mister pants, part 23

In the dark times
will there also be singing?
Yes, there also will be singing.
About the dark times.
— Bertolt Brecht

Sunshine and disinfectant. It all sounded so simple.

Mister Pants had read about Salazar’s advice with skepticism. The vermin might be stopped simply by basking in the sun while ingesting disinfectant, the presidente had suggested. There was apparently no science behind this, but science tends to be left behind the curtain during the dark times once the spotlight comes on anyhow. Mister Pants figured what the heck. Although heck wasn’t the exact word Mister Pants uttered at the time.

And so the next day, he set out. The  upper 90s had finally arrived in the desert, leaving behind the memories of the long, icy 60 degree winter. The sun was daring him to come play. He filled his bottle with a mixture of Tailwind and Lysol — the perfect blend of electrolytes, caffeine and household cleaner — and he was off.

There are possibly better roads to run on the planet than the San Juan at South Mountain, but Mister Pants didn’t need them. He had this one. He set out with a song in his heart for the dark times and a  hope in his head for a cure to the vermin at last.

Only two things in life are certain — suffering and coyote poop. The San Juan contains plenty of both. The laws of gravity apply to the course’s roller coaster of  hills, while the laws of cleaning up after little Chaka Khan do not. Although if someone names their coyote Chaka Khan, Mister Pants suspected they should be exempt from all coyote poop laws. Because.

Four miles out, four miles back. He ran and walked and cursed and laughed and marveled at the saguaros in bloom and the cyclists in way too much lycra. He dreaded the impending end to the stay at home order even though he wasn’t currently staying at home. He worried about the woman outside the convenience store. No mask, no shoes, no hope, nothing. He wondered how it all wound end, or indeed if it ever would end at all.

And then, halfway through the run, he noticed.

He Didn’t Have the Vermin. The cure seemed to have worked.

Maybe it was the intense midday heat of the desert. Possibly it was the mixture of raspberry energy drink with simple household cleaner. The mask. The quarantine. Whatever. He didn’t have the virus. He wasn’t going to die.

And then, of course, he did.

The last 2 miles were relentlessly uphill. The worst thing about relentless uphills is that  they never relent. But for a couple of miles, he completely forgot about the sickness. No shutdown. No daily death toll. No concern of impending doom. Just that familiar ocean of agony and honest sweat that comes from running. Salazar had been right after all.

Mister Pants made it back to the car and basked in the chill of the air conditioner.  The words of Mr. Brecht were replaced by those of the prophet Tweedy in Sky Blue Sky.

Oh, if I didn’t die,
I should be satisfied I survived
It’s good enough for now.

He headed home for popsicles and a swig of Clorox.

Only one thing was for sure. There would be more sunshine ahead. And dark times. And coyote poop. And singing.

Chaka Khan indeed. Mister Pants had the music in him. And a Purell nightcap. It’s good enough for now.

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just another morning conversation, part 78

Me: They want me to pay $200 for that race.

Mo: I will put on a race for you for $150.

Me: T-shirt?

Mo: Included in entry fee.

Me: I’m in.

I think people get married partly because it’s more economical. Besides, having an in-house artist means you get cats wearing 3D glasses.


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for what it’s earth

On the last day of the world,
I would want to plant a tree.
— W.S. Merwin

Being old, I can remember when Earth Day was a big deal. We had Lofty Ideas like “saving the planet” and “protecting the ozone layer” and “adopting a penguin to serve as your personal butler on deadline for fetching diet cokes.” Those were heady times.

Of course, that was before regulations ended and ice caps melted and run-on sentences overtook society and penguins were no longer able to get their green cards.

Think globally, act locally, the saying goes. But I was never much of an actor, always waffling on the idea of putting makeup on a pancake. Mustering the enthusiasm to recycle a plastic bottle is difficult these days when the world is going up in flames. What’s a little more styrofoam when companies are able to resume dumping an unlimited amount of toxins into the air and water? And I’m going to worry about a one-use straw?

I suppose environmentalism is a game for the young, given the need for survival. I conjure up Greta Thunberg and drift back to when I was 17 and thought I could save the world. Maybe I did. It still seems to be here.

These days, mostly I’m out of answers. Keep my head down, try not to die, commune with the roadrunners and desert tortoises, and try not to get shot by the maniacs taking target practice on my little dirt trail.

Planting a tree on the last day of the world. It’s such a lovely sentiment for Earth Day. I hope the planet can stay on life support until I get around to doing it. And that Lowe’s is open that day.

I suppose the planet will survive the virus. It will survive this administration. It might even survive Lil Nas X. I hope it doesn’t mind an extra straw or two. Sorry, Greta, and sorry Mama Earth. 

I’d love to change the world, the prophet Alvin Lee once said, but I don’t know what to do. So I’ll leave it up to you. 

The zombie apocalypse surely is coming. I hope there will be zombie penguin butlers …

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the day i didn’t sign up for a race. a photo essay.

And that was the day I didn’t sign up for a race.

The end.

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mister pants, part 22

Fetch the bolt cutters.
I’ve been in here too long.
— the prophet fiona

Mister Pants had no idea how to deal with the concept of masks.

On the one hand, he was stunningly unattractive, and any facial covering was welcome. On the other hand, he felt a bit like a desperado whenever wearing one.

He only left his fortress of solitude once or twice a day. He went for a daily run, and sometimes to the grocery store when he ran out of ice cream, which for some peculiar reason seemed to be pretty much daily. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

In the abstract, he agreed with the CDC that wearing a mask was a fine idea. Protect others if he unknowingly had acquired the vermin, and give himself some modicum of protection, if indeed modicum was actually a word. And Salazar refused to wear one, which seemed reason enough to do the opposite.

When running, he found the only drawback was a complete inability to breathe. Apparently breathing is a big deal when running. On the other hand, The Unlikely Runner had sent him a mask with runners on it. And the people on the Ed Whitlock Memorial Loop were not the best at social distancing, being from Scottsdale and privileged and all.

And the grocery store was worse. Mister Pants was shy. He supposed there would be some tipping point when everyone was masked up and he wouldn’t feel weird. On the other hand, he had felt weird since he was 7 years old, and this was unlikely to change anytime soon.

But then he worried about his loved ones. Isn’t the reason we were all doing this stuff to protect those around us?

And that’s the day he got a face mask for his racing pineapple.

Because life is all about protecting the fruits of your labor. Even if the fruits of your labor are destined to become a piña colada in their next incarnation.

Mister Pants wished the world could go back to the way it was back when we just worried about global warming and nuclear annihilation and the Taylor Swift-Kanye rift. He wished he had the “RUN? I THOUGHT YOU SAID RUM!” T-shirt.

But always count your blessings, he supposed. He could barely remember being 7 years old anymore, that day in the alley singing “Texas, Our Texas.” And there was still a chance the vermin would clear up in time for The Big July Race.

And he had a racing pineapple with jaunty sunglasses and a fine face mask as a running companion. If pineapples have faces. And he suspected they did. What more could you ask for?

Oh, yeah. Ice cream. Fetch the bolt cutters. Mister Pants put on his mask and headed into the Brave New World, feeling brave absolutely not one little bit.

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