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A Day in the Glamorous Life

February 7, 2020

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This morning, I awoke in Gladis on the shore of a crystalline lake. A hot spring bubbled near the shore, so I slipped off my silk robe and took a quick soak before…

Joking. What really happened is that I awoke about 4 am in the back parking lot of a Cracker Barrel in Albuquerque. Hey, Cracker Barrel is an RV-friendly place, and free is free.

I finally got up at 5:30, made coffee, and put on sweats. Going out to turn the propane tank off for travel, I noticed that the homeless guy I had given $5 to the night before was taking a leak in the drainage ditch at the back of the parking lot. His buddy was still sleeping under a blue plastic tarp. Flurries of snow were starting to fall.

I started Gladis and got on the road at 6:15 a.m. It was still dark, but I really wanted to escape the snow. My weather app made it seem like the storm was landing in ABQ and heading east. We were going west. Good.

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Stopping at a casino outside of town to get gas, the wind cut like a knife. I was completely overjoyed to find my favorite kombucha at the mini-mart. Gas stations NEVER have good kombucha. It’s the little things.

I was feeling smug about leaving the snow behind. Then it began to snow. And snow. For three hours, the snow fell in tiny flurries and we crept slowly along on the interstate. No side roads for me during a snowstorm. I was thankful all the cars and trucks were keeping the road fairly snow-free. A semi truck lying on its side on the highway served as a cautionary tale.

I stopped in Gallup, New Mexico to work. I had technically taken the day off, but you know how that goes. As soon as you say you have a day off, everyone has something that just has to get done. A Subway parking lot was my office. It also gave me a chance to cobble together a breakfast protein shake with ingredients I had on hand. The secret is cinnamon, people. Lots of cinnamon.

After that, I only stopped to buy gas and to eat lunch at the entrance to the Petrified Forest National Park for about 10 minutes. I was tempted to visit and see the sights, but I knew it was already going to be a long, long day. I kept asking google maps how much further and then swearing loudly when I found out.

I went from the plains to the mountains back down to the plains and up and down mountains. The west wasn’t won, people. It’s still out there, and it is gorgeous.

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What did I do to pass the time?
I listened to podcasts. Throughline, The David Chang Show, Good Food with Evan Kleiman, The Daily, Fresh Air.
I sang songs, badly.
I talked to God.
I thought about my trip and all the places I had visited.
I checked google maps again. Swore again.

When I rolled into Mesa, Arizona, it was 4:03 pm. I had been on the road since 6:15 a.m. 475 miles, probably my longest road day ever, but I’m that much closer to home.

I may not have started my day soaking in a mineral pool near a crystalline lake, but I ended it in a jacuzzi in an RV park across from a strip mall in suburban Phoenix. Close enough.

The Great Burrito Hunt

February 2, 2020

I never thought making a burrito was difficult. You heat up a large flour tortilla. Slap some beans on it. Rice if you have it. Salsa, onions, cheese, cilantro. Lettuce if there is something wrong with your head. Meat if you are so inclined. A splodge of sour cream adds a nice touch. Roll over, fold ends in neatly, complete roll so you have a tidy little package.

Well.

On Friday in San Antonio, I went to a humble Mexican place and considered the long list of meats for burritos. At the bottom was “Aguacate.” Avocado. Lovely. I do love some avocado on my burrito.

“Un burrito de aguacate,” I asked, having heard the order taker was much more comfortable in Spanish than English. “Sin lechuga.” No lettuce for me.

“Solo aguacate?” she asked. Just avocado? I expected this. Most people think I’m crazy for not wanting meat on my burrito.

“Si, no carne,” I said.

“Tomate? Crema? Lechuga?”

“Sin lechuga.”

I waited a long time. The woman who brought out the burrito out said “Un de aguacate. No tomate.”

Oh no. I hated to tell her it was without lettuce, not tomato, but lettuce is the one thing I cannot stand on a burrito. She had it remade.

I grabbed the bag and drove off, peeled my burrito and…it was a large tortilla tube of avocado. A few pink pieces of tomato and a squirt of sour cream were in there too. Solo aguacate, though. No rice, no beans, just unrelenting avocado for about 7 inches. I could have made 2 orders of guacamole with all that avocado.

You know what is boring? A whole tortilla stuffed with avocado.

Strike one.

So today in New Mexico, I went to a place that listed the ingredients. I ordered a bean and cheese burrito, confident that it would also have the rice, tomato, salsa and sour cream listed on the menu.

It came on a plate. It was a tortilla rolled with both ends open, beans and cheese inside the tortilla, rice, salsa, onion and tomato on the plate.

WHO DOES THAT? Who leaves both ends of a burrito open? These were runny beans, too. I tried to add the other ingredients inside, but by then beans had gotten everywhere and the whole thing was a floppy damned mess.

I never thought that burritos in California were California style, but I’m starting to think that the way we make burritos might be very specific rather, a local thing rather than the rule. In CA, if you order a burrito, it always has beans and cheese and salsa. If you want all-meat (or all-avocado) you have to ask for it and pay extra.

How are burritos where you come from?

 

 

 

 

Remember Me Well

February 1, 2020

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The way I understand Christianity is this: Learn to love people in all their fullness.

That’s it. That’s all I have, but on the other hand, it’s a lot, because people are messy and complicated and weird and unpleasant and mean in addition to being kind and lovely and generous.

One day I took a bouquet over to the house of a woman my BFF and I know.

“Why did you do that?” my BFF asked. “All you do is complain about her.”

“But I love her,” I said. “Yes, she’s fussy and a pain in my butt and she never stops complaining about things, and she drives me crazy on the reg, but she’s also caring and concerned and tries to make things better, and she’s just a dear. She’s one of my people.”

It’s like that.

I have been thinking about how, earlier this week when Kobe Byrant died, some people immediately wanted to talk about how weird it was seeing him being lauded. In their minds, his admitted rape (which he said had been consensual, in his mind) outweighed his stellar basketball career and his charitable acts.

Others said how dare anyone bring that up during a tragic time like this, when people are mourning? We shouldn’t talk about that NOW.

Kobe was all of it. He was a guy who came straight out of high school to play in the NBA, so great was his talent. He was a guy who raped someone. He was a loving dad and someone who granted more than 200 Make-A-Wish requests. He was good. He was bad. He was awful. He was arrogant. He was kind.

If you love the player and the wish-granter, you love the rapist. You don’t love the rape, obviously, but you have to acknowledge the deep flaws in him and then choose the path you want to go down. Do you offer him a crown of thorns, or grace?

We have to be honest with one another, especially in this world, where increasingly we use don’t want to admit terrible things, so we surround them with flowery language. Torture in “enhanced interrogation.” People killed in wartime are “collateral damage.” Getting fired is “involuntary attrition.”

We have to see our sins and talk about them honestly and still keep loving. Covering up for someone never does any good. Unclean wounds fester under a bandage and the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons – unless we admit our shortcomings and vow to do better. Father Richard Rohr says “What is not transformed is transmitted.” The transformation comes from being real and honest.

When you remember me, it’s ok to say I was a bit of a shit. I know I’m quirky and weird and impatient and judgmental and have a mean streak, and I love being right and I can show off and I am too often a people-pleaser. And on some days, I’m pretty all right. But I would expect those who love me to be honest with me and want me to do better.

It’s ok to tell me when I have fallen short. Do it gently, of course – I am still me, as sensitive as a venus fly-trap and as quick to clam up. But please don’t stop loving me, and I will try to do the same with you. As Ram Dass put it so well, “We are all just walking each other home.”

What You Can Do

January 23, 2020

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Traveling through 30 states has taught me something: a lot of the United States is starting to look alike. Certainly every town has a Dollar General. Hell, every wide spot in the road has a Dollar General.

You know the biggies. McDonald’s. Burger King. WalMart. But there’s creeping uniformity in everything else, too. Planet Fitness is everywhere. Pearle Vision. Home Depot. Come off an exit into a town and you could be in Ohio or Florida or Arizona. Only the trees give a clue what region you’re in.

If you want your town to thrive and its unique local culture to thrive, shop locally. Yes, I know it can be more expensive and more inconvenient. Start small and have patience. Get your coffee at a local place. Have lunch at a mom and pop cafe. Send a bouquet from a flower shop, not from an online service.

Then branch out. Go bigger. Get your tires from that local guy. Find a local tax preparer instead of using H&R Block. A local gym. And so on.

I beg you. Appreciate your local treasures. Go there. Spend money. The money returns to the community instead of going off to stockholders. They support Little League teams and donate items for fundraisers and let you use their parking lots to sell Girl Scout cookies.

In Salt Aire, Alabama, a cafe owner stood on the porch of his shop with me for 15 minutes, telling me about his business, the neighborhood, and where my next stop should be. We only stopped talking because he had other customers he needed to catch up with. Try THAT at Starbucks.

I have been 17,000 miles and too much of it looks alike.

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Gullah Land

January 17, 2020
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Sandy Island’s longleaf pine and turkey-foot oak forest, carpeted with fairy dots of deer moss

Julie Dash’s luminous film “Daughters of the Dust” stuck with me. I saw it when it came out in 1991 and it captured me with its beauty and unique voice. I knew instantly I wanted to visit the South Carolina sea islands and learn about Gullah culture. It took me almost 30 years to fulfill that dream.

 

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Capt. Rommy Pyatt, Sandy Island’s official tour guide

In early December, I found myself hopping out of Gladis at the distant end of Sandy Island Road in a dirt parking lot, getting greeted by a tall, smiling man named Rommy Pyatt who was going to take me on a tour of his homeland – Sandy Island.

 

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Pyatt’s General Store

Being the off season, it was just me and Rommy’s nephew on a pontoon boat to the island on a cool and sunny day. The trip of about a mile was up a smooth wide canal through old rice fields. After brief introductions, Rommy launched into his tour patter, filled with jokes and misdirections. Rommy is a prankster who mixes fact and fiction with glee as he tells the story of his island.

 

Despite being from across a continent and of different cultures and races, Rommy felt like someone from my own family, who love to tell stories filled with goofs and exaggerations. He also has a ghost story he tells, complete with photos, and the story of why the store is located where it is due to some ancestral spirits. You have to hear him tell them, because they aren’t mine to share.

Arriving on Sandy Island – at 78 feet above sea level, the highest point in Georgetown county – you see the bright yellow Pyatt’s General Store. It turns out that Rommy is related to everyone who still lives on the island, just a few dozen remaining residents.

At one time, thousands of enslaved people who worked the nearby rice plantations lived there, and the docks were a busy rice processing area, with that grain feeding Europe.

The bricks from the ship ballasts that weighted the ships on the way to America were left on the island, and some homes, including Rommy’s uncle’s tidy home that would fit into any suburb, are made from those bricks.

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The church is bathed in beautiful blue light from the turquoise windows.

Rommy gave me a comprehensive tour, from showing me a little video and artifacts at the Pyatt store, to visiting the old schoolhouse and the island’s church, New Bethel Missionary Baptist. If you’re in the area, be at the Sandy Island dock at 10:30 on a Sunday and a boat will meet you to take you to worship. Rommy gave me a warm invitation, but I never made it back due to duties at my own church.

 

The island is covered in long-leafed pines, turkey leaf oaks, and magical beds of greyish deer moss. It’s a haven for some rare birds, including the notoriously shy red cockaded woodpecker. Many people come out to the island for day hikes. At one point, the island was threatened by a golf course development, but was purchased by the Nature Conservancy for preservation in perpetuity.

The Tour de Sandy Island is a glimpse back in time, a visit to a place unlike any other. It scratched a decades-old itch in my soul. I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to meet Capt. Rommy and see his family’s island.

 

Holy Cats, I Have Become One of Those People

January 1, 2020

I have been tired. I don’t mean a little tired. I have been so, so tired for so long. It has been creeping up on me for years. I go to bed tired and I wake up tired. I nap as often as I can, and when I wake up, I am only slightly less tired.

It has been bad. I have had no motivation to do anything. Being on the road has made it seem like I am doing more, but movement isn’t necessarily doing. I have avoided making plans for anything more than the smallest things, because I didn’t think I’d have the energy to follow through. I was too tired to exercise, which led to being even more tired.

I didn’t know whether it was hormones, or aging, or what. I didn’t really have the energy to even worry about it.

One of my goals while I was here was to see a doctor. I booked an appointment with a functional medicine doctor because my BFF has seen one who has helped her a lot.

Functional medicine doctors are medical doctors. They work differently than most doctors, though – they consider all the body’s systems working together and don’t just treat single symptoms. They look at the person as a whole and work to create health, not just to cure illness.

She’s very expensive and in glowing good health herself. Kind of a cold fish, but she’s serious about what she does. She conducts every test you can think of (and I’m dreading the bills for those when they begin to arrive. I have a huge health savings account that I HOPE will cover it all). I had to give many vials of blood and pee on test strips and look at eye charts and spend hours going over my health history with her.

I had the typical things you’d think are wrong with a fat lady my age: elevated cholesterol, too much bad cholesterol, markers for inflammation.

I left with a binder of stuff to try. Whole 30 diet. Sleep study. Some nutritional powder to make shakes from. Bulletproof coffee for breakfast. Adjustments to my vitamins, my hormones, a cholesterol-binding drug, and an $89 bottle of CBD oil to help me sleep.

I came home and tossed out all the grain-derived food in the house, weeping a little at the half-package of really good Italian pasta. I squirted some CBD oil under my tongue. Waited. Went to bed.

And woke up 8 hours later, refreshed.

I WOKE UP REFRESHED.

Not feeling like I needed another half hour of sleep. I woke up and got up and felt good.

What the hell.

CBD oil. I have become one of those people.

I’m not 100% better, of course. I have tired in my bones. I have a long way to go to be healthy. But for 2 days, I have awakened refreshed, and I feel, for the first time in a long time, that things can change. It’s a whole new decade and a whole new world. Let’s do stuff.

PS The type of CBD oil I use is only available by prescription. My doc likes it because it is tested and certified. The link is to the consumer version, but the kind I take is labeled “Professional.”

 

 

Déjà été

December 29, 2019

One of the oddities of traveling is a form of déjà vu that manifests when one place has a feel that is exactly like another.

I first experienced it when I went to Teotitlan del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico. Looking up the valley and into the mountains, it matched Fillmore, California as if one had taken a tracing on a tissue paper and moved it around over a drawing until the lines snapped into place together. It has happened four or five times since.

It’s not about how somewhere looks, though that helps – it’s mostly a feeling that two places are somehow the same. The way the light falls, the curve of a hill, the height of the trees. There’s a momentary confusion and then a gasp of recognition as the  two places connect through a wormhole in my mind – it’s like I’m in two places at once.

Does this happen to other people?

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The mountains of Oaxaca

 

What Made Me Laugh This Morning

December 28, 2019

A flock of 30 Canada Geese comes flying and honking over the house.

I’m sure they are going to land on the pond behind me, and one goose is, too. He makes a clumsy descent, his big goose-feet out in front of him, aiming at the water.

He didn’t get the message, though – they aren’t landing.

He pulls out of the dive, flapping mighily, barely clearing the house on the other side of the pond.

The geese all wheel around and make a crashing landing on the pond.

The goose who aborted his landing honks at the rest of them. I think he is yelling “What the hell, guys? Did you not see me back there?”thumbnail-2

Stay and Go

December 23, 2019

IMG_20191221_182208I woke up in the middle of the night and thought “How did I ever get here? I’m in South Carolina, sleeping in a house with 11 Christmas trees.” I was dogsitting for my new friends Marilyn and Abbie, but sometimes I just have to stop and wonder at how I got where I am.

Stopping for winter has been good and bad. I love my snug little rental with the pond behind me. I look out the window at a pair of swans who have become MY swans, and a turtle who pops his head up and I swear looks for me every morning. I holler at the security guards when I come in – something inane about the weather or getting ready for Christmas or how busy it is or isn’t – and they holler back.

I go to church every Sunday and do the Facebook live videoing and take classes and pray holding hands with people who now know my name. I know which grocery checker wants my carrot tops for her bunnies. I joined the botanic garden and get a discount in the bookstore. And glory hallelujah, I found decent Mexican food!

All that good is also the bad, because now I kind of don’t want to leave. I know I would feel differently when the temperature hits 88 degrees with 97 percent humidity in July and the streets are crawling with drunk tourists, but right now, it’s cool and cozy and if I squint, I can ignore the Trump 2020 flags (to be fair, even upstate NY had Trump flags).

I’m either staying here in a different place (this place is rented starting Jan 1.), going to Charleston, or going to Savannah. No idea.

While I decide what to do next, enjoy some photos from Nights of 1000 Candles at Brookgreen Gardens. A nice man gave me a free ticket when we got into a deep discussion of local history and he took a shine to me. It’s a super extra light display in a sculpture garden. Behold.

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Psychic Dogs

December 21, 2019
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Murphy, left, and Zeva

I always find it amusing that I am a church lady. My younger self never would have anticipated that. Since I have been here, I found a Unity that I have attended every week, taken over the Facebook Live broadcasting duties, taken classes, been invited to a Thanksgiving party, and performed at their coffeehouse.

I also offered to dogsit in the home of a church couple over Thanksgiving, and did such a stellar job of keeping the dogs alive that I got invited back last week. The first time, there were just two dogs, Murphy and Zeva, both big dobie mixes (with natural ears, which I love so much more than the typical Dobie chop).

Since then, they took in an elderly Boston Terrier, Roxy. On the last night I was there, I knew the couple was due to arrive home about 4 a.m.

At 3:15, the dogs awoke me. Roxy and Murphy were rustling around in their kennels in the living room. I got up and let them out to pee. I know how it is being an old dog, as I am one myself.

They didn’t have to pee, and they didn’t want to go back to their kennels. They would not settle down.

Their people arrived right on schedule. That’s what they were waiting for.

Question: how do 2 dogs (Zeva kept sleeping) know their people are coming home when their people are still 45 minutes away on the highway? They KNEW.

Dogs are magic.

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Roxy, the dear little thing

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