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Waiting is the Hardest Part

May 22, 2019
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I pick the most scenic spots

Question

Why did you spend so long in the Santa Fe area, Suebob? Well, now the truth can be told: I needed healthcare. A mammogram, specifically, and of the difficulties I have had on the road, accessing healthcare was the most intractable so far.

Round 1 in the healthcare battle

I found a lump in my breast. I mean, a DIFFERENT lump in my breast. I have plenty of lumps. So many that, so far, I have had one surgical biopsy, three needle biopsies, five breast ultrasounds, a bunch of follow-up mammograms, and a partridge in a pear tree. But this lump felt different – harder and less slippery. It felt, frankly, like a lentil. Small, which is good, right?

So I took myself to one urgent care where they said they would not refer me for a mammogram, and to another one where the doctor said she would, but then when I called the next day as she told me to do, they said they wouldn’t.

“But you’re not an established patient,” the referral person said. So cold. So uncaring. I spent about 45 minutes on the phone, most of it on hold, while they decided to reluctantly grant me the permission to get a damned mammogram.

Round 2 ding ding

Then the mammogram place didn’t want to take a referral from an urgent care, and was so brusque and imperious about telling me I HAD to get films sent from my last 5 years of mammos, and if they didn’t get them, they would just have to reschedule, and their next appointment wasn’t for 3 weeks and no, they probably wouldn’t have any cancellations.

The person on the phone was just so mean. It was like it was a game to her to keep me from getting a mammogram. It was so awful and disheartening and makes me wonder how anyone who is truly ill receives healthcare at all.

So that’s how I spent 3 weeks in Northern New Mexico – I wanted to be within an hour of the imaging center, in case they did have a cancellation, though with the way Sandra treated me, I figured no one would be calling, and no one ever did, so I waited the entire 3 weeks.

The Decision

The mammo was fine. I had a weirdly inflammed tiny lymph node.

Meanwhile

I fell in love with a lady. A lady named Genoveva Chavez.

Well, I actually fell in love with a community center named after Genoveva Chavez, a center located conveniently about 400 yards from where Gladis was parked at the Santa Fe Rodeo Grounds.

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El Rodeo de Santa Fe

Yes, the rodeo seems like a strange place to park, which is why it was perfectly suited to me and Gladis. They had about a dozen RV spots in a gravel parking lot near some horse pens, and it was cheap and super low-key, so there I stayed. You just called a number on the gate and the guy assigned you a spot. “Do you ever want to get paid?” I asked him. “Eh, I know where you live,” he said. “I’ll come by sometime.”

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Where you can find the cowboys. Also, directly behind Gladis.

Genoveva Chavez Community Center (GCCC) is a gem. They have a huge swimming pool, a giant kids’ pool with slides large and small, a basketball court, weight rooms, a dance studio, meeting rooms and an ICE RINK. They are open from about 5 am to 9:45 pm every day.

I was in heaven. This was honestly one of the most beautiful and functional civic buildings I have ever been in. This is the kind of thing you want your tax dollars going to.

So every night after work, I would put on my swimsuit, grab my backpack, and make the short walk over to visit Genoveva. I asked who she was and the lady at the front desk said “She was a mariachi.” Ok, then. Thank you, Genoveva, for making my extended stay at the Rodeo grounds so enjoyable.

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Genoveva, I love you.

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An ice rink. In Northern New Mexico.

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I also got to pet horsies every day. This is Doc.

 

 

All Relaxation, No Fun

May 12, 2019
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The spa entrance

I love me a hot spring. When I lived in San Luis Obispo, my favorite thing to do was to rent a hot tub on the side of the mountain at Sycamore Hot Springs and soak in the sulfur water for an hour, watching the blue jays flit around among the oaks.

Ojo Caliente

I was so excited to get to Ojo Caliente, halfway between Taos and Santa Fe, way out in the countryside. It’s a historic hot springs that has been visited by humans for at least 3,000 years and “discovered” by Spanish explored Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca in the 1530s.

They have a hotel, a restaurant, and best of all, an RV/camping area in addition to hot pools located at the foot of some desert cliffs that look for all the world like Radiator Springs.

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Part of the old hotel

I arrived Friday night and spent some time sitting in the RV musing on my good fortune as I watched a woman my age with a German Shepherd and a puppy try to set up two tents. No, thank you. I am not a camper.

Discovering the Pools

At 9 a.m., I took the 1/4 mile walk over to the hot springs. It is a beautiful spa – quiet location, beautiful landscaping, a fancy gift shop, restaurant and wine bar. Aromatherapy scents of sage and lavender float through the lobby, which features some spectacular artworks and Native American artifacts.

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The newer hotel suites

The springs themselves consist of a large oval swimming pool at 89 degrees and a series of smaller pools with warmer water, each containing different types of minerals. My favorite was the Lithia pool, rustic and filled with slippery lithium water, said to help promote a mellow mood. I know I certainly felt fine, soaking with my big hat on in the 102 degree water.

The Iron pool was another favorite because the water rises up from a spring at the bottom, which is covered with a thick layer of gravel pebbles, so your feet get a warm stone massage as you walk around.

I didn’t visit the Arsenic pools because arsenic (I’m sure it’s fine, really), but later I found the arsenic and iron waters are mixed in all the pools. Oops. No ill effects, though…I think.

Getting Muddy

I took a mud bath – a first for me. A water-fountain-like thing pours forth a thin, slippery stream of mud – it’s more like colored water. You smear yourself with it and then bake dry in the sun. A shallow pool of opaque muddy water is provided for a first rinse, then showers made of buckets with holes in the bottom sprinkle you clean (or mostly clean) of the remaining red mud.

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The pool area

The day was a warm spring day, hovering between 65 and 70 degrees and breezy, so a little cool to just lay out, especially since I had chosen a lounge under a shade, fearing the high-altitude New Mexico sun. But I did spend most of the day and evening in and out of the pools and under a towel on my lounge chair, reading or just listening to the Native American flute music they play to set the mood.

Shhh Be Vewy Quiet

The crazy part about Ojo Caliente is the enforced silence. The whole thing is a “whisper zone” – no speaking above a whisper – and they seriously enforce this. Several times an hour, staffers with paddleboards  saying “Whisper Please” and chimes march through the pool areas, rattling the chimes at anyone who dares speak.

If you ignore them, they will stand there pointedly, becoming more insistent and jingling their sign. I didn’t see anyone get ejected, but I don’t doubt it has happened.

I could see that there were groups of girlfriends and families who really wanted to bust loose and talk, but for the most part people obeyed the rules.

I get it. It’s a spa. It is for relaxing. But some people relax by talking and socializing. I think there should be an area for talkers or a time of day set aside for a more lively interchange.

As a solo traveler, I realized there was no way to get to know anyone, as friendly as they might seem – because you just can’t walk up and begin whispering animatedly to someone. You would seem demented. It’s too weird.

Chow Time

After I got done soaking for the day, I had an excellent flatbread and glass of wine at the bar and ended up talking for about an hour and a half to one of the massage therapists. He was fascinating. We talked about energy, body senses not normally recognized, protecting your body while giving massage, neural massage, and a lot of other stuff. So I got my talk on. Whew.

So my advice is go to Ojo Caliente with your mind right. You’re going to relax, which is probably what you need. But hush your mouth, or seek the wrath of the guy with the paddleboard.

*No pics of most of the pools, because I didn’t want to invade swimsuit-clad peoples’ privacy.

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Even a little spiral labyrinth!

Museumspiration

May 5, 2019

20190501_183741_resizedI had a three-museum weekend. First, I went up to Taos, about an hour from Santa Fe at 6200 feet elevation. Taos is a gateway to a ski area, a home to many artists and musisicans, and a tourist destination.

It’s also just gorgeous. The dark blue sky, the wide-open spaces, the mountains, the sage-covered plains. I mean.

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The Harwood Museum of Art

Harwood Museum of Art

I wedged Gladis into a parking space at the first museum, the Harwood Museum of Art. It is a small museum housed in a historic building with classic New Mexican architecture. The collections feature mostly Taos and local artists. It was a good introduction to the area.

Taos Art Museum at Fechin House

Next up: The Taos Art Museum at Fechin House. I had no idea why it was important to mention Fechin House in the name until I got there. Fechin House was small home that was expanded and remodeled by a Russian artist, Nikolai Fechin, in the late 1920s. He hand-carved all the woodwork, and he was a master. The design of the home is so lovely that it seems to be modern, even almost 100 years later.

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Some of Fechin’s woodcarving

The museum houses art exhibitions and the adjacent studio hosts art classes and events. It’s worth coming to just to see the home, though, and to sit in the pretty little garden.

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Fechin’s graceful doorway

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Back in Santa Fe, I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum on Sunday. I do love a museum devoted to the work of one artist. Getting the lifespan view of Georgia O’Keeffe’s art allowed me to see the flow of her work – from early learning to experimentation in abstraction, to the more familiar surrealist or fantastical work, then back to abstraction.

The painting that stopped me in my tracks and made my heart pound wasn’t one of the more famous ones. It was this:

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That green leaf. It caught me because just the day before, on the way back from Taos to Santa Fe, I had been captivated by that same color in a patch of spring-leafed trees on a hillside. I jerked Gladis over to the side of the road and jumped out to try to get a photo, but the moment was gone by the time I got there.

It struck me that that is the work of artists and creative people – we get possessed by a thought or image or feeling, then we just have to try to get it.

When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not. – Georgia O’Keeffe

Sometimes I question what I am doing, running around the country in Gladis. Someone accused me of trying to avoid “real life” and that stung a bit.

But Georgia’s leaf painting – it made me proud to be someone who, in my own way, wants to do what Georgia did. Someone who lets themselves be caught by things and tries to express them as best I can.

New Mexico, the Honey Badger State

April 29, 2019

“Honey badger don’t care. Honey badger don’t give a shit.”
Randall’s Animals

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The road to Taos

Driving Me Crazy

New Mexico drivers really put the Mexico in New Mexico.

Those of you who have driven in Mexico know what I mean. There’s a certain shall we say loose interpretation of the driving laws and norms that govern traffic in most of the United States. I swear I have seen more right- and left-hand turns from the middle lane in the past few weeks here than I had seen in my life up to that point.

“Oh, why bother changing lanes?” they merrily think, cutting in front of someone traveling 40 miles per hour to make the turn.

People take that carefree attitude toward passing on two-lane roads as well. Why wait for a straight or non-hilly section? Just ZOOM GO GO GO!

No Pasaran

But who can blame them? Unlike other states, which considerately provide passing lanes in hilly section, in New Mexico, you can go hundreds of miles without one.

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The Rio Grande

Similarly with pull-outs, which California so kindly supplies and provides signage to – a nice smooth section of the road on the right-hand side where slow vehicles can pause to let traffic go by. Instead, New Mexico has spots on the right side of the road, but they often have about a 6-inch drop-off from the roadbed to the pull-out, enough to cause an RV to crash down like a drunk elephant.

New Mexico, the Honey Badger State! They just don’t care!

Eyes on the Pennies

Well, there is someone in New Mexico who cares about the roads. Every so often there is a sign talking about highway repairs and how much they are costing taxpayers. In California, it would say something like “Highway Repairs paid for from the Gas Tax Fund. $197 million project due for completion 1/2020.”Highway.jpg

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Shortly before I headed to Taos Pueblo, where Officer Romero caught me.

Here, the sign says “Highway Repairs. Cost $10,800,556.04”

Someone at the highway department cares. They care down to the nearest penny. Bless their calculating little heads. I wonder if they get upset if the final total is $10,800,556.08?

My Friend Officer Romero

Ah, don’t mind me! I’m just bitter because I got to meet Officer Romero of the Taos Pueblo Police the other day in his speed trap. Yes, I got caught in a real actual speed trap! The road goes from 35 mph to 20 to 15 in a space of about 300 yards. I was really applying my brakes hard, but he still got me.

I told some native ladies at Taos Pueblo about my experience.

“Oh yeah, he sits there all weekend and gets so many people,” they said.

So if you come to New Mexico, bring quick reflexes and a sense of humor. Also bring $30, because that’s how much the ticket Officer Romero gives you is going to cost.

 

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Home sweet Gladis.

 

 

Holy Holy Holy

April 25, 2019

The Princess Bride is my favorite book in the whole world. In it, the brilliant William S. Goldman solves a bit of tedious storytelling by editing it down to “What with one thing and another, three years passed.”

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So I’m here to say “What with one thing and another, I spent a week in Albuquerque.” Maybe there is a reason Google leaves it off Google Maps almost completely. No, seriously, look at the map – that lower red marker is where Abq is.

After that, I headed up to 7200 feet of elevation to Santa Fe, home to many museums, some spectacular churches, and lots of artsy ladies wearing massive chunks of turquoise.

I’m not making fun of it. I like it. I’m all for a new-agey, foodie, artsy town set among scrubby trees at at the base of a mountain range. No, I’m not talking about Ojai. SANTA FE, people, stay on task here.

Fact: Santa Fe is the capital occupied by Europeans for the longest time. Spaniards arrived here in 1607.

IMG_20190421_043612_504_resizedTaking a walk around the downtown tourist area, I found a labyrinth in front of the cathedral and gasped in happy surprise. My bestie CC and I are labyrinth hunters from way back. We have gone on epic labyrinth-finding journeys, guided by – what else – the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator. You can read more about labyrinths at Veriditas.

A lady was walking the labyrinth with brisk determination, so I waited for her to finish. I always walk slowly, because I find the labyrinth is a pretty much perfect meditation tool for me. It takes me about 20 minutes.

It was the Saturday of Holy Week, so I meditated on Jesus and the journey to Easter. It got very emotional and deep. I spent much of the walk crying, which probably made the tourists posing for selfies wonder about me, but whatever.

I thought of how Jesus left everything behind on the road to resurrection – at the end, even his life. And I thought about the losses of the last year, and the changes, and how what is taken from us is also a gift.

The labyrinth winds back and forth in a way that is just complicated enough to keep from being predictable, but not so unpredictable as to be stressful. You arrive in the calm center, where you can take time to gather yourself before heading back out into the world again.

It has been said that the labyrinth is a symbolic journey, and at the end of Saturday’s walk, I certainly felt I had been somewhere.

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I love a town with good coffehouses.

Fortified by my meditation and a cup of really decent coffee (thank you, Santa Fe, for having an espresso shop every 50 yards or so), I wandered the downtown and appreciated all the Southwestern loveliness it has to offer.

I’m still here after a week and I might stay a while. There are so many museums to visit. Suebobian heaven.

The Beauty of Forever

April 20, 2019

For the whole three weeks in Tempe, I couldn’t decide where to go next. North, or south? Arizona is just such a huge state and everything is so far apart that I was paralyzed with doubt. North seemed to cold and south too hot.

Finally, on the Thursday before I was to leave, my friend Coco posted photos on Facebook showing herself and her sister in Monument Valley, about 3 hours north just over the border into Utah.

“Can I come see you?” I asked. I didn’t want to butt in, but I did. Coco replied. Of course I could.

I headed north on Friday at lunch, wanting to get as far as I could that day, heading up into Flagstaff. Rain began pattering on my windshield, then hail. Then the ground was white. Being from Southern California, I had a good five seconds of thinking “What IS that?” before I realized I was driving in snow for the very first time in my life. In a 23-foot vehicle. Really not something I ever wanted to do. Ever. And yet.

It turns out prayers do work! I survived! With physical therapy, my shoulders may someday unclench.

After an overnight in Tuba City (very disappointed by the lack of actual tubas involved) I arrived in Monument Valley at 9 a.m. on Saturday, pulling up to the grocery just as Coco and her friends arrived in the spot next to me.

“We’ve got to find Effie and she’ll take us down into the valley,” Coco explained. I had no idea what any of this meant.

It turns out that Effie is Effie Yazzie, a Diné (what we used to call Navajo) woman whose family has lived in Monument Valley since people have lived there. Coco and Effie met 25 years ago on a horse camping trip that Effie led. Coco offered to write a book about Effie’s family and has spent years coming to Monument Valley to research it.

Coco and I jumped in Effie’s four-wheel drive truck and headed out into Monument Valley. At the toll booth, Effie chatted in Navajo with the toll-taker.

The road into the valley is rocky and unpaved and makes hairpin turns down with no guardrails or shoulders. We passed a sign to a restricted area. It turns out we were heading to Effie’s home, far out in the valley where only Diné guides can take people.

Effie and Coco talked on and on about family, catching up, telling stories.

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Effie’s place.

A traditional Diné home is a hogan, a round structure of wood and earth with a hole in the roof, the door facing east. Effie has a hogan on her property, as well as a more modern-looking small home – though still lacking electricity or running water. She raises sheep and keeps horses and guides horsepacking trips, and dyes, spins and weaves wool.

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The welcome sign on the door of the hogan on Effie’s land. “Welcome, friends, come in.”

She has three wild horses she saved from starvation because food in the valley had become so scarce that their bones were poking almost through their skin.

“I pay $260 every 2 weeks for hay to feed those guys,” she said.

Over a lunch of store-bought sandwiches and bananas we had brought, Effie was telling us about experimenting with some plants for purple dyes.

“Oh, I have some outside!” she said. She went out and began to pluck dyed wool from the tree outside her house where she had hung it to dry, showing us the soft purple color produced by some flowers a friend had sent her in a big envelope in the mail.

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Naomi and Molly, the indefatigable pug who accompanied us on our journey. Ok, somewhat fatigable – she slept in the truck a lot.

After lunch, Effie gave us a four-wheel drive tour of her yard – the miles of red rock formations in Monument Valley. She showed us where she had played as a child, pointing out petroglyphs hidden in little crevices. She told us about herding sheep, riding horses, camping.

She told us stories of her family, her ancestors, and the Anasazi, who some say were different people and some think were just Diné from a different time

We talked about school.

“I was seven before they caught me,” she said, laughing bitterly.

She was talking about the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who came out to the land to snatch children from their parents and take them to English-speaking boarding schools far away.

“I hid under the bed, but they got me. My parents just had to stand by and watch,” she said. “Imagine that…those were horrible people, doing that.”

At one point, we stopped to see a huge domed rock formation called The Big Hogan. Sitting on a hillside covered with red sand, Effie began to sing a pure, haunting melody in Diné.

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Wild horses live in the valley.

“What is that?” I asked. “It sounds like a lullaby.”

“It’s a warrior song,” Effie said. “My brother taught me. But when he sings it, it sounds different.”

Effie knew every inch of the valley – every spot where the sand was deep and she had to gun her truck, every fork in every unpaved path. She even has a spot picked out for her next hogan.

At the end of the day, I couldn’t find words to tell Effie what the day meant to me. It was such a privilege to have her show me her beloved valley and her home and to share her stories and the stories of the Diné people with me.

I told her I would never forget it and bought her a tank of gas and a hamburger, but I can never repay her for showing me her home, another world, a world where I hope her children and grandchildren can live forever.

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The Big Hogan

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Effie shows us petroglyphs. To the left of her hand is a snake and a little deer. In the top center, some people with spiral heads.

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Coco and Effie, lovely friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Red Rocks and Vortexes

April 16, 2019
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The colors on these just slay me every time.

I finally escaped Tempe after 19 days. The town was fine, the people were nice, but it’s basically a sprawling suburb surrounding a very good university where it seems they worship the devil (Arizona State). If it weren’t for the warm hospitality of my fellow Elks, I might have felt worse about staying so long, but they were great.

They took me in, made friends with me, gave me advice, laughed at my jokes, fed me and bought me many drinks. I will always look back fondly on Lodge #2251.

But onward. Northward, out of the sprawl of the greater Phoenix area. I was soon in saguaro country again, climbing gently and steadily. A few hours later, I turned onto the road leading me to Sedona, mythic town of energy vortexes (they don’t say vortices) and crystal healers.

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No idea what a photon genius is/does

I was just bippity-bopping along in Gladis, turned a corner and gazowie! Gigantic striped red mountains with their geology hanging out for anyone to see. The further I traveled into Sedona, the larger and more spectacular they became.

The town is nestled among these spectacular red rocks, occupying the Verde Valley and creeping up the sides of some of the mountains. Even the Elks lodge had a view. Pretty much everywhere in Sedona has a view.

It was alarmingly beautiful. I was walking across a street, turned my head to make sure no one was going to run me down, and gasped, loudly. The couple next to me asked me “What’s wrong?”
“It’s just so stunning,” I said, pointing to the view.

Sedona felt so familiar, and I soon figured it out – it’s a lot like Ojai, near my hometown.

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The view from the more touristy eastern part of town. There’s an RV park down there amongst the elms.

Beautiful, expensive, touristy, filled with spiritual seekers of every persuasion. People wearing natural fibers, as Laura would have said.
Sedona is also known for great hiking, which many people do, and jeep tours, which many MORE people seem to do. These big jeeps kitted out with superstructures holding 8 to 12 seats and a canopy zoom up and down, filled with more or less happy-looking adventurers.

There are tours of the vortexes, tours of the canyons, sunset tours, balloon tours, bike tours, helicopter tours.

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On my walk home.

Me, I found my happy place at the Whole Foods across the street from the Elks. When you’re traveling, it’s good to have a neighborhood place to hang out. In Tempe, it was the Elks. In Sedona, with the Elks only open 3 nights per week, it was Whole Foods. They had a lovely wine, beer and kombucha bar, snacky foods including cauliflower tacos (yeah yeah!) and a nice patio. I could grab a slice of pizza from the hot bar, get a glass of wine, and sit outside watching European tourists do their thing – wear slim, fashionable clothing and argue over which groceries to buy.

I worked a lot, hiked a little, met some great Elks, and even spent an evening – a long, long evening, as it turns out, learning the intracies of Elks bingo. My RV neighbor Patty invited me, and I thought, “Oh, why not?” since I enjoyed spending time with her, and what else was I doing?

Man, those people have more stamina than me. The last time I played bingo, it was drag queen bingo, where you buy cards for each game from drag queens to raise money for charity.

Here, you had to fork over $21 and get a thick pad of cards to play 6 at a time in games of puzzling complexity. Did I mention 6 at a time? I was so nervous, trying to keep up. Between the new-to-me rules and the multiple cards, I’m pretty sure I missed some bingos, but I did win a dauber in a drawing, so if I ever do decide to go back, I’m ready for victory.

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Sedona is named after a real person, Sedona Schnebly. Her grave was in a little graveyard adjacent to the Elks lodge.

All is Well in Dog-Land

April 10, 2019

When I had to move out of my apartment, I could not find a place to live with my dog, Abbie Lynn. She was 60 lbs., she was part pit bull, and she was a feisty little thing. Just the kind of dog landlords are most likely to ban.

She was sure cute, though. Here’s a video of us from when she was little and I was skinnier.

I looked at some absolute dumps as potential homes, just because there was a chance we could live there together. But nothing worked out, and I was at the end of my rope. I was picking up Abbie at her daycare, Send Rover on Over, which was her favorite place on earth – far more than being home with me. I was telling them about striking out in looking for housing.

“Oh, we can take her,” said Shelbi, the manager.

Wait, what?

“We’ll let her stay here as long as it takes to find an excellent home for her. We love her, and this is something we have done for other dogs who were regulars here.”

Tears began pouring from my eyes. I couldn’t believe how ideal this situation was, and how kind the offer.

So that’s what happened. I dropped my dog off one day just like I could for daycare – but this time I left all her toys and bed and meds and a 6-page guide for potential new owners called “The Book of Abbie.”

We didn’t have a long drawn-out goodbye. She raced off to play with her friends, and I left and never returned. I didn’t think it would be fair to keep reappearing and then leaving her.

I did, however, check in via text message, and Send Rover on Over was kind enough to post photos of her on Instagram occasionally. She was always fine.

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Bo races to play with Abbie Lynn.

But today there is news. Abbie has been living happily in a new home with a playmate from the daycare, her new brother, Bo. She has a family with kids and a big yard. And my girl is having a good life.

I knew she was happy at daycare, and I didn’t realize how much of a relief this would be. But it is. My crazy little mutt has a new life and a new home. I know I will sleep better tonight.

 

Yakety Yak

April 8, 2019

One of the best parts of travel is that I get a chance to talk to people outside of my regular circle. I will always talk to anyone, but at home, my activities are usually based around the same places and people – home, church, Toastmasters, dog park.

Out here on the loose, I never know who I will run into. I have been hanging out at the Elks Lodge a lot, riding public transportation, going to new Toastmasters clubs, and taking Lyfts. All target-rich environments for running my mouth.

My parents were both storytellers, my father more so than my mom. He didn’t talk much, but when he told stories, they were perfect little slices of human folly and almost always left people laughing.

I have been meeting and talking to people who are much, much different than me. Arizona is a conservative state and I’m a raving liberal. So over the past few days, I have had long political conversations with a libertarian and with Trump voters, and guess what? We all survived and liked each other at the end.

They’re not going to change my mind and I doubt I will change theirs. But there’s still value in talking and exploring where we can find common ground. No one I have talked to is out there on the insane fringes. They’re all people who are, like me, trying to find their way in an increasingly complex world where it feels like the government really isn’t on our side.

One thing I’m sure of: talking is better than Facebook or Twitter. Big ideas don’t have to be boiled down to a few sentences. You can see people think, struggle, walk back, shift. I can see the human apart from the argument.

That being said, I’m completely over people insulting California and I may snap. So many people in Arizona feel free to bash my home state. I would never insult someone’s whole state. I go out of my way to try to find good things to say. Yet every other person I meet makes California sound like Venezuela.

Does my state have issues? Dude, it’s the world’s 5th largest economy. Ten percent of the US population lives there. Yes, it has issues. So does every state, so step off. I love my home.

So to sum up: talk to people instead of going off on them on social media. And be nice. That’s all for today.

 

 

 

 

Casa Grande Ruins and Amazing Things

April 4, 2019

20190323_151711_resizedI get possessed by ideas and can’t get them out of my head. One such obsession was the idea that I needed to go to the Casa Grande ruins about 40 miles from Tempe.

I had never heard of it before I started this trip and didn’t know anything about it. And yet…I had to go.

The trip out there was lovely. I know I keep saying that, but the desert in blooming spring is really something to see and cherish.

Casa Grande National Monument sits by itself in the town of Coolidge, Arizona. It is an approximately 700-year-old structure surrounded by the ruins of what was once a thriving village. Casa Grande itself is a 3-story building made of caliche – mud – and sheltered by a tall roof structure.

The ancient people who inhabited this place built the building with precise alignment to the cardinal directions, adding windows that mark the summer solstice. They also built over 1000 miles of wide, deep canals, using only stone tools.

The volunteer who gave a talk while I was there was really good, with a lot of respect for and acknowledgement of the genius of the people who had lived here for so long.

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I sat on one of the roof footings and meditated for a long time, letting the place soak into me. When I got up, a couple hours had gone by in a flash.

I went to town to get McDonald’s iced coffee (ordered black, came out white and sweet, JUST LIKE ALWAYS, McDonald’s, can you do something to help me out about this?). When I came out, I spied a laundromat across the parking lot and drove over to get some much-needed washing done.

A lady in khaki shorts and a coral top stood out front.

“Have you ever been here before?” she asked me warily.

Oh, no, I thought. Not one of THOSE laundromats. The kind people warn you about – dimly lit, with gritty floors covered in dryer sheets and sticky substances spilled on the washers?

“It’s the cleanest laundromat I have ever been in,” she said, her eyes widening.

And she was absolutely right. I walked in and a stocky woman greeted me. She was wearing an apron and pushing a laundry cart full of cleaning supplies.

It turned out she never stopped cleaning, except to greet people as they came in – in both English and Spanish – and to help them fold blankets.

She was this charming, smiling presence who turned a boring laundromat into an ad hoc community center. Everyone talked to everyone. She knew everyone. I could see she took incredible pride in her work. It might have been just a laundromat, but it was HER laundromat during the hours she was there. That day, because the other lady was sick, she was working 12 hours, and she wasn’t at all mad about it.

When I left, I thanked her and gave her a $5 tip. A small gesture. I just wanted her to know I saw her and how hard she worked. She shook my hand and thanked me in return, and her hand was as rough and workworn as a field worker’s.

So if you ask me the most amazing thing that happened on my trip to Coolidge, Arizona, it might be Casa Grande, but it might not. Finding an angel on in a laundromat made the whole trip worthwhile.IMG_20190323_214400_106_resized

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