a life-changing discovery.

I’m not one to tout specific items very often (or at all for that matter), so the fact that I’m writing an entire blog post about one means that I’m truly convinced that this is a magical product.

Given my recent move and subsequent limited shower access, I’ve found only one thing to really bother me when I have to go more than a day or two without…unwashed hair. I have fairly thin hair that’s just short enough not to put in a ponytail, so a day or two without a shower means I’ve got an oily mess of hair sticking up in all directions and absolutely no way to salvage it without the use of a hat or bandana. Unfortunately, I’m not at all a hat or bandana person, so when it’s been without wash for a few days, it’s extremely evident.

To help with this problem, I turned to a generic beauty supply store in search of dry shampoo. (Before someone comments telling me that baby powder works just as well…for me, it doesn’t. I end up looking like I’m wearing a freshly powdered wig of an 18th century royal and smelling like a [freshly diapered] baby’s behind.)

I located the dry shampoo (curiously packaged in an aerosol can), but noticed a bottle right next to it called No-Rinse Shampoo. After examining the bottle thoroughly, I decided to give them both a try and bought one of each, satisfied with the fact that they both cost about the same as a bottle of decent shampoo or conditioner would have anyway.

In a pinch, the dry shampoo will work. I’d say it’s best for those last-minute rushes to get ready when you’ve missed your alarm and haven’t the time to style your hair in any way. I’d argue that it’s more effective than baby powder, but that might just be me. After spraying my hair, it wasn’t oily, but did have a bit of a powdery/product-filled feeling to it. Regardless, I’d feel much better going out in public with this in my hair than not, so I’ll keep it around as a last resort

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Now let’s talk about this No-Rinse Shampoo. This stuff is pure magic in a bottle. It’s really watery, so you just apply it to your hair until it’s soaked through…lather it up a bit…then towel off as if you’ve gone through your normal shampoo/condition/rinse procedure in the shower. I blow-dried my hair afterward, and despite it feeling a bit like I had some product in my hair (similar to that feeling after you’ve gotten a haircut and they insist on putting something in your hair despite your arguments that you don’t use it), I felt absolutely wonderful afterwards. I’ve used it twice, but I’m still managing to shower often enough not to warrant full dependency on it quite yet. However, I’m quite certain it will come in handy when I’m on the road this summer.

the city inspector.

He came in a plain white truck with a yellow safety light flashing on top. The sound of gravel slowly being rolled over by his tires alerted me to his presence. My gut told me that something wasn’t right, so I ducked into the back of my van and silently willed the truck to drive off. No such luck. I listened as the truck door opened and footsteps crunched as someone walked around to the gate. He knocked tentatively and said, “Hello?”

He was the city inspector, and he’d come to scope out the house as a response to an anonymous complaint that someone was living in their vehicle there along with another claiming there was illegal construction going on (of which there is none). He left the alley behind the house and made his way way to the front and rang the doorbell. By that time I’d sprinted inside and was hiding in the hallway as J answered and responded to his questions. She offered to let him come see the van the next day and he happily took her up on the offer, leaving a few minutes later. I spent the remainder of my day emptying The Beast of any and all evidence that someone was residing atop her four wheels and tried [without much success] not to panic.

Anger and disappointment quickly joined my bouts of panic as I moved Loulou to the garage and made up the couch as my bed for the night. Anger because you can easily find a handful of much larger motor-homes parked in front yards within walking distance of our house with people obviously living in them and no one ever bothers them. Disappointment because I assumed it was a neighbor and we’d cleared me living there with everyone beforehand, so this meant someone lied and went behind our backs to report us. And then more panic as I realized I didn’t have any other feasible options for parking my van in the nearby area.

It was decided that I’d vacate the premises prior to the city inspector’s second visit so that J could answer the questions and show him around without me sweating bullets nearby. Due to some vital developments [*I’ll detail this below] that happened over the course of the day after his first visit, the city inspector seemed as if he didn’t care at all that the van was back there, much less if someone was living in it. A quick glance at the van (he didn’t even go inside!) and he was satisfied that it was free of squatters and left. My sigh of relief upon hearing this news was likely heard throughout the greater San Diego.

[ * A person from J’s past has been spending a fair amount of time harassing her and making her life miserable in just about any way possible. After a slew of phone calls and some digging, she found out that it wasn’t in fact a neighbor that had complained, but this person that had been harassing her. Official documents proving this fact and that he’d been harassing her were presented and the city understandably backed off.]

Despite being seemingly in the clear, I’m still hesitant to assume my former status as a van-dweller in J’s backyard just yet. From what I can tell, the city doesn’t seem to care if someone’s living in a vehicle on private property unless an official complaint is made, so it shouldn’t be a problem from here on out. However, now that we’re on the city’s radar I don’t want to test that theory and cause more problems for J.

I’m not exactly sure what the next few weeks or months hold, but for the time being, her couch is comfy and I’ll be researching my other options.

overcoming social stigmas.

My inaugural drive home in The Beast won me more than a few strange looks and second glances from passing drivers on the interstate. I do realize that it’s not every day you see a young single gal driving around in a monstrous camper van straight out of the seventies, but the negative reaction I’ve gotten from the neighbors has been unexpected and a bit on the unsettling side.

Since I picked up The Beast on July 2nd, she’s been parked in front of my current residence approximately twelve days out of the almost month I’ve had her. A short two days in, one of the neighbors that had formerly waved hello and called me by name on a regular basis merely glared angrily at me as I stood next to the van with her hood popped open, waiting for a friend to come help me jump-start the battery to get her to the garage for her first of many tune-ups. I wasn’t too shocked, but definitely disappointed.

I know that with this particular lifestyle choice comes a lot of negative social stigmas. While living in a van is seen as homeless (or at least dangerously close to it), living in a big swanky RV or motor-home is seen as adventurous and is often a lifestyle openly coveted by others.

So here my van sits, taking up no more room than some of the neighbors’ large trucks on the street, and I’ve instantaneously been shunned from the community. It makes me wonder how different their attitudes towards me would be if it were a shiny new motor-home instead of a 1979 conversion van.

Luckily, the majority of my friends are in great support of this new step in my life…even the ones that call me crazy on a regular basis. As for the neighbors who narrow their eyes at me and talk in hushed voices whenever I walk past, I’ve learned to ignore them. I proudly hold my head high as I make my trips back and forth carrying armloads of my belongings to load into The Beast knowing they’ll all be relieved to see me go for good this weekend.