Scary Day

Shortly after we snapped the pic above, we were assaulted by a local mentally ill woman. We had gone to a local beach to pack up the rig for our next leg of the journey. I had parked at this same beach a couple of times before finding it a good spot to use. The waves and fresh air seemed to aid in the bizarrely exact process of figuring out just where that last can of dog food is going to fit.

After walking the dog and exploring the beach we had returned and were stacking boxes next to the side doors. The back doors of were also open with the step stool set between making getting in and out much easier.

I had been concerned that we might block traffic since the doors and stool did stick out a bit. An inexperienced driver in a big vehicle might have a problem so I was aware and listening for big engines, or even a “hello” yell.

Instead I heard the sound of our sturdy metal and wood stool being hurled across the parking lot.  A torrent of verbal abuse came in accompaniment. My thoughts of this being a case of road rage swiftly faded as the rant became so vile and profanity laden I was dumbstruck for a moment.

Lord knows I cuss but this was something entirely different.

Refocusing on just what the hell was happening, (this was only the first 3 seconds or so,) I looked for the source of the ruckus and found a deeply weather-beaten face contorted into a roaring maw. Whatever monsters this woman was seeing in place of us filled her with more anger than one body could hold. The wrath oozed from her pores and nearly had a scent. It was horrific to witness.

One of my personal mottos is; I fight well but I don’t fight crazy. Had she simply been an angry driver, freaking out that I was blocking the way. I would likely have been able to handle it. The look on her face told me immediately that there was no recourse. None of the three D’s were going to work here. (Deescalate, Defuse, Defend.) There was nobody present to parley with; the part that was running things only saw demons.

Realizing that I was dealing with stone cold nuts,  I ordered Ducky to get in the van, call 911 & lock the doors. This came out something like, “In NOW, Call 911, lock doors, GO.”

I blocked her bodily as she was working her way around me to get to him. She was talking to him in a wheedling tone, “Oh no honey you don’t have to do that…” I tried to make eye contact and give her the back off vibe but there was nothing I could make eye contact with. I felt the presence of danger and realized this was a fight I couldn’t win.

About ten to fifteen seconds had passed at this point. People were walking their dogs, gulls were keening, and fierce winds buffeted us. There were palm trees above us, outlined by famous SoCal blue sky and fluffy white clouds.

Surreal doesn’t begin to cover it.

After a bit of misdirection I hopped in the van, taking over the call and giving up on the fantasy of grabbing the rest of our things outside. I wanted my stool. I was obsessed with my stool. Then I saw her lunge. Okay, forget the stool.

Once I was in, she paced near the van like a tiger. After a few final declarations, “Yeah, you call the police, you call them, I AM THE POLICE!!” she moved a little further away. We could see her shredding papers, cackling and hooting while blessedly out of earshot.

Dispatch was a little slow, the area falls under harbor patrol jurisdiction and it took a little explaining that we were actually IN the van and couldn’t leave because our stuff was all over. “Do you want us to send someone out?” UM YEAH YA THINK? “Yes, please, that would be great.” Is what I recall actually saying.

After what seemed like forever I was able to open the doors and grab the rest of our things. Harbor Patrol eventually showed up and took down a report. They sounded like they knew who she was and that made me a little sad. I say eventually but it was likely only a few minutes. Time gets sticky when we’re under duress.

Ducky handled it like a trooper. While driving away, we talked about how mental illness works, and how it affects so many of us. We spoke about how being members of the neurodivergent community ourselves we sympathise and respect the sufferer while also understanding that there are boundaries that are not to be messed with. He said he wondered who or what she saw when she looked at us. We agreed it’s probably best we don’t know.

He didn’t fall apart until we got home.

Earlier tonight I got separate calls from both the Harbor Patrol & the local PD. The woman has been arrested and is in jail. They wanted to know if any of our property was damaged and I told them, no, our vehicle is a tank and the stepstool is hospital grade.

I got off the last call with a big sigh of relief.

Tomorrow we leave for San Simeon. We will finish packing in the morning, (bleah) get a later start than I want, (of course,) gripe and fight and argue and eventually get to our campsite.

Then we will make a fire. We will buy firewood for three days, get the pots and pans out, cook over the open flames and look at the stars. The waves will lull us to sleep, the fresh air will awaken our senses and we will talk quietly into the night.

*******

I know this is my first blog post in a while, there are many in the shoot, but I have had trouble producing. This one sort of burst forth. I feel it’s important to mention that in spite of my mocking tone, I don’t feel many degrees removed from those who suffer so horrifically from mental illness. As someone who has racked up enough frequent flyer miles in psych wards to fly to London, I often find myself bemused when I run into someone so out of control. I use a lot of humor to combat this. Our illness is sneaky and a liar and sometimes the only way to shame a liar is to tell the truth in mocking tone. I think that’s why so many comedians have such huge amounts of followers. They’re the only ones telling the truth these days.

 

 

 

Day ???

I have decided I am quite possibly the worst travel blogger ever. I set out with the fantasy that I would be able to present wonderful word pictures of our travels replete with pithy observations and deep moments of wisdom.

In lieu of this, the ugly truth has revealed itself; I am simply not able to write anything after a long day on the road. I don’t even so much as glance at my laptop. Instead I hurl myself upon the bench seat in the van. I don’t even bother to convert it into a bed anymore. Or change. Or brush my teeth. I bathe with wet wipes. (And yet again I fortify my position of being single forever.)

Our days look something like this: Get up early. Or rather, plan to get up early. Then wake up and, depending on the position of the sun, either flap a bit or go into full blown panic mode. Continue freaking out while shovelling food at offspring while grabbing a plain, usually bitter cup of coffee for myself. (As this is usually from a campsite or truck stop, it’s often got undertones of bark, rubber, diesel and asphalt in varied combinations.)

We then drive for 2 hours with a reminder set warning us that the van will die at some point soon. Sometimes we time it right. More often than not, we sit at the side of the road snarling at one another in the hot sun until I either give in and call AAA, or we try our luck and start the process again.

After 12:30 we begin our routine of running the A/C for precious moments at a time, turning it off at the merest hint of a grade. By 2pm we have to cut it off completely. We can have A/C or drive. You have no doubt worked out our choice.

We keep mini spray bottles filled with chilled water, (well at least they were chilled back when our fridge was still working,) by our seats. At some point one of us will yell, “Mist!” as a plea for some small measure of relief. We spray, feel better for approximately 45 seconds and then chug from lukewarm bottles.  At one point we bought a small thermometer, curious to see exactly what our condition was. We have since hidden it away by unspoken mutual agreement. Apparently knowing that we were literally driving in 100 degree heat was too depressing to bear.

Our lunches depend on what stage of overheating we are at. If the van has us stranded we often end up with beef jerky, granola bars, apples and crackers . (There used to be cheese. I miss cheese. Oh My God. CHEESE.)  If we are at an unexpected but not completely dead stop, it’s PB&J. We have had a LOT of PB&J. I’m not sure if after this summer I will be able to even smell peanut butter again.

I don’t want to admit how often lunch has been Dairy Queen. This is most often funded by the copious amounts of spare change we keep discovering in the van. Not to mention on the ground at campsites and in motel rooms. I owe a huge thanks to all of you with loose pockets. I cannot for the life of me fathom how Ducky and I have both lost 15lbs while on a diet that has repeatedly consisted of sugar sticks, ice cream and light snacks. I guess that guy was right.

I know you’ve read that we also get to stay with friends. And I always think when pulling into a new driveway, “Oh, isn’t this wonderful? I’ll finally get to mail those postcards, check in with family, find out about my mail, post to the damn blog…”

But when I’m staying with my friends I don’t want to write I want to do.

I am aware that I sound like a recalcitrant child when I say this, but my older and sulkier inner teenager makes it all better by not giving a shit.

I have discovered a true way to reverse the aging process. Somewhere after all the driving the adult gets burned away and I am left with a brain committee of no one over 22.

If only my body would come along for the ride.

On that note, I have to say I like the muscle tone I’m developing on my arms. Due to a combination of driving, along with the hefting of bags, boxes and dog, I am rediscovering my strength. My skin is also a quiet joy. I have burned, peeled, tanned and repeated enough that my skin has taken on a soft, “god-dammit I forgot to use sunscreen AGAIN” glow. It looks good, though I have to put ideas of skin cancer out of my head.

The aforementioned weight loss is of course welcome, however since Ducky and I were the same size upon setting out, this means that our shared shorts are now WAY too big. Declan had a pair fall down on him while he was darting up some stairs and the perfect “Oh” of surprise on his face will be engraved in my memory until the day I die.

It’s a good thing I brought belts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day (1)

The past 72 hours have reminded me of being in labor.  You know, bringing a new life into the world while cursing, screaming, crying, and having brief moments of overwhelming joy punctuated with dozing, confusion, and people asking you WAY too many questions.

Yes.

I have said more heartfelt goodbyes than I thought possible, have reinforced the belief that I have exemplary people in my life and am hoping that I will come through the other side soon. I am about to keel over. I am physically achy and my psyche ain’t exactly thrilled either. I have lost the ability to know if I am being kind, nice, or even polite anymore. I hope I am. I would like to continue to have awesome people in my life at the end of this process.

We are down to the last few hours before the management takes possession what was once our home. Nana came down a couple of days ago and the three of us, (along with a very stressed out poodle,) are sitting in an oddly vacant space that seems to echo every breath.

As we linger here amongst the dust bunnies and sadness, I am filled with regret and exhaustion. Looking around all one finds are a trio of air mattresses, tomorrow’s clothes in small knapsacks,  various “Oh shit, we forgot that” mini-piles and two huge trash bags for what we will toss out in the morning realizing that time is no longer short, it’s gone.

It’s not a total loss. One of the perks about having to move out first thing in the morning is getting to eat everything in the fridge and freezer. We are about to explode, but dammit, ALL the Ben & Jerry’s is cleared. It was a tough challenge but I’m pleased to say we rose to the occasion.

I’m not sure if tomorrow is going to be “Day 1,” or, “Day (0). Does it count if the van has to go back in the shop? Is it still “socially acceptable homelessness” if we aren’t living in a camper? Where does the line get drawn?

I’d best get to bed before I get any more maudlin. I must remind myself that whatever happens tomorrow, with or without the van, our adventure begins. It might not be “On The Road” yet, but we will get there. Excelsior!

B.

(Photo credit: Joye Ardyn-Durham.)