The fog was thick this morning, enveloping everything. It looked like a 1970s bingo hall – and just as promising. The hilltop towers seemed to be just floating red orbs, blinking their presence. For November, I was once again pleased to see that I didn’t need a jacket to walk in comfort. I had on pants, though, for the comfort of any potential onlookers.
Leaving the house, I toyed with the idea of pranking one of my neighbors. He came home yesterday afternoon, probably under the influence again, and sat in his vehicle in the road, windows down, radio blaring at an insane volume. His issues aren’t limited to alcohol, though. I have an ongoing bet with myself regarding how long it is going to be before he kills someone, and I’m not referring to his poor fashion choices, either. At least I haven’t seen him urinating in broad daylight in a few days. I keep an eye on him because I hope to be as classy as he is one day. It would have been so easy to startle him awake at 4 a.m., the stupor of bad choices and a mean spirit still thick in his eyes. PS I did confuse him yesterday. I exited the house through the back door, went around the opposite side of the house and entered my car from the passenger side. I then hit the horn a couple of times, holding it for a few seconds, dipping my upper body below sight as I did so. It amused me but also made me a tad sad because, in a just world, I would have been able to fling open the front door, aim a bazooka, and launch the raucous neighbor into the stratosphere.
I added a couple of versions of the theme song to “Stranger Things” to my playlist, knowing the eeriness of the music would be perfect for this warm November morning. I wasn’t disappointed, either. As I walked along the Razorback Greenway, I looked up at the largest of our local cell towers. It loomed like an alien monolith, partially obscured by the fog. I had parked at Lokomotion, the only car within sight, and walked from there. As I often do, I paused in the middle of 71 below the mall, the neon promise of a slow death by grease flashing behind me in the guise of a Golden Corral sign. I just can’t help myself. There is something sublime and glorious about my solitary status in the middle of such a major road, absent cars, people, and the demands that will choke the pavements as the day progresses. I stood there a full minute, looking both directions and only chose to move along when headlights crested the hill between the Mall and Zion Road.
I walked a long distance on the portion of the trail intersecting 71 near Golden Corral. It’s a beautiful stretch. At 4 a.m., when you start walking, the building on top of the hill at the edge high above the trail looks like an imposing modern castle. The light emanating from the commercial behemoth above is surprisingly filtered, yet somehow casts an eerie light across the trees, creeks, and brush below, similar to a surgical room with a dimmer set to “starting anesthesia,” if such a setting were possible. I laughed when I encountered the “Speed Limit 15” sign along that section. I could have been riding a rocket through there this morning. The only thing to slow me would have been the mass of spider webs I collected as I walked. I managed to get several in my mouth, too, which is always a surprise. As far as I know, no spiders were present. As for the speed limit, I vote that we allow cyclists to go 40 mph if they can. The dropoffs on the other side are spectacular and I can think of nothing more amusing as a careless cyclist flings himself off the side to the creek far below, the theme song to “Dukes of Hazzard” echoing in the leaves as I laugh.
“Welcome to Johnson” the concrete inlay indicated ahead of an elegant bridge near the creek. I looked around, half expecting to see one of their finest on a small bicycle, loaded with a million dollars of hardware and 3 radar guns, just waiting to issue me a ticket for having sunglasses too tinted or failing to indicate a turn by morse code. The one good thing about getting a ticket in Johnson is that it invariably is written in crayon and in the language and font most commonly used on Chik-Fil-A billboards. I’m not bitter about the Johnson police; likewise, though, they shouldn’t get defensive when I use satire to mock them. They should have thought of that while submitting me to the shenanigans of their playbook. “Never start a fight with an ugly person,” and “Don’t argue with someone who buys ink by the gallon” are both true for a reason.
The trail section through the area, though, is hauntingly pretty. Oddly enough, though, I’ve never seen it in actual daylight. There are a few trees along that mile stretch which should be removed. I’m glad they haven’t been, though, especially now that they’ve dropped their leaves. Their limbs now reach craggily across the trail, wide and expansive. They are a sight to behold in diminished light of early morning. I’ve always loved the look of leafless trees, even those already dying. If I could afford it, I would have a tree similar to the one gracing the entrance to Crystal Bridges Museum.
The trail was mine this morning, as is usually the case. I saw no one and found the tranquility so compelling that I removed my headphones for almost all of the walk. It’s still hard for me to believe that other people aren’t out there in the dark. The trails are such a treat and the world is a different place during those hours.
On the way home, I stopped at the neighborhood market, the one which looks like it is being redesigned by an expert on urban torture. Dawn and I went to Harps yesterday afternoon. I had to dig in the freezer section for her to reach a few Lean Cuisine pizzas. (Which, by the way, are exceedingly good.) I didn’t check the dates. Dawn had already wisely decided to ignore the yogurt selection, as it suffered from the “O Brother Effect,” meaning everything in the selection range was at least two weeks out of expiration. When we arrived home, Dawn discovered that Harps had once again punched us in the face with poor inventory control. Harps is a place we want so much to love – but we can’t. The location near us is like a brother-in-law with a heart of gold but also suffering from a massive heroin addiction. (He’ll give you the shirt off his back but sell your dog.) The Gutenshon location is such a massive upgrade from our branch. Dawn was surprising her mom with a cake, though, and she had ordered one from that location.
As I wandered around the market, I had several encounters which amused and confused me. Several areas were roped off due to store redesign and I stopped to ask a question. The employee looked at me as I asked and just walked off. I laughed at his brazenness. He might not have spoken English very well but I’m not sure walking away without comment is the correct choice. I could be wrong though. Maybe my picture was on a “Warning” sign in the breakroom?
The next question I lobbed at two women holding either scanners or stolen Star Trek phasers. It’s tough to know that early in the morning. “Where are the canned vegetables?” They looked at one another, spoke a few quiet words back and forth. One of them said, “We don’t know.” They turned and walked away. I made a mental note to write J.D. Powers and nominate them for some kind of award.
I went around past the hideous meat section and found a small cadre of employees in front of a massive stack of supplies on the floor. The younger male was a few feet away, watching a video on his phone. Just because I was now in a mood to engage in tomfoolery, I stepped slightly behind him, acted like I was looking at his phone and said, “PORN?!” in a very loud outdoor voice. Everyone froze and looked at me, standing behind the young man holding his phone out. I pantomimed and pointed at his phone and laughed. He jerked the phone in the other direction and put it in his pocket.
“I wasn’t looking at porn. This guy is crazy,” he told the other workers.
“I know what I saw!” I said, jokingly.
Still laughing, I asked them where the canned vegetables were. One of the girls pointed back behind me and I walked away. I could feel the porn guy’s eyes drilling holes in my backside as I sauntered away.
I left the store without any canned corn. But I had something much greater: a great story to amuse myself with.