Well, Dip Me in Spit and Cover Me with Bird Droppings….

I have just witnessed a miracle.  After seven months spent jumping through increasingly smaller hoops accompanied by the “wah wah wah” of Charlie Brown’s teacher in the background, the journey to obtain a title for the Dodge Travco we bought last February has finally…just today…resulted in an official document delivered to my mailbox by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, and which is now in my hot little hands.

This seemingly ordinary event began when we purchased this awesome turquoise and white throwback, and drove it from Crossville, Tennessee to Asheville and discovered that it had no vehicle identification number.  Anywhere. On the entire vehicle.  North Carolina has turned purchasing anything with wheels  into an art form of  Draconian proportions under the best of circumstances; if you purchase a vehicle in the state, both parties must be present to have the title transfer notarized, which means, you can buy a car on Saturday, but until you can have the transfer notarized on Monday, you are out of luck.  In our case, we bought an “antique” vehicle, which means (under normal circumstances) an inspector comes to your house, checks your paperwork against the VIN number, signs off on it, and away you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a registration, and hopefully, a brand new title.

The Travco didn’t HAVE a VIN number, so the inspector issued a new one, which means we had to get an indemnity bond from an insurer stating that they were willing to take the risk that we hadn’t stolen it and that the seller was satisfied it was no longer his.  After obtaining said documentation, we took everything to the bank to have it all notarized.  Nobody said we had to do that, but we figured, why take any chances?  I went to mail it, but there was no address, so I took it to the local Department of Motor Vehicles, figuring, after weeks of struggling trying to pull all the paperwork together that I was good to go.

The woman who runs the Department of  Motor Vehicles said Michael had to be there to sign off on it as well.

Naturally.

At the time, he was working at the river from 7 am to 7 pm  and couldn’t get to the Department of Motor Vehicles if his life depended on it. Of course, this being the rural south, there ARE ways around the problem.   I looked this woman in the face and said, “”What would you say if I told you that Michael was out in the car.  That he broke his leg and he can’t make it up the stairs?” She shot back, “Did he break his leg today?”  Without skipping a beat, I told her, “its funny you should say that, because he just broke it this morning”.  She told me would just go ahead and look up his driver’s license information, the paperwork was handed over, and off I went….

When I finally got a letter in the mail TWO MONTHS LATER, it said that the indemnity bond didn’t specify that the “body style” of the vehicle was a “housecar”.  Which is a quaint way of saying it isn’t exactly a recreational vehicle but it IS bigger than a breadbox.  Now my indemnity bond needs a rider, so I apologize profusely to my insurance agent for the trouble I have put her through, but I get the rider, I send it off and two more months pass before I decide to call the Department of Motor Vehicles to find out what is going on.  The woman who took my call said, “Oh, well, it doesn’t say on the indemnity bond rights of survivorship, but it DOES say that on the registration, and the two have to match exactly”.

Seriously?  Now my rider, needs a rider (how very “party of the first part”, “who’s on first” of you) and by the way, would it have killed you people to catch that the last time I needed a damned rider? I mean, you have been at this for five months now.  Surely someone might have noticed that particular discrepancy before.  Except that I find out that once the paperwork reaches the special titles  office it goes to ONE PERSON.  ONE person WITH a job, who WANTS to KEEP IT gets to mosey through stacks upon stacks of paperwork looking for errors so they can get a regular paycheck while the rest of us have to wait around for the damned title to show up – someday.  And no one, not even my patron saint at the DMV had ever heard of someone having to jump through so many hoops just to get a damned title in the 25 years she’s been doing her job.

But here it is, in a stack of mail, on a day when I sold the glass kilns from Michael’s studio for some decent coin, got a killer deal on business cards and t-shirts for the new RV business (website in progress!), won $10 from a scratch off lottery ticket, nabbed a room for the Occasion for the Arts Show in Williamsburg  the first weekend in October for a song, got my confirmation email from VibrantNation.com as a guest blogger, put my first short story in the mail for a writing competition that pays $1000 to the grand prize winner with a story about  a lime (of all things) and wound up on the waiting list (okay, that part kinda sucks. I’d love for some art show to just go wild and take me on the first try, but what the hell) for the American Crafts Council show in Baltimore this February.

So somebody, dip me in spit and cover me with bird droppings.  Cause this girl is on FIRE!!!

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Alice in Wonderland or how Change is the only Constant

I frequent a horoscope site by Jonathan Cainer every morning to get a fix on the day. I do this, not because I expect to meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger, but because his astrological forecasts act (for me, anyway) more as a daily affirmation; what to be aware of, what to avoid, how to look differently at a setback, or be open to an opportunity that may not seem like one at the time. If I can find a way to gracefully negotiate the day, then I will take it, in whatever form, and more often than not his horoscopes have been really useful in providing me with a place to start.

A few days ago, the forecast said I was living the life of Alice, that my world was magical, and I had a childlike view of the world…

To put it bluntly….bollocks to that one, Jonathan…

On the way home from Florida, I discovered that the job I hate, but which is holding us together for the moment, will be ending in 60 days. I didn’t find this out through any of my supervisors. I found it out from the people I work with. There has still been no word from any of the people who actually know what is going on with my job, that anything has changed. Working for this company is difficult on a number of levels, and while they have absolutely NO obligation to check with anyone but the legal team and their accountants before making a move, it does seem everything about this place is designed to stick a fork in the souls of the people who make it possible for them to buy Lear Jets, a start-up tech company, and a new brewery.

Our finances are at the breaking point most of the time anyway, so losing a job, even one I despise, wasn’t the news I had hoped for on the way home, and it CERTAINLY bore no resemblance to Alice in Wonderland.

Or did it?

As chance (or serendipity) would have it, Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland was on TV the night I read this horoscope, and I realized, my life IS like hers. Everything about that story has to do with change. With being bigger than everyone else in the room. Or being much, MUCH smaller. With thinking you are one place, when really, you are someplace else. With being at the mercy of a crazy Queen, or an absent minded rabbit, or an enchanting but wildly unbalanced hat maker. Being resourceful, and scared, and clever, and in the end, stronger than you ever imagined you could be.

Like Alice, I am learning to go with the flow. I may not have a job in 60 days, but I have the promise of an awesome new career ahead, one that will allow us to travel, and let Michael use his considerable skills to fix things, and allow me to write, and create art. School is turning out to be one of the best choices we have made in a long time. It showed us what we could do together, as a team, to take control of our lives again, and head down the road to a bright new future. I am sure there will be lots of changes along the way, but, there will also be adventure, and new faces to go along with it.  And really, what could be better than that?  I mean, Michael is learning about propane gas today.  That HAS to come in handy for SOMETHING.  Right?   The Cheshire Cat never had THAT…

A Less Than Auspicious Start

Michael is a whitewater raft guide in the summer. A little over a week ago, just as we were closing in on the final preparations for RV School, he fell backward, head first, off the top of one of the school buses the raft company uses to ferry passengers to and from the river. He lost consciousness for three minutes, and despite protests to the contrary, was taken to the hospital by ambulance, and after some x-rays and a CT scan, was pronounced well enough to go home.

The doctor told him he couldn’t drive or do any work for at least a week, so we decided to rent a tow dolly and haul his car (a Geo Tracker) down here with my truck. I LOVE to drive but I HATE hauling anything, and now I not only have a man who can barely get in and out of the truck on his own, I have three dogs, a truck full of supplies AND a Geo Tracker to worry about, but, you gotta do what you gotta do…

After an overnight stay in Brunswick, GA, we got to Largo at close to 2:00 pm on Saturday. He wanted to go the “scenic route” down Highway 19, which was not only NOT scenic, there were stoplights every two feet. The apartment we rented is pretty basic and not in the best neighborhood, bearing in mind that despite what you may think about what Florida looks like, most of the places I have been all look like they were built thirty five years ago, with a staple gun and some lumber that somebody’s cousin had rotting in the backyard. What is cool about this place, is that the woman we are renting from has lived here all her life. Her brothers live on either side of us, her stepdaughter lives in the front apartment and her parents live right around the corner. So it feels safe and comfortable and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

On Sunday, we went to an RV place called Lazy Days in Seffner, FL because we wanted to look at a toy hauler/RV they had there. This place is 127 ACRES….the repair shop has 276 bays, they have a wood shop on the premises (to build custom cabinets), among other things. They have an exclusive RV park for rigs over $300,000, plus the normal campground for the blue collar crowd. They have three restaurants (all free) and a Starbucks (also free), plus, if your RV needs to be serviced, they have RV’s you can stay in while yours is being fixed.

On Monday, the first day of class, we drove up to the RV Training Center, and wondered what we had just gotten ourselves into. It’s located behind a used car dealership and there isn’t anything fancy about any of it. There are no service bays, the the “shop” is in a fabricated building, the equipment is in a semi truck….and yet….this all seems right. Its not impressive in the least, but fixing RV”s the in field probably won’t be impressive either. Considering that Lazy Days charges $125 an hour for service, and Camping World charges $119 (they pay techs a whopping $18 an hour, so we will be going into business for ourselves PRONTO because independent RV techs make up to $85 an hour)

After six or seven trips to the grocery store to get him set up (it took that many because I have three dogs I can’t leave in the truck for very long in this kind of heat) I’ve finally got him set up and will head back home tomorrow to hold down the fort at home. I will say this about the last few days though. I have spent the last three years wondering what I could have done differently in my life. I’ve questioned my choices, from why I thought a Liberal Arts degree was the way to go, to why I decided to become an artist in the first place. Because I have so many wealthy friends who don’t even seem to know there IS a recession, I’ve felt that MY economic situation was something I brought on myself. It was something I could have avoided had I made “better” choices. After all, I went to college with these people and THEY aren’t struggling from paycheck to paycheck. If they were smart enough to avoid this, why wasn’t I?

This morning, I went for a walk on the beach, bought myself some breakfast at a dive bar in Treasure Island, and let the dogs play at a park near the apartment. I felt this odd combination of intense sorrow and emotional release. I have worked harder in the last three years than I have ever worked in my life. I compromised my soul and turned my back on a talent I think is enviable just to find a way to survive this economy. I forgot what it felt like to be “human”: to take a walk, to have no place in particular to be, to write, when I felt like it, and sleep, if I needed to. I’m not complaining. Most of my life I have been lucky enough to do whatever I wanted to, within reason. I am lucky, even now, because Michael and I set a goal at the beginning of spring, and together we moved heaven and hell to make it happen.

I still don’t know if this is the right thing to be doing. Only time will tell if it is or not. But its good to be on a path again, headed forward, seizing the day….