Monthly Archives: November 2015

Goll Durn Heck Refugees

I was in the middle of creating a post about the Syrian refugee issue when the sudden thought of, “Screw this,” popped into my head. Sure, I have plenty to say. But what good is it? I’ve decided that people’s minds are pretty much set on the issues of the day. As my buddy Larry has said to me, “I’ve realized that once I offer an opposing viewpoint to someone, the odds of them saying, ‘You know, I was totally wrong on that issue and you’ve made me see the light!,’ are pretty much nil, so why waste my time? I don’t need the frustration!”

Ain’t that the truth?  One of my goals for this journey was to reduce the amount of stress I have to deal with. I’ve always been “politically involved” – I’ve worked on political campaigns, marched and protested, supported causes, blah, blah, blah. And you know who it’s had the most impact on? Me. And my stress level. So I decided to let it go … at least for this post. Well mostly.

No.  Instead, I’d like to share a story about something that happened this past week where I’m staying … sort of a different “refugee” story. One that I got to witness first-hand.

When I made plans last January to winter in south Texas, I didn’t stop to think that there would be a lot of other “winter Texans,” as they refer to the folks that come down here with their RV’s. But it’s a pretty common thing, I guess. The area caters to them and I’ve discovered there are quite a few RV parks in the area. Not too many of them allow for tents, which is one of the reasons why I’m at this particular one.

I’m the only tenter here… Liz, the owner, told me there aren’t many of us. Usually one or two a season, but that’s it. Not too many RVers yet, either. For the most part, I’ve been here by myself. Most of the them don’t start arriving until after Thanksgiving. Right now, there are about 5 RVers here, mostly from the Great North – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. One from Illinois and another from Nebraska. I’ve met some of them, but have discovered that most everyone sort of keeps to themselves.

The host couple are from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – Len and Susie. Their mannerisms and speech are straight out of “Fargo”. You could imagine Len being the guy shoveling snow when the cop stops to follow up on his call about the “little odd looking fellow out by the lake”. They’re great people: very kind and very attentive. Len stops by at least once a day to sit and chat a bit. Susie also stops by daily to say “Hello” to Frank. They love him!  And Frank’s taken to them, too.  There have been a couple of occasions where I’ve come out of the main building (where the restrooms are) to find Len kneeling next to Frank, exclaiming, “You see?  I told you he was coming back!”

Joe the gardener stops by, too. The three of us will swap stories, talk about dogs we’ve had, tell jokes, etc. etc. It’s been very relaxing for the most part (I won’t talk about the obnoxious guy with the huge RV and equally huge TV antenna that’s now eight feet from the back of my tent … I’m trying to maintain inner peace here …)

But I digress. On to the story.

This is an adult, “Over 55” park and campground. Evidently that’s the way it is with all them around here. Early last week, I noticed a young guy had stopped by and engaged in a long conversation with Len. Didn’t think much of it at the time … until last Thursday, when I noticed Len helping the guy back his trailer into the last spot in the row, across the way from the field my tent’s in. It was only after they finished the parking job that I noticed his pregnant wife get out of the truck. She looked like she was ready to give birth right on the cement patio next to the trailer!  Following her were two little girls and two dogs, a chihuahua and a big, chocolate brown lab.

Joe was already sitting with me, taking one of his six or seven daily work breaks. He sort of reminds me of a Hispanic Goober. You rarely saw Goober work – he was always sitting in front of Floyd’s barbershop, waiting for Andy Taylor and Opie to stop by so they could talk about that day’s gossip.

Today, Joe was taking a break from working on a washing machine’s “transmitchon”.  I have to say, the guy has a real mechanical gift. Len, too. Between the two of them? I’m pretty sure they could have figured out how to fix Apollo 13’s problems about twice as fast as Gary Sinise did, rescuing Tom Hanks so he could then go back in time to save Matt Damon! You betcha!

Anyhow, once they were all settled in, Len headed over our way and pulled up a chair. I was going to say something like, “so this isn’t an adults-only park?” Not that it matters to me. Kids are great. I’ve met very few bad kids. Bad parents are another story …

Joe beat me to it though. “So you let them stay, huh?,” he asked. He had a slightly incredulous tone to his voice.

Len looked at him with a weird expression on his face. He paused for a minute as if he was trying to gather this thoughts together. Then he let loose – not at Joe. It was more his general observations on things.

“You know,” he started. “This guy has been all over the valley looking for a place to stay for about 3 weeks. He’s just bought a house, he’s waiting for it to close, and he can’t find anywhere that’ll take him. To stay for three lousy weeks! They all say, ‘Nope. Sorry. We’re an Over 55 park.’ There was one place that was gonna take him, but then he said he had two little girls … and they said, ‘Sorry, no kids!'”

“This guy did two tours in Afghanistan! His wife is ready to pop any minute. He needs a place to stay And no one has a place for him? No one can help this guy?” Len was giving in to his exasperation at this point, getting louder and more angry as he continued.

“We say, ‘Support Our Troops!’ We say, ‘God bless the U.S.A!’ But when this guy … who put his life on the line for two tours … needs a place to stay, no one will help him? What the, pardon my language, goll durn heck is THAT all about? There was no way he was gonna get a ‘no’ from me. No sirree, Bob!

Pardon my language? Goll durn heck? Yes sirree Bob, Len was really mad! Any second now, Joel and Ethan Coen were gonna step out from behind my tree and buy the rights to Len’s story.

Joe asked him, “What’s Liz gonna say?” Liz lives in Fort Worth, about 500 miles northeast of the campground. She was very accommodating in dealing with me over the phone, giving me about a week of extra time before having to pay for my 2-month stay. I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to mind. But you never know, right?

Len smiled. He chuckled a bit and then said in perfect Upper Peninsula-ese, “You just let me worry about ole’ Lizzie!” It was magnificent! I actually had tears well up in my eyes.

“God bless you, Len,” was all I could think of to say. He looked at me and started to well up a bit, too. “God bless ALL of us,” he said … the exact same thing the camp host in Alabama replied when I said, “God bless you,” to him for staying after hours, waiting for me to show up.

Good people rise to the occasion. Len and Susie are good people.

I still don’t know the young fellow’s name.  Susie told me his wife had her baby the day before Thanksgiving. Another little girl. Yep, a refugee story in its own right. I wish more people could look at the plight of refugees and say the same thing Len did: “They need a place to stay and no one will help them? What the, pardon my language, goll durn heck is THAT all about?”

Fucking Ay!

Happy Thanksgiving. God bless us all!



Posted by on November 27, 2015 in Musings


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

What Happened?

Yes. I know. I’ve not been diligent in keeping up the blog. It’s been a rough two months. And it started out so innocuously. But once it began, it started building up steam the same way a little snowball turns into an avalanche.


The result of the October rainstorms in Texas

In my last post at the end of September. I mentioned how much I was looking forward to the lunar eclipse. That I was going to try to get some photographs. I tried. I failed miserably. I didn’t properly prepare for the event … couldn’t remember how to set the camera (or even what the proper settings were) … and then wound up missing most of a beautiful celestial event.

About the same time, an old client emailed me. I had done a one-off project for her at the end of last summer. I created an intricate budget spreadsheet with some complicated macros that enabled someone to enter a bunch of data in one central location that would then propagate through multiple tabs in the spreadsheet. She said she needed a simple update, but after receiving her information, it was obvious that the requirement was well beyond “simple”. To make a long story short, we agreed to a smaller scope of work after I explained the issues to her. I then proceeded to turn about 2 days of work into over a week of fretting, delay, working myself up enough to do it in small chunks … and getting angrier and angrier at her and myself. I was angry at myself for having anticipated this possibility when designing the first program and recommending an approach that would address something like this happening. And I was angry at her because she wasn’t willing to approve the additional hours it would have taken to do it right the first time! And then angry at myself again for not knowing how to get her to see the short-sightedness of her decision.

So I delivered the project at a reduced scope. The little bit of money that came in paled in comparison to the mental and physical toll it took on me. I think most other people would probably have been able to let it go. If there was any “fault” in the project needing a major redesign, it was hers for not saying “do it” when I made the original recommendation. Instead, I felt totally responsible.

Multiple other things happened after that:

1) The issue I was having with my leg continued to get worse. I thought the pain I was experiencinb in Pagosa Springs was due to lying on a cold air mattress. It got worse, then moved from my hip to my knee. While the pain has subsided to a degree, it’s still there. I’ve been walking with a very noticeable limp and my knee keeps buckling on me. I’m going to sign up for health insurance under the ACA that will go into effect come the new year. In the meanwhile, I’m grimacing and bearing it.

Frisky Frank

Frank’s not as bothered by everything as I’ve been …


2) Frank came up lame, too. On the trip from Colorado to Texas, we stopped to visit Palo Duro Canyon outside Amarillo and Frank took a bad fall as he was trying to beat me out of the car. HIS leg buckled underneath him and he limped badly for a few days. He seems to be over that, except that he’s developed a trick knee. Every now and then he’ll come up lame as he’s running around. I brought him into the vet to have it looked at, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with him … and HIS health plan won’t allow another xray until January. It doesn’t seem to stress him out too much though. The brisk, morning temperatures have him galivanting around like he’s Fran Tarkenton in his early days!

3) My tent door failed. The zipper stopped meshing the teeth, leaving an open swath behind it instead of closing them together. Coleman agreed to replace the tent, but they were out of stock until late spring. I won’t go into everything about that experience right now. It’s too convoluted. In short, they agreed to refund my money, were very deceitful in our dealings, and caused a great deal of anxiety and upset. The tent door failed one month ago today. I only received my refund yesterday after weeks of intransigence and delay.

4) Four days after the tent door failed, we found ourselves right in the middle of all the storms that hit southern Texas. By this time, we were at Lake Corpus Christi State Park. The police told me I should leave the area because of flooding risk. I cleared out the tent, packed Frank and myself into the car and headed to a motel about 20 miles away. Before leaving, I duct taped the entire door to keep water from coming in … to no avail. When we returned a couple days later, the duct tape hadn’t held and there was about 5-6 inches of water inside the tent, which had collapsed in the storm and was rendered unusable. I decided to leave early for our next stop – the Motel 6 in South Padre Island, which meant 3 additional unbudgeted nights of motels. The unanticipated motel costs, combined with having to replace the tent on my own dime (since Coleman wasn’t responding on a timely basis) meant I had to reach into my 401(k), which is skinny enough as it is.

5) Our next stop after the motel was an RV park and campground in Mission, TX. It had received an “8 out of 10” rating on the review site I used to do my research back in January. I think they dropped a zero on the second number … 8 out of 100 would have been more appropriate in my book. The camp was fairly run down and greatly in need of maintenance. There was another problem, too – when I stood there surveying my individual campsite, I felt something on my legs. Looking down, I discovered that mosquitos had begun feeding on all but about 4 square inches of my legs! That was enough for me! I went back to the office, told them I couldn’t stay, and negotiated a refund of all but $35 of what I had paid for our stay. Of course, that left us having to scramble again. We found another park, which has worked out quite well so far. The park is very clean, few people are here and the host couple are really good people!

6) I’m enterng a time of year that has historically presented challenges for me. The holidays have never been a particularly happy time. Quite the opposite. Holidays meant family get togethers, more alcohol, more beatings, more guilt at not being able to be festive when all those around me were having so much fun. I’ve had a lot of problems getting past that as an adult. To add to it, I came up on the one year anniversary of when I decided in Charleston to end my life. I’ve tried to turn that into a positive. It’s been tough.

So there you have it – a brief synopsis of what’s gone on during my absence from the blog.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been sitting in my camp chair under a banyan tree, trying to recapture the “renewal” that was going on during the first part of my Colorado stay. I HAVE been working to look at things differently, with the help of many dear friends, both online and off. Friends that have offered encouragegment throughout all this crap. Larry in particular. He pointed out that this was the third time in six months that my campsite plans took a turn … and each time, it worked out for the better. The other night, he said, “if only you could reprogram your gut so that insted of feeling anxiety, anger and fear, you could rely on it all having worked out before.” Yep. If only. But he’s right. I wrote that down on a piece of paper and taped it to my dashboard – “It’s all worked out before. Trust that it will work out again!” We’ll see if that helps.

I tell myself that the tent door failing was really a blessing in disguise. If it hadn’t failed when it did … BEFORE the storms hit at Lake Corpus Christi … Coleman would not have refunded my purchase price. A tent door failing on its own was under warranty. A tent collapsing from a storm wasn’t. Yep. “It’s all worked out before. Trust that it will work out again!”

So that’s where I am. I’ll have more positive stuff on my next post.

One last thing. I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for Frank. He’s kept me afloat with his innate joy and unconditioinal love. Here’s a link to a little video I took a couple of days ago. Te weather changed … it cooled off quite a bit and we had really strong winds come through the area. It brought out “Frisky Frank”. He started running around the campsite in wild abandon, which in turn brought huge guffaws out of me – the first time in quite a while I laughed that hard. He’s an amazing companion!


Posted by on November 19, 2015 in Travels


Tags: , , , , , , ,