Bright Lights, Big Cacti

Arizona through the Eyes of a Native

Month: August, 2013

A Most Unappealing Camping Site

I may have mentioned before that I’m not exactly a fan of RV travel. My parents dragged me on way too many long driving trips when I was a child. For a while, they owned a motorhome in which only two of the seats faced forward. Before that, they had a truck with a camper on it with bench seating along the sides. Riding sideways makes me nauseous; therefore, these vehicles only succeeded in making me dislike camping even more. As an adult, other things have kept me out of the woods: namely, Lyme disease, bubonic plague, and West Nile virus. Why anyone would purposely go where the carriers of these diseases are known to live is completely beyond me; yet, my parents persist in their RV-ing ways.

The other day, as I was innocently perusing the Internet, I stumbled across the most horrifying use of an RV yet: assisted living. That’s right: if you are so inclined, there are assisted-living facilities  where the “residents” simply pull their RV into a space and enjoy three square meals a day and basic care for about $1,200 per couple. I know some people — including my mom and dad — who actually think this sounds like a good deal. However, I have a few concerns:

  • Is it really a good idea for elderly people who need assisted-living services to be climbing in and out of trailers? Let’s face it — most of them are probably pretty brittle. One false step and *wham!* broken hip. Of course, maybe they get a referral fee from the local hospital. If I were an orthopedic surgeon, I’d put a billboard where the residents would see it everyday.
  • Is it wise to allow Alzheimer’s patients to live in a home that can literally be driven away? Does the facility have some kind of guard at the front gate to stop them from leaving?
  • What about the cramped living conditions? I understand that most RVs these days have slide-out features that make the interior space larger, but you’re still looking at less than 500 square feet of living space in most cases. A few months of that and most couples would be certifiably stir-crazy. I would hope there are a lot of psychologists nearby. Maybe one of them could split the cost of the billboard with the surgeon.
  • One of the few advantages of RV travel always seemed to be the ability to pick up and move when you got tired of a place. Parking your RV in what is more or less a permanent position within a park begs the question: why are you still living in an RV?

Then again, I guess I would always be skeptical of the benefits of this sort of retirement. If I were to go to Hell, I’m pretty sure Satan would send me on a never-ending RV road-trip up that region’s version of Kilimanjaro. Oh…and I’d have to sit sideways.

Satan probably likes to camp.

On the Run

When I was young, I ran away from home.

I clearly remember plotting my escape: secreting clothes into a small overnight case I had, imagining a different life somewhere far away (probably California), and forcing myself to wake up early since my mom always slept late. If my plans weren’t exactly well developed, at least I have an excuse: I was probably nine or ten at the time. So, one morning, I snuck out of the house with my bag and started walking.

I don’t remember exactly why I wanted to run away. Maybe I had read Huckleberry Finn or seen something on television that made running away seem like an option. It’s not like I had a bad childhood. I didn’t have any siblings to annoy me. There was a pool in my backyard and I always had more than enough books to read. My mom and dad were, and still are, good parents. I just wanted to start over.

I only made it to Campbell’s, a small convenience store less than a mile from the house. The sun was coming up by then and I had started to worry about how my mom would feel if she woke up and found me gone. All of the triumph drained from me as I thought about her crying in my room, becoming more and more panic stricken by my absence. I turned around and practically ran back. I let myself in quietly and tiptoed back to my room. I’m pretty sure Mom was still sleeping; as far as I know, this will be the first time she hears that I once ran away. And that’s probably a good thing, since I’m now much too big for her to spank. She’s probably going to freak out at the thought of her young child walking down the street with an overnight case, just begging to be abducted. Calm down, Mom. I was probably five-foot-eight and a hundred-and-thirty pounds. And we lived in the middle of the freaking desert — not too many cars out there.

That may have been the first time I thought I wanted to run away from home, but it certainly wasn’t the last. I still wake up some mornings and wish I could just get in my car and drive. Of course, these days I’d have to pack Dan and our dogs with me. What keeps me from running away…  Actually, what keeps most people from running away is the inescapable shame of disappointing those we love and respect most in this life. Running away is the easy route; staying and taking your share of responsibility is the mature, adult route.

Someday, though, when there’s no one left to disappoint…I am so running away.

Exactly.

I’m a Believer

I have what most people of my generation would consider “questionable taste” when it comes to music. I was raised on a steady diet of 1950s pop and country music, with occasional Carpenters and Helen Reddy interludes. I never heard of heavy metal until I was well into my teens, and I had no idea who the Doobie Brothers or Steely Dan were until I was married in the 1990s. My friends have long thought I was beyond odd when it came to my musical choices — and they get quite a bit of amusement from my taste. Around 2001 or so, I heard a catchy tune on a car commercial and had to call one of my best friends and her husband to find out who the band was. Her husband wanted her to tell me the group was called Buck-Naked Bitches, because he thought it would be hilarious to send me into a music store to ask for one of their albums.

When I was around eleven, I discovered the Monkees, thanks to afternoon repeats of the late-60s television show. I not only watched the episodes, I taped them! I had a collection of forty episodes on VHS tapes that I would watch over and over again…because I am a big nerd at heart. I liked Peter, the naïve ding-a-ling, the best, which I think partially explains my first husband. Dan is more of a Mickey — witty, silly, and prone to bursting into song. In any case, the first concert I chose to attend was the Monkees — just Davy, Mickey, and Peter. I screamed as loud as any of those original fans from the 1960s. I saw the trio twice more — once toward the end of the 1980s and again in Vegas around Thanksgiving 1995. The shows were always good. Davy, Mickey, and Peter seemed to have a fairly warm relationship, but Davy was definitely the most comfortable with live performances.

A few years ago, Dan took me to see Davy at the Cannery in Vegas. More than ten years had passed since I had seen any of the Monkees, and Davy was starting to show his age. He was still a great performer though. He also told a number of anecdotes from his life and expressed his wish that the Monkees would tour together again. When he died unexpectedly last year at just 66, I’m sure most fans were as certain as I was that they would never see another Monkees tour. And yet…

Last weekend, I saw the three surviving Monkees — Mike, Peter, and Mickey — at the Green Valley Resort in Henderson, Nevada. I had never seen Mike in concert before, so I was overjoyed to finally have the opportunity. However, after the initial thrill, I have to say I was most impressed with Mickey, who I actually think has improved with age. The concert was 46% Mike, 46% Mickey, and 4% Peter, with the final 4% used as a tribute to Davy. Mike’s songs are the most musically interesting, but Mike was having trouble remembering the lyrics and his voice took a few songs to warm up. Mickey, on the other hand, sounded terrific and has the most energy of the trio. It’s a shame they couldn’t have gotten together before Davy died — I would have loved to see all four of them together.

Hearing their music again has renewed my love of the group. They may have been the “Pre-Fab Four,” but they still managed to create some amazing, memorable music. And if you still have no idea who I’m talking about, the Monkees recorded I’m a Believer long before Smashmouth did it for the soundtrack of Shrek.

The Monkees in all their groove-tastic-ness.

A Surprise Party

Does anyone else ever wonder if the blogger died when a blog goes unattended unexpectedly for a long time?

Here I am. Not dead. Just adjusting to my new schedule. As I mentioned before, my husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and I have taken on a new business. We are now the proud owners of KEPCO Engraving, which actually ties in with the memory I’m going to share today. I received my first KEPCO-engraved badge about thirty years ago, when Mom and I learned to square dance.

Yes, you read that right: I was a square dancer. Petticoats, ruffled underwear, and really cool T-strap dancing shoes. Yep. I was that kid. However, before you get too judge-y, you should see a real square dance in action — it’s actually a lot more fun than that P.E. block we were all forced to take. And those years of square dancing also produced some of my most faithful friends. But I digress.

Mom met several of her best friends through square dancing, including a wonderful woman named Yvonne. Yvonne served as a role model for me: she was proof that you could be an amazing person without being a great housekeeper. I have a housecleaning motto that came directly from Yvonne’s house: it’s time to mop the floor when the cat sticks to it. I don’t actually own a cat, which probably explains why Dan mops the floor around here. Anyway, back in the early 1980s when we had only known Yvonne and her husband for a short time, Mom agreed to host a surprise party for Yvonne’s fortieth birthday party. We had a huge backyard that was enclosed by an eight-foot fence at the time. We also had a couple of acres on which we could hide the guests’ cars so that Yvonne would have no idea about the crowd of people waiting for her inside the yard. KEPCO’s original owners made little badges for everyone that read: “Lordy, lordy, Yvonne is 40.” I think I still have mine somewhere. Anyway, when Yvonne came through the gate, fifty or sixty people all shouted, “Surprise!” I think that was the first and only surprise party I’ve ever been to where the guest of honor really had no idea she was going to a party.

I was about twelve back then. I remember thinking how far in the future my fortieth birthday was. I imagined I would be president by now. That’s right: President Wells. Because I certainly wasn’t going to take some guy’s name. Now, here I am with my forty-second birthday quickly approaching and no political office in sight — thank God I let go of that dream! Who wants job that turns your hair white? I’d much rather write novels as Susan Wells Bennett and engrave badges and nameplates under the KEPCO banner.