Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Today I'm sad


Today I'm sad. Having my first real bout of homesickness.

I'm spending all of my money. I'm isolating myself from people I love. I want to go to brunch at the Screen Door; have a frittata and a Spanish coffee. I wish I had a job. I miss knowing my way around town and smiling at familiar faces. I miss sweating at Julie's Jazzercise class with Trina. Yes, I said Jazzercise!

I miss having a drink with Kyle at Veritable Quandary after work. I miss riding my bike all around town and building my fixed-gear.

I miss the people I love. I miss my mates. I miss having a working refrigerator and a shower I can stand up in. I miss pizza any night of the week. I miss watching videos on my couch. I miss the brunches. God, I miss the long, luxurious brunches followed by long, luxurious naps.

I miss the coffee breaks with my friends, and karaoke with my workmates. I miss Heidi at Ralgh's store MEAT across the street from my house. I even miss the cranky Portland hip kids.

And I want a kitten. And I can't get a kitten until I have a home and a job.

I miss my bed. And I miss having a man in my bed.

Today's a day for missing things. Don't worry about me, though. I'll be better tomorrow.





Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fingertips

Left Pinkie:

Saw a cyclist three times over three days on my drive through Kansas. Thought about offering him a ride, but then changed my mind because I figured he was probably cycling across Kansas because he wanted to.

Ex-wedding band finger:

Ralgh and I stopped to watch two squirrels chase each other. You know how they jump from tree to tree and you're always amazed that they don't fall? Well, today I saw one fall... like fifteen feet. Thud! Then it got up and scurried away. I hope it's okay. Dillon and I talked about squirrels. We realized that no one has ever seen one poop. I think it's because people are always looking at their nuts.

Pooping?

Finger I sprained during the 2006 Portland Trailblazer Jam Squad audition:

Woke up this morning with a few slices of cinnamon raisin bread, wrapped in cellophane, left on my windshield by the woman who lives in the house in front of which I parked (is that a real sentence?). What a delight!

Surprise bread!

Left finger that should never be aimed by a polite person at another person:

Saw the above cyclist a third time in Beloit, Kansas while riding my bike. I excitedly forced him to talk to me and we spent the evening rolling around Beloit on our bikes and then eating dinner at the only restaurant we found. Kurt was battling the Kansas wind, cycling from Boulder, CO to Salina, KS for a sustainable agriculture conference. Thanks for the evening and dinner, Kurt!

Right index:

A bee crash-landed on my chest and fell down my cleavage (I know! I have cleavage! I was a surprised as you are). In a panic, not wanting to be stung, I yanked my shirt down and brushed the bee away, flashing the entire downtown of Beloit in a girls gone wild moment. Burning Man is over, Eva Darling; keep your clothes on please!

The bird:

I discoverd a litter of kittens in an abandoned building on the river in Beloit. Came really close to adopting the curious one, then considered the potential of keeping a litter box in Vanta C. Regrettably decided against adopting the kitten.

Useless right hand finger:

Watched the debate at an Obama party in Lawrence, Kansas. There were two hundred supporters there and we had a raucous time. I thought McCain did an good job, but did he have to be so cranky and condescending? And the jokes... was that a bestiality joke? I am in love with Obama. have been since 2004. Have never been attracted to a president before. I want to cuddle with him and then watch him make universal health care a reality. *sigh*

Lawrence!

Tea-drinking pinkie:

My favorite graffiti so far. Clever. It's Kansas. Get it? Wizard of Oz?

Awesome Kansas Wizard of Oz Graffiti




Friday, September 26, 2008

no words necessary

No words necessary for this momentous moment!




Balls!





Terror... or SURPRISE?

There are two games which I credit to my friend Ainsley and play repeatedly on my Vantasy. The first one is putting the word "anal" before the names of cars (Mom, you drive an Anal Charger! See, it's funny!). Since I'm rolling with lots of RVers, I also play this game with RV names (Anal Bounder, Anal Legacy, Anal Raptor). Endless fun. Another game Ainsley and I played for a bit was a word substitution game in which we traded the word "surprise" for the word "terror" in sentences. Instead of having a surprise party, you have a terror party. Instead of living in terror, you live in surprise! While this game doesn't have the instant appeal that the anal game has (!), I play it all the time while driving Vanta C.

For instance, I was going to start my blog by saying that the thing I like about traveling is that each day is a surprise. And I thought for a minute about how fitting the word terror would be in this sentence. I guess I know I'm really living when each day has an element of both. Traveling is great that way. The uncertainty I wake up with each day can be terrifying, the connections I make surprising, and vice versa. Occasionally I still get terrified in the night after hearing an unidentified noise which usually turns out to be Ralgh, and we are still surprised by the serendipitous way our days unfold.

On Monday night, Ralgh woke me up every hour and a half to go outside with diarrhea. At 3:30am he threw up. I hear him whine and know that the situation is emergent; I have little time. Like a fireman (or firebitch!), I jump off my loft, get dressed, and take him out, watching him hunch uncomfortably. I know he's not feeling good, but it's nearly four in the morning and I'm on Highway 36 in Kansas. The nearest town with a vet is over an hour away. So I called the emergency hospital in Portland, the ones who took care of Ralgh when that mean dog bit his ear last year. They told me to stay with him, give him water, and take him to the vet in the morning.

That's how I ended up spending the day in St. Frances, Kansas. As we waited for Ralgh's guts to chillax, I knitted, read, and window-shopped main street. I wanted to check out the thrift store, which was run by the old ladies of the town Methodist church. It was closed! Dammit! But all the lights were on so I pressed my face to the window to see what kind of place it was. Then I saw Sherry, who waved me in. She said that the store was closed, but since she was there working it would be fine for me to look around and buy stuff. Folks, this was the greatest thrift store I've seen in years. This is a thrift store where you can walk out with a bag full of things for five dollars, in a town where drivers wave at you when your cars pass each other. It just had really unique stuff, it wasn't picked over by the hip city kids, and I had the whole place to myself. I found vintage aprons for fifty cents, thermoses, craft supplies and fabric, jewelry, and it was all special. I spent three dollars, then I asked if I could help. The next thing I knew I was vacuuming the floor.

Protein!



Here's where it gets awesome: the other job they needed help with was taking their overstock (fourteen garbage bags full of summer clothes) across the state to be donated to Goodwill. They said they would have to rent a truck, so I offered to drop them off myself, since I was going that way. So, here was the surprise of yesterday afternoon! Between Ralgh's frequent walks, I rummaged through bags of clothing, trying stuff on, saving what I liked, and laughing at what I didn't. I brought the thrift store to my van!

Bags Bags Bags

Ralgh seems to be doing a little better. The vet has him on a diet of cottage cheese mixed with cooked rice, which he loves. This morning I joined him and we both had the "white surprise" for breakfast. Last night he only woke me up twice, and I think we're going to get on the road again today. After all, I have to drop those terrifying clothes off at the Goodwill!





Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Out of the blue

"Where did you come from? It's like you just came out of nowhere and started doing work." My new friend Standish thought aloud. An old friend from my Sydney Australia days, RachAel, insisted that I introduce myself to the mature gentleman, founder and owner of the Denver Darkroom photography school. I arrived on a Sunday, when there were no classes, not really sure what I was doing there. I'd called a day prior asking if he needed any help, thinking that it would be pretty cool to volunteer at a darkroom. Plus I wanted to meet this old friend of Rach's; she couldn't stop saying wonderful things about him.

So I rolled up, and Standish let me through the side gate. The first thing I noticed was the yard, bulldozed and adorned with various thrift store finds, including an old stoplight and two non-functioning hot tubs that he bought for $1.50 each. Standish had received a surprise check for thirty thousand dollars from none other than Yoko Ono (seriously, just opened up the mail one day and there was the check, no letter of explanation), which he earmarked for the renovation of the backyard. After offering me a Zima (!), he explained his big plans to host, officiate, and photograph weddings there. I'm hoping that I'm painting a portrait, here. Standish is a unique snowflake, to put it delicately. It looked like he hadn't thrown anything away since 1967, and he has a homeless man living in a cupboard above the stairs in his house who does odd jobs around the studio.

My first task was to use a glue gun to make minor repairs to a thrift store chair. The glue gun had seen better days; hot glue came out from various places on the gun, everywhere except the tip. So, I burned my hands 37 times, but the chair looked good when I was finished with it. Then came the closet. My instructions were to take everything out, vacuum the shelves and then put everything back. Easy. "What else have I got for you?" Standish contemplated. "Well, I have one more closet, just across from the other one, at the top of the stairs." I smiled, went around the corner, opened the closet door and brought my right hand to my mouth to cover a gasp rivaling a post-CPR drowning rescue. This closet was actually a room, and it was lined with cluttered shelves. The floor was hip high in pregnant cardboard boxes, spewing out their contents. It looked like king kong had picked the room up, shaken it like a crack baby, and replaced it in the studio. I couldn't take even one step beyone the doors. And there were mouse turds. I wish I had accepted one of those Zimas!

What was I doing here? I looked at the room, not knowing where to begin, and thought, "one thing at a time, Eva. Just take it all out, and put it all back. You are a master of spatial awareness. You can do this!" Two hours later, the boxes were organized, the shelves were cleaned, and the floor had nothing on it but a garbage can. Standish took a break and repeated his offer of a Zima, which I accepted. This was when I traded in my karma. We took a seat in the backyard, Stan in the chair I had fixed extending a pipe full of medical marijuana to me, me kicked back enjoying my Zima. We talked about RachAel, photography, our siblings, our lovers, our dogs, his life as a filmmaker and college professor. He offered to feed me, and we drove a few blocks and crammed our bellies with sushi.

Looking back on my day, I realized that even spending hours cleaning up mouse poop and burning my hands was more enjoyable than if I had spent the day alone in Vanta C knitting. Standish and I bonded over our work, and I left feeling genuine affection for him. I learned a bit about photography and saw my first darkroom. I took a candid look into his world and liked what I saw. It was unspeakably rewarding and entertaining.

Hates digital!

Though I was invited back for another day of work, I was due to leave Denver on Monday, so I drove Vanta C eastward on Highway 36 until Idalia, Colorado, 16 miles from the Kansas border. Here I hit the jackpot! I went to the bar for a Bud Light (when in Rome), which was purchased for me by the manager of the only gas station in town. Without prompting, he offered me the volunteer opportunity of a lifetime changing tires on road-maintenance vehicles the next day. I was TICKLED to get dirty fixin' cars and couldn't wait to meet him the next day. Evening was approaching, though, and I had to find a place to sleep.

When I entered the parking lot, I spotted one of my own: a forty-something man eating NutriGrain bars, his packed bike leaning against the bench. As I sat down, a woman in a golf cart came out of nowhere and offered the cyclist, Steven, and I her yard to set up camp for the night. Steven, it turns out, has been cycling since the first of September, on a great journey from Florida! I met him after two thousand miles, and with only two hundred to go until he reached Denver, his final destination. He was so cool! We set up camp. I made us pasta and broccoli, and we talked into the wee hours about life off the grid.

I looked forward to a day of changing tires, but Ralgh got sick. He woke me up every hour to go outside, where he threw up and had diarrea. I was so worried that I called the emergency vet in Portland, who told me to wait through the night. Ralgh's feeling a little better now, and loving his special vet-recommended meals of cottage cheese and rice, but I had to forego being a mechanic so I could drive to the nearest town with an animal hospital, just in case. Damn. So, here I am, in St. Francis, Kansas, waiting out the day.



Until next time,

Eva





Monday, September 22, 2008

Better to give than to receive

A lot of people don't know that my family was on Welfare as a kid. I remember a portion of my life during which oatmeal was an ingredient in most of our meals, if not the central ingredient. Living in poverty didn't traumatize me, though there were times when I knew I was different from (read: not as good as) the other kids I knew. As an adult, like almost any difficulty people have to overcome as kids, I appreciate having had that cross to bear at a young age. Instead of getting a new pair of shoes when mine weren't cool anymore, I decorated my old pair with sequins. Instead of throwing away my "holy" jeans, I bleached or dyed them and turned them into totally cool shorts. I'm good at living simply, and getting by on very little money. It's a part of who I am. Even after I hit it big as a travel writer and make millions, I'll still be working class. I'll always be working class.

I'll never get tired of telling people about how my mom pulled me and my three siblings out of poverty by working full-time during the day and attending the local community college full-time at night. After a couple of years, she had her Associates degree, and with honors. Though she couldn't be around as much as she wanted to, we always knew we were number one. Instead of feeling rejected or abandoned, I felt only pride. This was my example, my training at a young age, that I can and should accomplish anything I want. I take pride in doing things myself, like fixing my van, or paying for college. The unfortunate side affect of this is that I have a really hard time accepting help. Somewhere in my brain, needing help becomes translated into weakness. Needing help is a sign that I am failing at doing it myself.

Hence one of the biggest challenges of my Vantasy. Owning a twenty year-old vehicle which is also a house means there's always a repair to be made. For example, I've been driving around the country with a leaky sewer valve. It's a slow but constant drip. drip. drip. of pee*. I've essentially peed a trail from Portland to Denver that has even Ralgh the dog impressed. I'm sure if he could invent such a contraption for himself, he'd do it.

*A side note on bodily waste: DO NOT READ IF YOU DON"T WANT TO READ ABOUT MY POOP! I never do number two in Vanta C's toilet. I've found that there's plenty of opportunity for poo during the day, and having weighed the pros and cons of doin' the two in Vanta C, I made the decision to put only liquid waste in my toilet. I have a back-up emergency plan in case I wake up in the middle of the night with the runs, and it's hilarious. I'm too classy to tell you about that just yet. Anyway, the leak in Vanta C's sewer didn't bug me much, because I'm not dripping dookie everywhere and polluting [Barack Obama's] America the Beautiful. So, that's the 411 on my scat, my doodie, my crap, my dung, my solid waste, my turds... Have I missed any g-rated poo slang?

After a month on the road, I'm still struggling with asking for help or even just accepting unsolicited offers from people. I'm an adult, dammit, I can take care of myself. Sometimes, though, I get overwhelmed and just have no idea how to fix something, or I get tired of eating out of cans. So a meal is offered and I awkwardly accept, wondering how I can contribute even though I know I have little to offer outside of saying thanks. I mean, I can't just show up to dinner with a can of sardines as a contribution, and anything worth bringing costs more than what it would cost me to just eat a Cantasy in my Vantasy. My budget is so tight that I'm forced to accept gifts without doing much in return. I just say thanks, feel like a burden, and try to find ways to avoid getting any more help from the donor.

These past couple of days I spent in Cherry Creek State Park in Denver with eight other campers I'd never met who are all full-time RVers. They're young and resourceful, make their money while traveling, and have made an art of living simply. They took care of me, fed me, gave me lists of websites, advice, ideas, examples, dog food, and one of them fixed my sewer valve and another leak in my grey water tank. For free.

Kevin gets dirty with the sewer valve

It got to the point at which I felt like their child. I was needy, had nothing to offer in return. I felt like a burden. But I accepted their help as gracefully as possible and tried to avoid my tendency to want to feel humiliated. After all, when I help someone, it's never because I feel pity for them or think they need it; it's just because I like helping people. I'm generous with my time and money. It's a gift when someone allows me to help them because it grows our friendship. I have to trust that when people want to help me it comes from the same place. That I am giving them a gift by just accepting their help and allowing them to feel good about giving. It takes practice, though, and humility.

Check out my new friends and what they're doing!

Kevin changes the way we RV.


Rene and Jim hit the road full-time with a three-legged dog.


Me, with Bella, daughter of Sara and Matt with the veggie oil RV.





Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's not just for old people anymore

A lot of people talk about how sweet it will be when they finally have enough money to retire. They toil away, hating (or just tolerating) their jobs, putting money into that 401K (or not), and dreaming of all that knitting their going to do someday. My philosophy on retirement is a bit different; instead of waiting your whole life for the ultimate summer vacation, why not take little retirements all along the way? After all, who knows if we'll even make it to 65.5 years old, and by that time the retirement age will likely be 115.

So, in my life, I've worked hard for a period of time, saved money, and found ways to retire periodically while I'm still young. It comes at a cost, of course, like maybe my resume is a little more scattered-looking than most. But I'm not trying to live my life so it looks good on paper. Nope, I'd rather love as many moments as possible. The last time I retired, I traveled Australia. This time, America.

As an experienced retiree, I can tell you that not working isn't all it's cracked up to be. Having a job gives a woman some purpose, a reason to get out of bed. It's also a social outlet, a chance to meet new people. Working gives your brain a challenge it probably wouldn't have otherwise, making you a more intelligent person. It also lets you meet really hot guys to make out with. Being fully retired robs you of these chances for growth and making out, so I'm a firm believer in volunteer work.

During my current retirement, I've found that one of the things I've spent the most money on is coffee. It's ridiculous for me to go out and buy $5 cups of coffee, since I have a pound of fair trade going stale in my van. I've realized, though, that it's not the coffee I want when I go out, it's the chance to get out of the van for awhile, meet people, and introduce myself to my new digs. In thinking about how to eliminate this expense, I've been brainstorming. How can I do these things without spending money on something I don't need? And then the idea smacked me like the do-gooder palm of Mother Teresa's hand: volunteer!

I've had two super-rad volunteer experiences so far on my trip. First, I worked three shifts as a barista at Burning Man's center camp cafe. Then, in Salt Lake City I snapped green beans for One World. I'm already signed up to answer phones for Michigan Public Radio's annual fall membership drive, and have been asked to volunteer at a school in Denver. I had a lead on a homeless shelter here in Boulder, but that fell through.

So, as of now, the Vantasy takes on a new look. I'm going to be the Princess Di of America (only without the car crash, hopefully), doing good and getting in with the people. I'm going to volunteer my way across the United States!

I think this will dramatically change how the Vantasy looks for me. If I volunteer each time I roll into a new town, I have a feeling that Purpose might kick Desperation out of the passenger seat, for one. I'll get to grow my brain, learn about towns from the inside, and feel like I'm producing instead of just consuming all the time. And you never know, maybe one day I'll volunteer at a homeless shelter and be able to snag a free shower!

If anyone out there has tips on unique volunteer opportunities anywhere in the US, please pass them on. I'll do anything.

Thanks for reading! And a million thanks to those who have donated.





Monday, September 15, 2008

Revisiting

This trip is kinda like being in college again. I'm broke, spending a lot of time hanging out in coffee shops on my laptop, showering in dorms (shhh!), and hanging out on campuses. While it might seem kinda creepy that this unemployed adult woman slinks around cafes and dorms trying to look like she belongs there, I know my intentions are pure. Besides, it's not like I'm going to sink so low as to show up at a frat party or something. Actually, I'm lying. I totally would go to a frat party if someone invited me... or if I thought I could sneak a hot shower while I was there. But that's a non-issue. Bald girls don't get invited to frat parties.

I don't think it's such a bad thing that I'm living like I'm in college again. I mean, college was one of the best times in my life. I was learning nonstop, making new friends everywhere I went, and felt like I was at the steering wheel of my life. There was so much promise back then. I remember naively thinking that in just a few years I would get a real job and make, like, fifty thousand dollars a year. I still think that, but this time I'm right. Right?


In the last week, I've spent all of my time in college towns, where I've been spoiled by bikelanes and free wireless internet almost everywhere I go. My favorite so far has been Fort Collins, Colorado. The crowning glory of this town is it's cutting edge commitment to all things sustainable. Lots of towns talk the talk when it comes to being green, but Fort Collins goes leaps and bounds beyond, making sustainability the first priortity.

If sustainability is the crown of Fort Collins, the New Belgium Brewery is the diamond in that crown. There are too many creative footprint-reducing devices to mention, but these folks are reusing and rechanneling energy every step of the brewing process. They also sustained my happiness by getting me buzz-drunk two days in a row. For free. And gave me a sticker. And a tube of chapstick. You know that 50K job I'm gonna get in a few years? Well, I hope it's here.



Free beer, new friends

Yesterday I rolled in to Boulder, which is Ralgh's favorite stop so far on our tour, since we've gone on two long mountain hikes in the last twelve hours and there's an alarming abundance of squirrels living in our neighborhood. I'm out and about today, exploring this new city, waiting to see what delights and friends I'll encounter. And I won't encounter much sitting here staring at my laptop, so:

Over and Out!





Friday, September 12, 2008

the problem that has no name


In the 1960s, Betty Friedan wrote about a "problem that has no name," referring to a quiet desperation among housewives in that time. With an increasing number of modern advancements, such as electric washing machines, automobiles, televisions, Hitachi Magic Wands*, etc., at her disposal, the woman of the sixties should have little to complain about. But, Friedan argues, while the evening's stew bubbled in her shiny new crock pot, her thoughts marinated in a salty broth of dissatisfaction... of the knowledge that there must be something more to this life.

*I'm not sure that Hitachi Magic Wands existed in Friedan's time, but would that they were!


Ever since my Junior year of college, when I took my first trip outside of the US (Cuernavaca, Mexico, for a Spanish language intensive program at Cetlalic - go there!), I've felt a tugging need to see the world. Mexico opened this midwestern gal's eyes and I knew from that moment that I had to see it all. So, I've done my best to make traveling a priority in my life, hence the Vantasy.

But I've noticed that each time I manage to break away from my "normal" life to travel, I get an unwanted visit from Desperation. Most of the time, it waits in the corners of my mind, allowing me to go about my adventurous days in a mostly happy state. I might even experience elation while traveling, but the despair is always there, nudging at me, asking, "Is this it? Is this what you wanted?" And if I turn my head away from it, agreeing that, yes, this is what I want, Desperation plays it's trump card: "You're all alone. Tell me again why you're doing this."

And I have no really good answer. At least, not an answer which is good enough to make Desperation go away. Sure, I'd like to be sleeping in my bed. I'd like the luxury of a shower anytime I want one. I miss my friends. I miss having a paycheck. But these are all things of comfort, and as I've said in earlier blogs, it takes discomfort to grow. It's uncomfortable to roll into a new town and wonder where I should park. It's uncomfortable to be alone most of the day. It's uncomfortable to have diarrhea and have to RUN to the nearest bar at 10:00pm, which is a pool hall/cardroom full of staring men, just so I can sit, doubled over in pain on their questionably clean toilet and emerge from the bathroom fifteen minutes later to more stares. It's uncomfortable to look Desperation in face, and agree to take it on a road trip just so I can do a bit of growing.

Come to think of it, I think that is the answer. I'm addicted to discomfort. It makes me feel alive, challenged. A trip like this would just be a vacation if I didn't bring my friend, my "problem that has no name", along with me. I know there's something more to life, and I'm going to find it out here. Ralgh gets the backseat, Desperation gets shotgun, and I'll drive us all around, through rainstorms, over rocky roads, and into sunsets until we find what we are looking for.





Wednesday, September 10, 2008

freedom ain't free, but a lot of good stuff is.

As I headed out of town on my last day in Salt Lake City, I decided to make one final stop at a coffee shop I'd heard about called Nobrow. When I walked in I thought I'd been transported to Portland; several fixed-gear bikes lined the front of the shop, and the inside was full of skinny boys in tight pants sporting emo haircuts, not a smile in sight. Let's just put it this way: if the place was a coffee cup, it would be overflowing with hot stuff, no room for cream, and the coffee extra bitter.

After a few minutes, I looked up from my laptop (THANKS KELLY!) and saw a blond, slight young man entering. You know how your brain can sometimes remember a face, but not the circumstances surrounding how and where you first encountered that face? Instead you only get a vague feeling like, "I've seen you before," or "I don't remember why, but I didn't like you," or "I remember havinig a conversation with you, but I can't remember what it was about." Well, I got a distinct feeling of having spoken with this gentleman before, so I stopped him and asked if he was from Portland. With jaws dropped, we realized that we both worked at PSU together! What are the chances?

My old Portland buddy, Mike, sent me to lunch at a little cafe called One World Everybody Eats, which is a for-profit restaurant following a very unusual business model. All ingredients are organic, most are local, and the mission is to reduce waste as much as possible and to feed everyone healthy organic food, regardless of their income. The restaurant cooks a small number of seasonal recipes each day and serves them up cafeteria-style. You tell the server how much you want (you're expected to clean your plate, and you can always come back for more), and after you eat you pay whatever price you feel the meal was worth. If you can afford more, you should pay more. Every day, the cafe features at least one meal which is absolutely free, in line with their mission of ending hunger.

The coolest thing about this place is that you can volunteer your time in exchange for a meal, which is how I ended up spending the afternoon there, cleaning green beans. It turns out, I needed the work as much as I needed the food. Snapping the stems of the beans gave my hands something to do, made my head stop thinking about the lousy night before, and gave me time to really get hungry. In my hour of work I made new friends and came to feel that I was an important part of something cool. And then I stuffed myself full of good hot food, cold food, coffee, dessert, and fresh veggies. Unlike most of my meals these past couple of weeks, none of it came out of a can! And it was all free. Actually, it was the opposite of free. I was compensated for eating this meal. I was paid in joy.

Hippies!


Tina, eat the food!

Now, if I could only find a free shower. Both of my hotel pool shower-poaching attempts have born no fruit. But I guess that's another blog...





Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I'm right.

Last night, after a couple of drinks with one of my Salt Lake City "friends", I went back to my van in an intense emotional state. And cried.

Because the man I was hanging out with told me that I was "annoying" and that he wouldn't want to hang out with me anymore if I didn't stop "giving him shit." When this topic first arose, I tried listening, clarifying, thinking... Surely this was a misunderstanding! Growing up with a bazillion siblings, I know that my humor often leans toward the "giving people shit" end of the spectrum, but I also know that this sort of humor can only be used on a certain type of victim: someone who can dish it out.

I'm proud of myself, because I stood my ground. I took my own side first instead of blindly believing what he said. But it's not often that people deal out feedback like his, so after I got to my van I had to contemplate it. Was I annoying? Did I say something that I shouldn't have? Do more people think this about me but never say anything?

In the end I still take my own side. The information he gave me was useful, but I'm going to stand by my behaviors because I know I'm a good person. If I made a mistake, it was in misreading his personality. While I'll consider what he said, I'm going to stay allied with myself, because I'm all I've got out here. If I don't support and stand by myself, who will? I can't let someone else's opinion of me determine how I feel about the sexy, fabulous, adventurous and brave Eva Darling.


My three biggest fans:

Me


Myself


I


Aggggggh. I notice that, on the road, I experience every emotion to the extreme. When I'm happy, I'm WOOOOOOOO HOOOOOO happy. When I'm sad, I'm in the pits of desperation. I could start my own X-games competition for X-treme emotional outpouring. I'd hold my own against menopausal women and schizophrenics. I could set records for manic moods...





Sunday, September 7, 2008

Three Discoveries

1. RVers are not like me, even though I am one.

I've come to see my Vantasy as something which is not quite like a trip in an RV, but somewhere in the grey area between that and a truck driver's pounded out route across the US. Vanta C, which is secretly an RV disguised as a van, has more amenities than a big rig, and more sex-appeal than the giant, shiny and new RVs that the old folks drive. Fitting into one of these two communities would be helpful to Vanta C, as she would benefit from the insider secrets shared within them. Unfortunately, neither community is a good fit and she is out there on her own, learning as she goes, making up her own rules.




I've found as I've begun to cross the big ol' west that I have very little in common with those other recreation-seeking folks in luxury RVs. Usually older, the RV driver demands amenities like working plumbing, a working refrigerator, and full hook-up sites at kampgrounds. They expect their rig to FUNCTION, and when it doesn't, they take it to Camping World and have someone fix it. They are free, essentially, to enjoy their homes on wheels and the beautiful desert scenery in air conditioned comfort.

The trucker, on the other hand is a mechanic. He monitors the fluids of his rig daily, isn't afraid to get his fingers dirty, and uses engine grease to slick back his rarely-washed hair. He parks on the side of the road and sleeps for free, spending his per diem on McDonald's breakfasts and showers at the nearest truck stop. It's all about speed with the truckers. They need to be where they need to be; no time for pictures.

When I can't figure out how to fill Vanta C's water tank, the RVers can't help me. They haven't seen a vehicle so old since they took Judy to the school social and drove her up to lookout point to get fresh. They have no information on finding free, quiet parking spaces to camp for the night or places to find a shower. The truckers are a better source of info like that, but to be perfectly honest, I'm scared of them. All I can imagine are dirty old men who haven't had sex in weeks, staring at my tits and calling out over CB channel 19 for their trucker buddies to watch for me. Plus, when it comes to parking Vanta C, I want to get off the beaten path a bit and no trucker can help me there.

2. People will surprise me

My dear readers, one thing you should know is that your country, the U-S-of-mutha-effin'-A, is full of amazingly generous and thoughtful citizens. It's easy to get divided, to vilify one group or another because they vote differently, or pray differently, or screw differently, but we Americans are pretty cool for the most part. I get lonely on the road sometimes. I eat meals out of cans and poop in a different toilet every day. I spend hours with no one to talk to except Ralgh, and he found my earplugs so he doesn't even listen to me anymore.

Which is why I cherish my interactions with actual people so much. In Salt Lake, I was introduced to a couple who opened up their home, gave me a shower and a comfortable bed to sleep in, and a delightful meal. These people didn't know me from Shinola, but trusted me enough to let me and Ralgh into their home for two nights. On Sunday, I sat in a coffee shop next to a chatty young man with a colorful vocabulary, and later found myself on his porch eating a veggie-packed meal which he had cooked for me.




The food, the showers, and the bed were palpable delights, but the real gifts of these encounters were the moments spent learning about each other and the knowledge for me that people kick ass.

3. I will almost never be right in my expectations of a place.

When I rolled into Salt Lake yesterday, I expected to find women. Long-haired women wearing long skirts and being followed by seven children. This is supposed to be Mormon-land. Isn't this the place where people are all gettin' polyggy wit' it? I know I shouldn't believe everything that I hear, but I really expected this place to be a conservative freakshow. And it's not. I actually like Salt Lake.

And who would have thought that in Ely, Nevada I would find a raucous bunch of locals to sing karaoke with. They were quick to offer their driveways for the night, and they gave my Portland karaoke crew a run for its money.



Ely karakoers in rock solid form


Little dots on a road map betray nothing about a place or its people. I have a lot to learn about my expectations.



Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thank You, Thank You, I'll Be Here All Week!

When I first moved to Portland, fresh off the boat from Sydney and just over a year out of college, I found a job at the Wild Oats natural foods store in Hillsdale as a cashier. It took a month and three interviews to finally land the job, and though it wasn't my dream career, I was happy to have an income. I was paid $7.50 an hour to learn produce codes, play "Bagger Tetris" with people's groceries (fitting as much as possible in a paper bag while leaving no holes, and, of course, speed counts), and chat with the shoppers as they came through my line. It wasn't bad work, and I made a bunch of cool friends there.

After 60 days as a cashier, it was time for my performance evaluation. While I agree with the concept of these evaluations, and I take pride even in the shittiest of jobs, I take employer feedback with a grain of salt if I'm not earning a living wage. Want me to smile more? Then pay me enough to send in my rent check. Anyway, my evaluation came back with an almost perfect score, the only criticism being that I "make jokes that the customers don't understand."

For example:

It's ten o'clock at night, just before closing, and a customer comes through my line with a half gallon of milk, a box of cereal, and a container of orange juice.

Me: (grinning) So, picking up a little bit of dinner?
Customer: No. (looks confused) It's breakfast.
Me: (rolling my eyes, sighing loudly, smacking my hand to my forehead in exasperation) Oh! God! I'll never get it right!
Customer: (still looks confused)
Me: Ohh-kay. Well, have a good breakfast.

I appreciate a good sense of humor, which is why I'm having a hard time here in Ely, Nevada. The people don't smile here, and I think my attempt at humor today in the grocery store actually pissed off my cashier. He didn't take out his anger on me, though, but on Mother Nature. Showing his distaste for my humor, he bagged my five items in not one, but THREE plastic bags. Screw you, bald girl. And screw you, whales and dolphins!

So, I've been forced to make jokes to the most captive audience in Ely: myself. Behold, my daily to-do list:

Yes, Ely, Nevada is so removed that there is nary a recycling bin, no organic produce, and nothing much to smile about, apparently. But I'm going to stick it out for another day, try to make a friend or two, and laugh at my own jokes. Because somebody's got to do it!

Here are some pictures.
Pyramid Lake, Nevada. The prettiest thing I've seen so far (the scenery, not the woman in the picture. I'd say she's the second prettiest).



The shoe-covered tree on "The Lonliest Road". With nothing around for miles, smack in the middle of the desert, was this stunning art installation. Thousands of shoes hanging from this lone tree, and even more covering the ravine from which it grew. This was my best surprise yet. It's hard to tell in the picture, but there are shoes all over the thing, all the branches, even at the top. Jaw-droppingly beautiful!