the quotable mo sheppo, part 24

“When do you get your COVID test? It would be hilarious if you flunked.”

note to self: make cat new beneficiary of life insurance policy. She’ll blow it all in a day on cat treats.

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brothers, part 26

Onto some bright future somewhere
Down the road to points unknown
Sending post cards when they get there
Wherever it is they think they’re goin’
— the prophet mcmurtry

I’ll never knew if the bluebonnets bloomed.

They’re moving tomorrow, leaving Texas behind.

I never made it back to San Angelo after the vermin hit. I always thought there would be time. Isn’t that how life is? You always think there will be time.

But there wasn’t.

I suppose it’s too late anyhow. He doesn’t know me. I’m not sure I know me either. During our visits, we would sit quietly and look at each other. I would play Guy Clark and James McMurtry. His eyebrows would go up and his toe would tap, but that’s about as close as we got to recognition in the last year.

I should have done more. But I never knew what I could do.

And now, he’s gone, having moved to a sea of blue called “Oregon.” Like that’s a real place.

We’ll go through the motions of saying we’ll visit them in that faraway land, even though we likely won’t. Too many miles; too much baggage. I’ll drive around for another year with the zipper pillow I never took him in the back of my car. I’ll start crying on runs when I think about him. I’ll always wonder what if. What if things were different and we’d had that third act? Down the road to points unknown.

I drift back to the day a few years ago when we scattered bluebonnet seeds along our walking trail. The lady at the seed store said it was a good time to plant; they had an excellent chance of surviving. We could go out each spring to look for them, I thought. He wouldn’t remember me, but he’d recognize the little blue flowers he spent his life pursuing. Priorities, you know.

When’s the time to mourn? When someone’s mind goes? Their body? Their memory? Their Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots?

He was always there for me. And now he’s gone from the place we called home.

He’ll never know how much he meant to me. He’ll never know how much I love him.

And I’ll never know if the bluebonnets bloomed.

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maybe I should put a bucket over my head

Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel
There’s a fire that’s just waiting for fuel
— the prophet ani


He’s old, even by my standards. Maybe starting his ninth decade. He’s got that Scottsdale-rich thing going; sockless with shoes made from some unfortunate reptile. Impeccably groomed, khaki shorts and an Oxford shirt. He’s got his, and he doesn’t seem too interested in other people getting theirs.

I’m hanging out in the waiting room of the chemo center. If you’ve never spent a morning at a chemo center, it’s not as much fun as it sounds. The people there are generally in a bad way, a black cloud hanging over the room. You give each other sad little smiles and a nod and that’s pretty much it. There’s no talking. Except for this guy.

“THEY’RE TRYING TO STEAL THE ELECTION!!!” he exclaims, his words echoing across the room. He’s here with his wife, a poor woman who I desperately hope is hard of hearing. She’s small, impossibly thin and frail with a scarf wrapped around her head. She doesn’t talk.

“THEY’VE COUNTED MORE VOTES IN PENNSYLVANIA THAN THERE ARE REGISTERED VOTERS!!!” he exclaims. She doesn’t appear to be listening. I assume this is how couples manage to stay married this long.

It’s funny. I’m antisocial by nature, and even more so now that the vermin has caused our collective isolation. So this is the first time I’ve come across someone who is not on TV in a full rant.

I want to quiz him on how exactly he has come across this information. Twitter? Hannity? The guy at the barber shop? How do people who seem to be fairly well educated become attached to conspiracy theories? How can you be this detached from reality? What IS the difference between a crocodile and an alligator again, and how many shoes can be produced from one?

I’m in the chair closest to him, and with his wife clearly focused on staying alive rather than a political agenda, I fear he will seek me out as a co-conspirator. I’m only here for an infusion of rocket fuel, so I’m a little guilty amid the people who are in serious trouble. But not guilty enough to put up with him.

But then, a nurse comes out and calls his wife’s name. She wills herself out of her chair and walks carefully down the hall, leaving him behind. He paces around, still enraged. I marvel at his priorities. 

I would think a chemo clinic would be the place to line up your life’s priorities. Wife first, ice cream second, made-up conspiracy theories way down the list. But I suppose alligator shoes do things to you.

Another nurse comes out and calls my name. As I walk away, he’s still pacing. “Criminals,” he mutters. A fire just waiting for fuel.

I hope his wife is OK. I hope in his next life he’s a small animal living in a swamp full of alligators.

The eagle on the running loop is back. A sign for sure.

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dreams, part 4

“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite
of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment,
I still have a dream.”

— Dr. King

I’m stuck in a bad dream. In this dream, the election is too close to call, and when it’s called, things will just get worse. We are hopelessly split, mired in despair with no way out. There is no scenario in which things will work out OK.

It will go on for days, for weeks, for years. It will get worse, not better. We will never reconcile. There is no hope. I’m hating this dream.

And then, I wake up. Except not really.

There isn’t enough pizza …

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the last record album

I read the papers
And I got the blues
I’m so sad to hear the news.
— the prophet lowell george

My first presidential election night as a journalist was Nov. 4, 1980. A peanut farmer was running against a B-list movie actor. I figured it was the weirdest election I would ever work. I was the news editor on a small West Texas newspaper, having no idea what I was doing.

But the election happened, the sun came up the next day, and life went on.

I’ve been through every election night since that first one. Cliffhangers and blowouts. Crushing disappointments and glorious results that left me weeping like a baby. Hanging chads and that excruciating wait into the night to make the call. Or not. Dewey Deafeats Truman, you know.

Newspapers are funny. The biggest days tend to be unexpected. Wars, bombings, natural disasters, calamity. But every four years, Election Day is special. The country gathers in the metaphorical town square to pick a leader. It seems like such an easy concept.

I no longer am in the hot seat for elections, content to sit up in the cheap seats and do my small part as my career winds down. Will I miss it?

I will miss the old days. The endless Election Night Pizza. Crowding around a small television watching results come in. A horde of editors crammed around one computer monitor trying to come up with The Perfect Headline. Stumbling out into the early hours of morning, sharing beers in the parking lot with True Believer journalists you’d take a bullet for in a heartbeat, only to go in the next day to do it all over again.

I’m OK with bowing out. The internet has made newspapers an afterthought anyhow. And I look forward to being free of my Sacred Vow of Neutrality, leading me to the next chapter in which I will take on the persona of Grampa Simpson shaking his fist at the clouds. But my life will never be quite the same.

My last presidential election night as a journalist is on Nov. 3, 2020. A guy in aviator glasses is running against a B-list TV actor. It’s the weirdest election I will ever work. I’m a long-distance copy editor working from my bomb shelter on a couple of medium-size newspapers 2,000 miles away. I still have no idea what I’m doing.

 The election will happen, the sun will come up the next day, and life will go on.

I’m ordering a pizza for sure.

One AP Stylebook for sale. Slightly used.

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