brothers, part 11

I had just moved to corpus for a new job. It was too hard. I was cracking up and desperate. I didn’t know what to do.

Rick showed up out of nowhere. He set up his air mattress bed in the living room, shrugged and said he just needed a vacation.

Over the weekend, we went to the surf club and the beach and the whataburger by the bay. We talked about the usual stuff, but work never came up.

And then eventually, during a quiet moment sitting in the sand staring at the ocean, he asked about the job. I told him it was horrible and I didn’t think I could do it. “It’s going to be OK,” he told me. That’s all he said. It was enough. I believed him. And of course, he was right.

He was always there for me.

He always will be.

It’s going to be OK.

And yes, I inherited my impeccable fashion sense from him.

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once upon an elevator

We’re riding the elevator down to the little art museum. I have whacked out my knee (a technical medical term) on the morning run, and taking the stairs down is out of the question.

We have been here many times, but never in the elevator. It’s fancy, like an expensive hotel or a prison where they’d send Martha Stewart. Mo looks up at the ceiling, and there we are.

Why would you put a mirror on the ceiling? We react in the only possible way, which of course is taking a photo.

As we are posing, the elevator door opens. Three feet away, sitting at the desk, is a friend Mo hasn’t seen in forever. She says hi. Mo says hi. Then she shrugs and says, “Sorry, we’re taking photos.” She hits the close button. The friend watches as the door closes. Eventually, the alarm sounds. Chaos ensues. But we get the photo.

This is why I love her so.

I hope we get sent to a prison that has mirrors on the elevator ceilings.

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fresh foam indeed

winner of the carbon X vs. beacon vs. black butte porter comparison test:

black butte porter. not even close.

comparison tests likely should not be done late at night.

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saints and saguaros

We have come in search of The Dogs of San Xavier. He has come in search of a miracle.

The ancient mission is a pilgrimage site, so it’s only fitting that we have made the trek to seek the old labradors who sometimes make appearances. Alas, not today.

Disappointed, we wander the grounds, stopping at the little room off to the left that houses the prayer candles. And there he is.

As we walk up, he’s off to the right side of the room, head bowed, deep in prayer. He’s wearing his Sunday best on a scorching Thursday afternoon: Starched white shirt, dress pants, boots, black hair slicked back precisely. He’s old, maybe a little older than me, likely a member of the O’odham tribe that surrounds the mission.

And clearly, he needs a miracle.

We stand for a long time at the little shrine. Religion is an odd thing. I suppose one is as good as the next, as long as your believe with all your heart. And clearly he does.

It’s awkward to be a sightseer with the sight of someone so deeply involved in prayer. We stand for a while, struck by the somber intensity of the room. The smoke-covered walls, the old photographs, the statues, the candles, the stillness. There’s something about the room. A spirit you can feel. Holy.

As we leave, he’s still there, head bowed, oblivious to us.

We go inside the mission. It was completed just before 1800, a relic of the past that’s still an active church. Dark and quiet, with statues of saints and lions and simple grandeur. It’s got a vibe that goes from reverence to spooky and back again.

Directly across from our bench is  the carved effigy of St. Francis Xavier, lying beneath a blanket. Mo says people come to him with their prayer requests, leaving him tiny metal charms and scraps of paper. They believe he can grant miracles, she says.

We sit quietly in the dark, our eyes adjusting as we watch people trickle in to stand before the saint. And there he is again.

He crosses himself, touches the saint’s head, his body, his feet. He stands in prayer, head bowed, forever. He touches the saint’s head again, and then slowly walks out. A heavy weight follows him.

We walk into the bright light outside. Mo asks the woman at the gift shop about the dogs. The woman says they don’t come around much these days; Mo is lucky to have seen them earlier. Mo buys a candle from her. We go back to the little room, where she lights it and leaves it with the rest.

I don’t ask who she is praying for. But I know who my prayer is for.

I hope we find our dogs. I hope he finds his miracle.

We stop at the Circle K and buy sodas, in search of saguaros.

And maybe miracles.

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just another morning conversation, part 75

Mo: Why are there some words you can’t remember?

Me: What words can you not remember?

Mo: I can’t remember.

I probably should have seen that one coming.

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We could have had a pygmy goat

The phone rings. Mo is panicking.

“Can you see if my wallet is  in the living room?” she asks.

She is leaving work and realized she doesn’t know where it is. We’ve been through a long stretch that has left us both a bit fuzzy, and the wallet appears to be the victim of the fog.

She thinks she left the apartment with it. But she threw away the trash, stopped to get her key from a neighbor, went to work, neglected to lock it up there, and now it’s missing. It could be anywhere. Or nowhere.

I scour the joint and am disappointed that I don’t accidentally come across my missing wedding ring during the search. She backtracks through work and digs through her car. Nothing.

I guess it could be worse. The wallet contains a credit card, a debit card, about 20 bucks and her driver’s license. If she had lost it a day before the flight to Seattle, getting through TSA would have been an adventure, so there’s that. But she likes the mug shot on her license and is smitten with the 20 bucks, so it’s sad.

She comes home empty-handed. She wonders if someone swiped it, but I point out she doesn’t have the best track record of losing things, being an artist and all. Three searches of the car and apartment later, she puts holds on the credit cards, resigns herself to the loss, and goes to bed.

And then.

This morning as she’s getting ready for work, she quietly declares: “I need a miracle. I need the wallet to turn up.”

I think, “A miracle. Yeah, right.”

She goes out to make coffee and I linger in bed, reading the letsrun boys fighting over whether any self-respecting clown would wear the new Hoka Carbon X. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a shadow on the blinds. Someone has walked up to the door.

I peek out the window, curious which pizza company has deemed us worthy of their valuable coupon. There, on the porch in front of the door, is the wallet.

I call out to Mo: “Your wallet is on the porch.” She replies, “yeah, right.” I reply “really.” I tell her I just saw it there. Thinking that I’m joking, she gives me the I Am Not Amused Look. But she finally goes out to to the porch so I’ll shut up, and there it is, smiling at her.

She must have dropped it in the parking lot. Someone found it, saw the address on her license (with a great mug shot), and returned it. No knock on the door to bask in our thanks, no reward, just a simple, anonymous gesture of all that’s good about humanity. Cash intact. They even left her Saguaro National Park button.

We stare at each other, amazed. It’s a lesson. Mo has been saying for weeks, “I need something good to happen. Just one good thing.” And then, something good happened. A reminder that there is much kindness in the world, selfless acts waiting to happen. It just takes the occasional miracle.

And then it hits me. IMMEDIATELY after she said she needed a miracle, the wallet appeared. We could have canceled the cards, gotten a new license, lost 20 bucks, and she could have wished for a pygmy goat instead. Oh, well. The pygmy goat likely would eat the replacement credit cards.

She gets ready for work, smiling and shaking her head every time she walks past the little wallet. Miracles do happen.

She grabs her glasses as she prepares to leave, pours one last cup of coffee, glances around the room, and then looks at me.

“Ummmmm, have you seen my wallet?”

I really, really want a penguin butler. But that would take a miracle …

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Blade loved a good story

The words of David Schoenmaker:

Good afternoon. For those who don’t know me, I am David, Ann’s brother. We are here this afternoon to honor and remember Blade as well as spread his ashes. We chose to call this a wake, not a traditional wake, but more by definition … informal, family and close friends, food, laughter and stories. I believe that is exactly how Blade would want it.

So, as we each mourn and weep in our own ways as we begin to heal, we should laugh — dance if you wish — and share a good story. Blade loved a good story.

I remember first meeting Blade. I was intimidated by this heavy equipment operator, wiry, hard working tough guy. Top that off with that head of perfectly groomed red hair … Yeah, it was the hair.

I first got to know Blade as we were building our home some 30 years ago. He was always there willing to pitch in and do what he could. He helped tear down part of the old house, he excavated, backfilled and graded for the new house.

He always gave us a chance to drive the machines, trying to teach us what had become second nature to him. I remember him saying, “You control the excavator by your butt where you feel what it’s doing.” I admitted “all I can feel is a broken seat cushion poking me in the butt.” Of course, Blade cracked up laughing. He loved to laugh.

From that conversation, Blade and I started calling each other “Butthead,” a term of affection.

So, one day I’m out on my tractor, mowing a hillside, and Blade comes running over and flags me down. Oh man, he looked pissed. I braced myself, thinking maybe I had called him butthead one too many times!

He yells up to me, “Hey, butthead, now you are being a big butthead! Lower that bucket on that hill, it’ll tip the tractor over and kill you. … I wouldn’t want to lose you!”

As I got to know this tough guy, I came to realize he was a big softie, and what a huge heart he had! I loved the guy; Blade loved well.

We chose to spread Blade’s ashes on the earth of the hillside of the pond and along the stream. The earth he so loved to work with his machines. That as the seasons pass, they would flow into the water which leads to the valley and from the river to the sea.

A toast to Blade: I’m sure God must have needed your help in grading and paving those Streets of Gold.


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