I’m pleased to announce that with the help of a dear computer-savvy friend, I am moving my blog to whole new site.
With a new look comes a new name. Although almost a year ago when I started writing, I really did feel as if I was sending my words out into the clouds, I now know I do have readers (followers, even). The new name of the blog is Rubber Tramp Artist, which says more about me and my life (and is shorter and–hopefully–easier to remember).
If you are a subscriber, thank you. I’ve transferred my subscribers from this site to the new one. However, if you don’t get a notification of a post from me tomorrow, you can subscribe again on the Rubber Tramp Artist page.
I’ve moved all of my previous posts to the new site, so you can find your old favorites there.
Feel free to comment and let me know what you think of the new Rubber Tramp Artist look.
It is full of hundreds of photos of kids sitting on Santa’s lap, crying, screaming, trying to escape. Yep, the whole theme of this book is getting a laugh out of the misery of little children.
Don’t get me wrong, twenty-five or thirty photos of kids having negative reactions to Santa Claus might have been funny. However, hundreds and hundreds of the same kinds of pictures quickly becomes totally boring. Yawn!
The captions are even worse than the photos. I’m sure the caption writers were trying to be clever, but most of what they came up with is just plain dumb.
I can’t imagine who would buy this book. (I borrowed the copy I read from my public library, and I’m a bit miffed that my tax dollars were spent on this dreck.) Will families buy this book and look at it lovingly every year until it becomes part of their family tradition? Yikes!
My sister gave me this book. I love it because the (adult male) bear and the (little girl) mouse who live together go dumpster diving to get the supplies they need for a Christmas party. This book shows kids a non-typical family and that it’s ok to get what one needs out of other people’s trash. Hasn’t the Christian right banned this book yet?
It’s the traditional “The Twelve Days of Christmas Song” paired up with lovely pictures. An anthropomorphic bear giving the presents to his bear lady love. (I just found out a female bear is called a sow, just like a pig. A male is a boar.) It’s the super cute illustrations that make this book worth reading.
My very favorite part is the supporting character raccoon cat (ha!) burglar trying to open a tightly closed trash can.
The emphasis of this book is on California, not on Christmas. I think even a family who doesn’t celebrate Xmas (but does like California) could like this book.
There are three components of this book.
#1 Bright color illustrations showing the California themed things (4 hummingbirds, 6 otters smiling, 12 redwoods swaying) that the California cousin gives to her young relative from out of state. The illustrations are nice.
#2 The basic story of “On the first day of Christmas…On the second day of Christmas…”, etc. This short version of the story is in bold print and would be appropriate for young children (toddlers) who can’t sit through a long, involved story.
#3 The longer, involved story, told through letters written by the visiting cousin to his parents back home. These letters include lots of additional information about whatever California-related thing the kid received from the cousin that particular day. These letters are appropriately read to or by an older kid who can sit through the longer story.
The book contains a LOT of facts about California. A kid in elementary school could use this book at any time of year to do a report on the Golden State.
One thing I didn’t like about this book was “Cali” the “talking” California valley quail (the California state bird). The book did NOT need the gimmick of a talking quail.
One thing I did like about the book is that except for the talking quail and the small redwood tree she comes in, the cousin doesn’t actually give any physical items. Most 12 Days of Christmas stories are overrun with the consumerism of a dozen pear trees and a score of gold rings.
The other morning I was driving through downtown just before the sun came up. It was still rather dark out when I passed by the town’s Christmas light display. I should take photos of all that, I thought. Instead of putting it off for another day, I pulled over and took a walk through the tiny winter wonderland.
My photos don’t do justice to how lovely the lights actually look in the dark.
Seriously, although I am not religious and not super into Christmas as a holiday, I don’t feel hurt in any way when I see a Nativity scene on a patch of land owned by the city. In fact, I’d be happy if they brought on every symbol of winter religiosity available. Let’s get a giant menorah out there and maybe candles inside paper lampshades in celebration of Las Posadas and somethings to represent Diwali, the five-day Hindu festival. While we’re at it, let’s add a kinara for Kwanzaa and a sun to represent the winter solstice. (Information about different winter celebrations from http://www.unitedplanet.org/blog/2013/01/03/from-christmas-to-diwali-winter-holidays-around-the-world.)
The Okie and I were in Asheville, trying to sell the huge quartz cluster we’d been given at Coleman’s Miller Mountain Mine in Mount Ida, Arkansas.
The man who gave us the cluster only wanted points a couple of inches long to use in his crafts. He wasn’t interested in the chunk of quartz that probably weighed 50 pounds, so he offered it to Mr. Carolina and the Okie. When the boys asked me if I wanted to keep it, I said hell yeah! They hauled it over to my van and lifted it up into the space under my bed. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. The Okie was convinced we could sell it to one of the downtown rock shops in Asheville for several hundred dollars which I could use for needed repairs on the van.
So the Okie and I were in downtown Asheville on the day after we delivered Mr. Carolina to his brother. When I parked the van, we had no money to feed the parking meter. I figured either I’d panhandle change for the meter or get a ticket I’d pay later. The Okie loaded the quartz cluster into a green army-issue duffel bag and hoisted it onto his back.
Before we made it to the first rock shop, we met some traveler kids hanging around on the sidewalk.
The Okie, who was not the least bit shy, talked to the folks and asked if they wanted to see the cluster he was hauling around. Of course they wanted to see it. While he was showing it off, I pulled out some of the smaller points I had found and traded them to one of the kids for change to put in the parking meter. If I hadn’t needed to feed the meter, I would have given him the crystals. Since he offered the change and I needed it, I took it.
When I got back from putting the coins in the meter, the Okie introduced me to the oldest of the kids, a guy who actually had a girlfriend and a house just outside of Asheville. That guy wire wrapped stones and offered to trade quartz points in exchange for making some pendants for us.
When we heard from the stone wrapper guy the next day, we were at Stuff-Mart where I’d been flying a sign. He and his girlfriend were out and about in a car, so he said they’d meet us where we were.
Upon arrival, they presented us with beautiful pendants made from the stones we had found combined with (as it turned out) the girlfriend’s fabulous wire wrapping work. But even better than the pendants was the girlfriend!
Miz C and I hit it off immediately, which was unusual for me. There are few people I’ve liked the moment I met them. I’ve had to warm up to even my closest, dearest friends. But not Miz C. Right away we were talking as if we had known each other for years. Within minutes, she had invited me to Thanksgiving dinner the next day. I typically don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but I agreed to go over and share the meal.
On Thanksgiving morning, the Okie and I cooked eggs on my camp stove in the Stuff-Mart parking lot where we had spent the night in the van. After breakfast I drove him thirty miles east on I-40 to a Pilot truck stop so he could hitchhike to his next destination. Once we said our good-byes, I headed back to Asheville and Thanksgiving dinner.
Upon arriving, I was introduced to Miz C’s mother. Yikes! Although everyone was very welcoming, I suddenly felt as if I were crashing a family party. I wondered if my presence was going to be awkward for everyone.
Luckily, Miz C’s mother, Em, was as cool and loving as Miz C herself. It was a total case of “like daughter, like mother.”
While Miz C and the boyfriend cooked, I sat with Em and chatted. I told her some about my life and my travels and my very vague future plans which involved New Orleans for Mardi Gras and visiting an old gal friend in Austin. It turns out Miz C had once been quite the traveling kid herself, so nothing I told Em shocked or surprised her. Em was absolutely accepting of the way I was living my life.
When I asked Em about herself, she said received messages from angels. Communicating with angels was a new one to me, but I kept my mind opened and listened to what Em had to say.
She explained that angels are around us all the time and want to help us. We just have to ask them for the help and guidance and protection we need. However, sometimes if we are focused on negative aspects, the angels will think we are asking for a lesson and will send us the very situation we have been fretting over.
She told me both the archangel Michael and the angel Uriel were with me.
In the New Testament Michael leads God’s armies against Satan‘s forces in the Book of Revelation, where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan. In the Epistle of Jude Michael is specifically referred to as “the archangel Michael”. Christian sanctuaries to Michael appeared in the 4th century, when he was first seen as a healing angel, and then over time as a protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil.
Uriel illuminates our minds with information, ideas, epiphanies, and insights…He’s wonderful to call upon whenever you need a solution…
He’ll whisper correct and appropriate answers into your ear, which you’ll receive as words or thoughts that are suddenly “downloaded” into your mind.
You can call upon Uriel to guide your intellectual pursuits…
Over time, the conversation drifted to other topics. After a while, I excused myself to go out to my van to get more quartz points for gifting and trading.
I hadn’t been outside long when Em joined me at my van.
This friend in Austin you’re going to visit, Em asked, do you call her your sister?
I thought about it, then shook my head. Lou and I were close when we lived in the same city and worked together, I told Em. But I don’t think I’ve ever called her my sister or thought of her as my sister.
Em seemed perplexed. The angels were talking about my sister she said. The message from the angels (which was unclear to Em) was about my sister…
I almost fell over. Although I hadn’t mentioned her to Em, I did have a sister. She and I had been estranged since my bad-news boyfriend said she’d told one of his relatives that she didn’t have a sister. When I explained to Em that my sister had rejected me due to the crazy behavior I’d exhibited while still with my ex, Em wisely pointed out that he could have been lying to me to separate me from one of my main sources of support.
This talk of my sister went a long way in helping me believe that Em received messages from angels. I hadn’t even mentioned having a sister, so how could she have known about her? Maybe she just guessed, but it seemed more than coincidental to me.
If you read the first part of Electricity, Restrooms, & WiFi, Oh My! you know I am writing in response to a post on vaninspirations (https://vaninspirations.wordpress.com/) by Liselle. When Liselle first started living in her van full time, she wondered how she could charge her phone and use the restroom each night before bed without spending a lot of money. I suggested she spend her evenings at public libraries, then started thinking of all the other places folks could hang out, access the internet, charge electronics, and/or use the restroom while spending little or no money.
Part 1 of Electricity, Restrooms, & WiFi, Oh My! covered public and university libraries, as well as corporate coffee shops and restaurants. Now on with Part 2!
Chain bookstores often allow or even encourage people to hang out without requiring a purchase. There’s sure to be a restroom on the premises, and there’s typically free WiFi available. Try to find a comfy chair near an electrical outlet for charging, or if there’s a coffee shop area, look for outlets there.
I’ve noticed that in some big cities, larger grocery stores sometimes have a snack bar type area, ostensibly so people can eat the deli food or pre-made sandwiches they’ve just bought. If there are electrical outlets in such a seating/eating area, it might be a good place to hang out after grocery shopping to charge electronics. Grocery stores almost always have restrooms, and these days some of them even have free WiFi.
Here’s the deal. Stores want to make it easy for people to spend money. If a potential customer has to leave the store to attend to a bodily function, that customer might not return to make a purchase. So if you’re in a place where items are for sale, there’s bound to be a restroom.
Last summer, I frequented a Target store offering free WiFi. (That was in California, but maybe it’s a national trend.) The store also had public restrooms and an in-store Starbucks with seating. One evening I went into the seating area to look at photos I’d just purchased and found people hanging out, playing one of those card games like Magic without even a cup from a purchased beverage on their table. I didn’t look for electrical outlets, but if there was at least one there, it would be a great spot for accessing the internet and charging up with no out of pocket expense.
Shopping malls might work for passing time with access to restrooms. Food courts in malls are usually so big that no one would notice how long someone has been sitting at table. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a mall, but they may routinely offer WiFi and electrical outlets. Lots of people do the mall walking thing, so one could probably get in some exercise while waiting for that last visit to the restroom before bed.
Another place I don’t have much experience with but might work is a hospital. Or course, there are public restrooms in hospitals. There are likely to be people passing time in cafeterias and waiting rooms, and it would seem logical to offer electrical outlets to the people there. In my experience (in towns of 8,000 to 85,000 people), I’ve never seen a security guard challenging anyone in a hospital, but I’ve heard lots of intense activity happens in inner-city hospitals. Again, experiences differ depending on the community. If I were looking for places to spend my evenings, I might scope out a hospital to find public access restrooms, electrical outlets, etc., but I would not try to use hospital facilities too often. While no one may think twice about seeing the same person repeatedly in a library, mall, or on a university campus, the person repeatedly in a hospital waiting room might attract attention.
A Greyhound bus station might work occasionally too. Friends and I once slept for a few hours on the floor of a Greyhound station when we had no tickets, no money, and no plan. There are usually people hanging out there, even when there’s not a crowd waiting for the very next bus. (People hanging out could have been dropped off early or could be waiting to receive money through Western Union.) Five years ago when I was riding the ‘Hound regularly, I saw that bus stations had begun to provide “charging stations” (rows of electrical outlets, usually above a counter) so people in the waiting area could charge their phones. Greyhound stations definitely have restrooms, and I guarantee no one will think it strange to see you brushing your teeth in there.
Hotels can usually work for a restroom break, For best results, pick a hotel that’s part of a chain and has a lobby. Nearly every hotel lobby has restrooms. Stroll in casually and confidently and find the restroom. If you’re feeling bold, find an electrical outlet near a comfy chair in the lobby or in the business center. If questioned, you can say you’re supposed to meet your mom there. (You might not look like you belong in the lobby of a La Quinta Inn, but your mom probably does. On the other hand, no matter what you look like, savvy hotel workers know you might have money in your pocket to rent a room or drink in the hotel bar.)
If you just need to use the restroom and pass some time, parks can be a good bet. They usually have restrooms (cleanliness may vary) and tend to be open fairly late. If you are a van dweller/rubber tramp, parks are a good place to cook and eat dinner, and you’ll probably blend in with the other people hanging out there. I’ve also encountered parks with WiFi access.
If you’re in a town where a friend lives, arrange to spend the evening with that person. Your friend will probably allow you to charge your electronics and may even invite you to stay for dinner. You’ll have restroom access before you drive off to park for the night, and your friend may offer you a shower. In addition, you’ll get to spend time with someone you like.
Catholic Workers live a simple lifestyle in community, serve the poor, and resist war and social injustice. Most are grounded in the Gospel, prayer, and the Catholic faith, although some houses on this list state that they are interfaith. Each Catholic Worker house is independent and there is no “Catholic Worker headquarters”.
Some Catholic Worker communities publish newspapers and some provide services for homeless and poor folks. Go to http://www.catholicworker.org/communities/directory.html to find…”a list of all the Catholic Worker communities that we know about, indexed by state or country.” Some hospitality houses let folks do laundry and/or take showers and just hang out.
I hope these ideas help van dweller/rubber tramps/traveling folks find places to meet needs that can’t be met in their vans. If readers have other suggestions, please leave a comment with your ideas.
Things that can use improvement include not eating out so much. I’ve found this to be a little more difficult than anticipated. For one thing, in order to use a restroom in the evening to prepare myself for the night, I feel like I need to buy something. This puts me in a place to have an evening snack at Starbucks. Last night, I just ordered passion tea though, and that was fine, it’s just that I don’t want to spend an excessive money on these kinds of things. The idea is to save money so I can do the things that are important to me… and that doesn’t include Starbucks. Tonight I might try just using a gas station bathroom, but these are usually much dirtier than the one at Starbucks. I don’t know… maybe it’s worth it to buy something small at Starbucks.
and later in the post
Another issue is that during the week, I need something to do between the time I get out of work and the time I park to sleep. What I’ve been doing is sitting in my van in a parking lot at a strip mall and playing a game on my phone. This wasn’t my intention. And it is this that leads me to needing to charge my phone at Starbucks before sleeping.
I offered her some advice.
Can you charge your phone at work? Can you get rid of some apps so the phone’s battery will last longer?
Is there a public or university library you could hang out at before bedtime? Libraries are great because you don’t have to buy anything, they have restrooms, and many of them have electrical outlets where you could charge up your phone. Also, libraries don’t get suspicious if they see the same people every night.
There is a library. I didn’t think about that, but that’s a great solution. Thanks for bringing that up Blaize.
I realized I had a lot of experience figuring out where to use the restroom and charge my electronics without spending a fortune. I think the information I’m offering in this post might be helpful not only to full-time rubber tramps but also to folks exploring a new city who don’t want to buy a meal every time they need to use the restroom or charge a cell phone.
My big disclaimer is that experiences are going to differ depending on who you are and where you are. A McDonald’s in inner city New Orleans is probably going to treat you differently than a McDonald’s off the interstate in the middle of Indiana. If you look like a sweet granny, you will probably be treated differently than a young guy who looks like he’s been hopping trains. Is such different treatment fair? Hell no! Is it the way the society we live in works? Yes. (Whoever lied and told you life is fair, kid? my father used to say to me.)
By all means, protest unfair treatment. Or just say OK and walk away, if that’s what’s best in your situation. I’m writing from my personal experiences, which will not be the same as anyone else’s experiences. Use my experiences as a starting point to figure out what works for you.
As I told Liselle, my number one favorite place to meet my restroom, WiFi, and charging needs is the public library in whatever town I’m in. Every library I’ve ever been in has had restrooms. Even better, I’ve never had to buy anything or answer any questions or even show a library card in order to use the restroom in a public library. People can also read books and magazines at the library for free. Often libraries have free internet access, either through the library’s public access computers or from free WiFi.
I’ve been to some libraries where only people with local library cards could use the public access computers, but I’ve been to even more where “guests” were allowed access. Sometimes I’ve had to show my driver’s license to get guest access, but not always. Frequently libraries have electrical outlets and allow patrons to use them to charge their electronics. Because people are expected and even encouraged to hang out in libraries, it’s unlikely anyone spending several nights a week at one will get any funny looks.
Another great place to spend time is a university campus. While dormitories and gyms might be off-limits, student unions, university libraries and food courts, and even classrooms may be good place to spend the evening hours. Any of the buildings I mentioned are sure to have readily available restrooms. University libraries offer the same access to books and magazines as public libraries, although a student ID would probably be required to use a library computer. Classrooms typically have an electrical outlet and there are usually several empty classrooms in any hall after four o’clock or so in the afternoon. Also look for electrical outlets in the student union or any other buildings where students might spend time between classes.
Even if you are older than the typical college student, there are people of all ages on most large university campuses, especially in the evenings when nontraditional (older) students tend to take night classes. Maybe people will mistake you for a professor if you look older than the average student. Also, some universities off free or cheap lectures, concerts, films and other activities in the evening that are open to anyone in the community.
Often the workers at fast food restaurants and chain coffee shops don’t care if someone sits in the dining room for a few hours charging a phone or laptop, utilizing the free WiFi, and visiting the restrooms when necessary. I’ve been in McDonald’s restaurants, Starbucks coffee shops, and Paneras across the country, seldom buying anything while using the store’s dining room and electricity, and I’ve never been asked to buy anything. (The only time I’ve ever been asked to leave a McDonald’s, I was trying to buy food. Read about my experience here: https://throwingstoriesintotheether.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/no-backpacks-or-sleeping-bags-allowed/.)
I think most corporations don’t want to alienate potential customers, thinking even if someone hasn’t bought anything right now, s/he might have bought something from their company earlier in the day or might buy something at a later time.
Of course, fast food restaurants with WiFi don’t necessarily have electrical outlets. Most McDonald’s now have WiFi, but maybe only half of the ones I’ve been in have publicly available electrical outlets. More and more Burger King restaurants have WiFi and electrical outlets. Starbucks and Panera almost always have several electrical outlets to go with their free WiFi. All of those places have restrooms too.
(If I get to choose between a Starbucks and a Panera and a fast food joint, I will always pick Panera. Panera sells delicious, healthy food, so I can something nutritious if I decide to spend money. Also, Panera has an ice dispenser near their beverage dispensers, so I can fill my water bottle with ice before I leave. Finally, Panera offers a customer reward card, so if I do buy something, I earn free food and drinks down the road.)