“Socialising enhances fat conversion and loss in mice.”

Highway Trailer Park sign
Highway Trailer Park

“Researchers at Ohio State University in the US identified a link between the amount of social interaction in a mouse’s environment and its weight.” Rats in social situations don’t get fat whilst rats that live in solitary pursuit of their little rat dreams, grow obese, grow ill and die more quickly.

In view of my commitment to lose 25 pounds by September 21, this discovery is a message from God, saying I must engage with some of the hominids around here. God, how I’ve tried. While I’ve exchanged grimaces and pleasantries with people repeatedly over the previous nine months since I arrived in Santa Maria, at the library, the athletic club, the La Princesa market next door, and so on, but upon scratching the surface of social veneer, I withdraw in culture shock, into the illusory shell of privacy I pretend, for sanity’s sake, prevents others from seeing who I am, a joke of an idea in itself given the fact that I stand out like a yellow balloon on a Lybyan desert here in Santa Maria.

For instance, I live in an avocado green 1973 Southwind motorhome, which I’ve embellished with accents of redwood and cedar garnered from places where I’ve traveled in the Pacific Northwest. Wirelessly linked inside the 25′ by 7′ interior of this compact domicile, there are two sound amplification systems, located fore and aft, each designed to fill a small home theater with stereophonic fidelity. These systems are necessary to my efforts to compose music and produce visual media, as are the keyboards, guitar amplifiers and accoutrement associated with video production and editing. But ignoring the strains of Andriessen, Bathgate, Cage, Walton, etc., emanating on occasion through the aluminum avocado walls, I make no effort to dress in the subdued local style. At the InShape gym, I’m the only person who wears red or yellow shorts, which are bathing suits I chose in bright colors so I’d be more visible if a should be swept away while swimming in an ocean current. It is also logical to me to wear bright colors on a bicycle and to wear a fluorescent green protective helmet. Not to mention that I seem to be the only person who uses a bicycle as a mode of transportation and who is not a fieldworker who can’t afford a car.

Tom "Boomer"
Tom Martin aka “Boomer”

Directly across the gravel driveway that circles within Highway Trailer Park, lives park manager, Tom, an apex predator of 60 going on 61 who also takes scrap metal to and from the Port of LA on Wednesdays in a 12-wheeler.


The first time I heard the diesel tractor starting at 3:00AM, I awoke expecting to see the King Falafel on it’s way into orbit. Tom, who is not above cold-blooded murder if he felt it prudent, regards me as either crazy or a spy for the police. Why else would someone like me be living in this mini-slum owned by his boss, the Iraqi-Angelino owners of King Falafel. My rent’s paid and I’m not wanted by the law and I’m coherent. My marbles are not scattered. I go for hikes and bike rides. I study music and volunteer at the library. A strange combination not typical of residents of Santa Maria’s Highway Trailer Park, in the county seat of Santa Barbara County, Michael Jackson was tried for child molestation–I’m reminded when I pass the courthouse, on my bicycle, on the way to the library and Trader Joe’s.

My interactions with Tom are distant but I am in his sight constantly through the eye of the video camera which he mounted on the end of the 5th wheel trailer he lives in to keep an eye on the activities of the drug-using residents of apartments beyond my rig across the street and the comings and goings and comings of women related to him and people who live here.

Tony Stevens
Tony Stevens

To the right of Tom’s 5th wheel as I look across the drive, is Tony, a small, wiry man of about 50 years, who wears a charming smile around his eyes, the pupils of which are black and reflect the bronzish color of his skin, while the features of his face and body proportions resemble those of an acrobatic performer or pugilist. Tony says he was born-again some years ago and put an end to his previous life of drink, abundant promiscuity and the rich pleasures of carefree, unmitigated lust. I got that he is now a man’s man.


Tony works part-time at a 99 Cent store on Bettaravia and is struggles to pay Tom’s rent on the space where he lives in a truck, because he was fired from another part-time job he had, hooking up trailers at the U-Haul store-he told me because the owner there addressed him as “Nigger”. (Tony pronounced it like the river, Niger.) Without the 2nd job, Tony says he won’t make the rent this month. I took him to the Department of Social Services, and they said his $330 monthly income from the 99 Cent store was $30 higher than the maximum allowed to qualify for Food Stamps. A major part of Tony’s problem is that half his income is sent to the mother of his two children. It seems punative since his kids mother is married and doing ok financially with her spouse.

–Use Case #25fkf

6 thoughts on ““Socialising enhances fat conversion and loss in mice.””

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