people need some reason to believe

Looking back at the years gone by
like so many summer fields
— the prophet clyde jackson browne

One minute, I’m snoozing along on the bird loop.

The next, I’m in the middle of a bootleg relay race.

The combo of obin, benadryl and steroids is excellent for simulating the 25th mile of a marathon without all the annoying running and chafing to get there. Going out after another round of Orange Allbird Immunotherapy for a couple of miles is a fine distraction after my staycation at the infusion center.

I’m tired, in a bit of a fog, and my heart rate is way too high, the normal stuff. Still, I’m content to stroll in the post-sunset evening among a smattering of joggers and dog walkers on the loop.

And then.

A high school runner flies past me. And another. And then some more. What the what?

My semi-functioning brain tries to process. They look like serious x-c runners, but they’re not wearing school colors. Maybe they’re out for a training run, but they’re strung out and not at all in a pack. Besides, this pace is WAY too fast for that.

When I get to the back half of the course, I see the answer.

Runners are gathered in a small group, staging an intense but informal relay race. I have no idea what their loop is — it seems to vary — but they’re totally hammering. In the exchange area, they wait while exhorting teammates to conquer the blinding white light at the end of the sprint.

No baton — just a hand slap, a word of encouragement and the click of a switch that turns on the jets for the next lap.

They sail past me, the frantic blur of gazelles who haven’t yet learned the limitations that lie ahead in life. Three speeds — fast, faster and flames.

I watch their twilight competition with joy, thankful for the diversion.

A few laps later, the carnival departs.

The runners amble toward the back parking lot, basking in the miles, happy to have suffered.

So am I. The cooler air, the night sky, the heart and legs that agree this is a sign to keep going even if the brain is reluctant. It ends up being a fun 2 miles. With ice cream.

Maybe life is a relay race. As I mosey toward its eventual finish line, I am delighted a new generation is following the path we left them.

But I’m not giving up my baton yet.

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who’s with me? let’s go!

Otter: I think that this situation absolutely
requires a really futile and stupid gesture
be done on somebody’s part.
Bluto: And we’re just the guys to do it!

Our friend is reluctantly on strike. Here’s what she said:

“I don’t enjoy conflict. I abhor taking sides, and I prefer to remain behind the scenes. I want to be in my classroom. In spite of all that, I am heartened and inspired by my time alongside colleagues, families, and community members who also believe that class size matters, that special education students matter, that our counselors and mental health professionals matter.”

Teachers are the most important people on the planet, now more than ever in the wake of the pandemic. They have more than earned our support. What to do?

With no picket lines nearby to join, we organized the South Scottsdale version of the I ❤️ REA 5K and Ice Cream Social.

It was great. The Racing Piñata and a random dog even joined in. I figure when you don’t know what to do, follow Otter’s advice: Stage a futile and stupid gesture.

The run was fun, the ice cream came in both dairy and vegan varieties, and we terrorized a dog with duct tape. What more could you ask for in taking a stand?

Do I believe in unions? I believe in teachers. And ice cream.

Print out your own bib. Run your own race. Keep the faith.

Some lessons are taught outside the classroom..

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just another work conversation, part 30

me: hi. i’m just checking to see if you’re inadvertently on the ukraine story.”

co-worker: no, i’m on it advertently.

this is likely how wars begin.

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there was only one thing Ray could say

I don’t want a pickle
Just want to ride on my motorcycle
— the prophet arlo guthrie

All you need to know about Mo: a photo essay.

■ We’re at First Saturday around noon, because we missed First Friday. It’s 130 degrees. As we park, Mo grabs something from the back of the car and sprints away. I see her at the end of the block, giving two bottles of water to a homeless guy who appears to be in a bad way. She’s scared of homeless guys, but does it anyhow. I keep the car doors locked, but eventually let her in.

■ A fly has been constantly pestering us for two days. Mo has stalked it constantly, but it has eluded her while slowly driving her insane. Finally, she catches the culprit in a plastic bag. And promptly releases it outside, because she can’t bear to kill it. I suspect it’s waiting by the door, eager to return in time for tonight’s Hallmark movie.

■ We’re at the SCC gym. A Ducati motorcycle is sitting in the parking lot, far from any other vehicles. Mo is totally smitten (note to self: prepare for emotional trauma when she eventually leaves you for biker dude). She lingers over it, taking photos and mentally undressing it. The owner, a nervous tennis player on the nearby courts, comes sprinting over, racket in the overhand smash position. Mo says she’s not trying to steal it, but he seems uncertain. The cops come and arrest her. No idea if they give her bottled water.

■ She arrives home from physical therapy today after a night in the pokey and calls me because she needs me to unlock the door. She has …….. lost her key and locked herself out of the apartment (yes, this sounds familiar). She then goes to Lowe’s and buys 70 keys. I’m guessing the fly gets one.

And that’s all you need to know about Mo.

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the lampshade and the tv and the bed

The sunrise always listens
Sometimes she even finishes
my sentences
— the prophet westerberg

It’s 10 p.m. I’m sitting outside in the patio watching the light show from the latest monsoon storm skirting the neighborhood. Even by this year’s lofty standards, it’s a good one. Huge flashes light up the clouds; jagged daggers pierce downward. I’m enthralled.

Mo comes out to join me, closing the sliding door behind her. And then.


The unmistakable sound of the door locking behind her.

We stare at each other in disbelief. We’ve closed this door in exactly the same manner a gazillion times. There’s no way it can lock in this manner. So we tug. We pull. We bang. We stare at each other in disbelief again.

We. Are. Locked. Out.

We’re both minimally dressed. Mo has socks; I’m barefoot. We have no keys, no money, no wallet, no chocolate. Given that we live in a small townlet of 5 million people, we don’t know anyone to call for help.

Luckily, I have my cellphone. Our plan: Easy peasy. We call the late-night office number, pay a reasonable fee for unlocking the door after hours, and get back to “Golden Girls” without missing a substantial number of St. Olaf stories.

Mo calls the office. The message directs us to the emergency number, which says we should leave a message stating our crisis, such as plumbing or air-conditioning. And then the ominous message, “If you’re locked out of your apartment, call a locksmith.”


I’m thinking we should lie. “Hello,” we would say. “Our plumbing just broke, causing the air-conditioner to short-circuit. Please come immediately. Bring chocolate.” Once they arrive and rush inside, we could explain that it must have been a bad dream, not unlike 2016-20. By then, we’ll be inside and well on our way to blissful slumber. Besides, calling a locksmith seems so pre-internet. Surely there’s an app for this.

Meanwhile, Mo is doing her MacGyver impression. She envisions a scheme in which we call AAA and get someone to unlock my car. This will give us access to the secret key to HER car, in which we could sleep. I’m worried it would look a bit suspicious. Dear AAA: Please help us break into cars we can’t prove we own. Thank you. And it’s still 100 degrees and change, not the best weather for an extended car nap.

She considers breaking an apartment window, but that seems like even more work than calling a locksmith. And so we start calling.

It’s now around 11:30, which strikes me as an OK time for locksmithing. And my last name is Smith, so it’s almost like calling a relative for a favor. Apparently I have crappy relatives.

The first place (ACME? Seriously? Are we in a Roadrunner cartoon?) rings for an extended period, apparently hoping we’ll give up. Eventually, it directs us to hit “3.” This sends us to the voicemail of the technician. His voicemail say we should call the main number for assistance. Which we do. It sends us back to his voicemail. It’s 11:30 and we’re getting a lesson in congressional deal-making.

So we try Door No. 2. The dispatcher says the locksmith will call us back. And then he doesn’t.

So it’s on to Door No. 3. This one seems promising because the website is full of glowing reviews of late-night rescues. AND someone actually answers the phone. He says, YES! they would be glad to help us out. Possibly even as early as 8 a.m. tomorrow.

And then, Door No. 2 calls back. The guy says he’s a half hour away. I ask him how much it will cost. He says he must wait until he gets there, and then he will give a Free Estimate before beginning. Sounds shaky, but we are getting sleepy, and I can’t make out what Sophia is saying on TV. We are desperate.

At a little after midnight, he appears. I don’t want to appear judgmental, but “air of competency” is not the term that comes to mind. Rather than aiming for the front lock, he is determined to beat the sliding door into submission using a crowbar and an inflatable balloon. Sadly, I am not making that up. I am not the criminal sort, although I enjoyed “Ocean’s Eleven” greatly, but I realize this will never work given the way the lock is secured. But he seems intent, so I ask him how much this will cost.

“270 dollars,” he replies. He doesn’t seem to be laughing.

“To open a sliding door with a crowbar?” I ask. He assures me it will be MUCH more than that if he has to open the front door. I tell him the website say the charge is listed as 70 bucks. He demands to see the website, and snarls. “Well, how much WILL you pay me?” he asks. Apparently locksmiths have become the new car salesmen of the pandemic. “I have 80 bucks,” I offer. “Better than nothing, I guess,” he says. Which coincidentally is what he is getting done.

It becomes more and more apparent that he is going to destroy the door without actually opening it, so I tell him thanks but we’re going to try another plan. I don’t mention that the other plan consists solely of getting rid of him at all costs, or at least all costs less than $270. He grabs his stuff and walks off without looking back, not saying another word. Initially, I worry that he’ll return and rob us in a week or so out of spite, but then I realize he’ll never make it inside.

It’s now about 12:30 a.m. We decide screw it. We’ll wait here until morning. But one thing they don’t tell you in the glossy apartment brochure; cement is not that comfortable.

And then Mo has an Epiphany: the pool. Comfy lounge chairs, a calm body of water to gaze upon. Like a vacation, except for the fun parts.

The problem: We don’t have a key to the pool area.

I consider leaping the fence, but impalement is not a good look for me. Mo reaches through the fence (MoGyver!!) and manages to unlock it from the inside. We’re in!

We settle down in our cushiony heaven, ready to wait out the gloom. This won’t be so bad after all. I start to drift off to dreams of Blanche DuBois.

And then.

The question of whether or not the apartments actually have a security detail is answered. A guy with “SECURITY” in big letters across his shirt (so you know he’s legit) is standing in front of us, pointing out that We Cannot Be Here.

We go through our story. I feel like Arlo Guthrie recounting the Alice’s Restaurant saga to the judge for the hundredth time. The security guard says he’ll have to check with his boss. At last, a glimmer of hope. He steps away, makes the call and comes back with an answer. Success!

After an extended talk with the boss, he says we should call the apartment complex’s emergency line. The same line that started all of this.

He escorts us back to our apartment. While he waits, I call the number, which tells me to leave a message. I explain our situation, ask them if they could please please help and if not if they know the name of the mythical locksmith they keep referring to. The security guy is sympathetic but takes off, presumably to someplace with a bathroom and coffee.

And with that, it’s over. I have officially lost the will to live, although I’m sure Locksmith No. 2 could find it for 270 bucks.

But then I remember Bluto’s speech. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no. We’ll beat the system. We’ll wait until the office opens and get in for FREE!

It’s now about 1:30 a.m.

We sit.
We sit in chairs.
We sit in pairs.
We sit alone.
We sit by the phone.
We sit by the door.
We sit on the floor.
We sit in our pants.
We sit on the ants.

Mo eventually finds a comfy piece of porch and nods off in a fitful sleep. I, a Manly Man wary of the lurking woodpeckers and hummingbirds that could become emboldened in the wee hours, stand guard over the campsite.

You don’t realize just how long hours and hours of nothing is until you’re immersed in it. I dare not look at my phone because I need to save the battery. I ponder where exactly a pope poops in the woods. Mostly, I wait in the darkness.

And wait.

And wait.

And then, something magical happens.

The sun comes up.

You can bet your bottom dollar it’s like an Annie song. Suddenly, what had seemed like an endless abyss turns into the hope of a new day. The sky turns from black to dark blue to a glimmer of bright hope, much like the early morning drives from Arizona to Texas, where Van Horn would put out the welcome mat and a fried lemon pie.

Except in this case, the welcome mat is a horrific swarm of mosquitoes. They are totally devouring me. I have some insect repellent in the car, but …

It’s 6 a.m.

Mo wakes up.

Did I mention Mo does a great MacGyver impression? She says lavender, which she happens to be growing on the patio, is an effective mosquito repellent when it’s crushed. And it works! I’m guessing it will also eventually be our breakfast. Sorry, lavender.

Revitalized, I walk over to the office, which won’t open until 9 a.m., another three hours. I figure I’ll just sit outside like a wayward waif so I can catch the maintenance guy as soon as he arrives.

And at 6:05 a.m., in a plot twist you would never see in real life, there he is. Nicest guy in the world. Be there in a minute, he says.

At 6:15, we’re inside our abode, dousing ourselves in calamine lotion and Cheerios. Mo ponders whether she should have chamomile tea or strong coffee, or possibly both. I sit contentedly in my hopelessly soft chair, warily watching out the corner of my eye for the crazy locksmith guy.

At 8:30, Mo heads out for the pottery studio. I stay home. I figure we will just leave one person inside the apartment at all times for the rest of our lives. Besides, the Golden Girls are on again.

But still. It was a pretty terrific lightning show.

And an unforgettable sunrise.

I don’t need a skywriter
to make graffiti in your sky

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