Let’s talk about Sheba.
Actually, her full name is Sheba Bigbutt. She’s a wine-red 1999 Dodge Maxivan and she brought 1/3 of our worldly possessions out to California when she was a brand-new sparkling baby; the rest of it came in what we called the Rent-O-Saurus. At that time she was the newest incarnation of a line of maxivans that had carried us all over the country from 1972 to the present. Those vans carried actors and kids and lighting equipment and sets and props and coloring books and midnight dreams all over the country. Sheba is the last of the line. In the early 2000’s she carried Conrad and me to the gigs back east that paid our bills; we loved California but couldn’t make a living here.
Eventually we got too embarassed at taking this lady whale to the Safeway and found a cheap little used red Honda CRX we named Rover, and Sheba only hit the road for long-haul gigs. Then, little by little, the long-haul gigs got sparse, and Sheba sat in the driveway, loved but lonely. I’d walk by her and pat her on the nose, but she didn’t get out much. I still have the wine-red curtains we’d put up inside for privacy, but the plywood platform we’d sleep on, elevated above the theatrical gear, is long gone. She’s a big empty shell we stuff with palm fronds and other junk to go to the dump. I still love her and pat her nose.
Well, now she’s got a starring role again. Fire evacuations are a different gig in the era of Covid, and we can’t repeat last year’s luck of finding friends to stay with, cats and all. And there’s always the question of the inevitable but unpredictable earthquake. We thought, after some late-night brainstorms, of equipping Sheba as a refuge. Not to go out on the interstates, heaven forbid, but as a traveling homestead wherever we need to go in an emergency. She’s getting petted and groomed again.
We’re assembling an emergency stash as we did last year, but this time with the goal of taking Sheba and the Prius to somewhere on the coast where we can park and live for maybe two weeks, cats and all. So far we have assembled essentials: our tent camping stuff, an ample supply of water, a big Rubbermaid tub of non-perishable food, and a suitcase with a change of clothes, money, documents, a hand-crank radio, and a pouch waiting for our backup hard disks. The cats have their own suite: two crates, a litter pan, and boxes of food and litter. I’m about to check out shoulder harnesses and leashes, and I’m sure they’ll have their own opinions about those as we try them out in advance.
The new big cooler is waiting for two weeks’ worth of pre-cooked frozen dinners; I’m cooking each night’s meal double or triple and freezing the portions. If we don’t have to evacuate, I’ll have treated myself to a big library of cook-free dinners.
Oddly, this doesn’t feel dire. We’ve always loved our camping trips, the feeling that we can provide for ourselves outside the common norm. Sheba is our beloved companion again, and I swear that when I walk past and pat her nose I can hear her purr.
Elizabeth, your getaway plan actually sounds awesome. How wonderful that Sheba can be up & running and put to good use. Think of it as another honeymoon, yeah?
a wonderful email to get. i really like getting your postings. they are inspiring.
Thankyou so much and good luck in these strange times.
I remember having a special relationship with my old pickup truck when I lived in California and anticipated wildfires or the “great quake”. Freddy was always ready and raring to go when needed.
Be safe, stay healthy and continue to make art!
“Another way to be prepared is to think negatively. Yes, I’m a great optimist. but, when trying to make a decision, I often think of the worst case scenario. I call it ‘the eaten by wolves factor.’ If I do something, what’s the most terrible thing that could happen? Would I be eaten by wolves? One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about, because I have a plan in place if they do.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Wow. Quite a story. You two are amazing. Even if nothing happens, and you don’t need the van, the whole process of planning and preparing for the possibility sounds like an enjoyable experience. Plus, it puts your minds at ease.