Saturday, October 28, 2006

Coronado Campground

After rolling our new home to Coronado campground along the Rio Grande sparks began to fly over the gift RV, now dubbed "Jodie's Revenge". Apparently, one of the main camp hosts, a woman named Diane was hopping mad to see the RV that she thought should belong to her. You see, before Jodie died she made a gift of a van and pop-up camper to her. Lola, who was then caring for Jodie, thought it was a bad move but Jodie made it clear that this was what she wanted. Then, when she was in her final days, instead of going into hospital she asked that she be allowed to stay in her RV at the campground where she had so many good memories and friends like Michael and Carla around and where Lola agreed to nurse her through her final battle with cancer. This woman and the main custodian named Robert denied her this last simple request. Before this happened Diane had asked Lola to ask Jodie for the RV.

We heard Diane was fuming, probably fogging up her binoculars, watching us over on the little hill where main office and the "acceptable" RV's reside with electricity and decent restroom facilities. (The shower on our side turns off every ten seconds until you pump a buttom six times.)

Then, two days after we moved the RV there Robert came storming over in his pick-up. I had just cleaned up my site a little after finishing a 6'X4' splash painting and heard Hank barking. I saw by his approach that he wasn't there to share a chili recipe. I met his advance so he wouldn't see the thirty gallon sized cans of paint and canvases hanging and stretched in the little 12'X12' shelters that come with each campsite, but he walked right past me after asking for my name.

"We close this side of the campground on the 1st," he said. "So you'll have to be gone then." He was getting the full effect of my makeshift studio now and I could tell he was going to drop a bomb. It would take full day at least to load the shit and move on, not to mention we were completely broke waiting for ebay payments, so I quickly deferred him by saying we were thinking of moving down to the electric sites, which are still open for another month.

"No," he said. "We aren't going to allow this sort of thing anymore."

"What kind of thing?"

"What is all this? This is unacceptable..."

"Are you sure we can't move down to the other site? We were kind of counting on it."

"No. We don't want this sort of thing around here. What the...?" He looked down at a bucket full of paint brushes, at his feet then did a little nerd-nazi about face and stalked up the driveway."

"Are you sure we can't move down there?" I said to his back.

"The answer is no!"

He was gone. I had bought a few more days.

A little later he returned, no doubt on Diane's behest. I was up by the RV when he drove up, got out and handed me an official looking sheaf of papers. "These are the rules and regulations. You have to be gone by the 1st, is that clear?"


"You can't move down to the other sites. Do you have a problem with that?" This he said aggressively, goading me to react so he could kick us out.

"No. You make the rules. Don't you?"

He seemed to sputter a little in the affirmative and I saw his lip quiver. You could tell it was not the response he was used to. He left and J was laughing holding her mouth outside Jodie's Revenge. Later she observed that if Georgia O'Keefe had been treated this way when she was camping out and doing paintings, the New Mexico art movement might have happened in Wyoming.

A day later we were sitting in Carla's RV and Lola told us how she tried to warn Robert about this woman Diane, in her exquisitely enjoyable Columbian accent: "She is trying to get inside your head Robert. I'm telling you. Don't trust this woman...but he just looked at me like I was a little brown insect."

Our laughter boomed out of the RV.

And it was just yesterday that we drove up to our little standby campground Flying J. But no more moving everything to the top of the van while we stuffed ourselves in back and rigged black curtains all around for privacy. Now we had our home and today we lounged and read and ate chili J made last night with delicious french bread and butter and we drank hot coffee and tea and watched the other RVer's come and go...mostly snitty old women with their bitter coffee frowns and beauty parlor hair and their high perched baseball cap husbands with their GOP tunnel vision stares of hate at everything slightly out of order. We laughed at one old lady as she shook her head disparagingly at a trickle of runoff from our greywater valve that wasn't completely shut while J did the dishes in the sink, a sink of all things!, next to a refrigerator and stove, everything in remarkable condition, inside and out...

Now we are waiting for payment on paintings so we can move on west where it's warmer. One guy who owes me over $350 bucks sent a money order to my South Carolina address instead of the post office here like we had agreed. But no worries, others owe and they pay, eventually. Patience is sure a hell of a lot easier when you have a home to be patient in.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A '76 Winnebago

Unbelievable as this may sound somebody gave us an RV. It is a beautiful 22' Class A Winnebago, in excellent shape, that we slept in for the first time last night, slept well, and in the early hours of morning I slipped out of the warm bed in back and made tea on the propane stove and sat under the small light at the booth table behind the driver's seat and watched the yellow dawn with a great sense of peace. Nobody can know what this feels like unless they have been sleeping in the back of their car or van for a month.

Our neighbors orchestrated this incredible, life changing event after J mentioned her desire to get a small RV someday. They knew someone who had one, who was selling it for only $2500. Of course we showed interest although we knew the money was out of reach and would be for awhile. But after talking with the woman who was selling it we were given the impression that she might be willing to give it to us if we were the right people for it.

We heard some stories from our neighbor Carla about the incredible woman named Jodie who had previously owned the RV. She had been in prison for over a third of her life, for armed robbery and assorted crimes (and 1/3 of that was spent in solitary!), was 1/2 German-1/2Native American (Cheyenne?) and had recently died of lung cancer. On the outside Carla told us she was an intimidating woman who, at 60, was still doing labor construction work, gruff and solitary Carla had been approached by one of her dogs a few years earlier and was petting and talking to the animal when Jodie ambled over and said, "That dawg don't like nobody. You must be okay."

So Carla and her began an uneasy friendship.

We went to meet the woman who gave us the RV a few days ago and she was distraught about her dog that had recently been hit by a car. Lola, a wonderful, funny Columbian woman with a ton of brick problems that fell on her at once, first with the death of her close friend Jodie, who she cared for to the end, and now her dog, who she looked upon like a son. "It feels like I got it, without even being wined and dined!" she said, in her Spanish accent while reaching a hand around to her backside.

We hit it off over coffee and Columbian sweets and cookies, Dulce de Leche dripped onto wafer like cookies, and then came the moment of truth. She had previously tried to give the RV to three people, none of which could get it started, one guy supposedly having tried for months. I got in the driver's seat and tried it. It turned over but nothing coughed or caught. I pumped the gas pedal a few times. Same thing. I let it sit for a few as J and C and Lola talked about Jodie. What a strange and wonderful person she was. How she had Lola distribute her belongings, her van, tent trailer and other things among certain people before she died. The RV was supposed to be for Lola but she said it was too painful and she has her own RV anyway...I listened and then turned back to the wheel. My fingers hovered on the keys. I turned them in the ignition. Nothing. I looked out at the New Mexico landsape, thirty miles west of Bernalillo, in Jemez, rolling desert with mesas in the distance. I felt a surge of agressive energy and turned the engine and let it turn. J said, "I guess maybe Jodie doesn't think we're the right people after all" and just at she said "all" the engine roared to life. It stunned us all and Lola reached up and got the title out of the cabinet abover her.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wind and Mud

In the Coronado Campground just north of Albuquerque we have been painting on the ground and in a little shelter that comes with each campsite. It is tough as the wind whips the canvases all over but I am developing a new technique of letting the wind blow the paint where it will.

We met some wonderful people in the space next to us. Both artists also. Michael and Carla. we sat in their 32' rv last night and J and I showed them a little how ebay works. We are going to set them up so they can use it also, since they are non-computer savvy. J will make them a website and show them the ropes.

After this initial introduction to what ebay can do for them we told a few stories, Michael with some very funny ones about his family. His eccentric brother with his 350 pound Samoan wife, who binge eats so that he can become big like a Samoan. This guy makes plastic cast faces of gargoyles and things and attaches them to his car, then spray paints them silver and black so they look like metal faces coming out of the car.

We were laughing about this and other things, like how art has turned into this thing that where you have to either be a graduate of Harvard Art school or Yale or some other prestigious institution or an idiot manchild to even have a chance of being considered a great artist today, when Michael reached up and got down a sheaf of papers. On one side were Yatzee scores of he and Carla's nightly games and on the other were these fantastic cartoons of people and things that I will try to upload here. Some are as good as Crumb. Like Capt. Do Da Day. Naval officer...

We are in tight straights money wise as everybody has suddenly decided to send us money orders rather than using paypal so we don't even have enough to pay our campsight fees, much less gas and food. Hopefully though one of the checks will arrive today and then monday we are expecting a paypal payment.

Fingers crossed
teeth full of sand
paint crusted jeans
cracked dried lips
the sun baking everything
to a brittle mud curd
that crunches when you step
on it
splashing red paint into the
blue New Mexico sky

Saturday, October 14, 2006

New Mexico

Bone tired here in Albuquerque. It rained in Santa Rosa where we had planned on spending the night camping at a state park and the gas was jacked up expensive so we said to hell with this place and drove on in to Albuquerque. It was a magical ride for quite a ways through New Mexico with the dark greens of the brushy balls of sage and whatnot among the sea of yellowgrass earth rolling over the horizon, always is magic for me as I have hitched through here broke several times over the years going west or east. New Mexico was always good to me and I usually got good rides. But Texas is another story and I can remember having a hard time getting through that state. But one time I had been standing for over ten hours on a stretch of panhandle highway when the temperature was above 100 degrees, dresssed in shiny metallic disco pants and a dirty t-shirt with a plastic trash bag filled with my belongings, mostly dirty ripped up clothing from my work as a tree trimmer in San Diego. I was leaving a bad situation and a lousy, dangerous job that I was being paid $50.00 a day for. What compelled me to leave, besides the lousy job was a mounting creepiness in the household where I was renting a room that culminated in a roommate getting stabbed by a butterfly knife that had been meant for me. He made the mistake of running away as the guy cornered me by the front door I was unable to get opened in time. I watched the knife waving before my chest and remembered reading somewhere that you can often control a maniac with a commanding voice. I said as low and as steady and as commanding as I could, "Don't stab me Ricardo." It all happened too fast for me to be afraid. After I said it my other roommate made a dash out the back and in a split second Ricardo abandoned me as prey and chose him...I know most people cannot understand how this would happen, what would incite this seemingly harmless, if odd, person to turn into a knife wielding lunatic but it happens. I did nothing to incite it, albeit the roommate who got stabbed had turned him down in his request for one of our beers...The disco pants I had found in a drawer of my room when I moved in and somewhere down the road my last pair of jeans actually fell apart on me (climbing palms) and I had to don them. I was quite a spectacle and the truckers that blew past me blew their air horns, laughing as the rush of air blew my hair back. I was past tears and at the breaking point towards evening when a small grey Camry flew by me. A minute later I heard a beep and I grabbed my trash bag and hoofed it up to the car. I looked in deciding that even if it was Charles Manson himself I would take the ride. Inside was a beautiful young woman behind the wheel. I opened the door tentatively, embarassed and in a state of disbelief. Umm, I said, I really appreciate this but...I probably don't smell all that great. I haven't had a shower in a few days..."

She laughed, "I don't care, get in."

I hopped in. We drove off. She was from Georgia she said as we drove east. I told her about myself. For some reason I was really at ease with her and I could tell she got a kick out of me and my disco pants. A ways up the road she asked if I could roll and I told her I was perhaps one of the best joint rollers within a hundred miles or so.

"There's some papers in the ashtray there and down at your feet is some weed."

Between my feet was a large shoulder bag. I opened it. Inside was a pound of green bud. I pulled out a nice one and began to manicure it on a magazine when I saw the cruiser behind us. My heart stopped in my throat. The cruiser's lights came on. We were both frozen silent. The cruiser passed us and pulled the car ahead of us over.

Later we got a motel in Oklahoma and I took a hot shower. She bought me a six of tall boys and I was in heavan under the hot water with a cold beer on the soap tray. I wondered if things would progress even further and when I came out of the shower with a towel around me she was under the covers looking at me with a smile. I climbed under them and moved next to her warm voluptuous body. It was as if we had known each other forever. Truly the best ride I ever got in my life.



Friday, October 13, 2006


Almost there. We busted out the miles today and were both exhausted by the time we reached the Flying J at Sayre. Went nearly 450 miles. Almost got in a fight but we cooled out and ate a good dinner of prime rib and all the comfort home cooking you can imagine. Pretty good. I also snuck out big hunks of the stuff to Hank and Lucky who snarfed them down and looked up at me with glowing eyes. J still doesn't know about the coat and I don't think I will tell her. She will look at me in that way that is a question mark as much as a look of disappointment. I still don't know why I accepted it. I don't need it. Perhaps it was a bit venal on my part, a reaction to somebody who would assume I am a homeless drifter just because I have a few paint stains on my pants. Strange. I tried it on in the mens room after they left and then took it off and carried it out to the van. I put it on top and got in and snuggled in next to J under the down comforter feeling an unshakable oddness and then the sick sweet smell of the guys cologne made me nauseus and I had to go back in and wash it off my arms. Wierd dreams haunted my sleep.

Not much to highlight except that radio is as mindless as TV. Why in the fuck do they keep playing the same loop from state to state. the mindless classic rock with the mindless DJ voice, the easy listening with its tinkle drip inane melodies and offensively inoffensive words. The religious bellicose idiots manhandling scripture, ripping Christ's body to pieces like cannibals and reassembling him to fit their frankenstein needs...Country, a bunch of models that have been trained to speak with a southern accent and whose voices are adjusted with the latest pitch correction technology...I would like just once to hear what Shania Twain would sound like without the pitch correction. And yes, I was told by a Nashville insider that she does use it. What a bunch of garbage and it is so utterly sad since there is so much good writing in the world, so much good music...

Earlier at dinner J and I had a lively discussion about the nature of capitalism and art that segued into a rant on my part about the development of a system of American royalty. In this system I pointed out, the wealthy, semi-wealthy and even barely wealthy are not satisfied with just having money and what it can buy. They want it to mean something. They want peasants. they want a structured class society that tells them their lives are meaningful and more important simply because they have wealth. They need consecration. And they will buy it. If they need a god and a religion to do this they will create one. Just like it developed in Europe. It seems to me to be a natural progression of capitalism gone rampant. Thus you can see it developing, in this country, with our actors and musicians as the acting royalty, they are being lauded as the American royalty and perhaps this is how it will develop into a full fledged monarchy. More on this as it develops in my thoughts...but the discussion was originally about the feeling J has that art can never flourish in a capitalistic society like ours because everything boils down to the bottom line. Thus, in some societies it can be an honorable thing to be poor but a scholar or artist but in ours you are reviled...This does seem to be the case. People fear deep thinking on any subject it seems...

Bedroom on Wheels

Chill morning air. Lucky meeping from J's vehicle had me bolt upright at 4:00 am from my dreamy position on the mattress in back of the van. I finally located my pants after a maddening search and got over to her before she could filth J's SUV, which would not have been a pretty scenario. So far, her little space that is so tidy and organized has made this an enjoyable road experience.

I have arranged things so that with little effort I can put some things up on the roof of the van, in the spaces between the stack of six 6'X4' canvas stretcher frames that I have tied on to the roof, and thus the back of the van with it's mattress and comforter and down pillows becomes a very comfortable bedroom.

We are still at the Flying J here in Russelville. Five empty plastic cream containers by the brown coffee cup by the ketchup bottle by the salt shaker by the sugar holder by the dessert card makes an interesting modern still life. You rarely see modern still life's. Usually the same old grapes and flowers...I wonder why not? But I have no desire to paint such things, preferring instead to drip and throw paint and move it around and scratch words and faces, designs in it as it dries. In New Mexico we are thinking it will be the perfect painting climate. We are going to try doing it outdoors in a campground for a bit to save some money. We will buy a 10'X14' wall tent and use it as a studio to keep out of sight of the curious campers and woods cops.

Sales are percolating on ebay but the money is coming in at a trickle as people are taking their time to pay. Sokay though. We have enough for gas and food and as long as they keep buying we are doing fine. I am very excited to do some plein air landscapes with my drip style of New Mexico, with its enchanting light and strange blue distances. I have done some things like this and they were a success. One of a spruce shoreline and reflecting full moon that I called "O Canada", another of a setting sun on an ocean called "Melt" (see my website in the Mark's Artwork link- called "Mark's online store"). These both sold for a smoke...

Outside the Flying J I smoked in the cold darkness. A big man and a small man leave. Heading to a car. The big man turns and comes up to me. He says hello after taking his jacket off and begins emptying the pockets. Before I can say anything he hands it to me. I am going to decline but he seems so happy to do it I take it and thank him. The small man is beside him now.

"This is Jose," he says gesturing to the small latino man, in his early 20's, smiling slightly, awkwardly."

"Hey man," I say with a nod.

So how old are you?" says the big guy.

"36,"I lie.

"And when did you start travelling like this?"

"Since I was 18."

"So it's become a way of life then, huh?"


"Just travelling the country, waiting for that next ride."


"Where you heading then?"

"L.A." I say wondering if he is something other than just a really decent guy. It is hard to tell, but I think he is just a really decent guy.

A few more friendly interrogatory words from him and they are gone. I feel a little weird standing there with this coat, a brand new model that turns inside out, a windbreaker slicker on one side and cotton sweatshirt the other. Why did I accept it. I feel like a fool and a sociopath and look around nervously to make sure nobody has seen me. No one has it appears. Actually, I guess I took it out of habit from my distant hitchiking days, remembering how you did not question kindness when it presented itself, just gratefully accept...Also remember the paranoia of getting rides and nervously wondering if the telltale question would pop up. "So, do you have a girlfriend?" Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't. I became pretty good at reading people after awhile so could avoid the "Do you want a blowjob?" rides. But not always. It is funny now but the first time it happened I was completely freaked out and had the trucker let me off immediately and stood shaking with revulsion under an underpass.

All in all it is a hard way to travel since you always have to be on guard and you never really know who you are dealing with. Most often they are just really great people who have been in hard circumstances once or twice themselves but hitchhiking in America today is nothing like it was. I wonder how Jose will react if the man turns out to be a "Do you have a girlfriend?" ride and hope for the driver's sake that Jose does not have a hair trigger in this regard. I doubt he speaks much English though so he will probably just grin and nod and the big guy did not seem like the type to help himself...

So many good rides too. Like the guy in Tennessee who pulled off the highway after I asked him what real southern moonshine tasted like. We went to his trunk. He had six gallons of the stuff. He poured us some and we were on our way...

Thursday, October 12, 2006


We are somewhere west of Little Rock. I ask J where exactly, here eating the night buffet in the Flying J, our truck stop of choice, and she drolly tosses off the first thing that comes to her mind--Junior's Loop, so that will have to suffice. We have traveled over 700 miles since leaving Wed. morning. What a joy to be traveling again! For me, especially but also for J who is happy to have her own vehicle and we take turns leading the way down the highway. I like the arrangement since I can toss empty coffee cups and candy wrappers on the floor and smoke smokes and listen to whatever I damn well want to even religious whacks and whistle and sing and preach at the top of my lungs without offending..and Hank and Lucky don't seem to mind and in her impeccably clean SUV she listens to Flaubert so we're all really doing well on this and no fights so far. I mention this to her and she looks up from her Melville over the top of her erudite librarian glasses and smiles slightly saying, wanna start one? We take turns with the hounds, letting them decide which vehicle to ride in after their runs. We know for sure now that if we stay in this country we will purchase two RV's and travel together.

This journey started out on a sour note when Lucky shat in the back of the silver bullet while I was packing it, without a peep of warning. Very impish. It was a mess to clean then I bumped a gallon can of canary yellow paint out of the back of the van and it spilled all over J's motel driveway. So, had to clean that up too.

I love seeing the land pass in it's quiltish transformation as it slowly turns into the landscape of the great magical west...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Smile of Sunlight

Up this morning at six thirty
an easy smile forming
easy as the sun

from sleep
I found
the source of all poison
fountain of death
that turns
the perpetual human painwheel

the harm we desire to inflict

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"that brave, skinny, bald-headed girl"

Tonight we lucked into a little special on the Highwaymen. Willie, Waylon, Kris and John. Very enjoyable to see the four of them sitting with guitars, nervously trading songs they had just written. But Kris stood out. His song about Sinead "that brave, skinny bald headed girl..." J and I both grew up listening to him. She in Detroit and me in the Upper Peninsula. He always spoke to us and still does...

I'm moving out of the house we rented eight months ago. Into a campground. Our finances just won't cover the rent. Ebay is picking up but not fast enough. At least J will still have a roof over her head and I am actually looking forward to the campground since I have loved sleeping outdoors since I was a child. When I can afford it I will buy a screen tent to do my painting in. But for now I will have to do it right there in plain sight of the woods cops and rv'ers. At least the weather has cooled and the nights are in the 50's so I won't be miserable with the muggy heat. I know the dogs will enjoy it. And perhaps we will soon hit the road again, to where? We're not sure yet. Out west somewhere since we need dry climate to paint.