Tuesday, February 5, 2019

El Paso: Volunteer Laundress

El Paso laundromat. February 2019.

While in my month's layover in El Paso, I offered my volunteer services to an El Paso organization that serves immigrants and refugees. A volunteer coordinator asked if I'd be able to do laundry.

Oh. My first thought was: That's not what I'd been expecting. Doing laundry is completely behind the scenes. No interaction with the folks being served, no direct observation of how my service impacted anyone. I'll even say this: No volunteer glory. Look, I'm doing good works! A stagehand and not an actor. Hell, not even a stagehand - a stagehand's assistant.

But in the very next moment, I laughed at myself and thought, this is perfect. It is exactly the kind of experience I should be having. And it's what the organization needs, so little ego girl, go sit down on that chair over there.

The romance of laundry

I like the word 'laundress.'

There's the movie My Beautiful Laundrette, which, upon just now visiting a link about this movie, I realized I've never seen it, and had, in fact, confused its title and redemptive vibe with another movie, Babette's Feast. "Ette" is a heady suffix.

There's the chi-chi restaurant in Napa Valley called The French Laundry.

El Paso laundromat. February 2019.

There's something saucy, naughty, about being a laundress, although I could be confusing that with the French maid thing.

There is the sensory pleasure of fresh-laundered sheets, now dry, snapping on a bendy clothesline on a sun-bright day, smelling of bleach and breeze, and feeling warm and firm to the hand as you stroke the smooth cotton fabric.

El Paso laundromat. January 2019.

The unromantic view

Damn, it's dirty laundry. Not even mine, but someone else's.

I pick it up in aggressively industrial-like black trash bags, and when I return the laundry, clean, it is placed atop the somewhat-orderly heaps of other clean towels, sheets, blankets, pillowcases that line a hallway. 

El Paso laundromat. February 2019.

The soul of laundry

There was a TV show called St. Elsewhere. Before it veered off the road with a masked-villain story arc, its wit and elegance of word and story put it among my lifetime favorites. (It was no surprise that the same creators later went on to parent the unparalleled Northern Exposure.)

There was an episode in which a custodian was interviewed. The interviewer asked him about the drudgery, the unpleasantness - the menial nature - of cleaning up bodily fluids from floors, walls, surfaces, toilets - the blood, viscera, entrails, vomit, urine, feces, sputum, et al. The hospital custodian replied that it was - almost - sacred work to remove this human effluvia.

Or it could have been the TV show, ER. Or in my creative memory.

These articles, What You Can learn About Job Satisfaction from a Janitor, and Want to Be Happier At Work: Learn How From These 'Job Crafters,' referenced the work of Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski. She defined "job crafters," people with so-called menial jobs who perceive their work on a much higher plane of vision than what is in the HR job description. For example:
"[These individuals] didn’t see themselves as custodial workers at all. ... Some, when asked what their jobs were, would say 'I’m an ambassador for the hospital' or even, in one case, 'I’m a healer. I create sterile spaces in the hospital. My role here is to do everything I can to promote the healing of the patients.'”

I was impressed by the quality of the towels I washed, presumably all donated by area residents. Sure, there were a few that were a little worn, but by and large, these were thick and thirsty bath towels. How pleasurable, when so many things about one’s life as a refugee is uncertain, you can wrap your body in such a nice towel after a hot shower, or to dry off the skin of your little daughter or son after a good washing up.

A couple of blankets I washed were soiled with feces. A child, an adult? Illness? Stress? Fear? Age-related incontinence?

When I pulled warm pillowcases from the dryer, and folded them atop the laundromat's orange plastic counter, I found myself smoothing the tops of the just-folded covers, imagining the heads of children, teens, men, and women laying their heads on them, feeling safe, perhaps, on that night, as they laid on cots in one of the large, open rooms they shared with family, friends, and strangers.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Stuff: Lingerie Vegetaria

Peaches, pears, and jicama in lingerie. February 2019.

I bought a trio of reusable mesh bags for bagging produce at the grocery store.

Peaches, pears, and jicama in lingerie. February 2019.

Placed my peaches, pears, and jicama in the soft folds of the bags.

The round fruits and fresh-skinned jicama peeked like brides from their wedding veils.

Or cheekily from white-netted lingerie.

Peaches, pears, and jicama in lingerie. February 2019.

Peaches, pears, and jicama in lingerie. February 2019.

Being green can be sexy.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Rootless: A New Vehicular Mate, Part 3

My new vehicular mate. Highway 9, New Mexico. January 2019.

Relevant posts:

By now, I've driven my new car for a month
  • From Opelousas to El Paso
  • From El Paso to Columbus, NM, and back
  • From El Paso to Las Cruces and back
  • Around El Paso

Learning curve on driving

A very cool car trick: The hill assist. When stopped on an incline, whether at a stop light or when backing out of a slanted parking spot, I can depress the brake pedal, hold it there until a beep sounds, then move my foot to the accelerator without the car rolling back on its own.

Spidey-spatial sense: It was only today when I realized that, yeah, I'm feeling natural about where my car boundaries are within my driving lane. 

Where to stop my 'nose': The Prius' front end slopes oh-so-elegantly down from the windshield base. Result: When you're in the vehicle, it's a crazy design flaw that you can't see where the front end ... ends. I don't know, maybe a tall-ass driver can, but not me. 

2012 Prius v profile. Source: Automobile Mag. Yellow marker added.

Here's an image of what it looks like from the driver's seat:

View from Prius v front seat. Source: caricos.com.

Right. Where's the nose? What's the point of expensive gew-gaws like rear cameras if you don't do something so simple as design some passive visual cues for the front end - not only for parking, but for ensuring you're in the middle of a lane?

As I get more experience driving the Prius, my internal radar is getting a sense for how far to pull in to a parking spot without a wheel stop. This is good; it's reassuring.

I don't yet have a sense for where to stop when I pull into a spot with a concrete, front-bumper-hating wheel stop. I'm hopeful that day will come.

Stuff I didn't know before I bought the Prius

Prius rage. Perhaps a real thing in some places, don't know. Regardless, it has given me pause. I do remember when Prius first came out, and I did do a lot of internal eye-rolling at how smug Prius owners seemed to be about their alleged kindliness for the Earth. Without considering the carbon footprint of throwing away one's older vehicle and building a new vehicle.

Built-in GPS. The tedious and pedantic mindset of the installed GPS in my Prius is just as annoyingly lame as the plug-in Garmin I had a few years back. Fortunately, I bought an air-vent clip-on thing for my phone, so I just use Google Maps from my phone.

Does it seem like I'm caught up in some negativity about my new car? Yes, maybe. A temporary phase, I'm sure. I'm chalking it up to unmet expectations based on assumptions that may not have been realistic. For example, I assumed that a 2012 vehicle would have all the features a 1995 vehicle had.

Some love

Yesterday, I felt my first little surge of love. It happened when I pulled on to I-10 from the ramp. Ohhh, there was some pick-up-n-go there - nice.

The driver's seat is super comfortable.

I've tricked out my center console with small organizer things, so now I've got order among chaos to hold stuff like gum, salt (of course), pens, Crystal Light packets, tire gauge, comb, etc. Speaking of the console, this post by a 2012 Prius v reviewer made me laugh out loud:
Toyota says the deep center console can fit 23 CD cases. In other news, my cubicle has desk space for a typewriter, two slide rules and a Victrola.

It's too soon to tell what my average gas mileage will be, as my car is pretty loaded with stuff pending my relocation destination. Also, I haven't learned many of the tricks long-time Prius owners employ to eke out higher rates. However, I see promising signs.

I've been reading the manual. 

Maybe I'll update my car info in a month or so.

Monday, January 28, 2019

El Paso: A Cemetery ... Prairie Dog?

El Paso, Concordia Cemetery. January 2019.

My friend, Kate, on a Grand Tour of the Southwest, stopped to visit me in El Paso.

After lunch at historic L&J Cafe, we walked through adjacent Concordia Cemetery.

It delighted me to see a prairie dog-like creature bounding to the entryway of his hidey-hole.

A cheeky little thing, he appeared nonchalant about my presence, affording me several photo opps.

El Paso, Concordia Cemetery. January 2019.

Do you see him?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

El Paso to Columbus NM: Highway 9: Red Sparklies

El Paso to Columbus NM-Highway 9 red sparklies. January 2019.

My friend, Kate, visited me in El Paso for several days.

On her last morning, we took our respective vehicles from El Paso to Columbus, New Mexico, via Highway 9. We planned to walk over to Puerto Palomas, Mexico (earlier years' posts on same here  and here), have a margarita, an early lunch, and then go our separate ways - she to Green Valley, Arizona, and me back to El Paso.

As with Columbus, New Mexico, there's not much ever happening on Highway 9, except somehow, there's always something.

El Paso to Columbus NM-Highway 9 red sparklies. January 2019.

For example, I saw two roadrunners on the highway. It cheers me to see these large, muscular birds sprint across a road and into brush.

El Paso to Columbus NM-Highway 9 red sparklies. January 2019.

On this day, going west, a winter-bare tree dazzled my eyes with red, flashing sparkly light. Oooooh. Shiny. What is this? Why? Who? How lovely!

A video here:

Kate was behind me, and we had a tight schedule to keep, so I zoomed past, but with the internal vow to investigate on my return trip.

El Paso to Columbus NM-Highway 9 red sparklies. January 2019.

Is it a selfie if one photographs oneself reflected in a tree ornament? If so, guilty as charged. Oh, and some sly views of my new vehicular mate.

El Paso to Columbus NM-Highway 9 red sparklies. January 2019.

El Paso to Columbus NM-Highway 9 red sparklies. January 2019.

El Paso to Columbus NM-Highway 9 red sparklies. January 2019.

A couple of stories on Highway 9: 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Rootless: A New Vehicular Mate, Part 2

Relevant posts:

After the long prequel in Part 1, I'll get to the point in this here Part 2: I bought a 2012 Prius v

About the 'v'

The 'v' is no mistake. It's lowercase 'v' and stands for, hell, I don't know, maybe the 'v' sound for how Germans, Russians, Ukrainians and others like to pronounce 'w,' which would be for 'wagon,' which is what my new-to-me Prius is.

It does not stand for the Roman numeral five. Which would be uppercase 'V,' anyway.

A couple of things that keep me awake at night
  • The car has more mileage on it than I would have preferred. 
  • The cost to replace an aged-out, dead Prius battery is flipping expensive! I'm taking a gamble that the battery in my Prius has a lot more life in it. 
  • Normal buyer's remorse - what as-yet-unknown car problems lurk under the hood, just waiting to leap onto my savings! Did I pay too much? Should I have done this instead? Or that? 

The key thing

This is the first car I've owned that doesn't have an actual key that you use to open a door or turn an ignition.

Instead, I've got this squat, hard lump of a thing that I still have to carry around with me everywhere I go, but I don't have to actually pull it out of my purse or pocket. The latter situation requires me to un-learn a muscle memory. And the thing requires batteries. And we all know what batteries do.

Surprise misses

I actually have to manually move my front seats forward, whereas my 1995 Camry had electric forwarding/reversing. I wasn't expecting this backward step. Not a big deal - just a surprise.

There is no place in the front cabin to hang a trash bag. Nope. No knob, nowhere. It's even a thing for discussion. This is kind of a big deal; it will be annoying until I find a graceful solution.

The Prius' ground clearance is disappointingly low, albeit slightly greater than the Camry. This took me aback at first, as there are countless resources on camping and even living in Prii (yes, that seems to be the usual plural form). A friend helped me push past this disappointment, however, when he pointed out that most cars have similar ground clearances as the Prius. So it was a good reality check for me.

The storage pockets in the front doors are stingy, even though each has a round-out specially designed for a water bottle. There's not good space in the doors for maps or gloves.

There's no drop-down storage cup for loose change, which I had in my Camry. Instead, there's a slide-in thing for cards. The slide-in card thing is good for parking-garage tickets, toll booth tickets, and maybe c-store/grocery store loyalty cards. Maybe an auto insurance card. But I'd rather have the change holder.

Oooh, too soon to tell, but transferring my worldly goods from my Camry to the Prius .... it's possible my Camry had more cargo space than the Prius does. If so, that's a disappointment. I've got additional gear (suitcases, etc.) in my temporary lodgings, so I won't have the full story til I'm fully moved out of my current home stay.

Learning curve

There is a learning curve to driving a Prius. More to come on this, I reckon.


  • The generous size of the two glove compartments. 
  • Roomy storage console between the two front seats. 
  • Front-seat passenger has their own cupholder. 
  • The drop-down pocket in the roof for glasses.
  • The flat-bottom cargo space in the back that I'll be able to use to sleep in the car when camping! Can't wait! 
  • The possibility of having heat or a/c while camping! 
  • Fun accessories to buy, like window screens for camping!

Cautious enthusiasm

I am ready to be enthusiastically in love with my new car. For the moment, however, I am cautiously, quietly, fingers-crossed maybe-it-will-be-so-great mode.

I barely know how to turn on the radio yet.


The color of my Prius is OK. The same held true for my Camry. The benefit of the ho-hum color is that my car looks just like 75% of the cars on a parking lot, therefore it doesn't capture untoward attention. The downside is that I don't feel a rush of esthetic pleasure when I approach it.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Rootless: A New Vehicular Mate, Part 1

Having said goodbye to my 1995 Camry, yesterday I brought home my new vehicular mate.

This marriage didn't happen under ideal circumstances. 

One: I was on the road, on the first leg of an extended travel itinerary to my next year's stay out west. This meant:
  • I didn't have the luxury of time to look at all of the area's inventory among dealers and private sellers; 
  • Once I left the area, I'd lose easy access to the seller to rectify any problems that cropped up shortly after I bought the vehicle; 
  • There was an uncomfortable squishiness about knowing/deciding in which state - and how - to title and register the new car - yikes

Two: It had been close to 20 years since I'd bought a car! I was a born-again virgin.

Three: I entered into the marketplace alone, a different experience than I had when buying my used Camry. So no personal advocate, "bad cop," or doubt-soother.

Four: And to speak plainly about it: I didn't bring a dick with me, my own or someone else's. I didn't have a man with me. And, yes, I think that still matters in the car-purchasing world.

Five: In my perfect world, my Camry would have lasted me until the point when I'd decide to live outside the US for a year. This would mean I could defer the purchase of any new vehicle indefinitely.

On the other hand: 

One: I had a past relationship with the dealership I chose to buy my car from. My experiences with the dealership had been positive. Based on my travel patterns in recent years, it is likely I'll return to the area in the future. Furthermore, I have friends who live in the same community as this dealership. I shared this information with the dealership. Consequently, I felt some reassurance that the dealership would deal honorably with me.

Two: In the past 12 months, knowing my Camry's life with me was entering its twilight years, I'd done some research into my next vehicle. My main criteria were:
  • Camping-friendly. In other words, I could sleep comfortably in the vehicle.
  • Good gas mileage. 
  • Hybrid engine - for mileage, but also for interior climate control while camping.
  • Generous cupholders! 
  • Large-capacity cargo space for my annual relocations.
  • Higher ground clearance than the Camry, thus reducing the worries about undercarriage scrapings, etc.
  • Reliability, of course.
  • Affordability.

I dreamed of a Ford Transit for a future life as a full-timer, but ..... maybe some day.

Grounded in more immediate realities, a Prius wagon topped my short list, which also included wagons or SUVs such as Subaru or Toyota RAVs.

So I didn't start my vehicle search totally at ground zero.

Three: Notwithstanding Point Five in the bummer section above, an envie to re-do a road trip to Alaska in the summer of 2020 has been ticking in the back of my mind. To make that happen, I knew I wouldn't be able to do it in my Camry. (Note: My daughter and I took a road trip to Alaska in the early 90s.)

Four: Notwithstanding - again - Point Five in the bummer section, I've come to enjoy my recent pattern of living for a month out of the US as an intermission between two US-based resident years. (See Antigua here and Mexico City here, for example.) Therefore, I felt OK about investing in a car at this time.

Next up: Rootless: A New Vehicular Mate, Part 2