My wife and I took our dog, Mabel, to a dog park for the first time this morning. It was an odd experience. There were maybe 30 dogs running around in an area about the size of a baseball field. I’m not sure what was more interesting: watching the dogs or watching the people.

It was an interesting collection of people at the Lake of the isles dog park in Minneapolis this Easter morning, at least one of whom was already drunk at 10 a.m. I respect the determination and/or stamina it takes to be stagger-around drunk before noon, and this gentleman had the added benefit of a supply of odd, strangely interesting stories.

"My Ralphie," he introduced himself with, stumbling slightly as he approached and gestured vaguely at three or four nearby dogs. "My Ralphie ain’t fat. He’s sturdy. Like them Fleet Farm girls." He looked at us. "From the Sunday ads," he said, prompting us, waiting for a response. "Them Fleet Farm girls. They’re sturdy, just like my Ralphie. The vet said he could stand to lose some weight, but just told him he’s sturdy."

What’s going on with this guy? I couldn’t help but wonder. What’s his story? What’s cooking in his mind, or in his life that has brought him to this exact place at this exact time? And why have those events conspired to make our lives intersect? I guess you can ask those same questions about anybody, but I felt like this guy was a Harvey Pekar character or something, with a similar backstory.

In this month’s issue, we take a look at what’s cooking in a several different contexts. We start with the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, where Karoliina Engstrom tells about a recent strike in her piece Marching for more than money. Vivian Wong gives us a literal answer to the question in her article From petrol to tacos. In South America’s best-kept secret, Brendan van Son shares his experiences in Ecuador. Himalayan poet Yuyutsu R.D. Sharma shares three poems in ‘A threadbare foreword to the fleshy book of living and dying.’. Finally, Jacqueline Barba reviews Ted Conover’s latest book in her piece, titled The road as metaphor.

I never did find out much back story for the gentleman I met this morning. I learned he was married and the color of his wife’s hair when he said, "I married a redhead. You’re nothing but trouble. Happy Easter," to a startled middle-aged woman as she walked past. And got one more story.

"My neighbors come over the beginning of last summer. They’re both designers at some place downtown. They trying to get a permit from the city to build a chicken coop. Ask me if I care. They’re nice guys, so I tell them to have at it. They spent two grand building this chicken coop. Mahogany and brass. Nicer than what most people in Haiti have. They special order these special roosters, Rhode Island Reds, whatever, and take special care of them. I come home one day and they’re both out in the driveway, hugging each other and crying. So I go over and I ask them what’s wrong. ‘Raccoons!’ they say, and sure enough, I look in there and there’s nothing left but blood and feathers and a few bones. Them raccoons made short work of them special roosters," he said, and then laughed. "Felt bad for those two guys, though. Pretty shook up."

I bet they were.

I am a writer/editor turned web developer. I’ve served as both Editor-in-chief and Technical Developer of In The Fray Magazine over the past 5 years. I am gainfully employed, writing, editing and developing on the web for a small private college in Duluth, MN. I enjoy both silence and heavy metal, John Milton and Stephen King, sunrise and sunset. Like all of us, I contain multitudes.

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