Round 2

This small Nebraska town was nearly unbearable last time, claiming the engines of our bus And our gettin around car during a hellacious heat wave, amidst gargantuan mosquitoes and the psychotic episodes of the locals we had the misfortune of getting to know too well. Or, in the case of Pastor Jack, just rubbing the wrong way, which apparently justified trying to get our kids taken away. So, when our new van, purchased to carry on the dream while the bus wonders if we’ll ever be back, starts to give us shit just a couple hours from this dreaded locale, my heart begins to race. And then he says it.
“Well, we know we can make it there and the cops are chill. Wife, you could get your job back. Should we just stay there and leave with the bus And the van? ”

I hated the idea. Unfortunately, I’m the guy who will agree to things if the group seems in favor, rather than be the diva who takes the vote away because I’m too high strung and my husband will [possibly] accommodate me. I balk. I hesitate. I spell out our whole plan and the changes as a result of this potential deviation. The others are gung ho. Reluctantly, I agree.

We’ve been here about two weeks. The mornings and evenings are still cool, but the river is shallow enough in most places to not be too cold for a splash when the midday heat rises, and the mosquitoes aren’t out in force yet. I finally got my only pants patched up. We’ve made the acquaintance of a handful of fellow travelers passing through, including a couple with a griddle the very same morning a stranger randomly offered us a couple pounds of bacon. My friend shipped my refill of the new medication to me and I’m plumb and level and square, so far this second round.

Yesterday, as we prepared to leave the truck stop outside town and head back after job applications, the van wouldn’t start. We knew we needed a new stater and just figured we put it off too long. Unfortunately, we were marooned Out of town and our road dog wasn’t even with us. This conundrum, however, led to a pleasant discovery. Of all the things I’ve seen people turn a blind eye to, people pushing their vehicle is apparently not so easy to callously ignore. Strangers seem to feel compelled to help. My husband and I moved the van to an outer parking space where he would have more room to get under the hood. A man came over, first saying, “You know that’s a lot easier if you start the thing.”
He then got under the hood with my husband, went and got his own tools, and helped us figure out exactly what was wrong and what we needed.

The sprinklers went off in the wee hours (my husband is seasoned enough to know the sound of the sprinklers rising out of the ground, even in his sleep, and leapt to the front to roll up the windows just in the nick of time, as I stared at him half asleep, wondering what was happening) and spawned a stinking pit of black mud and standing water at the front of the van. Not quite the greatest work space. So, again, we begin to push the van, and a middle aged woman with colorful beads woven all throughout the hair on top of her head a la “I bought my granddaughter a bead kit,” jumped right in without saying a word. Her husband wasn’t far behind, and once we got the van in place he offered to save my husband the three plus mile walk in the eighty six degree afternoon, and give him a lift to the auto parts store. Within two hours the van was running again.

A trucker redeemed some free shower points for us and our road dog, and hooked it up with a laundromat pack, which is to say a ziploc loaded with detergent pods, dryer sheets and quarters. We finish our shower and come out to find our homie distraught, pacing the field behind the truck stop. While we were showering he got pack jacked. We asked inside and drove the roads nearby, hoping to see someone on foot sporting their new ill gotten gear, but no luck. He was amazingly sporting about the whole thing. His sleeping bag, bivvy, fresh socks, gemstones and photos are gone, but his hammock, ID and birth certificate were in the van, and he had his pocket knife and phone on him.

We stopped by the storage lot to get some things off the bus and found it in front of the shop. Somehow, when we were here last time, we didn’t hear that the building on the edge of the lot where the bus slumbers is a body shop. A shop run by a good ol’ boy who lives in the room off the garage and likes to drink beer and make good deals for people who help him come up with money before his bills are due. When the bus died last year the main shop in town quoted us $5k for an engine swap, and we still had to source our own engine. Tim asked for $650 by June first, for the 350 he had laying around, and another $600 when the job is done. I think my husband could have kissed him on the mouth. Instead he shook his hand, we raged up $650 over Memorial Day weekend, and my husband and the frequently mentioned traveling companion, Burns aka Mama Burns aka Beer Cup, buy beers and go drink them with Tim and his friends every couple nights. Seeing the bus opened up tonight was like finally seeing your kid arrive at the top of the transplant list. Even Burns couldn’t feel too down seeing good ol’ M.U.T.S sitting there, humbly awaiting her new heart.

Today has been wonderful, and the guy sleeping on the strip of grass at the edge of the Walmart parking lot is here to remind why we have this strange, strange love for this shitty Nebraska town. Not only is their Chinese buffet unrivaled in all the land (even if they do get sneaky every once in a while and slip in a charge for the baby), but the police and the Walmart parking lot maintenance truck (I’ve never seen a walmart vacuum truck before… And I’ve slept at a lot of walmarts… This is an entire mental tangent for me right now) slide right on by, taking notice of said sleeping Deadhead and not giving a rat’s ass where he sleeps, because at least if he’s sleeping, he must not be tweaking.

Good night, Nebraska. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.

Daily Dose – Impression
I wonder what his first impression was, as the Dollar Monster made a sudden right into the driveway a few yards ahead of him and swung up to the sidewalk where he was walking, guitar in hand.

“Where Ricky at? ” we all yelled, slightly out of sync. This kid, in his purple pants and skeleton shirt, walking around town with his electric guitar, seemed the type who might be able to help us locate our friend. Unfortunately, Ricky seems to get a new number every couple months so we have to locate him by alternative means when we come through town. This kid can’t help though. He’s only been in Nebraska two weeks and doesn’t know anyone, other than the girl he left Arizona to be with.

I open the bus doors and, to his surprise, invite him in. We pull away and start talking, learn that the girl he came here for burned him in four short weeks and he’s staying at the shelter, trying to decide what’s next.

“You’re staying at the shelter?” My husband asks incredulously. “If you wanna get outta there you can kick it with us.” Everyone echoes this sentiment, whooping encouragement. This kid can’t believe his ears and within fifteen minutes all his earthly possessions are piled on the floor of the van.

We get him food, and a drink whose partially empty can he crushes with his foot, a guitar case and a chair within the space of ten minutes, earning himself the nickname Crush. My husband and our road dog tell him what gear he’ll need if he wants to travel, let him know he’s more than welcome to join us, and we all talk about what led us here and what life on the road has afforded us, then we all jam. By the end of the night Crush is telling us he already feels like we’re family, and he knows he could trust us with his life.

He leaves to find a bathroom and I say, “You know, I’m thinking about how this is just what we do, but for him, his whole life just did a 180 in five minutes.”

The guys laugh. “We did just roll up on him super hard. Lucky him.” I wonder if he’ll tell his grandkids one day about the night the Dollar Monster pulled up next to him. DollarMonster

The Inspiration of Seasons

Art offers the promise of entrance into some secret club, where minds are sharper, emotions both more raw and rich, and the word “we” holds a private magic, vague and exclusive. The written word especially, for me, bears profound enchantment, as though each letter was selected with me in mind and I want to tattoo all of them onto my soul.

Perfect poetry has that ethereal quality, each shimmering word carefully selected, like stars plucked from a decadent indigo canvas. I can get stuck in one of two ruts in my own writing, because they’re comfortable to me, but may become monotonous to hypothetical readers.

One is the pleasant dream/afternoon sunlight  motif; a place of golden light and gossamer curtains. Hope and regret. Memory and slightly bored peacefulness. A place where cats sleep on warm wooden floors and flowers bloom in pots on the windowsill. Leaves, in their most majestic attire, flutter through crisp, cloudless skies that are always scented like something familiar, and snow transforms the world into a secret hideout, where only the brave venture.

The other mental room in which I often write is vast and cluttered, like a living trinket box. Floor to ceiling shelves, desktops and chairs are stacked with post cards and tattered envelopes, sparkling rocks, empty pill bottles, bones, half read books, journals with pages torn out, scribbled on and crossed out, burned and thrown to the floor. Photos of terrible memories and mementos of failed friendships hang on the walls and litter the floor. Everything is mania inducing inspiration;  bittersweet, harrowing, unquenchable, eternal- these are the words that live here. This is a room I enter alone and cannot leave until something is exorcised, lest some part of me remain trapped there. I loathe interruptions when I am here, and what comes out of this place is for me and me alone, raw and uncensored because nothing can help me if it isn’t brutally honest. I share only because it may help others, or at the least entertain, and then my plight is less useless. The danger in this writing is recognizing the thin line between purging and wallowing.

Little hurls me headlong into one of these two spaces more than the change of seasons, or happiness; the latter simply because it has always been such a foreign concept to me that it is still nearly always bittersweet. All of this is the thought behind a new category, posts inspired by the change of seasons.

Now, with summer looming like an ominous wave, exciting only to schoolchildren and teachers, and our return to an old haunt (the place of the bus’ marooning), my mind spins through memories of summertime sadness. Thunder storms and the scent of lemons, old days on a dirty lake and my first whirlwind of freedom that nearly ruined me for good. There are older memories, of hedgerows and imaginary games, the “family rug” and treehouses I built for my dolls out of bamboo placemats on the rungs of bar stools (though my parents left out the word “bar.”) These are the most bittersweet memories, because my days of innocence and wonder were spent isolated in a dark and vile place, ruled by fear and contempt.

This summer offers second chances and triumph; malts and the rebirth of the M.U.T.S. bus. I have nothing to lose, and everything to remember.

Fish Languishes

The trouble with posting and living is that so much is happening I forget to keep up, or there’s no signal, or we enter that realm of the perpetually dying phone with unreliable /shared charging options.

Weird things have happened; I haven’t been the only one with mental health issues on  this trip. An impromptu stop in Gig Harbor, WA resulted in a trigger fest, an abandoned vehicle, ratchet straps as seat belts and a vow of silence. There were almost new pets; a cockatoo, an eclectus, a handful of bulldogs, but matching our sporadic trip timing with others’ internet communication availability… Well, we didn’t add to our family. We found a couple gems in little Spearfish, SD (Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant, Soul Food Bistro and the off season priced Bell’s Motor Lodge, at $50/night for a room that included a full kitchen!) where we chilled for Mother’s Day and realized,  when we woke in the wee hours of my daughter’s seventh birthday, that all but two of us had mild food poisoning. It was, however, in Spearfish that, for once in my awkward life, I had an instant response for some mouthy rednecks that shut them right up.

We did some uncharacteristic touristy things (Reptile Gardens gets 4⭐, Bear Country gets 3⭐for being cool but overpriced, and Devil’s Tower is impressive), met new people, camped in multiple national forests, found new money spots and work opportunities, and revised our life plans for the next three months. All the while Fish roamed the storage areas of the van, my hands too busy taking pictures and corralling the baby to worry about poses and further dividing my attention.

Now we’re in the all too familiar terrain of vehicle trouble as we totter on the border of the [mostly] dreaded midwest.

Pacific Northwet behind us, a trip to the Pacific now under our belt, and the horror of another humid, mosquito ridden summer before us, we plod ahead, bold, fearless (or at least trying to be), and a little more seasoned. Most of us, anyway. Fish is just bored.


The Adventures of Fish

The trip has begun! As is typically the case with a carload of friends, hilarity ensues. Anal RVs abound, Great Fun lies ahead in Uranus, as well as a fudge shop (I’m not even kidding. This is the schtick Uranus, MO uses to promote tourism) and My Cows is serious business here in the heartland. 20170414_130541-1

We stopped to visit some fellow beached travelers who, incidentally, just got their ship seaworthy once again and they may join us on the way back. The stop off turned into a camp out, complete with a snapping turtle, cows and scary stories.


Life lesson, boys and girls, when people are inebriated (and/or trippng their faces off) near cows, everyone Will step in a patty at some point during the evening. That’s just life, I guess. But if your dog likes the smell of cows and is going to get back in the car in the morning, just tie her up for the night.IMG_20170413_144911

Fish takes one last look back at the house before setting out.


I’ve heard of fish as big as dogs, but dogs as small as Fish?? IMG_20170415_071843.jpg

“Did you get it?…I’m not in a patty, right?”


Nothin like hot dogs for breakfast to combat a hangover. This guy drinks like  a…Right, well, a fish.





Eleven Years Past

It was yesterday eleven years ago I first almost died. And that was just the start. What was is it, seventeen days later? Yes, because it marked our one month anniversary as  a couple. Instead of spending it together he spent it getting his wrists sewn shut and I spent it with my mother, who sat with me in the car and told me she wished he had succeeded at taking his own life, before going inside with me to meet the social worker assigned to our family by Child Protection Services.

But let’s back up. I liked him the first time I saw him. I couldn’t tell you why. He wasn’t particularly handsome, in fact he was rather goofy and twice the size of the rest of our freshman peers. We were fourteen when we met and he had this electric charisma. I wanted him to think I was the most amazing person in the universe. And he did. We began to exchange emails and write notes during school (I miss writing notes). My parents can be loosely described as cultists and I was kept on a very tight leash. I wasn’t  allowed to talk to boys on the phone, much less have a boyfriend, so we rocked out the little Romeo and Juliette bullshit.

And then he got put into foster care, October tenth. We still emailed, and he would use his foster sister to get me on the phone when we could manage. It was torture, but in those early days we formed a profound connection – orphans of indifference, children desperate to feel loved and understood, yet constantly getting crushed under the heels of those expected to care for us. We validated one another, gave each other hope and a reason to live, through a time in life that’s hard enough even with the proper support. I was his Pumpkin. He was my Sunshine.

He was supposed to come home on Valentine’s Day. I brought a bag of candy hearts to school.  We had joked about his affinity for awful candy and how he thought it would be great to be showered in candy hearts as he walked into the room. I planned to facilitate that dream. I was giddy when I arrived at school, refusing to share my candy with my friends, eyes glued to the doors. I jumped every time they opened. But he was never the one who strolled into my waiting place. The first bell rang. Our group began to dissipate. My best friend stayed with me until the late bell rang. I dragged myself to class, crushed. I gave the candy hearts away.

The next month seemed to take forever, his case getting pushed, then rescheduled at the last minute, his mother needed to sign this paper or attend that class. She divorced his stepfather and they let my golden love come home.

It was one of those electric grey days, where the clouds hang heavy and everything seems extra green in the odd light. I walked out of school with my eyes on the ground, feeling hollow and hopeless. I nearly tripped over a bike tossed on the sidewalk and looked up in irritation to see who had left it there. And there he was, smiling at me softly though I could see the torrent of  joy pushing at his lips and sunburst eyes. I flew to him and he wrapped me up in an eternal embrace. No words were great enough for the feeling of our hopes actualizing.

He asked me to be his girlfriend “for real,” a couple days later and I gladly accepted. We stole every moment we could find, writing long notes and emails when we were apart. Nothing made us happy but one another. We started listening to each other’s favorite bands, finding deeper meaning in every lyric, quoting them and writing  them on one another’s arms. We shared books and poems and a thousand little inside jokes. He was all I cared about.

What I couldn’t understand at the time was that he didn’t care about me. He cared about the validation I offered him, sure, but more than anything he cared about his drugs, a passion he shared wuth me. I had turned fifteen that winter, while waiting for him to come home. He barely made it to fifteen.

April tenth, two thousand six, he said he wanted to get high with me. He talked about getting high all the time, how great it felt, how it was his only true release, how it made all the daily bullshit irrelevant and made life worth living. I wanted to be a part of that more than anything. Kids, there’s a lesson to take away from all this- when your drug addled teenage boyfriend is determing proper dosages of his mom’s high potentcy anti psychotics for ninety pound girls, based off how many he likes to take, don’t trust the math. Also, when you don’t feel anything thirty minutes after the first pill, don’t finish off the handful.

Those lessons left the school with me in an ambulance that day and sank in over the next week as I sat in the adolescent psychiatric unit of a nearby hospital. This was also how my parents found out I had a boyfriend.

While this wasn’t the end of me, it also was not the end of many things that should have died that day. And it was just the beginning of my pill addiction and my family’s relationship with child protective services. Only twice have I seen my father come unglued outside the safety of his house. The first time was in that hospital, during our family meeting with a psychiatrist in front of whom my father accused me of trying to end his marriage with this “little fake suicide routine.” I was back in his house three days later, under tighter lock and key than ever, not even allowed to close my door when I undressed. My friends felt bad for me and kept me medicated, especially after April twenty seventh.

My boyfriend didn’t show up to school again. I asked around. No one could tell me where he was. Until I asked the boy who had been closest to him since they were ten years old. The boy who, in an interesting twist of fate, would marry me eight years later. My now husband told teenage me that my teenage boyfriend had tried to kill himself the night before with a bottle of prescription pills and a steak knife. He locked himself in his room and mixed his blood with shaving cream, then wrote his lamentations with it on the walls. He ended up getting tased for his trouble. Five days later he turned fifteen.

We continued our fiasco as he moved twice, both of us running into child protection and police issues,  running away together, on and off drugs, in and out of trouble, into a new school district when my parents tried to get me away from him, ironically at the same time his mother moved them to the next town,  after my summer in military school, into our junior year of high school when I found out once and for all, none of it had meant to him what it meant to me. I found out at dinner with my friends before the homecoming dance, my reluctant virgin status had him taking advantage of my parents’ policy of locking me away every night. How would I ever find out? But I did and I had never been more shattered. All the time, energy and tumult we invested in our teenage saga and he was plowing sluts after I went to bed in my parents’ house, waiting to see him again tomorrow.

Like everyone who lived past their teenage years, in time I learned, everyone is an idiot in high school and nothing you do then is as important as your child brain imagines. I went to college a year early and managed to wreck my life just fine without help from my first love or his drugs. I think he just got out of prison recently. He always wanted to join Kurt Cobain in the 27 Club. That’s three hundred eighty six days away for him. I wonder if he’ll succeed?

Spring makes the animals go wild. And life goes on, children. Hold on tight and try not to make too many permanent decisions.