why the u.s. postal service is doomed. a photo essay.

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It all seemed so simple.

1. I mail out the 72 HOM stickers.

2. I drink a black butte porter.

3. I sketch out a blueprint for solving the Eastern Ukrainian Krisis. I haven’t gotten too far on that one, other than the brilliant idea that spelling Krisis with a K will make it all seem a little less dreary. Some doughnut company should pick up on this.

4. I Love Lucy at 4 a.m. Nothing gets in the way of my Lucy time.

And then.

During our semiannual mailbox visit this week (our only mail tends to come from the world’s most persistent Jehovah’s Witness, who is convinced that sending us a handwritten letter once a week will lead to our eventual salvation, or at least the Outer Banks), I received a letter in familiar handwriting. Mine.

The envelope intended for Matz & Matz, the legendary Vaudeville comedy duo, had spent a weekend in Sacramento, only to return home with a handsome tan. Why?

You should know that Mo, who has the calligraphic (is that a word?) flair of an arteest, was annoyed by the way I addressed the envelopes, which is to say that I just wrote stuff on them. I’m a copy editor. Shoot me. (No, really. Shoot me. I don’t want to go to work today.) And I’m left-handed, which led me to develop a style the handwriting experts refer to as “Indecipherable.” But not this time.

I examined things more closely. I feared such a problem when addressing, so I included “United States” in the address, given the general perception that uppity Kalifornia is its own country. I hate states that take themselves so seriously. I can’t remember the name of the other state that does that.

But everything seemed OK. I checked the number against the address book. Actually it’s an address manuscript with an option for publication that likely will never be picked up. Yes, the address matched.

I dutifully texted the less attractive of the Flying Matzi to ask what was up.

Ah, he informed me. Rather than 5626, it’s actually 5625. I assume he gave a false number originally for safety concerns. (i could add that he ended the text with a smiley face, totally costing him his Man Card, but that secret shall remain safely with me.)

And that explained that.

Except.

Picture that you are a mail delivery postal carrier mailman person. I am likely influenced by my image of Kliff Klaven (spelled that way in an effort to ease the Ukrainian Krisis.) You’re out making your rounds. You’re standing at 5626 Hell (street name kleverly disguised to keep them from suing me over revealing actual address.) You study the address. 5626? 5626? There ARE no Flying Matzi at 5626. IF I LOOK ACROSS THE FREAKING STREET, THERE ARE FLYING MATZI ALL OVER THE PLACE AT 5625. But this envelope says 5626. What to do? I know. I will send it back to South Tejas, so that they can change the number by one digit and we can do this all over again.

The dumbest part: IT’S ADDRESSED TO THE FLYING MATZI!!!!!!!!!!!!

These are CELEBRITIES, for Pre’s sake!!! How could you deliver mail to this neighborhood and not be sucked in by the Kult of Matzi? (spelled that way because, well, you know.) Matz. MATZ! Does this person not follow ultrarunning? Isn’t that mandatory in the Greater Sacramento Area? It’s addressed to “Matz” and it’s ONE NUMBER OFF!!! If this postal person got a letter addressed to Bubbles the Chimp at Neverland and the number was off by one, would he send it back? (how IS michael jackson these days? I wonder if he faked his own death specifically so he would have more time to write me weekly letters. Dang Jehovah’s Witnesses.) Unless Matz is the Sacramento equivalent of Smith, I would assume this would be a mystery Monk could solve in exactly 52 minutes with a quirky glance and a Handi-Wipe.

I’m guessing this is a scam to extort another 18 cents from me for a second stamp (yes, I bought my forever stamps in 1967). Or maybe a byproduct of too much time spent in the Sacramento equivalent of Cheers. Or the devious work of Magic Weasels. Whatever.

I suppose I’ll try it again. I just hope they accept the address 5625 I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY YOU KRAPPY MAILMAN YOU GO TO HELL YOU GO TO HELL AND DIE, SACRAMENTO, CA UNITED STATES.

On the bright side, the next time my pile of Jehovah’s Witness letters arrives, I know where to forward it.

Unless, of course, it appears to have been written by Bubbles …

(p.s. no, you may NOT have my panama city keychain. don’t even ask.)-

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all you really need to know about me

I must always put on the right running shoe first. Then the left one.

But then I must always tie the left running shoe first. Then the right one.

Failure to do so will cause the world to end. This is the burden I live with.

Running is much harder than you would think when looking at Runner’s World covers.

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signs your perspective on racing has changed

These days we mostly sign up for races that are focused on free beer. Even if it comes in a tiny mug.

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wes and me

Nobody said this stuff was supposed to be good for you.

Wes Welker is a wide receiver for the Denver Broncos. (I should pause here to say that I don’t follow sports much, I’m fuzzy on the details of what happened and all of this could well be made up. But I’m posting it on the internet, so it must be true.)

He was in a game last weekend when a defensive player hit him in the head at 200 mph. Apparently this is a bad thing. Worse, the NFL recently started pretending to care about concussions since there’s a threat they might have to pay for their lax attitude. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s three concussions for Welker in 10 months.

My favorite part of the story: Peyton Manning — world’s most cerebral, cool-headed quarterback, the guy who criticized teams for fighting during preseason because it doesn’t prepare them for the real season, the guy — later sprinted down the field after the safety allowed a touchdown, got in his face, and gave him an audible: “F*** YOU!!!!!!” He said afterward that the defender was quite appreciative of his analysis.

Speculators have been speculating since. Is this the end of Welker’s career? Does he dare play anymore?

I turned to my go-to NFL analyst, Mo Sheppo. If I’m his wife, said she, I’m never letting him step on the field again. Too dangerous. Not worth it.

Which, of course, is rational. The problem is that nobody really is.

Why do we run? We constantly push the boundaries of safety. We run in extreme heat, crazy cold, distances that will leave us limping toward the grave. We take stupid chances in remote places where one misstep will lead to our demise. It’s got nothing to do with health. It’s something else. That call of the wild (that should be a book!). The need to push ourselves past our limits, pause, admire that new limit and push past it again. To be alive in a world that wants to lull us into complacency.

I’m sure his Mr. Welker’s head is telling him stop. Walk away while you can. But his heart is telling him it’s not even a choice. You must do what you love to do for as long as you can do it. Damn the consequences.

I hope he’s OK. And I hope he keeps playing. Maybe just running routes to the outside. I hope his wife doesn’t kill him.

Me? It’s 95, way too hot to run. Too dangerous. Not worth it. So I’m going to go run. And if life thinks otherwise?

Mr. Peyton Manning taught me how to respond.

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no tears. i was just sweating. honest

Longtime readers will recall that I am a West Texas boy. I grew up in the land of mesquite trees, barbed wire fences and Dr Pepper. I led a sheltered childhood, not finding out till many years later that Barry Manilow wrote the Dr Pepper theme. There are some things a child shouldn’t know.

I loved dirt clod fights, mesquite bean gun fights, and croquet ball fights. Yes, I am a pacifist. Why do you ask? I loved singing “Texas, Our Texas” in the alley while playing hooky in second grade. I loved Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls and Tom Landry and whirlwinds and tumbling tumbleweeds and armadillos as long as they weren’t pushing guys on couches. I loved farm equipment gimme hats and chicken fried steak. I loved keeping my contraband in a snuff can in my back pocket. I loved pretty much everything about The Great State of Texas. But by far, my biggest love was always the prickly pear cactus.

It’s an odd little creature. Round, flat, huge needles for protection. A little red pear from time to time, and an occasional bloom. They would overtake a pasture in the course of an afternoon. Safety in numbers, I suppose. I always thought they were beautiful. I still do. Whenever I see one, it feels like I’m home. It’s a good feeling.

When I first became friends with Mo, we came upon some prickly pears while hiking on an Arizona trail. It’s the home of majestic saguaros that tower overhead, their arms reaching out for an embrace. But I was drawn to the little prickly pears nearby. I explained that this far from home, I was moved to weep at the sight of a prickly pear. She gave me the “you weirdo” look. Twenty years later, I’m still getting that look.

And then years later, as fate and a dying newspaper industry would have it, I landed in South Tejas on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a lovely place, though after four years I still feel like a lost tourist on an extended vacation for which I drastically underpacked.

My runs most days are along the bayfront. It’s beautiful. I’ve been running the 1k Naked Lady Loop, named as such because there’s a naked lady on it. I am nothing if not creative in my course names. I like it a lot. Half dirt trail, half sidewalk, water fountain, a view that extends so far that I can watch the shuffleboard games in Boca Raton while I run.

The only problem: It was never home. Until today.

I was running along the edge of the cliff, where it says “don’t run along the edge of the cliff because you will die,” in hopes it would kill me and I wouldn’t have to go to work. By chance, I looked down. And there they were.

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A little prickly pear garden is growing along the edge of the water. How is that even possible? It was 95, so maybe it was just a wonderful hallucination. Maybe I’m in a “Truman Show” production and they’re messing with me. Or maybe it’s just the world giving me a break after a long, ugly stretch. A little heavily thorned bouquet to say every little thing’s gonna be alright. I’m not sure how reggae fits into the West Texas motif. Did I mention it was hot today? (we must never speak of the willie nelson reggae album.)

I ran repeats on the 1k loop, alternating between laughing at the naked lady’s butt and weeping at the sight of the prickly pear. Naked butt, prickly pear. Naked butt, prickly pear. Naked butt, prickly pear. And I knew then that life isn’t supposed to make sense. That’s what makes life, well, life. You just have to keep looking.

I love this trail. It’s just a Dr Pepper and a dirt clod fight from feeling like home. It’s a good feeling.

If I plunge to my death, I’m aiming for the prickly pear forest …

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things i wish i had said, part 44

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You don’t have to know the name of it to go up it.

– jenn shelton

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just another morning conversation, part 59

mo: How was your run?

me: Great! I found a new course!

mo:  (long pause) Is it noticeable when my eyes start to glaze over?

me: You asked.

mo: zzzzzzzzzzz

Now mo will never find out about the scofflaw gull. Her loss.

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