Remember how I was bitching about about feeling like I’m stuck on a treadmill set to max speed? Well, guess what — the fucker wasn’t even AT max speed; I found that out when shit really got cranking these past couple of weeks. Come to find out, I didn’t know what “max speed” even meant….apparently, my life goes to eleven!!!
The minute I returned from rambling around Arizona with my sis, it was on. After unpacking, doing laundry and cleaning my house,etc., I got back to the business of hustling for gigs….and holy living Christ on a horse, what an avalanche!!
It all started innocuously enough, with my annual Super Bowl gig as a showgirl at my neighbor’s party — she works for a local Italian restaurant (casadiamore.com), and they throw this HUGE party every year at one of the hotels. It’s a fun and easy gig — just walk around and schmooze with the patrons, taking photos and whatnot, then leave at the end of halftime, by which time everyone is so wasted they don’t even notice if I’m there or not.
But this year, I had an idea — I had just returned from 10 days camping in the Arizona desert, so my armpits were pretty gnarly. I happened to have a can of green hairspray around the house, so before I left for the gig, I sprayed my armpit hair green and posted a “Go, Seahawks!” photo on Instagram (the Seahawks’ colors are green and blue). Of course, I shaved them before actually leaving for the party (because, you know…society)….but what a shame; it would have been super funny if I’d had one armpit green and the other red, so that depending on the allegiance of the patron I was posing with, I could raise that arm into the air: “Gooooo New England!!”
Speaking of showgirls, if you had told me 10 years ago that I would one day find work as a showgirl in Vegas, I would have laughed my ass off. Me? A showgirl?!? I’m short, flat-chested and I can’t dance to save my life!!!! But astonishingly, I did two other turns as a showgirl recently. First, a magician friend who has an events production company hired me to work as a sort of ring girl at the World Finals of Indoor Archery!
This is one of the things I love about Vegas — all the weird little niche events going on here, all the time. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as indoor archery, let alone a fiercely competitive world final…but here were all these people from all over the world, who had spent tons of time and money getting to this level, duking it out for the title (and the cash prize). It was intense!!
All we really had to do was walk around schmoozing and then going out with a sign at the start of each round — like at a boxing match, only here I was walking a gauntlet of international archers armed to the teeth with pointy fiberglass arrows. YIKES!
To make matters worse, I’ve been having a tough time sleeping lately, so one night I ate a half a pot cookie to help conk me out….and as much as I love edibles for their sleep-enhancing qualities, the devil with them is not knowing when they’ll wear off. So one of the days I worked, I was still in a sort of fog, strutting around in my feathers and sequins and whatnot like I was floating on a cloud. A cloud made of pointy sharp fiberglass. Talk about surreal!
Meanwhile, everyone was baked at another gig I did — the CHAMPS tradeshow (a/k/a the stoner expo). CHAMPS is a show for anyone in the smokeshop industry — pipe makers, glass blowers, fake-pee-kit-manufacturers and odor-eliminating candlemakers…you know what I’m talking about. I was working for a repeat client, this company called SunshineJoy that makes trippy 3-D psychedelic tapestries. Last time I worked for them, I ended up buying half their inventory and taking it to Burning Man, where it was a huge hit…they really are bad-ass tapestries. All I really had to do was stand around all day exhorting people to come into the booth and put on a pair of 3D glasses, so it was pretty chill….but let me tell you, I’m pretty sure I was the only sober person there!!
Being surrounded by all those stoners was actually depressing, in a way — the vendors had their shit together (for the most part), but so many of the attendees were baked out of their gourds that it was pretty sad. I’m a huge fan of smoking weed myself, but I only do it as a reward at the end of a hard day’s work (Burning Man aside, LOL)…I can’t imagine walking around all day trying to function in that state. Also, I noted that most stoner models are pretty tore up — like any trade show, the exhibitors at CHAMPS hire booth babes to help promoted their products, and some of the girls I saw walking around were busted as fuck!!! Cellulite-y asses, shitty tattoos, fucked-up makeup…..ugh!!!! Meanwhile, no one would hire me in my Mary Jane showgirl outfit. Whatever!!!
But on the whole it was a fun show, and I ran into many of my industry pals like my buddy Jeffrey Peterson the 420 comic, who was down from Denver and gave me a copy of his new stoner comic book…and my friends at Pyptek, who hooked me up with a super-sweet new pink Prometheus piece. Let me tell you, I hit that fuckin’ piece with a vengeance when that show was over. Like I said, a reward for a hard day’s work well done 🙂
Aside from hum-drum gigs as a showgirl and a stoner booth babe, I also spent one fabulous day out in the wonderful desert sunshine doing one of my all-day photo excursions (see my Modeling tab for more info). This time, I was hired by a Canadian photographer who ended up bringing another model and several other photographers, all from Calgary, along for the day. It was really fun! We all piled into their rented minivan and we took off for three of my favorite locations, shooting for an hour or two at each. Everyone got great shots, and a great time was had by all.
Incidentally, a photographer recently told me that I have a “very good reputation up in Calgary.” I’m not sure how that happened, but I do know that I’ve been getting quite a few bookings from Candians lately. Someday I hope to be able to travel up to Canada myself for some shoots…but I have this pesky DUI on my record, so you fuckers won’t let me into your country :-/ So in the meanwhile, you’ll just have to come down here to shoot 🙂
Anyway, after all that I was getting pretty worn out. I had already pretty much made my nut for the month, so I planned to just take a few days off and spend some time around the house, working on the various craft projects I always have brewing: a fabulous mermaid-queen headdress, the caftan I bought in Bisbee that needs embellishing, the cinderblock wall in my backyard that needs muraling/mosaic-ing. As I was putting on my showgirl makeup one day, I had discovered this amazing Pandora station based around 60s piano kings Ferrante & Teicher — all swanky piano music and instrumental 101-Strings-type Valium-drenched fabulousness of the highest order. So I wanted nothing more than to be able to lounge around the house all day in my caftan, boozing and crafting with this fabulous soundtrack playing in the background. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
I’ve always had a hard time saying NO, especially when it comes to paid gigs — you never know when work is gonna dry up, ya know, so I feel like I have to accept every booking that comes down the pike — as long as it meets my minimum hourly pay rate. So, even though I was really looking forward to a few days off, I found myself unable to say no when a girlfriend from Arizona called with an offer to work a loathsome 3-day corporate gig at a hotel out in the suburbs.
The gig sounded super easy, so I said yes…and so the next three days of my life were swallowed up by a hideous royal-blue polyester long-sleeved polo shirt bearing the logo of a certain consumer electronics giant, which was having its national sales conference at the J.W. Mariott in Summerlin. They had hired a dozen or so staff to assist with directions and event facilitation and whatnot, and it was really a very easy gig…but exhausting nonetheless, as I was on my feet all day, every day. Also, the girl who got me the gig asked me if she could stay at my place for the duration of the event — since she lives in Arizona, she couldn’t really drive back and forth every day. Of course I said yes, and honestly I didn’t mind…but it was still tough having to be “on” even when work was over, and I just wanted to go home and get baked in solitude.
To make matters even worse, the weather that week happened to be amazingly gorgeous — in the upper 70s, sunny, fabulous. But I had to spend all day, every day cooped up in that hideous polyester shirt in the bowels of the J.W. Mariott. Oh, well. At least it was only for three days — the miserably henpecked, harried-looking salespeople at the event were in it for life. SHUDDER!!!!!!!
After the sales conference ended, I still had a few days off to enjoy — but guess what happened?? Yep, someone else called with a job offer — this time, just a couple days’ worth of quickie little in-store liquor sampling events for one of my all-time favorite liqueurs. Hang out in a liquor store for 3 hours and pour free samples of delicious booze? How could I say no to that?!?!? So again, on my days “off” I found myself suiting up in a fluorescent branded crop-top, pouring shots of RumChata and this amazing new liqueur called TippyCow, which is a delicious rum-based cream with flavors like orange creamsicle and shamrock mint. YUM!!! At one of the stores I worked at, there was another chick pouring samples of this horrifying new drink called Viniq that is made of grape vodka and moscato…and has shimmery flakes in it, so when you shake the bottle it starts sparkling like a hideous sparkly purple lava lamp. OMG…..how gross is that?!?!?!? But astonishingly, she sold a shit ton of it…just going to show, you can never trust peoples’ taste.
So anyway, by this time I was getting really stressed out from all the work and commitments — I mean to tell you, I have been going balls out the past 12 days!! Aside from the above-mentioned gigs, I also found time to record an interview with these cool people who are making a sort of Vegas-based “This American Life”-type podcast….plus another day I did a Vegas Bimbo shoot with my friend Randy, and then another day I did a shoot as a mermaid out on one of the dry lake beds. I didn’t even get paid for the mermaid shoot — I did it “TFT,” as in…”Trade For Tail,” as the photographer bought me this amazing mermaid tail in exchange for shooting in it, LOL! So, once I FINALLY get around to finishing my amazing mermaid headdress, I’ll have a bad-ass new costume to add to my arsenal 🙂
See, I’m not all about making a buck — aside from the TFT shoot, I also did a pro bono gig as a showgirl for my magician friend — the guy who had hired me for the world finals of indoor archery event. I felt I owed him a favor after that well-paid assignment, so when he asked if I could come hang around his booth at this women’s expo at Bally’s one night in my showgirl costume, of course I said yes.
It ended up being totally fun — free booze was flowing, the Cointreau babes were handing out free shots as well, and there were all kind of local kooks and nut-jobs hanging out schmoozing. My partner at the magician’s booth was this amazing miniature Elvis impersonator — a lecherous, swarthy Greek Little Person who is married to a mini Marilyn Monroe impersonator. How fabulous is that?!?!? The only bad part of the gig was, I had come directly from the corporate sales conference thing I’d been working at the J.W. Mariott, which had the most amazing, abundant catered breakfasts, lunches and snacks…so I was bloated like a zeppelin from all the French toast, sausage, scrambled eggs, tortellini, prosciutto slices, mini-cheesecakes and Rice Krispie Treats I had been snarfing down all day (and indeed for the past three days of the entire event). Thank dog I do all those ab exercises at the gym, so I was able to suck ‘er in with a modicum of success, and somehow pass myself off as a showgirl…not a blimp.
Anyhoo, as mentioned this 12-day marathon of merriment, money, free food & booze was fun, but the constant whirlwind activity left me totally stressed out, and unable to sleep. No matter how much weed I smoked, wine I drank or Ferrante & Teicher I listened to, nothing could calm my racing thoughts down at night, and I found myself lying in bed, toes twitching and tapping as I thought of all the millions of things I had to to the next day, and tried to figure out a way to squeeze them all in while still making time for the gym and my daily hygienic ablutions.
So finally, sadly, I admitted to myself that I simply cannot say YES to everything anymore. Saying YES has been my policy ever since 2010, when a fortune cookie at TAO told me “Those Who Say Yes Have More Fun…” but I should have known not to take the advice of a doucher-ass place like TAO, anyway! Ever since adopting that policy, I’ve had a TON of fun and amazing adventures…but I’ve also become an insomniac basketcase!!!!
Now, I certainly don’t plan to stop having adventures — that goes without saying! But my new policy is to only say YES to exceptionally amazing things. And when it comes to work, I plan to only accept bookings of a certain total pay rate. I’m just one frail human body….I can’t be everything to everyone, everywhere, at all times. Even though I really wish I could!
And speaking of exceptionally amazing adventures…in T-minus 48 hours I’ll be off on another one: it is finally time for my long-anticipated road trip around the state of Nevada, in which I plan to definitively answer the age-old question: “Is there anything between Vegas and Reno?” I’ve driven up and down U.S. 95 many times, but the time has finally come to stray from the beaten path and get all up in the barren wastelands of central and northern NV. No secret government bunker, no Hills-Have-Eyes meth lab, no dusty, sun-baked brothel will escape my scrutiny…..WATCH OUT YOU INBRED FREAKS, WONDERHUSSY IS ON THE WAY!!!
But in the meantime, I’m going to lounge around the house in my caftan listening to Ferrante & Teicher…and relax!!!!
Have you ever wondered what my life is really like? Well, I’ll tell you: there is so much shit going on all around me, all the time, that it’s like being trapped on a broken treadmill that’s stuck on the fastest speed, and it’s all I can do to keep up with the breakneck pace. If I let go and zone out for one second, the treadmill will send me flying across the room, to land on the floor in a broken heap…so I have to stay constantly vigilant, checking Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr and my blog and my email and my text messages every hour so that I don’t miss out on the next gig…or the next big adventure!
Between work, hustling for work, cleaning and maintaining my house, cleaning and maintaining my car, cleaning and maintaining my face and body, and squeezing in adventures here and there and then finding time to blog about it…there isn’t much room for error. I never spend an evening sitting around “just chilling” — and why would I want to? If I have free time, I’m going to use it working on one of the bazillion projects I have percolating in back of my mind. I have a caftan than needs embellishing, a cinderblock wall that needs muraling and/or mosaic-ing, and a million ideas for cool photos I need to make props for. But some people don’t understand this, and get offended when I don’t have time to come over to get high and “just chill.” Sorry everyone, but I’m not that kind of gal!!
In fact, there are times when I want to just tell everyone to leave me alone — Wonderhussy is closed for business! And in fact it would probably actually behoove me mentally to set “business” hours for myself — like, I can be Wonderhussy from 10am-8pm, but after that I am closing shop and will not be available. I need ME time, to just chill in bed with my pipe and read…or to look at pictures of baby animals on Twitter, or play Words With Friends. (It’s my way of relaxing…don’t judge!)
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way because there is always something amazing going on that lures me from my retreat. Like for instance, I was supposed to head out of town on a ten-day road trip to Arizona with my sister on the 20th, but it turned out that the porno movie I was in the week before, Titty Heist, was filming Part II on the morning of the 20th…and how could I say no to being in Part II of Titty Heist?!?! So I made my poor sis wait around while I hustled over to the studio and shot until 2pm, playing a bank teller who was taken hostage by a sex-crazed big-titted bank robber whose only demands were a helicopter and a pilot with a big dick who would fuck her up the ass — NOW. Thankfully, her demands were met by a donut-munching, well-hung Latino hostage negotiator who sent a bottle of lube rolling into the bank just in time for me to run out the door, jump in my truck, and get the fuck out of there before anything else exciting could happen to distract me from my long-anticipated road trip. Whew!!!!!!!
Meanwhile, I hadn’t even had time to pack for this roadtrip, because I was booked solid the prior four days, working on a movie with my friend Dr. Kildare. You might remember Dr. Kildare as the doctor who accompanied my sis and I to Saline Valley Hot Springs back in October — a retired oncologist, desert enthusiast and super nice man, who come to find out has also long harbored a secret desire to be a filmmaker. All this time he was just looking for the right story to turn into a film, and guess what? My fucked-up life inspired him!! After our Saline Valley trip, he went straight home and wrote up a fairly in-depth script for a sort of surrealist art-house type movie loosely based on my wacky adventures, and then hired me to work on it with him for four solid days in January. Awesome!!!
Now, I really didn’t know what to expect — all I knew was he was paying me to be in this movie, but beyond that I had no idea what kind of movie (well, I knew it wasn’t going to be Titty Heist III…but other than that, no idea). But meanwhile, in the days leading up to our shoot, all these awesome props started arriving on my doorstep: a giant multicolored fuzzy bathrobe, a ventriloquist’s dummy, a French-existentialist-style black beret. WTF?!
But when I finally went over to his hotel room for the first day of our shoot, I was completely bowled over by his level of professionalism. Not only had he cultivated an extremely directorly beard since I’d last seen him, but he had also gone out and bought all this amazing professional-grade audio and video gear, and had mapped out fairly precisely what we were going to shoot, and when, and where. I’m here to tell you, this man has an extremely arty vision for this film (working title: Wonderhussy), and it’s not just going to be some kind of two-bit YouTube bullshit hack job. Hell, no — he plans to submit this shit to Sundance, motherfuckers!! I’m not kidding!!!!!
So for four days, we worked together morning to night, shooting footage all over the Vegas valley and the surrounding desert — from the trap shooting range on the edge of town all the way down to Fremont Street (I’m telling you, this movie is gonna be far out!!). The stuff we shot down on Fremont Street was particularly inspired: the script called for me to ride my beat-up old Burning Man bike downtown, in my showgirl costume, with the ventriloquist dummy (who happens to be an existentialist named Jean-Paul, hence the black beret) strapped to my back, looking for my alcoholic ventriloquist philosophy-school-dropout boyfriend, with whom I’m supposed to go busking.
I thought for sure we’d get hassled by the dumb-ass security guards down on Fremont Street, since you can’t even fart without getting a permit down there first….but Dr. Kildare is sly as fuck, and was able to sneak footage using a Go Pro and a second camera on a discreet knee-level handheld mount, so none of those assholes were the wiser, and we got all the shots we needed without any problems at all. Better yet, I even made about $10 posing for photos with tourists just while standing around between takes — even though it was a Monday night, and right after a holiday weekend, and I had on a pretty amateurish costume with a ventriloquist dummy strapped to my back…it didn’t seem to matter to anyone! People down there just don’t give a fuck!!!
It was kind of inconvenient, though — we were trying to discreetly shoot a scene, but people kept coming up to me and asking for photos, ruining take after take. Finally the scene cleared out and we were just getting ready to roll…when out of nowhere an entire busload of Korean tourists came along, and every single one of them wanted a photo!! It was straight surrealism of the highest order.
But even better was this drunken white trash couple who came stumbling along. I posed for a photo with the guy, and they gave me a few bucks…but then they came stumbling back a moment later with another request: “Hey, can we take some sexy pics for our homeys doing life in federal prison?” Who am I to say no to that?! Again, I don’t think they even noticed the fact that I had an existentialist-beret-wearing ventriloquist dummy strapped to my back…they just snapped away as I stuck my ass out and winked over my shoulder, Betty Grable-style. For the Boys!!! And I must say…I am oddly touched by the notion that someday soon, in some federal prison somewhere in America, a lifer may be jerking off to a photo of me in my showgirl costume, with an existentialist ventriloquist dummy strapped to my back. Talk about surreal!!
Anyway, we celebrated wrapping the first part of filming (he’s coming back in March to shoot part 2) with a meal at the Heart Attack Grill…where the nurse-waitresses paddle you if you don’t finish your meal. Poor Dr. Kildare didn’t eat his whole chili dog, so guess who got a severe spanking?!?! It was comedy gold!!! Meanwhile, I sat back and sipped on my Captain Morgan and Coke, which they serve to you in a prescription bottle full of rum, alongside a glass-bottled Mexican Coke made with real sugar. It’s that kind of place!
So anyway, look for this amazing masterpiece of a movie coming soon — I’m telling you, it’s gonna be great! Dr. Kildare said he was inspired to write this movie about me because he has always been a big reader and fan of literary writers (!), and when he stumbled upon this blog he was taken not only with the quality of my writing, but with the picaresque nature of my story. I had to look up the term “picaresque,” and I have to say — he really hit the fuckin’ nail on the head!! If my life ain’t picaresque, I don’t know what is. Good looking out, Dr. Kildare!! Check out this scene from the movie where I explain what “picaresque” means.
So, aaaanyway….I spent four days shooting the movie, and I kept meaning to go home afterward one night and start packing for my roadtrip, but shit kept coming up — the treadmill never stops!! One night, my girlfriends from Arkansas were all in town for the gun show, so I had to go meet up with them for dinner — and they were all in a tizzy because one of them had gotten arrested that morning at the Little Rock airport for forgetting that she had her pistol in her handbag when she went thru the security checkpoint. D’oh!!!! They booked her into jail, but brought her back to the airport just in time for her to catch the next flight to Vegas, so everything worked out OK, and we were able to enjoy a fabulous meal at Casa di Amore, a cool old-timey Italian restaurant off-Strip on the east side.
Then another night, these producers were in town from L.A., scouting around Vegas looking for the next big reality show subject. Several people they talked to referred them to me, so I went downtown and met them for a quick drink to see what was up. Boy, were they amazing — kinda like the Pet Shop Boys! The main guy was super-enthusiastic and super-effusive, in a tweedy blazer and a dramatically draped scarf, and his cadaverous sidekick hung around in the background in a pair of David Lynch-type tortoiseshell sunglasses and a sort of Eraserhead hairstyle. WOW!!! They seemed to dig me and my shtick, but when they asked me what I do, I had no real answer: “Uhhhh…..I just kinda roll around, having adventures,” I answered lamely. I don’t think that squares very well with reality TV — they want a barbershop or a ghost-hunting service or a hooker who rescues abused animals, or something middle America can get behind…ya know?? A picaresque drifter — even a nude piacaresque drifter — is a little hard for most people to identify with.
Anyway, they seemed to enjoy meeting me, and left me with the exhortation to start shooting more YouTube videos — so from now on, my 2015 resolution is to upload more videos to my YouTube channel. Alas, I have already failed miserably in this endeavor, as I intended to film all kinds of fun stuff on my Arizona roadtrip…but didn’t end up shooting a damn thing :/ For some reason, it’s a lot easier for me to write about my experiences, and to take still photos. But making videos or vlogs is something I really do want to get into, so for February I swear I will make it my mission to shoot more videos. I swear!!!
So anyhoo, about this roadtrip. My sis and I had planned to take ten or eleven days and just cruise around the entire state of Arizona, starting with the fabulous Quartzsite swap meet and then heading south from there in search of warmer climes. But like I said, I hadn’t had any time to pack or get ready…so after wrapping Titty Heist II, I ran home, threw a few shirts and a couple caftans in a bag, grabbed my sleeping bag and tent, a few extra blankets and some firewood, and then jumped in her car and headed out around 4pm. A late start for a roadtrip, but whatever…I do what I can!
Since we’re both on a shoestring budget, our mission on this trip was to be cheap as fuck and camp out for free as often as possible — my sis sleeping in the back of her 4 Runner, with me in my little $20 WalMart boy scout tent beside her. Fortunately, there is a ton of BLM (Bureau of Land Management, a/k/a Federal Gov’t-owned public-use land) in Arizona, so finding free campsites was pretty easy — you’re allowed to camp out on BLM land for FREE for up to 14 days, and even longer in some places! I used this awesome website called Freecampsites.net to find all our overnight spots, and it worked out amazingly well.
The first night, we rolled into Kingman, AZ around dark and stopped for dinner at this shitty little BBQ joint. Since gas is so cheap these days, the main expense of our trip was meals — we could have been super-cheap and subsisted on camp-stove ramen, but I feel like half the fun of exploring new places is checking out little hole-in-the-wall diners and shit. So we budgeted about $30/day for food, and hit up one restaurant per day based on whatever good Yelp reviews we could find that only had a one-dollar-sign rating. We had a lot of Mexican food, let me tell you!!!
Anyway, the first night we camped in the desert north of Lake Havasu, at a BLM site called Craggy Wash. It was awesome!!! Because the winters are so mild in southern AZ, thousands and thousands of Canadian and northern U.S. retirees (a/k/a snowbirds) come down every year and camp out in the desert all season long, most of them in ginormous, swanky RVs…but a good number of them also in crazy bugged-out rigs that appear to be held together by little more than Social Security and Fixodent. Particularly in Quartzsite, the desert is so choked with RVs that it looks like a geriatric Burning Man — this is a town whose population swells from just over 3,000 to over a MILLION in January/February. It’s FAR OUT!!!
Before rolling on to fabulous Quartzsite, we began our Great American Looky-Lou Extravaganza in Lake Havasu City, a dusty little desert burg on the shores of a giant blue lake that is inexplicably spanned by a chunk of the original London Bridge, imported by some crafty real-estate developer in the hopes of luring tourists and retirees to this quiet Mormon town. The Olde English shtick is pretty thick down there — it’s surreal! I guess Havasu is also a real Spring Break paradise, as there are a ton of waterfront bars and nightclubs, but at the time of our visit it was pretty quiet. We stopped in for a pleasant visit at the home studio of a photographer I had shot with once back around 2009, and then headed south to find our next BLM campsite.
Now, I had been to Quartzsite once, back in 2010, on the advice of a crusty old camp host up on Mt. Charleston…and I had such an amazing time back then that I’d been wanting to return ever since! Basically, the whole town becomes one giant swap meet during the winter months, with tents and tables and sheds erected in every parking lot, full of dusty, musty, fusty weird old crap for sale — for cheap! If you’re into gems, they also have a big gem and jewelry show…but I was mostly there to look at random crap — that’s my bag!
Moreover, the town is basically surrounded by acres of BLM land, which is the main reason all these shoestring gypsies hang out here selling their wares all winter. My sis and I set up camp out off Plomosa Rd., on the banks of a beautiful little wash, surrounded by the comforting hum of RV generators, and then headed to town to see what was up.
Nothing had changed in Quartzsite since my last visit — it was still basically Disneyland for shoestring gypsies! My recommendation is to cruise into town, get yourself a bottle of Captain Morgan at the Roadrunner Market and a fountain soda at the gas station, add lime and mix well, and then wander the acres and acres of tablesful of crap, enjoying a gentle buzz and the gentle winter desert sunshine. It’s amazing — you never know what you’ll find!
My only complaint this year was that the weather was too cold and windy to rock my fabulous psychedelic caftan, so I had to cobble together a new look: ’80s Midwestern trucker chic. This look involves jeans, plaid shirts, boots, aviators and of course, a trucker cap…on which I splurged $10 for a custom-embroidered Wonder Hussy version of at one of the swap meet booths. To really complete the look, I needed a puffy blue nylon vest…but no matter how many thrift shops I scoured up and down the entire state of Arizona, this magical item eluded me. Damn!! Without it, I ended up just looking like Tom Clancy. Oh well!
Besides the swap meet, the other really cool thing in Quartzsite is this amazing used bookstore called Reader’s Oasis. It’s chock-full of fabulous dusty old paperbacks, meticulously organized and categorized by the owner, a wonderful retired nudist named Paul Winer who used to tour the country as a nude boogie-woogie pianist, but now lives out his days selling books in the warm desert sun, in the nude, posing for photos with nosy tourists 🙂 His only concession to winter’s chill was a sweater and socks, and his only concession to modesty was a crocheted cock-sock. That’s my kind of guy!!
Meanwhile, still performs on occasion, and in fact one night we went and caught his show at the Senior Center and he was amazing — even though he wore
a brown corduroy suit for the occasion. Back in the day when he was touring the country, he performed under the name Sweet Pie, and I can’t think of a better name for him — he has this gentle, sweet quality to him that is just wonderful. The other old farts in the room seemed to tolerate him OK — he did pack the house, but no one in the audience looked too excited about it. Old folk are weird that way — in my experience they came across as pretty grumpy a lot of the time, as though my sis and I were invading their turf or something :/
Aside from that, Quartzsite doesn’t have a whole lot to offer, especially food-wise. One night we had burgers at the Quartzsite Yacht Club, an ironically-named nautically-themed but overall-meh little joint on the main drag, and then another night we had some sub-par Mexican food across town. The only really good meal we had was, astonishingly, at this pizza joint called Silly Al’s — I don’t even like pizza, but it was really good!
Moreover, their wine was cheap, so one night we met up with this girlfriend of mine who happened to be in town working one of the swap meet booths, and partied with a bunch of her swap meet colleagues. Oh my god, what a crazy crew of fucked-up freaks THAT was!
These were all carny-type hucksters from the big tent on the Tyson Wells lot — the Main Event, as they call it, which unlike the rest of the swap meet is made up of booth after booth of brand-new, As-Seen-On-TV, made-in-China crap being hawked by a brigade of traveling three-card-Monte-eqsue shysters who travel from fairground to fairground, following the swap meet circuit across the USA. But while the merchandise they sell over there might be boring, the people selling it are fascinating — and really fun to party with! There was this amazing leathery, bosomy, tatted blonde biker lady who sold magnetic healing bracelets (“Put this on your wrist, honey. Now, watch what happens when I try to press your arm down!”), a baby-faced, candle-shilling Marine-corps stud who was the self-proclaimed “King of Scentsy;” and then this creepy mulleted Englishman named François who entertained us all with sleight-of-hand card tricks as we boozed and danced the night away. It was like partying with the Muppets, if they were alcoholic carnies. GOOD TIMES!!!!!!!!
Anyway, after three days in Quartzsite it was time to get the fuck out of there and see the rest of the state. On our way out, we stopped at the local Pilot truck stop to charge our phones and primp, as had become our custom — we would cruise to the truck stop in the morning, get some delicious Pilot house blend coffee and then hang out in the dining area by the showers, putting on our makeup while our phones charged up. Shockingly, they charge $12 for a shower at Pilot (!!) so we never did splurge on that (although we did consider sharing one)…but that didn’t mean we had to be total slobs, and many’s the morning we sat there tweezing our eyebrows under the bemused gaze of a trucker or two: “What?? You’ve never seen someone curl their eyelashes at a truck stop before?!” All this truck-stop primping gave us the idea for this awesome B-movie, in fact: two lipstick lesbian truckers on the lam from the law! Maybe I’ll see if Dr. Kildare wants to make that movie next, LOL!!!
From Quartzsite, we headed on south down to Yuma, where I scored a couple more plaid shirts for my trucker look for 50 cents apiece, and then on to the U.S.-Mexico border down near the town of Why, Arizona, where there was a BLM camping area just outside Organ Pipe National Monument. It was a beautiful desert — the Sonoran Desert is totally different from my beloved Mojave, with all kinds of wacky cacti and animal life that you just don’t see up here, like saguaros (the iconic cactus you see in cartoons) and javelinas (little wild pigs).
The only buzzkill was all the travel warning signs about illegal smuggling in the area — you really have to keep your wits about you, down there. Even in Organ Pipe National Monument, they warn you to stay away from any individuals you encounter carrying black water bottles — apparently, drug smugglers have taken to painting their life-sustaining water bottles black, to avoid being detected when a light reflects off it as they’re sneaking across the border. FAR OUT! This one poor park ranger down there was even murdered about ten years ago, when he challenged a group of them. It’s no joke!
Anyway, we survived the javelinas and smugglers and whatnot and headed on our way the next morning, stopping for coffee/phone charging/primping at a cool-looking little coffee shop in the town of Ajo. The place looked cool — a freaky mural of some murderous rabbits on the wall, a framed painting of Willie Nelson inside — but I’m here to tell you, the atmosphere was frosty as fuck! The lady running the joint was extremely unfriendly, and the other old folk hanging out inside weren’t too chummy, either…this despite the fact that my sis and I were unfailingly polite. Whatever! We had two cups of their shitty house coffee and got the fuck out, headed for Tucson, where we had arranged to meet up with Dr. Kildare, who was on his own little roadtrip on his was back to Atlanta.
Alas, the weather turned shitty so Dr. Kildare bailed out, and my sis and I got a room in town so we could finally take a shower, then hit up a laundromat to wash our funky jeans and all the thrift-store plaid shirts we’d been accumulating. We checked out the little hipster area in downtown Tucson, and it was actually really cool — lots of cool art everywhere, and this amazing mosaic mural that gave me the idea to paint the cinderblock wall in my barren back yard here in Vegas. We had a drink at the amazing old Congress Hotel, and then had a FABULOUS lunch at this divey sandwich shop called Bison Witch…and then we headed north of town, where a friend of mine had offered to let us camp on a swath of desert he owns.
My friend’s property is waaaay out in the boonies, so the directions to get there were a little sketch: “Look for the anamorphic rock art; if you see my shipping container, you’ve gone too far.” But my sister’s 4Runner made it like a champ, and we set up camp and enjoyed some delicious peppermint-schnapps-laced hot cocoa by the campfire before the fucking rain started in, and we retreated to our sleeping quarters. Thanks to a spare rainfly my sis had brought along, I stayed cozy and dry all night…but in the morning, we had to hang out reading in bed awhile before the rain cleared and we could get out and pack up camp. But once it cleared, it was B E A U T I F U L !
From Tucson, we cruised down south to the classic old-tyme tourist trap of Tombstone…which was actually amazing! I’m a sucker for tourist shtick anyway, so we wandered around the old town area listening to the 2pm gunfight at the O.K. Corral — they charge $10 to go inside the Corral to watch it, so we just listened. Some dude in a cowboy costume tried to talk us into buying tickets, but I was honest with him: “We can’t afford it!” I find that honesty is the best way to deal with salespeople — I mean, technically I had the money to watch it, but then I wouldn’t have been able to buy a drink and a burger at Bignose Kate’s Saloon, ya know?! I have my priorities!
Bignose Kate’s was OK — as expected, thick with old-West shtick, waitresses in saloon-gal getups and some old fart singing lite country covers onstage — so we ate up, paid up and then headed on down to our next free campsite, down in this super-remote flat desert field outside Bisbee. There isn’t much BLM land in that part of the state, but freecampsites.net showed this place called Starshine Desert, which is technically private property, but the owners let people camp there for free, as long as they clean up after themselves and bury their poo and whatnot.
Starshine Desert is kinda tricky to find, but once you do it’s a pretty legit place! There were a few other campers parked nearby, but I think they were all abandoned — we didn’t see anyone else the whole time we were there, and only heard a pack of dogs or coyotes of something yelping all night. Overall a great place to stop, and I wholeheartedly recommend it — and thank the owners for their hospitality!!
After that we headed into Bisbee to check
out the scene — and OMG, what a scene!!!! That town is my new favorite place, ever! It’s basically a little old copper mining town that was taken over by hippies and artists, built up on a hillside made of mine-fill, with crazy crookedy little streets full of funky boutiques and amazing bars and restaurants. We had the BEST meal of our trip there, at a place called Whyld Ass Cafe, that features all kinds of delicious vegan food as well as drinking water enhanced with chlorophyll.
Because it’s built on hillsides, there are also all kinds of crazy winding staircases leading up everywhere, so we got quite a workout walking around exploring everything. Plus, many of the walls are decorated with amazing graffiti and murals (adding to my cinderblock wall inspiration), so it’s a really neat place to explore. I bought this amazing pink caftan in one of the secondhand shops there, and all it needs is a bunch of crazy beads or appliques to something to make it really amazing — I need to gussy it the fuck up in time for it to be my 2015 Summer Caftan!!
Anyhoo, from Bisbee we headed back up north, to camp at the Hot Well Dunes outside Bowie. My hot springs guidebook showed them to be a great camp spot, and we were really looking forward to a nice hot soak under the desert stars that night. On the way, we stopped at the über-tourist-attraction of ALL über-tourist-attractions — The Thing?, just off I-10 near Willcox, AZ. My friend whose land we’d camped on had given me a bumper sticker from The Thing? back around 2002 or so, and ever since then I’ve been DYING of curiosity to go there myself and find out just what exactly The Thing? really is!! It’s one of those “curiosities” that you pay $1 to look at…and all I’ll say about it is, it’s totally worth the $1 to get it. DO IT!!!
After basking in the majesty of The Thing?, we cruised up to the Hot Well Dunes and and set up camp for the night. It’s on BLM land, but they charge $3/night to camp out there….so not technically free, but close. Basically, it’s a huge swatch of gently rolling sand dunes dotted with creosote and desert scrub, criss-crossed with dirtbike trails from all the rednecks who hang out there racing around on their gas-powered toys. Right in the middle there are two concrete soaking pools and a couple of bathrooms — a pretty nice spot for $3!
My only quibble with the Hot Well Dunes is, the pump that fills the pools from the source is solar-powered….so you can only soak while the sun is up, and then once it sets the pools drain out until morning. BOGUS!!!!! I’m sure they did that on purpose, to discourage nighttime revelry and hijinks in the pools….but come on, how lame is THAT? Also, the water at the source is supposedly 106 degrees…but by the time it fills the pools, it only feels like 102 or so…so it’s not really optimal for winter soaking. THIRDLY, nudity is not allowed when soaking…so, overall, I can only give the Hot Well Dunes a 3/5 on the Wonderhusy Hot Spring Ratings Scale.
Still, we got there in time to enjoy a sunset cocktail in one of the soaking pools, and it was pretty cool. The desert down there is beautiful — not the Sonoran anymore, so no saguaros or anything, just gently rolling dunes with beautiful mountains in the distance.
The only bummer was having to deal with our wet swimsuits once we got out — it
was too cold to even really dry them out anywhere! There was hardly anyone else camping at the time of our visit, so in the morning, after breaking camp and packing the car, we headed back for a morning soak, once the sun was up enough to fill the pools again — this time in the nude. But, wouldn’t ya know it…along came a retired couple, and they were so abashed by our nudity that the husband wouldn’t even soak in the same pool as us, but went to sit in a half-full lukewarm puddle in the other pool, which wasn’t even full yet! His wife hung out with us, but you could tell our nakedness made her nervous, so we finally just got the fuck out of there. I don’t like to make other people uncomfortable, but I mean…really?!?! It’s been my experience at hot springs that the custom is, whoever is there first sets the clothing policy — and I’ve never had a weird experience like that, in all my soaking days. Oh, well.
After that, we cruised into the little redneck town of Safford to primp and whatnot at a Starbucks, before planning our next move. The weather had turned shitty again, with rain forecasted basically everywhere in the fuckin’ state…so our options were limited. My new friend Johnny Rockett, whom I met on the set of Titty Heist, had offered to let us camp on some undeveloped land he owns near Joseph City…but because of the miserable rain, we bailed on that idea and just got a room in Flagstaff for the night, instead. It was only $36 (!!), so what the fuck.
On the way there, we made the obligatory pit stop in dogforsaken, economically blighted Winslow, AZ — notable solely for its inclusion in the lyrics of the Eagles’ “Take it Easy” (“I’m standin’ on the corner in Winslow, AZ/ such a fine sight to see/ it’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford/ slowin’ down to take a look at me”). The poor little town has tried to capitalize on that fact, building a monument to the song with a bronze statue of Glenn Frey or whoever standin’ on the corner, with a flatbed Ford parked nearby for photo ops….but overall it’s just overwhelmingly sad. We had planned to have a bite at the schlocky little Route 66 burger joint across the street, which is said to play Eagles music 24/7…but the damn place was closed!!! At 4pm on a Friday!!!! COME ON, WINSLOW — you have one thing going for you, and you fuck that up?????? Sad!
Anyhoo, by the time we rolled into Flagstaff it was pouring rain, so we just hit one last thrift store looking for a navy blue puffy vest, gave up, and met up with another photographer friend at his badass little studio in downtown Flagstaff, to discuss possibly setting up a daylong photography workshop sometime in the near future. Apparently, all the local models in Flag are totally square and won’t pose nude…so the plan is for me to come down from Vegas, shoot for the day, and split the proceeds with him. If you’re local to the area, or just plan on being in Flagstaff anytime soon, and want to shoot in his studio for an hour or two…hit me up! It should be a fun day 🙂
The next morning it was still pissing rain, so we hung around the lobby of the Travelodge taking advantage of their free breakfast as long as possible. As far as free breakfasts go it was pretty piss-poor — just toast and English muffins and Nescafe, etc. — but they DID have an absolutely AMAZING, futuristic automatic pancake-making machine, the likes of which I have never seen in my life!!! It was astonishing — like something from the Jetsons; you simply pressed the “OK” button, and the machine spit out two perfectly formed little pancakes. YUM!!!!! I could not stop pushing that fuckin’ button…and consequently I ate way too many pancakes :/ I have seen the future, people….and it is delicious!
Our original itinerary had called for us to drive down to Sedona that day, to hike around and soak up energy from the various vortices said to pepper the area. In Sedona, a/k/a FlakeLand USA, a vortex is defined as a swirling center of subtle energy coming out from the surface of the earth, which if you hang around long enough infuses you with uplifting positive energy…or some such alleged New Age bunkum. A bunch of them supposedly naturally occur in the Sedona area, which is why it’s known as a spiritual Disneyland (per lovesedona.com, LOL). I had my severe doubts, but wanted to check one out anyway, just to see what was up.
But it was pissing rain so hard, it made it difficult to feel anything other than soggy irritation!! I suppose it would have been one thing if it had been a sunny day, and I had
been able to wear one of my hippie-dippie caftans, and swan about soaking up sunshine and positive vibes. But as it was, my sis and I slogged around the Airport Mesa vortex in the mud…and didn’t feel a damn thing except pissed off. Oh, well — the area is physically beautiful, full of breathtaking redstone cliffs and mesas and whatnot, so we definitely plan to come back later this spring or summer, when we can get baked or otherwise drunk and better commune with the spiritual energy of the Earth. You how it is — you have to be in the right frame of mind for that kind of shit. Which is baked out of your gourd on weed and/or mushrooms!!!!!
After tromping around Sedona in a fruitless quest for enlightenment, we headed on down the highway to Jerome, this super-cool funky old mining town that’s like Bisbee’s little cousin — only haunted, too! I’d been to Jerome before, on a biker roadtrip with my friend Muscles Manischewitz, and I was totally stoked to show my sis around all its funky little shops and boutiques….but, alas, it was still pissing rain, and kinda ruined the vibe. We had a bite to eat at this converted old hospital up the hill called The Asylum, and then got the fuck out of Arizona, headed back home a day early 🙁 Nothing is fun in the rain…except Woodstock. Booooooo!!!
So, anyway, that was our awesome Arizona roadtrip. Because of all the free camping and cheap gas, I only spent about $400 for a 10-day trip — so guess what?! We plan to do it all again next month (February), only this time, we’re taking on Nevada! There’s plenty of BLM free camping up here, too, and I’ve always wanted to cruise around and check out the weird little towns between Reno and Vegas — places like Elko, Battle Mountain, Caliente and Ely. There’s all kinds of fucked-up shit going on in Nevada — and I plan to uncover it all!! Or as much as I can in ten days, since I have a shoot on Feb. 18th and another on March 1st, so I can only go between those dates.
But I’m really looking forward to it. If only I could find some publication willing to pay me to write about/photograph my experiences….now, that would be amazing, and I might even be able to stay gone longer. Oh, well….either way, it’s gonna be a blast. YEEEEEE-HAW!!!