Wednesday, Cindy and I hiked through the boulders of the Fat Man's Loop to picnic on the shoulder of the mountain under sunny skies with temps in the upper 60s and low 70s. This morning, the temperature has fallen from an initial 10 am high of 52F to a current 38, with wind chill taking it down below freezing, a fact made obvious as the small SUV ahead of me fishtails in what was a puddle only an hour before.
One of my regular diners at the Food Center waves from the lee of an abandoned garage, his unruly beard whipping in the wind. I make a note to start a pot of coffee when I get back to the Center... many of my regulars will have spent the morning chilling down in this wind and many are diabetics whose ability to generate internal heat is undependable under these conditions.
Boxes of vegetables and pastries and lunchmeat, tubs of milk and yogurt and cases of day-old bread come off in a rush, the transition from the frigid wind into the humidity and bright laughter of the kitchen jarring after the solitude of my run. I try to remember names and find room as volunteers greet me and Wilson Picket wails from the sound machine on the shelf. Bob, the chef of the day, smiles and peers at me through his glasses, one hand resting on my shoulder in a brief squeeze of greeting amid the hustle and bustle of mid morning prep and triage. Big Jim nods and grimaces, rolling his eyes at the endless stream of conversations as he mechanically sprays and stacks metal trays, cutting boards, and food bins, loading and unloading the washer, moving through the kitchen with an odd grace for a man his size as he navigates the swirling currents of bodies and words to hang up pots and empty trash cans.
I start a five-gallon batch of tea and spend some time directing my day's Community Service workers in various tasks of morning set-up. One is a recovering alcoholic, slow but earnest, the other, an angry youth too full of his own angst to even try to care or operate with anything like efficiency or attention to detail. I sigh an inward sigh, remember my own youth, and assign them to tasks.
In the give-away area, I sort and hang clothes, set out loaves of bread and cans of vegetables and fruit and soup, and place the non-slip floor mats for the night's serving session. A glance at the clock shows I have exactly three minutes to gather my effects and hit the road for the next pick-up.
Driving snow greets me as I step through the rear door of the kitchen, double checking the lock of the truck and quickly climbing into the cab. The wind rocks the vehicle as Creedance Clearwater Revival fills the interior with "Bad Moon" and I pilot the big white truck out into Flagstaff traffic, just another errant knight on a mission of mercy.