The Great Vacaville Children’s Bed Drive

I was startled halfway through a mouthful of a well-aged burrito a few evenings ago by a timid knocking at my apartment door – followed by a considerably less-than-timid pounding on the same door.

Foolishly, I dropped my burrito-from-long-ago back onto its plate and went to see who was rattling the accumulated dust off my door frame. Staring out the peephole, I saw only the tops of three small heads.

Great, I thought. Leprechauns. There was a pack of angry leprechauns trying to beat down my door. This can’t be good…

I decided, however, that the best thing I could do was to quickly clear up whatever misunderstanding had brought them to my apartment and then go back to my getting-older-every-minute burrito.

Upon opening the door, I found only three small children, in the 9-to-10-year-old range, holding out a large plastic basket full of assorted sweets.

“Wanna buy some candy?” asked the trio’s apparent spokesman.

And then there was silence.

I waited patiently for one of the usual pitches – “We’re raising money to buy some new unicycles for our school band,” or, perhaps, “You want to help us pay for a new basketball court so we have something to do after school so we don’t turn to drugs and steal your car?”

But no pitch came as three pairs of eyes continued to peer up at me.

I began to get worried as my thoughts turned to past experience on the mean streets of Solano County.

Smart move, I thought. The door’s wide open and now they’re going to drop their candy, pull out their Glocks and demand all my cash and rock cocaine.

And still nothing happened.

“Soooooo,” I asked. “How much?”

“Dollar each,” responded the spokesman, still declining to give the slightest hint as to why I should buy their candy.The silence finally overcame me and I reached for my wallet as industrious spiders continued to weave intricate webs around my abandoned burrito.

“Does this benefit anything?” I asked, desperate for any kind of explanation.

The young entrepreneurs mulled the question over for a few seconds and then the spokesman gestured toward the female third of the sales team.

“Yeah. She’s, like, trying to get some money to buy a bed she saw in Berkeley,” he explained.

Whoa! Honesty. They weren’t even trying to claim nonprofit status or say they were helping homeless Republicans.

Yes, I was looking at what may have been the very first Great Vacaville Children’s Bed Drive.

I paused and considered lecturing the tiny trio on the dangers of knocking on strangers’ doors. Or puffing myself up and telling them self-importantly that door-to-door sales were strictly prohibited in my gated apartment complex.

I considered these options for about three seconds and then shelled out five bucks for two bags of glowing neon Sour Skittles, a box of Hot Tamales and a couple of Big Kat Kit Kat bars.

Let’s face it, amigos, a door-to-door bed drive is not something you see every day.

(And besides, they might have had Glocks…)

Originally published May 30, 2004

Welcome to my identity crisis

I’ve recently found myself plunged head first into another baffling mystery from the Stygian depths of the Solano County Hall of Justice.

And it all comes down to a simple question to which I have yet to find an adequate answer:

Who’s Marty?

Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

The mystery began to unfold on an overcast afternoon about three weeks ago when a complete stranger sidled up to me near the entrance to the stately structure and quietly asked, “Are you Marty?”

No big deal, right?

I immediately shrugged the whole incident off as nothing more than a simple case of mistaken identity. That happens a lot at the Hall of Justice and, unless the person asking has an arrest warrant with your name on it, there’s really nothing much to worry about.

But then it happened again.

And again.

I have to admit that I’m growing just a tad bit concerned about the situation, particularly about exactly who Marty might be and why so many people seem to be looking for him in a kind of general, catch-as-catch-can manner.

I mean, it’s one thing if folks are looking for good ol’ Marty to thank him for his many years of selfless service to mankind or, perhaps, to return his two-carat diamond pinkie ring.

On the other hand, we’re talking the Hall of Justice here, so Marty’s just as likely to be a difficult-to-identify felon wanted by the FBI, CIA and FFA (not necessarily in that order).

Or perhaps our high-living pal Marty owes a bundle of cash to an ill-tempered gambler with a name like Jimmy Tri-Tip.

Marvelous. Simply marvelous…

Right now I’m hoping that I just bear a strong resemblance to a generic Marty kind of guy – you know, aviator glasses, walrus-like mustache and a waistline that proudly proclaims “I love burritos!”

Not that this really helps me very much, since a general sort of Martyness could just as easily be the aforementioned benefactor-of-mankind Marty, the depraved-serial-killer Marty or, perhaps, the I-owe-a-bundle-to-the-mob Marty.

I suppose I could start wearing one of those little stick-on name tags that proclaim “Hello! I’m —-” and then write on it in bold letters NOT MARTY.

To be realistic, though, nobody really pays much attention to those little name tags.

Former California Gov. Gray Davis wore one for years but very few people believed he was really the governor.

Now they don’t even believe he’s Gray Davis.

It’s beginning to look like the only hope I have to maintain my own identity is to make a desperate personal plea to Marty, wherever – and whomever – he may be:

Please come on down to the Hall of Justice at your earliest convenience and make your presence abundantly visible.

(And lose the mustache, amigo – it makes you look like a walrus …)

Originally published May 23, 2004