We went out to pick up bread last evening.

To most, this is a mundane and routine task that involves driving to the local supermarket or convenience store.  For us, it means visiting a local church to pick up the expired bread that the local supermarkets and convenience stores have discarded.

The trick to making this work is using the bread promptly or freezing it immediately.  That’s because many of these loaves are a week or more past their expiration dates.  Just a day or two on the kitchen counter and all you’ll be left with is a moldy mess.

We were able to pick up a package of brown ‘n serve rolls that we stuck in the oven and turned into crunchy garlic bread.  We did the same with part of a round loaf of sourdough.  Two other loaves of bread and a package of rolls went into the freezer.  We’ve discovered that if you defrost just a few slices of bread or a couple of rolls at a time, you can make the package last for quite a while.  True, it’s not even close to fresh bread, but when you’ve been out of work for as long as I have, it will do just fine.

My sister has been out of work, too, although only for a few weeks.  As a traveling sonographer, she lives a nomadic life, serving 6 or 12 week stints at hospitals around the country.  The disconnect, at least for me, is that she owns two homes, one here in California and one in Idaho.  Without a steady job, however, she cannot afford to live in either one and has to rent them out to pay the mortgages.  So she recently did a gig in New Mexico, returned to California to visit family for a few weeks, then drove five days to her next assignment in Ohio.  Now that she’s done in Ohio, she is back in California for a bit before she starts her next gig in Oregon.

Last time my sister was between jobs, she planned to stay with my parents for two weeks.  She lasted four days.  This time around, she only lasted three.  My poor mother told me that those three days felt like two weeks.  Let’s just say that my sister is not an easy guest to have around.  Particularly when she is accompanied by her two cats, who enjoy jumping up on tables, climbing the drapes and generally tearing around like hellions.  She does, however, provide an endless source of entertaining stories.

My sister is currently driving a rental car.  On her way back from Ohio, after 12 hours on the road, driving Interstate 80 at freeway speed in the middle of the night, the front end of her Subaru experienced an unfortunate meeting with a deer crossing the road.  Despite extensive damage to her car, it managed to limp back to the Bay Area where my sister visited her two children while her vehicle underwent repairs.

Since my sister’s divorce, my niece and nephew (both of whom are now adults) have been residing with their father and his new family.  When my sister pulled up to her ex-husband’s two million dollar home, she couldn’t help noticing a new development that had sprouted on the lawn.  It seems that, with the aid of a kit, her ex had managed to construct a yurt.  A full-sized yurt that sleeps 20 people.

Then he carpeted the yurt.

Then he installed air conditioning in the yurt.

To stave off being ticketed by the cops and groused at by the neighbors, he erected an explanatory sign.  It says something like:  “This is a yurt.  If I am here, please come in and ask me about the yurt.  The yurt is temporary and will be removed shortly, so calm down.”

It turns out that my former brother-in-law constructed his fancy yurt for the purpose of attending Burning Man.  After participating for several years, it appears that he has now become one of the volunteers or staff or something and needs a large yurt to hold yurt meetings.

I’m really not that familiar with Burning Man other than its reputation for peace, love, music, art and nudity reminiscent of Woodstock.  Some say it’s all about self-reliance (surviving in the inhospitable desert), while others say it’s really all about connecting with one’s fellow man.  Some say that everyone is a participant, no one a spectator.  I hear talk of self-expression, of being yourself, of finding yourself.  Nothing can be bought or sold at the event, just shared.  This anti-consumerist aspect of the event is supposed to bring people closer together by removing the cold convenience of the arm’s length transaction.  Then they set the sculpture of the Man on fire and everyone goes home.

Burning Man claims to operate on ten principles that it encourages participants to incorporate into their lives back home after the event.  And although folks online often describe it as a life-changing experience, I cannot help but think that Burning Man is the last bastion of aging hippies and those seeking outlets for their midlife crises.

I don’t claim to understand what attendees actually do at the annual event, but I’ve heard stories about donning body paint and dancing naked in the 100°F heat, stories that may or may not be true.  And I certainly don’t believe my mother’s assertions that sexual orgies are part and parcel of the festivities.

Then again, the Burning Man website discourages artists from handing out flyers because, after all, naked people lack pockets.  And, well, their site does contain a section titled Sex and the Single Burner.  Who was it that said Mother is always right?

One thing I can tell you for sure:  You won’t find me at Burning Man this year.  Or any year.  But if I ever suffer a severe midlife crisis and feel the need to walk about naked in the desert and connect with my fellow man, I’ll be sure to bring a yurt.



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