Category Archives: Springdale

What’s The Buzz?

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This morning, I walked a route I’d never taken before. The block behind me can’t be accessed directly, so I walked the circuitous path out of my neighborhood and around. Despite previously driving down the dead-end road behind me and seeing it on Streetview, I never noticed a spur sidestreet jutting from it, truncated as it points South. Unknown places are a treat, especially in the early morning before life startles everyone from their cocoons.

As I rounded the bushes on the entrance, I saw a man walking toward me. I could smell marijuana in the air as if someone with low self-esteem and a bad haircut had used it as a perfume by mistake. Keep in mind that it was still mostly dark and I was walking in a strange place. I felt like Donald Trump might if he were accidentally transported to a library.

By the time I was within a few feet of the approaching walker, he took a drag from what looked like a vape pen and exhaled. Marijuana wafted through the air. The man said, “Hey,” and kept walking.

Tempted to shout, “Police” and run for my life as a prank, I instead kept walking, the distance between us growing.

For the remainder of my walk, I pondered the question, “Who smokes marijuana at 5:00 in the morning, especially when no convenience store lurks nearby?”

Maybe the man in question is getting his exercise and buzz simultaneously, having just completed a ‘GTD’ seminar.

P.S. The photo isn’t the man in question. It’s what I picture in my mind when I think of how it should have looked.
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A Springdale Morning’s Anecdotes

With the lengthening days, my inability to sleep soundly in the mornings once again dragged me from the bed and out into the morning. I chose to walk a byzantine and unplanned path through the bowels of Springdale’s downtown.

The brightest and most vivid storefront at 4 this morning was that of “Mr. Taco Laco.” I pitied those who would work there later today as the throngs of goofy Americans crowd in, each trying to eat their weight in appreciation of Cinco de Mayo, a dubious excuse to imbibe.

I stopped and admired the neon promise of salvation at the next corner. I was about to snap a photo of it but the inclination passed as I remembered that the worst logo in modern American history was just across the street. As I walked past it, I considered buying a large black sheet to hang over it, one to conceal its hideousness. The Chamber of Commerce is the furthest thing from a comedy club, though, so perhaps I’ll continue to just imagine doing so.

The store near the corner barbershop on Blair Street caught my attention. Despite the hour, its lights were blazing. The mannequins all seemed trapped in mid-step, waiting for me to pass and begin their secret dance. The store was strangely lit, like an aquarium.

As the theme song from “Stranger Things” started, an image of “The Langoliers” came to me. Though I was the sole owner of the morning, I knew that soon the streets would begin to hum with people as they began their days. I think the feeling was amplified by the empty and newly-renovated Tyson hatchery building. Its front was dark and I could see empty tables and chairs awaiting their occupants, each one preoccupied with whatever business they might be engaged in.

As I turned on to Grove Street, I surprised a man standing on the landing of his upper story converted apartment. He was smoking. The converted house he lived at was one I had lived in almost 30 years ago. Knowing the people who would need to live in such a place, I knew that his day was probably not going to be filled with pleasurable pursuits. When I lived on the lower floor of that place, the upstairs neighbor loved blaring “Opposites Attract” by Paula Abdul. He played it a dozen times in a row, day after day. He was one of the meanest and ugliest people I’d met and he certainly didn’t look like a person who would listen to Paula Abdul; his preference, based solely on his looks and personality, should have been a drum track against the backdrop of people screaming. (Not Top 40 material, I would imagine.)

When I passed the creekside behind the Montessori School, the one which began as First Baptist Church and then served as a drug rehab facility for years, the thickening mist on the creek rose to about shoulder height. As I passed the curve behind the fire station, I didn’t see the opossum until my foot was next to him. I did a stupid dance backward and the possum scrambled away. Unfortunately for him, he chose to run forward and was trapped against the black wire fence as it ran up to the underpass of the railroad trestle above it.  I stood for a moment under the train tracks, unable to see where my new friend had hidden.

About 100 feet further along, a skunk was hunkered down on the rise to my left. He didn’t pay me any attention as I whispered, “Here, kitty kitty” to amuse myself. I survived another day without being sprayed by a startled skunk. I’ll tell my wife later that it’s a certainty that I’m going to get sprayed at some point. Walking in the deep dark has its benefits and dangers.

Crossing Johnson Street, I remembered a rainy Friday afternoon long ago when I was driving too fast and failed to stop soon enough at a stop sign. I hit the driver door of a souped-up Honda. The driver had borrowed his roommate’s car without permission and I had rewarded his bravery by hitting him. The owner never filed a claim. The policeman who came to the scene was a little irritated at me. Not because of my excessive speed, but rather due to his dashed hopes. He had spotted what he thought were empty beer cans in the back floorboard. He had excitedly reached for one with an “Aha!” expression about to pass his lips. The cans were non-alcoholic beer cans. I couldn’t help but laugh. And laugh some more. He ticketed me and I didn’t complain because I deserved it. The officer should have received a commendation for not screaming at me as I smiled at his diminished glee of catching me in the act of driving while drinking non-alcoholic beer.

The aura of older homes in the dark streets always appeals to me. The defects are hidden, the owners tucked away in slumber. I pass the houses, seeing only the splendor of the intricate woodwork, covered porches, and elaborate trim inside the living rooms.

The Great Tortilla Chip Famine of April 26th

 

My wife Dawn & I have a ritual of eating Mexican food on Thursday, when possible. Since we are eating considerably healthier than what used to be the case, there are times when it feels as if we are at risk of starvation by the time we reach the magical doors of the selected Mexican eatery. Today was such a day. Dawn has lost a lot of weight in the last weeks and I had to make another hole in my belt earlier this week. To say that we were anticipating our trip of culinary indulgence would be an insult to the word “exaggeration.” I was salivating so much on the way to the restaurant that I thought I might need to hang my head out the car window as I drove, much like a large and enthusiastic dog might. I had my extra bottle of Tajin seasoning next to me. (If you don’t know what Tajin is, please accept my words of pity and condolences for you.)

My stomach was not only growling but also filling out complaint cards of protest. A few things to note… We tip exceptionally well. I have tipped over 100% at some Mexican restaurants. If the staff plans just a little, they only need to visit our table once. (When it’s just us two, we never want a refill, for example.) Also, my favorite food in the world is pico de gallo, eaten in bulk and by using the food shovel of a chip to consume it. I constantly tell staff to feel free to charge me for an order of chips and salsa as most of the time the entrees aren’t interesting to me. I’ll order one for appearances but my heart belongs to pico de gallo and chips and salsa.

We’ll forgive any recipe disaster, including eyeballs in our rice or long dark hairs in our cheese sauce, as long as there are sufficient chips and salsa. I’ve been known to keep the wrong food if it’s brought to me or pay the bill even if I’ve been over-charged. Mexican food is that important to my mental well-being.

Today, we went to our ‘go-to’ eatery. In a bizarre twist, it wasn’t busy. It started out great but deteriorated from there. In a nod to those suffering First World Problems, we only had one less-than-full basket of chips. Given the volume of pico de gallo I requested, I hadn’t anticipated such a dramatic turn of events. The precise math necessary to calculate chip-to-pico enjoyment is difficult but it can be best summed up by the words “always over-estimate.”

We hit the bottom of our chip basket well ahead of schedule. Dawn and I exchanged horrified looks, as we had missed our opportunity to beg for a refill when the waitress walked away. As far as I know, she may well now be featured on a milk carton, so quick was her exit and noticeable her subsequent absence. Given the lack of chips, I had no choice except to eat from my actual entree. This is an unconscionable abomination. So disinterested am I in the entree selection that I’ve started almost ordering randomly.

For my selection today, my plate included a ‘chicken enchilada.’ Like the expectation of a loud scream or being startled by some unseen animal or person at the beginning of a horror movie, it did indeed contain that most vile concoction of shredded chicken, the kind that always smells like putrid chicken-in-a-can and looks like what a buzzard might regurgitate to its young. It is a rare thing to find shredded chicken anywhere that I can’t almost see the smell-waves emanating from it. Shredded chicken is too chickeny, in other words.

As we finished our available selection of edible portions on our plates, I noticed that it seemed as if our table must have an invisible solar eclipse above it. No one would look our direction. I stacked our plates on the outer edge of the table, an invitation to the perplexing “let me make room for you” offer that staff inevitably makes, even though the plates are never in fact in our way. No one succumbed to this universal call for retrieval. The plates and utensils remained there, stacked and immobile, adjacent to the forlorn and long-empty chip basket.

“We might as well go. We’re like people wearing Trump hats in here,” I told Dawn.

We both managed to avoid breaking out in tears. Our mouths watered with the mirage of further tortilla chips and salsa.

We drove home in silence, both of our faces locked in somber reflections of the meal that almost was.

Just kidding about that last part. We speculated about every possible scenario for the ‘why’ of The Great Tortilla Chip Famine of April 26th. My best guess is that on a sufficiently long enough timeline, you’ll not only be cheated out of enough chips and salsa, but also have to endure the presence of that vile ‘food’ known as shredded chicken.

P.S. I took my shredded chicken home in a folded napkin as an experiment. I threw it to a pack of wild dogs near the edge of Sonora. The dogs became so enraged at me for putting it anywhere near them that they almost tore my left arm before I could run and dive back into the relative safety of my wife’s Honda. As I drove away, I watched the dogs paw at the ground and bury the remains of that monstrosity known as shredded chicken.

A Great Customer Service Story

As much as I like the pursuit of a bad customer service issue, I’ve found that people overlook those times when I highly recommend a business or service.

Today, one of the owners of Oasis Property Maintenance personally reached out to ensure that he could answer my questions and make things right. It was a literal delight to hear someone directly address an issue and offer to make it fully right, even if it bit him in the pocketbook.

I reciprocated and told him to pay it forward instead and that I didn’t want any refund, credit, or compensation. Just knowing that he was willing to go to that length to ‘fix’ a mistake was enough for me. It would have been a costly fix for him. As a consumer, I should have caught the issue when I bought this house, but didn’t.

Oasis is mainly a lawn company, one which charges based on lot size. They do online billing, which is a massive benefit to those of us who are antisocial. I’ve used them since they started. They’re not perfect, but they listen if there is an issue. Taking cost and intangibles into consideration, they are almost unbeatable, unless you have a cadre of teenagers to force to do your yard work.

If you currently have a lawn service, you can look online and ‘see’ what they will charge you without any misdirection. Oasis Property Maintenance

Even though you might not see or hear me doing so, I try to thank, reward, and appreciate good businesses. Thanks, X

Real Man of Genius

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I decided to take advantage of the weather this afternoon. I drove over and parked near the best dog park in Springdale to take a walk.

As enthusiastic as I was, I opted to forego taking a really long walk. It was a stupendous afternoon and I was able to give an older couple on their first visit a tour and explanation of the area. It should make everyone reading this nervous to think that in many ways I am an unofficial ambassador for Springdale.

Arriving back at the car after a decently long walk, I discovered that I didn’t have my car key in my pocket. In a moment of disgust, I realized that I had either locked the car and left the key somewhere in the front or dropped the key somewhere on my long and circuitous route along the trail and back road. I’m sure that bystanders wondered if I had lost my marbles because I checked my pockets at least three times and then inexplicably removed my hat to check it, too. You never know -at my age, it’s possible to put your wallet in the freezer so a car key in my hat wouldn’t be impossible. Besides, if Seuss can put a cat in the hat, a car key seems benign.

Having no choice, I walked the same route again, vainly hoping to spy my key lying somewhere on or near the trail. My plan for a “not so long” walk evaporated. I knew that if I didn’t find the key, I would be calling my German friend named Über to come pick me up.

As is the case in so many stories, the key was at the very end of my original walk, where both sidewalk and pavement ended. I had turned around there, pulling my phone from my pocket to check the time and change the music selection. This spot is very near an infamous hoarder house I’ve written about before.

I saw a little black object in the middle of the sidewalk from quite a distance, hoping that it would be my key and thus save me from dealing with the persnickety car dealer to obtain another one.

While I was glad to see that my temporarily lost key was indeed the object on the sidewalk at the end of the road, I was a little melancholy to know that I would have to walk the route again to get back to my car. These first world problems are such a nuisance.

I forced myself to walk back to my car, as the breeze lifted me, the sun warmed me, and the music accompanied my thoughts, lost in that beautiful March afternoon. My dogs were barking as I neared my car and the dog park. There were several human and canines shouting, barking, laughing, and cavorting. As I stopped to pet one of the dogs which ran toward me along the fence, my own dogs were forgotten, even as I reached over and laughed too, as the dog licked my entire arm in happiness.

All Hat in Springdale

I voted in the Springdale special election today. This city has impressed me beyond reproach. It’s a place with problems but what a delight to see it step away from the shadow of what it once was – and also attempt to navigate the shifting demographics of who lives here.

The dynamic of “what once was” versus what the city is becoming is a fascinating and uneasy study in politics and economics.

All I could think of was Ray Dotson’s hat as I voted “Approve” for each item on the ballot. No offense to Ray or his hat but symbolism plays a role, often at the expense of the person attempting to mold it to his or her end. In Springdale, we are a cowboy hat, sombrero, and zories. We’re not one or the other because we’re learning that we don’t have to choose one to the detriment of the others.

Listening to some Springdale residents reminded me that many weren’t going to vote based on a shared reality of progress. As much as I would have loved to sit on the couch, it seemed wise to venture out and let Springdale know that even though I don’t endorse everything happening, I can’t criticize what’s been done in the last few years, by those doing the mundane work, day after day.

I relish the opportunity to criticize, but voting “Yes” was a “thank you,” from someone who seldom sees the direct impact of my vote.

I’m hoping I wake up tomorrow to a city whose vote reflects the shift in the last decade.

A Funny Burial Anecdote

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This is a truish story and names have been changed to confuse the guilty.

A famous writer, an author of at least 20 books, died in Springdale a few days ago. He was well-known for his sense of humor and dry wit. At my recommendation, his family went to a funeral home of which I speak highly. Although he usually doesn’t do so, the funeral director Scott offered to view potential cemetery plots with the family, even though he hadn’t yet met them and didn’t know the recently deceased. His dedication to customer service is quite legendary. I doubt he would have helped me had he not owed me a huge favor – but that’s a story for another day.

The family chose to visit Bluff Cemetery in Springdale. The place is known for its beauty and proximity to the creek running through downtown. Scott pulled in behind the new Cadillac the family of the deceased arrived in. The Springdale Parks worker had already arrived in a white pickup, his camera and clipboard in hand.

After the family exited the car and straightened their respective ties and dresses, Scott accompanied them to the periphery of the cemetery, situated below the overhanging trees. It was certainly a beautiful spot.

To make small talk, Scott nervously asked the family about the deceased. “What did your loved one do for a living?” he asked.

The youngest son answered, “Our dad was a famous writer. You’ve never heard of him?” He seemed surprised. “In fact, all of us are writers.”

“No, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know him or know of him. I read a lot, though.” Scott wasn’t sure what else to say.

The parks employee pointed out the available spots and mentioned that the price was adjusted, based on the reduced size of the plots. “We can dig with much more accuracy than we once could,” he added.

After a moment of silence, the youngest daughter looked along the edge of the cemetery where there were remaining spots available, seemingly measuring their size by her careful steps. She immediately started shaking her head.

“This simply won’t do. Not at all. Dad was too important of a writer to tolerate this kind of mistake.” She seemed agitated.

“How so?” Scott immediately asked.

“The plot’s too thin!” The daughter said, and then laughed loudly.

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PS Writers always get the last laugh.

Springdale and Slartibartfast

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Later today, the throngs will be clogging the streets. Children will be studiously deaf to their parents demands to stop running, stay close, and to not touch things. Springdale is having its huge tree lighting ceremony, followed by the parade along Emma Avenue. For now, though, this downtown Christmas spectacle is mine. All that’s missing is a tinge of cold but its absence is a continued blessing as I wander the streets. Both sides of Emma are adorned with lit decorations, even at 4 in the morning. While there aren’t as many lights as I have in my living room, it’s still beautiful in the clear air. The stars were obscured by a thin cover of clouds. I didn’t care, though, because when you are enjoying something, it is as if the stars are shining inside. With the brilliance of the Xmas lights along Emma, it was easy to overlook.

I stood next to the massive downtown tree, admiring its wide ornaments. Later today, a thousand people will surround its base, waiting for the moment when the tree comes alive with dazzling light. I’ve already seen it though, this morning, in my imagination. Compared to that moment of imagining, its lights will be slightly faded. I can hear the murmur of contentment and possibly applause from the crown which will gather. This tree is another one of the great choices Springdale continues to make as it moves forward. Such spectacles are greater than the sum of the effort which created them.

Approaching the façade of the Apollo Theatre, I was singing along with “I Know What I Know” by The Monkees. Louder than expected, I learned. Someone popped out of the obstructed entrance to the bail bond shop on the street front. I finished singing the verse and curtsied toward whoever it was. I heard a laugh, which leads me to believe they decided I wasn’t crazy or dangerous – just a terrible singer. The person went around the corner and climbed in an SUV parked on the side street. I’d like to think whoever it was turned on their radio and sang along as they left. It’s darned near impossible to be unhappy while singing along to music you love.

As I passed the horrendous waffle/thunderchicken logo on the Chamber of Commerce building, I laughed. I’m always nervous about staring at it too long, in case it causes a round of spasms or nausea. It is always my hope that someone will have compassion on this logo and throw a blanket over it. (A concrete blanket, if you have one.)

At the house next to the Masonic Lodge and opposite City Hall, I saw animals scampering. As I passed in front of the house which sits close to the street, I was delighted to see that there were 2 raccoons frolicking in the yard, bordered by a perversely short chain-link fence. I chatted and cooed toward the raccoons and they lowered their guard and once again began scampering about as if playing a November game in the leave-strewn yard, a game whose rules were undisclosed.

The Tyson building across the tracks is a beautiful building. I didn’t think so until now, possibly due to being mostly completed and seeing it in the minimal light of the early morning. Much to the horror of the design engineers, I’m convinced that it is best appreciated on the park side, rather than from Emma. The glass foyer would be ideal to yodel or play music if such a thing were permitted. For a moment, I wonder what our previous mayor, the one I nicknamed Mr. Mumbles, would think of all of the bustle and beautification. It’s likely he wouldn’t recognize the bones of this city – and that’s a great thing.

Before leaving, I took my Spanish copy of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and walked over to the mini-library disguised as an upright bicycle. Since I almost always carry index cards or a notepad, I took a card and wrote “Merry Xmas -Enjoy a meal on me. Love, Slartibartfast” on it. I put four $5 dollar bills with the card and tucked them inside the book and placed it inside the holder. (Slartibartfast is a character from “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” if your life is too devoid of craziness to know. Next to “Beware of the leopard,” it’s one of the best words or phrases in our language.)

At home, I stood in the yard, watching the competing alternating tower beacons to the north. To the east, a large house decorated with Xmas lights illuminated the hillside. As the breeze caressed my face, I took a drink of coffee and felt a little sad for all the people who weren’t outside enjoying the spectacle of nothing special, even as it satisfied me. From behind me, I heard a meow and knew that my cat was peering at me through the gap in the office window.

If you have a few moments, drive through Emma and at least take a look at the tree dominating Shiloh Square. If not, take a moment and find a way to ignite something inside of yourself during the holiday season. Sing a song to a stranger, put vaseline in the slippers of your significant other, or watch for scampering raccoons in the most unlikely of places. Hide a gift where it might never be found, leave a present for someone you don’t know, or take someone you love or admire to the tree and share a moment. And, for the briefest of moments, imagine the ripples of these moments.

Love, Slartibartfast

 

 

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Brad Paisley Couldn’t Have Written This

The wind insisted on stealing my enthusiasm this morning. My cat Güino had already sounded the alarm several times until I reluctantly got up. He’s lucky I’m able to overcome my fleeting urge to punt him into the next room. But I walked, cutting through neighborhoods, watching as endless security lights flashed on the houses of uncaring and slumbering folks. A dog ran up to me at one point, without barking, and I petted him, checking him for a collar. He accompanied me a block and then stopped. I gave him a few more rubs and off he went. We were friends for a few minutes. It was a mutual exchange of pleasantries, although he didn’t reply to my mutterings.

Feeling the urge to buy nonsensical items that I ‘needed,’ I went to the larger Wal-Mart on the west side of town. While it wasn’t quite a ghost town at that hour, I could hear echoes of Adam Lambert crooning. I needed a few trinkets for my yuletide project, the one I started yesterday, even as Dawn eyed me with suspicion, uncertain as to the intended scale of my efforts. Had she asked, I would have replied, “Think of the Eiffel Tower – only larger.”

I cut through the wide expanse of the store, observing workers hollering instructions and banter at one another. The night shift and the people inhabiting it have their own patois and rhythm. I wasn’t going to need any assistance, so I knew this visit was going to be stress-free. One of the reasons I feel like a rich man is that there was nothing in the store I couldn’t buy if I really wanted it. It sounds a little trite and dumb but I’ve come to believe it more forcefully.Once I got home, my wife might hit me with the rolling pin she hides under the couch, that’s true, but I could get it out of the store if I had the urge.

While standing near the Xmas aisles, I began to hear some terrible music. (As a Glee fan, I’m familiar with terrible music. There can be joy in music better suited to mask a garbage truck as it does its crushing. Brad Paisley fans can nod their head in agreement with this, too, as his voice sounds exactly like Tim McGraw would if someone punched him in the throat.) It grew louder and louder. I, of course, began to wonder what toothless cretin was shopping at that hour and what possessed him to believe anyone would want to hear that claptrapper music. Words became distinct. In the space of a few seconds, I heard the “N-word” 3 times, then “bitch,” followed by the even worse permutation of the same sentiment. Whoever the singer was, he was attempting to mimic George Carlin and insert every potential curse world imaginable into his lyrics.

It’s important to keep in mind that I am totally unaffected by profanity unless it is couched in denigration or anger. Words are just words, after all. Expecting to see a camo-wearing weirdo come around the corner undoubtedly amplified the surprise of the listener’s identity.

The music reached a crescendo and a male employee, pushing a cart, came ambling up at 1 mph. He had a music box in his cart, one which pulsated blue in rhythm with the alleged music. It was cacophonous and startling to see that the perpetrator was a Wal-Mart employee. He was walking so slowly that even a National Geographic slow-motion camera would not have been capable of catching his movements. He seemed to be in a catatonic state, listening deeply to the garbage emanating from his music device.

Despite the surprise, I bid the gentleman good morning. He looked at me, and continued on his way, without any acknowledgment. I stood at the endcap, observing him. About 20 feet away, another employee approached the first and passed him. I could see that he was shaking his head in disapproval after passing the employee with the bad music. I could still hear the music plainly as the somnambulist worker shuffled down the main aisle. Why I picked up my phone and took a picture as this employee passed, I’m not sure. When I hit ‘click,’ though, I was horrified to note that my flash went off – twice. Luckily, no one turned to glare menacingly at me. I’ll note though, given the employee’s apparent molasses feet, there’s no way he would have been able to catch me.

During checkout, the cashier and the younger man behind me in line had a great time one-upping each other’s crazy quips. It sounds a little unbelievable, but I think the young man was lonely. On a whim, I jokingly pretended to introduce the cashier to him, inventing a short, fake bio to accompany the introduction. They both laughed. I walked away, wondering if my impromptu introduction might have created new friends.

After finishing shopping, I found a female employee who seemed to be in charge. I asked for the manager. She, of course, asked me the reason and I told it was a sensitive issue and would be better suited to be only said once – and to the manager. She radioed in and after a minute, a tall gentleman approached, his face reflecting the dread of yet another customer interaction. Were I myself a manager, I think I would rather eat from the floor of a crowded bus station bathroom than field complaints or questions.

I introduced myself, as I didn’t want to make an anonymous complaint. It seemed like it was worth it for me to complain in full view of the consequences. After I told him what happened, his eyes widened a bit and he told me, “I’ve had this problem before. I will definitely take care of it.” He seemed both relieved and pleased that I had told him. Whatever this manager’s background, he listened closely, the single most important trait when a customer comes forward to say something, no matter how barking-crazy the person might be.

I won’t divulge the other details of the conversation, as it was sensitive. For those who might criticize me, it’s difficult to explain why I complained. There were a couple of details I omitted. I’m almost certain that the employee listening to the profanity-laden ‘music’ at high volume was going to be fired. I’m equally certain that he was already not only skating on thin ice but carrying an anvil on his shoulders while he did so. I requested that he not be fired – that a compromise solution was available. Whether the manager would heed my request was up to him and he seemed too familiar with the mentioned employee already.

As I exited the Wal-Mart parking lot, I considered putting the windows down and blaring some Brad Paisley music, just to torture anyone unlucky enough to be on the west side of town at that hour.

Armadillo By Morning

Last night, my wife asked me how I choose where to walk next. I answered honestly that I had no clue. Most mornings, I seldom end up anywhere that I had intended. I could point out that my life has taken the same course, but for the moment, I’ll skip the cliché of a life without compass.

This morning, I lay in bed with the cat nipping my shin and toes for at least an hour. It was too early to get up, so I used my other foot to pet the cat until my calf muscle was insisting that I stop. I felt guilty for having delighted in petting a neighborhood cat last night, one we alternatively name “Marsha,” or “DevilCat.” Last night, as my wife and I sat on the bench in the front of the house, DevilCat darted around the corner and demanded affection. Our own cat Güino peered suspiciously and contemptuously through the bottom of the blinds as the intruder greeted us outside. This is the very same cat who screeched and hissed at the office window yesterday morning at 4 a.m. startling me as I sat there trying to navigate the complexity of getting both of my shoes on the correct feet at such an hour.  DevilCat’s eyes are hilariously large in the dark, like a teenage girl getting to order her first mocha frappuccino at Starbucks.  Marsha the DevilCat, as it turns out, is quite the friendly feline, despite having a demeanor which would frighten Freddie Krueger.

Although I left this morning with the intention of going to Emma to walk and check out the new goings-on (including the crater recently added at the first stop sign), I ended up in Lowell, along Goad Springs Road. North Goad Springs has a beautiful stretch of trail extending for a long distance. For no reason whatsoever, I parked across from the convenience store there, on an empty and graveled area near the road, and walked South instead, on a portion of the trail I had never walked. The trail below my feet was a wide expanse of modern concrete, a vague grey ribbon marked with intermittent yellow dashes that I could barely see. If only life would take a moment to give us such direction, even if only in the most dimly-lit way possible. (I promised clichés, remember?)

The first portion of the road there is dense and people have little cause to drive the road near the trail at that hour. It was a wide open sky, one without clouds but decorated by a hazy sliver of a moon above, in the shape of a cookie bitten once by an overzealous 5-year-old. It’s scenic and quite beautiful during the day; at night it is magnified into something beyond. I think I’m going to need to coin a word describing the overlap of differences between scenes during daylight and night, one which conveys the magic of both isolation and of something just about to happen at every moment. If other worlds exist, they certainly exist in the margins of what we think we see and no time of day is more prehistoric than the swath of minutes before sunrise.

Off to one side of the trail a solitary yard light last cast an orange sherbet glow, creating a diaphanous haze like one sometimes gets over one’s eyes coming out of the pool. I couldn’t see what the light was supposed to be illuminating. For me, it was simply an unexpected orange beacon casting thousands of beams of light into the trees and brush as I walked by.

At the first bridge at the curve at the bottom of the valley, the temperature dropped precipitously as if 17 ghosts sneaked up on me to send a shiver down my spine. (Ghosts always travel in odd numbers, if you were wondering.) It was as the valley hadn’t gotten the message that it was still warm above.

As I exited the valley and began my slow climb it was startling to see on my left a huge reminder of civilization in the form of a multi-floor building off in the distance. It was comprised of 200 stacked and similar brightly-lit rooms, all of them lit unnecessarily.  I imagined that a mischievous janitor had run through the building, flipping all the lights on for his own amusement. In his defense, no one would stop him. Why all the lights were on was a mystery I thought about for a moment and forgot as I moved past.

And just like that, before I’d even settled into the idea of possibly being tired, a huge construction crane towered above me, against the night sky. I couldn’t believe that I had already reached the unlikely intersection of the trail, the interstate, and the area where the new East-West corridor above Springdale met them. As I walked under the interstate, the whump-whump of the vehicles passing above created the otherworldly post-apocalyptic feeling that I had anticipated. It brought to mind a period over 30 years ago in the mid-80s, when the interstate was being built and still referred to as “The Bypass.” We weren’t sure what it was bypassing. And we certainly had no idea that such a road would transform every aspect of our lives in this corner of the state. Even back then, in another incarnation, I spent many nights running, walking and biking on those unfinished lanes, even when they were still just miles of compressed gravel. It’s a memory that I cherish and one that is almost impossible to replicate in today’s more modern world, governed by strange ideas of safety and caution. I owned those roads then and in some way, I still own them. The great cycle of time has provided me with a way to relive those hours in the dark, all the while experiencing new incarnations of the same fleeting feeling of isolation in the midst of so much.

Before deciding to turn back, I walked under the mammoth overpass of the new road, stopping to look straight up and feel the dizzy recognition of immensity. The twinkling stars above it and me provided the perfect backdrop. It would have been the best possible picture to have somehow captured the perspective of it. Providing no catastrophe strikes, in a blink of an eye in the course of time, someone will stand in the same spot, years from now, seeing the same sight I did this morning.

Doubling back and retracing my steps I had forgotten that the cool valley would be waiting for me. It enveloped me in a cool haze. All I can compare it to is that first blast of cool air when you are 8 years old and you’ve been banished to the great outdoors for most of the afternoon.

I stopped to look up at the silver moon that reminded me of an older movie logo, the one with the small boy fishing off the cusp of a bright partial moon. On my right, there was a single solitary tree towering above a bench several feet away from the trail. I thought of some future afternoon, one with a cool breeze, when I might return and sit on that bench, a visit without real motive.

Apart from the impersonal interstate I only encountered two vehicles. One was a white truck which was being driven so slowly I speculated they might have been attempting to go back in time and the second vehicle was a police car out of jurisdiction driving so fast I thought it might be a DeLorean attempting to reach 88 miles per hour. It’s possible that the police car driver was also accumulating frequent flyer miles. I met several armadillos, too, none of which seemed interested in making my acquaintance.

There’s no message in this story, just moments.

As you slumbered, I walked with the moon and made friends with old memories. Or vice versa.