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Dumpster Diving with Paddlewheel Alliance Friends

Thank you to my old hippie friends for helping me avoid hunger today. I went to college in Bloomington Indiana, which remained beloved in my memory and imagination for many years after finally graduating. Just like in my college prep high school, my friends were not the well-to-do BM&WOC (to modify the phrase “big man on campus” from my parent’s post-war college days). I made my friends in the various all-volunteer movement groups to which I devoted the majority of my time. The Paddlewheel Alliance fought to stop construction of a nuclear power plant on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River. Its construction was halted in 1984 in large part due to the plant’s...
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Long Term Care Insurance and the Single Gal

It’s circa 2007. I’m 47. I’ve completed one major round of renovations on the house. I’m awaiting the final payout of my parents’ estate to put in wood floors. (I had the top layer of the old subfloor stripped out, because when we removed the ancient carpet we found particle board — which was still outgassing from its 1985 installation! A new outdoor-grade layer of plywood took its place; outdoor-grade plywood has less health-harming volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). I lived on plywood floors from 2005 until I finished the floors in late 2008. Two weeks after the floors were finished I moved into a Tucson rental, intent on getting a social life. By the...
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I’m in a Mold-Induced Downswing OR Why Life In My Body is Hard

The first month living in my car was fun. The fresh air and sunshine did me good. The second month was tolerable. The strain of the new lifestyle started getting to me, but I was still functioning pretty well. The third month was hard. Staying dry, mud-free and cheerful (or at least keeping a positive attitude) was difficult. I’m a week or so into Month Four. I have been spending more time in a house. My new friend K and I are cooking together, sharing food when either of us has it, working on getting our dogs to mingle well and hanging out a fair amount. I still sleep in the car in the...
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My Journals are Saved!

If you’ve read the “Greatest Needs” column on the left, or my recent post ‘Losing Everything?’ you know that I was to be locked out of my storage unit on Saturday July 20. What I’ve considered “my life’s work” is now packed safely away in a dry, rodent-free location, thanks to a local angel. More good news to come. First, though, I have a lot to do in the next couple days. If you live locally, can spare some time and want to help, see the “Greatest Needs” column on the left.
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Losing Everything?

I have nine days to get everything out of storage or lose it. Lose it all. Lose my life’s mission: 40+ years of journals, which until recently I’d believed were my life mission. Such an egotistical fantasy, that anything I write could help anybody. If it was life mission I wouldn’t lose it, right? That’s magical thinking. That’s new age crap. I could lose it all. Everything. The American fantasy: That we suffer, recover, and then help others with what we learned. Happy ending all around. FANTASY. Lets us feel superior to others who suffer more than us. Lets us believe there is order in the universe instead of chaos. Lets us believe there...
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“What happened to all that money you had?”

It stands to reason that that question, although unasked, is likely in the minds of people out here who have known me a few years. I never hid, although I did not often mention, that I came into money when my parents died in 2002 and 2003. Three answers. One: I lived on it for about eight years. Two: Most went into the house. Three: Some went (rather compulsively because it made me feel good) into buying pretty things. The inheritance was released in dribs and drabs over six years, so there was never enough at any given point to invest and live on. I do wish it had all come at once; I...
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My Appeal for Health Insurance

Here is a lightly edited version of a letter I wrote in April, two days before the first night in my car, and almost two months before passage of the referenced act. TO: Senator Griffin, Representative Gowan, Representative Stevens and Governor Brewer FROM: A constituent from southeastern Arizona RE: Health care legislation DATE: April 22, 2013 Dear Legislators and Governor: I understand that some members of the state legislature are currently researching the potential impacts and outcomes of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act. I want to share my medical and economic status, to add to your consideration. I am a former member of what we vaguely call the “upper middle class:” an excellent...
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There’s homeless and there’s homeless, Part II

What about the homeless who don’t look homeless? “Class Distinctions Among the Homeless.” Someone should do a master’s thesis on that, if someone hasn’t already. I imagine sociologists are among the first to examine how car living, the loss of home equity (traditionally the primary means of wealth building for the middle class) and low interest rates on safe investments are the latest variables changing the class makeup of America. Sorry if that’s too wonky. I went to grad school in sociology. Once you look at the world through the lenses of power including race, class and, gender you’re not likely to ever stop thinking that way. Does having a car that’s either paid...
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Serious Reading

continued from “Why I Don’t Have a Pot or a Skillet” I’d had the means for a couple years, since the last time I had a serious plan. In years prior to that I’d realized that planning suicide was a way to manage high anxiety. And that as long as I was planning it, I was still alive. Maybe not “safe,” but alive. To date, all packing was done with an eye to what could be sold and what could be given away after I died. Until I realized I couldn’t wash the dishes, I figured anyone who wants kitchen stuff could have my kitchen stuff, so I should pack it well enough that...
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Why I don’t have a pot or skillet

Before moving out of my old house, the kitchen was among the last room I packed. I had a sinkful of dirty dishes I was going to wash. But I forgot that someone had already bought the outdoor grill and was coming to pick it up. I didn’t heat jug water on the grill in time, before they came to pick it up. “So there’s a first for everything,” I thought. “I’ll have to pack dirty dishes.” Oh, right. First I have to tell you that I was unable to keep up with my water bill over that winter. The water company shut off service sometime in the late fall, I think it was....
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Trees, Water, Life, Death

We have two kinds of trees in southeastern Arizona, above the desert and below the higher altitude pines. Well, really three kinds: Scrub oak, juniper, and dead. There’s a lot of the latter after … how long has this drought gone on? A couple decades? Dead trees and dry riverbeds have become normal. I have to assume there was a time when droughts were shorter, Arizona was lush, desert wildflowers did not merit headlines after a good winter’s rain, and no matter where you lived you knew the location of the nearest swimming hole. When I moved here I was astonished that pretty much all the rivers are dry. I have occasionally seen a...
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Wild Places

Much to my bemusement, this week I have seen more of the the public lands surrounding this small rural community than in all the years since moving here in 2004. I mean, all this accessible beauty has surrounded me all this time, beginning just a mile away, and I’ve explored very little of it. That doesn’t match the image I have of myself, or perhaps it is just different than the person I used to be. I let fear keep me away from southeastern
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The House

Since September 2011 I knew I was going to lose my house. The bank gave me a long time. Why, I can’t say for sure. I told them about my declining health, my at-that-time new claim for Social Security disability (declined), and the marketing skills I hoped would help me sell my house. I asked for more time. The bank never said yes; each month I expected an eviction notice. Yet two years passed before the final foreclosure proceedings, and three months more until my deadline to get out. I failed to accomplish anything life-changing in that time. I tried to develop my
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Pets as Family

I had looked for homes for my dogs on and off for three years, seeing this coming. Although I never thought “this” would include living in my car. I figured I’d end up in a low-rent studio, hopefully one that would take dogs. Short of finding my dogs a good home with someone I could trust to deal with their various eccentricities compassionately and yet firmly, as I do, I would not let them go. I refused and refuse to take my dogs to an animal shelter. I believe that adopting a pet means making a commitment to care for it for its life. Not until it becomes inconvenient. Not until you can no...
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