Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Meandering Train of Thought

We are adjusting once again to new surroundings. This time we're parking our home in Indianapolis, well technically at the KOA in Greenfield, which is only about 15 minutes from The Sprawling Metropolis that is the home of the Colts and the Hoosiers, which apparently refers to both IU's mascot and natives of the state. I've tried to discover where the term was derived from, but the details are pretty sketchy.

As seems to be typical with KOAs, we're once again being lulled to sleep by the constant whine of traffic on the interstate. I would much prefer living near a train track!! I can make that statement with a level of confidence, since I grew up with a train track in my back yard. Our house was probably a couple of hundred yards from the train track and I never found the sound annoying. I actually enjoyed the clackety-clack rhythm of the train on the tracks. Sometimes our windows shuddered a bit, but even the whistle blowing had a somewhat romantic, lonely sound to it.

Our dog, Ginger, LOVED to chase the train, and whenever one went by while she was in the back yard she would race back and forth barking at it frantically! Luckily our yard was fenced so she wasn't in any danger.

Living near the train even provided some opportunities for adventure when we were young. I think we talked about putting a penny on the track but we were afraid it might cause the train to derail! We also discovered a "short-cut" for walking to school thanks to some neighbors who lived "on the other side of the tracks" (literally.) At first my mom didn't want us going that way, but she eventually realized it was pretty safe. It's not like you can't hear a train
coming and we had to cross the tracks at some point to get to school!

In the early 70s, my neighbor, who was MUCH older, probably in high school or college (and who I might have had a little crush on) decided to experience the hobo lifestyle for a couple days. So he and a buddy hopped a freight train and rode it to some point up north. I don't remember how far, probably only a couple hundred miles. I also don't remember how he got home, possibly another less adventurous buddy picked them up. He must've been in colleg
e and maybe home for the summer. I seem to remember that his folks weren't too happy about the situation, but they apparently felt he was old enough that they couldn't stop him. (I can't believe they didn't use that tried and true parental stand-by, "As long as you're under my roof, you'll abide by my rules.") I guess they figured there were worse things he could be doing. I remember my mom talking about it, but nobody seemed extremely upset. He was a good kid and I think his parents viewed it as a sort of "rite of passage" into adulthood or something. Of course, I didn't have all this figured out back then, I was probably only 8 or 9 years old. But looking back on it now from my own parental viewpoint, I think that might have been what was going on.

I remember that the neighbor boy's adventure caused my mom to do a little research about hobos. (I'm sure that I inherited my inquisitive nature from her, she would've LOVED the Internet if only she'd been born a little later.) There's nothing more fun to me than googling some obscure topic, but since that wasn't an option back then, she opened our well-worn set of "World Book Encyclopedias" (which I think had been purchased from a door-to-door salesman. Either that, or she had bought them with S&H Green Stamps. We got a lot of products that way!)

She found it interesting that hobos developed a method of communication between themselves. They would draw symbols on a tree or fence or rock in front of the house or establishment that they had just visited that would let other hobos know whether or not the residents would be sympathetic toward transient types. I think that I even wrote up a paper about it for school at some point.

By that time, the era of hobos had pretty much played itself out, but we would occasionally see people hitching a ride in a boxcar. According to wikepedia, hobos also had a lingo of their own. Here are a few of the more colorful phrases:
  • Barnacle - a person who sticks to one job a year or more
  • Bone polisher - A mean dog
  • California Blankets - Newspapers, intended to be used for bedding
  • Catch the Westbound - to die
  • Chuck a dummy - Pretend to faint
  • Reefer - A compression of "refrigerator car".
  • Sky pilot - a preacher or minister
  • Stemming - panhandling or mooching along the streets
  • Tokay Blanket - drinking alcohol to stay warm
  • Yegg - A traveling professional thief
Up until I was probably 8 or 9, there was a passenger train that ran from our town to Wapokenta, OH (if memory serves.) One time my cousin's cub scout troop took a ride on it and my mom made signs for my sister and me to hold so we stood out in the back yard and holding those signs and waving to him when the train went by. I don't remember if he said he saw us. I would doubt it, the train was obviously going pretty fast.

So why did I even start this "train of thought"?? Oh yeah, I was saying that I wouldn't want to buy a house that's close to a busy highway but I wouldn't mind living near a train track. I also wouldn't want to live near an airport. Having jets constantly flying low overhead is pretty annoying. And I always worry that one of them will crash!

I wouldn't mind living next to a cemetery or funeral home though. Again, probably because the house I lived in when I was a child was located near a funeral home and a cemetery. We actually lived "2 doors down" from the funeral home and one of my schoolmates lived in a house behind it because her dad owned the funeral parlor. (She later went to school to be a mortician and took over the family business.)

The funeral home wasn't there when I was first born. Up until the time I was about 3 or 4 years old, there was a field with horses there. That seems so strange to me, because we lived almost downtown!! I have a feeling that having horses next door when I was growing up probably contributed to my love of horses.

But living next to a funeral parlor also provided some benefits for kids. They put in a HUGE paved parking lot, and as long as there wasn't a funeral or visitation going on, we were allowed to ride our bikes and rollerskate all over the place! We spent many, many hours over there taking advantage of that vast amount of blacktop!

On the other side of the funeral home were 2 or 3 houses, then a little church and then a cemetery. We actually never spent any time playing in the cemetery, I admit I was a little weird, but not completely morbid!! I do remember that every 4th of July, the city would shoot fireworks from the stadium which was just around the corner from our house and we would walk down to the cemetery and sit on the rock wall to watch the fireworks. One time piece of firework shrapnel landed on the roof of a house across the street (a huge old mansion where a local rich widow lived, now the Troy Board of Education.) It began to smolder and our neighbor went up and knocked it off and made sure the roof didn't catch fire. 4th of July excitement!!

After Steve and I got married and the kids came along, we would drive into Troy for the fireworks and park in the funeral home lot and put our chairs or a blanket in the grass and watch the fireworks from there. The people who owned the funeral home were very supportive of the community and never seemed to mind ('cos we weren't the only ones who took advantage of it!) I'm sure they never scheduled any funerals that would coincide with the 4th of July! And anyways, the fireworks never started 'til 10 pm.

So, I guess I must be feeling a little nostalgic right now. I'm sure it has a lot to do with this upcoming grand-baby! Yesterday we took Megan out for breakfast at a little cafe near their house. While we were eating, that old Loggins and Messina song, Danny's Song, was playing in the background . That song was one of my favorites when I was pregnant with our son, Danny (and yes, even had some influence on the choice of his name.) I almost got a little teary eyed while we were sitting there (luckily no one noticed!) It just doesn't seem like it could have been all that long ago that Steve and I were in the same situation that Dustin and Megan are in right now, awaiting the birth of our firstborn. I started remembering the feelings of wonder and excitement and even fear, that they're probably experiencing right now!!

And I also started thinking that it's pretty amazing in this day and age that her dad and I are still married and still pretty happy!!

Like the song says:
Even though we ain't got money,
I'm so in love with ya honey,
Everything will bring a chain of luh--uh-uh-uh-uhv....
And in the mornin' when I rise,
Ya bring a tear of joy to my eyes
And tell me everything is gonna be alright.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Looking for Bears

Yesterday we took the dogs for a short hike in the woods around the KOA. It's a nice little trail, but short. The trails at Campfire Lodgings offered at least a couple miles of hiking (and not as much highway traffic noise!)

Something else I noticed that was missing was a little excitement. The knowledge that we could possibly see a bear on the trails actually brought a sense of adventure to our hikes, even short ones. (Like a night-time doggie potty break!!)

I suppose life's like that. We know we're going to come across the unexpected, but as long as we feel equipped to handle it, it's not as scary or overwhelming. Until we actually experienced a couple of bear sightings, I found the possibility more troubling. But once I realized that the bear was more afraid of us than we were of it......well, it wasn't quite so stressful.

I guess that the things in life that cause the most stress are things we haven't yet experienced, things we don't expect, and things we don't feel equipped to handle. Experiences like a new job, losing a job, a new relationship, moving to a new area, or facing a serious illness can all cause stress. But the more we experience these situations and learn how to live through them, the better equipped we are to deal with new ones.

I dunno, it's just Sunday morning ramblings. I'm also pondering what in the world causes people to claim to have seen Bigfoot or have had an alien encounter. Unfortunately, I'm not having much success articulating my ponderings so I'm giong to end this post for now.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Nashville rhymes with Asheville....

Last fall when we were leaving the Richmond KOA, and heading south, the leaves had just begun to change. It was pretty (of course) but I remember thinking, "Thank goodness we won't be around when those leaves come off, I'd hate to have to rake them all up!!"

So, now we're back, and it's spring and apparently those leaves waite
d for us!! I spent about 6 hours today raking up old dead leaves from last fall and my arms are killing me!!

But my motto is "work hard, play hard" so I thought a good w
ay to top off such a productive day would be to try the Asian restaurant we keep driving by that claims to serve sushi and and boasts a hibachi grill. Plus I thought my sore elbows might feel better with a little therapy (like repeatedly raising a gin and tonic to my mouth!)

Unfortunately it was a little disappointing. I haven't had sushi very often, but when I have, it's
been really good. This, unfortunately wasn't. Kinda rubbery and fishy tasting. I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up, this restaurant was really more of a Chinese buffet (and we're in Richmond, Indiana fercryinoutloud!!)

I felt kinda s
orry for the owner. His english was difficult to understand, but I think his name was Tony. He was really nice and apparently trying to come up with new ways to drum up business. He's doing this "promotion" where nothing is priced, you eat however much you want, and pay whatever you think is fair. For some reason, it was a tough concept to grasp!! I could tell by some of the conversations I overheard that we weren't the only ones having this trouble. I asked him why he was doing it and he said it's tripled the amount of customers they get. I guess the local paper did a write-up. I asked him if he was getting ripped off, and he said that younger people were usually the ones not paying enough, but most customers were being pretty fair.

He was telling me what all they had at the sushi bar and was naming off the rolls, California roll, Pennsylvania roll, and I asked him, "where's the Indiana roll?" He was quite amused by that and said they'll have to start making one!! I don't know what they'll put in it though, corn?? Soybeans??

Even the hibachi part was a self-serve buffet. There's a variety of uncooked meat and vegetables, you take whatever you want and give it to the hibachi chef who cooks it for you and rings a bell when it's ready. It is a rather intriguing concept, and also a pretty gutsy experiment. I have to admire the ingenuity he's using to battle some tough economic times, but the food just wasn't that great and worst of all, they didn't serve alcohol!! Didn't get my therapy after all.

So, yesterday we spent the day in Brown County, Indiana looking at possible properties to buy for our more permanent abode. Last week we looked at a few, all of which were uninhabitable without a lot of work. There was one last week I liked alot with a little house on 20 acres. It had 2 ponds, some woods, a hayfield and a nice sized garage that would make a great studio with a little work. The house was condemned because the septic system wasn't up to code. It
was a foreclosure, so we might put a bid on it, but it will be really low and if we can't get it cheap, we won't do it 'cos the house really does need to be gutted and completely remodeled.

Yesterday the properties were a little nicer. Most of them are at least 5 acres. There was one in particular that I liked. Part of it was an old hunting/vacation cabin that was built in 1934. That part would make a great pottery studio and showroom/gallery area. It has an small, old kitchen area, a woodburning stove, and a loft that you get to by climbing a ladder. Wide plank flooring, and that great, musty, old cabin smell!

This is the exterior, the part behind the tree is the older section. The 2 story part on the right is the post and beam section. Don't you love that huge tree??!

This is the old cabin area. You can see the woodstove and part of the loft area and in the back is the old kitchen.

This is the front half of the room. I think some display shelves and track lighting would make it a great gallery area!

The main living area was added in 1999 and is timber frame. It's a great room, a kitchen and bath and a large loft. The things we don't like about it is there aren't any closets or storage areas. I think it was built as a vacation home. It also doesn't have a bathroom upstairs, which is the master bedroom, actually the only bedroom. But it's a very large loft, I think we could build some closet space pretty easily and maybe someday even put a toilet and sink up there. Going to the bathroom at night is something that we need to do more frequently the last few years and I don't like the thought of negotiating the stairs in the middle of the night!!

This is the loft area, I love the window! They have a porch swing hanging up there, you can see part of it in the picture.

After we finished looking at properties, we went into the little village of Nashville to get something to eat. Nashville is the main town in Brown County and pretty touristy. Fudge on every corner!! It was fairly crowded for a weekday, but I think some of the schools are still on spring break and people were there on a little getaway. I picked up some brochures and last night I got online and did some research on some of the local artists, especially potters. They seem to have a fairly well-organized Arts Alliance that promotes the local artisans. I looked at some of the potters' websites and I think I like Greg Schatz work the best. He does gas and woodfiring and it looks like he has a very nice studio and gallery. I think that next time we're down there looking at property, I'll look him up. I want to talk to him and see if the artists (especially the potters) are friendly and welcome new potters to the area, like they seem to in North Carolina. From what I've seen, it looks like they have a close knit art community, but sometimes in that situation, the people can start to get a little exclusive because they're worried about competition. I hope that's not the case. I may have a pretty high standard in my mind from what I've seen among the potters in western North Carolina, but I figure it can't hurt to check it out and hope for the best.

So I guess this is about as close to North Carolina as I'm gonna get for awhile, at least if I wanna be involved with the new grand-baby.....and I definitely do!! I hope we can find a place soon and that it's in Brown County. I really got some good feelings when we were there, the area's beautiful and hilly, there seems to be a lot of art, a few potters, bluegrass music, and restaurants. And Nashville rhymes with Asheville, what more could I want??? Oh yeah, hippies!! Well, I guess that what Nashville lacks in hippie population, it compensates for with hillbilly population!!

I'm looking forward to the next chapter in the little adventure we've been privelaged to enjoy!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Back "Home" Again, in Indiana

This morning when I took the lid off the milk carton, it almost shot into the air like a champagne cork. Hmmmm, perhaps I should check the expiration date. MARCH 12!!!! No wonder my cereal tasted funny yesterday!! That's kinda the way things have felt to me lately, not quite right, but you're not exactly sure why. (Well, I'm pretty sure I know why the milk tasted funny.)

When I woke up yesterday morning and stepped into the living area, the window shades were up and it was mildly startling to be greeted by vastly different scenery from what has been residing outside these very windows for the last 6 months. That's the strange part I've noticed about living in a camper. The inside starts to feel like home, but when you move, you have to readjust to the outside. It probably wouldn't be as noticeable if we weren't staying in one place for 6 months before moving on.

We've come across quite a few people who are taking a year or 2 and living in their camper while traveling across the US. Some are retirees, some are semi-retirees, some are our age some are younger. Some have kids that they're homeschooling on the road, others have dogs (actually almost all of them have at least one dog.) Some of them are working while traveling and others planned not to work during their travels, but are going to go back someday.

We've also come across a lot of people who have said, "We've always wanted to do that" and I have to think to myself, "well why haven't you?" I understand that some circumstances could prevent or postpone it, but I think if it's truly something you've "always wanted to do" you'll figure out a way. There are as many possibilities as there are human beings!

I would say that over all it's been a fun year and embracing this lifestyle even just for a year was probably one of the best decisions we've ever made! I know that Steve would continue living this way indefinitely, he loves the freedom and the fewer number of responsibilities that we seem to have. I, on the other hand, am fairly ready to settle down again and have a less mobile home. I still want to take some trips and see more of the country. I'm hoping we can figure out a lifestyle that will still allow us to travel, more than we used to be able to.

But I also want to have my own flower bed and garden and lots more storage and wall space for hanging art and shelves for pottery!! A home that doesn't rock when the wind blows. A kitchen with a little more counter space. And being within an easy drive from that grand-baby that will be here in the next few weeks!

Some of my friends think I was a little crazy to have embraced this nomadic lifestyle. They can't imagine not having a "home" and not knowing exactly where you might be parking your camper next week. Others of my friends think I'm crazy to want to give this up to settle down again. There are aspects about both ways of life that are appealing, and other areas that are not so appealing.

I have to admit, there have been some stressful times. Right now I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. We're trying to figure out where to establish permanent residence and there are so many factors to consider!! Some of the questions include, the distance from children/grand-children; the distance from Steve's dad; whether or not the area will be compatible for making and selling pottery; what kind of jobs will be available for if/when we both need to start looking for more gainful employment. How much can we afford to spend? I think we've decided that we want to avoid going into debt if possible, and we would like to have a few acres so we can try to be somewhat self-sustaining. It's a lot to consider and I'm not naturally a patient person. I would like to get everything figured out asap and it just doesn't seem like things fall into place as quickly as I'd like them to. The thing I have to keep reminding myself is that things do eventually seem to fall into place if I pray alot and learn to be more patient!

I want to get settled so I can get my hands back into some clay 'cos I'm afraid that I may lose the momentum I feel like I gained when we were in North Carolina! But I can always pick up where I left off. I talked with a really nice potter once at an art festival in Columbus. It was last spring at a time when I hadn't been able to pot for awhile. I believe he asked me if I was a potter and I was lamenting the fact that I didn't feel like one because I hadn't been able to produce any work lately. He told me that he thinks a potter is always a potter, if they're thinking about pots all the time. I suppose it's true of any passion that a person has. If you think about what it is you're passionate about every day, you'll remain passionate about it. Sometimes I think it's even beneficial to have a period of time where you're not actually doing the action, but putting lots of forethought into it. I think that visualization can be an extremely positive force.

Eventually, though, you have to actually take all those thoughts and put them to use, or else you're just a dreamer and while I think that a dreamer is a fine thing to be, you're missing out on the whole point if you never actually make your dreams a reality!

Someone named Walter Mueller said, "The difference between visionaires and dreamers is that visionaries make the dreams come true." (I love!!)

By the same token, I think we have to be careful that we don't become so obsessed with achieving our goals that we forget to enjoy the people and circumstances that we're involved with in the process. That's something I have to constantly remind myself to do, enjoy the moment. There's always something to be gained from whatever it is we're going through, whether that moment seems good, bad, or just plain boring!!

So here's to walking that fine line between being a dreamer and being a visionary. The main thing to remember is to be sure to enjoy the walk!!