Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tucson, AZ: A Bully's Ripple Effect

Very, very fresh chicken at McDonald's. North Louisiana. August 2015.

I arrived early for a meeting at a local McDonald's. I bought a senior diet soda for 76 cents. I sat at a small table in one of the restaurant's alcoves. I pulled out my phone to continue reading the e-version of Augusten Burroughs' tragicomic drunkalog, Dry.

The only other customer in the alcove was a man seated at a table by the front window of the restaurant alcove. He tried to engage me in conversation almost as soon as I sat down. I'll call him Stu.

First Stu talked about the weather, how it had turned a little chilly here. But how it didn't compare with the cold of Chicago one time when he was there. Then Stu segued into climate change.

McDonald's in the Marjinishvili neighborhood, Tbilisi, Georgia. June 2012.

But then Stu got into something that was troubling him. The previous day, at the same McDonald's, he'd been the unwilling witness to a man who berated his woman companion. The man told the woman what a worthless human she was, how she was nothing but trouble for him, and so on and so on.

Stu described how distressing this was for him, an observer. Stu relayed his concern to the shift manager. The shift manager said there was nothing he could do.

Stu did not intervene, and this gnawed at him. Was he right not to have? Should he have? The scene he witnessed took him back to when he was a child and he saw how his father heaped verbal and emotional abuse on his mother, and how she - and Stu - were powerless to stop it.

He asked me, a stranger: Should I have done something? What should I have done? He could have had a gun.

It later emerged that Stu had only recently been released from a "long incarceration," and that played into his decision-making, as well.

The abuser's ugly words looped through Stu's mind over and over and over, as did the uncertainty of what he might have done differently. Or the same.

As Stu kneaded and rolled and turned that mental knot with me, it settled into my thoughts, as well, taking me back to a scene in which I'd been that woman, and also to another time, when I'd been a witness who did not intervene, ever-after torn, like Stu, in wondering if I should have stepped up or if it had been the right course to witness in silence, out of respect for the recipient's dignity of self-determination.

The bully's ugly words and the hatefulness with which he uttered them at a local McDonald's in Tucson. They didn't just poison his target. They splashed and burned onto a witness. A day later, albeit diluted, they splashed and burned onto me, and I wasn't even there.

When my friend arrived for our meeting, Stu turned to one of the McDonald's employees, who'd just entered the alcove to wipe down some tables. He began to tell her his story of that bully.

And now I share it with you.

A toxic leak.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Arizona: Y2K.2

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. October 2019.

Twenty years ago, give or take 70 days, I took the second solo road trip of my life. (The first was here.)

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. October 2019.

The second solo road trip was to Organ Pipe National Monument. The occasion was the turn of the millennium. You can read that story here. My Major Millennium Fail on that trip always makes me laugh.

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. October 2019.

It hit me not long ago that it would be fun to return to Organ Pipe for this coming new year's birth. A reunion trip. The reunion of me-now with the me of a generation ago. Not that I'm self-centered or anything.

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. October 2019.

The other day when I was ready to take my Prius out for its inaugural camp trip, it hit me: Why not just go to Organ Pipe a little early?

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. October 2019.

So I did.

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. October 2019.

There are showers now

There were no showers at Organ Pipe 20 years ago. There are now showers - solar showers! I didn't try them out, so no review here.

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. October 2019.

The park is still very, very quiet

My typical camping experience at park campgrounds is that they can be rather noisy. Music playing til quiet time. In recent years, people bring movies that they cast against a hanging sheet. There's the chatter of folks around a fire, sometimes soft and low, not unpleasant; sometimes loud and raucous, depending on the quantity of adult beverages alongside the campers' chairs. Sounds of generators.

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. October 2019.

Organ Pipe National Monument is quiet.

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. October 2019.

There are some sites where generators are permitted, but the time slots to run them are circumscribed sharply to 4-6 pm and 8-10am. There are no hookup sites at all, which also contributes to the quiet.

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona. October 2019.

In addition to the addition of showers, it gladdened my heart to observe that those NO signs of 20 years ago are entirely gone.

I saw the Milky Way

It wasn't as cold on this night as it was on New Year's Eve 1999. I sat in my camp chair, leaned my head back against the chair back, looked up, and in remembrance of that wine I did not get to drink at Y2K, I sipped the canned wine I brought for my almost-Y2K.2.

(Coincidentally, the canned wine I chose was the exact same as that pictured in the above link. It was unworthy of the Milky Way, and I'd select a different one in future.)

One of my campsite neighbors had brought an impressive telescope/camera, which he'd set up earlier in the day. He told me it was to gaze upon the Triangulum Galaxy, which I'd never heard of. At first, when my neighbor uttered "triangulum," me being a child of the original Star Trek, science fictiony things such as tricorders came to mind. (Which reminds me of the trogon story.)

I've since learned that October is a splendid time of year for Triangulum peeping.

Triangulum Galaxy (Messier 33), taken by Kanwar Singh. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The border, The Wall

Being only seven miles away by road, I popped down to the border town called Lukeville, which abuts the Mexican border town of Sonoyta on the other side. My original plan was to park on the US side, then walk over to Sonoyta, as I did 20 years ago.

The border between Lukeville, Arizona, USA, and Sonoyta, Sonora, MX. October 2019.

Twenty years ago, I was an enthusiastic cigarette smoker, and back then, I walked over to Sonoyta to buy two things:
  • Several cartons of cigarettes
  • Some ballyhooed burritos or enchilada, I forget which, for breakfast

I also paid for a shower in Lukeville, after several days of camping. Looks like that resort is now closed.

I did not go over to Sonoyta this trip because parking in the lot adjacent to the border was 10 bucks. No, I wasn't into that, not just for a quick pop over to Sonoyta.  Heck, in Nogales, it's only five bucks. In El Paso, three bucks, if my memory is correct.

Later, on my way back home, I suddenly remembered: I didn't hunt down any point of the under-construction Wall build that's currently garnering news attention. Should I go back?

And then I thought: Wait. You've seen The Wall. 

You lived within daily sight of it in El Paso. You've seen the new version of The Wall in Puerto Palomas. You've seen its scar across the land in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. You've touched The Wall. Even on this trip, you saw The Wall from the road, burning its acidic trail through Organ Pipe. You've looked up into The Wall's razor wire, that which is favored by such as the Soviet gulags, the Berlin Wall, and Supermax prisons. 

It depresses your soul just thinking about it now, while you're driving back home. [And it depresses me while writing about it for this post.]

No, Mzuri, you don't need to turn around and find this particular, malevolent stretch of The Wall, designed to keep the riffraff from the would-be gated community called the United States. 

The hitchhiker

When I left Lukeville to return home, I passed again the entrance to Organ Pipe National Monument. I smiled, "seeing" the hitchhiker I picked up at the entrance twenty years ago. She was a woman in her fifties, I think, who'd flown over from the UK to walk the Appalachian Trail solo, who'd decided it wasn't as she'd imagined or liked, and who switched gears to a cross-country bus and hiking trek across America.

The woman had a bus to catch somewhere in Arizona, and I carried her as far as Why.

Little green things

Periodically, along Highway 86, I saw flourescent green sumthin'-sumthins' on one side of the road. What the hey?

Finally, I pulled over to check it out.

Pink bollworm trap, Highway 86, Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona. October 2019.

Pink bollworm trap, Highway 86, Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona. October 2019.

Pink bollworms. A rather thrilling story about the fingers-crossed eradication of the insect in Arizona here, which required cooperation from Mexico.

Donkey, Highway 86, Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona. October 2019.

The donkey

In Tohono O'odham Nation, a pretty donkey stood along Highway 86, perhaps thinking to cross, perhaps just looking at the passing cars, perhaps eying a tasty clutch of greens, perhaps reminiscing about a recent tryst that she, a jenny, enjoyed with a handsome jack.

Donkey, Highway 86, Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona. October 2019.

I guess I broke the mood because she slowly ambled away when I stopped to say hey.

Goodbye, pretty girl.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Rootless: A New Vehicular Mate, Part 5: Bed

Prius car camping. October 2019.

After months of youtube watching to see how car-campers did the:
  • Bed
  • Window covering

....  I was ready for and executed my maiden camp voyage.

It was only for one night, and there were a couple of minor glitches (as was to be expected), but overall, it was a successful mission.


I bought a 3-inch foam pad for about $25 at Home Depot. Measurements = 72" x 24." This was a perfect fit both length- and width-wise for my 2012 Prius V. 

I wrapped the pad in a twin-size mattress cover, using three sheet-grippers on the flip side to keep it tidily in place.
Image result for sheet grippers

Atop the  mattress cover, I placed an old sleeping bag, in which I cocooned a twin-size flat sheet, folded lengthwise, meaning that my body lay between the two folded halves of the sheet. I only zipped the foot of the sleeping bag, leaving the rest unzipped. In this way, I could easily fold both top layers off of me to get in and out of bed or to regulate my comfort level if things got too warm or too chilly.

Prius car camping. October 2019.

The head of my bed sat atop a folded blanket + two plastic storage bins, as you can see below:

Prius car camping. October 2019.

You'll notice that the bins and blanket support the head of the 'bed.' To get the bins and the full length of the foam pad into its slot, I had to pull the front passenger seat all the way forward.

The Sterilite bin dimensions are:

Because I'm relatively short, I may be able to fit comfortably below the top of the folded-down back seat. (Note that I removed the head-rests.) I'll check this out in the future.

So how comfortable was the bed on my first night?

I'd give it a 90% thumbs-up. I felt the glimmerings of a dull backache in the early hours of the pre-dawn, but that's not enough to go on yet.

Window covering

I don't plan to stealth camp, so I'm not concerned about making it appear that my car is unoccupied while I'm inside sleeping.

After a lot of over-thinking, a little experimenting, and many hours of watching youtubers share their schemes, I'm pretty happy with using a mix of strategies.

In the photo below, you can see examples of four methods I used:

Prius car camping. October 2019.

  1. I cut out a panel from a roll of Reflectix that I bought at a Lowe's or Home Depot
  2. I bought a pair of window "socks" via Amazon (more on these later in this post)
  3. I bought some magnets - small round disks + some smallish rectangles - and draped a shawl over the front driver side window. The window frame on the inside is metal, and I placed several magnets under the top edge and one or two on the side edges. 
  4. On my car, the passenger side design is such that I could loop one end of a bungee cord to the front windowshade, run it through the front-seat and back-seat ceiling-edge hand grips, and hook the other end to the infant-seat buckle ledge that is along the ceiling edge behind the rear passenger seat. Using clothespins, I hung another shawl so that it ran from the front window to the end of the back window. Or, I should say, I could have done that, but I chose to leave the back passenger window with just the window screen sock so I could have a cross breeze between the two back passenger windows. 

Prius car camping. October 2019.

Above you can see I used the Reflectix for the rear window, as I did the triangular windows in the back bay area of the car.

Prius car camping. October 2019.

And although the photo immediately above is a repeat of the long-view bed shot I posted earlier, now that we're talking window coverings, take note of the bungee cord and clothespin set-up on the right.

Also note that I stretched a bungee cord in the front seat area across the width of the car. It was as good a place as any to experiment with an internal clothesline, and in this case, a towel holder. It had the additional benefit of offering a second line of privacy behind the windshield AND obscuring the blinking security dash light. In the windshield, I had placed my usual sun shade disks.

None of the window coverings required permanent changes to the Prius. Nor did they require any handywoman skills, other than the cutting out of the Reflectix. 

The window screen socks were fine for me camping, however, if I'd had a light on inside the Prius, they would have offered no privacy. Which is why I wanted the second-line option of the shawl clothespinned from the bungee cord on one side of the car.

I liked that I could see out of the car through the window screen socks much better than someone could see in. In fact, without lights on inside, someone would have had to press up hard against the window to see much of anything through the window screen sock.

On the other hand, the screen sock not only keeps out flying little biters and ear buzzers, it stops some of the breeze, too. I didn't have my windows rolled down all the way with the screens on, so I'll try that out next time. Also, I'll likely invest in a small usb fan to push some air flow across my head.


Ceiling lights. The default setting for my ceiling lights is to go on when I open my doors. Not good in a campsite scenario, at least not for me. My fix: Slide the ceiling light buttons over to the "off" position so they don't power on when I open the doors.

Beeping. Because I had my key with me and because I was in a car, I defaulted to locking the car while I was inside and ready to sleep. But the Prius door (at least not the back door) doesn't automatically release when you pull the inside door handle. This means you have to press the unlock button on the keyfob, which means, yes, there's the double beeping sound when you unlock it. Which is not being a good neighbor to folks in nearby campsites.

It's not like I was ever able to lock my tent, so I will just not lock my car when I bed down for the night in the future.

Heating/air conditioning. One of the Prius superpowers is to be able to manage one's little habitat climate so it's cozy inside when outside it is too hot or too cold. Although the car powers on silently when engaging only the battery, it does emit some sound when it periodically switches on the engine to recharge the battery. A number of parks, like Organ Pipe National Monument, where I tried out my camp bed the first time, are very very very quiet parks. And if one is in a generator-ok site, the generator use is restricted to two hours in the late afternoon-early evening and two hours in fairly early morning. So ..... what does that mean for running my Prius when it's too hot or too cold? I don't know yet.

  • It was a wonder to be able to break camp so quickly the next morning!
  • Looking forward to my next outing.

Related posts: 

My New Vehicular Mate, Part 1
My New Vehicular Mate, Part 2
My New Vehicular Mate, Part 3
My New Vehicular Mate, Part 4

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Casa Alitas: "My Name is Elenita"

I was cleaning out a room at Casa Alitas. A family had passed a night or two there, and had since departed to a city somewhere in the United States, into the arms and home of a sponsor, a temporary-permanent place. Safe, presumably. A place to take some deep breaths, maybe get the kids into school.

Among the used bedding, the towels, an errant toothbrush, I saw atop the mattress a notepad.

On the cover, in a blend of letter styles: "Mi nombre es Elenita."

My name is Elenita.

I thought immediately of Hushpuppy, the valiant wee girl who lived in the drowning Louisiana community called The Bathtub, in the movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Hushpuppy said:
I see that I'm a little piece of a big, big universe. .... In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know, once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her Daddy in The Bathtub.

I smoothed the palm of my hand across Elenita's claim for her seat in the universe.

I thought, this little girl doesn't know it - though maybe she will one day - but she is a little piece of a big, big human wave of other little girls, and of boys, women, and men who are taking part in a natural process, eons old, to lay claim to their places on the planet, to survive and thrive as we all wish to survive and thrive.

Once there was Elenita, who passed through Tucson, Arizona, on her way to her future.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Tohono Chul: Ana Maria Iordache

Ana Maria Iordache, Tohono Chul Botanical Garden, Tucson, Arizona. October 2019.

Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens hosts musical Sundays in the Garden in the fall and the spring.

It is deeply satisfying to immerse oneself in a live Impressionist painting. Slender branches sway, small leaves drop languidly to the garden floor, hummingbirds and butterflies arc from bush to bush in balletic grand jet├ęs, landing on quivering pastel blossoms - and - on this particular day, we soak in a warm bath of auditory color drawn by Ana Maria Iordache's classical guitar performance.

Ana Maria Iordache, Tohono Chul Botanical Garden, Tucson, Arizona. October 2019.

Take a listen:

Ana Maria Iordache, Tohono Chul Botanical Garden, Tucson, Arizona. October 2019.