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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for August, 2010

Claire Wolfe

A pox on CenturyLink

Friday, August 27th, 2010

A small rant. About an inconsequential matter. But … well, “it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.”

CenturyLink. The company formerly known as CenturyTel. CenturyTel was a very good company. OTOH, if you attempt to deal with CenturyLink (a metastasized version of C’Tel and something called Embarq) you may be taking your brains into your own hands. If you have any left after listening to the screaching music and shouted sales messages they have on their (I use the term lightly) customer service line.

The short version: On Monday I signed up for DSL Internet. No telephone. No cable. No nada. Just Internet. Service was supposed to begin, and a modem supposed to arrive yesterday via UPS.

No modem. No service. I call their 800 number. No worries. We don’t know why it wasn’t today, but for sure, tomorrow.

This morning bright and early a very nice installer shows up, activates the service and gives me a modem off his truck. Soon I’m managing to surf the ‘Net via a wired connection. But, among other things, I can’t do anything with the wireless function on the modem. Can’t get email. Can’t, can’t, can’t. Several calls to tech support over the next three hours. First one is odd: “Oh, they don’t show that you subscribed to DSL. They show only that you’ve subscribed to the phone service.” Uh … no, no way lady. Explicitly excluded phone. It’s DSL only. The sales rep and I had an extensive talk about modem options and all. Nobody could have mistaken my order. I’m tellin’ you.

She goes away. Comes back and says, “Oh, I was wrong. Everything’s properly set up for DSL.”

For several hours, I continue plugging away, attempting to configure the modem and get email. Finally call tech support again. “Oh,” says this one, “the reason you can surf the ‘Net but can’t do anything else is that you’re listed as a ‘provisional’ user. Your account hasn’t been activated yet. And won’t be until September 1.”

I attempt to remain polite. It’s not her fault. And I have to say that all the tech support people I’ve talked with have just been sterling. It’s the business office that seems screwed beyond belief. She goes off and checks again. Yep. “It does say the service should have been active yesterday, but now it’s September 1, and they say there’s nothing they can do about it.”

It occurs to me they may be operating in a time warp. Maybe they’re in some century where connections actually did take weeks — where they had to be made laboriously, by hand, in person. Not this century, where anybody can just type in a command to tell the electronics to make what should have happened yesterday happen today.

I tell her I want to cancel my account — that they sold me the service under false pretenses and that I’ve already wasted way too many hours. Cancel me, NOW, baby! Not her department (of course). Please hold.

After nearly 20 minutes of the above-mentioned screaching (which by now I’ve memorized, which is good because its volume has deafened me and I can’t actually hear it any more), I hang up, haul the modem, with cords dangling from the box, to the local office, where the kindly installer takes it back with clucks of sympathy and promises to make service-canceling calls in my behalf. I come to the library, send a blistering email to CenturyLink’s billing department duplicating his efforts — and now I try to figure out who can become my Plan B Internet provider.

In other words — sigh — keep on expecting “lite” blogging for another week or so. And if you chose to deal with the blob called CenturyLink … good luck to you.

It may be even later than September 1 before I’m connected now. But at least there’s hope it’ll be with a company that doesn’t merely blurt (via endlessly repeated electronic voice) how much it truly, truly, really, we-mean-it CARES about its customers.


Just to make the day even cheerier: government snooping “rights” expand. Again. The one good thing about government is that, no matter how crappy some private company is, government always makes it look good by comparison.

Claire Wolfe

On preparedness

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010


Claire Wolfe

Embracing the Chaos

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

A week without blogging! I’m sorry, guys. Between unpacking, scrubbing, trash hauling, and exhaustion (not to mention the library’s limited hours, which limit my wifi), I haven’t had it in me. I thought about blogging several times. But I figured you really wouldn’t be interested in my observations on greasy kitchen lamps or the incredibly strange mechanisms that open (or actually don’t open) old-fashioned garage doors. That’s about all that’s been on my mind the last week.

I’m starting to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel now. But this week is all about article deadlines, so don’t expect great things of me.

However … toward the end of this week, the articles should be done, home Internet service should be hooked up, and I hope to be brilliant again.

Well … adequate again. So thank you for your patience. In the meantime, I’ve managed to come up with one house-inspired thought that does manage to squeak above the mundane. Without further ado, here it is.


The people who sold me this house are, by all testimony, the sweetest people in several universes. The furniture they left has been a godsend, making me feel at home even before I’m fully unpacked. And of course I get a kick out of the little reminders that they’re Backwoods Home people, gun owners, preppers, and Bill of Rights supporters, just like me.

But there’s one way in which they and I couldn’t be more different. Here’s one example of it:

Yes, that’s a tennis shoe. Hanging on a fence. In fact, it’s a tennis shoe filled with dirt hanging on a fence. It’s a planter, although nothing’s growing in it at the moment.

The house, and more especially the yard, are a wonderland of little make-dos and oddball creativity. Here’s more:

Tea pots are a big feature of the backyard decor. So are air filters from some humongous piece of equipment. The filters are everywhere — used as tea pot stands, waste baskets, and flower pots. The yard was also filled with plastic toy boats until (sorry, sellers), I put them into the haul-away heap. And yes, that’s an old bathtub, there on the right. It’s filled with garlic.

Here’s one of the quieter corners of the yard after I cleared it of much of its stuff.

Though the yard is small to begin with, it’s divided into even more intimate spaces, each with its own quirky personality. There are ponds, giant bird cages, wind chimes, fishing nets, floats, tall plant stands made out of cast-iron industrial piping, miniature lighthouses, birdhouses, baskets, shells, sand dollars, a gazing ball, three wishing wells (that I’ve found so far), and a complete veggie garden (albeit one so small that it has only one or two or at most three or four plants of any given type).

But really, this isn’t about the house and yard. I promise. It’s about chaos. And embracing it. Or not.

I love this yard — especially now that I’ve denuded it of some of its broken and faded gee-gaws. It enchants me. I like sitting in it and wandering around it. But never in the world would I do a yard like this. I’d be more into a yard that was a vast expanse of well-groomed emptiness, with perhaps one lawn chair and a firepit. Same with the house interior. I’ve always admired the classical Japanese look from all those Kurosawa films, with basically no furniture, a few mats, nothing on the walls, and everything tucked away behind sliding doors.

I read once — it may be complete BS, but it makes sense — that people with chaotic minds crave that kind of simplicity, while people with calm minds can enjoy an environment of happy chaos — just like my new backyard. I think there’s plenty of reason to believe that the folks who owned this house before I did were more easy-going and happy than I. Not that they had better lives; several people have hinted that they were sometimes taken cruel advantage of. Just that they had a different, and more peaceful, outlook on life.

Also, while I’m “officially” creative, being a writer and all, they’re the kind of people who could envision an old shoe as a planter and an ornament, while I’d never see it as more than … and old shoe. They’d see possibilities. I’d see only a bit of trash, to be disposed of as quickly as possible.

My point in all this (and yes, there really is one) is that I think people who can embrace chaos — and even make it their own — are generally happier, and certainly better survivors, than people like me. People who envision a shoe as a planter, an elderly tea pot as a garden ornament, or an air filter as a table, are more likely to be able to turn lemons into lemonade in hard times. Not to mention turn old scrap into machinery or trade goods if TSHTF. Besides, the world is filled with chaos, like it or not. Saner to embrace it than to fight or deny it.

Me, I’m second-rate. But I could learn from these people.

Here’s a sort of a backyard shrine they created:

I don’t know what was originally at the center of this odd domestic altar. Maybe a little pirate ship; that would be a good guess. Whatever it was, they took it with them. So this time I added the tea pot. Why? Because it was there …

Claire Wolfe

What every well-equipped home should have

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Greetings from the Pacific North(very)Wet! And thanks for being patient. As Joel has been posting, I made it to my destination, but am currently sans Internet. So what little blogging I can do (between hauling trash, unpacking, and painting the insides of kitchen cabinets before putting my stuff away) will be sporadic for a while. Stick with me, please …

Thanks for all the good wishes and offers of help. You have no idea how great it felt, after the crappy start of my journey, to know I had friends waiting along the road. As it turned out, the final three days were completely uneventful (except for the runaway horse galloping down the highway at the top of a winding 10,000-foot pass, but that’s a tale for another time). A couple of the days were very long, as I made up lost time. But no complaints. I’m here!

Now … as to “what every well-equipped home should have” … I mentioned previously that the folks I bought the house from had an unexpected lot in common with me (and probably with you). Well, the above photo shows just a few of the items I’ve found so far in my house-cleaning: A wall-mounted copy of the Bill of Rights, a postcard from Pacific Yurts, old copies of The American Survival Guide, and — last but not least! — back issues of Backwoods Home. There are also gun publications galore and even a catalog from the Militia of Montana.

Yep, I guess I’m home. :-)

More when my body and brain have recovered and when I have better access and more time to get on the ‘Net.

Claire Wolfe

Oh lord, stuck in Lodi again

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Have I mentioned that I dislike travel?

Yes, I do believe I’ve said that I dislike all forms of travel. Or at least all forms available to people who don’t flit around in private jets and have mechanics on call for their fleet of vintage Bentleys.

I may have even used words like “hate” and “loathe,” even though, properly, terms like those should be reserved for politicians, puppy-torturers, and people who dump truckloads of litter in the woods.

To wit: Here I am, a whole, whopping 150 miles from my departure point. The last last 40 of it my truck traveled on a flatbed and the U-Haul trailer brought up the rear while I enjoyed the company of a young driver who felt he was having a worse day than mine.

Before I made his acquaintance, I had already waited two hours in the sun for a tow, not only because I was 40 miles from nowhere but because the first tow truck driver assigned to the case had a diabetic episode (now there’s a man who probably really is having a worse day) and the second got the wrong directions.

BUT … all is not lost. Young Mr. Charm brought me to a friendly auto shop that’s open seven days a week, where the people have been super-accommodating and there’s a dog-friendly motel within walking distance.

So … one new radiator and $900 later (including the tow and motel room), I’ll have a good shot at being on the road again tomorrow morning.


I also see that my sweet friend Joel blogged about my departure and before he knew I was in trouble requested help from any willing readers along my route — even as he stated that, thanks to my damnable secrecy, nobody knows what that route is. (He knows more than he was saying, but then, he’s very discreet.)

And some of you kind friends-I’ve-never-met already responded.

Well, I’ll tell you, since things seem not to be going so auspiciously. If you live somewhere near US. 89 in northern Arizona or southern Utah or US 93 in Nevada or southern Idaho and you’d be willing to be on call in case a certain damsel gets in distress again while in your area, I’ll gladly take you up on your offer.

Since I’ll have limited communications on the road, just let Joel know how to reach you, if you’re comfortable with that. Or leave me a comment tonight or early tomorrow with your real email address (not published, of course) and I’ll email you so we can swap contact info.

Been a tough day. But it’s also been a (much appreciated) exercise in patience. And another especially warm time for friendship.

Claire Wolfe

Ready to go

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Well, tomorrow’s the day I hit the road. Friday the 13th. That should be auspicious.

Boy, from all the comments on yesterday’s “Stuff!” post, this topic of moving possessions really resonates. And some of you put my little trailer-stuff problem in perspective. Man … all that talk of 55-foot semis and reducing a life-long heritage to a few square feet of keepers. That’s depressing. Makes me glad I don’t have much more than one small trailer’s worth.

As you can see, we loaded that puppy and then some. Neighbor Joel was invaluable, both in helping me shift stuff and in keeping me well grounded. I am really, really going to miss having him as my fellow hermit.

Oh yeah, most of the packing was much neater than what you see in the rear of the trailer. Wedging in those last items wasn’t pretty. That thing that looks like an explosion in a bicycle factory is one of my three items of furniture — a two-seater lawn glider than had to be taken all the way down to its seat slats and tubing to fit in (also Joel’s work).

Quite a lot of stuff didn’t make the cut, including all of my bulk storage foods. What you see in the photo are (among other things) the three buckets we’d hopefully loaded on the trailer then had to pull off. The rest never even left the barn. Ah well, all that wheat isn’t on my primal diet, anyhow, right? The wheat, beans, sugar, salt, and TVP will serve the Last-Chance Gulch community well in an emergency. And Joel will make fine use out of all the regular canned foods I left behind. In a couple of months, I’ll hit the fall canned-goods sales and begin stocking up again.

Joel threatened to put that rocking chair in the background on top of my vehicle just like Ma Clampett, but I declined. I figured dog crates were rednecky enough without having to hum the Beverly Hillbillies theme song all the way across country.

Now … on the road tomorrow!

Claire Wolfe


Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

You guys are making me nervous.

No, not you guys who’ve wished me well on my upcoming move to the Northwest. Not you guys who’ve given much-appreciated advice on pellet stoves and wood stoves. Not you guys (this means you, Jake MacGregor) who’ve even offered unloading assistance, hammer swinging, or spare furniture. Not you who’ve commiserated about fatal rattlesnakes, near-fatal winds, and death-defying doggies. Not you who’ve offered tips on cool NW bookstores and other places to go. You … I thank you all.

But you guys (and wimmins) — you know who you are — you who’ve warned me that the mere possession of a house with rooms (and especially an attic and a basement) could lead me to suffer the fate of the Collyer brothers, dying of accumulation — you make me nervous.

I tell myself, No, I’m not a hoarder. Anything but. I’m somebody who has shed possessions happily and moved on. So when the first warning came — from Oliver, the webmaster of this very website — I laughed it off. After all, I’m no Oliver, a man who lives in a giant old house and will probably stay there forever.

I’ve been a gypsy without inclination for so much baggage.

I didn’t really begin to worry until someone named John left this truly ominous comment at the end of one of my blog posts. Said John:

I moved from a fifth wheel to a house in 1999, it was a good change.

Stuff has followed me in the door a couple things at a time and the place has just filled up. Beware, “stuff” multiplies when you are sleeping.

Now, as I finish boxing up all the things that are to go into the U-Haul trailer tomorrow, I begin to wonder. Stuff sneaks in and breeds when you are sleeping …?

I’m moving from a fifth-wheel. And before that I moved from a one-room house. Yet … there’s stuff all over the place. Stuff in every cranny, every drawer, every shelf of the pantry. It’s in the barn. In the workshop. In the power shed. It overwhelms every box that neighbor Joel and I dumpster-dived from behind the supermarket or scrounged from the saw shop.

I note as I vainly attempt to keep ahead of the ever-emerging stuff that most of it falls into two categories. The biggest category by far: Tools. Shop tools, art tools, jewelry-making tools, cooking tools, firearms and ammo, and all kinds of other tools. And related materials. The second killer category is food. Well, ya gotta be prepared, don’tcha?

I own only three pieces of furniture — and pieces is the operative term, as all three break down into small bits for easy transport.

So even though I possess all this stuff — this clearly multiplying stuff — I can still tell myself I won’t fall prey to the sort of stuff-collecting that fills homes with tottering heaps of 50-year-old Life magazines and giant balls of string or aluminum foil — let alone 14 assorted pianos and the chassis of a Model-T Ford. After all, my stuff is all very practical. Useful. And none of it was impulsively acquired or is compulsively kept.

Of course, there is that marvelous occasional table in the form of a glass circle resting on the heads of three giant brass geese (“like pink flamingos, only with class,” as Joel aptly described it). Which I bought just last weekend. Even as I had doubts about fitting everything into the trailer.

But well … anyone could see that that was an absolute must-have purchase. After all, my new house needs furnishings. And any devotee of estate sales would have realized in an instant — and totally understood! — that one simply doesn’t pass up an item like that. I mean, how many other opportunities will I have to buy three larger-than-lifesize geese with a tabletop on their craniums? Very few — as any reasonable person must acknowledge.

No, forget what I said about you making me nervous. You’re all completely wrong. Obviously, outrageously wrong. I’m in no danger of stuff accumulating around me, awake or asleep. I am ever vigilant against the gathering of things for the sake of things.

To the simple life — forever!

Claire Wolfe

Things I’m looking forward to

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Things I’m looking forward to in a house in a small town in the Northwest.

  • Rooms. This will be the first time in 10 years I’ll be able to walk through a doorway and not end up outside (or in a bathroom).
  • Room. Being able to move through my living space without bumping into things, knocking objects over, or having to leapfrog assorted dogs.
  • Tap water that doesn’t destroy everything it touches.
  • Filling a glass of water right from the spigot and being able to drink it (instead of hauling 55-gallon barrels of drinkable water from town and 5-gallon jugs from the power shed).
  • Green.
  • A notable dearth of rattlesnakes.
  • Power that comes at the flip of a switch without any personal prayer or engineering involved. (Yes, I know; it’s major coolness living off-grid, and we preparedness types are supposed to be able to generate our own power by rubbing two sticks together or something and it’s fashionable for us to scorn “the grid.” But solar power is really not ready for prime time.)
  • Not being 12 miles from town. (Yes, it’s also been cool telling “civilized” people that I have to drive through five desert washes just to get to the grocery store, and when it rains I can’t leave the property because the flash floods might carry my SUV away. But enough’s enough. Those floods have been impressive, though.)
  • Having a real library within a mile of me again. Whoohoo!!!
  • Green.
  • Trees taller than my kneecaps.
  • Being near the ocean even if I don’t go there all that often, and even if it’s always 50 degrees and foggy when I do.
  • Having a generator be a backup device and not a regular part of living.
  • Fecundity. Wild mushrooms in the fall. Fiddlehead ferns. Streams teaming with fish. Blackberries, huckleberries, and salmonberries growing everywhere. All kinds of stuff growing everywhere.
  • A toilet. That flushes.
  • A bathtub. Withactual hot water.
  • Being able to run a hair dryer, a microwave, or a fan without a) paroxysms of guilt or b) hitting the low-battery cut-off point.
  • Green.
  • Green.
  • Green.

Final packing day tomorrow. Trailer loading on Thursday. Hit the road on Friday.

I’m taking backroads most of the way and making a leisurely trip of it. I expect I’ll be able to blog a bit at truck stops or motels-with-wifi.



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