Well I’m a standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl my lord in a flatbed Ford
slowin’ down to take a look at me.
Except, of course, I’m in Scottsdale, Arizona.
And it’s an incredibly sad sight to see.
It’s a woman my lord with a grocery store cart
slowin’ down to avoid getting hit by Teslas.
I’m trying out a course I already know I hate. It’s a canal that runs through the Fancy Part of Scottsdale. The part where I’m not normally allowed, but I’m flying under the radar as a pretend runner. I’m standing at the intersection of Scottsdale Road and Camelback waiting for the light. She, on the other hand, did not.
She’s perched precariously halfway across the road. She made it to the median before the light changed, leaving her stranded. A cavalcade of expensive cars is roaring past her in both directions. There’s nothing she can do but stand there.
She has her life in the cart. A sleeping bag, a couple of sacks of clothes, the stuff you accumulate while living out of a mobile home that formerly lived at a Safeway. She doesn’t seem scared or concerned; I suppose this ranks pretty far down on her list of her priorities.
I’m pondering a new pair of bluetooth headphones. I’ve just killed the old ones, or possibly it was a carefully staged suicide. 180 bucks to buy new ones I’ll lose in a week? I guess. It’s only money. And I’m still trying to talk myself into keeping the NB Solas, which I know I already hate. I have a hard life. What’s wring with them? Mo asked helpfully. Not ugly enough? Mo is funny.
As I near the happily ever after stage of life, I increasingly think about how nice it would be to live with nothing. What if you really could fit all of your possessions into a shopping cart? If you’re Cheryl Strayed, you turn it into a career. If you’re a woman at Scottsdale and Camelback, you just try to survive.
I toy with the idea of an improbable race. I cling to the past with some sort of expectation I could get there from here. It’s all so complicated.
“Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore,” Strayed said. I like that quote. I find myself so bound to the expectations of the old days. But I know it’s not true anymore. Maybe it’s all a matter of letting go.
The light changes. I walk past her and say hi. She takes no notice, maybe a survival skill or just a way of getting by. I run past the Fancy Sculptures and spring breakers on e-scooters, the Cubs and Brewers and Giants jerseys out for spring training, the megarich out with their sockless loafers and bulging shopping bags.
Who is in charge of writing how we live our lives? Could there be anything more satisfying than being Pete Kostelnick, running from Alaska to Florida with your life crammed into a baby stroller? Why are we messing with all of this other stuff? Why?
There’s a fat man in the bathtub, Lowell George once wrote. And then he died. “I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century,” Ignatius J. Reilly exclaimed. “When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.” John Kennedy Toole wrote this, and then killed himself. Mortality takes on a life of its own when you’re in the middle of an intersection dodging e-scooters.
I finish the run on a course I’ll never use again. I get in my car, which is hiding in the parking lot of the Fancy Shopping Center. I sit there for a while googling reviews of headphones that cost more than she will scrape together this month. I think about what’s ahead for dinner. I think about what’s ahead for the woman. Survival. It’s all so simple. It’s all so hard.
I drive away.
We may lose and we may win
Though we will never be here again
I could really use some cheese dip.
Life is funny.