Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hobos and Weirdos I Have Known and Loved

Eventually I'd like to stockpile all of my old favorite articles from the Noise, in one easy-to-read location-- maybe here.
This one, a favorite of mine, was published in May 2008. My recent visit to Flagstaff inspired me to revisit it....

Hobos and Weirdos I Have Known and Loved
May 2008 "The Noise"- The Outs
By Ellen Jo Roberts

Flagstaff is a railroad town with a long history of hobos arriving via boxcar. Despite downtown's current boutiquey chic, it wouldn't take much to scrape away the glossy veneer, revealing a seedy underbelly populated by vagabonds. Summer breezes bring an abundance of weirdos, rolling in with their knapsacks, all enjoying the mild climate of outdoor living and the plentiful public land. I have known my share of hobos and I have adored them all. Their certain je ne sais quois adds invaluably to the flavor of any town.

First of all, I'd like to clarify what I mean by hobos. I do not include trust fund hippies ("trustafarians"), all traveling in artfully disheveled colonies, resting under downtown shrubs with at least 1 vaguely feral looking dingo mutt. They are hobo-wannabees, easily outted by their good teeth, expensive faux bohemian sandals, and a fanciful romantic notion of what it means to be a tramp. My ol' pal Brian called them "hippycrites". Hippycrites were a pet gripe of ol' Bri. Hypocritical hippies that complained about the government yet "used federal highways and got food stamps".

When I speak of hobos I mean the true busted, broken down, woolly weirdos who are living on the fringes of reality and the thinnest margins of society. They may have at one point had normal lives, jobs, families, in some land far away-- but in their current incarnation they have become "that weirdo". Often times with a geographic designation---"that weirdo who hangs out on Leroux" or some other modifier-- "that weirdo in the white jumpsuit on the bike", "that midget weirdo who pushed the baby stroller", etc. Even people who do not know their names have created a name for them and recognize them from the details.

I grew up in a big city and took public transportation so I am well conditioned to the presence of vagrants and vagabonds. My father, a Chicago policeman, called them "bust -outs". Just a catch-all term for folks living outside of regular society. Maybe homeless, maybe not. Maybe crazy, maybe not. Maybe broke, maybe sitting on a big bank account that nobody ever seemed to discover until long after their death. There were many weirdos in every neighborhood, weirdo mascots specific to a certain street or park, and while not all of them were harmless, the majority were as more frightened of us than we were of them. Each had their own eccentricity, a funny walk, a bad hairstyle, pants pulled up too high or hanging too low. Most shared the common characteristic of muttering to themselves.

Flagstaff attracts a wealth of weirdos. The rails and major interstates all converge on the picturesque mountain town. It is easy to blend in with the eccentric mix of natives, foreign tourists, and college students. It's a place where everyone is passing through, for a day, a week, or a few years. There were many favorite weirdos and freaks in Flagstaff. Remember that mystical fellow with the cape and the staff, fancying himself a wizard of some kind? What was his deal? How about that guy who rolled his VW Bus, then had it towed to a parking lot where he continued to use it as habitation for himself and several cats. There was that old fellow from Virginia who smoked a pipe and occasionally donned his army dress suit, complete with a chest full of medallions. I still think of that lil' guy called Herman, the small slumped wanderer of downtown, in his sweaty trench coat and slicked back hair. I never heard him say a word, but I once saw him smile. When Herman died many folks truly lamented his passing.

A visit to the Flagstaff library always was a certain opportunity to catch a bustout snoozing in a comfy overstuffed chair. Many of these random characters had been 86'ed from most of the bars in town, and several of them had a tendency to piss their pants. At one time, in the not too distant past, rivers of piss polluted downtown Flagstaff. "Dolores the Dwarf" was one of the famously incontinent. She was, as her moniker implies, a dwarf. She was elderly, with a mop top of shaggy white hair, and could often times be seen awakening from her favorite sleeping spot, in a doorway on Aspen Street. She would push a baby-stroller full of all of her meager belongings, swearing at cars and pedestrians, calling everyone foul names, muttering "hippies, punks, communists, polacks!" under her breath as she struggled with her stroller.
"I wonder of she has a family somewhere?" I mused, one day.
"They probably dumped her off here, like a stray dog." I was sworn at by Dolores, and it brightened my day every time. Every encounter with a weirdo enriches my life and adds another tale for the archives. Their outlooks are so vastly different they may as well be from a different planet, or a time traveler from a different millennium.

Grubbs was a favorite character in my Flagstaff story. Sometimes called "Chuck", or "Shiloh", but mostly just called Grubbs. A religion could be built on his teachings, and in fact, my friend Alice created one—she called it The Church of Grubbs. He lived in a motel on Route 66 and went to the Monte Vista Lounge every day to play the ponies at the off-track-betting. Legend has it he once got arrested for peeing off a roof. He was tall, robust and rumpled, with one pant leg tucked into his boot and one left untucked, a sure sign of craziness. There was something Bill Murray-esque about him, something endearing, crooked and oafish like Carl Spackler in Caddyshack. He talked in a blurred, deep, rolling mumble. Most of the time he talked about Eva Braun, Idi Amin, and the Playboy Bunny, a stream on non-sequiturs, though this was occasionally punctuated by sudden bout of clarity. Sometimes he bordered on the brilliant and profound.

He told me he had been a cop. I said, "Wow, that had to be a tough job!" He responded, suddenly articulate, "Nope, easiest job in the world. You put on that uniform and (*snapped fingers*) you get anything you want." Another time, out of the blue he said, "How many people do you think went to Harvard and don't remember it?"
One time he said, "You're my girl, right?" as he walked by and I went weak in the knees. I am Grubbs' girl! He thinks I am his girl!

Perhaps his most enduring comment was his common salutation: "How's yer politics?" I myself have used this to greet people for years. It is perfect.

Grubbs stole a waitress' tip from off the counter and left 3 cigarettes in its place. Some kind of fair trade in his mind. One time I saw him eating flowers out of a planter on Route 66. He was enchanting. Alice asked to take his photo. "For 'The Winner's Circle'? Sure," he said. I'm not sure what the Winner's Circle was, but he for sure was in it, in his mind anyway, wrapped in flowers standing next to his favorite horse. We were also winners, because his image was forever captured for posterity. In the shadowy photo he is sleepy-faced, slightly crooked, with tilted posture, his eyes half closed, and his mouth half open because he of course he hadn't stopped talking the whole time. I wonder what ever happened to Grubbs. Maybe he is still around, playing the ponies now at the Museum Club, eating flowers along the roadside and trading for cigarettes. Maybe he drifted on to greener pastures, or was finally collected back up by his family far away. Maybe he had escaped and they'd been looking for him for years. I wonder if he had any children or was ever married. Maybe he finally made it to the Winner's Circle.

Despite my mom's best teachings I have a habit of talking to strangers, the stranger the better. It is because I know they will always share some nugget of wisdom, even though it may be cloaked in crazy talk and gibberish. I also know that most of us are only a few degrees removed from being hobos ourselves. You never know what is down that next road, and where those rails might take you.

Ellen Jo Roberts lives in the old railroad town of Clarkdale Arizona. She shares a 94 year old house with a 35 year old husband, and several pets of random ages. They are surrounded by assorted 1970s vintage Volkswagens. Read all about it at www.ellenjo.com

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crazy Fun Weekend

This weekend was action packed. Even the furnace-like heat of Arizona mid-summer could not fizzle the whirlwind of activities.

Saturday afternoon, we headed off to the Verde River with an ambitious plan--- to float from Dead Horse Ranch, where Tavasci Marsh pours in, all the way to the River Front Park.

In distance this isn't very long, maybe 2 miles from point to point by road-- but the way the river meanders everything always takes longer down there. Time slows down. Long looping detours.

Chad, Tim, Ruth Ellen and I shuttled in the bus from their vehicle left at Riverfront Park, so we had cars at both ends.

Many problems with the overall plan Saturday. Sounded good in discussion, but the actual execution was a bit more complicated. I think we all imagined an easy float, a steady current, just kicking back in our tubes, sipping cans of beer. However, to call it a "float" would be a stretch. It was not like that. It was more like a "paddle/ struggle/ sink and slice". First off, the river wasn't moving much at any of these locations. To get anywhere we had to kick and paddle, or risk circling in the same spot all day. The occasional breeze was blowing against us, blowing us backwards.

We got "jackpotted" several times. Jackpotted is an expression my Grandpa used to use, often times in reference to traffic conditions, and most frequently when a CTA bus would pull out in front of him-- basically it means, getting stuck, thrown for a loop-- jackpotted. Sometimes the river would just disappear, change routes, dead end-- we'd ended up in some sub-channel of the Verde and needed to portage our our rafts to a new spot to relaunch. I preferred saying "portage" with a French accent for a humorous effect. Por-tajjjjj. Tim said, "What's with this French thing? If you say portage one more time I am going to punch you in the face."

They brought along a raft just for their picnic cooler--full of fruit, chips, garden grown veggies, beers and margarita mixed up in a jug. They tugged it along by a rope, like a pet, and named it "Boozer", as in "Come along, lil' Boozer..." It was pretty tricked out!

My boat had a slow leak the entire time. Like before we even left the house Chad noticed it--he patched it 4 times, but the patches kept falling off. Hearing a "glub glub glub" bubbling under me throughout the trip was a lil' bit disconcerting. Later, Ruth Ellen's raft started to spew out great bursts of bubbles.

I spent much of the last part of the trip swimming alongside my raft, my camera gear and our small cooler taking my place on the mesh seat. Kicking through the cold, fresh, green-smelling river, tangling my ankles in weeds and other things too dark to see at the bottom. There are some long sections of river that are over 6 feet deep, with cold ribbons of current running through like a wonderful treat on a 105 degree summer day.

We made note of these swimming holes for future adventures.

For some reason, there's an abundance of old cars lining the banks of the Verde. Very vintage--I've seen 1930s-1960s. Someone once told me that back in the day people frequently used them as some kind of ridiculous erosion control.

We never made it to Riverfront Park. After one last wicked portajjjjjj left us all sliced up with green reeds and weeds as sharp as paper cuts, we made an early exit near what we figured was the "Jail Trail" in Old Town. Exhausted, all of us. Bleery eyed, hot, sliced to bits. Not what we had expected, but so much fun anyway. An adventure!

Tim and Ruth made us a delicious dinner on the barbecue, and that night we all sleep like rocks.

Sunday. Flagstaff. Meredith said it got down to 72 degrees up there. I thought it was in the 80s. Whatever it was, it felt cool to us, and we were all happy to be away from the Verde Valley heat, if only for an afternoon.

The reason for the Flagstaff trip was a board meeting for the Noise. http://www.thenoise.us/.
Alpine Pizza, for free pizza and beer (-Charles' sales pitch to get us all to attend).
Here are a few of the fine folks that bring you the Noise...
Bobby Carlson, Kyle Boggs, Aaron Levy, Charles Seiverd, and Meredith Seiverd...standing on Leroux Street, downtown Flagstaff.

Chad didn't want to go to Flagstaff, so I carpooled with Kahlil in his zippy 1962 Beetle.
"40 horses and they're all running at once!"
We laughed and laughed. All the way there and all the way back. I met Kahlil in 1997 or 1998, so he and I go way back-- he was one of the first people to befriend me when we moved to Jerome.
Tangled up in my day to day life, I sometimes forget what an awesome and hilarious person he is, so it was fun to hang out with him and act goofy. We get the giggles. Laughing about crazy nonsense! He really is the heart of our Ghostwagens car club, and keeps everyone together, everything running smoothly.

After the meeting we walked around downtown. Someone conned me into buying this ridiculous $7.00 "gold" chain with a giant dollar $ign on it, from Incahoots. So obnoxious! We laughed about my bling all the rest of the afternoon, how I was gonna show up back in Clarkdale with it swinging from my neck, saying, "Yo Chad, check me out! I'm back from the big city!" Everyone was cracking up imagining what Chad's reaction would be.

The cold alpine air of the Colorado Plateau felt great- especially after a brief downpour--
The wet Ponderosa forest smell reminded me of August 1995 when Chad and I first arrived, and lived in the forest in our camper. A very sweet and lovely time, full of adventures.

A side trip up to see pals at the Flagstaff KOA, before we hit the road for the long ride back to the valley. Home by 7:30pm. Chad's reaction to my $ bling? Nothing more than a raised eyebrow.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Money worries. Fretting today. My husband makes quite a deal less income I do, partially due to the weak economy but mainly due to his own laziness. It grates on me sometimes, and every once in a blue moon I get into a funk about it. He's not the most ambitious go-getter type of guy, so my hustle and bustle is what keeps us afloat in the day to day. Sometimes this brews up a lil' batch of resentment, especially when I realize that any "extra" money I've made- beyond my regular salary- money from selling paintings or writing for the Noise had ended up going to pay household bills, rather than towards fun stuff as it it should. Film, art supplies, road trips, a new dress, or just the plain ol' rainy day fund--- this is what my extra "mad money" should be for, but that's not what happens and I get upset. Watching it slide away...

Money comes and goes like water-- I try not to get too attached to it, ever. A sudden windfall often portents an equally sudden minus sign-- a car repair or some other expense that quickly takes care of that extra money. And sometimes, when things look particularly dim, a rash of art sales, a bonus or a monetary gift from afar arrives, right on time to help save the day.

My husband has a hard time getting along with people in the structure of a job. He has always been this way since I met him. He's been fired alot. One year he got fired 4 times from 4 different jobs. No lie. I was fed up with that. For the last year and a half he's held a decent position where he fits in and gets along with everyone fine--but their production dropped way off due to the economy and there currently ain't no hours for nobody -- he works maybe 12 hours a week. It's been this way for about 6 months now, and it is impacting our finances a lil' more each paycheck.

Slip slidin' away.

Since the age of 5, when my dad died, I have worried about money. My Mom was very candid with us about what it took to maintain the household as a single parent/breadwinner, and shared her struggles with us so we could always appreciate the value of a dollar. I am grateful for this. But, I am also sad for it, this lifelong worry about money. Not trying to be wealthy-- just want my bills paid on time, and a little cushion to alleviate my anxieties! Not needin' no status symbols or modern gear--- Just want to be able to buy a new pair of shoes now and then, or a dress for the summer party.

What brought this funk on this time is the reading of old journals, circa 1994-1995, last night. Capturing all of the young new love freshly taking hold of my life-- but also capturing all of the flaws I spotted in my future husband early on-- his self-absorption (spending whole days relaxing, doing yoga, taking a bath), his lack of ambition, his financial liability at holding a job--- In all these years nothing has changed. I knew all along what I was getting into, from the very beginning.

This makes me angry at myself more than anything, for walking straight on into such difficult situations with my stubborn Aries head--knowing full well what I'm getting into and still thinking I'll be able to solve it with the sheer force of my personality. I've made my bed, and now I must lie in it. Tomorrow I'll be in better spirits--I'll have moved along to something new, and more constructive-- but today everything looks so grim.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ghia Love

I rolled the odometer on my Karmann Ghia again. Second time. When we bought the car in 1998, it had something like 83,500 miles on an engine that had been rebuilt in 1995.
Driving up to Junipine, up in Oak Creek Canyon every day, we quickly surpassed the 99,999 mark sometime in 1999. That was the first time we flipped the digits. The second time, took 10 years to reach. Since 2002 I've had the luxury of riding my bike to work, so the Ghia has been retired from commuter duty. It's a strictly 'round town girl now. Or the occasional random road trip.
Yesterday, while driving home from Jerome, coming into Clarkdale I watched it roll, from 99,999 to 00000. Fresh. Starting new. Now it sits in the driveway wearing a necklace of zeros like a brand new car, fresh out of Wolfsburg, West Germany, in the spring of 36 years ago.
Oh! My 1973 Karmann Ghia, how do I love you? Let me count the ways.
We had our rough patches over the years. Sure. Like any relationship we've had our arguments. That tricky electrical thing you used to do that gave me fits. Ugh. The constant carburetor adjustments that I could never quite figure out. The random difficulties and confusion, and the rare but occasional ride on a tow truck. Overall, though, it's been a breeze. In recent years it has been like the love between two old timers, long married. Easy, and smooth like a favorite shoe. The seat and the controls all worn in to my specifications. I recognize the little burps and hiccups meaning it's time to change the gas filter, the funny front end in need of grease when it feels somehow different. The sounds of the chirp as I drive close along walls or canyon cliffs. (It was that crickety chirp sound that made me first fall in love with you).
The trips we took together- the roads we've traveled. California, Mexico, Chicago, Nevada, and all over our Arizona.
All of us packed tight into that small cramped sardine can of a car. Cruising the highways, sleek and aerodynamic, turning heads like Hollywood.
I know it may not go on forever this way. My VW pals will raise an eyebrow wondering how we could have put on this many miles on without burning oil, without a valve job, without a top-end rebuild. "This won't last," they'll say to each other.
The trick I think is the straight weight oil-- 30 weight in winter, and 40 weight in summer. Changed regularly by me, with my own hand, every 2,500 miles or less without fail. The trick is my deep sump which allows me to hold 2 more quarts of oil than a regular Volkswagen. The trick is my bolt-on oil filter which most VWs do not have. The trick is always using premium gas, the highest octane. 91 if possible. And the trick is that me and the bad mamma jamma share a vodoo kinda love, a connection that keeps both of us ebullient and evenly firing, even with all of the dings and scratches of life compounding year after year.
My Karmann Ghia runs on true love.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Monkeys, Donkeys, Cats and other things art buyers love..

Art buyers. I'll never figure out what appeals to them exactly. The things that I think will sell right away, don't--- and the things I sort of sleep walk through and am not all that fond of, people buy em right up.

I used to have a theory that people will always buy a painting of a monkey.

Any painting of a monkey I've ever done has been snapped up almost as quickly as its hung on the gallery wall. It's crazy.

I painted a lil' throw-away thing of a donkey and someone bought it almost immediately.

And cats. Every painting I've done of Clyde is gone before my next shift at the gallery.

Should I exploit this? A steady diet of that subject matter might make me want to give up painting all together. But groceries cost money. That's a dilemma for artists!

Paint what you love versus painting what sells.
The eternal dilemma of an artist in the modern world.
How far can I pimp myself out?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Germinating with Generation X
Growing Old in Slackerville
July 2009 Outs
Ellen Jo Roberts

Have you ever wondered the trick to looking good at your high school reunion? The trick is to not have looked all that great in high school! For folks who peaked in physical beauty during their teen years, I hear this is a bit devastating. However, for people like me, who spent much of high school with bad skin, bizarre fashion sense, and a series of awful hair days, I’m not afraid of walking into that reunion hall. I wasn’t the Homecoming Queen. In the past 20 years my appearance has worsened in some ways, and improved in others. But, it is undeniable that I have gotten older. It creeps up on you, this age thing. In many ways I feel the same at age 37 as I did at age 7 or 14 or 21. Michael Apted’s “7 Up” series, documenting British youth through the decades, revisited the same children throughout their lives, in increments of 7 years (most recently in “49 Up”). The notion behind the series is that a person’s personality is in place as it will be in adulthood, by age 7. Watching the different participants living their lives is fascinating. And it’s true, their personalities are set by age 7. You can watch it run through each of them like river. It’s also obvious the aging process of life. Oxygen-- it makes us all kinda rust like road salt on an old American car.

Being 37 means that my wrinkle cream must also be pimple proof.
It means sometimes I get asked if I want my “senior discount” (!), and other times I still get carded when I buy beer. The first wrinkle I ever noticed was a deep crevasse forming between my eyes, ingrained from decades of squinting. If I could go back in time I’d slap my teenage-self silly, and then slap a pair of sunglasses on her face. Soon after that first wrinkle, a Mexican friend commented, “¡Tienes muchas canas, Ellen!”…“¿Canas?” I asked. What are canas? “Grey hair, amiga! Canas! You are muy grey now!” I streaked to the closest mirror and pulled back my hair, revealing abundant white streaks at each temple. Damn Irish genes. How did I not notice this happening? Maybe it happened all at once. Maybe I had a super scary nightmare and it gave me all that grey hair, like, overnight. Then came the wrinkly neck, the chubby elbows. Fat accumulating in strange places, entirely resistant to the most rigorous exercise routine. An age spot! Like a beauty mark, but not. Like a big freckle gone wrong. Sometimes, in particularly dry seasons, my hands seem to be about a billion years old. Parts that were once so effortlessly firm, and quick to heal now suffer the effects of gravity and years. Yet, my eyesight and hearing remain phenomenal, as does my genius sense of smell. I can run farther than I ever did as a teenager. I have a wealth of experiences which calm me and guide me—things that upset me like crazy in my 20s are of no consequence in my 30s. In certain ways I am both better and worse.

There is beauty in age, in living and surviving. In an air-brushed nation like ours we don’t appreciate it or emphasize it enough, and the result is an army of Hollywood face-lifts gone wrong. Arizona has a big market for plastic surgery-- with surgeons operating out of mini-malls throughout metro Phoenix--for people who panic about the aging process and get nipped, tucked, enhanced. Luckily, my lackluster looks taught me at a young age that self wasn’t ever really about appearance, but more about one’s mind and personality—so, getting older doesn’t really bother me much. I think about all the changes in the world I’ve seen, the people I’ve walked the planet with, even if it was just for a short time—Salvador Dali, Gilda Radner, Harry Nilsson, World War 2 veterans, Mother Teresa, Moe Howard— I wouldn’t trade it to be younger.

My 20th high school reunion is this summer. It’s certainly a milestone, marking the passage of time, and makes me think about my place in history. Has it really been 20 years since that rainy June day in the school stadium? “We are sexy, we are fine, we are the class of ‘89”.
With my Scorpio rising sign, I tend towards sentimental, and have been reading many books about the 20th century, the amazing ways things have changed, and the fundamental ways things have not. I come from a place called Generation X. We brought you hip-hop, and alterna-rock. We wax lyrical about our 1970s toys, like the Big Wheel, Light Bright, Atari and our old record players. Schoolhouse Rock forever lives in a back closet of our brains. We used to be best known as the Slacker generation, and for our appearances in John Hughes films. We have roller-rink dreams, full of flashing lights, glitter and scratch-n-sniff stickers. We are hypnotized by pop culture in a way generations before us were not, wearing our Bart Simpson t-shirts, wanting our MTV, and listening to our Walkmans.

Folks of our generation cannot say we remember where we were when Kennedy was shot, something that seemed to galvanize the generation before us. Some of us may remember when ML King was assassinated, or Bobby Kennedy. The moon landing 40 years ago. Some may remember the end of the Vietnam War. Star Wars. Most of us remember 3 Mile Island, Cuba’s Mariel Boat Lift, John Lennon being assassinated and the attempt to assassinate President Reagan. Mt.St, Helens. AIDS, Safe sex. Just say no to drugs. The 1986 explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and the disaster that same year at Chernobyl. The falls of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. The first and second Gulf Wars. The Internet. The deaths of River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain. The “Y2K bug” (which wasn’t), and the “Dot.com” boom and bust. Naturally 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and “An Inconvenient Truth” have all changed the world forever, for all of us. And now, children born today will always take for granted that there could be a black president. They will always know this is possible in a way that I, as a child, could not.

When I was a kid first starting kindergarten, in 1977, things were not much different than how they were for my Mom going to school in the 1940s and ‘50s. My grade school even had the old-fashioned bolted-down wood and cast iron desks, with the ink well that we never used (and at the time weren't even sure what it was for). My classroom was straight out of the 1920s, with dropped pendant lights and the original chalkboards. In first grade, 1978, the school was renovated. They pulled out all of the old desks, replacing them with the now ubiquitous molded plastic-seated metal-legged desk/chair combos. They dropped the ceilings and installed fluorescent lighting. I remember standing out in the schoolyard, looking at the pile of old wooden desks ready to be taken away, and thinking to myself " This means something". Like I was standing at the edge of the future, looking back at the past. By the mid-1980s we had computers in our classroom.

I sometimes read old magazines from the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and the advertisements really drive home how different the world has become, as far as the mainstream, and the youth culture, and how "plugged in" everyone is now. It's kind of fascinating, this instant information—sorta’ addictive, yet somehow not all that fulfilling.
Generation X was the first youth culture to grow up during the birth of the Information Age, and for this reason, we will be the last to remember a more simple time, which was not all that long ago. We joke about it- the days before cell phones, DVDs, the World Wide Web, and Wii--we’ll tell our children about it like how our elders told us about their trading-stamp booklets, and coonskin caps. The internet forever changed the way we communicate, shop, and do research. What’s cool is how it’s eliminated all sorts of boundaries allowing people to self-publish and promote music, art, writing. It also allows folks who live in the hinterlands, like me, to have access to the same goods and products as city folk. However, I think the human race is bound to go dumb, because the Internet has become an auxiliary memory bank for many of us, myself included. I don't need to remember the actors in that movie anymore, or who wrote that book. I'll just "Google it"! Maybe someday people will stop writing things by hand—maybe those synapses that connect to our brain for that task will simply just wither away from neglect.

There are man-made structures on this planet that have been standing since long before we were born-- ranging from native cliff dwellings, and century old brick storefronts, locally, to ancient temples and villages thousands of years old, globally—and they will remain long after we’re gone. There are things that don’t change—and are remarkable in their constancy. There are giant Sequoias that have been living for more than 1,000 years, and canyons that are still being carved. My time on this planet is brief. I wonder what the legacy of my generation will be, to someone writing history in the next century. What technological and scientific advances are being conjured up at this very moment that might affect the future? What political decisions might change the course of time? It’s fascinating to watch changes happen, all of it, from me personally-- getting older, maybe wiser--to my community, to the world at large.

Speaking of changes--my 20 year reunion. I thought people who went to their 20 year high school reunions were old fogies, but turns out they were all just in their late 30s, like me. Will it be like the movies? Am I going to get bumped on the head and wake up back in 1989? Is someone going to get stabbed with a ball-point pen? Will Romy and Michelle be there with John Cusack? No, probably not. I know it won’t be as exciting as it is in the movies. I’m sure I’ll have lots of boring conversations with people I’ve recently become semi-reacquainted with via Facebook. Lots of reminiscing about Run DMC, Aqua Net and acid-washed jeans. Butts will have grown and hairlines will have shrunk. Photos of children will be shared along with work tale woes, and over-consumption of open-bar booze. Fresh faces and braces giving way to crows feet and canas. We’ve all got some miles on us now, and we’ve never looked better.

Ellen Jo Roberts was born in 1972, and graduated high school in 1989. She has been married to the same dude for 14 years, and driven the same car for 11. She lives in a 95 year old house in Clarkdale, AZ. Read all about it at ellenjo.com