High Noon…or, All’s Well that Ends

Maybe it was the on-going, entrenched, toxic political climate affecting me, or maybe I was weary and having a bad day, or maybe it was merely indigestion. But, truthfully, I don’t think I can blame it on any of these grab-bag excuses. More likely it was just that badass part of me that doesn’t usually show itself, at least not in such a raw undeveloped manner…

It happened this way, last August:

Elaine and I and our two dogs are coming home in our truck camper from a crime writer’s workshop, traveling a long stretch of two-lane highway (one lane in each direction) in the U.P. of Michigan. My wife and I haven’t had breakfast and it’s almost noon with few restaurants in sight. There are no grab-and-go places to eat for those of us who are traveling with our dogs and don’t want to leave them in a dangerously hot environment. Though, when we have our truck camper, it’s not as dire a situation as with our auto because we can put our pups in the camper while we eat. The larger camper space stays much cooler than in the small confines of a car. But even so, we need some shade to park under. Not easy at high noon.

So, when we finally come upon a restaurant where a treed shady spot is available, though it be across from a nearby motel, we stop and walk back to the restaurant. So far, so good. That is, until we return…

Elaine climbs into the back camper to get the dogs so we can move on. Meanwhile, I’m busily kick the tires and do what I see men do, pretending to perform some vital function on the vehicle. My fallacious concern for the safety of the tires is soon interrupted by an aproned woman, in her fifties, who is crossing the highway, yelling at me:

“You can’t park there, that’s for guests of the motel,” she howls. She comes at me like a crusader on a God-given mission.

“Okay,” I say, “Sorry. We’re on our way out.”

“Didn’t you see the sign,” she bellows back at me? Her words are obviously not a question; it’s an admonishment.

“No, I didn’t see a sign,” I lie. The place is empty as is the motel parking lot across the street and I can’t see the big problem. I figure that she’ll be content that we are now leaving and will have successfully shooed us out of this place. We did see a sign, but technically speaking, it said that the beach was private and only for motel guests’ use. We are merely located in a parking area, aside the road by the coastline—no other vehicles—and hadn’t gone to the beach.

“I can’t believe you didn’t see that sign,” she screams, vexed, and throws out her arm and pointy finger toward the sign that doesn’t happen to be, at the moment, in my view.

“I told you,” I insist, perturbed, pausing between words, so she can get what I’m claiming: “We. Didn’t. See. The. sign.” I wonder what’s wrong with this mad woman. She’s not listening and we are clearly in the process of leaving. Her job is done, here.

“How can you not see the sign?” She’s getting closer; her snarl lets me know that she’s not finished with me. “The sign is right there!” She repeats, as though we haven’t been addressed this point before, several times. She’s back using her pointy figure, her other hand on her hip.

I’m feeling like I’ve time-travelled to my childhood self, and…

I’m in front of the principal,

as well as  my mother,

and God is watching.

I’m in big trouble.

I decide to plead my case, once more, “I told you I didn’t see the sign. And anyway, we’re leaving.” I can’t believe this woman. Geez Us! I just want out of here and away from this bulldogish woman, bent on chewing my ass to shreds.

“Can’t you read!” Another snottily posed question that really isn’t one.

“How can I read a sign,” I snap back at her, “that I didn’t see?” Surely, I figure, she can understand the logic of my comeback.

At this point in our encounter, I’m not about to go into the fact that the sign didn’t say we couldn’t park here, just that we couldn’t use the damned beach—and no one else is even around. I’m now convinced than any further logic would be lost on this screaming predator.

I was correct.

“I asked you, can’t you read!” Now, her eyeballs are threatening to pop out of their sockets, along with her vocal cords. Her hands on her hips and she’s moving in closer to me.

I’m incredulous. Really, I just want out of this place and back on the road. But this situation has just crossed my line and has stepped into the territory of a playground showdown–at High Noon. Which is beckoning the mentality of my two-year-old self who is up to the task.

“I can read, you fucking bitch, I have a goddamned master’s degree, but I didn’t see the fucking sign.” My throat is raw from my shriek. My eyeballs must be bulging, too.

I’m out of control.    

I’ve played my Trump card, a fine education—though admittedly not from an Ivy League school. Still, ashamedly, I’m aware that pulling out my master’s degree is a bit of an overkill display of my qualifications, given the particulars of this situation. (This isn’t a job interview.)

She slaps both hands against her chest, as in sudden heart pain, then sucks in air and manages to utter from the debts of her being, “You cursed at me!” It’s a hard blow for her and she pushed back by it.

I am grateful for her retreat.

But geez-us, it wasn’t my master’s that impress her; it was my cursing that performed the trick! Regardless, I can’t believe that this woman is taken aback by my pissed-off— vulgar, perhaps—but understandable response to her agression. I would have guessed she’s been “cursed” at many times before, given her proclivity to “beat a dead horse.” Whatever,  I’m relieved to find something that has made her back off.

However, the woman recovers from my blasphemy and slaps her credentials on the table, “I have a degree too!”


But I’m not done with her, I throw down: “Not in public relations, I bet!” Then, I take a step forward. I want her to be aware I’m not on the run anymore.

About then, my wife and the dogs emerge from the camper, drawing the heart stricken, rule enforcer’s attention, and Elaine asks, “What’s going on out here?”

The woman lifts a hand off her chest, points at me and exclaims, “She cursed at me!” She waits for a horrified reaction from Elaine.

Elaine glances my way and finds me, well, smirking from self-satisfaction. She’s used to my cursing. It’s  an everyday event since 45 stepped into the presidency–mostly at the TV set.

“I’m calling the police.” The woman huffs and pulls out her cell phone, obviously needing someone to care, maybe someone who’ll put us in jail.

For one thing, we are not in a town; we are on a sparsely travelled road in the U.P. Phone reception is iffy, at best. There are no cops, unless a state Trooper happens by—which I’ve seen few of. Secondly, we have not exactly committed a murder or a robbery. Shit, we are not even littering. There are no warnings about trespassing  around, just a sign about a private beach, which we are not on. And furthermore, we are in the process of leaving. Surely this situation will not be considered a high-priority.

Elaine shakes her head, calmly puts the dogs in the backseat of the truck, motions for me to join her. We drive out with the woman standing, now, by the road, phone to her ear.

We smile, sarcastically, and wave good-bye,

She affects a smile, as well, and waves…

Elaine’s and my eyes meet, non-verbally questioning: What the hell was that all about?



For more SaturdayScribbles, scroll down to: “All I said was…”














All I Said Was…

“I don’t want a baked potato,” I tell her. Little did I know where it would all lead me. My wife and I are having our coffee in bed, as we make our grocery list for our upcoming camping trip.

“Why? We need a potato with our steak dinner,” my wife says. 

“I just don’t want a baked potato,” I reinterate.” Geez, I’m thinking that we’re going camping, who eats a baked potato on a camping trip. Besides, there’s so many better ways to consume a potato.

She’s incredulous, scowling, her eyes examining me, like for a defect.

“I’ve never liked them all that well,” I confess.

“Yes you did.” She’s thoughtful for a moment, then says, “Have you noticed that the older you get the more stubborn you are about what you will eat? You’ve regressed.”

“I have not! You say that just because I don’t want a damned baked potato.”

“Chinese food,” she blurts out, “you used to be happy to go out for Chinese food. Now, when I say let’s have Chinese, you wrinkle your nose. Even though, on the few occasions you do give in it, you think it tastes good.”

“I have never been big on Chinese food. I just eat it to please you.”

“So now you don’t want to please me by eating a baked potato with your steak?”

“Uh.” I realize I’ve sunk into the marriage muck up to my hips. How to extract myself? She’s staring at me, waiting. “I will concede,” I tell her, “that as I get older, I realize time is limited, and I am less likely to do eat something or do something I don’t like or want to do.”

“Exactly,” she says, triumphant. “A kid turns her nose up when asked to eat something that’s good for her and digs her heels in when she doesn’t feel like doing something. Another sign that you’re regressing.”

“I’m just being more selective. That’s a sign of maturity, not childlikeness.”

“Do you notice you’ve lost your censor, you just about say anything that comes into your head, like a little kid before she learns what she shouldn’t mention?”

“I’ve always been like that.”

“I guess you right. Your censor has always been…well, set on low. But I think it’s getting worse, like ready to shut off.

“Speaking my mind keeps me from getting an ulcer.”

“And I suppose not doing or going to places that bore you keeps you from stomach ailments as well? Like, for instance, when I want to take in a botanical garden.”

“What? I always go…when you can’t find someone else to go with you.”

“Yes, when I have no one else to go with me, and after I remind you that I watch football with you even though I’m not interested in football.”

“This isn’t a situational equivalency, because when you watch football with me, you play games on your computer, or draw. And when I’m at a garden, there’s nothing else for me to do. I—”

“You never used to complain.”

“I have done a lot of things I could have complained about but I didn’t because I’m not a complainer, I say.”

“You are now, about a potato!”
And that’s another thing that confirms my belief. As you get older, you regress and become a complainer about what you eat or what you do.”

I’m frowning at her and her hypothesis that I’m regressing, year-by-year, back to my childhood. When in fact, I know that I’m merely selective and wiser in my life selections—again, it’s the time-limited concept I’m in touch with.

“Another thing that confirms my observations of your regression, you don’t care if your socks are matched.”

“I simply don’t find that important, and besides I don’t have to match them, you insist on my socks finding their rightful mates—a little persnickety if you ask me.” I don’t say anal, that would really piss her off.

“But do you notice how many little kids don’t match their socks.”

“I didn’t put my shoes on the wrong feet, did I?” I’m referring to her wearing her flip-flops on the wrong feet for several hours before she noticed—and she claims to have sensitive feet that can’t bear to have seams in her socks.

“That’s what I mean, I’m getting older too. You’re just older than me and are more regressed.”

“Humph, I wonder who’s going to monitor you?” I say, and apparently I won’t because I’m too childlike already, and who knows how bad I’ll be in a few years.” I grab our grocery list and head off to the grocery store to get our food for our trip.

The first morning in our camper:

“I have a new way of looking at your regression,” my wife informs, again over coffee, this time in our camper bed.

“Really?” God, here we go again.
“Yes, now I see it in a more spiritual way.”

“I’m all ears.”

“It’s the cycle of life,” she says, like a returnee from a spiritual quest with the Dali Lama. “Before you are born, you’re an essence that goes into a newborn’s body and grows into maturity, and then begins to sink…”

I don’t like the word, “sink.” I can’t see this new enlightenment regarding my regression getting any better for me.

“…back into a childhood state, and then eventually the essence leaves the body.”

“So now that I’m an essence, you’re feeling better about me, right?” I think her grief cycle has moved to acceptance.

She smiles and nods. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you’ve become more stubborn…and more and more regressed.

I can’t wait until she realizes I bought hash browns, yesterday, and not baked potatoes for our dinner tonight.


(For more: Scroll down to: “Night Visitors and Un-kept promises.”)

Night Visitors and Un-kept Promises

They stare at me, others hide under my bed, night after night, wondering when I’ll move them along, let them complete the present chapter in their lives. As it is, their agitation and plaintiff faces and disgruntled voices cast anxiety over my day and into the night, making restful sleep difficult, fitful, unlikely. A few of the players in my story have been with me in my first two novels of my mystery trilogy.  They’ve experienced me halt their progression before in  A Venomous Cocktail and then again in Twisted Minds, but never for this long. I’m certain the old timers have told the new actors that this is not normal.

There’s a screeching, a cacophony of:  What the hell? What’s up?

I hear their fear that I’ll never return, never keep my promise to them.

There are recriminations.

It’s painful…

And worrisome.

Each cast member—except maybe a few of my walk-ons—knows that I have the script in my head as to where he or she is headed in my current tale–which I do, mostly; however, I’ve not shared the plot. I’ve kept them in the dark, and it’s a good thing, because lately I’ve been hearing their chatter, along with the word-on-the-street which is: they are considering taking off without me, settling their own issues, plotting their personal destinies—maybe, even, taking a dip in someone else’s novel.


A full-on renegade.

Who could blame them?

Not me, but…

I do have a reason for my desertion from their lives, their destiny. My justification for my inattention lies in my distress. Something my characters wouldn’t understand, since they live back in 2014, before the November 2016, USA election.

I hope the players in my novel aren’t listening right now—being I’m far away from my night’s sleep—but most often these days, the conjured characters of my imagination seem inconsequential, irrelevant…and frankly, frivolous.

When I try to escape into their lives to keep my promise to bring their dilemmas to a conclusion, I feel like I’m wasting my time. So I stay away from them in the day, even though I know that I’ll end up enduring their nightly hauntings.

These days I’m invested in the reality of this country, compelled to engage in playing my part to combat the immorality, the criminality, the false sense of righteousness, and the greediness displayed in too many members of our country’s leadership; these supposed public servants who betray a commitment to our nation’s core values; these leaders who plot—in real time, in real life—to take away, instead of enhance; these leaders who fill their own pockets and egos  with money and power at the expense of those with little of either; and I’m especially disgusted with the the leaders who turn their heads to it all, out of cowardliness or out of personal job related preservation.

For now, my book’s characters are stuck in my head. I have considered the possibility that I may never be able to keep my promise to them, as I spend my time writing letters and emails, signing petitions, calling politicians, educating myself and others to what’s going on, and planning and hanging out at protests.

How long will all this last? It seems already a lifetime.

For certain, this is not the country I want to live in.

It’s not the country I, as a future ancestor, want to leave to my family, or the families of my friends, or the families of this country.

So for now, I neglect my writing and promises to my fictional characters and their world, so I can keep  an inherent promise, as a citizen, to preserve a democracy–albeit imperfect. At this point, I need to do whatever I can to help write a good ending to the reality of the country my grandchildren
and their grandchildren and their grandchildren…will live in.


And I’ll put up with the hauntings under and around my bed. 



(To learn about the Wind Walker, scroll down.)

The Wind Walker

It was my day to pick up my granddaughter, Eowyn, after her school let out. Being I was engaged with my current novel, I gave only a casual glance, now and then, to the media warnings about disabled traffic lights, trash cans taking flight, uprooted trees, and downed power lines all over our area.

Before I left to get Eowyn, a friend called and warned me to be careful when I left, as she nearly lost her car door when she got out to go into the grocery store. That picture snapped me into the day and the hazards of being out in the strong wind, and it got me thinking about the block-and-a-half walk from my car to the school door, the one my granddaughter uses.

Eowyn is an eight years-old, slight-of-build, fifty-pound second-grader. She didn’t inherit my low center of gravity that holds me firmly to the earth in high wind. I feared my little one could be blown away or tossed into a tree and maybe, even uprooting the damned thing—okay, I hyperbolize, my mind tends to venture off into cartoons… Suffice it to say, I was concerned.

When I pick her up, we walk a block and a half to the crosswalk that leads to the parking lot and my vehicle. Eowyn is one of those kids who makes a person tired and dizzy just watching her energy and rambunctiousness. Anytime. But when she blasts out that school door, she tears around, circles the area, finding friends with a similar need to blow off the school day’s confinement.

In other words, she most likely would not be up for having her grannie hang on to her for-dear-life. Also, I figured, it might seem humiliating to her, especially in front of her friends, to be tethered, causing her to fear others might see her as less than a second grader.

Believe me, I had an experience with her to back up my concern:

Once, taking her to school in the morning, I tried to get her to enter the building through a door other than the usual one close to her room. This entrance was close to the kindergarten rooms. She baulked, vehemently protested, complaining that that particular door was for the little kids. And even though, as I carefully laid out to her shaking little body, we’d escape of the freezing cold faster and still get to her class by taking that route, the horror on her face convinced me to let her have her way.

When she came out of the school door that windy day, I explained to her that perhaps we could hold hands so we wouldn’t land up in Oz. I didn’t want to scare the crap out of her with all the damage the wind was causing, consequently being responsible for creating a wind phobic child, sending her a therapist’s couch, but I did mention that I had a difficult time trudging up to get her.

“Don’t worry,” she said in a firm tone of confidence, “when I was out for recess this morning, I learned to walk through the wind.” She took hold of my outstretched hand and we set off for the parking lot.


But I wondered, why would the school ever let the children out for recess in these weather conditions—then I thought of our three adult kids, all of whom are now teachers, and I get it. Beside, I consoled myself,  quite possibly during the morning recess, the weather wasn’t so bad as it was then. After all, how would I know, I was deep into the other world of my mystery novel trying to determine who lives and who dies.

As Eowyn and I started out into the wind, I became aware of her gripping my hand and tugging my arm in a downward fashion. It was a bit uncomfortable, but I didn’t mention it to her as she was holding on tight and that was what I wanted, but I didn’t understand why she was pulling down on my arm so hard as we moved along, until we turned a corner and got caught in the blast of a humongous gust, halting us in our tracks.

Eowyn held me even tighter and said, “Come on, grammie, don’t worry,  I’ll get you to the car. Remember, I can walk through the wind.”

My little Wind Walker kept a firm tug down on me, anchoring me to the earth, and she pulled me on.


(For more of my adventures, scroll down.)

A Harebrained Wonderland

The tumble into my new life happened last November when I opened my eyes from sleep and realized I was in another universe, ruled by an orange-faced crazy hare.

Istock-vector-a-cartoon-illustration-of-an-ugly-bunny-looking-crazy-230528530t seems I fell into an alternate world peppered with curious mind-twisting explanations for bizarre ideas, actions, and utterances—all from the Holy Book of Trumpery.

This Harebrained Wonderland was created by the slight-of-hand of a wild hare, known as, The Mad Hare. His utterances, more like rantings, are explained to me in a nonsensical, circular manner, by a blonde, longhaired Cheshire cat, who skillfully flits from topic to topic in a stream-of-consciousness, mind-altering drone that paralyzes my thought processes.

She dizzies me.

He scares me.

He’s a magician. He’s a showman. He pulls things out of his rabid mind. I watch his performance on stage, along with an auditorium filled with his followers and parasites, as well as his three adult offspring, all of them perch in the first row.

17618468-cartoon-magic-hat“You want your jobs saved,” says the wily Hare “see the jobs that were going overseas or to Mexico? Well, watch me now.” He takes off his top hat, reaches in and comes out with a handful of glitter and blows it into the air and says, “abracadabra! Look behind the black curtain. No, wait, don’t look for yourself, I’ll tell you what’s there: Ta Da! It’s the jobs you would have lost.”


The Mad Hare bows.

A sign in the back row pops up: “The company was paid off to keep those jobs here.” The message is

grabbed and smashed by angry followers. The sign holder is pushed out a door.

I squeeze my eyes, tight. I can’t stand to watch this. I can’t deal. Where can I hide?

The Mad Hare smiles, points his baton at the audience, shaking it like an angry finger and says, “Fake news, fake news, you can’t trust the media.” He takes a breath. “And protesters are paid big bucks. Bad hombres! Maybe they’re brought in from Mexico, who knows? Could be China. Could be from anywhere”

Stage-left: a bank-sized safe is rolled out. The furtive rabbit rubs his finger together and dials the combination that cracks open the door.

The crowd oohs and ahs as never-ending bags of Wonderland currency are pulled out by his helpers.

The intense Mad Hare asks the crowd, “Aren’t you tired of handing over your money to those who’d squander it on things of…” he scratches his head, barely disturbing his flaxen glued fur. “of…I don’t what, but it’s bad, really, really bad. Shame! Shameful!”

The crowd chants: “Shameful. Shameful. Shameful. “

money-refund-clipart-cliparthut-free-clipart-CYKutS-clipart“We can do better.” The Mad Hare gestures the crowd to stop the chant. “We can make your Wonderland wonderfully wonderful, again. You’ll be rich, like me. You’ll get everything you dreamed of.”

A small voice from the crowd squeaks out, “Things were going fine until you emerged from your dark hole.”

I’m somewhat comforted, realizing there are others who fell into this world, too. I’m glad they’re showing up and trying to set things right. I’m counting on them speaking out.

“Get him out of here!” says the irritated hare and he signals the critters in brown uniforms and points to the exits. “I was summoned here, fair and square–though it was a rigged.” He furrows his brow, “I got more votes than any other leader ever received in all the history of whatever and whenever.” His face is flashing red, like a cob car bubble light.

Another voice of opposition is detected from the crowd. I watch as she’s escorted out of the theatre. Dare I have any confidence in those who resist? Will they get me back home to my world?

The Mad Hare smirks and says, “thank you, thank you,” and then goes back to his bags of money and opens one. He scoops up a fistful of coins and tosses them out into the crowd.

As his followers scramble from their seats to gathered the strewn money, tripping over each other. Handful after handful, he tosses coins into the air until the sack is empty. The delight in his face would make a devil proud. While the crowd is distracted, his aides hand out bags of cash to his parasites and kids.

What’s next, I wonder. I’m slouched in my seat, holding my heart inside my body and covering my Hillary T-shirt. I could be thrown out next, to where, I don’t know. I’m certain it’s frightening out there.

The eye-glowing Hare soft-shoes his way over to a table on which two fish bowls have been placed, one has more paper ballots slips than the other. The one with more papers is labeled, “Crooked Her”; the almost empty bowl is labeled: “The Mad Hare”

The Hare scowls and taps his lips with a finger, befuddled, “Oh my, oh my,” he tilts his head reviewing the bowls. “This is all wrong,”something is fishy here, he says in a singsong voice, then cackles as he gestures to the fish bowls. But his internal emotional state busts through his seemingly calm facade. “We can’t have illegal aliens, trader ballot-stuffers, bad guys doing bad things to our land.” His eyes squint and his lips curls up on the sides. His smile drops and he bellows: “Fraud, lots of fraud. Fraud like you’ve never, ever, ever seen before! As I said earlier in my campaign, if I didn’t win, it would be because of fraud. What’d I tell you! I know things.” His words now fly out in a torrent. “I’m smart, smarter than any other creature around, and smarter than any creature there ever was, or ever will be. I promise.” He stops his runaway barrage. Takes a breath and calmly states, “No matter, no matter, I’ll take care of this as I did the other.”

He signals an aide who hands him a black, folded, large cloth. He shakes it out and billows it over the table.

The crowd is hushed.

He yells out, “abracadabra,” and then snaps the cloth back, exposing the two fish bowls. It takes the crowd a moment to realize that, now, the Mad Hare’s fish bowl is the one stuffed with ballots, and just a few votes are left in Crooked Hers.

“See, this is the real results of my election.” Delight spreads across the Mad Hare’s face. His kids and his parasites, in the first row, smile nervously, but need not have worried as cheers belch out from the crowd and are followed by a rousing applause.

I figure that this is my time to head for the exit, and not be noticed. I can’t take it any longer. Sitting here and hoping to be saved from this horror show isn’t making it happen. And it’s causing me to feel despondent and guilty for wanting others to save me.23193698-Hands-rising-in-political-protest-Stock-Vector

So I sneak out and join the Resistance.





And I feel better. A lot better!


(For more of my adventures, scroll down.)

At a Crossroad, Somewhere in S. Carolina (Saturday Scribbles)

We are at a gas station somewhere—seems more like nowhere—in South Carolina. It’s late November and f-ing cold outside—something their chamber of commerce doesn’t talk about. We are on a journey, mode of travel: our truck camper—named Artemis, after the Greek goddess of hunting, wilderness, and wild animals. (Perhaps we hyperbolize our camper’s mission, as well as suggest our knack as co-captains of the rig, but it gives us the pluck we require to travel the countryside in a 2003 truck with a heavy load on her back.)

Speaking of our on-the-road prowess, we’ve just inadvertently pumped regular gas into our diesel-engine truck. To turn the motor on would ruin the engine, immediately. We can’t move an inch until every drop of liquid has been drained from the tank.

The voice from our roadside service plan says they’ll have to have it taken to a dealership that’s fifty-five minutes away—which, given the late hour, is closed for the day. We are assured by the voice that we can sleep in their lot, overnight, in the camper. In the morning, they will drain the tank and we’ll be on our way. (Well, I console myself, we’ve parked for the night in worse places.)

“Oooh Nooo,” the tow truck driver in his southern-accented voice groans into our cell after my wife describes the disaster our rig has endured. Apparently our roadside service hasn’t accurately conveyed our situation to him. He’s in route to rescue us.

“How high?” The driver’s long “i” stretches on as he heads toward our calamity. His prolonged vowel doesn’t stop until his breath runs out. His tone reveals his disbelief, and he can’t help repeating, “How high, did you say?”

My wife had already told him, but he doubts her. He apparently needs a visual, so she says, “With our camper on the back,” my wife explains in a measured tone, “it’s as high as the semis on the road.”

The fact is, by the time you put a camper—a mini home that you can standup in, shower, cook a meal, the works—on the bed of a Silverado truck, you are one of the tall boys out there on the highway. We’re thinking that he’s been thinking that we have one of those trucks with a bubble-like lid where you sSlide out of truckpend the night by tossing in a sleeping bag and slide in horizontally—and when nature calls, pee in the woods.

“Oooh, Nooo.” He repeats. (I shutter, imagining myself being rolled in on a gurney into an emergency room. The doc comes up to my barely-hanging on to life body, hovers over me and says, “Ooooh Nooo!” Okay, I realize this isn’t a medical emergency, but we’re distressed and need a tone of confidence.)

“All, I have is a flatbed truck to put your vehicle on.”

“You can’t do that, “ my wife says. “If you put our rig up on your flatbed, it will be even higher than the semis.” (I’m imagining the crash scene as our truck proudly sits atop the flatbed, and then slams into the first encountered overpass. I shutter again.)

“I cain’t…” He drones, once again. (Someone needs to teach this guy comforting skills. Didn’t his mother read him, “The Little Engine that Could?”) I can almost hear him putting his foot on his brakes and turning around. “I cain’t do that…” “But, I suppose,” his voice finally breaks through the long silence. “I can haul her along behind.”

At least he’s got the correct pronoun for Artie (short for Artemis).

At this point, I’m wondering how anyone in the South gets things done in a timely fashion, drawing out their vowels. Furthermore, we’re not dressed for a southern freeze, having to stand outside in order to get cell phone service.

“No,” my wife says, “You can’t tow our truck camper; it’s a 4 wheel drive vehicle. And it’s top heavy” (I’m imagining our rig connected on a slant to the back of his flatbed truck—Artie dragging behind, scraping the road, sparks flying…She’s screaming.)

“How high is she?” He drones again, like he has indigestion. This guy has a visualization disability.

By this time, we realize the only answer is to lift the camper off the truck—which means leaving it at the gas pump and hoisting the Silverado onto the flatbed. But the problem with that solution is, no one will be able to use that pump and we’re thinking the gas station owner will not be pleased. But what else can we do?


A female employee at the Subway restaurant comes out and tells us about two locals who, she’s noticed, have just pulled into the gas station across the street. She explains that they do odd jobs—when they can find them—and thinks they might be able to help us out. She goes on to warn us that they look “scruffy and don’t smell too good, but they’re harmless.”

The woman says that they know how to siphon gas. I glance over at them getting out of their aged truck, Ford 150, dents, rust and loose fittings. I’m thinking, I bet they do possess that skill, and my flash evaluation of them adds, and probably others.

Elaine and are aware that the world sees us as two women traveling, alone–in other words, without men. Some even notice we’re lesbians…that gives us what I consider to be a healthy paranoia. I know we’re both thinking the same thing: Is this woman part of a scheme for travelers in trouble? Are these guys really ‘harmless’?


Do we leave the camper at the pump or do we call off the tow truck guy and trust these people?

crossroadsSometimes you have to let your gut make the decision; and in this case, two guts agreed.

We give a nod to the restaurant worker and she runs across the street and fetches the guys, Michael and Ricky, brothers, both somewhere in their fifties. Michael is a huge, bearded man, not that tall, just supersized. The rips in his dirty blue work pants are not fashion statements. He moves like someone should follow behind him with a chair, just in case. Ricky, on the other hand, could use an extra meal or two. He wears a tattered faux-leather and cloth spring jacket, oil stained pants. He vibrates, up and down, and blows on his ungloved hands for warmth.

After they’ve evaluated the situation. Michael’s gesture to us and indicates they have a plan—they’re not big talkers. Then off they go in their vehicle, promising to return, and do so with their truck bed full of empty five-gallon barrels. They spend the next five hours draining Artie of the fluid that’s threatens to poison her system.

We fill two empty barrels with diesel and Ricky and Michael carry them from the station across the street to our truck. Michael is unable help lift the filled container to pour the diesel into our tank because he is weakened by a kidney problem, which requires dialysis. So, the burden of lifting the diesel to the tank is left to Ricky. He grunts as he hoists the gas can and tips it to pour.

“Shit,” he belches out, a minute later, when the gas barrel slips hard to the ground. The steel rod in Michael’s leg is painful and his knee buckles under the weight. He apologizes for having sworn in the company of women. I tell him I say far worse. He looks sheepish and says he sometimes does, too. We high-five and he goes back to putting the 10 gallons of diesel into our tank.

Before they’d started their work, we’d asked them how much they’d charge to empty our tank. Michael assured us that it would be reasonable. (I’ve heard that before from plumbers. But what can we do?) So when our engine is purring, I ask the guys what we owe them. Michael looks thoughtful, rubs his chin and finally says, “Is fifty dollars too much?”


We gather all the money we have on us and are able give them twice that much—they could only deal in cash—knowing it still doesn’t begin to compensate the two guys for their five hours of hard work in jackets that didn’t keep them warm.

All we can do is add hugs…warm and grateful hugs to the best guys, albeit oily and smelly, at a crossroads somewhere in South Carolina.

Birds’ Knees Before Coffee

moose-drinking-coffeeI open my eyes to meet my wife’s gaze. For how long Elaine has been waiting for my first moment of consciousness I couldn’t say, or even why she’s there, but it’s clear that I’m soon to find out.

“Do you know,” she asks, “why bird’s knees are backwards?” Her eyes bare down at me demanding my attention.

Any voice at this moment is jarring and unwelcomed, but being smacked with a question is unforgiveable. Surely she, knowing my limitations, wouldn’t be asking me something the moment I begin to claw my way out of sleep. I’m barely functional in the morning, let alone able to discuss the subject of animal knees. So, I figure I must still be dreaming.

“Well, do you know?” There’s her voice again

“Why are you asking me this?” I’m incredulous.

“I want to know if you know,” she says. “I recently read about it.”

“Why don’t you just tell me why, instead of ask me?” Not that I really care at this moment.

“Because when I tell you something, you always say that you already know it, so I thought I’d first check out whether you had this information or not. And if you said that you knew, I wouldn’t end up telling you something you already know.”

“There’s lots of shit I don’t know. What do you mean, I always say, I know it?”

“Whatever,” she says. “So, do you know why birds’ knees are backwards?”

“At this very moment, I don’t give a rat’s ass why bees’ knees are on backwards—.”add-coffee

“Birds knees, not bees.”

“Whatever,” I mimic back at her. She’s hovering over me, the elbow propping her arm up, head resting on fisted hand. She’s here to stay until I deal with this–morning fog or not. She finds interest in these kinds of facts. I might too, if it were sometime after four mugs of coffee when the part of my brain that still works has kicked in.

Resigned, I say, “I don’t know, why do birds have their knees on backwards?”

“Because, she says, triumphantly, they’re not knees, there ankles!” She’s gloating.

I can’t get into her bizarre fact for the morning, instead I say, “Your response wasn’t an answer to the question you posed.” I’m aware I can be a pain in the ass.

“Yes it is.” She insists.

“No it isn’t,” I maintain. “You asked about the bees’ knees—“

“Birds knees,” she, once again, corrects.

“Okay, Birds’ knees.” I’m desperately trying to hang on to the frayed thread of my point, not having a drop of caffeine to fuel my brain. “But the question should have been: ‘what is that visible joint located on the legs of birds?” I explain, “Then, I would have figured the seemingly obvious answer, knees, is not correct, so I’d have said, ‘I don’t know, tell me.’” And you could have said, ‘they’re not knees, they’re ankles.’ Then, I would have been impressed and asked you, where are their knees?”

“Their knees are inside the body.” She says, ignoring the fact that I’ve pointed out how she’d worded the question incorrectly and have just dispelled an erroneous belief of hers that I always know everything.squaking-bird

Finally it hits me…”Wow, knees inside a bird. It must be incredible uncomfortable.”

“Well,” she revises, “They’re not exactly in the body, they’re up close to the body, obscured by feathers.” She looks at me innocently.

“Still weird.”

“It works for them,” she says. “Now, I’ll get your coffee.


(To read about what can happen when you don’t eat your veggies, scroll down.)

On Being Short & Short of Veggies


Fact: I was born tall.

Twenty-four inches of tallness. I should have stayed in the womb where it was warm and fertile. Had I been able to linger there, I might have had the boost I needed to become a basketball player. But birth stunted my growth, dramatically, limiting me to five feet, one and a half inches, almost.

Fact: My life has been about figuring out how to compensate, living in the world of talls.

n1lg34Growing up short—an oxymoron? —has had a few—two I can think of, compensatory advantages, such as, I can’t see what’s going on with all the talls blocking my view, but, I can wend my way (sneak) through the crowd and squirm to the front without anyone noticing or caring. And when playing hide-go-seek, I’m able to squeeze into places where no one ever suspects a person could fit. Okay, that’s all the advantages I can think of…

But, I figure, isn’t that what we all have to do? Find out how to deal with our shortcomings—so to speak. That’s why I have a stepstool where cabinets and shelves exist; that’s why I make friends of tall people in the aisles of stores; and that’s why I use booster pillows.reaching-for-things

Fact: It’s assumed I can’t do something that’s physically challenging.

As a kid, I was given what I used to refer to as–and not in a good way–“Joey Jobs.” (I was called Joey, then.) I felt my jobs lacked importance and significance. These tasks were the ones that were in low places and took little skill, like after grocery shopping, I got to put away the hand soap and toilet paper under the bathroom sink.

Fact: I was stereotyped.

When I first set foot on the softball field, guess what position I was steered to? Yup, catcher. My coach said that it wouldn’t take much bend in my knees to keep my head below the swing of the bat. And I should be able to get on base by just standing there, never having to take the bat off my shoulder, since a pitcher would have to have an incredibly good aim to get a ball through my strike zone. I would be walked, a lot. That was his batting strategy for me.

Fact: I can hit a ball hard enough to get into the outfield.

Luckily, I was born a natural athlete and I could do well, so my size was often, “overlooked”—it’s hard to find words that don’t refer to something undersized. Sometimes it wasn’t that my stature was unnoticed, but viewed as, “look what she just did and she’s so tiny, like when I hit a homerun, stole second base, or carried the equipment bag over my shoulder. That remark always started a fire in the pit of my stomach and smoke would billow out of the top of my head. images-1

Fact: I like shorter people, a lot.

Standing next to a shorter person, makes me feel good. In school, I was next to the shortest kid in my class. After all these years, I still remember the name of the shortest person, that’s how significant it felt to me to not to be the smallest. To this day, when I see a short person who, from a distance, is probably shorter than I am, I make my way over and find a reason to stand close, so I can feel, well, taller. (I know—I’ve been told—that’s sick.)

Fact: The shortest person in my class was Linda Sheppard. (If you are out there, Linda, I’m sorry for calling you out, like that.)

Another fact: I don’t think “short.”

I walk around not thinking I’m less than average in height. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned to move really fast. My legs, most likely, appear a blur as I hustle along side someone with long legs. images-3I will not ask them to slow down. I will not complain about my soaring heart rate; I will not sweat or at least I won’t let them see me become moisten—that’s why I carry tissues in my pocket.

Fact: It’s assumed that I’m not big enough to have a substantial thought.

I found, early on, that I had to come up with strategies to be seen and heard. That meant, as a short person, I had to search and develop my strengths; such as, my capability to learn big words to put with my burgeoning philosophical thoughts, political leaning, and other ideas of a curious and unfiltered mind. However, my mother mostly viewed my ranting as insolence when I questioned adults or authority. But I got attention.

Fact: Because I’m short, it’s further assumed I will always settle for the smallest piece of cake.

Why would anyone assume that? Geez!

Fact: Being taller than my granddaughter will last just so long.

Several years ago when my five-year-old granddaughter, Eowyn, wanted to bypass the vegetables and proceed directly to the chocolate ice cream dessert. Her father told her that if she didn’t start gobbling down her veggies, she’d end up being short like her Grammie Joey—as my granddaughter calls me—who didn’t eat her vegetables before dessert.

thFor Eowyn, I’ve been set up as the poster person for what happens to kids who eat sweets and won’t consume their greens. See my dilemma! If I claim I ate them, she has no incentive to eat her veggies…I’ve been held up to her as being a good example of a bad role model for growth.

She’s seven now and when I picked her up from school the other day, she introduced me to her friend. And for no apparent reason, she went on to explain that I was short because of my lack of vegetable intake. The kid to whom she was explaining my condition shook her head, her  eyes bugged out in disbelief and horror. Frankly, I wanted to run and hide. It’s one thing that I take-one-for-the-team in my own family; it’s quite another that this rumor is likely to spread around the school grounds, and who knows where it might migrate from there. But, I quickly defended myself to this wide-eyed kid-friend of Eowyn’s by explaining, “But I eat them now.”

“Oh Grammie,” my granddaughter said, “ you had to eat them when you were a kid. It’s too late for you now.”

After dropping her off at her house, I went home and comforted myself with a serving of chocolate cake, a big effing piece.

(For more SaturdayScribbles, scroll down to “What’s Not To Love.”)



What’s Not To Love?

What’s Not To Love?

A blindfold would help me out, a lot, driving down the highway trying to get to our destination. The eye cover is not intended for me, being the driver, but for Elaine, my wife, who is ever alert and curious. She’s the trip planner and has a habit of stealthy factoring in the inevitable possibility of a multitude of spontaneous side trips, otherwise known to me as: butterfly stops—think of an orange and black winged Monarch flitting in a sunny field of blooming flowers, alighting on petals, sipping, and then flying to the next, each one holding the possibility of being tastier than the last.

Like the butterfly, it’s often a wildflower along side the road that Elaine wishes to visit–with flower book in hand, but it’s not just flowers that require the screech of brakes from our truck camper—along with horn blowing and hurled curses from the tailgater. It might be a billboard promising a never-before-seen-the-likes-of Yooper tourist trap or a what-looks-like to her a quaint establishment that must be perused. yooper-tourist-trapIn other words—she often points out, in what sounds to me to be a superior tone—it’s the path not the destination…Yada-yada-yada.

Then there are the dirt roads leading back into the woods that catch her longing to explore: Elaine imagines a forest Shangri-La; l envision banjos, Bubba and his meth-toothed friends, which encourages me to paddle the truck camper past, as fast as I can and mutter, “Sorry honey, I didn’t see it in time…no place to turn around.” My head bobbles side to side to demonstrate my earnestness.

Her eyes roll.

To counter twenty-seven years of butterfly travel, I finally come up with a plan—obviously, I’m not the fast study my mother claimed I was. I propose to Elaine in a manner promising novelty and excitement, “lets have a travel theme for our trip, this time.” The underlying message that I hope she isn’t picking-up: if it doesn’t fit the theme, we don’t stop.

To my surprise and delight, Elaine likes the idea, but since I came up with the plan of targeted travel, she insists on choosing the theme. Fair enough. I figure, as long as it isn’t: planet Earth, I’ll be good with it. Being the fair-minded woman she is, she throws me a bone by suggesting I pick the back-up choice, a theme B, as it were—which, she warns, will only go into effect in the case of a catastrophe, such as a nuclear blast. I suck on that thought while she ponders what her focus will be, then she lights up and announces: Waterfalls.

I like it.

In fact, I love waterfalls with their peaceful, relaxing sounds, remote and beautiful locations…

What’s not to love?

How about way too easily accessed waterfalls, (Who thought it a good idea to build roads to these places?) with t-shirt shops and junk food?) where crowds of noisy on-lookers  block my view and don’t move on in a timely fashion, taking countless selfies of every imaginable combination of backgrounds and persons in their group.

Then there are the cotton candy fingers of little kids that find their way to my outfit de jour—for the record, I need no help grubbing up my my clothes. Then, my worst fear happens—at the third waterfalls. I fall victim to a lethal stabbing from a triple-decker death-by-chocolate ice cream cone straight to the back of my pants.

That’s what’s not to love…and that’s my nuclear blast.

As Elaine tends to me—in public—sopping up the brown creamy mess from my pants, I’m grumbling and becoming agitated. Being an ex-social worker, she recognizes when a melt down is imminent. She says, in an attempt to keep an obscenity-ridden (but totally justified) outburst at bay, “how about we just go to Tahquamenon Falls, we’ll  skip the next nine smaller ones.”

I perk up from being  a petulant child–her description, not mine. Whatever! But, I do, almost, forget about my wet stained pants. Besides, I’m remembering that there’s a brewery at Tahquamenon, flipping my mood 180 degrees, and I know that Elaine likes that place and will enjoy a craft beer there: I’m back to: What’s not to love? elaine-drinks-a-beetEspecially since my theme B was: Bars of the U.P. (Pic: Elaine enjoying a glass of beer at the Tahquamenon Falls brewery’s deck.)

I love bars, not the popular ones, and not for the booze—though, I confess, I do imbibe while I’m there, in order to fit in, of course. But it’s the old ones that I love, the ones with personality and history, the older the better. I study them. So much life has happened in these places.

It’s archeological. It’s science.

Not that the Tahquamenon brewery is old, but it will be one day and I won’t be around to study it, so I got to take what I can get, now. Maybe I can add a few nicks, table carvings, and spills for future archeologists. We still have a lot of miles between us and Tahquamenon—the grandmother of Michigan falls, so I pull out my guide to Yooper Bars and announce we’ll be heading for the Up Chuck bar and grill; the next day, the Pine Stump Cook shack and Drinkery; from there, on to the Red Flannel bar; red-flannel-barand then,  Tahquamenon Falls and brewery; and we’ll be finishing it all off with a grand finale: a tour of the Barmuda Triangle in the early settled city of Sault St. Marie (13 bars in three blocks)— advertised as: You won’t disappear but your troubles will…

What’s not to love?

(To hear more about our travels, scroll down to: “A Stopover in Hell.”)

A Stopover in Hell

IMG_2418I am to hungry bugs what Donald Trump is to white supremacists. I attract them everywhere I go—stadiums full. So I sit here in my portable screened refuge next to our truck camper Unknown-2with my computer on my lap, ruminating over another trip we’d made to the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: Think, nightmare, a stopover in Hell.

I’ve quit trying to remember the how-long-ago of anything. The best way I can hammer down that trip’s time period is, we had a white Dodge van and a pop-up trailer—one of those tents on wheels you tote behind the car. My partner—now wife, Elaine—and I were headed for the Porcupine Mountains (AKA: the Porkies).

No more than fifteen minutes into our trip, I felt scratchiness in my throat, foretelling one of my specialties, a nasty long-lasting cold. For a while I rode along in denial. But soon my raw throat squeezed tight and any ability I had left to squeak out
words to Elaine became on a need-to-know basis. Soon, I required a stop for a six-pack of tissues to catch the goopy nasal juices that overflowed to my upper lip and to squelch the explosive spasmodic sneezing that was atomizing the interior of our car.

a questAll my body wanted was my bed…at home, but this wasn’t just a vacation, it was a long-planned quest.

The Porky’s; The Holy Grail; Same deal.

Nothing would have pried my wife’s fingers from the wheel–think bulldog with bone.

Five hundred miles later, at dusk, within spitting distance of our campground destination on the shore of Lake Superior, a deer flew across the road. Our visual: the deer’s eyes bulging as it flipped over the hood of the van; the deer’s visual, two sets of human bulging eyes as an unidentified object flew into its path.


Damages: We looked for the deer but couldn’t find it. We wanted to believe—and I’ve filed it in my memory bank as such—that the jolt-and-roll over our vehicle made him achy, irritated, and late getting home that evening, but he would be fine in the morning. Our van, not so good. The radiator spewed water like a breaching whale.

With the campground close by, we limped to our site before all of the water had escaped. Next day, the tow truck took away our means of motorized movement. Elaine, my up-’til-now caretaker, announced she’d succumbed to my germ blast. With no functioning wheels for exploration and barely working bodies, we were doomed to dwell in the pop-up, coughing, snot blowing, and grumpy.

Being I hang on to cold with a death grip, I was no where ready to assume  adult responsibilities, but the potency of my germs sent my wife into my level of sickness theretofore never experienced by her, which required of me, supposedly further along the path to wellness, to woman-up. That necessitated, on occasion, that I step outside the pop-up where super-sized blood thirsty mosquitoes buzzed in wait, licking their chops.

On trips, I never know where anything is because my wife packs things. That’s her rule. She claims that when I put something somewhere, it won’t be found, ever; well, until the kids do our estate sale. So, my packing is out of the question. However, with her out of commission, I couldn’t locate the bug spray or itch cream or much else for that matter. And Elaine could only muster a fling of a limp finger in an uncertain direction and cough out its whereabouts, which I couldn’t understand, and she would’ t (maybe,  couldn’t–giving her the benefit of doubt) repeat.

The next day, with my body garnished in bug bites, little sleep, and my mind running on little empty, I needed to cook something because we’re hungry. Not only didn’t I feel well, myself, I’m not the meal preparer in the family–for good reason. I scrounged around for leftovers of some kind before I realized we’d just gotten there, so none to be had. Elaine’s voice squeaked out from her sore throat a menu that would be simple, something she claimed even a child could do…

Humph! Maybe in a fully equipped kitchen with Rachel Ray’s help, I thought.

Then, that night, the storm hit with high winds, pelting rain, and tornado warnings. images-3Our little two-person pop-up was perched six feet from where the waves lapped the shore—when it was calm. We’d fallen asleep, earlier, but woke to the ruckus and rocking of our wheeled tent, along with the spray of rain through the screens. We battened down the rain flaps and went back to our now soaked bed while the winds pummeled our shelter.

“Has a tent camper, like ours, ever been blown into the lake,” a crackled voice out of the dark asked me? With a flash of lightening I see Elaine’s eyes, wide, like those of the deer who’d flown across our windshield. She grew up in Colorado; I spent my childhood on the shore of Lake Huron—by the way, in a house, not a tent. I was supposed to be the expert on the possible fate of a flimsy shelter within easy gulping distance of  charging white caps—the sinking of the ill-fated ship, Fitzgerald, in weather such as this slithered  into my mind.PI3Evz6

“No,” I said, which was true, I’d never heard of such a thing, but then, I suspected I didn’t hear about a lot of things.  The lack of conviction in my voice led us to re-open the rain flaps for the wind to flow through, hoping it would prevent us from being passengers in a sailing pop-up. We spent a fitful night under rain gear anticipating a possible launch out to sea–being I’m writing this, now, go ahead an assume we miraculously hung on to the land.

Sometime, around dusk, a couple days later, our van was returned, dents still there but radiator fixed, vehicle drivable.

My wife: sick, energy of a wet noodle.

My cough: resembled a moose call.

My body: red-peppered with bug-bite welts.

It was the morning of our last day of vacation. Determined, we decided to drive up through the Keweenaw Peninsula and view the countryside through car windows, requiring a minimal amount of effort, and having the luxury of Kleenex, nasal spray and cough drops close at hand.

We hobbled out to our van and were greeted by an army of marauding  black flies that had come in the night and draped our van in a black shroud on three sides—like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. images-1We stood, locked in place, stunned and transfixed, when a park ranger drove up alongside our vehicle. He poked his head out his window and casually said, “They’re early this year,” and then drove on.

One of the flying black bastards spotted or more likely smelled me, then my scent spread, creating a lift off of flies that swarmed in the formation of a tornado of a size that could have wiped out the population of New York City. My recall, perhaps apocryphal, is that I ran for the campground bathroom with the black storm in chase.

But I didn’t get the door closed fast enough.

When the scraps of me emerged, I calmly made my way back to the camper, dosed myself with medication, and went to bed.

My wife’s dubious version of the saga of the flies that could have eaten NYC, but munched on me instead: I dove to the ground, hands over my head, like a kid in the 1950’s preparing for an atomic bomb blast, and was instantly shrouded with the huge black biters. And when I reappeared from the feed fest, my arms were flailing and I was screaming a never-ending string of innovative obscenities, and was in possession of a nasty disposition for days…

What—the fuck—ever!

We were determined to make something out of our last day of vacation. I slathered my body with the various ointments over previous ointments from the first bite and to all subsequent bites and reapplication of old bites, and we got into our newly retrieved van and headed off.

Along the way, we spotted an old, unkempt cemetery. Back in the day, they inscribed tombstones with interesting details of people’s lives. We can seldom resist stopping. It’s our way of paying homage to past souls and learning the history of an area. Against our vow to remain in the vehicle, we wheezed our way up the hill.

I suspect it was the build-up of the various brands of anti-itch potions, along with days of bad hygiene oozing through my pores that signaled a horde of very tiny flying things of my presence. They flew, en mass, straight into my unwashed hair, feeding on my scalp, and propelling me, dazed and incoherent, back to the car.  (Everyone has her breaking point.)

We hitched up the pop-up, and headed for home.


Ever since that ill-fated trip years ago, I have held up a two-finger crucifix to anyone who even mentions the Porcupine Mountains. But in an attempt to heal past emotional wounds, Elaine and I have returned to the whims of the Lake Superior weather and the scene of my sacrifice to biting-critters-that-fly. This time, I’m armed with a more substantial dwelling that’s parked back from the lake, an ample supply of bottled courage,   f_86d579f33f      eight containers of lethal bug spray,Unknown-1and six  sticky fly strips that hang at the doorways      Unknown      … and my snappy yellow fly swatter.           yellow fly swatter         images

(To hear more about our present camping trip, scroll down to “Problems Along the Way.”)