I’ve been overloaded with amazing, awe-inspiring, heartbreaking, jaw-dropping, life-altering and generally extensive amounts of information over the past couple of weeks.
The result of this has been that every time I stop to write a blog – I get overwhelmed and run into confusing tangents within the first couple of paragraphs.
So no blogs for a while.
In order to simplify, I’m going to walk you through two more-or-less typical hours in a day while we are on the road.
We are in Cape Girardeau Southern Missouri to attend the global EVCCON (Electric Vehicle Conversion CONference) hosted by Jack Rickard and Brian (Brain) Noto.
There are three top blokes from New Zealand here with us, two of whom were here last year and another who came to the Off The Grid event we held at our solar/battery powered home in Matakana New Zealand.
I start my two hour journey with you at the moment our three friends were checking into our hotel.
A few very funny and totally inappropriate text messages were exchanged, resulting in a massive and heart felt congratulatory hug for Nick who was the recipient and participant of this witty repartee.
“Did Grumpy tell you that I laughed so hard at your reply that I nearly broke my face?” said I to Nick.
“No, but I’m glad you liked it, nice to see you guys back this year!” Said he.
Welcome to the Cape hugs were exchanged and the three boys headed to their room to drop off their suitcases.
We nipped back to the room for a few minutes and were phoned from the lobby by our friends as they were heading back to the EVTV headquarters for the welcome piss up and buffet.
So off we went in convoy.
In the car on the short drive to headquarters near the banks of the mighty Mississippi, Grumpy and I heard the song The Way I am by Ingrid Michaelson. The lyrics hit so close to home that we were forced to steal a sneaky snog and laugh long and loud at how eerily accurate this song fit a couple of freaks like us.
We arrived at the garage.
A couple of the girls from last year recognised me and asked if I’d had the baby already, as last year we were already planning on child number four and final. We still haven’t been successful due to my overwrought observation of the Shettles Method of conceiving a girl. They remembered that I’d told them about our formula hitting the mark 3 out of 3 times in the genders of our other children. We chatted for a while and talked about everything from sex and conception to the mass consumption of oil and food in the US. It was pretty awesome and I am looking forward to talking more with this top chicks when I get back from St. Louis.
After the chat with the girls I ran into Alice who had lost a whole pile of weight which I mentioned, and she told me about her broken cheek and only moving back down to the Cape three months ago and subsequently putting on 5 pounds! I can’t imaging how frail she must have looked before her 5 pound gain. Alice is lovely.
The dinner bell rang shortly after my chat with Alice.
I had to taste test the morsels to ensure they were okay for my non-meat eating soulmate. Most things were not fit for Grumpy consumption, but there were some lovely jumbo shrimp, stuffed mushrooms and a really nice warm dip. Yum.
We chatted at our full table, with old friends from last year’s convention and Jack’s stunningly beautiful and elegant wife. Nick gave me shit for snogging my husband passionately at the traffic lights with a cop behind us saying: “What were you trying to make the cop jealous cause you like dudes in uniform or something?” Said Nick. “No, we just have a very high daily snogging quota to maintain.” Said I.
It was at this point a little voice told me it was time to head out on an adventure. I very often listen to that little voice. It isn’t often clear on details, but I’d hit my quota of small-talk at that point and made my apologies to the table and said I had to head out and I’d be back soon to collect Grumpy.
“What is the point of having a trophy wife if I can’t show you off?” Quipped Grumpy at me as I stood up to leave.
“I haven’t been much of a prize since before you knocked me up three children ago baby.” I responded.
“You actually are gorgeous you know.” Interjected Jack’s STUNNING wife.
“Oh my word – it takes one to know one – YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!” I enthusiastically responded through an alligator grin.
I got in the car.
I had no idea where I was going or what the plan was.
So I went to the mall. It is the natural habitat of the Native Canadian or even North American Hominid I have been told. So that is where I ended up.
I swore off Macy’s some time ago after hearing that they are terribly guilty of encouraging the inhuman atrocities that take place in Bangladeshi sweat shops. But Macy’s is where I ended up…
I bought the boys each a $10.00, almost certainly bloodstained sweat-shop produced T-shirt. Batman for Adam and Superman for Daniel.
At the checkout I got to talking with the girl who’d had a very long day.
At the moment of checkout they asked me if I had a Macy’s card.
“No, you won’t let me get one as I am not a resident.” Said I.
“Oh, you sound like you’re American, where are you from? Canada?” Asked the sweet midwestern checkout lady.
“Kind of. I was born in Canada but I’ve lived in NZ for 20 years.” I explained in auto-pilot as this was surely at least the 20th time I’d had to explain this just today.
“Oh my goodness.” She gasped while her younger, taller colleague rang up my purchase. “What are you doing here if you don’t mind me asking?”
Deep breath in, big smile turned on, and straight into the dialogue I’ve rattled off at least 100 times since landing here in the USA on the 21st of July.
“Well, I belong to an NGO called JCI or Junior Chamber International. It is similar to Rotary or Lions, but for people under 40. There was a JCI and United Nations summit in NYC regarding the Millennium Development Goals that will be re-investigated in 2015.” Rolled off my tongue for the umpteenth time.
“Oh, my… So what do you actually do? If you don’t mind me asking, I don’t mean to be rude.” She said wide-eyed and obviously impressed.
“Philanthropy. I’ve been doing various local and international charity bits and bobs for the past 7 or 8 years.” I said while smiling and looking directly into her heavily made-up blue eyes.
There was a very long and ongoing dialogue that lasted at least ten minutes from this point.
I found out that she’d lost a close family member recently to medulloblastomas. I said that sounded familiar, she told me that it was a deadly brain tumour and now a very dear friend of hers was about to lose her grandson to the brain disease, and he was only 18. Tears welled up in her eyes. We talked about how it isn’t always known what the cause is, and it may not be genetic and it may be environmental causes that contribute, but that there was an eerily high incidence of the disease here in the Cape.
The reason this conversation was so poignant is that one of the strongest, smartest, most accepting and beautiful women in my life – is about to lose her son to a similar, if not the same tragedy. A deeply private and remarkable family, with an amazing support network – they are dealing with this unfathomable inevitability by enjoying every moment they have, and cherishing all the many moments of joy this child experiences and shares with them in the time he has left.
We talked about God, we talked about how much was wrong with the world and how much was right with it. We talked about the amazing pink ribbon campaigns in the Cape to raise money for cancer research.
She told me that I must have a very hard job trying to decide what causes to support. I told her that I used to try and do everything, but casting my net wide meant I didn’t make much difference and just disappointed myself and others by taking too much on and not having the impact I could by dealing with just one or two really important causes. I told her that the environment, and the food we eat and the air we breath and the water we drink and the eco-system we share is the cause which I am most passionate about, because we are all a piece of it and without healthy food, air and water – we are screwed.
I told her I couldn’t fathom what people who are about to lose someone must feel like, but the people who are about to die must want them to be okay and not grieve and fret but celebrate the time and the memories they have. I also said that in a strange way we are all kind of lucky to have the time to grieve for our loved ones, as there are places where people don’t have that luxury because they are dealing with death as a daily part of their lives, through war, starvation or losing their loved ones to treatable disease. And there’s probably a lesson in all the grief and tragedy. We just have to look hard to try and find it.
And I excused myself explaining that if I stayed around much longer we’d all be crying.
We smiled warm, sincere smiles of strangers who connected in a deep and meaningful way, and I walked out of Macy’s and wondered what else the day would have in store since listening to the voice that sent me walkabout.
It wasn’t long until my question was answered.
A homeless man was struggling across the vast parking lot with several ripped bags.
I didn’t think much of it and checked my facebook in the parked rental car for five or ten minutes.
After mentally congratulating myself on the likes and comments solicited from friends who saw a picture of Happy Hobbits on the Banks of the Mighty Mississippi, I started the car. I drove around and past the struggling homeless man.
I can’t just let him struggle alone like that.
I’d be a total hypocrite if I did.
So I stopped. I thought for a moment what might be an appropriate intervention on this occasion. And I decided I’d ask him if he needed help or if I could buy him some dinner or a cup of coffee.
I turned around and drove up near him.
He cowered at the car, and I rolled down my window and said with the beaming Dee grin you’re all terribly familiar with: “Good evening sir, can I help you or give you a ride?” I said.
“Oh, I thought you were going to burn me…” He said, unravelling himself from the defensive pose he’d taken.
“No, I just wanted to know if I could help you out.” I said.
“I’m trying to get to the laundromat.” He said. And I noticed the urine stains on his trousers and his calloused and knobbly hands.
“Hop in, and I’ll take you.” I said apprehensively. But I wasn’t about to deny him help now that I’d offered it.
He put his four heavy black bags in the back of the car behind the passenger seat and slid in next to me.
“I’m sorry, I smell pretty bad.” He said. And he was absolutely right. He smelled like urine and booze.
“We all smell bad from time to time.” I said.
And we ventured on a 30 minute journey to find a laundromat.
My passenger, who’s name was Melvin, told me about his travels to France and Italy. I asked him if he had any family and he said he couldn’t recall, but he did once. I asked him why he was scared of me when I pulled up and he told me about some teenagers who attacked him and burnt him with a laser in his face and his eye which he could no longer see out of.
“Melvin, I am so fucking sorry to hear that. You don’t deserve that and those kids were sheer evil.” in my most comforting tone.
The first laundromat we found using the GPS was closing as we pulled up at 7:45. So I took him to the Showme Laundromat which was on the way back to Jack’s garage where I was going to pick up Grumpy.
I have to admit, I was exceptionally relieved when one of the doors to the laundromat was open so Melvin was able to take his heavy burden of clothes to be washed. I had no idea what I would do with him if that one was closed too.
I gave Melvin $20.00 and a handshake. I’d have liked to have given him a hug, but the smell was far too overwhelming.
And I drove off in my plush rented car to pick up my sweet smelling genius husband from his convention.
We had some awesome times on the way home when we stopped at Walgreens to stock up on some bits and pieces and made a quirky new friend with piercings and cool stories about being a freak and barking at people who stared at her as though she was a weirdo. I liked her. So much so we became Facebook friends tonight. Looking forward to getting to know her better online. I’ll bet she’s got some great stories.
But that is where I’ll end this spectacularly long story for tonight.
Thank you so much for tuning in.