"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Dec 2, 2015

700 Pounds

Took me 2 days to recover from my birthday. I'm still in Oregon; still moving in…and moving out.  I keep carrying piles of belongings from Old Home to New Home (a distance of 15 feet), just to return piles from New back to Old.  It’s Hell deciding what you simply cannot live without.

My enemy is Old Man Winter.  Saturday night hit 19 degrees and my pipes froze; well, only half my pipes, which is surprising since my Winnie’s only 21-feet.  Bound by the location of my umbilical cords (fresh water, electric and waste water hookups), half the vehicle remains in the shade most of the day, and I haven’t yet put up my ‘skirting’. My hands are killing me from the winterizing I’m performing for the third time to turn my latest tin-can into a warm, cozy caravan on wheels.  Lucky for me I’ve already got 2 RV’s worth of experience under my belt, which I’ll share from time to time on this blog.

You just KNOW I’ve no intention of composing, “Enjoying the moment: a majestic view; espresso with warm, toasty croissant; faithful BC by my side.” But I was never one of those esoteric artists explaining my work, either:  “Inspired by the wonders of Nature while peeling away my past like a banana.” Besides, why repeat information already competently documented?

Nope, amongst other things I’ll be writing about how I tackle RV’ing on a shoestring.  Remember, I’m alone, on SSI and food stamps; and as I remind friends, I’m not doing this ‘Small Space Living’ to be trendy.  I’ve been told time and again about that show, but don’t they have to put the homes on land somewhere? If I had land SOMEWHERE I probably wouldn’t be RV’ing.  Thank God gas prices are going down.

I’m not complaining…just explaining; with major tongue-in-cheek.  Survival is the largest part of my life at the moment so I can’t help adding anecdotes now and then; plus some ideas when there’s no money for PROPER repairs, modifications and home décor.  I’m about to go live in Walmart parking lots around the country and there are plenty of people like me who could use some cheap tips. Imagine the convenience of always being several steps away from everything I need; my local WM even offers free Wi-Fi.  If that’s not putting out a welcome mat, I don’t know what is.

I’m moving south as soon as I can; and hopefully before the pass to California closes. It’s open now, but as time creeps along so does the snowpack, along with my anxiety. Storms have knocked out parts of Portland already.  Chains came with the RV, but I’ve lived this long without ever putting any on, and I’m not about to begin with a motor home (snow tires aren’t always enough; some passes REQUIRE chains.)  But the thought uppermost in my mind these days is not weather but weight.


After a full tank of gas (17 gals) I have to keep my additional belongings under 700 pounds, at least that’s what the owner’s manual suggests.  There’s 200 pounds for BC and me (including food, treats and toys-hers, not mine).  So I’m down to 500.  My clothes, shoes, coats and purses must be at least 100 pounds, and I’ve already gone through my wardrobe several times, donating the perfectly good but unworn to the local women’s shelter.

Surely I’ve got twice that weight in old journals, photos and reference books, necessary to write my own.  (I will finish, eventually.  Remember the tortoise and hare?)  And what about laptops, radio, DVD player and mountain of crime show videos I’ve accumulated?  I’ve organized them in two massive storage cases, reducing bulk considerably, but still.  My printer gets sold or donated, along with other useful but bulky items.  Teeny printers run close to $400 now; I’ll wait a few years and use office supply stores or libraries in the meantime.  Besides, if I find I really need one I can pick up a cheapy.

Every time I look at a chatchka I remind myself that despite low prices, it’ll take gasoline.  Do I really need my token Hummel?   I have a better understanding of the pioneers’ dilemma before crossing the Rockies; tossing belongings along the trail.  I can’t take my totem pole; resigned myself to leaving my antlers and whip; and I haven’t even packed my paints.

What would you take along on a year-long sabbatical?  You don’t have to be a teacher to do it, I learned from boaters cruising the Caribbean.  You’ve limited space: on land or sea; or air I suppose, if you’ve the cash.  The rest gets put in storage or kept at your regular home; but if you’re navigating the Panama Canal or Gobi Desert, it’s not easy to give directions to find a particular document. ‘Course everything’s electronic, but I’m always worried I’ll need old tax returns or proof that I earned a college diploma.  ????  Currently I’m debating photo albums to jog my increasingly flaky memory.  HEAVY, but emotionally satisfying.

Pretty much each day on Public Radio I hear a report on this-or-that new book. Jeez, people are writing about the damndest things; and what did I hear yesterday…some enterprising fellow earned over $70,000 on Black Friday charging people $5 for (upfront) owning A Piece of Nothing.  I don’t want to do the math; it’s frightening and they're running around loose; but if that many people are willing to pay good money for nothing, perhaps I've got a shot.

And I happen to think I’ve got a good story to tell.  The nice thing I’ve discovered about beginning so late is that nobody expects anything out of me anymore anyway, so what do I have to lose?  And since God’s keeping me alive ‘til I’m at least 100, I figure I still have time.  But the thing which really keeps me going is continuing to prove that things ALWAYS work out better than I plan.  The key word in that sentence is PLAN.  So rather than through a best-selling book I’ll likely make my Senior Fortune through one of my designs or inventions, like BC’s Balls.  Nope, I’m not giving that away until I’m on Shark Tank.

So I was sorting papers and memorabilia last week and found the stack of Congratulations on your Wedding cards, followed by the stack of Sorry for your Loss, which arrived 3 months later.  One well-wishing card was from an old friend from military days.  Mary was an officer’s wife who absolutely loathed her routine of giving teas and putting on a false face.  She was beautiful, funny and smart, yet still charmingly naïve at times; gave up her Electrical Engineering career to follow West Pointer-hubby around the world; and prayed for the day her youngest of three (absent) step-children reached 18, when their hefty child support would end and she and Jay could travel throughout Europe in style.

But Mary died in Germany following a brief illness at 38, I learned via airmail in response to a letter, and Jay was enjoying Europe with his new wife.  Well, I was on a trawler with someone new, too. Life after widowhood trudges on.

So I found Mary’s congratulatory card with a letter which tore my heart out.  She was so unhappy with her life at the time and was likely hitting menopause, but back then we weren’t all so smart about it.  All she could do, since she felt she had no one with whom to confide, was pour out her heart in a letter.  I’m sure at the time I thought, “It’ll all work out all right, once…”, but within 3 years both Jay and I were in mourning.

My next pile of paperwork contained a dated news clipping of an old flame’s appointment as Assistant District Attorney in such-and-such county.  Lee was the first fellow I dated following the death of Tino, and we met in Portland during a part-time job fundraising for the Oregon Symphony.  Lee left his family business and got a late start to law school, so in his 30's he was waiting for the results of the bar exam, and I was just re-emerging into the world.

This newsworthy appointment sent Lee to a distant town along the coast and the long distance relationship didn’t work, but I remembered him kindly.  During my social activism the past few years I would wonder if Lee became a civil rights attorney, since he originally wanted to be a Public Defender.  Wouldn’t that be handy?

When I found the article I decided to Google him with what little information I had, and found the shocking headline, County DA Commits Suicide.  One morning about two years ago, for unknown reasons, Lee blew his head off. It’s amazing how the big G takes over without you noticing:

“If only I called; reached out,” but no, nothing can prevent someone determined to end their life.  I feel deep sorrow that Lee was so unhappy and despondent, not feeling he could share his turmoil with anyone.  Just like Mary.  We dated during Christmastime and so now I’m reminded of a half dozen things, like how he forced me to put up a Christmas tree when I really didn’t want to, and to become part of the living again.  I'd forgotten we went to a local performance of Handel’s Messiah, where I wore a fabulous large-brimmed felt hat but didn’t know enough to take it off during the performance.

So back to the future, I went to a state-approved doctor's appointment, since I needed a form signed.  This guy, who I’d never met, never took my temperature or blood pressure; poked me a bit; put down his pen and said,

I can fix that (chronic pain of mine)…OR…I can sign your form.”

I’ll be writing a newspaper article about our encounter, but I’ll disclose here that he refused to explain what his miracle cure was, other than IT was his intellectual property, for which he SHOULD be compensated (by me, not the health plan).  He offered a Money-Back Guarantee if IT didn’t work; but refused to tell me if IT was animal, vegetable or mineral.  Coulda been anything.  I’m guessing he heard “Christian Scientist” and saw a target for his bizarre form of extortion, since I’m not familiar with medical procedures.  I had no idea doctors offered your money back; then why all the malpractice insurance?  He never said he would approve my form but could also offer something which might help.  I’da listened, but his scuzzy presentation made me want to flee.

The next day I got home from shopping around 5:30; pitch black sky, with the time change making it seem like midnight.  People race through this street lamp-less stretch of road night or day, and I’ve always been nervous about BC getting loose. Spotting an unfamiliar dog walking down the road, I decided to leave BC in the truck while unloading groceries; but before I reached the door I heard a horrible THUD, followed by an anguished yelp.  My heart stopped until I remembered BC was safe, and grabbing a flashlight I took off down the road.

I prayed I was wrong since I didn’t see any car, until my light reflected the dog’s tag on the road.  A chocolate lab-mix, she was still breathing but too large for me to handle. Far down the road the driver had stopped and eventually turned around. Together we got her off the road and to the neighbor’s; my 4’ piece of plastic privacy fence a useful stretcher, FYI.

It was heart-wrenching to watch the poor animal, who never made another sound; the guilt-ridden faces of the Caretaker and the accidental assassin; children screaming in alarm; everyone in tears.  Poor girl didn’t survive, and I’m still tearing up.  Not a very happy Thanksgiving in that household, which includes a child with special needs.  My unfinished article reminds people that kids are walking to and from bus stops in the dark, so I’m repeating it here.

One hour before leaving for my friend’s Thanksgiving dinner I discovered I’d unfortunately neglected the condensation in my RV, and after a week of terribly cold weather ice had formed on the walls and my mattress was soaked.  Good thing it was a sunny day; I didn’t let the fiasco spoil my plans; and I make sure I keep the hatches cracked open.

I did finally meet Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing from Dallas) a couple weeks ago outside the Post Office.  I was so nervous and couldn’t stop thinking of him naked in the shower.  He remains drop-dead gorgeous with a full head of mostly-salt-and-pepper hair, crinkle lines around his eyes; and is the most gracious famous person I’ve bushwhacked in a long time:

“Excuse me.”  He didn’t turn.  “EXCUSE ME!!”  He had no choice.

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