Category: Arizona Desert

No Ordinary Spider

I’d seen the person with a pink guitar playing in front of an abandoned building on Main Street before. I pull into the narrow driveway this time. It’s tight. She sits in front of her minivan which takes half the driveway. The posts supporting the roofless frame that was once a porch don’t allow me to pull straight in. I keep turning to end parallel to the road and in the opposite direction. I’ll have to back out.

I get out and close the truck door. She’s sitting next to an old minivan. The windshield is covered with an assortment of solar panels converting the afternoon into electricity to charge a battery somewhere inside. The traffic noise undulates up and down. Its tempo governed by a traffic signal four block away.

“I broke my G string.” she announces. Dogs start barking in the minivan.

“Oh” I respond.

“Shut up!” she yells at the dogs. “It’s nothin’. Only some guy.”

Turning to me, “I got a new G string but ya gotta wait.” Then opening the door of the minivan, “Get back in there. Ya can’t come out now. I got one in here … where the hell is it.” The sound of dogs scrambling and rummaging through paper bags come from the dark interior of the van.

“I think I’ll get my camera.” I say

“Here it is! Last one. I gotta order some more o’ these. Nobody round here sells ‘em. Least that’s my guess.”

I had to agree that it seemed unlikely that she was going to find a g string in a small desert town.

“You can come back if you want to. I gotta string this.”

“That’s fine. I can wait.”

She sets to removing the broken string and putting the new one in.

“I had a partner. We split everything fifty fifty. She broke more damn strings. Every time she’d get me to buy one but then she never paid her half. I’ll tell ya that partnership didn’t last long. I left her sorry ass sittin’ by the side o’ the road in Palm Springs. And the cops there don’t leave ya set too long I can tell ya. Move on or ya get a free ride to the desert at the edge o’ town.”

“But me, I got my van. Just move on down the road. To wherever I want. I gotta get a new tire. It needs four tires but one is really bad. Don’t need a blow out on the highway. I had that happen and I got screwed. Ya know they just like to take advantage when you’re stuck on the highway. Especially if you’re a woman. Ain’t nothin’ you can do neither. $300 that’s what it cost me. One tire. “

But that ain’t happenin’ to me no more. I took three days off to go to that WRTR their havin’ at the park.

“The Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous?” I ask.

“Yeah. Bob Wells started it. He’s a nice guy. Most men, they just want somthin’ but he’s tries to help us. They made a movie about him. Nomad somethin’. I forget. But I learned about tires at the WRTR. I learned how to read the numbers on the side. My tires is from 2016. Did ya know they got the date right on ‘em if ya know where to look?”

“Now when I go to buy that tire I’m gonna walk in and tell ‘em I need a 60/R-14 and that guy is gonna go, ’Whoa, this lady knows her shit. I ain’t gonna mess with her.’ Yeah, I’m done with men takin’ advantage o’ me.

And I gotta get me a jack. A scissors jack and a … a …. that other kind o’ jack, whatever it is.

She begins tuning the G string. Plink, plink. Turn the thumb screw. Plink, plink. And then begins to sing.

Since it cost a lot to win
And even more to lose
You and me bound to spend some time
Wondering what to choose

It goes to show you don’t ever know
Watch each card you play
And play it slow

Wait until your deal come round
Don’t you let that deal go down.

“That’s one o’ my favorites. Wait until your deal comes round. I hung around So Cal. Made some mistakes. … I walked away. Walked away. I don’t care if Spencer owns the theater no more or if he don’t. Don’t care what the critics say. Bitchers is what I call ‘em ’cause their always bitchin’ about somethin’. Turns out some o’ my friends weren’t real friends. My deal weren’t comin’ around there. Left it all behind.”

“Better off too. Now all I got is in this van. Got no mortgage, no car loan. You look at folks. They look like their doin’ real good but the bank owns everything they got. They’re just slaves, workin’ to pay the next bill. I don’t have much but I don’t owe nothin’. Nothin’! That’s why I’m free to go where I want.”

“My weakness is coffee. I gotta have a cup o’ coffee. And it don’t have to be that fancy Starbucks stuff. That and a burrito will get me through the day. You see folks out here. They get some money they spend it on junk food, fast food. It’s gone and their out beggin’ for more the next day. Not me I get my coffee and burrito and gas if I need it. Then I go to the ATM and put the rest in the bank. That way they can’t steal it from me. And I got somethin’ when I need a tire or somethin’. Watch each card you play and play it slow. Just like the song says.”

I notice the handwritten cardboard sign clipped to her guitar case. “Skooliepalooza or Bust”

“You going to Skooliepalooza?” I ask.

“Yeah, if I got enough money to get that tire. They like my music and they feed me good sometimes. I hope I can go. There must be a tire shop here. I’m gonna find it.

“You want to hear another song?” she says.

Just a box of rain, wind and water
Believe it if you need it
If you don’t just pass it on
Sun and shower, wind and rain
In and out the window
Like a moth before a flame

And its just a box of rain
I don’t know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
Or leave it if you dare

It’s just a box of rain
Or ribbon in you hair
Such a long, long time to be gone
And such a short time to be there.

“That was lovely.” I kneel down and put five dollars in the guitar case. It’s only then I notice the hundred-dollar bill mixed in with the ones and fives and tens.

I look up, “What’s your name?”

“No Ordinary Spider.” she replies.

“No Ordinary … ?”

“Spider. N – O – S. Nos. That’s what my friends call me.”

“I hope you make it to Skooliepalooza Nos.”

“I will. Somehow.”

I went back by the abandoned building the following day, and the day after that. No one was there. Skooliepalooza started that second day.

A few days later I got the coordinates and drove out there. Twenty-eight miles on the freeway and five down a dusty gravel road were nearly a thousand school busses converted to campers and rigs of every description. Kids played in just formed streets bounded by rows of vans, trailers and busses. Adults chatted as they walked along by folks selling their crafts or playing guitar in front of their homes on wheels. A new age village had popped up in the desert virtually overnight. In a week or so it would be gone.

I looked around. Yeah, this is her place. She made it I’m sure.

Such a long, long time to be gone
And such a short time to be there.

No Ordinary Spider

Driving a Desert Road

Organ Pipe National Monument is like Big Bend National Park in one respect. You really have to want to go there. It’s on the Mexican border and only two roads access it. One is paved and goes to a small border crossing. The other is gravel and connected the ranches that used to operate in the area with the border to the south and the town of Ajo, near our campsite, to the north. We chose to return to camp on the gravel road.

Hi Jolly, Camels & Quartzsite

Quartzsite, AZ is a small town of about 3,500 people on Interstate 10 near the Arizona California border. It’s what I call a truck stop town having three truck stops, three fast food joints and seven gas stations along its 2 mile long Main Street. That’s in keeping with the town’s history. It’s been a desert way stop on the way to California since the days of the stagecoach.

If you’re not in a hurry to fuel up and grab a burger you might notice the camels. Not live camels but camel statues and camels on signs. Even the sign announcing that you’re entering Quartzsite has 3 camels on it. It’s at that sign the story begins.

Our Camp in the Desert

This is a brief video showing our camp site in the desert. To put it in context it is about 4 miles outside of the town of Quartzsite, a town of about 3,500 people. The nearest towns are Blythe, CA and Parker, AZ about 25 miles away. The nearest city is Yuma, AZ at about 75 miles. In between are mountains and desert. Much of that land is owned by an arm of the federal government called the Bureau of Land Management or BLM. The BLM manages the land for the benefit of the people of the U. S. That means we can use it for minerals and mining, cattle grazing and recreation which includes camping. It also means the BLM does not provide any services except occasional road grading. Turn off the paved road onto a dirt road and then turn off the dirt road onto a track through the desert and pick your place. So this what we’ve done to get to our camp site.

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