the woman in the blue sleeping bag

Bright before me the signs implore me
To help the needy and show them the way
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it’s going to rain today
— the prophet randy newman

Some snapshots stay with you.

I’m walking from the parking lot to the newspaper. I’m nervous because it’s my first day working the wires and I have no idea what I’m doing. Like that’s ever stopped me. It’s a cold day and it’s been raining for hours, a gift from California. As I dodge the puddles I see her up ahead.

She’s barely shuffling, wrapped in a sleeping bag. The bag is soaked, rendering it useless. I hang back, dreading the inevitable encounter with the homeless. I pause and pretend to check my phone, but she’s still there.

I check my wallet. No cash. No coins in pocket. No food in backpack. I have nothing I can give her.

The women’s march in Phoenix will be tomorrow just a few blocks from here. A new president took over hours ago. The country is at a perilous crossroads. I’m guessing she doesn’t care.

She just knows it’s really cold and raining, her sleeping bag is soaked and it’s going to be getting dark soon.

As she continues her one-woman march, I pass her. Our eyes lock. She’s old and worn out. A dark tan and deep creases from too many years on the streets. Hollow cheeks, stringy hair, huge eyes. My heart breaks.

She doesn’t say anything. It’s the expression of a lost puppy. I wave and say I’m sorry. And I am so, so, so sorry. She just smiles and nods.

I go into my warm building and return to feeling sorry for myself for having too much work to do. I console myself with an icy diet coke and some peanut butter cups.

She continues down the sidewalk, a one-woman march toward her unfortunate demise.

“We are transferring power from Washington D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People,” he said.

She doesn’t know what that means. She doesn’t want power. She just wants a cup of coffee. She’s going to die, and there’s not a goddamn thing I can do about it.

“Yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.”

God bless the woman in the blue sleeping bag.

Some snapshots stay with you …

Posted in margarine | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

things i wish i had said, part 65

“I’m still asking you to believe — not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours. I believe in change because I believe in you.”
— Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States

Posted in margarine | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

strange days indeed

nobody told me there’d be days like these
strange days indeed
— the prophet john lennon

It’s Sunday night and I’m at the store. I seem to have the place pretty much to myself. An hour before it closes, but it’s cold and Sunday night and my neighborhood seems to be in bed. It’s the best time to shop.

I wander around aimlessly, looking at stuff and thinking how odd commercialism is these days. So many things. 20 flavors of St. Croix water? Um, it’s water. Aisle after aisle of things I didn’t know I couldn’t live without until I’ve just stumbled across them.

Luckily, I have the perfect defense against binge buying: I only have the little handbasket, in which to go to hell, and I’ve already bought two creams and a soda. Come to think of it, I’ve never tried making cream soda. Maybe. But the sheer weight of these items makes pretty much anything else impossible.

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It seems so odd this year. Eight years ago, I remember what a celebration it was. We went to the parade in Mesa and embraced the unity. I truly thought things had changed. On to the next crisis. And now, here we are.

I stand in the wine aisle, my last chore. I have no idea. They don’t seem to have discovered our go-to wine here, so I’m winging it. My rule of thumb for buying wine is to buy the weirdest label, but there are none. I end up buying Steak House wine. I hate the name, but it’s made in Walla Walla, Washington. I figure the drunker you get, the more fun it is to say Walla Walla, Washington.

I go over to sneak a donut, only to discover there aren’t any. Truth be told, I had told Mo I was going to the store to get her hand lotion, when it was all a stealth mission for an apple fritter. I hate life.

I get in line. The guy checking out tells the clerk he has strep. She steps back. I step back. He notes the alarm. No, he says, STRESS. Well, welcome to the club, pal. We ALL have stress.

As I wait my turn, I hear a familiar sound coming from the ceiling. John Lennon is singing.

Everybody’s talking and no one says a word
Everybody’s making love and no one really cares
There’s Nazis in the bathroom just below the stairs …

I never cease to be depressed when the rebels from my youth become muzak at grocery stores. But today it seems only right. As the clerk finishes stress boy and starts with me, she is humming along. It feels prescient.

Nobody told me there’d be days like these
Nobody told me there’d be days like these
Nobody told me there’d be days like these
Strange days indeed

I wonder if this is the last Monday we’ll ever celebrate MLK Day. I wonder what will happen after next week. I wonder if Walla Walla knows how the hell to make good wine.

I remember the day when I learned Lennon had been killed. He was my MLK, the leader of the resistance, the beacon I looked to for hope. And then he died senselessly.

Decades later, I found a new beacon on a simple poster of a face with the word HOPE. I thought things were going to be OK after all.

And now, I look ahead and I wonder.

But what can you do? But a bottle of questionable wine, hunker down and hope for the best.

Nobody told me there’d be days like these. Strange days indeed.

Except he DID tell me there’d be days like these. I just wasn’t listening.

And now, standing in the line of a grocery store in Arizona, it’s suddenly too clear.

Imagine …

Posted in margarine | Tagged , | 2 Comments

and you could use it to fight off javelinas

A bunch of boxes have sat patiently in the front hallway since we moved. They’re all the things Mo decided to throw out as we try to streamline our belongings a bit. Mo is not a good streamliner.

The problem is, it’s all fantastic stuff. Stuff that we haven’t used in six years, mind you, stuff that we would never even realize was gone if we gave it away. And I guess that’s the point. Lose it and what’s the harm?

I asked her if I should load it up and take it to Goodwill. She said yes, but she couldn’t do it. Too painful. I hated that it was difficult for her, but these things have to be done. I picked up one of the boxes.

But then I saw it. Peeking out of the box was a bottle opener. Not just ANY bottle opener, but THE BOTTLE OPENER I BOUGHT AT BIG BEND THE WEEK IT WAS POURING RAIN.

I had gone there alone for the Dreamboat Annie Redux Tour, a week of hiking and camping and playing Heart at spectacular volumes while driving through the endless desert vista. I had bought a six-pack of beer at the little store next to the campground up in the mountains, only to realize I had no bottle opener. Luckily, the store was stocked in that let’s sell pretend outdoors stuff to the tourists sort of way. It was a handsome wood handle metal opener, a beauty of function and architecture. The more beers I opened, the more I loved it. We bonded in a way that only happens on a rainy night huddling in a tent wondering why the hell again am i doing this.

I carried it in my glove compartment for a while before it finally made its way into the drawer in the kitchen where that sort of thing goes. Mo, not realizing the significance, had tossed it into the island of misfit toys box as we packed to move, reasoning that we only needed one bottle opener, and this was not the one we needed.

I pulled it out, put it back in the drawer and explained the inspirational tale to Mo, who pretended to listen even though I detected faint snoring noises halfway through my story. It’s not just a thing, I told her, it’s a memory.

And then I looked further into the box. The little dog on the wooden box. The wooden spoon collection. The cat blanket. All stuff that is totally expendable, and absolutely wonderful. It will just take up space till we die, and then someone will have to toss it out.

So what choice did I have? I picked up the first box and took it away. To the spare bedroom. And then the rest of them followed me there.

Because you never know when you’ll need a wooden spoon. Or a cat blanket. Or a smile from a memory of our lives together. They’ll be right there in the next room.

I guess someday they’ll go away. So will we. But not today.

I hope they bury me with my wooden bottle opener …

Posted in margarine | Tagged , | Leave a comment

the great chair hunt of 2016: the epilogue

Now that we have enough chairs for everyone, BK has decided thanks but she’d rather sleep on the laptop.


Posted in margarine | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

the quotable mo sheppo, part 18

“I killed the avocado, and then the orchid died of loneliness.”

Posted in running | Tagged , | Leave a comment

the great chair hunt of 2016, the conclusion

He has the weekend off
and Monday is a holiday

He drove for hours and hours
to sit in a lawn chair

by the bay
— the prophet patty larkin


“OK, remember we need to stay focused,” Mo says. “Go in, get a chair, avoid distractions and OH MY GOD THAT’S THE CUTEST LAMP THING EVER I HAVE TO HAVE THAT!!!!!”

Longtime readers will recall we’ve been trying to find a chair for the last 30 years or so. We had tried every store we could think of with no results. And then our pal Lori said the magic words:

“Yo, moron. You live in the big city now. IKEA.”


And so we find ourselves in the maze that is the little slice of Swedish heaven.

We follow the arrows that eventually lead to the chair we had picked out online. Then another one nearby. Then a couch. Then a bunch of stuffed pigs recreating a slaughterhouse scene. Then back to the first chair. Then we wander around, eventually tracing the arrows backward. I want to get the egg chair because she said i could pick out any chair I wanted, and the color drains from her face whenever I mention it. But she apparently has made a deal with the store in which they’ve hidden them for the day. dammit.

The thing about IKEA: I’m certain you could spend the entire day there. Their stuff is clever and cheap and colorful. There are hipsters and retirees and middle-age people, all wandering around with that glazed look of kids in a toy store. Measuring tape in hand, carts at the ready. Free coffee and $2 breakfast. You can check out any time you like, but you can never …. nah, that would be a dumb song.

Mostly, I’m fascinated by the books they have on the shelves of the reasonably prised bookcases. They’re almost all Swedish and many by the same author. Are these real books? If so, what’s the point? Maybe so I’m not tempted to pick up a book and sink into a chair. OOPS. a chair. I was trying to remember why we’re here.

In the end, we agree on the chair we had picked out. It’s comfy, it’s cheap, and it sort of matches our other chair in the same way you look like your sibling if your mom slept around a lot. It’s fake plastic, not the Fancy Real Plastic, but that’s OK. We can use it for a year and if we don’t like it, we’ll toss it. Environmentalism was sooooo Obama.

And so we get the number for the chair and take the Shortcut to checkout. Which leads through kitchenware, which leads Mo to buy measuring spoons since we only have 12 sets and might want to measure more than that. We find the chair in a box at the self-service warehouse. I lean up against it and remark to the warehouse guy that the box doesn’t seem as comfy as the chair did in the showroom. That’s because the legs aren’t on it, he replies. You win this round, pal. Vaguely disappointed that he didn’t have a Swedish accent.

The only hitch in assembly: There are two short legs and two long legs. We don’t know which goes where, so Mo does one short on front and one long to balance things out. Now we have a rocker! Artists are the best.

And so we have a chair. Or BK has another chair and we will continue to sit on the floor while she decides which she prefers.

On to the next search, finding a good Swedish bookstore.

Posted in running | Tagged , | Leave a comment