March 31, 2012


"I think that gravity sets into everything, including careers, but pendulums do swing and mountains do become valleys after a while... if you keep on walking."
-Sylvester Stallone

Us vehicle dwellers spend a lot of time talking about stuff like stealth camping and how to make a comfortable sleeping areas, but one thing we rarely address has a huge impact on how we set up our living spaces: gravity. Those living in sticks and bricks don't have to consider this much, there homes are stationary, but we drive our homes and those sharp turns are killer.

You're driving down the road, happy as a lark, when you spot that gas station you've been looking for. Turning signal on, you turn left and... Crash. Your books fall off the shelves, every drawer comes open, and by the time you pull up to the pump your home looks like it's been through an earthquake.

I cleaned my car out today and once again tried to preempt gravity by tying everything I own to something else. Living in a minimally altered car means there are few things to secure my stuff to, so it's kind of a balancing act. You know how parents automatically put their right arm across the passenger seat when they stop suddenly? I do that to my books.

So be warned, future vehicle dwellers, and take notice of ship galleys. Loose stuff = big mess so nail it down, tie it down, or find another way to cheat gravity.

In other news I found my driver's license! See? I knew it was in my car someplace.

March 29, 2012

The Birds!

This morning I woke up a few minutes before my alarm went off and lay in bed trying to piece together where I was and what I was suppose to do next. Eventually I rolled over and drew back the curtains... and froze. The hood of my car and the surrounding ground was covered in seagulls. It was like Alfred Hitchcock peppered the Jetta with breadcrumbs while I slept. Finally I had to turn the car on and had their feet been tied to my bumpers, the sheer number of them could probably have carried my car away.

I've been doing a lot of writing about American Nomads for my independent study class and, no offence, I'm getting pretty sick of us. In my paper I'm arguing that we are an independent subculture, which is tough to prove when there is no info on us besides what we ourselves write. Every other country in the world recognizes their nomads as a distinct culture, but Americans don't even acknowledge nomads exist.

In 1888 a Spanish missionary mused on the disposition of a traveling band of gypsies. “This life” he said, “seemingly so wretched, has its charms for these outcasts, who live without care and anxiety, without a thought beyond the present hour, and who sleep as sound in… ravines amongst rocks and pines, as the proudest grandee in his palace at Seville or Madrid” (Borrow, 1888).

March 28, 2012

Summer Board

"To belong nowhere is a blessing and a curse, 
like any kind of freedom"
-Leah Stewart

March is almost over and campus is being plastered by these signs for alternative summer breaks and courses at other schools. Semester at sea looks fun but, as much as they temp me, I'm taken.

I did check out an online grant writing certification, which I think will come in handy. I was contemplating grad school too but... two years is all I can deal with right now.

March 27, 2012

Memory Card Reader

Yesterday I told you about my new battery charger (which is awesome) so today I'm introducing my new camera card reader!

Now, my camera is a Kodak Easy Share CX6445
 with 4 mega pixels. When I bought this baby eight years ago it was almost $300. Today it sells for a whopping $30 on Amazon, but no one would buy it because 4 mega pixels are apparently archaic and using this thing to take pictures is a lot like using a rock to hammer a nail. In other words, there are better tools. Anyhow, I've always used the sync cord that came with my camera, a very long black USB cable that attached to whole camera to my laptop (no, I don't have one of those fancy laptops with the built in card reader). Last week that cable finally wore out (or through, as it were) and I went searching for an alternative.

This is the Targus memory card reader. One side is a USB that plugs into the laptop and on the other side the cap comes off and you plug a memory card in. Small, compact, easy to use, and much shorter than the cable I've been hauling around for eight years.It also only cost me about $7, which is totally worth it when you consider the $2 cost per picture CD without it.

See? I'm slowly getting with the times. Honestly I should just get a real laptop with all the modern conveniences but... baby steps.

March 26, 2012

Needs & Wants

For the first time in a long time I have a few bucks in savings. That's right, not just extra money but money that's been around long enough to get transferred into my savings account, which normally has no more than a $7 balance. I see this as a good omen for the summer months when that mula will come in handy for things like food and... food. Yeah, all I'm really concerned about at this point is food, now that my housing is taken care of, but I have been thinking lately about other potential needs, like shorts.

I'm more of a jeans type of girl, shorts were never my thing, which is why I can signal airplanes with my brilliantly white legs. For the past few years I've been working jobs that even in the heat of summer are more comfortable in long pants. After downsizing to the car I got rid of any shorts I might have had in reserve but, now that I'm nipping at the heels of New Orleans, I need to look at the bigger picture: Stick with the clothes I have and suffer inevitable heat stroke or drop a few bucks and get myself some summer garb.

So I've been thinking about these potential needs, like shorts, but, per usual, things I "need" and things I "really really want to have" seem to end up in the same basket. Today I found this awesome battery charger at Walmart for six bucks and change. Instead of charging in a wall outlet it has a USB port, so it plugs into my laptop. This is sweet because when I get to NOLA I'll probably be using the cafe WIFI and they hate a ton of things being plugged into their walls. I also found that it's compatible with my Kindle's wall adapter, so I can charge batteries sans laptop when needed. It's really cool and will mean that I can keep posting pictures for you lovely folks and maintain a decent account of my first few months in NOLA, which will be worth it later.

March 24, 2012

End of Spring Break

Spring Break is officially over and, while I did not spend the time in Cancun, I had a whole week of house sitting. Here are the things I remembered and most are television related:

  1. If given the opportunity I will couch potato in front of the TV for hours (like, an unhealthy number of hours)
  2. On a related note I can easily stay up until midnight watching bad television even though I'm normally asleep by 9:30pm.
  3. Mark Harmon is still the sexiest man alive and I'm still addicted to NCIS
  4. I eat more when I only have to walk to the fridge and not drive to the store.
  5. I missed scrambled eggs
  6. It takes me the same amount of time to wake up in the car, drive to campus, take a shower, get dressed, drive to the grocery, buy lunch, and get to the bus stop as it does for me to get ready in a house... I'm not sure why that is but I suspect the drive from the parking lot to campus wakes me up a bit. 
 I'm having breakfast with California Clare tomorrow morning and then getting in some last minute studying before my Spanish Midterm on Monday.

March 20, 2012

Rabbit Sitting

"I long, as does every human being, to be at home 
wherever I find myself."
-Maya Angelou

This week I am rabbit sitting for two small fluffers. A friend of mine has a small (HUGE) obsession with animals and manages to keep two dogs and two rabbits in her apartment. This week is Spring Break and she didn't want to haul the buns back and forth so I get a stove and cable for the week, which is pretty nice.
The Bunny Palace! (It's bigger than my normal living space)

So I got into town on Sunday afternoon after my weekend in New Hampshire. I'd taken yesterday off (I was going to get a tattoo but couldn't decide on a location) and I did nothing all day. I'm talking no shower, PJs, TV on from sun up to sun down. It was pathetic and I'm feeling very wasteful today, but it was kind of fun to catch up on Criminal Minds, Law & Order, and all those other shows I don't love enough to find on Hulu.

The best part of house sitting for me is stove access. I got to cook! On my way into town on Sunday I stopped off at the grocery and bought some fresh veggies, pasta, hot sausage, heavy cream, and a basil plant (It was cheaper than the dried basil). I was thinking about fish for tonight and a cesar salad. I love to cook and being without a kitchen has been hard for me this past year.

So the upside of rabbit sitting is having a kitchen, the downside is being sucked in by the TV and staying up much too late. That happened to me normally, but I don't always have a comfy futon to veg out on.

March 18, 2012

Pulled Over

St Patrick's Day weekend in New Hampshire was a lot of fun. The kids and I baked Irish Soda Bread on Saturday and we had the traditional boiled dinner. The evening was full of Baily's and pool which was much more fun than participating in amateur hour downtown.

This morning I had to be out of the house early and the boys conveniently acted as my alarm. I opened my eyes to both boys hovering above my face. One asked me to make breakfast, the other asked if he could play a video game. I asked them both to make me coffee but they were not up for the challenge. It was worth a try.

So after making my own coffee (actually, Julie may have made it) I drove off to see the folks. There's a winding road that goes past some summer cottages. The speed limit drops to 30 and then up to 40 right after the last curve. And who was waiting right there as I came around the corner? You guessed it, the popo. So he pulled out behind me and on go the blues. Apparently I jumped the gun and was going 39 and to make matters worse I couldn't find my driver's license (I'm sure it's somewhere in the car). Luckily the cop was obviously not looking for speeders (probably people still drunk from the night before) and let me off with a verbal warning after accepting my passport as ID. Very nerve racking but all's well that ends well.

I visited with my folks for a few hours, which was fun. When I was leaving Dad had just grabbed a rifle to go check on a chicken disturbance. I haven't actually heard if he found anything... I should probably give them a call.

From there I went to Concord to visit with my cousin (second step cousin actually) who I haven't seen in many years. It was a quick visit but worth the detour. I'm house sitting this week so I had to get back to Mass to feed the bunnies (yes, the house has two rabbits).

It's my spring break so I am now reacquainting myself with cable TV. I took tomorrow off and plan on doing next to nothing.

March 17, 2012

St Patrick's Day

Yesterday I had my Spanish Oral exam (which I got an B+ on) and an Irish Lit exam (which I could have used another hour on). The upside of all these mid terms is that it's not Spring Break and, besides some extra credit,I don't have to touch a text book for a whole week.

I kicked off the weekend by driving up to New Hampshire after work/school yesterday. I stopped at one of the conveniently placed liqueur stores right on the New Hampshire boarder and picked up a bottle of Bailey's. When I got to the house the kids were asleep but had set up Leprechaun traps outside their bedroom doors trying to lure them in with gold paper.

I woke up this morning to C and a Nerf gun. He was shooting it into the air right above my head and letting the foam bullets fall on me thereby shooting me without actually shooting. Smart little bugger. When the oldest woke up we talked for a bit about what St Patrick's Day actually is (ie: not just a day of crazy drinking and shamrocks). In America it's become a day for Irish pride and in the northeast 90% of us are Irish (or pretend to be) so it can get a little nuts. For our part we're going to the grocery to get St Patrick's Day dinner and some supplies to make Irish Soda Bread. The Dropkick Murphy's are playing in Boston so we may have to crank some tunes in homage.

Enjoy your corned beef and cabbage.

March 14, 2012

6 Years of March

One of the cool things about keeping a journal and running calendar is that I get to go back to it periodically and see where I was a few months or a few years ago.

In 2007 I'm managing a cafe in New Hampshire. This week I had drinks with my friend Gretchen on Monday night, I would have had a conference call this morning, and tomorrow I'd have met my mother at the 99 for drinks and those long skinny cigarettes.
  • Upcoming
    • Next week we will run out of 2% milk (oh no!)
    • In four weeks I'll give my notice and move to Oregon
In 2008 I'm a purchasing assistant and today would be like any other weekday pushing paperwork.
  • Upcoming
    • I'll be moving to a new apartment on the first
    • In less than a month my mother has an brain aneurysm while driving and crashes. She'll be in a coma for four months and my calendar will be somewhat neglected
In 2009 I'm  working as an in home caregiver. Tuesday through Friday I drive my mother to class at 8:15am but since the 15th is a Sunday, I've now been living at my client's for almost 48 hours and, according to my journal for that date, I'm about to smother her with her orthopedic socks.
  • Upcoming
    • Last month I gave my mother a stray cat I found lurking around my boarding house and this week I'll be taking him to the vet for shots. The free cat will cost me $300.
    • At the end of this month I'll leave the boarding house and May 5th I'll move to Massachusetts to work on a farm.
In 2010 I'm still working at the farm. I got paid on the 12th, $196 of my monthly  $392, so I'm probably feeling pretty flush, I might even get some micro brews and a pack of cigarettes. I just got a job in Northern Vermont teaching carpentry.
  • Upcoming
    • I have bee class this week for my certification
    • Lambs to slaughter next week and CPR training the week after
    • During my month in the woods I will quite smoking
In 2011 I'm on my second semester back at college. My car is breaking down constantly and I've been sleeping in the Big Y parking lot during the week to make sure I get to school and work. It's also Spring Break.
  • Upcoming
    • I'm house sitting for California Clare next week
    • In the next two weeks I will move everything out of my apartment and begin full time vehicle dwelling. 
And now it's 2012 and I'm about to graduate. I'm also coming up on my one year vehicle dwelling anniversary. Next week is Spring Break, April is Easter in New Hampshire and in two months I move to Louisiana to start a new job.

What a difference six years makes.

March 13, 2012

The Bachelor

Western Massachusetts was 70 degrees yesterday, breaking records in Boston, New York, and some of the our smaller towns. Last night I even slept with the sunroof cracked open, which turned out to be a mistake because, as luck would have it, we got rain at about 2am. This is my perfect temperate, when you can alternate between sandals and a light coat depending on the strength of the wind It's going to be April in just a couple weeks, so this weather won't last forever, but I'm trying to take advantage of it while it's here.

In other news last night was the season finale of The Bachelor. I know, it's not really my cup of tea either, but when enjoyed at a friend's house with wine and cake, viewing becomes an event and I'm sorry to see it end. I'm sure there will be another mindless reality show to take it's place soon enough, so hope is not lost.

It's Tuesday and over the next three days I have three papers due, two tests, one quiz and Spanish oral exam (In a pear tree). Wish me luck or better yet wish that we have a freak snowstorm so I get more time to study.

March 11, 2012

Overlook Farm

Ann and Gary with Iamou
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I was an in home care giver. Not to say that caring for the elderly wasn't challenging, but it was never my passion, and after nine months at over eighty hours per week I began looking for a new path. I sat in the room I rented at a New Hampshire boarding house with The Backdoor Guide to Short Term Job Adventures (which I've recommended many times) and began highlighting potential destinations. It didn't take me long to find Overlook Farm in Rutland Massachusetts, one of Heifer International's two US education centers. Remember that when I make a change it's a fast one, so within a month and a half I was a residential volunteer.

I lived at Overlook Farm for a year and loved it. It's one of those places that feels completely separated from the greater reality of the world, even though our job is to educate people about that reality.  As well as being a fully operational farm, they have the Global Village, with houses like the ones found in Peru, China, Poland, Kenya, and Ghana. Visitors can see how people live in other countries and even get to participate in the livestock chores. Check them out for potential work camping opportunities, residential volunteer positions, or just to stop by and take a tour when you're passing through the state. you won't regret the time spent.

Donna: the fearless livestock manager
Since leaving the farm I've tried to stay in touch with the many awesome people there and volunteer for events whenever I can. This weekend was their annual pancake breakfast and I was lured out of my studies with the promise of fresh sausage and maple syrup, both of which are produced on site. It was great (as always) so mark you calendars for this time next year.

Years ago when I told my client, a crotchety former school teacher, that I was leaving her to work for Heifer International she said "Heifer International? Is that a fat camp?" If you too are unsure of what Heifer International is please take a look at their website and no, it's not a fat camp.

March 10, 2012

Follow Buttons

I like to think that I'm not completely technologically impaired, though I know I'm not far off. I can usually figure out Internet and blog related issues, maybe not as fast as I should (ok, nowhere near as fast as I should) but they get done eventually. For the past few months I've been getting emails asking for alternative ways to follow The Tuckerbag. It seems that a lot of people are getting off the blogspot train and heading over to more social media friendly sites, so here you go world: follow buttons.

That was all the productivity I had in me for the day: time for a nap.

Quickly Transitioning

"I try to take one day at a time, 
but sometimes several days attack me at once"
 Jennifer Yane

I'm on overload.

On Thursday I heard back from the hostel formalizing my summer digs. I'm going to get down there the 30th so I can do chores on the 31st and start at teachNOLA on the 1st of June. One of the problems I have with my lifestyle (not just dwelling but my life in general) is that 85% is a leap of faith. I take jobs and accept adventures without really knowing how I'm going to make them happen. Usually I can see my landing spot only seconds before I jump and that can get stressful, so I'm very grateful to Steve at Marquette House for taking some of the stress off.

Since I know my general schedule I spent yesterday morning booking my flight to New Orleans. I was going to drive down but the Go Go Gadget Red Car is making a pretty good case for leaving her with my parents for the summer. I'll fly to New Hampshire over Christmas break and drive her back down to Louisiana, where I will hopefully have a driveway (or even a garage) waiting for her.The problem is now figuring out what to take, what to ship, and what I can do without for seven months. It's not like I have a lot of stuff, but it looks like I'm going to be downsizing even further.Winter is not an easy time to deep clean the car, so I'm sure it's going to be pretty scary when I finally clear everything out... There will be pictures.

I have about two months to go; midterms are next week, spring break the week after, and then only five weeks of classes before I graduate. I'll spend a few weeks working as many hours as I can at the college and then head to New Hampshire for some time with the family before leaving. I've spoken to six elementary schools down there and will need to start phone interviews with them ASAP. We're not out of the woods yet and I'll be happy when the transition is over.

March 6, 2012

Know Thy Enemy

“Bias and prejudice are attitudes to be kept in hand, 
not attitudes to be avoided.”
-Charles Curtis

If you're part of the mobile community, or keep up with us regularly, you know that we are not always welcome in the places we choose to park. Recently I came across this Seattle neighborhood forum dedicated to getting rid of vehicle dwellers. They take pictures of licence plates, call the police, leave notes and generally try to discourage people from parking. It's kind of disturbing, but thankfully this site at least seems to be out of use. Unfortunately there are other groups like this all over the country so I highly suggest you all "know thy enemy" and take a look at what the other half is saying. Remember that being a messy nuisance is the best way to draw attention to yourself and make people think these neighborhood groups should focus on us. Also remember to read up on municipal codes, these guys found that while parking for 72 hours was legal the vehicle had to be under 80 inches wide, which excluded RVs and gave them a good target.

I hate to place us at odds with sticks and bricks dwellers, I think we should all be able to coexist, but we are the "other" in this case, the unknown and the thing people worry about. Joey Skaggs once said that "Any deviation is looked upon as a perversion, is feared, and is usually a target of hatred and prejudice." Seeing as we are knowingly and willingly deviating from the norm we need to be aware of the prejudice. At the same time Ghandi did say to "be the change you want to see in the world". I wouldn't go so far as to institute a "Hug a Tramp" day, but maybe if we're respectful to those we temporarily live near we can undo some of the stigma that we've been saddled with and change a few minds.

Remember: Be understanding and kind, but be informed

March 5, 2012

Spanish Lessons

I've watched too many Sherlock Holmes episodes in the past few days and I'm on Jeremy Brett overload.

This week's challenge seems to be Spanish Subjunctives, namely trying to understand why in hell the Spanish need to use them in the first place. For those of you whose grammar skills are a bit rusty, a subjunctive is used mainly when expressing doubt or unsureness and is hardly used at all in English. In Spanish they are used when recommending something, ie: Recomiendo que vayas al teatro (I recommend that you go to the theater) vayas being the subjunctive purely because there are multiple verbs. Yeah, it really doesn't make sense to me either but I learn what I'm told and hope that it might come in handy someday. I'm not saying that English is a great language, it's certainly among the hardest to learn, but I cannot believe that it is any more arbitrary than the language of Ferdinand and Isabella. If you want to learn a bit more try, they have some very helpful lessons that rival those of my Spanish professor.

Other than that battle it's been just another Monday spent lamenting the passing of another weekend and the pitiful amount of work that got done in it. For your entertainment I thought I'd pass along a site that a friend shared with me. It's called Free Cabin and is PG 13 at best, I promise. Check it out for some great ideas about living the simple (but not necessarily mobile) life.

March 4, 2012

Suddenly Sunday

I tried to be productive today, I really did, and I thought I was getting somewhere but I have now hit a wall and there's no getting around it. I blame the Cumberland Farms convenient store which was INconveniently out of large coffee cups forcing me to purchase three mediums and stunting my caffeine intake for the morning.

I did some of the easier homework and messed about with some of the harder stuff, there are two papers due this week that I really should be making headway with. I researched a few schools in New Orleans, looked into federal loan forgiveness for teachers, and then spent way too long on the United Nations volunteer page thinking about the steps after NOLA. I know, I'm not even down there yet and I'm moving on, but really it's just being prepared for whatever comes next. A girl's got to have dreams.

I splurged on a $4 sausage, pepper, and onion Stromboli for lunch and spent an hour or so perusing the bookshelves at Goodwill. I found four decent looking books for M, who I have begun bribing with go go crazy bones to get him to read more. Speaking of, I helped his mother set up her new blog yesterday which all of you should check out, just to spike the views and make her happy.

Alright, back to the grind stone. I'm determined to get something substantial done today from the "schoolwork" section of my to do list. Though New Orleans is fast approaching, I still need to graduate.

March 3, 2012

You must be kidding

Have I ever told you how my sister handles break ups? She moves towns, sometimes even states, and many a decent apartment has been forfeited so that she would not run into her exes at, say, the supermarket.

You guessed it. I ran into Chris-maybe-Nick at the grocery this afternoon. He's not my ex; we went on one horrible date back in September, a social experiment which cemented my hatred of cooks and reminded me why I drank heavily through my last relationship (go ahead, read about it).

For those of you just tuning in, we call him Chris-maybe-Nick because, even during the hellish date, I couldn't remember what his name was, but decided that it was either one or the other... maybe. So in late October I ran into Chris-maybe-Nick again, still grocery shopping at the same place (obviously chicks dig the cheese aisle). The riveting conversation that followed was somewhat painful but, despite my obvious disdain, Chris-maybe-Nick texted arguing for another chance.

He didn't get that chance. What he did get was a verbal kick in the gonads and a two word text making it clear I was uninterested.

The texts stopped.

After that episode I admit I shopped down the street for a while, but was eventually enticed back to Stop & Shop by their tasty Mediterranean bar. I entered the grocery store like a caveman popping his head out from the rocks to scan for predictors. I could be through the store in under three minutes, always keeping my eyes peeled for the awkward confrontation I was sure would be the price of my stuffed olives and mozzarella balls.

I'd like to say that my Bond like powers of observation became second nature, but after a few weeks I couldn't have described the color of the cashier's uniform. I let my guard down and went about my business for four months. Until today (dun dun dun...).

Let's see: the first time was the cheese aisle, the second was the produce section, and today was the bakery. Credit where credit's due; I've never run into Chris-maybe-Nick buying soda or a box of mac and cheese. I was picking out what I hoped was the biggest dinner roll from the bakery display when I hear "heeeeyyy" in that soft and slightly feminine slur that was the first count against him. And there he was, trying to make small talk like I never told him off. To bump into a failed date is one thing, but to see it on the other side of the store and seek it out seems masochistic. He could have slipped on by, I certainly would have were the roles reversed. But no, he was right back at it, asking what I was doing later and if I wanted to get a drink.

I'm not a mean person and telling him off for a third time would have felt like bunting a chubby hamster out a penthouse window. Instead I left it ambiguous: I have a lot going on, it's my last semester, the usual stuff.

An hour and three incoming texts later and I'm wondering if I should have hit him with a baguette and run screaming so there would be no room for misinterpretation.

"American Nomads" by Grant

I just started reading American Nomads: travels with lost conquistadors, mountain men, cowboys, Indians, hobos, truckers, and bull riders by Richard Grant. I was hooked by the first paragraph of the prologue.
"Looking back at my own American wanderings, they seem to flow together as one; memories strung out on a single cord of highway, fourteen years long and headed nowhere in particular. I like to think I have tasted freedom, but I also recognize the signs and snares of addiction. After a while, wandering generates its own momentum, it’s own set of cravings, phobias and justifications. I like to think of it as an adventure, a perpetual seeking out of new horizons and experiences, but like to many endeavors of this kind, it has also been an act of flight – away from a point in space and time, away from routines and responsibilities, away from a state of mind. And when it began, escape was my only concern."
Sounds pretty awesome, right? Yea, I'm pretty excited about reading it.

You might remember that I have been studying the mobile community in school this semester. It's an independent study I made up and one of my favorite professors (ok, my absolute favorite) is supervising. He's letting me go nuts, researching the history of American nomads and how much the concept has changed over the years. One of my biggest troubles has been naming us. I know, you're thinking that of all the research issues that should not be my biggest obstacle, but it's harder than you might think.

At the beginning of his book Grant tells an anecdote about a Tibetan monk visiting America. After looking over the mountains and the rivers and being reminded of his own land he asks "who are your nomads?" American nomads have many titles, as the bi line of his book implies, and neither they nor greater society can agree on one. That means any info about the group (groups?) is spread over acres of county records, books, police reports, and blogs. oh well, it's all going to pay off in the end. Stay tuned: I'll let you know how the book turns out.

March 2, 2012

Check Engine

My check engine light is off... This feels like a trick.

The Go Go Gadget red car is now fifteen years old and can be likened to an obstinate teenager or (more accurate for car years) a crotchety old women. The teenager in her knows exactly when pay day is and conveniently needs maintenance as soon as my check reaches the bank. The old woman gets bored and every so often messes with me for no good reason with sounds that are only occasionally heard or a check engine light that mysteriously turns off for one week every six months. If it were nearer to June I would race to a mechanic for an inspection sticker. Come to think of it, that was the last time the check engine light was off.

Adding insult to injury, the crotchety old lady is now leaking antifreeze and an increasing pace. It use to be I would fill her a couple times a month but it's now every week and probably I should be doing it more often. I cracked the engine block in a previous car and would never want to go through that again, but this is just one more repair that I don't have the cash for right now and every time I have one thing done two more things are found.

To recap: Leaking antifreeze, cracking drive belt, slight grinding while breaking (cause unknown), marginally slipping clutch, and a catalytic converter (hence the check engine light). The antifreeze I can keep refilling (for now), the drive belt I will need to fix, no mechanic (we're up to three) can figure out the grinding, the car will drive without a clutch, and I've learned to nurse the catalytic converter along. So really we're in pretty good shape... right?

March 1, 2012

Snow! Wait, what?

“What good is the warmth of summer, 
without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” 
- John Steinbeck

Yesterday we got our first real snow of the winter! I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "it's March first, how can this be the first real snow?" Well... we're thinking that too. This is New England after all: land of sleigh rides, wood stoves, and bowing birch trees. My mother use to warn us about people who had been clobbered by falling icicles while "stopping by woods on a snowy evening", but there's been no risk of that this winter. Most of January could have passed as a mild (if less colorful) autumn and I've been putting off buying snow boots since that blizzard in October.

oh yeah. The blizzard.

So maybe that counts as the first real snow of the season, but at least at that point of the winter we were ramping up and not down.

Last night I was at the college until about 10:30pm before heading to my car. By that time the snow had pretty much stopped and the rain was beginning. I drove to my normal parking lot and found four (overkill?) plow trucks scooping up ten hours of accumulated slush. The sweepers, cops, late night retail crews, and I have an unspoken understanding: If I appear "normal" and don't draw too much attention to my lifestyle then they pretend I'm just a nearby resident who leaves her car there overnight. Not wanting to get in the way (or raise eyebrows) I parked around back where it looked like they had already plowed. It sounded like a good plan at the time, but it turns out I parked right next to the parking area for those four plow trucks.

There must be a little piece of our brain that stays awake while the rest of us sleeps. We get use to hearing certain things at night, like a partner's snoring, traffic, or, in my case, car doors closing. After a while we don't wake up to those things, but introduce a new sound (like plow trucks going in and out and the beep beep beep of backing signals) and that little piece of brain that doesn't sleep gets awfully irritated. When I woke up this morning it occurred to me that none of it had been a dream and I really had woken up every forty five minutes or so.

So the storm is over and the rain is coming. In a few days it will probably look like nothing happened. Hope everyone's staying warm out there in the great wide world