Tag Archives: Dead & Company

Coupons

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I’d come down from the mountain to get supplies. I think I had an appointment with a dentist too, otherwise, I don’t know why I was in the large (by my standards, if not by California standards) city. It was hot in the valley, and as far as I was concerned, I couldn’t get back to my campground on the mountain soon enough.

I’d already been inside the discount grocery store. In addition to my week’s supply of food, I’d gotten a good deal on hummas and crackers for my lunch. I had the side doors of my van open, trying to cool the interior as much as possible, even though the outside air wasn’t much cooler than the air inside. The giant SUV next to me was parked as close as possible while still being inside its yellow line, so I could only open the doors partially. I was sitting in between the open doors, perched on the edge of the floor, trying to benefit from the slightly lower outside temperature.

I was enjoying my hummas and crackers when I heard a voice say, Excuse me.

I looked up and saw a young boy (no older than 13) had slipped between my van and the SUV and was peeking around my open door. I don’t like strangers getting that close to me when I’m alone in public, so I was immediately on edge.

Are you selling coupons? he continued politely. Free printable babysitting coupons clip art image

Coupons? I thought. WTF? I didn’t know what in the world he was talking about, so I was pretty sure I didn’t have what he was looking for.

No, I told him, and he left.

What was that all about? I wondered.

The next time I talked to the Lady of the House, I told her the story.

Do you think he was looking for drugs? she asked.

Drugs? I asked, increasingly perplexed. He was really young. And polite. I don’t think it was about drugs. Besides, do I seem like I’d be selling drugs?

I’m firmly middle age and totally unhip. Would anyone possibly mistake me for a drug dealer? Well, maybe if the parking lot were at a Dead & Company show, but probably not in a strip mall parking lot. Do people even buy drugs in strip mall parking lots?

Well, The Lady said, you were in a van. (Does all the world see people in vans as drug dealers?)

Maybe he was looking for LSD, she said. Maybe “coupon” is code. LSD comes on paper, coupons are made of paper…

She made a strange sort of sense, although I didn’t think a preteen boy was combing strip mall parking lots asking middle age white ladies (even the ones wearing colorful long hippie skirts and hanging out in 1990s-era conversion vans) for LSD using coded language I’d never heard. But—kids these days—who knew? Maybe she was right.

Later I figured out what (maybe) had been going on.

Nolagirl works for a major newspaper conglomeration. She told me about people who go into stores on Sundays and pilfer the pullout coupon sections from the newspapers on the rack. The thieves don’t take the entire paper, just the glossy pages featuring coupons. When a genuine paying customer gets home and finds the paper is sans coupons, said customer is often pissed by his/her inability to take advantage of the savings. Clip Art Coupons

When my friend told me about purloined coupons, I thought the thieves worked for their own cents-off benefit. However, after the young man asked if I sold coupons, I realized the thieves may work for hard currency profit. But how much money can a person make selling coupons, even stolen ones? Does the thief sell the whole glossy coupon section for a couple of bucks, or does each coupon bring in a few cents? How much will a shopper pay to save a few cents? If coupons go for half off face value (and that’s just a guess on my part), is it worth seeking out a coupon seller and paying 12 cents to save 12 cents? If coupons go for just pennies each, can a coupon thief really turn much of a profit? And is the risk of jail time and a criminal record worth making a few cents per coupon? I think it would take a lot of coupon sales to make the effort and danger pay off. Even coupon theft for personal use seems like too big a risk for too little payoff.

Furthermore, do middle-age-lady coupon thieves post up in conversion vans in front of discount grocery stores and peddle their ill-gotten wares? Did that young man really think I was in the coupon business? Also, was the boy coupon shopping for himself, or had he been sent out on a mission?

So many mysteries remain.

Coupon images from Clipart Library.

Deadheads

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]Say what you will, but I’m pretty sure I manifested those people.

Exhibit  A: I’d been reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test for about a week. I guess you could say I’d been savoring it. Oh man–Merry Pranksters and LSD! Just a day or so before, I’d gotten to the part where the Grateful Dead became the house band at the Acid Tests.

Exhibit B: Just the day before, I pulled out the hemp and began making necklaces between collecting parking fees. 

One Package of 400 feet 100% Natural Hemp Cord #20
I started with whimsical mushroom pendants sent to me by a friend. The necklace-making went so well (three necklaces made in a four hour shift), I figured I could do it the three slow days of my parking lot work week. I was working on a hemp necklace when the people pulled into the parking lot.

It makes perfect sensed to me: focus on Merry Pranksters + LSD + Grateful Dead, throw in the repetitive, meditative motion of making square knots from hemp, and Deadheads are bound to appear.

The people arrived in a puff of sage smoke, with maybe a bit of marijuana in the mix.

The car was banged up, a real beater, and was hauling a battered pop-up camper. I didn’t know who the people were at first. I thought maybe they’d mistaken the parking lot for a campground (as happens fairly often). I thought maybe they were just tourists in a scruffy car, regular people who wanted to see some trees.

When the car stopped next to me, the driver had to open his door to hear my rap. (My van’s driver-side window doesn’t go down, so I’m never surprised when I see other people in the same situation.)

Are y’all here for the trees? I asked, and the driver said yes.

There’s a $5 parking fee, I said.

At that point I looked into the car and began to see.

I noticed the driver first. He had a black mark on his forehead, above his nose. He looked like a Catholic on Ash Wednesday, but having been raised Catholic, I know Ash Wednesday doesn’t come in late July.

Then I noticed the child in the backseat. She was probably three and tiny and dirty and her hair was in ratty dreads that meant her mamma had quit fighting her about brushing it. Only hardcore modern hippies have kids with hair like that.

Next I glanced at the dashboard where a lot of papers were piled up. Peeking out from the pile–upside down– I was pretty sure that was Jerry Garcia on that poster.

WAIT! These weren’t tourists. These were maybe–possibly–oh, I hope!

These were the kids!

Is that a Grateful Dead poster on the dash? I asked.

The driver said it was.

I said, There’s no parking fee!

Kids don’t charge kids, man, and these were the kids, and I’m a kid too, under this brown polyester uniform, in my heart.

The driver asked the adult in the backseat (a man younger than I am, but probably the oldest of the bunch), Do you have…something…mumble…mumble…something?

I thought they were fishing around for five bucks, but instead of money, they produced a cardboard sign featuring the words I need a miracle and an awesome drawing of a skeleton.

Hell yeah! I miracled those kids right into that parking lot!

They’d been at a Dead & Company show the night before (or maybe the night before that), and they were heading to a Dead & Company show that night (or maybe the next) but I just had to take a detour and see some trees, the driver told me.

While they parked, I got some granola bars together for them. (Being on tour is hungry work.) The granola bars were met with enthusiasm by the two men, the tiny child, and the fourth person in the party, a young woman resplendent in bold face paint and a fuzzy tail swinging from the seat of her shorts.

They weren’t gone as long as I thought they might be.

When they returned to the parking lot, I asked them how they’d liked the trees.

There were many expressions of approval and thanks.

We’d stay longer, the driver told me, but we have a date with Bobby. (That’s  Bob  Weir of the Grateful Dead, Furthur, and now Dead & Company for folks not in the know.)

I wish I could go with you! I said.

Come on, the woman said immediately. Quit your job! Come with us!

It was the perfect answer, just what I wanted and needed her to say. I’d been dreaming of running away with them from the moment I realized who they were. The last week had been hard with the heat and the bugs and the idiots, and I’d really been wanting to leave.

Turns out just being invited to go with them was enough.

I didn’t go with them, not because I didn’t want to, but because that’s not the path I’m on at the moment. Also, the last time I cast my lot with Deadheads I didn’t even know–well, let’s just say the trip was longer and stranger than I’d ever imagined it could be, from the snow of Colorado to my Southwest Louisiana homeland. Getting out of that one mostly unscathed has made me less likely to run off with strangers.

In any case, when I said I couldn’t (wouldn’t, shouldn’t) go, the older (but still much younger than I) guy stopped and looked at me, told me he appreciated what I was doing keeping it locked down for these trees. That made me feel good too, even though I’m mostly just a parking lot attendant. But yeah, I’m here for the trees, and I’m here to recognize the kids who need a miracle every damn day. (I need those miracles too, and that day, those kids were my miracle.)

The crew headed back to the car, but a few minutes later, I heard a voice say, This is for you.

The woman had returned, and while she didn’t hand me the party favor I’d been trying to manifest, (but I understand, it’s not safe to hand sacraments like that to strangers in polyester-blend pants), I was very pleased with the bundle of California white sage she presented to me.

The car left as it arrived, in a puff of sage smoke, camper trailer in tow. On the back of the trailer was a heart, inscribed inside with the words Not Fade Away, as in a love that’s real not fade away.

Don’t even try to tell me I didn’t draw those people right to me.

For your viewing and listening pleasure, here’s the Grateful Dead performing “I Need a Miracle” in 1978.

 

Shakedown Street (Expanded & Remastered)