Monday, November 25, 2019

Rootless: A New Vehicular Mate, Part 6: Toilet

The Toilet Paper Incident, circa 1981.

I created a bedroom in my Prius.

But I didn't want just any old bedroom. I wanted an en suite bedroom.

Toilet instructions in Thai restaurant in Tbilisi, Caucasus Georgia. August 2011.

Enter the Luggable Loo.

The Luggable Loo is a toilet seat and lid that you snap onto a five-gallon bucket. You can buy the items separately or you can buy the seat/lid/bucket package. It is less expensive to buy the items separately.

Luggable Loo. Photo source: Disaster Supply Center

Except for extraordinary circumstances, I plan to use my car loo only for urination. And furthermore, in most cases, only at night.

Toilet in Vakhtangisi, on Georgian-Ajerbaijan border. March 2012.

Obviously, I don't need a five-gallon container to collect my urine for an overnight. I am not a horse.

Typical toilet in Dubai, UAE. January 2012.

To manage the urine collection more elegantly than a splash waterfall into a cavernous bucket, I inserted a funnel-and-laundry detergent bottle catchment system into the bucket, an idea I learned from a vandweller named Crysal Vanner, as you can see in the video below:

I tested it in my bathroom at home, numerous times. Perfect!
  • Both the bucket and the catchment system are stable, i.e. no dangers of tipping over or sliding out of place
  • The catchment system is easy to pull out and it's easy to pour the contents into a real toilet
  • The laundry bottle is large enough to accommodate even the most prolific nights, unlike that coffee can I used in the tent that one time in Cave Springs Campground in Arizona a long time ago, about which I had felt darn smug before I realized just how much liquid one can produce in one night, not to mention what happens when the can tips over

I placed my toilet on the floor behind the driver's seat. When just driving around, it fits just fine there. However, to use the toilet en suite, I need to pull the driver's seat forward quite a bit, then tilt the seat forward, as well. These actions give me the space I need to actually sit on the toilet.

I'm not enthusiastic about having to move the driver's seat forward so much at night. Although I can - barely - get into the front seat at that position, I don't think it's possible to drive in that position, which means that if I need to make a fast exit, I lose time in repositioning the driver's seat. (Of course, that is probably a moot point, as it takes rather more time to extricate myself from my bed and then make my way to the driver's seat. By the time I get to the point of having to adjust my seat position, any bears or zombies will have likely already delivered a mortal swipe.)

I'm on the look out for a 3.5-gallon bucket that I hear is also workable with the Luggable Loo seat, but I've not yet found one. In theory, this will give me more wiggle room in the "bathroom," which will reduce the front seat adjustment and will also free up some valuable real estate in the floor space behind the front seat.

But other than that - Chez Prius is almost ready for an inaugural road trip!

"Almost" because I've still got some window curtaining details to iron out.

Related posts: 

A New Vehicular Mate, Part 1
A New Vehicular Mate, Part 2
A New Vehicular Mate, Part 3
A New Vehicular Mate, Part 4
A New Vehicular Mate, Part 5: Bed

And following this Part 6 of the New Vehicular Mate series, I'll rename the series Chez Prius.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Giant Squash

Big squash, Food City, Tucson, Arizona. November 2019.

I was on a jicama run at the Food City on Flowing Wells when my eyes grew wide, and maybe my mouth opened in awe. A large bin of big, big squash.

Big squash, Food City, Tucson, Arizona. November 2019.

GIANT squash.

For scale, I propped my Dollar Tree reading glasses on these big bodies.

Big squash, Food City, Tucson, Arizona. November 2019.

I thumped 'em, smoothed 'em, pushed one around a bit, just to get the feel of the massiveness. Considered buying one, then didn't. Maybe another time.

Instead I stocked up on some zucchini.

I  believe it's cushaw squash aka Mexican hard squash aka ha:l. Another person's experience here, along with recipes.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Tucson, AZ: My First Football Game Since High School

University of Arizona football, Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

A Tucson native took me to the opening game of the 2019 UofA Wildcats football season. I was pretty excited. No, that's not right. I was measuredly excited. Excited not because I expected to enjoy the football game, but excited, in a muted way, to see a live football game for the first time since high school. Hohoho! Make that live or on TV!

The only two things I remember about high school football are the Friday evening potlucks that girls hosted before the games, and this cheerleader chant: "First in 10, do it again, go, go, go!"

What I was excited to see at the Wildcats football game was the marching band. I'm always up for watching a marching band, especially the percussion.

Lots of people movement on campus on game day.

Tailgating parties on the grassy mall. Thousands of students, alumni, and game enthusiasts walking about outside and inside the various buildings. My friend himself is a UofA alumnus. He's bought football tickets for some FIFTY years!
University of Arizona drum corps, Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

Before the game: Drums!

As a devoted Wildcat fan, my friend has a number of traditions associated with his game attendance. One is to line up for the Cat Walk, which I understand to be a human gauntlet through which the Wildcat players walk to the stadium about two hours before the game, when fans can shout their encouragements to the players.

However, my friend knew that I go a little weak in the knees at all things percussion, so he forewent the Cat Walk so that we could nab a good view of the crack drum corps on the mall while they got warmed up.

A video of one of the drill sets below:

Bear down? 

I get "Win one for the Gipper." The meaning is transparent, even if one does not know who or what a gipper is.

But the Wildcat exhortation to "bear down," which is ubiquitous upon t-shirts, signage, mugs, etc? 

Yes, I understand the meaning of bearing down on someone, as if you are chasing another, and you're getting, oh, so close! "Cap'n! The Klingons, they're bearin' down on us!"

But that's not the first meaning that comes to mind. Nope, it's for a woman in the final throes of giving birth, during which she gathers up her sphincter strength to push out a baby.

And wildcats are not bears. The Chicago Bears, on the other hand, are bears. It makes a mite more sense for them to bear down, to wit:

But enough of this snide commentary. I'm behaving like the stereotypical Bad Tourist who gives unsolicited advice to locals about how they ought to do things, even though I don't know fuck-all about nuthin'.

But this is serious

The first thing to strike me when I saw the women cheerleaders were their superficial attributes: 
  1. Mostly blonde
  2. Long, straight hair
  3. Again, based solely on the superficial - there appeared to be 0 women of color
To see if my perception was accurate, I visited the 2019-2020 line-up of the women cheerleaders. 

Hair color. Of 13 women, nine are blonde (mostly very light blonde), which = 69%. This is brow-raising, considering that only 5-10% of the US population is blonde. 

Note: There's a dearth of reliable data on this topic, so I went with the best of a poor lot, using this source (see the most popular response), and then upping the estimate to be safer.

Complexion. All of the women cheerleaders are fair-to-medium complected. 

Hair style. No curly hair; no short hair. 

This past-century exclusivity is not OK. We just can't be blind to this anymore.

As a public institution, a university must portray a message of inclusion. This means being energetic about finding ways to attract more cheerleader candidates of color and of avoiding disparate impact, through organizational policies and traditions, on candidates of modest financial resources.

Here is the University of Arizona's cheerleader tryout info packet. It costs $50 to try out. Every cheerleader must pay $200 out-of-pocket for membership in a cheer leading association. Cheerleaders must fundraise an additional $300 by the first day of school in the spring semester. What?!

The time commitments demanded of the cheerleaders are such that I'm guessing it's difficult for a Wildcat cheerleader to have a part time job. 

Given that the cheerleaders are, in effect, working for the University of Arizona, it seems that they should receive financial compensation for same. 

Cheerleaders are athletes and should receive similar financial opportunities as other scholarship-eligible athletes at the university. 

To grow the diversity of a university's cheerleader squads, the school must look upstream, at the middle school and high school levels, where a lot of girls are shut out of cheerleading tryouts from the get-go because their families couldn't afford tumbling and gymnastic lessons when the girls were younger, and the families can't afford the annual cost to be a high school cheerleader. (Go here for a forum discussion on how much money a girl's family may have to pay out-of-pocket to be a cheerleader. Spoiler alert: It's not uncommon for the cost to reach over $1000 dollars for the first year.) 

Do better, Wildcats. (And Cardinals.)

Marching band!

University of Arizona football, Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

 A snippet below

The Wildcats demolished their opponents.

University of Arizona football stadium, Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Tucson Pops at Reid Park

Tucson Pops, Reid Park, Tucson, Arizona. September 2019.

The Tucson Pops fall season has been going on for 65 years.

Next year is the last year that long-time conductor, László Veres, will lead the orchestra. He's been the maestro for circa 25 years, and is now 82 years old.

The organization, with audience input, has been auditioning would-be successors over a three-year arc.

One of my Tucson cultural interpreters invited me to accompany him to the September 15 performance, at which one of the conductor hopefuls, Khris Dodge, served himself up for the audience's tasting.

It just so happened that my friend and I sat right next to Mr. Dodge's parents! They live in Phoenix, and drove to Tucson for this performance. Very pleasant people, both accomplished musicians.

Below is Mr. Dodge's interpretation of Gershwin's Summertime:

I have several versions of Summertime. But they are legion. I met a man in Caucasus Georgia who claimed to have more than 200 covers of Summertime.

There's Janis Joplin's classic cover, of course.

I have a reggae Summertime by Keisha Patterson:

Some argue that Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald's cover is the best:

But getting back to the September 15 Tucson Pops evening.

The lawn in front of the amphitheater was packed with music lovers, with strong representation from silverhairs. Most brought dinner, beverages, or snacks. They sat in chairs or on blankets. You've got to arrive pretty early to claim a good patch of grass.

My friend brought a white wine. I contributed chicken livers, pickled herring, crackers, and plums.

Picnicking on a grassy incline on a pleasant evening, surrounded by lively music - a luxury of life.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Rootless: The Economics of Turkey, the Bird

Wild turkeys, Highway 36, Kansas. July 2016.

As a rule, the winter holiday season doesn't evoke much merriment in me. Rather, it is a season to be borne in stoic resignation.

I'm not one of the folks who gets depressed around this time, luckily. 

Nope - it's the unrelenting Christmas songs, congested parking, congested stores, and shortened tempers among people who seek prime parking spaces, that make me sigh in deep martyr mode.  I am inconvenienced.

The imposition on my selfish little world doesn't cease until the end of the first week following New Year's, with that final flurry of hustle-bustle prompted by gift returns, hence long lines at the customer service counters.


Turkey goes on radical sale in advance of the feast days! Hallelujah, I sing! I can buy a big ol' turkey for a bedazzling price, throw it in the oven, pull off the meat, make soup if I want, and feed on the meat for many days.

Until this year, that is.

This year, with the purchase of my first turkey of the season, I saw that my heretofore satisfying ROI on holiday turkey purchases was over.

First: The bird spit and sputtered all over my oven walls while cooking, which meant I had to invest unanticipated time and labor into cleaning the oven.

Second: It used to be the time and labor I invested in pulling the meat off the carcass were offset by my ability to make soup from the carcass. Only .... I released my large cooking pot to the wild in my last move.

Third: Is this all the meat I got from that deceptively plump bird?

In the forseeable future, then, I'll stick to my usual plat of boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I roast en masse in my oven.
A bread oven outside Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. August 2011.

Although the price for skinless, boneless chicken is about 188% higher than the holiday-turkey-on-sale, the opportunity costs of the sale-turkey exceed the financial savings by far.  Not to mention I'm paying for the turkey carcass, which I do not consume.

Bread oven (tone) and fireplace in Tbilisi, Caucasus Georgia. April 2012.

Evidently, no topic is too banal for me to write about.

Here is my article on the economics of laundry.

In a lukewarm effort to raise the level of discourse on the topic, here is a more erudite article on the economics of holiday turkey.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Sunset at Campbell Trailhead

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

I got a lead on a potentially good sunset-catching spot.

"Go all the way up Campbell Road til you can't go any farther. It's there.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

Easy enough.

The road actually ends at a higher apex than the scenic outlook, but only those who can pass into the gated community across from the trailhead may continue to the summit.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

View seekers must stay outside the gate and fences.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

The trail itself is a fenced corridor, an easement through private properties.  A rather sardonic article here about the trail, written by Charles Miles, with attractive photos.

There are two views from the trailhead. One is down Campbell and into Tucson center. 

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

 The other is out west.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

I packed a picnic dinner for my trip up Campbell Road. There are neither tables nor toilets at the trailhead. I ate inside Chez Prius.

More views:

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

I laughed when I saw this:

Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

Heheheheheh. A self-correcting issue, when the yowwens get eaten by their young some decades hence, as our parents got eaten by us some decades past.

Other Tucson sunsets here.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Stuff: Releasing More in 2019

My stuff on a table at Rami's in Keshalo, outside Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. September 2011. I released the "headache hat" a couple of years ago.

My goal when I leave Tucson is to carry in my car only what I could comfortably live with if I were to live in my car.

This raises - lowers? - my bar significantly from my past relocations. Til now, my relocation rule has been: If it fits in my car, it can come. Spare space for sleeping in the car or taking on a passenger was not a criterion.

Compliance with my new standard demands radical evictions.

Some of my stuff in Opelousas, Louisiana. All released back to the wild when I left. February 2016.


For several years, I've carried four pillows with me.

Their ride ends in Tucson. Too much squishy, fluffy mass that serves only one purpose - to rest my head or raise my feet.

Oh, I'll still have "pillows," but blankets, towels, sweaters, and linens are what will fill their cases.

This will eliminate:
  1. The mass the 'real' pillows would take; and
  2. A large bin that has stored my blankets and linens in past moves.


Each of us carries assumptions that are so internalized, we don't know they exist. They are like gravity - always present, but never noticed.

To my surprise, I evidently harbored an unexamined belief that one's household "must" have cutlery place settings for eight, at least.

But after watching countless youtubes on #vanlife, #hotelprius, et al, and observing vehicle dwellers' claims of only having one or two forks and spoons - just enough for themselves - it struck me.

The "it" crept in by spurts.

First: Why have I continued to carry eight dinner knives with me? They are long and they are heavy. Yet I only use a dinner knife to scoop a plump line of Miracle Whip Light out of a jar.

Second: Why do I need table settings for eight? I rarely entertain, and when I do, it's just for one or two people, and, once every two years or so, four people.

Conclusion: I'm not ready to reduce my cutlery to one or two place settings, but I am ready to cut it down to four. I will make it so.

Surprise: I mourn this. Not enough to change my mind, but still. I bought my dinner cutlery before I was married. Before my child was born. I love its weight, its sturdiness, its clean lines.

Small appliances

I'll wave fond goodbyes to:
  • Toaster
  • Coffee maker
  • Cheapo stick vacuum 
  • Broom


I am observing which items of clothing malinger in the closet for months on end, not paying rent.

They'll have to go.

Same for shoes.


Some items I need, but in a smaller size than I currently have, such as:

  • Document file box
  • Camp chair
  • Camp kitchen box (this, too, will cause separation pangs)

Out with the old 'n big and in with the new 'n petite.

There will be more acts of attrition as D-Day approaches. Probably a few tears, too.

Speaking of binge-watching #vanlife, etc. youtubes: Out of the bajillions I've now watched, the one below is the most charming. I see why it harvested MILLIONS of views:

A plethora of related posts on my stuff here: Losses, break-ups, and acquisitions.


Saturday, November 2, 2019

Flashback: Awassa, Ethiopia 2011: Of Hippos and Lunch, Part 2

This 2011 post discomfits me a little to select as a flashback. There are several cringe-worthy opinions I expressed during my two-month solo trip to Ethiopia.

They are cringe-worthy, for one, because I could have been just listening instead of talking. Learning something new instead of talking about things I really don't know enough about. Like, really, sex work in Ethiopia versus in the US? On what basis of actual facts did I have to render my judgement? Answer: None.

After I left Ethiopia, I thought back to my gossipy inanities about how most Ethiopian restaurants shared the same menu. .... Um, like the US is so different? Not really.

Oh, I've committed many, many cringe-worthy crimelets in my life, both domestic and abroad. I have no regret, however, about my campaign to wipe out the ubiquitous and obnoxious "you, you, you!" that young boys call out to tourists in Awassa.

The reason I selected this post for a flashback was because something reminded me of walking through a leafy expanse at the resort, along a narrow dirt footpath, alone, and where the blue-balled vervets began to gather, one by one, then by twos, .....

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ethiopia: Hippos and Lunch, Part 2, Awassa, Day 8, Monday

An afternoon storm began rolling in, darkening the sky, chilling the air, whipping up some wavelets and a breeze around us.

H. and I talked about how even extended travel in one country only scratches the surface in regard to an accurate understanding of a people's customs. (Heck, that's the case in one's own country of origin, too.) For example, we discussed the yawning holes ('tourist traps') in Ethiopian pavement that can swallow several humans at once. I said that most foreign tourists likely have the resources to get medical attention, whereas the typical Ethiopian does not, and such a fall could spell disaster for a family. H. suggested that it is worse for a foreigner to fall in the hole because s/he will share this experience with everyone back home (ahem), with a potential loss in future tourism. H. said that if an Ethiopian falls in said hole that people will donate money to ensure s/he gets proper care.

H. disdained my empathy for the young men in Shashamene, expressing his belief that most could find something profitable to do if they wished, but too many chewed chat all day.

We agreed the system of prostitution in Ethiopia was probably better than in the U.S. One huge advantage is that most Ethiopian prostitutes are their own boss, unlike many American prostitutes (assuming my vicarious-by-way-of-media information is correct) who work for pimps. Relatively speaking, Ethiopian prostitutes make good money, which is nothing to be sneered at here. Finally, Ethiopian prostitutes enjoy more respect here than their American counterparts in the U.S. According to H., prostitution is legal in Ethiopia, but evidently taxes are not assessed on this service. Of course, the only Ethiopians I've heard from on this topic are men; I'd be interested in women's views.

Eventually, it was time for me to leave this beautiful spot by the lake. First, I departed via a field within the resort. It was so funny - like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's, The Birds. Some monkeys in trees, then some in the grass, then one and two following me on the path. They gathered .... I did pick up a stick .... just in case ....

I wended my way out of the resort and down the cobblestone streets toward the town center. The restorative rain made everything mistily lush and fertile. When I walked under a tree occupied by storks, the wetness brought all of their bio smells to the forefront, making for an intense storky aroma. Not particularly pleasant. As usual, I stopped every once in awhile to just gawk at these immense birds. From certain angles, they looked like giant, uncomfortable penguins.

Later had dinner (spaghetti with meat sauce) at a brand-new place; it was so bland as to be irritating. Which, by the way, reminds me of an earlier conversation that H. and I had. We agreed that almost every Ethiopian restaurant in the country has the identical menu! It's like, what the hell?!

And here it is, for the most part:

* Egg sandwich
* Normal omelette
* Special omelette
* Toast, jam (always the exact same kind of jam), butter
* Juice
* Fried egg
* Oats (or porridge)
* Hamburger
* Cheeseburger
* Special burger (often with egg on top, when I've asked)
* Pasta with meat
* Pasta with tomato sauce (no meat)
* Pasta with vegetables
* And then the same 10 or so "traditional" Ethiopian dishes that cover the breakfast, lunch, and dinner times

And there you have it!

H.'s theory is that the cooks/chefs in the country simply do not want to cook outside the box.

If I were to open a restaurant in Ethiopia, I'd call it Something Different. I wouldn't call it Unique, because there are restaurants called Unique in many Ethiopian towns, and they, too, serve the same menu as everyone else.

Did I mention that I've been working a one-woman campaign in Awasa to stamp out calls of "You! You!"? Vacations. Such hard work.

Despite the above, Awasa is a beautiful city. For the most part, too, people here are very friendly and helpful.