Sunday, March 29, 2015

High Times Next Month

Airlines makes me grumpy.  I mean, I like flying.  Hell, I’m a former pilot.  Second generation.  My dad was a pioneer pilot in South America and Alaska whose flying career spanned 40 years.  So I grew up around and in aircraft before developing my own squawking honk of a voice and paddle shaped webbed feet as adjuncts to my status as an aviator. 

I do tend to stay indoors during duck season, thoughThe Sacramento Delta, where I live, is a rest stop for ducks migrating along the Pacific Flyway between the Arctic and warmer climates where ducks of the idle rich class spend their winters. 

As it happens, many ducks are smarter than duck hunters who flock like ducks to the flooded rice fields around here armed with high powered shotguns. Smart ducks can easily frustrate duckless duck hunters.  But frustrated duckless duck hunters can be dangerous about their ducklessness.  So wearing anything with a feather on it around here is a health hazard during migrating  season.    

Okay, so I haven't sprouted waterproof feathers or have webbed feet.  If I did, I’d be a better swimmer.  Maybe I’d even swim to San Diego next month instead of being jammed into narrow airline seat made of cement with an armrest hogging garlic eater on one side and an oblivious mother with a shrieking pooper on the other.  Oh, and someone’s little angel in back of me kicking my cement seat.

Then there are the folks of the Transportation Security Administration who bombard my alabaster body with radioactivity to determine if that thing in my pants is not a small bazooka, and who seem concerned that I'll hijack an airliner with an eight ounce can of shaving cream in my ZipLoc terrorist kit, which I'll  have to get rid of before boarding the plane.

The two ounce size is okay, though, in case you’re thinking of hijacking a turboprop commuter flight.  But I doubt too much terror will be struck in the hearts and minds of other passengers by a hijacker holding a can of Gillette Foamy to the throat of an annoyed flight attendant and making an impossible non-negotiable demand, such as ordering the flight arrive on time.

I’ll be flying on Southwest Airlines.  I like Southwest.  When a man named Herb Kelleher bought Texas Air and renamed it Southwest, he came up with a really radical idea:  Give flight crews a greater say in management decisions about working conditions. That made his competitors snort in derision.

“Snort snort,” they derision.  “Who is this Kelleher person? Employees <snort> should be grateful that we even notice them, at least when we do notice them for other than <snort> handing them a  <snort> furlough notice. Hey!  <snort> Look at me! I can <snort> talk and snort at the same time! <snort snort>  

Ah, but the result of Mr.Kelleher’s unconventional thinking generally resulted in generally happy flight crews.  Generally happy flight crews were encouraged to be generally creative and funny with cabin announcements, which resulted in generally happy passengers actually paying attention during the pre-takeoff safety talk from the generally happy flight attendants.  Generally happy passengers are generally repeat passengers, which generally makes management generally happy.   A swell deal all around, generally speaking.

Now if only Southwest would allow cabin crews to add a little Thorazine to the beverages served to little poopers, annoying seat kickers and armrest hogging garlic eaters whose breath could start a truck.  

Makes me wish I could sprout feathers, wings and webbed feet and just flap my way to San Diego without being hassled by TSA gropers and seatmates from hell. 

Oh well, it’s only a 90 minute flight and I know better than to pray for patience.  Prayers can result in divine tests.  Even as an atheist I know better than provoke other peoples' gods. Anyway I’ve had all the tests a crabby old fart like me can stand, thank you.

# # #


One of the last experiences I had was a direct flight to Boston from someplace. I think the midway point was St. Louis. Thunder storms greeted us, eventually passed, and we taxied to fall in line behind other delayed planes for the last leg of the journey. There was a smarmy, odorous European on my left. I had my nose buried in the window (thank God for small seating favors). After an hour I was becoming more than anxious. We were told we would be taking off shortly, but that didn't seem likely. At the two hour mark, the pilot announced that we had to go back to the gate. (Some man's oxygen had run out. God bless him.) I was right behind him. The stewardess told me she couldn't guarantee it wouldn't be another two hours, so I bolted for the terminal in a full-blown panic attack. The airline was very polite, gave me food vouchers and booked me on the next flight, which conveniently had about 10 people on it. I took a seat, lifted the arm rests and had 3 seats to myself. I buckled up and took a nice long nap. The only person I inconvenienced by doing this was my brother, who had gone to Logan to pick me up. This was a long, long time ago, before cell phones and rules about wait times. I wasn't a good flyer then, and I don't fly now, if at all possible. Thanks for you story. I hope you have a great flight!   -- Beaty


Nicely done and well-feathered -- Kent

Thank you.  I've noticed that ducks get mighty skittish around orange sauce and Chinese restaurants.  MB


I love it Mike. Of course, we would be wedged between unruly and loud babies, uncouth or stupid passengers sitting so close as to feel their breath and gum chewing model wannabes. You see them all I fear. At least it is only 90 minutes from here to San Diego.

Figure this on a flight from Sacramento to Atlanta and add a few more babies, young children whose stuffed animals make incessant godawful noises, and who seem to feel the back seat of the passenger in front of them (in which I sit) is a locked gate that needs to be opened by battering rams--Daddy or mommy saying sweetly, 'please stop that'. And then the crying and all. Now I love babies but honestly, there should be a plane just for these kids with their parents. For some reason I like peace and quiet and sleep.

I hope you are doing well. If my dad were alive he would say hello and treat you to more stories and songs. – Peggy

I too wish that elegant gentleman was still alive. MB


My experiences with airlines and planes is very limited, as I've flown about as many times as I can count on one hand. However, even with my severely limited flying stories, I did have some issues on flights.

Once, I sat next to a man on a flight who had no capacity to be anything but marginally civil, and I'm absolutely certain him treating me like a turnip is something he did to everyone. He simply had no social skills whatsoever, so he chose to just pretend no one but him existed, which was....well...creepy. Not that I want to talk to strangers non-stop on a long flight (from Seattle to Chicago), but I said, creepy just the same.

Second,  the food. I would hope that over the ten years I haven't flown, the food has improved. Yep. I'm going to say it....ready? It tasted like cardboard. Not even salted cardboard. I don't even remember what it was, but I'm reasonably sure it was supposed to be some kind of pasta, but it was awful. I couldn't even eat the little bag of peanuts they tried to give me - I'm allergic. So, I ate an orange I had brought, or I would have withered away to nothing. (Okay, go along with me on that.) I was glad the man who met me at John Wayne Airport whisked me off to have dinner. Whew.

I will say that people complain about little "puddle jumpers", those planes that have transported me from my town to Seattle in half an hour. I always found them to be sort of fun. I'm not sure if that makes me weird, but oh well. The loud-ish, bumpy jaunt in a cramped seat just seems like some sort of high carnival ride to me.
Anyway, thanks for sending me the great stuff you write.  -- Z.

Thank you for reading it.   MB

Zen And The Art Of Getting Lost

"She understands a peculiar language which has nothing to do with what you are saying. A daughter." -- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance - An Inquiry Into Values.

Just bought a copy of that book, which I first read 40 years ago. It gave me an aha moment regarding women. But that wasn't the big news for me at the time. My epiphany was of the action variety. The book gonged up some confidence I didn't know I had, boosting me out of a soul-grinding rut and on to a swift powerful motorcycle for a three year 30,000 mile journey across the American southwest.

Turns out my unintended destination was an entirely new perspective. That journey continues to this day, only with a computer through cyberspace instead of on a motorcycle across a desert. As with the bike trips, there have been a lot of rest stops along the way. And this way I don't get speeding tickets.

This week my friend Tim Menees got me back on the writing road to a long intended destination: getting published, with Tim as the illustrator. Tim is a Pittsburgh-based artist who was a political cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post -Gazette before the bean counters slashed and burned the editorial staff, picking off people nearing retirement, an all too common bum deal among America’s newspapers today.

Tim surivived. Even flourished. He and his displaced colleagues were awarded a settlement from the Post-Gazette management and Tim opened his own gallery. You can see his work at

He is also a musician who recently confessed to taking up the accordion. Since he uses it to perform zydeco tunes with a band of like-minded and equally talented friends, he can be forgiven.

Tim and his wife, Kay, were visiting their kids and grandkids in the Bay Area this week. Tim made a side trip to Sacramento, a 90-mile train ride on AMTRAK's California Zephyr. Tim likes trains. He also likes ferry boats, drawbridges and the art of Wayne Thiebaud, who teaches at the nearby Davis campus of the University of California. Thiebaud's work is on display at Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum. So is a touring exhibit of Toulouse Lautrec's paintings that Tim wanted to see.

After an al fresco lunch at my fave Chinese semi-drive-in, (Tim's treat), off we went to the Crocker where I gasped at the cost of admission. Eighteen bucks for the two of us. I know, I know, that's cheaper than a pair of tickets and two boxes of stale popcorn at your local multiplex, but the Crocker exhibit was well worth the price, especially since it was again Tim’s treat.

The roadway of my life – and Tim’s – had a detour when I drove Tim back to the AMTRAK station, which occupies an entire city block in downtown Sacramento. Just because I’ve lived here for 40 years doesn’t mean I can’t lost -- and did. Tim spotted the train depot while I was rediscovering the downtown area. We barely made it. He boarded the train with one minute to spare before the California Zephyr zephyred off to the Bay Area.
I went home to a pot of coffee, a book, and meditations about life ”on the railroad earth,” a phrase I stole from Jack Kerouac. I tellya being a mobile bookworm is not for the faint of heart, especially if the bookworm is lousy at finding his way around.



I just laughed my head off reading about When Womyn Rule America. What a gem! [As for your Zen piece] It was wonderful to relax and read about the lovely, wending journey and your newfound actions with your friend to get you published! -- Amanda

Put me on the list. I would love a bound, illustrated book, personally signed by you, to me.-- Linda

Oh my, marvelous as always! And I look forward to buying your books, Materman! -- Julisari

Enjoyed the piece. Not sure how to convey how I feel, but the writing is so easy to read. It just flows. -- Mimi

Well, this piece hit me a lot of ways. this thing forty years ago...women and men....politics....idiots....a little serious....a lot of humor.....points made.....damn.I think ... I'm a woman. I think too much already. -- Zoey

I am really really really happy you are talking about publication again. I would very much like to see your stories neatly bound in book form . Not only because it would be a great way for me to store them but because it has been a goal for you. -- Tammy

Glad you are producing great art again, my dear -- Karen

Great art? Oh please. MB

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

More That A Few Words About Ken Kesey

The following is reprinted with permission from the weblog of Ken Babbs, friend and neighbor of the late Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Sometimes A Great Notion, Demon Box, and other works.  Mr. Babbs is also a novelist.  He wrote Who Shot The Water Buffalo? a book based on his experiences as a Marine helicopter pilot in Viet Nam.  Mr. Babbs' website, Sky Pilot Club, is linked on the right.  Here is an excerpt from his site:

Speaking of Kesey, I received an email from a guy in Florida doing an article on Kesey (actually on Kesey's book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). He emailed me some questions. Here's one, with my answer.

What do you think is the legacy of Mr. Kesey?

A double sided coin, one side his great writing and the other side his living art.The word showman is very close to the word shaman and Kesey was both. He said his greatest work was the bus because it wasn't art written on a page or shown in a movie but was art out amongst the people, living art. This is the artist part of his legacy.
The human part is his humanity to his fellow men and women. He summed it up by saying, "People in the know know what sets them apart is their knowledge that the carrot is better than the stick, that mercy comes before justice and the only compass you can trust is love to guide you down the mean streets of money mad America and, remember, the most important thing is be kind." 



I’m with the person who noted, "The most important thing, is to be kind." Can you post this someplace where it will possibly do some good. Like Facebook. I did love the picture of the bus. Well done, again. --Linda B


I'm not a Ken Kesey fan, Mike, but this is good and I'm definitely picking up Who Shot the Water Buffalo? We killed quite a few of those too on the USS Blue and the USS Hollister and what most people don't realize that in so doing, we wiped out a family's way of making a living. As much as I abhor war, I think that sometimes books like this are necessary so that we don't forget what Steinbeck referred to as "tragic accidents." – Rusty

Agreed – MB

Nice essay.... thanks for sending.  – Sum

Thanks for reading -- MB

Always a pleasure to read about you and yours. Thanks for sharing these insights. Hearts and thoughts  -- Pirate

Very nice, Mike.  Thanks for reposting.  --  kb  [Ken Babbs]

“The most important thing is to be kind”. What a wonderful world we could live in if all followed this, “be kind.”  -- Carol.

Great piece. Looking at that bus makes me hear Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride in my head. “Well you don't know what we can find/ Why don't you come with me, little gir/l on a magic carpet ride ….”   -- Tammy

I would give almost anything to have been on that bus with the Merry Pranksters. The trip of a lifetime.  And if you do a compilation of your stories I'd like a signed copy as well. "You're either on the bus or off the bus.”  -- Wht

That quote is Kesey’s, cited by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Wolfe’s first person account  of the Pranksters’ cross country odyssey in the bus named “Further,” pictured above.  Kesey meant either your are mentally and spiritually with us as well as physically --  or not.  Sigh.  Leave it to a former English major like me to complicate a simple declarative sentence.  -- MB  

Very thought-provoking, Mike.  -- Amanda

Loved  the piece.  Great writing, and points made.  I have an old-school phone, and I try to tell myself the only reason I keep buying another one like it online is because it's small enough to fit in my Lilliputian purse. Eh, the truth is, I just don't like all of the "features" the new phones have, and see no reason to learn how to operate the thing.

Same with my cd player in the car, and oh, also my radio in there. I don't know what buttons to push, and refuse to go find the paperwork on either one and take the time to figure out how they work right. I'm in my sixties and I don't have that much time.
Oh, and the new box with way too much wiring that a man bought for me so I could watch movies at home?  I have to have three remotes to even begin to start it, and fuck. I don't care.

I have this thought process in general: Things ought to work simply, three buttons at most, and they need to work like they look like they ought to work. In essence, that means that if there are too many buttons on something, one of them ought to say "Never Mind All Those Other Buttons, Just Press This One And Everything Will Be Fine". But of course, there is no room on anything for a button with that much explanation. My tv remote has 60 buttons on it. I counted. So much for technology.  -- Zoey

I’m with you, and I was a licensed radio engineer.  MBi

Saturday, March 7, 2015

When Womyn Rule America

The following is a likely transcript from of the House Committee On Equal Rights in the not-so-distant future. The issues under discussion are two political hot potatoes: One would give men the right to vote. The other is even more radical. It would allow men to sit anywhere they want on public transportation and not restrict them to the back of the bus. The committee chairwomyn is Rep. Shulamith Franklin Fonda (Republicrat - Womynnesota).

Chairwomyn: The chair recognizes our esteemed sister, Congresswomyn Gloria Peterbilt, who has a martyr’s burden of representing that wishy washy, fence-straddling, knee jerking, testosterone polluted state of Calipornia. I suppose you’re going to play devil’s advocate?

Rep. Peterbilt: Well, the voting rights thingy is a non-issue in my house. The male unit will vote the way I tell him to vote, and anyway, the only things he reads are recipes, horoscopes and fashion tips. Anything else, especially something as complicated as a ballot measure, is just beyond the little dear. But isn’t it about time we allowed male units unrestricted seating on public transportation?

Chairwomyn: What for? So they can plunk their brutish bodies down anywhere they want on the bus? Don’t be absurd. Just because you don’t care who violates your sacred space, think of how your mother would feel, or your daughter, for Goddess’s sake, if some hairy lout reeking of Aqua Velva presumed to be so…so….uppity…as to actually sit next to her innocent flowering Sheness! The mind reels!

Rep. Peterbilt: Yes, I can see where that might be troublesome for some unenlightened souls, but a properly trained male unit would never presume to sit just anywhere on a bus if the back wasn’t already overflowing with nattering giggling male units.

Chairwomyn (sighing): I know, I know. They get really annoying in a group. That’s why I stopped my male unit from having Schtupperwear and clingerie parties at our house. All those chubby male bodies stuffed into Speedos like cheese blintzes, cooing over plastic food containers. Worse, they whine about their personal circumstances. How we don’t understand them. How don’t care about their needs. How we expect them to have sex at what they consider inopportune times, like at a funeral or on a windswept beach in the rain. Hell, a little wet sand up their buns may have a cleansing effect, so what’s the problem?

Rep Peterbilt: Excuse me, Madam Chairwomyn, but we were discussing voting rights and public transportation. There are political and social reasons why we should allow male units voting rights and equal seating under the law.

Chairwomyn: Oh for Minerva’s sake, what are they?

Rep. Peterbilt: As for the voter franchise, the political reason is voter apathy with absentee ballots mailed prior to primary elections. Many indifferent womyn just turn the ballot over to the male unit like a Sudoko card and allow him to mark it up with a Crayola. I mean, they are already voting anyway. Why not register them in the hope that they may create a landslide mandate when directed by their womyn? Two votes for the price of one. And maybe they’ll feel responsible enough to stop marking ballots with crayons.

Chairwomyn: I know. Makes our ballot box stuffers all waxy. Still, we’re working on some attack ads showing the effects of male units being allowed even a sub rosa voice in the outcome of national elections. Unrestricted seating on buses is just for openers. Soon they’ll protest being required to sit in theater balconies. Who knows? They may even insist on having their brainless entertainment legally broadcast on national television. Imagine having a nice weekend ruined with games of baseballs or footballs blaring out of your TV. Anyway, what’s the social reason for giving male units the vote?

Rep. Peterbilt: A declining birthrate among the desirable demographics
Chairwomyn: You mean eligible voters not on public assistance. Go on.

Rep. Peterbilt: My staff is seeing an alarming trend. An increasing number of my constituents write that their male units get sulky during womyn’s estrus cycles and refuse to sleep with them. Instead of getting in bed, their male units curl up in tight little balls on couches, like armadillos, and cry all night about not being treated as equals. That includes open seating on buses and being able to vote.

Chairwomyn: Well, have your constituents tried distracting their male units away from substantive issues with chocolates and new shoes?

Rep. Peterbilt: Many reported doing both. Didn’t work. They think chocolates make their butts look big. That made them whinier than ever. As for new shoes, have you tried shopping for shoes with your male unit? They can never make up their minds. They try on everything in the store on before settling on a pair of pumps they could’ve picked up at a factory outlet for half the price.

Chairwomyn: Okay, so how will giving male units equal seating on the bus, not to mention the vote, arrest the decline of the retail shoe market and benefit womynkind?

Rep. Peterbilt: It would be the first step, so to speak, in giving them full citizenship under the law.

Chairwomyn: What the hell for? Look, if we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Everyone knows that all male units are good for is spending money and being decorative. Other than that, the little dears are just plain useless. They can’t even take out the trash or kill a spider in the bathtub. One other thing, if you care to hear about a really alarming consequence of giving male units the vote
Rep. Peterbilt: And what would that be?

Chairwomyn: Male units in Congress, that’s what! How does that grab you?

Rep. Peterbilt: Oh nonsense. That would never happen. Never
Chairwomyn: Oh? And why, by all that’s holy in the name of Athena, not?

Rep. Peterbilt: Well, even equality has it limits.

Chairwomyn: Don’t count on it!. They may even try to put a male unit in the White House! Imagine that!

Rep. Peterbilt: Oh please, Madame Chairwomyn, I mean really! Surely, even in the great state of Womynnesota, you’ve heard the word “ninny”?

Chairwomyn: I have. Usually applied to misguided Calipornians. I say we table this issue and let it die in the Rules Committee, along with that lunatic balanced budget and arms reduction bill. Let’s move on. What’s the next agenda item?  


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Being Smarter Than A Can Opener

The Lady Karen gave me the gift of a can opener. Not just any can opener, but a super de luxe razzle dazzle blue and white Mark XII Z-88 can opener that could have been designed by NASA for the Space Shuttle. She saw me struggling with my old squeeze and twist can opener that left finger slicing edges on the lid and decided it was a hazard to myself and others. So she sent me a plastic composite space age can opener that rounded the edges of the lid, allowing the operator to pop open a can of Boston baked beans without causing a visit to the ER.

The can opener came with a page of illustrated instructions which I of course ignored as I tried to fit the can opener to a can of Boston baked beans without success. I tried it several or maybe a dozen more times when that annoyingly smug Internal Voice Of Quiet Reason muttered a 12 Step bromide: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

"Shut up," I explained, and went back to my struggle for the hearts and minds of my Boston baked beans in my accustomed manner, augmenting the effort with some heartfelt swearing. No luck. No beans either.

I took a break. The accursed IVOQR put in another guest appearance while I brooded with the impenetrable can of Boston baked beans in one hand and the can opener in the other."Try reading the directions, smart guy," it said in a snotty tone.

Okay okay okay. I'll read the frapping directions. Jesus. Some people. So I read the directions...and saw what I was doing wrong. I was zigging when I should be zagging. Doing that was pitting the can opener and the can in an unholy alliance against me.

Got it. Time to stop swearing angrily and become the can whisperer.  And follow the directions. It worked. Off popped the top with safe rounded edges. My smartass IVOQR  played the Halleljuah chrorus on its psychic boom box.

So, my thanks to The Lady Karen not only for the gift of the can opener, but for the can opener's  gift of humility. Humility is an underrated virtue. It means an absence of pride, which is an overrated vice. Pride is also the first among the Seven Deadly Sins, and not one of the fun ones either.  Pride causes more trouble than a hijacked airliner or a classroom full of sugared up middle school kids. It even lets prideful dummies think they are smarter than a can opener.


Comments are welcome.  Especially flattering ones. Send them to

When you finally opened the beans- did you hear canned applause? – Offpat

For a second I thought you wrote applesauce.  No, but I imagined Beethoven’s Ode To Joy.  MB

Yeah, reading the instructions can be of use! (Get it, "can" be of use) – Lynda

Gawd, Lynda.  Cracks like that make me a believer in strict pun control laws.  MB


Funny, as always. Thanks 'Materman. -- Shannon


Thanks so much, Mike! I expected one story, but after reading the comments, I saw one after another...stories, all written so brilliantly as to make us unaware that we were actually reading anything that took effort! Your work is genius, as always, so flawlessly entertaining......I can say that you have changed my life for the better, making my days brighter with your Emails which state I am going to be delighted by another edition or more of The Tomatoman Times! Love,  --  Amanda

Aw shucks,  Amanda  ::::staring at the ground and  kicking pebbles;::::
Thank you for the compliments.  MB

Directions are way overrated unless they're directly translated from Japanese or Korean. I always thought they should be written in the original Kanji or Korean. Then if you really want to know what to do, you can ask a Japanese or Korean person to figure it out. I use a hammer and chisel instead. The beans thank me for it. As always, a slice of life to brighten a day.. or is that a slice of finger? Is that in the digital instructions?  --- Linus

Use a pun, go to jail.  It’s the law!  MB

Thanks!  Always a good and memorable read.You have the ability for the craft and handle it well, even adroitly. I appreciate you.-- Kent

I honed what writing skills I have in classes taught by Kent's late wife, the estimable and formidable Barbara J. Wrede.  MB

My mom (and maybe Ken too) used to say, deadpan, "When all else fails, try reading directions."  More fabulous timing in your pithy writing. so good!  -- Galen


I'm curious about the packaging and how you got into to it to get the can opener out. I'm sure that's another whole story and would love to read about it in The Tomatoman Times. But we should all thank Karen, who saved your fingers from possible ruination and even fewer wonderful stories.  – Beaty

Fortunately it was not shrink wrapped, or I'd still be trying to peel it.  MB

Blush, blush. I am finally named in one of the great master’s works of art. Beam, beam. I am flattered and humbled that I am so honored to be given recognition as the instigator of your IVOQR.—Karen

Thanks, Mike!  -- Regondi

Wonderful ending. Great insight.  – Tammy


Haaaaaaa loved it!  --- Julisari


I'd been wondering if the absence of your "voice" indicated you'd been canned.

After dealing with this freaking "smart" phone, I'm tempted to write an essay on the freaking "new features" of the iPhone 6. They've dicked with it so much, all the damned emoticons and other weird stuff that comes up these days when all I want to do is get the punctuation page and insert a comma or period. Whose idea was it to create those other pages the come up on the keyboard? Where's the opt-out button for those of us senile old farts who don't want none of them there fancy symbols and junk? Waste of storage space.  – Brat


One friend gifted me a decent wine opener which finally took the place of a piece of metal aggravation that I kept hoping would one day magically work for real. Yeah, I suffered through using the old one repeatedly, cussing a blue streak like you did, instead of actually buying one that worked myself. Stubborn. Anyway, thanks for a good read, as yours always are. And thanks for the memories. Always. - Zoey


A pleasant surprise indeed! I've missed the T-manTimes!  -- Sum


I always knew you were smarter than a can opener...and the hill o' beans inside. I'm happy to see you writing again; it's been too long.  --  Laf

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Return Of The Prodigal Wallet - A Short Holiday Story

Aside from drowning, there is no sinking feeling like the sinking feeling of reaching for your wallet and finding it isn’t there. That happened to me today. I checked the floor. Nope. Didn’t drop it. How about the car? I’d just returned from a grocery run. No wallet there either. I even checked the freezer because of something similar that happened years ago with a partial denture of mine. Embarrassing.

Well then, maybe I left it at the store. Drove to the store. No one had turned in a wallet to customer service or to the manager, but they took my number in case someone did.

Took some deeeeep breaths and emptied my alleged mind of imagined catastrophes about going to Debtors Prison because an identity thief had emptied my account then stretched my credit/debit limits to the felony level. Maybe I’d be dragged through the streets behind an ox cart and flogged by hags and then strapped to a dunking stool. 

At the very least there were the hassles of replacing my plastic self with the credit union, DMV, Veterans Adminstration, pharmacies, etc. The drowning parallel holds here too. The more you thrash around in a panic, the quicker your demise. In this case, the more hidden the wallet stays. So, I clammed down and drove home. On the way the resident manager of the apartment complex where I live rang my ringer. Said a man had found my wallet and was returning it.

I pulled into my parking space and there he was, a smile on his face and my wallet in his hand. I only had $3 cash, which was much too paltry a reward, so I asked if he had any daughters. He did. I gave him a beautifully detailed Santa doll in an Eskimo parka made of reindeer hide – which might have made Dasher, Prancer, Donner, Blitzen and the rest of the sleigh pullers nervous. The doll had been a gift to me, but I felt the giver would approve if I paid it forward. (To my relief, she did.)

And the man who returned my wallet? He’s Hispanic. Name’s Campos. I thought it should be Santos.

 Or maybe Santo Campos.

Happy holidays.

# # #


You always make my days brighter  -- Carol


What a great story, Mike, thanks so much! – Amanda


Holyfield (Santos Campos, or vice versa). I have a client by that name, or actually a variation, Hollyfield. – Trog

Thanks for the link and the story -- glad it had a happy ending!  Wishing you a Merry Christmas and the best of it all for the coming year -- Cynthia

Thank You for sending me this link.. I very much enjoyed the wallet story.  Happy Holidays, my friend. -- Pandora

I liked them all, of course. The most moving one was the last one about the purse left on top of the car. Like most of us, been there, etc. A lousy feeling indeed.
Thanks for keeping in touch this way. It reminds me of good times in my former life and that outweighs the others. I'm thankful you are still making a difference to many.Merry Christmas! -- Kent

Sweet story. Anything you write about is so easy, funny and sweet.
 Merry Christmas! -- Mimi

Your stories are way too few and far between. Not that I want you to lose your wallet more often, but I'm sure there are other stories rolling around with your marbles that you could share?  Are you moving to Maine? I guess I missed that. -- Beaty

No.  I’m staying put.  Rusty is moving, as noted in the next post.


This is great and I'm passing it along to those friends and family I know will appreciate it. You've been a master story teller and you and I have history.
Things are in motion with the magazine and on the home front, as well. Thanks to Linked In and Facebook, we've really grown and that's bringing clients into the writing and editing business as well.

So, this will be my last Christmas in Seattle. Tom Robbins is still living in LaConner and I've checked the area out. It hasn't changed much since I lived there before. So I expect that by this time next year, I'll be set up in a quiet place in a community I served well once and stand to serve well again. It'll be a little tougher for out of staters to visit but then it's also a good reason for them to bring their own sleeping bag and plan on staying a stretch.  -- Rusty

Thank you for your embarrassingly generous praise.  I hope your move is as hassle free as any move can be, which ain't much.

I know the area where you're bound. I'd go with my mom when she visited friends in Linden. Me, I'd rather live in Copalis or Pacific Beach. When I was kidlet we'd find glass globe fishing floats in twine netting that had drifted in on the Japanese Current. In later years the floats were plastic and not nearly as desirable as beachcombing loot.

Mom would visit her author pal Norah Berg who lived in a ramshackle place the color of driftwood on the beach at Copalis with her big fat alcoholic husband, a retired Marine named Sarge who had a roadmap face and a big red W.C. Fields nose. Norah wrote a book about those times:

I remember a story Norah told on herself. Seems she had been mushroom hunting in the woods near her place when she happened on an injun burial ground. Some of the skeletons were exposed, probably dug up by our little forest friends. Norah espied some trading bead jewelry on a bone, which she picked up, took home and popped into a hot oven to bake the dried flesh off the bone and free up the pretties.

About that time her friend and neighbor, the chief of the Moclips tribe, whose burial ground Norah had looted, dropped by for a visit and took a seat at the kitchen table. He sniffed the air and wrinkled his nose. 

"Norah," he said. "Something's burning."

Norah burst into tears and sobbed, "I may have one of your relatives in the oven!"

The chief got up, opened the oven door, peered in for a moment, closed the oven door and sat back down. During a break in Norah's sobbing he said, "Norah, if anyone's gonna have that stuff, I'd just as soon it be you."

And happy holidays to you, sir.


I bought that book for my mom as a Christmas gift ! She, like me, loves the Copalis area. This will be a great story to share with mom .  Great story!  Warms my heart to think of someone doing the right thing which led to a huge relief for someone and a child being generously rewarded.  – Tammy


I once found a wallet in an overcrowded street on a Saturday afternoon. A quick look around, trying to identify an anguished glance in someone's face, but no...nothing.

The wallet held the equivalent of maybe 20 bucks in bills and petty cash. The ID card showed the face of a lovely teen girl, from a town 150 miles away. I was already too old for teens.

So I rushed to the nearest police station, hoping to meet the distressed owner busy declaring the loss.  But no one in sight.

In the lost/found property office was a young slob, his feet on the counter, narrating his last skiing week-end on the phone.  After 20 minutes, I had enough about the contemplation of his soles, so I left the office without waving good-bye.

Once home, I called the lost property service at the same police station, saying that I had found a wallet, and I wished to give my phone and address in case the owner was still in town and wished to retrieve it.

“Sorry, but it doesn't work that way!  You have to come and drop it at the station and fill a few forms.”

I recognized the voice of the young punk.

I told him that's exactly what I had done, but all I found there was a sucker on the phone who didn't pay any attention to me for 20 minutes, busy as he was with the glorious narration of his skiing holiday.

Deep silence on the other end of the line.

I finally just mail the wallet to its owner. I got at thank you letter a few days later.

 -- Gerard


Dang!  Where did you get/develop that strong gift for narrative structure?  Wallet to good ethnic Xmas and gift giving and eskimos too.  All in such a short few paragraphs.  Bravo!.  Wish i could do that! -- Galen

Practice. Reading a lot of John O'Hara's stuff at an early age helped. He was a genius with dialogue. So was Steinbeck.

Plus I've always had a pedantic streak. The hard part was learning to curb my lecturing instinct and write for the mind's ear. People don't converse or think in complete sentences. However I still try to abide by The Rules as set forth in various manuals of style (the best is Chicago's), and to me, a misspelled word is as unsettling  as a dab of  spinach on the front teeth of a first date.

Another author I liked was all the rage with one book in the 70s. Robert Pirsig, author of Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He once taught English composition at a college in Montana. His first assignment was to make students write x amount of words about a penny, maybe two or three pages on lined notebook paper. Once the whining stopped and the writing started, the kids would really get into the assignment and would fill up page after page about that penny; where it had been, a moment in the life of someone who held it, how it served as an electrical conduit to bring the light to a darkened house, and so on.

Pirsig wrote one other book after that. Lila. A stinker.

Thank you for the compliment.


I went to a friend's house some years ago to deliver a bag of cookies I had made for her, and then I was off to Christmas shop with $180 in twenty dollar bills. I loaded my coat in the back seat, and then headed to the mall across town. I found a parking space and reached for my purse.  No purse.

I did the same as you did. I looked in my pockets, around the car on the ground, all around the front and back seats of my car. I drove back to my friend's house, and also searched the ground where I had parked.  Nope. Gone.

I drove home with no money, no form of ID, no credit card, AAA card, insurance card. I walked into my house dejected, got a piece of paper to make a list of everything I would have to replace, who to call, and wondered how much money I had left in my savings account to buy a gift or two.

Right then the phone rang. It was a man who lived two blocks from my friend's house, calling to have me identify a purse he had found. He had tried to recover as much of the contents as he could.  Oh god. I surmised I had laid my little purse on top of my car.  My purse had gone flying when I was on the road. The man had been a few cars behind me and saw it happen.  He retrieved as much as he could and found my address and phone number on my blank checks.

I drove to the address he gave me on the phone. He answered the door, a man about my age. He apologized for maybe not finding everything, and handed me my purse, my checkbook, insurance card, credit card, license, and my AAA card.  Then he gave me a handful of twenty dollar bills. He asked me how much I had lost, and as I counted it, I paused, and looked up at him with tears in my eyes. "Nothing," I said.  He had searched two icy slippery blocks, dodging traffic, and found them all.

 "I haven't lost one thing because of you," I said.  He smiled and said he was glad. It was three days before Christmas, and I tried to give him one of the twenties, feeling it wasn't enough for all he had done out in the freezing wind. He wouldn't take it. He said what good people say. He said that he didn't want any reward and hoped that if he lost his wallet one day, someone would return it intact. I hugged him again and wished him a Merry Christmas.

That was ten years ago, and I still vividly remember what he looked like and how grateful I was that in a world where people often don't do the right thing, my purse fell into the hands of an honest man with a good heart.  – Zoey


Nice story. Happy holidays. – Lowell D.


Wonderful holiday story!  -- Julisari


Sweet! – Lynda