Note: The following is a short excerpt from my travel journal. We now have a cassette toilet, which is even better. *Disclaimer: We were only at Walmart because it was the only place open. and we were D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E.
“What kind of cat do you have?” She asked.
I don’t even remember what city this was in, although I know for sure it was at some weird sad hour, at some weird sad Walmart. Fresno? Bakersfield?
The check-out lady looked at us both expectedly.
Did we have the swagger to be tabby people? Had we taken in a sick stray?
She was still waiting for an answer.
My husband, Reid, just looked at me and smiled, saying nothing. He was suddenly very busy carefully placing the correct US currency onto the counter. His blue eyes twinkled with comic delight.
We both knew that there was no cat.
Or, more plainly: The cat was me.
Who would laugh first?
Could she handle the truth?
No, no. It would spoil this perfectly absurd moment, and these were the deliciously funny scenarios that made our life together so fun.
“A big kitty,” I managed to reply, grabbing the handle of the heavily marked-down jug of Fresh Step, promising us an “odor free household” that would not embarrass us in front of our family nor offend the delicate sensibilities of our guests.
I ran toward the automatic doors as quickly as possible, a familiar pang in my right shoulder. This thing weighed less than my Fender guitar amp, but not by much.
“No, YOU have a great night!”
It was nighttime in Central California in late spring and the parking lot was still hot. Everything smelled like muggy cow, or broccoli. I always imagined this smell to be literal cow farts.
I promptly poured the litter into our new “camp toilet” and slammed the lid tight, shoving it into the dark corner of the van where I guessed it now “lived:” Under the bolted-down standing tool chest where we kept our camp stove and plates; to the right of the raised loft bed that hovered over our guitars and amps, which were safely locked away beneath the lower hull.
My sister had bought me a “Go Girll” for Christmas—a piece of hollow plastic that allows women to stand up and pee more or less like a guy in any sticky situation. It was a useful tour gift, but this was even better. I’d deal with the problematic sanitation aspects of this whole thing tomorrow.
Our six-month old Ram Promaster 1500 had become less and less like an expensive, hulking stranger parked out front of our suburban San Luis Obispo, Ca home and more like a friend’s tree house we slept over at a lot.
Reid, aka Dr. Cain (That’s “Dr. Captain to you,”) slid into the clock pit of the ship. He had earned the added title of captain, I felt. He had built cabinets and screwed in hooks, heeding my nagging request for more storage space to stow clothes (even though I had forgone my elaborate vintage ensembles for band tees and mini skirts in preparation for the move).
When space is limited, you must edit.
We’d basically started with a large metal box, and now it felt kind of “homey.”
Reid started the engine as I leaned against the bed, standing fully upright as he backed out (a major selling point for us—being able to fully stand up). We are also relatively compact people, which means I could wear a tall Dolly Parton wig in here (you know, if I really wanted to).
With some guilt, I thought of our old cramped 2002 Ford E150: The van we first toured in together eight years ago. The van we’d had our first make out sessions in. It was even in our wedding photos. We’d rolled 600,000 miles on it the summer before, on our way up to Seattle and back, before selling it to a guy who worked construction.
Another chapter, another van.
I secured the cabin, shutting and locking the cabinet doors and drawers, bracing myself for lift-off. Then I peeled off my sneakers and tossed them in the hamper, stuffed behind the extra chair we kept in the van when we traveled with a third person, which was always a drummer). One day I vowed to collect a string of wallet sized photos of all of my drummers, so I can show them off to strangers.
The extra chair also worked as a launch-pad for our chi-weenie dog Peyton Manning, who had tentatively begun learning how to bounce from floor-to-chair-to-bed-and-bed-to-chair-to-floor.
Mavis, now one million years old, still had to be carried up and down. We will forever call 2019 her Golden Year Farewell Tour.
Reid stepped on the gas and we roared down the open road, the hot breeze still heavy with chemical fertilizer. In the back, standing there barefoot, It felt a lot like surfing.
“Ok kitty? Where to?”