God’s Red Vespa Motors Up Grace Street

Sky seemed a bit dark today. Maybe rain. So I really didn’t think I’d see him.

Haven’t seen him in awhile. Early each morning. Perched on a red Vespa motor scooter motoring east into the rising sun splashing daylight through the trees on to Grace Street.

A plump older gentleman in a faded leather bomber jacket. Grey beard. Grey curly hair spilling our from under a Cubs hat. Eyes like the Buddha.
I never really got a nod from him. But I do think he noticed me trudging along this same path each morning. Walking west past the old red brick factory that’s now a yoga studio and a call center. Then under both sets of train tracks to slide the quarters in the newspaper boxes up on Lincoln Avenue.

A few years back, there was a stunningly well-written and acted TV show, on for about a minute, called Joan of Arcadia. God would appear as a punk rock, nose pierced teen, a janitor at the high school, a dusty homeless guy sitting on a bus stop bench. Then he’d talk to the teenage Joan and show her the way.

The gentleman on the red Vespa scooter was always moving–so I never really expected him to say anything. Much less show me the way.

But I always had thought “What if that was God?”

Yesterday, I might have seen a friend of his, but I’m not sure. Here’s how it happened. After another long morning of trying to reach inside my computer and pull out some stories, I hopped in the car and drove over to Broadway searching for nourishment in the sparse shelves of what we used to call a “Bookstore.”

Walking by a storefront lost in memories from way back when that same store was another long gone bookstore and I was a clerk. Counting out the cash drawer one morning when I felt the iron cold barrel of a gun at my temple.

“I work here.” I stammered out to the cop.

“Your alarm went off,” he growled back.

Officer, we don’t have an alarm.”

“Isn’t this 2927? ” he asked.

“No, this is 2947 . . . ”

Lost in that memory, I didn’t notice the guy who stepped in front of me and said, “Excuse me sir”

He then told me a story of such dizzying complexity it was like riding a roller coaster through a splashing river in a house of mirrors. He and his partner were from Springfield. They had locked their keys in the car, they’d been walking since dawn and on and on and all he needed was $4.95 to get the train ticket back home.’

It was a con. But he told it so well, with such conviction, that I said, “I can’t give you $4.95. But I can give you a dollar.” The depth on the story alone was worth a dollar.

So he thanked me with no real thanks in the tone—and I thought, “Now why did I just let myself be conned like that?”

And that’s when the gentleman on the red Vespa came to mind.

I wondered if the con man knew the gentleman on the red Vespa.
Sometimes, in the morning, when I’d open the door to our house, newspapers in hand, I’d smell the coffee, and announce to my wife “Well, I saw him!”
“God on the motor scooter?” she’d ask.
And I’d say “Yep.”

But I sure wish I’d see him again some morning on my daily morning walk to get the newspapers—especially since so many, many people I Know are playing with pain.

Playing with pain. That’s a phrase I never took beyond the boundaries of sports; until my wife said something to me 10, 12 years ago soon after we first met. She told me she had a headache. I asked her how long she’d had it—because she seemed fine to me.

And her answer was “Oh, since I was about nine. . . .”


“Sometimes it seems that way.”

There was no complaint. Not even a trace. She just got headaches.
Lots of people play with pain. Maybe even all of us. But maybe, just maybe, maybe THIS year when all the screeching rage thrown at heath care, all the anger, all the circus con men misdirection, all the blowhard rage on having it done wrong, done at the wrong time, for the wrong people for the wrong amount of money, a fortress of complexity supporting the rage while the thirty pieces of silver is counted out slow and dribbled out to so many sweaty fat waiting palms; maybe when all that is done, there will be less of us playing in pain.

Maybe there will be newly opened eyes to the bullies patrolling the playgrounds, all of the playgrounds, from Vegas to the statehouse to the boardrooms to the streets. Bullies looking only for the momentarily vulnerable — and we are all momentarily vulnerable—to snatch and grab anything they can.

It was dark this morning. So I didn’t see him on the red Vespa.

But I did read this:

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.

So I walked as quietly as I could down Grace today.

And I believe I heard the sound of that motor scooter in the distance.

Perhaps I heard it coming our way.

2 Responses to “God’s Red Vespa Motors Up Grace Street”

  1. Dale Says:

    Foolish me, I forgot the setting. How perfect, that you were walking down Grace Street.

    Doubt that this change will protect us in any permanent way from the bullies. They are bacteria–quickly adapting–and we’re merely researchings plodding along to find the next new antiobiotic. But there’s still hope that it will at least help a few in the interim.

    Still, I’m reassured by feeling your hope revived.

    Nicely done.

  2. Ted Schneider Says:


    I have hope that someday soon ‘reason’ and ‘common sense’ will be restored to those above the common man. With regards to God on the Vespa, I hope he circles Wrigley a few times as a sign that ‘winning’ will be restored there.

    Keep still and keep the faith.

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