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Excerpts from Running From The Taxman, A Great American Road Trip, by Chris Plante

February 5, 2012
Internal Revenue Service
1040 Easy Street.
Revenue, CA 91099

Dear Taxman,

I’m sorry I have been so slow at sending you the paperwork stuff for the last few years. I remember thinking that I needed to file my taxes right away, but then I got sidetracked. That was some time in early 2008. Anyway, I forgot to file for 2007 and then it must have slipped my mind the next year, and again the year after that. From there my forgetfulness just plain turned into a bad habit. Realizing this, I have begun the process of gathering up old receipts so I could file all those now delinquent returns fairly. It’s a challenge though, because after a few years the memory, and the ink on the receipts, begin to fade. But I am really trying to remember what each receipt is for so I can be honest. Sometimes the total amount is so dim that I have to write it in. Even so, I want you to know that you can be assured that the numbers I come up with will always be less than the original total, just so I can error on your side.

I was wondering, could I turn in 2009 taxes before 2007 and 2008 after 2011? I’m not sure when I can
file for 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011, but probably definitely not this year. I’m still looking for boxes that have receipts from those years, so that is why I was going to give you 2009 stuff, since I know where the receipts for 2009 are. Now the problem is getting to them. You see, I left them in a file cabinet—well, more like a dresser drawer turned into a file box without a top—at my friend Mike’s apartment when I was staying with him and his girlfriend April back in early 2010. The drawer has everything that I need so I can file for 2009. But unfortunately, Mike and April broke up before I had a chance to go back and get it. That drawer was the one thing I left behind. At least I had the gumption to grab my BlendBlast Blender. I’m keen on starting out my days with a morning smoothie.

Mike moved out right away and April left about a week later, leaving my drawer in the subterranean carport locker. I tried calling Mike but just got an automated message telling me that the subscriber’s voice mailbox was full. I got a hold of April though. “I’ve moved on with my life,” she told me in broken static. After the call abruptly ended, I supposed—probably correctly—that she was having more trouble with her reception than I anticipated, and must not have understood my plea regarding my drawer in her locker, thinking I had asked her something improper.

I’m trying to get the landlady who runs the apartments to meet me with a key to open the locker. I even went to her office to plead my case. She can’t “just simply open the locker,” she told me, “because the current tenants have exclusive rights to it,” she added. I asked her if she could have them meet me and open the locker, but they won’t talk to her. “They have not paid the rent in three months and are facing an eviction notice any day, so I’m the last person they want to speak to” she confided. She was very nice about it, though. She gave me a warm smile and offered to help me out with the matter as much as she could.

I’m pretty sure the “current tenants,” as the landlady refers to them, have never opened the locker, since she told me that they had asked her for the key a few times after right after they moved in; “I gave them one when they signed their lease,” she reflected. Then she added, “They claimed that they lost it the day of their move. I told them it was not my problem.” She shook a lease at me. “It says replacement keys cost $189.67. They didn’t want to pay it,” she said as she put the lease down on her desk. So with that bit of information I feel pretty confident that the paperwork stuff for 2009 is still in the subterranean carport locker and that I will, one day soon, retrieve it.

Anyway, as I was writing this letter, I was wondering to myself what you need the money for. I mean, it is 2012 already and the government spent all the money you collected for 2009. They closed the books on that year and set a new budget for each year after that, and spent that money too. They never seem to run out, so you must collect enough for them. I just don’t see why you need any money from me for 2009, or any other past year, except for this current year of 2012. And I can’t stop thinking that it is just going to cost you guys a bunch of time to go over my packages for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and read everything. I kind of think you should spend your energy on collecting money for this year. I am sure the government would appreciate all the money you can collect for 2012.

Looking back does not get you ahead, you know. Focus on the now. You are in a unique position as you have access to that cool printing machine over at the Fed that spits out pallets of twenty-dollar bills. Just have the agency in charge of it crank out a few more for what you think I owe you so I can stop looking for all the tax stuff that I’ll need to start those pesky returns. As a matter of fact, the longer I sit here and type the more I am thinking that I might have figured out a really great way for you guys to have more time to yourselves. I mean, why bother with me and all the other folks in my boat. Just come up with a number for an average guy like me who makes an average amount and multiply it by the number of people who have a few years of taxes to catch up on and then just have the money appear on pallets, or even better, as a blip on a screen like what happens when the banks need money.

I will await your response, but I think the best one is just to agree with my suggestion so we can all just get on with life.

Simon Shenbetter

508 Beachside Lane Redondo Beach, CA 90277

July 14, 2012
Internal Revenue Service 1040 Easy Street. Revenue, CA 91099


Dear Taxman,

After repeated unreturned calls to the legal self help service I trustingly bought into after the promises that Alice—my cousin Ralph’s boyfriend Mark’s mom, made, I came to the realization that the service will probably never follow through. In light of this, I took matters upon myself and burned some midnight oil, and have since successfully made progress in regards to completing all my taxes, except of course for the two years that YOU MISPLACED. To accomplish this I downloaded a free tax preparation program that also has a feature that lets me rewrite receipts that have been lost, or in my case, locked up in my friend Mike’s old subterranean carport locker, the one of which he shared with his girlfriend April. Adding to the issue, I’m afraid my uncle had a small fire at his house during a party when his friends put a frozen

turkey in the deep fry and burned the part of the house that stored some of my 2007 and all of my 2011 tax information. I didn’t know that a portion of my 2007 information was at my uncle’s house, so this is a big surprise for me. I only learned this after he called to tell me that he found some charred remnants of income statements with my name on them dating sometime in 2007. It was not much income, so the statements really don’t matter much. Is there a form I can fill out that will allow me to skip those two years due to uncontrollable mayhem? I’m not trying to make another pun. This time my question is for real.
It’s not my fault that my uncle’s friends did not watch the safety video about deep fry cooking that came with the cooker. I think it would be unfair for me to have to struggle through compiling those two years
of taxes (2007 and 2011) after suffering such a tragic loss. I have fond memories of my uncle’s home and feel damaged by the loss of a part of it. The hall that I roamed as a child will never be the same, with
new drywall and molding replacing that which I leaned against so long ago. My emotional trauma should equate to some relief from my obligations.
Although you have not asked once about the landlady in all your letters to me, I want you to know that my date with her went well. I saved my receipts and mileage, which I will promptly include in my expenses for 2009. There, however, has been no progress regarding the matter of the key yet. The landlady —well, new girlfriend actually—assures me that the current tenants occupying the apartment who subsequently have rights to Mike and April’s old locker will probably not be able to pay their lawyer fees soon, and that will shorten their ability to stay rent-free. She has come to this conclusion due to the fact that their car is leaking oil all through the subterranean garage, a good sign that they are running low on money. I’ll keep you up to date about the oil leak in upcoming letters. I think it is important, not because they don’t fix it, but because it shows they are going to have to decide to pay the lawyer or fix the car. I think they will fix the car instead, which is good for us.

I will await your response, but still continue to think the best action is just to agree with my very first suggestion (as referenced in my letter dated on February 5, 2012) so, as I have repeatedly said and will continue to say, we can all just get on with life. It would also save me a lot of time making new receipts to replace the ones I have either lost or forgotten to file in the first place.
With reserved reservations,

Simon Shenbetter

508 Beachside Lane Redondo Beach, CA 90277

April 15, 2013
Internal Revenue Service

1040 Easy Street. Revenue, CA 91099


Dear Taxman,

I have made good on my promise to take leave. I have packed my belongings and sent them to my uncle. He will be watching over them. I have all I need in a backpack and small duffle bag. My source of income, thankfully, will be through labor performed. I feel there is no need to explain, so I will not endeavor to. I have met up with a strange man named WB who is in a similar situation as myself, although there are some very upset Russians thrown into the mix. All I know at this time is that the Russians have an issue with some things they hired him to buy in the capacity as a purchasing manager that ended up being doubled billed and shipped twice, the destinations of the second shipments being unknown to said Russians. WB swears it never happened. I am inclined to believe him, since by doing so I can also avoid discord.

WB and I are sharing the back of a 1969 Ford Van. It is blue with patches of primer and a little rust here and there. It has plenty of light as the back is lined with windows obscured with rotting curtains. He has lived in the van for some time now. One night after many hours on the highway we pulled over to cook some leftover hamburger meat that a nice lady at a roadside diner had given us after closing. Sitting by the fire behind a mound of dirt next to the highway he recounted his past few years up to that point.

Here he was, 48, married three times already, with six daughters by the first two women. His third ex-wife was a lot younger than him. He thought he had hit the lottery with her. “She had a snotty nosed kid, a boy aged eight,” he told me that night. He hated the boy, but put up with him in order to be with her. The boy hated him, too. He would run off in the morning and not come home until after dinner. WB’s young wife didn’t seem to care too much that her son was off making his own way all day. “The kid came home later and later, until one night,” he paused, then went on, “I woke up from my sleep in a haze and saw this kid standing over me with a long kitchen knife. He was smiling. I tried to get up, but the kid was gone.” His voice was distant now; “every night for the next week I would find the kid over me, that big knife pointed right at my throat. I was so tired, after a long day, and it just kept happening later and later every time, and the kid was never home in the morning when I got up, or I would have wrung his neck. It was four o’clock in the morning the last time I remember seeing him.” WB told me that he got out of bed at sunrise, packed his stuff in a bag, jumped in the van and drove off. “That kid was freaky,” he meekly mumbled, and then he fell silent for the rest of the night.

We are on the highway. Good luck finding us. I will be writing the landlady at the apartments of which I have previously described. Maggie and I get along fairly well, although she tended to wear me out during our visits, as you well know. I think the time on the road away from her will be good for both of us. She needs to work on her need for moderation.

Until later,
Simon Shenbetter

Whereabouts Unknown

May 10, 2013


Dear Maggie,

After some deep searching late in the afternoon and on into the evening—first in my Inner Conscious and then in the van—I was able to find the ignition key for both my ride and, I’m pretty sure, my life. I came to a realization that there are vital elements of one’s life that must be in order. Important things need have a place and a system for getting there. I’m not talking about beanbags being strewn in a disorganized fashion, or a box of Kleenex tucked under last week’s Value Deals advertisement. Having those things in place or not will not affect the quality of income or credit score. Quality of life can be had with financial security; with the money in the bank the do-it-yourselfers can find satisfaction in keeping a tidy house and those less inclined can hire a maid. Dirty underwear, however, should find a place in an odor-reducing bag, and there really should be a system for getting it there. Quickly.

Aside from the obvious sanitary measures that should be adhered to, what I came to an understanding about myself was that my adolescent avoidance of crucial adult responsibilities, such as proper keeping of files and documents, timely payment of debts and obligations, and etiquettes in communication and dealings with humanity, needed overhauling, tuning, and to be placed in motion by mature execution. An adult who has actualized is then a contributor in society. That same adult does not doubt the self that is a member of society, hence value is realized.

Therefore I have come to the realization that adherence to the IRS document requirements is, in a microcosm, participation not only in humanity, but in self. Maggie, I have been extremely remiss in my obligation to humanity and myself. I see now, in an ever so faint hint, that humanity and value is actually written into the United States tax code. Not the philosophy of either, but the essence of them in the form of the mechanics of responsible reporting of financial gains and losses.

WB and I caught up to the Tackey clan late tonight just one hundred and forty miles to the east. I guessed they would not go much farther, as their motor homes have a cruising range of about three hundred miles and they don’t like to let their gas gauges go below the half-full line. I have not had time to apologize to them as a group, but was able to put a bug into Joe’s ear as we stood side by side in the men’s room taking advantage of the free running water and plumbing facilities that this roadside diner offers. “My comment wasn’t directed toward your family,” I had time enough to say, “it was just an unsynchronized expression resulting from my observation of the fat lady inhaling the popcorn candy, which you did not see.” He paused for a moment before he zipped up. I knew he heard me, and that he would take it to the clan, and by morning things would be good again.

Respectfully yours,


May 18, 2013


Dear Maggie,

A little issue has arisen that may put a dent in my plans to distribute Eternally skin care. A gang of Chinese mobsters showed up at the diner during my presentation, just as I was in the question and answer phase. I was in the middle of explaining the needs of the Beverly Hills housewife and how her needs were similar to those of a housewife in one of the Inland Empire cities such as San Bernardino. Emma Stanszibilli wanted to know the humidity indexes for both areas. “Are you accounting for seasonal humidity index changes that resemble the index of the opposite subject area in one of the other seasons?” she asked. I explained that it was my belief that blemishes appear on the faces of the two subject groups for similar reasons. Stress is usually the catalyst for the onset of skin discolorations, and the origination of that stress would be surprisingly the same in this case.

The stress experienced in each area would most likely be caused by the lack of money. My assumption, although not particularly agreed to by the clan women but embraced by the men, is that women just don’t have enough money no matter where they live. In my opinion then, it is not so much the product or the weather condition that determines the result as much as the belief in that product as being enough. “Enough” is the pivotal word here. It is the magic word to use in every closing. I stressed to the clan that one product can be effective in both geographical areas; it just takes the right word from the independent consultant— and “enough” is the word—to plant a seed that grows into beautiful skin.

My audience was no longer attentive, however. No longer looking at me, various Tackey clan members directed their gauzes beyond my podium and straight at the fast moving Chinese as they scurried around their two large SUV’s a hundred feet away. Meanwhile, the rest of the clan began packing up samples, locking the folding chairs away, and rolling up their fold up awnings. They all had the courtesy to at least to glance my way from time to time. They are a polite family. But the presence of the Chinese was clearly bothering them. I ascertained, correctly I might add, that the fright to flight was a direct result of those same Chinese. As you may recall, it was the gang of Chinese mobsters led by one Lin Yo that caused them to leave their homes in Chicago. I could only guess that Yo was spearheading the effort to contact the clan this morning. The commotion around their Winnebagos was enough to garner the said Chinese mobsters’ attention and they began to run toward the clan’s wagon circle. As you recall, they had begun encircling their Winnebagos only recently. The parking pattern left very little ground to cover in order to unpack or pack up. This use of just a little real estate to stake their temporary claim made quickly vacating an easy task. Adding to the benefit of strategic positioning, each of the clan members are also all very athletic and quick. As I stood and watched, the last of them boarded the rear guard Winnebago, Mabel and Frank Penowski’s peach and cream ride, with ease. They all knew I was staying behind to stall their pursuers. Mabel gave me a look of adoring approval from under the crystal chandelier above her peach salon dinette table before pulling the cream colored curtains closed. Her lips, highlighted by the warm glow of the candelabra lights swaying above her, glowed a silent “thank you.” I asked her once if she was going to line the curtains with peach lace. She had planned to but got busy making quilts for the winter.

The point Chinese man ran right up to me and began screaming something in his native dialect. He was dressed smartly in a well-fitted pale blue suit with a matching necktie of the same shade. His black shoes looked as though they were made of alligator. He wore a matching watchband, which really finished the wardrobe. On a more stout man it might have looked cheesy, but he was small and thin faced and just seemed to be able to pull off the look.

I smiled at him and pointed at the last Winnebago in the caravan. I suppose I could have taken them on when they first approached me, but my Krav Maga trainer always taught me to size up a situation before escalating. He also taught me that when outnumbered I must use the commotion of an attack against the attackers. So I would first have to wait for one member of the Chinese gang to strike, then I would strike not him, but one standing to my right, catching him off guard. Then I would follow with a strike to one yet to attack me, but after that attack one that has attacked, then switch to one that has not, confusing my attackers again. It all works in theory, and in class practice. I am happy to report that I did not have to put it to the test today.

As always, I carry my tablet with me, so I was once again left with nothing but the clothes on my back and my connection to you. I have come to realize that it is all I need, besides maybe the debit card in my wallet. Obtaining a shelter from the sun and a place to sleep, as my complimentary teardrop had left the lot behind its color matched Winnebago just moments before, proved to be simple and without drama.

First was my uneventful exit from the clutches of the Chinese gang members. As my facial profile did not match any of the stored images on the IT guy’s smart phone, something I could tell by his continuously looking down at it and back up at me, and as I had obviously been deserted by the whole clan, I supposed correctly that the mobsters graciously decided amongst themselves in a flying cloud of words I could not understand that they would simply leave me alone.

As I stated, finding an abode, and one suitable for my frame, proved to be quite easy. A converted school bus had pulled in prior to the morning sales meeting. It was decorated in a very authentic scheme of psychedelic colors along with the usual peace signs, large and small, in yellow, purple, and orange. It was inhabited by a nice young couple, with which I had exchanged morning greetings and confirmed directions to the showers prior to delivering my morning Eternally marketing presentation. I did have to step out of my comfort zone for a moment upon meeting them, though, and suggest to the young woman that she wear more than just a pair of flip flops to the showers, as we were in a fairly public place and highly exposed to the patrons in the restaurant just a stone’s throw away. She obliged by wrapping a towel around her lower extremities. I was grateful for at least accomplishing fifty percent of my goal. Fortunately after the ordeal they could see my predicament and soothingly invited me into their psychedelic home on wheels. She had since found clothing, which made our first sit down and get to know each other less awkward.

It appears as though I will be traveling with this nice couple, Apollo, who comes from a large farming family in Virginia and is one of five brothers, and his girlfriend Fortuna, whose scientist parents from Pasadena tolerate her adventures as, she described them through their eyes, one of the episodes in her life that will help her realize herself. “All they asked was for me to please not get pregnant,” she confided. Apollo and Fortuna are just passing through, so I will be leaving with them to the next stop. I hope to rendezvous with the Tackeys again soon, if anything at least to collect some of my stuff from the interior of the teardrop I made my home for a few days. I had a very large, heavy towel that was a joy to wrap myself in after a hot shower and a three hundred twenty-thread count pillowcase. My sleeping clothes have been graciously replaced with complimentary Tees from Fortuna’s stock of peace and love shirts. They have whimsical sayings on them like “Make Love—Twice” and “I Smoke Weed and so Do I” and “Life is Not a Bed of Roses but Smoke it Anyway” and one that says “When Life Serves You Lemons, Squeeze One in Your Beer and Smoke the Peel.”

I will write more tomorrow. It has been a long day.

Yours truly,


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