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Park Day

Sunday, 05 Mar 2017, 10:59 UTC

1. Pocket Park

Sometimes it happens in the spring sometimes in the fall, but it never happens in the summer. This weekend Trudy marshaled her energies and gathered folks for our neighborhood’s contribution to Austin’s It’s My Park Day.  

A fledgling park down the street was born recently when the city bought several parcels of land along a utility easement that was once upon a time going to be a street. Despite the intentions of the Planning Department and the hopes of the speculator who owned the four plots, there will be no street, for it would have paved over what has become a pleasant spot of greenery, and years ago during a city land use planning exercise the neighborhood let the city know our views.

So those plots are now a pocket park, albeit a park in need of nurturing: enter the fair and industrious Trudy.

2. Thinning the Thicket

Trudy and John assigned Bob and me a simple task. It had been suggested to them by the city: thin a thicket of junipers that was growing near a bend in the trail so that a breeze might blow thru and eyes might see beyond.

“This is a job David would like,” John suggested when they met to plan the day. The two of them had strategized this as a way to entice me. It worked.

With our simple marching orders, Bob and I went off for several hours while other folks focused on other things in other places. Bob and I were quite content to be left alone in that one place with that one thing to do.

3. A Fine Meditation

The night before and into the early morning, it had rained long and slow. The ground was soft. Our shoes were caked with mud. Great drops of water fell from the treetops as we trimmed. 

As Bob and I worked, the drizzle stopped. The skies were mercifully cloudy, the temperatures cool. I took off my raincoat and threw it on the ground.

Bob and I pushed our way into the tangle knot of juniper branches that slapped against our arms and tried in vain to poke us in the eyes. As our piles of cut branches grew, the voices of the others in the distance would drift thru the undergrowth. Frequently I could hear Trudy laughing.

I must concede this: John and Trudy found us a wonderful task. Because with the sound of her laughter joyfully rolling thru my head, with the comforting cadence of swift saw strokes and with the smell of juniper resin drifting in the air, the quality of that morning meditation in our fledgling park was indeed quite fine.

Mr. Loudmouth

Saturday, 04 Mar 2017, 08:26 UTC

1. A Moon/Venus False Start

The thinest possible slice of moon was hanging in the western sky next to the brightly shimmering light of Venus. Both were shrouded in a foggy mist, and the black sky of night was glowing with globular halos around both…

Wait. You don’t want to hear about this. This is the kind of wannabe-romantic mother-nature la-la served up so often here, so let’s talk about something else, shall we?

Rewind a week or so…

2. Good Job

It was a Saturday morning. The weather was frighteningly warm for February. We were running in shorts and short-sleeved shirts. The water stops every two or three miles were important. It was an out-and-back route, and I was on my way back.

As I ran south on Jefferson heading back downtown enjoying the downhill slope, I heard some runners behind me — footfalls of three or four runners. They were talking to each other, and as they approached their voices got louder. (I have never quite understood this talking-while-running thing. I don’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy the soothing silence of being by myself. But… whatever.)

Their voices got louder, and I could now hear one of them complaining.

“The thing I hate,” he said, “is when you’re three miles from the finish line and someone on the curb shouts out, Good job! Good job!”

“I just hate that,” he said, “I just want to yell back at them, Shut up!”

And at that moment they passed me, the footfalls of their feet getting quieter as they quickly pulled away.

I waited for a moment. And then (having little self control in these things) I shouted out, Good job! Good job!

A couple of them laughed, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) there was no reaction from the guy.

3. At the Water Stop

As it turned out, we were less than a quarter mile from the last water stop. And when I got there, the four of them were still hanging around, drinking from paper cups and chatting with the guy who was taking care of the Gatorade. 

I walked up and got some water, walking around the guy who had been complaining.

“So, I’m sorry about that Good Job!,” I said to all of them. “That was obnoxious.”

They all laughed out loud, including the complaining guy.

“No it wasn’t,” they said. “That was great.”

Score one for Mr. Loudmouth.

Lost Marco

Saturday, 18 Feb 2017, 13:02 UTC

We thought the backpack belonged to the two women across the Taco Deli picnic table from us. They had said yes when I asked if it was theirs. I must have misunderstood. It turned out to belong to Marco who walked up a few minutes later, clearly drunk and apparently homeless.

“I’m not sure I’d want to sit next to this white trash,” he mumbled as he sat down with his back to us. Awkward but it was clear he was referring to himself. He started talking to a woman with a dog. And at one point he started singing Frank Zappa lines that I sometimes sing. Going to Montana soon. Gonna raise me up some dental floss. Raisin’ it up; waxin’ it down.

The woman walked away, so he turned to us. Mumbling and cussing, his eyes peering out from behind squinting eyelids, he spoke loudly in language not well suited for the nearby girl scouts waiting for their post-hike tacos.

He had a huge scab over his right eye and a horrific scrape on his arm. But he wasn’t obnoxious if you could get past his choice of words. So we chatted for a while. Because… well we were sitting there, and we wanted to finish our tacos

Marco talked with obvious regret about the days of his youth, about dropping out of high school, about living with his step mother and step sisters in Spain, about moving to Albuquerque, about how he liked Austin better, about getting beat up when he recently got off a bus. Sometimes he would start speaking in Spanish. When I replied in Spanish, it was quickly evident that I was out of my league, so I kept quiet when he started speaking French. And after he was talking for a while, he paused and looked at me.

“I’ll give you twenty dollars if you let me sleep on your couch.”

He didn’t wait for an answer. 

“No. I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t,” he said. “The nominative I would not let the accusative me sleep on the genitive my’s couch.”

What a loss.

Unintentionally In Sync

Saturday, 18 Feb 2017, 12:18 UTC

It was lunchtime. I didn’t feel like going far for something to eat, because it was cold. So I walked to Whole Foods for the salad bar.

I was sitting at a tall table, eating my meal, working on French language drills on my phone and enjoying the music. 

I glanced in the direction of the cash registers between a bite of greens and translating a French phrase. There was no one in line. The music was particularly good. And from my vantage point, I could see the two cashiers, staggered, one slightly beyond the other, both with hip caps, smiling faces and groovy shirts that had the same kind of tealish, greenish blue.

As the two of them waited for the next customer, to bide their time, they were nodding their smiling faces to the music, unintentionally in sync with each other. And until that very moment, I didn’t realize that I was smiling, and I was loving the music, and I was bobbing my head exactly in sync with them.

Fine Things

Monday, 13 Feb 2017, 02:35 UTC

It’s a fine thing, that Oak tree sapling poking up out of the pot from the acorn we poked into the dirt in the pot under the mulch in the fall. A fine thing, that spring-green finery, ever optimistic under blue skies and under chicken wire to keep the squirrels at bay.

And it’s a fine thing, those wild onions blooming in the back, their white blossoms upon their green stalks. A fine thing, that they come back this time every year, ever optimistic under blue skies even though you don’t want them growing in your butterfly garden where the later flowers belong.

And it was a fine thing, you and me at the park in the afternoon. A fine thing sitting there under blue skies in the unusual heat of the day. Sitting there the four of us at the picnic table, the dogs sniffing the air, the creek burbling at the bottom of the canyon, and the two of us with smiles on our faces listening in silence.

“Do you get bored with that?” I asked.

“No!” You laughed.

A fine thing.

Lady Liberty

Sunday, 05 Feb 2017, 13:46 UTC

From the cover of Der Spiegel from Germany.

From the cover of the New Yorker from the East Coast.

And from a protest sign in Poughkeepsie.

Smiles of my Brother’s Daughters

Saturday, 21 Jan 2017, 19:49 UTC

The sky was blue. The sun was high in the sky. And these were the smiles of my brother’s daughters.

E. Cernan

Monday, 16 Jan 2017, 21:16 UTC

RIP E.Cernan. Oh, that we might have returned before you left.

Turn Out the Lights

Monday, 16 Jan 2017, 11:00 UTC

We made New Year’s cards this year that had a cover with the image of the sun sitting on the horizon. We left if up to the viewer to derive a meaning — something like Ben Franklin’s observation about George Washington’s chair.

If I know the fair and industrious Trudy well, her preferred interpretation might differ from mine. Which is fine; that was after all the design’s purpose. But I’ll leave you with a less unambiguous version of mine:

source: Gustavo Viselner
hat tip: The [inestimable] Weekly Sift

The Gentle Chimes

Sunday, 15 Jan 2017, 22:20 UTC

The radar shows pink and purple to the west — the stuff of severe thunderstorms and tornados. The rain hasn’t arrived, yet. There’s no thunder or lightning. The storms are approaching only slowly and are still far away.

Still, the wind is picking up, and the wind chimes hanging from the eves are ringing. And if you walk into the back corner of the yard, back far enough from the eve-hanging chimes, back by the compost pile, you can hear the harmony of the new wind chimes that we hung beside Guinness when we laid him in the ground. They don’t ring loudly, so we don’t usually hear them from the house, but their gentle music is a joy to hear.

I wonder what Guinness thinks of this. The wind. The ringing of those gentle chimes. He wasn’t much for windy days. And bells would always set him to barking. But somehow those chimes seem sufficiently soothing that perhaps tonite the storms won’t bother him as they pass over his grave.

Perhaps. Or then maybe perhaps not. He really didn’t like the thunder, and here it comes now.