Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chapter 1 - Hamburger Helper

We are sitting outside a Starbucks in Brandon, Florida enjoying the hamburger helper I just cooked. I left the driver's side door open to hide the propane burner and frying pan, precariously situated with the bubbling stuff sending up a steady plume of comfort steam. I realized we were right next to a gas main at almost the same instant as the two cruisers pulled in next to us so I acted as if I was adjusting the ropes that held our EZ-UP tent and three display tables to the top of the Windstar. But they paid me little to no mind and it was apparent that they only had eyes for each other. A pretty blonde woman with a sturdy shapely frame, pistol strapped low on her thigh, it was no wonder the man cop hurried to be alongside of her as they headed to the Starbucks. She was in charge, the alpha female with a .45 and a nightstick. Fun, maybe...

It is 9:30 now and J has just whipped up her 12th set of earrings. A good night's work and one we needed since we are going to do the downtown farmer's market in Palm Harbor tomorrow (near Tampa). It's the first time for this market so hopefully it will prove fruitful.

"It makes me feel nervous about the homeless people who got beat up," says J seeing a shaven headed man approach our vehicle.

This happened recently to a few homeless people and somebody just died when it happened again a few days ago. It was captured on some kind of outdoor video surveillance system. Baseball bats. The kids allegedly responsible surrendered themselves. In the climate of today's idealogy they probably thought they were doing some kind of commmunity service. We certainly do get some hateful stares for the way we look, and the occasional hateful gesture such as happened a few nights ago when an employee named Junior at the Pilot in Ft. Meyers beamed his deer light into the back of our van and rapped on the window with something loud and metallic. He had waited until after 1:00 to tell us we had to move our vehicle, that no overnight parking was allowed. It was obvious that he took great delight in his duties. But everything trickles down from the top, so undoubtedly there is a Senior Junior somewhere who is trickling his philosophy down on Junior's head and rendering this shameful behavior acceptable. Their coffee sucked anyway.

It is good to have a dog or two and reassuring when one of them is as fiesty as our Hank, a 6 year old Golden Retriever with an attitude, who turns into Dog of Chuckie anytime someone gets too close to the car. Junior must have been taken aback by his window clicking tooth display so that is some consolation for us.

On the other hand Hank does his transformation regardless of who it is and more than one sweet little old lady has scampered away from our van in horror.

Lately we have been sleeping at the Flying J, but tonight we will choose the Wal*Mart across the road. It is a fairly simple matter of moving the plastic bins from the back to the roof and covering it all with a white side of the EZ-Up, tucking it in to look like an enormous roof rack of stuff, or two feet of snow. In back we have a very comfy Posturpedic mattress, pillows, a down comforter and two big loveable dogs.



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