life is funny, part 384

It was a pretty great love story.

OK, the movie was already well underway by the time I got there. The popcorn line was long, and it took me a long time to find the right person to go to the cinema with.

But it was easy enough to catch up with the plot. They were inseparable. She loved him, and he was totally devoted to her. They lived in a place where it always rained, and yet they endured the storms because they knew a rainbow would always be waiting on the other side.

He wasn’t perfect; he was a guy. It’s in the Guy Code that we have to screw up from time to time so the other guys don’t look bad in comparison. But you only had to be around them a minute to see he was totally devoted to her. She was his life. The years flew by.

And then, a big storm rolled in. He was understandably concerned the day she had to go in for the surgery. But the procedure went well. They came home. End of movie. But then.

Suddenly, she couldn’t talk. He could sense something was terribly wrong. I’m calling 911, he said. She refused. He called anyhow. Soon afterward, she was back in the hospital.

The phone rang at our place in the wee hours. It was him. I never heard him so upset. This had to be bad. It was a stroke, he said. They didn’t know how severe. And then.

She underwent another surgery. A miracle cure, a new procedure. Out of the hospital a couple of days later. All because of his quick action.

He saved her life, Amanda said. She must have said it 50 times over the next few days. He saved her life. He. Saved. Her. Life. He might have messed up a few times over the years (see previous part about the Guy Code), but when she needed him most, he was there.  They were going to be OK. End of movie. But then.

A few days later, he was sitting in his chair and went to sleep. He never woke up.

I suppose it could be a coincidence. But maybe, just maybe, he had done The Thing He Was Meant To Do. He had been there to save her life, and then his work was done.

I don’t understand life most of the time. Too much war, not enough compassion, raisins in oatmeal cookies. But I know a great movie when I see one. You want people to live forever, but of course they don’t. Going out as a hero seems as good an ending as any, even if the movie was shorter than we hoped for.

He loved her. He saved her. And then he had to leave. And that was the end of the movie.

It was a pretty great love story.

Life is funny …

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down in the cellar in the Boho zone

He wanders up and pulls a drum out of the bag. And then, his life begins again.

He’s an old guy. Has his own fold-up stool, the sure sign of a drum circle veteran. He joins maybe 10 or 12 guys already playing a never-ending rhythm. Some pause occasionally, taking a drink of Red Bull or Coca-Cola, depending on their generation. They occasionally acknowledge each other, but mostly they sit with eyes closed, swaying to the beat of white guys tapping into tribal tradition.

He just sits there for a minute, hands resting on his well-worn djembe. Slowly, he begins to join in, a beat here and a flourish there.

A young guy, pleasantly stoned, sits next to him, bandanna covering his dreadlocks. He nods at the old guy. They lock into the same beat, swapping solos. Others in the group keep the rhythm with a bass drum, congas, dununs cowbells, wood blocks. Anything that can make a joyous sound.

The beat goes on. I listen to it from a distance as I wander around downtown, stopping occasionally as I make loops. The old guy is intent. I’m not sure I get drum circles, but I know they’re doing what they love. I drift back to those Dead shows and that feeling of being young and a part of something special. Maybe a drum circle doubles as a time machine.

Drum circles are like life, I suppose. They’re going when you arrive. You sit down, join in, make your little contribution, hope someone notices. And then you leave.

He puts the drum back in the bag and folds up his stool. He walks into the night and slowly fades away. The drums go on without him, never missing a beat.

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life with an artist, part 18


I’m standing on the sidewalk outside a row of semi-legit art galleries on First Friday when the woman walks up to me. Normally in these situations I shrug and walk the other way. But she’s very attractive, and I’m scared of her in this frantic state. Mostly, that second one. Also we’re married, and I seem to recall some vow about richer and poorer and till a 20 dollar bill do you part.

I tell her all I have is a five. “We need to find twenty bucks,” she declares. She is clearly on A Mission.

Mo doesn’t become desperately smitten with art too often. But when she does, there’s no stopping her, at least without a fire hose. I survey the vicinity and there appears to be none. So we’re off for money.

The artist, who apparently deals in cash only, has told her there’s an ATM in the liquor store down the street. I veto this immediately, pointing out we would likely be handing out twenties to many people if we tried that. So we go to the car and head out on our treasure hunt.

The problem: Downtown is in total lockdown. The Diamondbacks’ season opener is tonight. And there’s some sort of festival that has shut down half of the streets in the area. Mo is undeterred.

We use the GPS to find the nearest ATM for our bank. A mere go straight, right turn, veer left, turn right, U-turn, go through alley, you’re here later, we arrive. Alas, it appears to be the interplanetary headquarters. No parking, no ATM, no twenty.

So we head out for a convenience store. A mere seven hours of turtle traffic later, we arrive at one.

There are basically two kinds of convenience store: Those with a security cop outside, and those without. This is the first kind.

I buy a soda while a woman screams at another woman. The clerk, helping me, never even looks up. You can’t do that, he tells her. She continues screaming. The cop steps in. “Is there a problem?” he asks. I ponder an alternative universe where a screaming woman is not a problem. Luckily, the uproar provides cover as I get 40 bucks from the clerk and make my way out. Mo buys a Dr Pepper. Sometimes the situation requires a Dr Pepper. Mo is wise.

From there, we just have to make our way back to the gallery on Grand Avenue. Except we’re backwards now. We’re watching on the wrong side of the road so it takes forever to find it. Luckily, the 3 mph traffic means I’ve lost all sense of space and time.

And then, there it is. Mo jumps out and runs in. She comes back out, triumphantly waving the painting, which she had at first accidentally given the guy a 10 dollar bill for, assuming the store clerk had given us twenties.

And that was how we came to own a painting that passes the Kondo test of sparking joy. Mo is happy, and when Mo is happy, I am happy.

The best part: After all that, the artist said, “Oh, I would’ve taken a credit card. I just prefer cash.”

Artists are funny.

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we’re all in the mood for a melody

the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
— the prophet william joel

i’m running half-mile loops around the arts center while mo communes with her clay. it’s one of those days — warm, sunny, happy.

i take a break after a few miles and sit down at the piano on the course. i begin to play, before realizing i don’t how. i resume running, oblivious to the fact i don’t know how to do that either.

ernie pook is in good spirits. it’s one of those days you wish would never end. i’m thinking it couldn’t get better.

and then it does.

coming around the corner after 6 miles or so, i see his head peeking over the piano. a scruffy guy has parked his well-worn bike and is playing.

i hit pause on a weird bowie song on pandora to listen to him. i expect a simple song. i get a symphony.

he’s wearing a sweatshirt that’s too big on a day that’s too hot. his head is down, immersed in the music.

he isn’t toting his stuff, so i’m guessing he’s not homeless, just on break from the halfway house across the street. and he’s clearly madly in love with the piano.

i stand awkwardly, listening. it’s a classical piece i don’t know, but it’s beautiful. i give him the guy nod. his unshaven face nods back.

i listen for a while from behind him and resume running, thinking back to the reno to san francisco race and the night the russian guy i had been running with for a week sat down at a steinway in a restaurant lobby and revealed himself to be a virtuoso pianist. people are complicated. why must we stereotype? un hombre del mundo, he called himself.

when i come around on my next lap, the guy in the sweatshirt is riding away on his bike, safely back in his clark kent persona.

i finish up my run, hoping he finds his way back to his life.

when he gets there, i hope there’s a piano waiting for him.


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taxing times

we’re working on our taxes. and by “we,” i mean mo is grappling with a huge pile of papers while i read a david sedaris book. it’s good to have specific roles when tackling a major task.

i was always a 1040ezzzzz guy, while mo tends to take things seriously, so i’m content to drink zamboni coffee and listen to the cat snore while she squints at ways to write off Fancy Gelato and Americanos as a business expense.

I figure she knows what she’s doing. what could go wrong?

but then.

as i toss the old coffee grounds, i see a piece of paper on top of the trash, apparently part of her discarded tax paperwork. it consists of a series of seemingly random words that could have been typed endlessly by jack nicholson midway through “the shining,” and a drawing of a startled cat wearing a mask and earmuffs. my legal liability is in the hands of a wildly creative but mildly deranged arteest. i suspect this will not end well.

oh, well. art, and income tax, are in the eye of the beholder. we both are doomed to die of cadmium poisoning soon anyhow.

i hope i get to meet aunt becky in prison …

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i hope she was wearing her helmet

i’m drinking my first cup of coffee on a too-early morning. but not just any coffee — it’s zamboni coffee.

when mo and i first became a couple, we set out to find the World’s Best Coffeemaker, that being the sort of thing i always envisioned newlyweds doing. after an exhaustive search (googling “World’s Best Coffeemaker”), we acquired the zamboni.

the zamboni had everything you could hope for in a coffeemaker — its name started with the letter z, and it had an elephant on it.

we were the perfect threesome. i didn’t bother asking mo which of us she would choose if it ever came to that. duh. the years went by like late-night refills at a dank 1970s denny’s after a missed deadline.

and then something happened. mo and the zamboni had a falling out. i never asked what happened. one day it was just gone. no note, no nothing.

we ended up with an espresso gizmo and a motel coffee pot and an Evil Keurig, but the joy the three of us had shared was lost.

and then.

i was hanging out with mike and laura a couple weeks ago, and the zamboni’s twin was sitting in a pile of Stuff. they had gotten a zamboni shortly after we did, since it’s the World’s Best Coffeemaker. but they’re moving and have Too Many Things. i snatched it up.

i smuggled it across the border and set it up at home. mo stared at it the next morning, thinking something was odd, but she hadn’t had her coffee yet, so i don’t think she’s certain the zamboni was ever gone.

now the three of us are back together. it’s a spring morning and i’m drinking a second cup. mo is telling me about a dream she just had in which BK, our cat, was riding away on a bicycle with another cat, which worried her because she didn’t know if BK could find her way back. mo has great dreams. catnip, i suspect. i figure bike-riding cats have gps, but it’s her dream, so whatever.

we drink more coffee while discussing lyle lovett’s cowboy boots. The zamboni sits contentedly, waiting for the next round. mo needn’t ask me which of them i will choose if it ever comes to that. duh.

BK basks in the sun, plotting her escape.

i hope she wears her helmet.

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whatever happened to owsley?

on the first loop, mo points out that we have new neighbors on the course. “they’re huey and louie,” she says.

on the second loop, she points to them again. “zeus and thor,” she exclaims.

“i thought they were huey and louie,” i ask.

“they needed empowerment,” she points out.

so if you’re ever running on the jackrabbit trail and a couple of empowered owls kick your ass, don’t blame me. all mo’s fault.

still, i suppose it’s better than being roughed up by someone named huey and louie …

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