The Case for Walking

Nowhere can you see the realness and the history of where you live better than by foot. You may drive a place every day but until your feet touch its soil, until your eyes stop looking straight ahead but off to the side where a wide set of steps rise like an upside down waterfall leading to a young man with an old school ‘fro texting his girl on the night before his college graduation- will you begin to know a place.

Until you notice just how many people plant rows and rows of lavender along the strip of land after their yard but before the street on the other side of the sidewalk- you won’t understand the generosity of your neighbors and the glory of bees on a summer day.

I passed the cemetery and for the first time realized that a leafy tree stands as a sentinel at the end of even rows of each line of headstones. The grass is exactly even but not mechanized like a modern place, it is still different shades of green from dark to light with some dried grass, yellow and stiff. The rows are more like paths inviting me to follow them and get to know the people who came before.

I found families, a husband who died twenty years before his wife. I kneeled before three headstones of three brothers who all died in different wars. Those people once also walked these streets.

Rounding through town I was stopped by a gaggle of young and lively guys with long dreadlocks and short little songs they busted out in bursts for me. “We’re the rainbow, join us!” I stayed awhile, talked about the Rainbow Gathering coming to Oregon, we talked about their dog and one guy told me I was beautiful. It was generous given that he was a lovely young guy with eyes as blue as any I’d seen.

Walking can boost your morale substantially.

I walked past bus stops and old homes. I saw some trash left by the steps of a stately old place which bragged of its 1888 lineage and I picked it up thinking, it  must be hard to see everything change around you.

I visited with a guy roughly my age carrying a backpack and sleeping bag. He looked clean and was sorting some food as he tucked it away. “It was a good day,” he said smiling. “I see that and I’m glad,” I tipped my head and smiled back. He was about to offer me some of his food but I walked on waving as I passed.

Strangers can be kind for no reason.

I also fell in love with an assorted group of dogs who ran to greet me like their long lost friend. Tails wagging, some singing sorrowful songs urging me to come back and I walked on and I remembered the joy of a good dog. I saw a woman cradling her little black and white dog coming from the vet and kissing the top of her furry head.

Love is so present in the world if you look.

I exchanged dozens of smiles with strangers, witnessed countless acts of awe among children seeing birds and flowers and I never once wished I was in a car despite the sweat which pooled at the back of my neck.

The best moment was in passing a girl, maybe seven or eight, wearing a crisp blue and white dress, a ribbon in her dark wavy hair and the smile on her innocent illuminated face that made years roll backwards to my second grade year. She stood at the top of the stairs outside her home while her grandmother sat smiling that same way on her porch. The girl began waving at strangers and smiling, for no particular reason. She ate an orange popsicle. As I approached the popsicle slipped off its stick into the grass. She observed but didn’t react choosing to continue her waving campaign.

Everything about her gave me hope. I asked if I could capture her picture and I did. I did not ask her a million questions like I might normally do. Frankly I didn’t want to know more than what I could see–the perfect mixture of light and love, innocence and care, playfulness and childish boredom.

If you walk enough you will get bored. Boredom is such a relief. Boredom doesn’t have technology attached or success or failure. It is expansive and allows you to fill it or feel it just as it is. I love boredom.

The case for walking is great. It is good for every part of you except your oh so busy schedule. So here’s the best case for it beyond all others–walk because you do not have time to do it. Break free of your calendar and make the room for walking and seeing and loving and speaking to strangers, and flirting and being bored.




Traveling Like Crazy; a short story

Slab City, California, USA.

This is the place where people go who have nowhere else, who’s future and past collide into a present tense of impossibility. It looks like it sounds. The sun cooks up the ground into untidy cracks but it doesn’t cook it enough to erase the smell or evaporate the trash from hundreds, sometimes thousands of people living entirely off grid.

The Slabs is roughly a 90 minute drive from Palm Springs in the Imperial Desert, 65 miles north of Calexico and a few minutes from East Jesus-literally.


E.J. is an impromptu art installation on the road to Slab City. Artists use the trash from the Slab to make eccentric, politically challenging and quirky art amidst the nothingness of dirt and garbage and loneliness. East Jesus looks at you daring you to be anxious. If you don’t do it–if you stay calm and let yourself smile at the giant tray of spoons–you will be changed. It’s hard to say exactly how, but you feel it in the way that a certain song makes you cry. A nerve is touched and now it has sensation and memory of sensation and it’s own life outside you.

That is the East Jesus affect.

The entire drive through sand past the glimmering yet deeply foul Salton Sea, past abandoned shacks and mis-placed businesses slammed between date groves is sensation on salted wound. A road from nothing to nowhere.

The Slabs are left over from a military installation which pulled up stakes more than 40 years ago and today is occupied by people who show up in RV’s and cars, who sleep in tents, hammocks and home-made homes. It’s a self governing, free to squat  place with a dash of Hunter S. Thompson thrown in for the art of living oddly.


It’s the end of the world as we know it post apocalyptic wild west side show of people who run out of money, will, ability or patience with “normal” society.

There are 200 in August when the temperatures hit 124 and 2,000 in January when Canadians in mansions on wheels show up to soak up the weirdness and freeness of the desert. While the demographics and bank accounts shift with the seasons, old timers like George who runs a mis-matched trailer encampment which he rents out year round says it’s all the same kind of folks. Those who want to save money and don’t want to be bothered by the politeness of others. Essentially the draw at The Slabs is being left the hell alone. At least some of the time.


There’s no electricity, running water-hot or cold-and no flush toilets. There’s dirt and some concrete slabs. That covers all the amenities.

There’s open mic night at The Range which looks like a scene from a twenty-somethings coming of age film with crooked and leaning stage, old couches with foam flying in all directions and a bar made of scrap wood hammered together by a blind or drunken man. They come there to sing to each other and recite poetry once per week, normally on Fridays. When asked if the performances are good most say, “Not really.”


Somewhere in the miles of nothing is also a library and down the “road” an internet cafe which feels like a university student union. People hunker down and rifle their phones  within range of wi-fi. Politics is spoken but rarely argued. Drop outs and loan dodgers, disabled people, senior citizens and anarchist travelers tour each other’s states of mind about nearly any subject where most all conversations begin and end with a funny line and a snicker. Leaving is done one way, a wave of a peace sign over the shoulder and sometimes, “one love, one love.”

Just outside the internet cafe resides a man who calls himself Spyder and he’s the apparent rock star, mayor, Zen Master and builder of Slab City. He has half a manufactured home, a trailer, a truck and an RV. His RV has a rare thing, a hot running shower and radio. He has scrounged parts and created a solar panel and pump system to make it work.

His half of a home is in repair mode. The walls and floor are filled in, the kitchen is nearly functional with another solar rig and pump, his two kids have their own bedrooms. The bathroom in the half house doesn’t work but the RV is next door so the “Kids can shower before school. That’s important.”


Soon Spyder’s place will have another comfort. He’s hand digging and lining a septic system so the family can use a flush toilet. He trucks in huge drums of water weekly.

“I couldn’t really make it out there. I was abandoned as a baby by my mother and put in the foster system where I was given to a family who didn’t just beat me-they tortured me. My back is wrecked, I never really learned to read or write and I’ve got a bunch of other scars.  I tried working out there doing handy jobs and anything I could get but I still kept winding up homeless–then I heard about this place. You can be what you want to be out here and if you work hard you get to keep the result of your labor. I can’t see ever going back.”

He stands in the sun looking around, sweat is dripping down his shirtless chest and he wipes his face and says it’s time he get back to work.

There’s an agricultural canal which runs behind The Slabs about half a mile or so from Spyder’s place. People speak of swimming and bathing in it especially in the fall when it’s hot and the water is still high due to water releases for late crops. They say it’s a beach, an inland paradise when it gets really hot.  But it’s actually a long, shallow edged and deep centered waterway which smells of farm waste and chemicals. It’s an odd shade of green but it’s moving water in the desert. That’s as good as it gets.

This is not a place for the germaphobe or picky person.

Slab City has its joiners and loners, cool folk and angry outliers, all of them cheap skates and free loaders who have an aversion to loans and taxes and working all week to pay for a house that owns them and demands more upgrades. For the most part the dwellers of The Slab aren’t keen on government or cities or much to do with the world outside. However, it would not be accurate to say they’re lazy and don’t want to work.

Showing up with a tent in the white hot center of a huge desert with zero water or power does not allow anyone here to be lazy. Surviving is an entry level position and living with handmade upgrades like a roof and floor is the corner office. Nothing along the chain here is achieved without sun up to sun down work and innovation.


Learning how to innovate is a daily occupation. Inventions will be born at Slab City.

Within two days of chumming around The Slabs, I find I’m eyeballing spots near roads but away from others. I’m evaluating sun angles and looking for smooth slabs and proximity to a decent path in and out. I’m creating a gear list: rope, tarps, big jugs for water, car batteries, propane tanks, camp stoves and lights. Shovels-one for digging large holes and one for a bathroom. I get hung up on the bathroom part but keep mumbling, ‘I really think I could do this and enjoy it.’

It’s not realistic. Yet……

When traveling like crazy, be prepared to be crazy. Meeting people in their odd smells, off grid pre-occupations, eccentricities and realities does not allow ambivalence. The mammalian response is to respond–to blend and join. The Slab City joiner/non joiner is a flag flying proudly for a country not yet invented. It’s the pirate ship or tropical island where mis-fits fit.

Nothing could be more pleasing.

Driving back in the pink sunset of the desert toward alleged civilization an isolation draped itself around my car.  I powered on through worlds, picked up a hitch hiker who refused to give her name and stopped for dinner where I was the only woman in a crowded restaurant and eventually found myself at the bizarre and magical Miracle Baths Hotel where a suite near the massage closet was available.

Floating under a dark sky in a pool filled with bath water listening to the conversation in Russian nearby and recalling an earlier one about why they don’t want us to know about aliens, the thought came in clearly that traveling like crazy is among the best ways to stay sane.









#Skinny in 90 days. #Free.

“Really you’re fifty two?” He said, eyes kind of squinting.

“Yes. You thought older huh?”

“Yea, I kind of did. Sorry.”

Here’s what I did to answer him. Steps that work for everyone and cost nothing:

1) I dropped sugar. It was hard at first but once I got used to it which took about two to three weeks it was cake..or should I say carrot.

2) I walked. Instead of taking the car around town and fussing with a parking space I just set out on foot instead. If there were stairs I took them, if there was a hill I walked it. Now if I don’t get a long walk in a day I feel out of sorts. Low impact, no vomiting or heart racing, just walk a little faster each day and you’re there. When you walk you drink more water naturally. That helps your skin look a lot better.

3) Stretch and breathe deeply. Do it early and often. Take three deep breaths into your belly whenever you can, in your car, in the store wherever. When you get up do a little stretching, touch the toes or ankles, move at the waist, lift your arms and open wide. If you’ve been sitting a while stretch. This will reduce tension so you don’t eat thoughtlessly or nervously. I want to also suggest meditation in this routine. Even ten minutes helps.

4) Reduce noise. Strange right? But keeping some silence resets your mind in positive ways. Don’t keep the tv on, in the car go without music, sit for a few minutes at work or wherever you are and be quiet. This ability to be still will increase your intuition. Being able to hear yourself will help you make better choices all the way around for improved health.

5) Okay. You know I have to say it. Eat better. Drink less alcohol. Drinking wine every night or even three to four nights per week will age you. You’ll have saggy eyes and circles. Replace the habit with hot tea. Eat foods rich in vitamins and water–that means veggies and fruits. You don’t need a special smoothie recipe. Eat fruit and drink water in the morning. Have some spinach and dark green leafy foods at lunch and dinner. Cut back on everything that is not a fruit or a veggie.

6) Oil up that skin and brush those teeth. You can buy an expensive face and eye cream or if your skin is dry like most of us over fifty use plain old olive oil at night. Don’t slather it on but use a dime or nickel size and rub it in, including your neck. Don’t forget your hands and feet too. Nothing says old like gnarly hands and feet. Brush and floss twice a day to keep your teeth white and youthful. Try using lemon if your teeth aren’t sensitive, it’s a natural bleach.

7) Keep your hair. Don’t wash your hair every day unless it’s absolutely needed and try not to use a lot of styling products and hot irons. This is death for your aging and drier hair. If you can live with it let your hair just sit on your head unperturbed. Style it with your hands and let it move around. Hair, like you now, dreams of being free.

8) Swelling ankles. We hold water, it makes us swell and it feels bad. Use a pillow and prop your legs up at night, higher than your chest. During the day remember to give your ankles a break and prop them on your desk or wherever you can. Drink even more water than you are now. The more the water, the less swelling.

9) Kick up your heels. Nothing says young like a happy, energetic person. Dance, go listen to music, meet your friends out, watch things that make you laugh. Listen to your own thoughts and find humor. We’re not really meant to be taken seriously nor to be happy and content all the time. The content happy ones got eaten by dinosaurs. Sometimes you’ll feel sad or discontent. It’s no big deal. Find the joy in allowing yourself to be authentic.

10) Don’t try so hard. You’re okay. One day you’re going to die anyway and all that stuff you’re trying to take care of and those things you’re doing will go with you–if you don’t believe it go to an estate sale sometime. Life is meaningless. Leave it to human beings to think this huge Universe born of an explosion is all about us and our purpose. It’s random. Even if it’s not random and there is a destiny–you don’t know it and you probably won’t know the whole thing no matter how in tune you are. So take out an insurance policy-do this one thing- be kind. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Have fun, laugh easily, hug people, hug your dog. Lose your mind and find your heart. Fall in love, have sex. It’s all good. You are all good. Honestly.

I’m not a model or a big or even small financial super star. I have no best selling books and I do not do coaching. Thank God or the Universe or the random luck of it all  for that which is and is not. But one year later I have lost twenty five pounds, have a big old crop of hair, improving skin and I am a whole lot happier with a whole lot less stuff both tangible and intangible.

So here’s one final tip: being healthy and happy should NOT COST YOU MONEY. If you are paying for it, cancel the check. Good food is available in the same store as bad food, getting fit is about getting moving. Unless you are training to be an athlete you don’t need to pay for anything, get moving. You’ll know what do. Stretching and breathing is free and so is sitting in the quiet.  Do not buy stuff, hire people or think you need a guide. You got this. Free.

You’re welcome.