Dope deals about wheels

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of a coffee date with a pal I haven’t seen in years, Barb Merritt. Barb and I go way back and are curiously connected.

In the ’70s I knew who Barb was, but we never became friends till about 25 years ago. Right from the start, our relationship went to the dogs — literally. She was my pups’ babysitter.

When it comes to most things, I’m a pretty loosey-goosey guy … and always have been. And while I think that’s one of my myriad charms, believe it or not, bunches of folks have found it a source of irritation.

As a Boy Scout, my pledge to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Friendly, Courteous, etc. was lip service and nothing more. As I recall, after my three year hitch, I’d barely gotten beyond Tenderfoot and had not a merit badge to my name. Then again, there was no way I could have — unless they’d given merit badges for sarcasm.

In high school, my school spirit and good citizenship might have been questioned — if anyone ever found them. At pep rallies, if I stood out, it wasn’t for my pep, but my lack thereof. And as for me and good citizenship? For sure I followed the rules. But I didn’t do it because I respected them or even thought they made sense a lot of the time. Uh-uh, I did it because I realized stickin’ it to the man was not only fruitless, but downright suicidal besides.

My illustrious “career” in This Man’s Navy was more of the same. I did my job scrupulously and didn’t foment mutinies or sell classified material to the Russkies, On the other hand, I was no Billy Budd. You sure weren’t gonna see me being strung up the yardarm shouting, “God bless Captain Vere!” (or any other lifer, for that matter). Luckily, I was in the Navy at a time (Vietnam era) when Give-a-Crap Artists like me were the norm rather than the exception, and all but invisible to the hierarchy.

My time in the trenches of academe ran along the same lines. All my focus, time and energies were devoted to my students. With meetings of any sort I either teleported into an out-of-body experience, or skipped the damned things entirely (neither of which I’m sure was noticed by anyone).

But for all my laxness and inattention to what I consider the silly irrelevancies of my life, there’s one area I never slack off with — my pets.

Dog days, nights, and vacations

I’m not anthropomorphic about my pets. Sure, they’ve got names and I talk to them all the time, but it’s not like I think they’re gonna answer me, or even that they understand what I’m saying. But they are my primary companions, they give me far more than I give them, and they’re completely dependent on me. And so I’ve got an unspoken contract in effect with them: They’ll get the best care possible when they’re with me, and when their end draws near, I won’t let them suffer.

For a bunch of years, I took week-long vacations several times a year, which raised an issue: What would I do with my pets? The cat is easy to deal with, since all she needs is someone to stop in a couple times a day, fill her bowl, empty her litter, and give her some rubs, pats, and reassuring promises.

The dogs, pathetic codependents that they are, are a whole different issue. They need all kinds of caretaking, not the least of which is getting several long walks a day, plus a lot more companionship. I could board them at a kennel or a vet’s, but that’s my last option. My first option is having them stay with some kind, understanding soul, in their house, who’ll treat them in the manner to which they’re accustomed. And that’s how Barb Merritt comes into this saga.

Through one grapevine or other, I heard Barb took doggie boarders in her home. I gave her a call, then went for a visit with my dogs. All species got along famously, so the deal was sealed, and Barb’s place became my pups’ home-away-from-home. And for all I know, they had a better time on their vacations than I did on mine.

The nitty gritty

But Barb as a dogsitter is only one of our connections. The other one is our shared love of My Home Town.

Though Barb didn’t grow up here, she might as well have, since she fit in seamlessly and was as loyal and civic-minded about the town as the most devoted townie. While she was always in several civic organizations — which I was not — there’s one thing we’re both 100% in sync with. It’s the annual town even that I think should be declared a national holiday and be honored in a postage stamp. It is, of course, Winter Carnival.

Barb left town a bunch of years ago, and while we didn’t stay in touch, we did become Facebook friends, so we could keep tabs on each other that way. Last Winter Carnival, I helped launch a new event — The Blue Buns Wheel-a-Palooza, a bike ride with the participants wearing bathing suits. For sure it was a fairly nutty idea … and an even nuttier reality. But guess what? It was also a great success.

In order to immortalize this stellar event, I commissioned several pieces of merch to be made, showcasing the Blue Buns’ fabulous logo (painstakingly drawn by our staff artist, Bruce Young). They were t-shirts, stickers, and coasters. Barb, who as one might expect, was following Carnival from afar, emailed me and asked if she could buy a decal. Sell Barb, a fellow WC fanatic, a sticker? Sell? The very idea was as repellent to me as selling my first-born into slavery. Of course I have no first-born. But to be completely honest, if I’d had one, and he was a big a pain in the prat as I was, I probably would’nt have sold the little blighter, but paid the slavers to haul him off.

Anyway, I sent Barb the sticker. And as an extra reward for her service and loyalty to MHT, I included a t-shirt. A short time later, I got a thank-you email with a pic of Barb wearing the shirt, so I was batting two for two in the merch department.

Then, to put the icing on the cake, when we got together in town the last time, I gave her one of the coasters. Her joy at having the complete Blue Buns collection (at least so far) was palpable.

Now all that’s left is for Barb to ride in next year’s Wheel-a-Palooza with the rest of the lunatics. I offered that to her, but she turned it down, using her upcoming 89th birthday as her lame excuse.

Next I suggested she could ride with SL’s finest in our official police escort. But her reaction was lukewarm, at best.

Was I disappointed?


Was I discouraged?

Not at all.

I figure, what with my legendary powers of persuasion and six months till the starter pistol fires, her riding shotgun with our boys and girls in blue is all but a sure thing.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today