Quartzsite: Frozen Eggs and Giant Freezers

It has now been a year since moving to the snowbird nesting home of Quartzsite, Arizona. Also known as the final resting place of Hi Jolly, the man who immigrated to help Uncle Sam’s Camel Corps work on a daily basis, this desert “oasis” for the elderly is interesting to say the least.

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It has now been a year since moving to the snowbird nesting home of Quartzsite, Arizona. Also known as the final resting place of Hi Jolly, the man who immigrated to help Uncle Sam’s Camel Corps work on a daily basis, this desert “oasis” for the elderly is interesting to say the least.  In many ways the phrase second childhood could apply to most of the temporary denizens of this RV wonderland.

In retrospect, the area is much colder in January 2016 than last year’s winter chill. A head start in the latter days of December 2015 with temperatures that dipped below freezing on a regular basis in the night,  cold has taken on new meaning. Not only that but it has also changed the purpose of certain items.

Most notable, the humble refrigerator was transformed into  giant freezer. Every single liquid item, including eggs, became solid examples of their natural state.  Green tea, bottled water, a “bag” of vegetable soup, milk, an energy drink and 10 eggs all were transformed into rock hard immoveable objects.

The eggs did have web-like cracks over the ice cold shells.  After hoping on the Internet to double-check, it was found that one could cook once frozen eggs without fear of contracting botulism or salmonella.  At least according to numerous websites, unless the raw eggs were stored in an device crawling with harmful bacteria, the icy yolks and whites could be thawed and cooked.

After moving the carton of ice-eggs to another fridge, one that was not altered by the constant lower temperature of under 32 degrees Fahrenheit, they became somewhat less frozen, and more “slushy-like” and able to be cooked.  These frozen eggs fried up nicely, in a bit of oil, and tasted “normal” on bits of toast.

It has been discovered that the main fridge is still operating as a giant freezer…All liquid denizens are still icy and hard as a rock, with the exception of a partially filled plastic jug of apple juice. Just why the juice has not become one with the cold and, at the very least, turned into a sort of icy sludge, is not known.

If one Googles the answer, it appears that apple juice contains more sugar and this keeps the freezing rate pretty well contained. As fascinating as all this is, the one thing that the intense, and unusual, cold has not changed, is the amount of Snowbirds flocking into Quartzsite in the New Year.

2016 has seen a massive influx of these geriatric teenagers and  octogenarian young oldsters.  The vendors have doubled and tripled in sized and scope in the last few weeks and the legion of RVs, ATVs and motorbikes have quadrupled. Outside the tents, where one can buy anything from cool sunglasses to various kitchen utensils, a plethora of vehicles now rest, temporarily, while their aged drivers waddle, limp and trot throughout the vendors wares on offer.

There is also an increase in the desert rat brigade, the hippies and love children, not, apparently the same thing, and beggars line the entrances, when the sun shines, of fast-food eateries along the main drag as well as outside the General and Dollar Store.

As a point of interest, these grubby and lost individuals have been forced to move on from a  facility that contains an ATM. This does not stop buskers (musicians) from playing their instruments for change until being moved on by the shop or restaurant owners.

There are those who seem to beg on a professional basis, one woman sports a new car and a sign which proclaims her need. This professional pan-handler wants money for petrol (gasoline) so she can visit her dying daughter, who suffers from a different ailment each week. She is moved on regularly, even the major personally called the 5-Oh to push her along. .

Of course with the new year just being days old and it still being the weekend, this snowbird paradise is chock-a-block (full to the brim) with both the returning population and those who are passing through. California license plates fill the car parks (parking lots) and each fast food eatery is filled to heaving with the hungry, loud, obnoxious and ill mannered.

Children who will, no doubt, all grow up to be as annoying as the 20 something’s who all appear to suffer from ADD, or ADHD and are incapable of sitting quietly, or still.  They are in good company, as most of the elderly enter the dining areas with hearing aides either turned off or down and seem incapable of carrying on a conversation in decent decibel levels.

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While writing about the indigenous population of Quartzsite, Arizona could become a full-time occupation, the setting sun and dipping temperature mandate an early finish to the working day. Riding a bicycle along roads populated by drivers who have little business being behind the wheel of a peddle tricycle, let alone a huge motorized death machine, is hazardous at best and nerve-wracking to the extreme. All the more so after dark.

In order to arrive alive at home,  do not be deceived this writer has been forced off the road and clipped by an elderly driver before and has almost been hit several times by the same type of vehicle operator, it is prudent to depart while there is enough light for both the driver and the bicyclist to see by.

As the cold weather continues, and the stream of snowbirds, and new vendors, keep pouring in, it will be interesting to see what happens next.

 

Life in the Real Desert: Death is a Red Car

Red Volkswagen sans heavy set woman driver
While the urge to apologize is almost overwhelming, I will post this Life in the Real Desert sans soppy sorries and jump straight in. Death, I have learned, is a red car. A Volkswagen Beetle, current model and the driver is a middle aged woman of Mexican lineage, or possible Native American, and the portly lady wears glasses that are coke bottle thick. Were it not for sheer luck and the later warnings of two lorry drivers on break, my life would have ended a three weeks ago.

On my daily pilgrimage back from the local town, I was on the long straight stretch of road that runs between a pest control warehouse and the “Super 8” hotel. Both sides of the road are covered in aggregate, sand and rock. In the evening, around 6 or 7 o’clock, there are not many drivers out and about and it is usually this spot where I stop for my first gulp of water and where, if it is hot enough, I take off my shirt for the remainder of the ride home.

The night that I met death, and defeated it, it was not too hot, but it was uncomfortable enough to warrant removing my vest, aka T-Shirt. Coasting on the edge of the paved road, I pulled off onto the aggregate just as a red Beetle passed through the space on the road that a scant second previously I, and my trusty Schwinn, had occupied.

Practically falling off the bike, I stared at the vehicle, which was moving so slowly that I could have caught up to the driver by walking quickly. As I watched, the car crept forward and swung out to the right as it began a long leisurely about-face in the road ahead. When the car was facing my way again, it pulled over onto the aggregate shoulder and sat idling.

The driver, as mentioned above, was a heavy set female, black hair with grey shot-through and thick glasses. The lenses distorted her eyes, making them look insectile and huge. I froze and waited to see if I could be quick enough to get out of this mad woman’s way when she headed back to town. After a moment she took off, hugging the shoulder on her side of the road.

I stood watching the spotless red Volkswagen move slowly towards the truck stop and the entrance to the highway. When she drove out of sight, I turned and shakily got back on my bike. The thoughts running through my head had to do with luck and timing saving the day. I was so rattled that the T-Shirt stayed on and I continued on toward the hotel.

Two men, lorry drivers, stood outside the back of the building next to the road. They were drinking either Red Bull or some local equivalent. As I approached the two chaps they turned toward me staring. I checked to make sure I had my pepper spray handy, as a precautionary measure since it was getting dark, and one leaned toward me.

“You want to move man, she’s not looking,” he said. His companion repeated the warning, “Yeah, get off the road man, she is not looking at all.” The alarm in his voice got me onto the aggregate once again and just as before, the red Volkswagen Beetle passed the space that I had just vacated by nano seconds.

One of the drivers muttered something about the driver and I said, “That’s the second time she almost got me.” I never stopped the bike and kept pedaling, attempting to put as much distance between me and death as possible. Around 10 minutes later, I heard a car coming up behind me. With my heart in my throat I zoomed off the road and onto the shoulder.

It was not the red death car but a truck. While this driver did not give up too much space on the road, he did not get close enough to run me down either.

Later, as I sat sweating in the night heat, I reflected on the way the woman had driven and then sat looking at me with those huge eyes magnified by glasses so thick that they did not look real.

I got the shakes. The way you do when surviving a close call and having the gravity of situation hit all at once.

In my mind I could see myself not leaving the road the first time. The bug-eyed woman would have driven slowly over me and my own red vehicle. I would be knocked down and under those Beetle wheels, which would roll over my bones crushing them as I screamed in agony. This vision was so real and disturbing that for the next two weeks, if I heard a car coming up behind me on the road, I would scramble off and on the shoulder, heart racing and blood rushing to my head.

Finally, I have calmed down enough that I do not see that heavy woman and her red instrument of death sitting on the side of the road and looking myopically in my direction, in my mind’s eye. I have racked my brain wondering who I may have upset enough to try to run me down, in slow motion, not once but twice, turning around and having another go but missing each time.

Who ever it was has left me with a phobia about red Volkswagens, not to mention one’s driven by visually challenged heavy set Latino women who do not go faster than a crawl. All the better to drive quietly and sneak up behind someone to run them down.

Quartzsite Library Unfair to Vet and Pensioner

Picture of Quartzsite Library
Think of this title as a placard. A rectangular bit of cardboard atop a 1×4 stick of wood hoisted in the overly hot Arizona air held by the sweaty and angry hand of a USAF Veteran and ill health pensioner from HMPS standing in front of the “unfair” Quartzsite Library. A 56 year-old man who is temporarily “down on his uppers” as they say and more than a little annoyed at the condescending attitude by one member of staff at the local public library.

Over a week ago, I was in the local library near the door, which is the least freezing part of the facility, using my laptop to watch Hulu, write reviews, email and do other chores on my website. My MacBookPro was plugged into the electrical socket under the row of computers for free use in the library. As I plunked away at the keys, a lady volunteer (who has been rather short with me before) sauntered past and stopped abruptly.

“Is that plugged it?” she asked. Pointing at my Mac with her voice raising she continued, “You are not allowed to charge your things in here.”

I stopped typing, “Yes it’s plugged in, but it isn’t charging as it is fully charged. I’m just trying to keep it that way.” I smiled.

“You can’t do that, it is not allowed,” she said. Reaching down I unplugged my offending MacBookPro. “You are welcome to use the free computers,” she continued, “and you can use your laptop but only on battery.”

“Well,” I asked, “Could you tell me why using the same electricity for my laptop that a computer would be using is not allowed?”

No answer. She whirled around and headed back to her station behind the check out desk. I followed. “Is there someone I can talk to about using my laptop without the battery instead of the computer. I have software on my Mac that is not on your Window’s system that I need for my website.”

In a tone laden with frosty overtones she repeated that I could use my laptop with the battery. I then explained that my poor old battery only ran for about an hour or so.

Looking down her nose at me she said loftily, “Sounds like it’s time to get a new battery.” My “Hulk” meter immediately shot up to the very top and before “greening out” I replied. “No, sounds like its time to go someplace else. Good day.”

I was seething. Not just because of the obvious; if I could afford to purchase a new Apple battery with a longer life then I would not be using their free WiFi along with every homeless desert rat for five miles around. I would be at home, or in the Internet Cafe, which costs money to access their WiFi, it was mainly because of her sh*tty and snotty attitude that my anger levels hit danger levels.

Since being in Quartzsite, I have tried to be polite and friendly to all I meet. This is my home for the moment and I intend to “be a good neighbor.” The only denizens I am not nice to are the ones who feel the need to run me off the road on my bike or act in manner less friendly than I would like.

So I am boycotting the library as a result of this volunteer’s poor and insulting attitude. After telling my chums at Burger King, where I now go everyday to access their free, and stronger, WiFi, they suggested that I should complain. I did, but apparently neither the library or the town manager, who is at the top of this local food chain, read their emails. I have not gotten reply to either message of inquiry.

I do not ask for an apology, but I would still like the question answered about the plugging in of the laptop. If one looks at the “posted” rules in the actual facility there is nothing about just using your battery. Still, they have lost not only a customer but any good will that I’d been harboring for the other volunteers who were, admittedly, very nice to an old guy who talked funny.

So, until I get an answer to one of my emails, please picture me with a placard in hand stating that “Quartzsite Library are Unfair to Vet and Pensioner.”

Life in the Real Desert: A Moment in Time

Picture of green meteorite
Taking time to sort my site out for inclusion into more places on the Internet, such as Alltop.com which is a pretty good place to find websites that specialize in certain things, and trying to fix a backend problem, which is actually a whole lot less personal than it sounds, my blog portion of my site has suffered. Add to that a big dollop of “I feel sorry for myself” along with fighting the ever increasing heat and I’ve been focussing on movies, television and the odd celebrity news instead of my more personal views of the world.

All of this kerfuffle is taking place among the amazing “real” life in the Arizona desert and two nights ago a “moment in time” caught my attention and fired up my imagination; bringing out my inner child for a frozen space of time. Reminding me that all of life is made up of moments in time, some more beautiful than others.

For a week, after the sun has gone down, the mercury has not. Temperatures stay at over 100 degrees and the wind that blows from the south is hot, arid and around 11 to 12 miles per hour, if not into the 20s. Riding back the night before last, my eyes were streaming tears non-stop as it felt like I had a hair dryer blowing directly into my exposed sockets all the way home.

Getting into the house after the ride, my eyes were sore, gritty and hot. I pondered getting some goggles to replace my glasses, that were lost in Las Vegas and fell asleep seconds after setting down.

The next night, the temperature dropped to below 100, around 97 and the weather site stated that it felt like 93. (Every time I think of the temperature I hear Pvt. Hudson from Aliens in my head stating with forced, and fake, jocularity “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat!”) Wind speed was only around 9 miles per hour and did not feel like it was being sent from the gates of Hell. With my shirt off it was a pretty pleasant ride back home on my trusty Schwinn.

At the midpoint, around three miles from home, I stopped for my congratulatory drink of water. Silence surrounded me broken only by my permanent tinnitus and I looked around at a desert lit by the small sliver of moon and one very bright star.

Off to my left stands the deserted house that I’ve yet to visit and take pictures of and as I peered through the night in that direction, I saw it.

A meteorite that could only have been a quarter of a mile, or less, away was streaking down diagonally to the desert floor and only about 50 feet from the ground. It was large enough that as it burned bright green and red it lit up that portion of the hardpan. At the exact moment I spied this visitor from space even my tinnitus fell silent. The entire incident took place in muffled quiet and time spun out making this tiny incident feel much longer than the few seconds it really encompassed.

Standing there in awe I pondered that if I had not been there in that exact spot, where I stop every night on the way home, this marvel would have been missed. I also had an epiphany of sorts. Life, I decided is a series of moments in time, each insignificant on their own but when added up equal an importance of earth shattering magnitude.

I got back on my bike and peddled into the faint warm wind and, looking nervously at the sky over my head, also realized that luckily, I was over on this section of the desert when the thing from space plummeted to the ground. At the speed that thing travelled, had I been “over there” I’d never have known what had hit me…

Life in the Real Desert: Sleeping in a Cloudy Oven

Cloudy sky in Quartzsite, AZThe real desert is cloudy today. It has a solid covering of dark hues which cries occasionally and lets a few dry tears plummet to earth. Striking tin roofs with a clunky, non-melodic rhythm that is short lived yet oddly comforting. The covering floated in yesterday, slowly filling the vast Arizona sky with something that resembled peaceful candy floss (cotton candy) with varying tints of color. The temperature was a cool 106 degrees Fahrenheit despite the lack of direct sun and sleeping in this stuporous heat felt like being in a cloudy oven.

I tweeted, at half 10 last night, that the temperature was a staggering 91 degrees. I watched RIPD, with Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Louise Parker (whom I have a huge schoolboy crush on, sorry Mary) and Kevin Bacon while baking on high for the duration. The heat from my laptop was a little worrying on top of all that external heat. I checked and the mercury inside the house was standing at 99 degrees and I switched the thing off afterward.

Until then, I sat with all windows open and a pedestal fan scant inches from my face and the laptop. I sat oozing sweat and battled the elements in order to be fair to the comedy action film. (After all that “suffering” I found I did enjoy the film after all.)

Around midnight I gave up waiting for the heat to drop much further, the gauge outside on the porch read 82, and I crawled, sans PJs into bed. I lay on top of the sheets with fluid leaking in a steady stream from the back of my neck. By the time morning came, a cool 78 degrees for around two minutes, I was semi-rested from sleeping in a giant Arizona-sized oven and my top pillow was drenched.

I have been told that July and August resemble hell on earth and I must agree with that description after living in Vegas last year and seeing that Quartzsite is hotter than the casino town on a regular basis. Still what does not kill you, or dehydrate you, makes you stronger they say and after last night’s turbulent sleep I am not too tired this morning.

Unfortunately I will not be heading to town today as thunderstorms have been forecast and I do not want to cross the desert on a metal bike inviting lightning to strike me and my Schwinn. Of course there is the paranoia that my MacBookPro gets soaking wet thereby stopping my sporadic memoir writing and the chances of being paid by another content mill for journo pieces. I do have a waterproof bit of stuff that I wrap the thing in, but between the wind, rain and lightning, sitting today out seems wise.

It was interesting, and not a little disturbing, to see that the cloud cover kept the heat in over night. Generally on a clear day, besides being able to see “forever” the heat dissipates once the sun goes down. By half 11 or so the temperature has lowered enough to allow something resembling sleep. Even on the hottest clear day, the mornings are pleasantly cool.

Sitting here now, in the Arizona room, I can see the wind pick up. The sound of rain hitting the roof is slowly increasing in volume, not of a decibel level but amount, and the sky is becoming a more uniform color, grey without so much black mixed in. Rather interestingly there has been a lot of rain since my arrival.

Meanwhile, life in the real desert goes on and tonight I’ll wager that sleeping in a cloudy oven will not be an issue since the weather has driven the mercury down for the day. Looking at the forecast, the average temperature will be around 106 over the next week or so which means spending a lot of time in Burger King and the public library. An unexpected bonus of living in this environment is that I’ve met some lovely folks at the local eatery and managed to lose most of the tummy pod that I’ve carried with me for years.

9 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith