”I guess that’s the standard length. What else could it be?” We paid for the mattress and packed it on top of the truck. We headed to Home Depot (oops, I forgot more rope) and Costco. Tequila was added to the toilet paper and cat food. Isn’t that a shopping cart for the ages? 36 rolls of toilet paper, 40 pounds of cat food, and a supersized bottle of tequila.
We made it home before dark feeling pretty good with our accomplishments. The next morning I went to yoga. Burt repaired the shade system. I walked up the hill from Prissy’s house ready to help Burt wrangle the new mattress into the gNash. I recalled the original mattress went it with much difficulty. Burt was 10 years younger and we had a big young guy helping (John Dendy). It was the proverbial hog wrastle. Burt and I are 10 years smarter if not as strong as we once were. And we have spent many years moving heavy things together. I was optimistic we could do this. I was right. The old mattress slipped out. The smart move was key. We screwed down the pneumatic lid to the under mattress storage area. Without the lid in the way everything was manageable. Barely, but we succeeded.
The old mattress was carried to the rumpus room for our daring, amiable, flexible, guests to use. The new mattress was hauled in. I took the low end and pushed while Burt steered and pulled. Mimi ignored the entire thing from her bedside nook. It all went so easily. And then we realized our great mistake. The altitude of the mattress was going to take some adjustment but the big problem we had just lost 4″ of our 22′ of living space. Gnashing of teeth in the gNash. There’s a mattress as big as a life raft in our tiny home. OMG. The sales guy tried to warn us and we didn’t get the hint. Ack ack ack.
My original motto for happiness on the road was, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Once again we quickly looked on the bright side. Mimi has a shorter jump!!! Olive’s bed is nearly invisible under the massive overhang!!! The shoes are well hidden, too!!! I LIVE in the bed. I have more space!!!
Through massive effort and my carpentry skills I was able to force a deep-pocketed regular queen onto this boat of a bed. I got on Amazon and ordered two new fitted sheets and sent them to friends coming in two weeks. We will adapt. The height thing has proven to be more annoying than the length. Instruments stored besides the bed are very hard to reach. Mimi’s nook requires her to belly crawl for access. Burt’s positional needs require his head to be in the window recess. I took bearings so I know where to be so his head has clearance to do what we both want him to do.
Last night we slept pretty well. The bed is more comfortable. Mimi was oddly restless and she walked all over us all night long. We think she was just getting the lay of the land.
Our every other day afternoon tennis game was rained out today and I finally have a chance to catch up this blog. Portal Irish Music Week 2015 was a success but it wears me out. Responsibility for 50 people’s welfare and good times is a heavy mantle for a natural introvert. I get tired of hearing my name even as I delight in the fact that it’s a successful event. As soon as everyone left town two dear friends from Helena showed up. Rosemary and Ed swung in to see us and Portal before their winter as campground hosts at Death Valley National Park. We paid them a visit last fall and they did us the honor of coming in to see us. RR and Ed credit (or blame) us for their recently adopted wandering lifestyle. RR does not miss her house one bit. A house we made rather lovely revisions to just a few years ago.
So these two dear ones show up just as the rains come in and I have to resume my duties at the Cave Creek Visitor’s Center. They came in and visited both days. One afternoon we did a bug safari. I’ve learned that bugs are the most reliable nature viewing you can do. They are everywhere. One must appreciate what is available. Since I’m tied to the VIC infrastructure I observe the insects that make the VIC grounds their home. Due to a great monsoon season and a diverse flower garden of local species we have a wide variety of pretty bugs to find. The yellow crab spider below is known to use camouflage to hide in the flowers and can grab a honey bee and disable it with a powerful venom in under a second. The male tarantula was walking about looking for a female dance partner. Alas, I saw no action with either spider.
Finally my day off arrived and we took RR and Ed and their humongous labradog, Bowman, for a leisurely hike. Being a Visitor Center volunteer is not a one way flow of information. I have learned a secret of this job: valuable information comes my way, too. So far I have learned about many things, most notably the edible acorns and the location of pictographs in the surrounding area. It is well known the Chiricahuas are full of Native American archeological sites. That is no secret. Finding these sites is another matter. Knowledgeable people are rightfully protective of the areas and rarely share what they know. In situ pictographs, petroglyphs, and Native American relics are frequently stolen or vandalized. I enjoy seeing these sites but I don’t usually seek them out. I’d rather some one say, “Hey, you want to see something?” Then I know the information was given freely. Recently people shared with me the location of a few of these sites. So RR, Ed and Burt and I checked out a spot on our hike. This is a different site than I visited with the clients of PIMW. Pictures below but that’s all you’ll see here. The four of us ate too much and enjoyed some wine and had a grand old time. RR and Ed are now on their way to Death Valley.
On the work front we are very busy. Our clients (Mom’s casita) have sold their home back east and are headed our way in just over two weeks. It would be nice to be out of their hair before they arrive but I don’t think we will be quite done. Meanwhile I have resumed demo work at the next job (Home office and dining room bump out). I had a pool to dismantle. I subcontracted the arduous sawing to Burt. He used a skill saw, a sawzall, and a grinder to break the pool up into pieces I could carry away. Free large item trash day is this Saturday and we want these heavy hunks of fiberglass to leave town. The pool’s fiberglass was thick enough for a boat and it was bolstered by a 4 x 4 timber running the length of two sides. It was partially submerged but so sturdy I think it may have been made to be freestanding.
Today we installed a tongue in groove ceiling in the casita. And now we are up to date.
A few days ago my friend’s dog took off after me when I left her home in the truck but I didn’t know. I only spotted the high energy herding dog as an oncoming car swerved to avoid her. She was running wild in my blind spot. I hit the brakes and opened the door and she jumped in my lap. Well, nice to see you, too. Olive pitched a huge snarling saliva filled fit but was roundly ignored by all. I returned her home. She was in big trouble. I was surprised this dog felt any attachment to me since when I frequent her home I am usually wielding a vacuum cleaner and she hates vacuum cleaners.
The next day Burt and I decided on an evening picnic on top of the mountains. We wanted to watch the evening clouds from Barfoot Lookout. Partway up the mountain road we found a dog staggering down the right of way. He was spent. It was immediately apparent that this dog was a cat or bear-chasing dog that had run to the point of exhaustion. He had a GPS and shock collar and a regular collar with his owner’s contact information. We watered him and asked him if he wanted a ride. He said yes but was too tired to get in the truck. Burt lifted him in. Olive snarled and spit some more but Elvis, in an uncharacteristically generous move, gave the giant hound all the room he needed to rest. Elvis looked just like Olive does when he hogs the back seat. Elvis sat all prim and erect, wedged in the corner. I guess Elvis could tell this was a tough dog.
Burt and I continued our drive but weren’t sure what to do about the dog. Perhaps his owners would find us with the GPS. We tried calling the number on the collar but we didn’t get through. The dog snoozed. Olive and Elvis stared at him. I think they tried to imagine where this enormous dog was going to spend the night. I was wondering the same thing. The trailer wasn’t ready for 100 pounds of bear dog. Up top we ate our sandwiches. I sat with the dog while Burt and the Olvis wandered around. I was feeling the heavy weight of responsibility for this worn out animal. What if we’d just carried it off from his owners? What if they had given up on him and had returned to Tucson? What would we do if he ran away while we picnicked? There was no reason to worry. He was too tired to move. I fed him the crusts of my tuna sandwich. I scratched his huge ears. He was gentler than my dogs.
On our way back down we ran into the owner looking for his lost dog. It turned out the owner had driven some people (stranded motorists) off the mountain and he was back looking for his dog. His GPS said we had him. Boo, his name is Boo, was not happy to see his owner. He wanted to stay with us. I felt ill. Boo was pulled out of our tuck and put in his kennel. What dog isn’t happy to see his owner? I know hunting dogs aren’t pets but this made me feel awful. Olive and Elvis were happy to see the owner. Boo was not. With no other choice we made a hasty departure. Now I’m sad all over again.
I’m sitting in my stinky trailer. It’s sunny and humid outside. The monsoonal rains have diminished. Bugs are showing up. Burt found a tick on his leg yesterday. A mosquito is visiting us every night at bed time.
Last night I went to a book group to discuss the book Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I loved this book despite the fact that it seemed nearly plot-less and drug a bit. You can read about it HERE. The book was not universally liked by the group. I really liked the window it afforded into a cross cultural experience I, as a white American, could never have. While the specific cultural experiences were far removed from my own specific life I could relate to the alienation from my attempts to make sense of our life in Mexico. I could also relate to the desperation of a young college student with no resources. My own college start was a rocky cultural transition and fraught with money problems. My first moment alone in my dorm room I was approached by the Resident Assistant and asked if I would have a problem with my as-yet unseen roommate. I was informed she was an African American. I was stunned. Why could that matter? I had been assigned this black person because I was from the north and they figured I wouldn’t mind but they wanted to check because they could make a change before anyone was the wiser. Well they were right that I didn’t care but I sure minded that there was a bunch of bigots in the other rooms on the hall. Carol turned out to be a perfect roommate for me. She was older, open minded and shared her clothes. She was full of sage advice and did not treat me like a child. So many of the young southerners in my dorm were provincial, uptight, virgins it was a miracle I made any friends. I wish I knew where she was now. Her name was so ubiquitous, Carol Williams, that I have not been able to find her.
Anyway, if you read the book and want to discuss, let me know.
It’s monsoon time in southeastern Arizona. Afternoon showers are regularly rolling in. Temperatures have eased up but the humidity is higher. While working we are drenched in sweat and at rest we are more comfortable than the 100+ days of a week ago.
Last night Burt noticed the oaks a buzz with insects. It was too dark to see more than silhouettes and we couldn’t catch any to determine what was happening. There was a deep buzz and an audible sound of munching. They sound resembled a far off airliner with a lot of people eating crackers. The wet weather wakes up many creatures. Spade footed toads and tarantulas (edible, btw) are looking for mates. Next door the fruit is coming on in the Fagan’s orchard. It’s a race to gather before the birds, bugs and bears take too high a tax.
It was a productive day at work on the former serpentarium. The vanity was and its sink and mirror, the A/C and seven overhead light fixtures were installed. Floor was grouted and the hot water heater was set in place but not plumbed. After an hour of knee work and two hours of over head work I was feeling pretty worn out. Thoughts of raising the retirement age terrifies me after days like this. On our way home we noticed Beto on his ladder in the orchard. We stopped in and had a fruit-filled, impromptu visit. Hours later I regretted consuming 5 plums, two peaches and an apple but they were irresistible at the time. Fruit hot and sweet right off the tree is a rare gift for anyone. This place is for sale. The pears should be ready in about a month. Five years ago we canned the pears from this orchard and we have been hoping to do it again ever since. Here’s hoping the birds, bears, and bugs don’t clean them out before we can.
There are days you wonder if anything will go right. The proverbial, “Why did I get out of bed?” days. Yesterday we had a day that I must share so you know we are not super-human infallible carpenters. Besides, the bad stuff makes the best stories.
First was some wrangling with a sub-contractor that wasn’t doing the things Burt asked him to do. These are delicate situations. Telling somebody the job needs to be redone is never easy. Telling them for the third time in a month that their work isn’t quite what you were expecting is really tough. Out here it’s not like there are a lot of choices in skilled labor. You’ve got to cajole, threaten, negotiate and adapt. Yesterday started with the tough conversation on the phone. Then we headed out to do our own work. We are mid way through tiling the yoga studio/guest room/office/bathroom project. The bathroom was finished and we were starting on the wide field of the main room. Our plan was for me to have a go at laying the tile while Burt cut and supervised.
Burt laid out the first row and we marked the edge of the tile with a chalk line. You have to decide where the tiles will be whole and straight. This building is crooked with a wiggly floor so we try to figure out what will look best. By our calculations the first row of tile would need a 1/4″ cut off for about halfway down the row to accommodate a flaring wall. I pulled on my knee pads and whimpered. Burt set the first tile so I could line up off it. Burt cut 1/4″ off the next tile and handed it to me. I asked where the cut edge was. He said, “Here.” I said, “Are you sure?” “Yes” “Really?” “Yes.” I laid my first tile. At about tile number six the aggrieved sub-contractor pulled up to discuss matters man to man. My cutter had a higher priority job and I was out of cut tile. I got out of the way and headed off to give the men some privacy. Bad news never needs a witness. I could here every word where I sat but that’s because they are loud talkers. The men worked it out.
I returned to the floor. During the course of the negotiations the thinset (tile cement) had thickened. I could barely manage to smear a swath of goo. I wasn’t very dexterous before it thickened and now I was too slow and too sloppy. Burt kicked me back to the saw and set tile himself. I was happy to return to the saw until I realized it was no longer cutting easily. My brand new saw blade had gone kaput in less than two days. I, of course, blamed Burt. I assumed he was pushing too hard and rushing the job and had worn out my blade. There was a spare blade back at the house. I told Burt I was going for the new blade after, of course, sharing my thoughts that he had ruined my perfectly good blade. Burt did not argue with me. I think he thought I was a wimp. Burt was caught up in his own disaster. He was ripping up all the previously laid tile. When he got to the second row he found out that he had indeed handed me the first tile wrong and all subsequent tiles were a 1/4″ off. That thinset was getting really heavy to work now. While Burt was telling me where to find a replacement blade could be found the subcontractor called on the phone. I took advantage of the opening and headed out on foot. The parking is so tight at this job that I can’t safely get our huge truck out.
Half way home I ran into two neighbors coming out the single lane road. While exchanging greetings Burt pulled up in the truck. It looked very much like mad wife on foot being pursued by sane husband in truck. I gave a hurried, “Gotta go” and ran away. Burt chased me with the truck. He let the dogs loose after me. I flipped him a full moon. Burt had decided it was time for lunch. It was 9:50 AM. We happily snacked and picked up the spare saw blade. We went back to work.
Deep breath. We told each other we were going to get this job back on track. I cut some tile. The saw was cutting out of whack. I tried to blame it on the new blade or Burt. Neither of which fixed the problem. Tile saws have a sliding tray to puch the tiles into the saw. The tray is marked with measurements so you can tell how wide you are cutting the tile. It saves a lot of time to not use a measuring tape and pencil to measure every cut. Now my saw was misaligned. There was no way I could remember which way to adjust for the misalignment. Cutting in both directions and upside down would require constant vigilance. If I’m cutting the right add 1/4″ but if I’m cutting the left subtract a 1/4″. Not gonna happen. Too complicated. We tore the saw apart. All we could figure is that the heavy usage of the last few weeks had vibrated some screws slightly loose. When Burt tightened the screws it lined up properly. Yay, problem solved.
But no, problems still continuing. The new blade was dull in two cuts. So dull that I had to lean my weight into the saw (DANGEROUS) to force the tile through. Burt gave it a go. It was obvious we were going to destroy the saw if we continued to try and cut with a dull blade. Burt found the saw blade packaging. The blades were designed to cut glass tiles. It was Burt’s fault. He bought the wrong blades. Offda. Now we had no more blades. Burt called the client who happened to be near a hardware store and told him to buy more tile saw blades. No more cutting this day. Burt laid tile in the field that did not require cutting. Sparky came out of the penalty box (where she was placed last year after shocking herself twice and Burt three times) and put to work installing outlets and a few other electrical devices. Nobody was singed this year.
The day ended and progress was made and nobody was hurt. Nobody was even yelled at or crying. Not such a bad day after all.
Tuesday afternoon we pulled out of Portal and headed to Prescott, AZ. It’s a 5 hour drive but we headed in the opposite direction to get the gNash repaired first. Last spring as we drove up the Baja peninsula we hit a tope to hard and bent an axle on the trailer. This was revealed to us by one tire rapidly losing tread on it’s exterior edge. Finding a replacement axle has been anything but straightforward. After weeks of calling around to the trailer manufacturer and a number of repair shops we finally had a special order custom made axle on its way to a Silver City, NM repair shop. I cannot believe that we needed a special order axle but that’s where it all ended up.
Tuesday night we had dinner at the Buckhorn Saloon in Pinos Altos just outside Silver City. We’d heard this was a venue we should check out and the rumor mill was right. This place takes gigs in the bar or the adjacent opera house. I dream of having a band ready to fill the opera house but I will settles for a nice gig in the bar some day. You have to put those intentions out there.
Wednesday morning we dropped the trailer at AAA Trailer Repairs and set out to spend a few hours exploring the only place I can name as a prospect for full time stationary living if forced of the road. Silver City is a small, western, mining town with a university and a thriving food and arts scene. There are lots of funky properties gently asking for an attentive owner. The climate is not too hot and hot too cold with a ton of sun. If it had a surf break we’d probably already live here. If it had a surf break it would be California and we couldn’t afford to live here. Just a short while after we dropped the trailer the phone rang. It’s never a good sign when the mechanic calls 15 minutes into the job. In this instance it was the same old problem we’d fixed two times before. The leaf spring mounting bracket had jumped its welds again. The only negative I have to say about our gNash is the suspension is not quite up to the demands of a full-time life and a dirt road lifestyle. Burt told the guy to fix it again.
Meanwhile we ate, shopped and listened to Michael Pollen’s book The Botany of Desire. This short book covers the co-evolution of humans and plants. Four species of plants are used to illustrate how we have changed plants and how they have changed us. Apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes are the stars. Apparently it is now a PBS show. You can check it out HERE. I learned some things. Most interesting was to learn that Johnny Appleseed was not the character so depicted by my Junior Girl Scout troop’s play in 1978. Johnny Chapman was a nature loving extremist that never wore shoes and dressed in a toga. He spread apples of hard cider not the apple of food we currently imagine when we think apples. Johnny slept in logs and went barefoot to avoid harming the ground crawling animals and insect. He also might have been a pedophile. He was engaged to a 10 year old girl. He was in his 30s. When he caught this child flirting (smiling at?) a fellow her own age he dumped her. Lucky girl. A barefoot life in a log is a thing best avoided in Ohio. Johnny’s feet were described as thick and horny. Anywhoo…apple diversity owes a lot to Johnny’s extremism. Johnny eschewed grafting. He though it unnatural. Grafts are essentially clones and since there is no flower sex, there is no genetic mishmash. So Johnny spread seeds (That part of our play was correct). Apple seeds grow into unpredictable apple trees and allow for greater genetic diversity. Way to go, Johnny. You were crazy but you weren’t all wrong. So Johnny floated down rivers with a catamaran canoe. One side carrying him and the other side full of apple seeds. He’d plant seeds on river banks with easy access to water. Once the saplings were big enough Johnny sold them to settlers. He lived on the edge of wilderness and civilization.
I wish I could recall more of our Girl Scout play. I have this inkling that my mom might have accompanied our singing on her guitar. Any readers out there remember this distant time? I’ll have to ask Mrs. Nardoza our intrepid leader. She’s on Facebook.
Back to the trailer. Midway through the tulip section of teh book we learned that the axle sent to repair our trailer was not the axle we ordered. The repair shop suggested installing a non-custom jobber that was only an inch longer than the other axle. There are two axles on the gNash. It sounds weird but what they do is balance the axle so the tires on the dually are only 1/2″ longer on either side. It’s a common situation. Rather than wait a few more days for our axle to show up we went with the alternative. Meanwhile time was dragging on. We walked the dogs. I bought some new shoes.
Tulipomania struck Holland in the the late 1630s. People went nuts for variegated tulips. One tulip bulb could cost 10 times the annual salary of a skilled worker. The irony here was that the variegated petals were caused by a virus that slowly weakened the plant stock over time and led to the extinction of several lines of the flower. Of course, in the 1630s nobody knew what a virus was and did not know they’re breeding practices were weakening the flowers. They did know the flowers failed over time and it only heightened the craze. Read about tulipomania HERE.
By the time we got to the section on marijuana the trailer was repaired and we both were ready for a joint. We pulled out of Silver City stone cold sober at 5:30. For 3 hours we listened to a treatise on our relationship to marijuana and other consciousness altering drugs. By the end we both really wanted a joint. This part of the book is very interesting and well worth your consideration. Pollen goes into human’s history of drug usage and the effects of the American drug war. You can blame the war on drugs for the super strength found in today’s strains marijuana. The need to go underground and grow in a northern climate resulted in strains of the drug that are far more potent than they were in the 60s. This book was written before the current changes we see with the regulation of marijuana so it is interesting to note that many researchers and philosophers attribute the paranoia side effect to the fact that the act of smoking some bud was illegal. They say that marijuana is only heightening thoughts and feelings already in the mind. I can provide some anecdotal evidence of my own to this theory. Burt and I rarely smoke dope. It’s illegal most places and we’re just not that into it. But…but…but…Two years ago I was offered a perfectly legal chance to smoke some recreational pot in our fine state of Washington and I took advantage. It was the loveliest, most relaxed pot smoking event I have ever enjoyed. Even then I swore it was the relief of knowing it was perfectly legal and it was if I was just enjoying a beer with friends. The mind is very powerful. Another interesting thing to consider that was explored in this section of the book is that mind altering drugs are merely activating pathways in the brain that already exist. That our own bodies can create chemicals that do the same thing either through fasting, meditation, pain, athletic achievement….
So last night was made it to a Walmart in Somewhere, USA. The section on potatoes was interesting but almost out of date. It captures the blooming edge of genetic engineering. Pollen has since developed into a powerful voice for organic farming. This book barely scratches the surface but does give a nice wake up call to anyone unconcerned about corporate control of the food chain.
This afternoon we are nestled under a shade tree on the side of the track of the Prescott Junior High School. Music is on the agenda.