I’m trying to decide which pack to use for running in the canyon. The faithful nathan? One of the big fanny packs? The new Ultraspire? Maybe the Arcteryx? I can’t decide.
Then I look at it.
The old Ultimate is sitting there quietly. I think back.
He was my first serious running pack. Ultimate Directions was a new company back then. They were runners making packs for runners, something that had never been done before. I bought this one around the time I started doing long trail runs. We’ve been pals ever since.
He went with me on a million runs to work and back when I first moved to Arizona and didn’t have a car. He was there for the rim-to-rim. We ran across Texas together. And then.
Technology evolved. Ultimate and other companies kept innovating. Hydration bladders. Mesh. Pockets in the belt. Better. He was relegated to the closet, a busted zipper and a broken heart. A hundred packs have come and gone (they’re my biggest weakness. ask mo) but he’s always been around.
I looked at him. He looked at me. Let’s do it.
But first, we have to get this zipper fixed. What to do?
I googled zipper repair, and the search ended at Myrna’s. She works out of a little storefront that is a trip back to the ’60s. A drawing of a glamorous woman. Polaroids of brides in their gowns. A little couch in a musty, narrow room with a dog looking over the barricade that separates the store from her apartment. Piles and piles of clothes in progress.
The woman ahead of me is dropping off sequined jeans that Selena would have been embarrassed to wear. No rush, she says. And then it’s my turn.
Myrna looks closely at the zipper. She tries it over and over. She cuts open the cloth where it attaches. With impossibly long fingernails she threads the zipper. But it won’t catch. Broken, she declares. Do you have a replacement, I ask. She waves around the room. I have zippers, but they’re for wedding dresses, she laments. She gamely goes off to the other room to rummage, and comes back with a zipper that looks like it came from a discarded Donny Osmond outfit in the ’70s. I could try this, she says. But I’ve outgrown my Donny and Marie phase, and it just seems a bit undignified for a badass trail pack. Thanks, but I guess not, I say. What do I owe you. Nothing. I couldn’t help you. I’m sorry, she says. Mental note: If I ever need alterations for a muskrat wedding dress run, I’m coming to Myrna’s.
I decide to make one more try before giving up. I find a military alterations place near the naval air base. Military, right? Heavy duty zippers galore! I’m feeling good about this.
I drive over to the little standalone store, a small room full of uniforms. This feels promising. From a doorway to the left covered by hanging beads walks a 4-foot-tall Asian woman. I explain my dilemma and ask if she can help.
NO, NO, NO. YOU NEED THE SHOE GUY!!! she says.
THE SHOE GUY!!!! THE SHOE GUY!!!!!!!
I ask where he is. She seems surprised I don’t know. You know Altex? No. You know Sprouts? Yes. You know Dairy Queen? Yes. It’s right by Dairy Queen. Get some ice cream.
And so I’m off to the Shoe Guy. Sure enough, there’s the store. I walk in. Out walks a 6-year-old girl. Hello! she exclaims. Hello, I reply. She returns to the back.
A minute later, she returns. Hello! she says. Hello, I reply. I think I’ve got this game figured out.
A couple of minutes after that, the Shoe Guy comes out. He’s mid-30s, boot repair t-shirt, gold chain with a cross, very serious. This guy knows his shoe repair.
I have a broken zipper, I say. Can you fix it?
His brow furrows. Hmmmmm. He takes the zipper and slides it back and forth. Hmmmm.
It sort of works, but won’t catch, I tell him. Hmmmm. Hmmmmm.
Yes, I can fix it, he says. 10 dollars.
Perfect, I exclaim! Ummm, can I get it today?
He frowns. This was not a good request. I’m really busy, he says. Lot of work ahead of you. I’ll have to charge you more.
That’s OK, I assure him. How much?
Fifteen dollars, he says.
The little girl smiles. Perfect, I tell him.
And now I’m waiting for a pal to be restored to his old self. We’ll go down together, me and him.
Trail running is an adventure. But it can’t compare to getting a zipper fixed.
postscript: As I return an hour later, I’m worried. What if the Shoe Guy couldn’t fix it? It’s too late to go anywhere else. What if it’s totally screwed up? I would hate for anything bad to happen to my pack, and I’ve just handed it over to a total stranger I know nothing about.
I walk in to an animated discussion with another man about a pair of work boots. Lots of sweeping hand gestures. It’s all in Spanish, so I have no idea what it was about. The other guy finally leaves. No idea who won. Then the Shoe Guy looks at me for a moment before realizing who I am. Oh, the pack, he says.
He goes in the other room and brings it out. It’s perfect. Little piece of leather hanging from the zipper. Expertly stitched back together. Glorious. Ready to run.
Ten dollars, he says. You told me 15, I reply. Ten’s enough, he says.
I give him 20. Buy the kid some ice cream. He smiles.
Life is full of Big Stuff. Sometimes you just have to hang on to those little moments that make it special. Welcome back, old friend.
Off for adventure …
Missed the preamble to whatever-the-hell you’re up to but it smells like rim to rim redux. If so, God bless, as the radar tonight looks dreadful. Say “Hi” to Bangle, who says he’s crossing N to S.