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Food Politics and Hunger in Borderlands Arizona

This short film was one of five picked from 1,300 entries that won this year’s Sundance Institute’s Short Film Challenge. Native Seeds is right here in Patagonia. Avalon Gardens has outstanding sustainable farming practices (despite unfortunately being a cult based around the personality of a man who believes he is the supreme commander of the solar system, or something like that). It’s just eight minutes. Check out the film on Video.com, a very cool video site.
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Drones Banned from National Parks

Expand this to National Forests, and my summer and fall last year would have been more peaceful: Park Service Bans Drones
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International Visitors to this Blog

From the start I have wondered how people in other countries find this blog, but the answer is the same as anyone in this country: Search engines like Google. One visitor stood out today. My readership dropped after recent computer problems prevented me from posting daily. So I was surprised that today I had 194 page loads. Looking at the usage statistics for today I discovered someone in Switzerland had searched www.Google.ch for the keywords “homeless for my health.” I was fifth and sixth in the results. They subsequently spent more than three hours on the blog and had 125 page views. I have to assume that counts one page’s reloading multiple times, because...
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Arizona is Fourth Poorest State in Nation

From http://azcaa.org/the-growing-economic-gap/: In a new report released by the Working Poor Families Project, a dismal picture is painted of the struggles working families face paying for basic necessities. Arizona ranks 47th nationally with 39% of our families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or 1 in every 3 working families earning salaries so low they can’t pay for basic living expenses. To view the report, visit workingpoorfamilies.org
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There but for the Grace of God (“On Gratitude and Suffering,” Part I)

I wrote this essay in 1999 while living in upstate New York. These reflections, from a time in my life that many things were working well, seem relevant to “Living in My Car, With Dogs.” I have broken the essay into four parts. PART I: There but for the Grace of God I have so much to be grateful for. So many people who have had the experiences of abuse, violence, loss, and mental health challenges that I have had are on the streets, or in a brothel, or dead of suicide like two of my childhood friends, or living the life of the dead see-sawing between heroin-induced haze and prison-imposed regret like another...
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Ranchers Not the Problem: Public Lands Management Is

Now that I’ve been better educated about ranching in a recent educational conversation with a management-track cowboy and a woman equally informed about ranching, I am going to venture some conclusions about cow pies, cattle and public lands management. Here are highlights of the points made by the man and woman with whom I spoke the weekend before last: When I stated my willingness to be educated about ranching, I noted that I like my grass-fed beef as much as the next steak lover. The cowboy informed me that the cattle on the ranges are not the cattle that get butchered for food. They’re the breeders. The calves become the food; adult cows make...
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Feeling (Falsely) Rich

In addition to my furniture, a couple cool lamps and vintage jewelry, I am also selling items that belong to a person who had a previous sale in the sale room, as well as some of the property manager’s items. Several pieces of furniture, including a large comfortable sectional couch, had been stored in a nearby room. We moved them into the sale room this morning, and customers gobbled them up. I sold a pair of bar stools, two end tables, two lamps, a hammock, a metal bird cage and more. I get a casual commission on the manager’s items, so I was not disappointed that none of my items sold this weekend. I...
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Confirmed: Cows ARE Everywhere

Last night a young man employed by a large local ranch and a woman equally informed about ranching gave me a good education about cattle and land management. First, my impressions are correct: Right now cows are everywhere. In fact, the young man works for the ranch that is running cattle through the area in which I’m currently camping. They’ve just gotten started, he says. There are many more cows to come. So, I asked, trying to find a place to camp on public land that has no cows is impossible right now? Yes, he said, at least within cell phone range. (I need cell phone reception in order to continue working. Plus it’s...
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Displaced by Cattle AGAIN

Cattle are EVERYWHERE. I saw them in the area (i.e. between cattle guards) driving to the site two nights ago. The next morning about a dozen ambled by 50 feet from the car. I piled the tents and the outdoor rugs I use for dog beds on top of the army cot someone gave me. “Cows will walk over everything,” someone pointed out recently. Last night, after the heavy rain that left both dogs wet and me curled up around Carlos’ seat, I opened the door to let Carlos out and he immediately barked. I swore, called him back in and closed the door. A while later I opened it and Carlos exited without...
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Homelessness Among the Chemically Sensitive

Chemical sensitivity is likely among the many “chronic health conditions” that homeless Minnesotans endure (see yesterday’s blog post). People like me with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) are at great risk of homelessness because so many houses and alternative abodes make us ill. For me, it has been easier finding housing free of triggering chemicals than it has finding housing free of mold. However, I am fortunately not as sensitive to chemicals as many people, for whom the world is an obstacle course. This brief article on chemical sensitivities and homelessness, particularly in Arizona, was written several years ago, but every word still rings true. The broader picture is this: Many of the chemicals that...
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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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There’s Homeless and There’s Homeless, Part III

Until I lost my house, I had thought of homeless people mostly as folks living on the streets, in a shelter, or moving from one couch to another. People living in cars, yes, them too, but I wasn’t really aware of how frequently that happens. Federal agencies each have their own definition of “homeless.” Health centers funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) define it a little more broadly than the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The agencies use these definitions in determining who is eligible for services, in addition to their other eligibility requirements. Details here. “According to a 2002 national study by the Urban Institute,...
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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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Thank you, Governor Brewer

As a left-leaning Democrat, I never thought I’d say those words about Arizona’s conservative and sometimes flamboyantly whacky (remember her wagging her finger at President Obama?) governor. But to say she went out on a limb to pass the federal-endorsed expansion of Medicaid is an understatement. The Tucson Weekly said it well: “a stunning display of political muscle.” A politically savvy friend explained that the state’s health care industry — including hospitals who would continue to be left holding the bag for treating uninsured people — convinced the governor that billions of dollars were at stake. That’s enough money to forget Tea Party “I hate Obama” and “beware the feds” nonsense and be true...
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