Category Archives: Razorback Greenway

Love, And The Risk Of Wet Shoes

A few days ago, I walked five times, each a long, unplanned meandering. Though I almost always answer the call of the sidestreets, on the third time I cut through to reach the trail that traverses Northwest Arkansas. I’d lost track of time listening to TED talks about love, psychology, work, technology, and language. Ideas make my feet lighter than air. The creek along the trail wasn’t fast-moving, but its sounds, intermixed with the rustle of the encroaching trees and camouflaged birds, transfixed me.

A few minutes later, I reached one of the breaks in the foliage, one exposing a series of stones strategically placed across the creek. Without thought, I stepped off to cross the rocks. “Be careful,” I told myself. As everyone knows, river stones can be beguiling in their slipperiness. All of us have hopefully experienced the momentary horror of knowing we’re going to fall in, no matter how madly we windmill our arms for balance. My surgery incision tends to call out to me when I’m pondering crossing a fallen log, jumping a park bench, or climbing a tree. Oh, how I miss climbing trees! I’ve climbed fifty in the last year, even when the wind was dormant and the sun baked the upper reaches of the available trees. Few things can provide such a unique perspective. Sitting on a live thing, smelling the pungency of the leaves, and most of all, watching things and people move about with no concern for the possibility of someone sitting above them in the branches.

Halfway across, I forgot that I was crossing and stepped to the left, my feet submerging into the water. My shoes filled with water and my socks became soggy. I walked several yards through the middle of the creek. It was heavenly and my hot feet dispelled that heat into the water. I stood there, feeling the sensation.

“It’s nice, isn’t it?” asked a voice.

I looked around and saw no one.

“I’m over here,” the voice said. Because I was concentrating, I saw the woman sitting on the bank, her back against a tree. She had a book in one hand and a large bottle of soda in the other.

“Yes! It is fantastic. Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” I turned to walk back toward the traversing stones.

“You can stand there in the creek if you want. It’s everybody’s to enjoy,” she told me.

“What are you reading?” I asked her.

“Where The Crawdads Sing,” she told me, holding the book up.

“What a coincidence. I read that. It was a beautiful story.”

“Yes, this is my third reading.” She smiled.

I turned and walked back to the stones and away from the creek. All the way home, my feet squished as I walked. This time, I had not been the observer. Someone else had found a secret place and a way to enjoy it. My feet didn’t feel so wet any longer. All I could think about was the cool water and reading place by the creek.

Love, X
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Of Gunfire, Runners, Bacon & Beautification

A gaggle of young runners made their way up Poplar toward the traffic light. I was outside near the crosswalk measuring for an address plaque I’m making for the apartment simplex. The last runner was struggling to catch up. “You won’t always be last,” I told him as he crossed Gregg. “I hate running!” He said. I laughed. “You won’t hate it the day you leave all of them behind you, though.” I gave him the thumbs up.

Around 8 last night, I heard weird popping noises. I didn’t think much of it. I was standing outside on the deck. Waking up this morning, I discovered that an unidentified idiot shot into the apartments by the trail on Poplar Street. Automatic gunfire, too. I can see the apartments and trail from the crosswalk outside the apartment. Y’all can scoff, but I wish I’d taken a walk last night. There’s no better adventure story than gunfire after sunset. Have you noticed that almost no nincompoops get up at 5 a.m., drink a cup of coffee, and start shooting? We need a better class of hooligans in Fayetteville! Also, bullets are expensive.

I bought four pieces of bacon in the work cafeteria this morning. (No, I’m not authorized to return to work yet. At least not PAID work.) It’s been a year since I had bacon. Bacon salt has been my salvation in the interim. When I got back to the apartment, I made lettuce and bacon wraps. I may have blacked out with pleasure for a moment.

I also left a surprise brooch for someone today. Nothing says, “Good morning!” as inexplicably as a surprise brooch. Today, I’m wearing a spectacular fleur-de-lis brooch that I found at Peace At Home. I’d not thought much about the symbol until recently. Like so many symbols, it’s an ancient one. When I chose the name “X,” I thought I was simplifying things. Lord, the number of things “X” can signify is astonishing, even though it is just a single letter. It’s nice having a name that looks the same regardless of direction.

Seeing someone’s ASL post this morning made me realize that people around me didn’t know I was saying “Please” a lot of the time. It may look like I’m rubbing my heart. I learned it from a deaf man who attempted to work at Cargill years ago. “Please” and “Thank you” are both great visuals, even in normal conversation – not that I’m sure what that is. People running away from me with their palms clamped firmly over their ears give me the wrong impression.

I finished the address plaque for the apartments. I used reflective numbers. And I couldn’t quite bring myself to NOT put a little bling and beauty on there in the form of a dragonfly. I also installed a nice solar light above it, either to illuminate the reflective numbers I chose – or so that the idiots shooting automatic weapons will have something other than my ass to aim at if they find themselves with an oversupply of bullets.

Other:
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While chatting with my case manager, I did offer to re-write my surgical report. It needs a plot twist and a little bit of pizzazz. And/or humor and brevity: “Patient failed to notice my approach as I used a #11 blade to gut him. We found a herniation near the appendix but this box of Cracker Jacks did not have a surprise.”
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A random internet person read my post about Tammy’s weight loss: “You have no idea how seeing you and your friend have motivated me. I think I have your incremental idea in my head now. I’ve already lost ten lbs, just by deciding to do a few small things each day. Such as choosing differently, doing exercises every hour while at work, and keeping my mouth shut as much as I can. You’re right. Food can’t get in there if it isn’t open!”
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Another person wrote me and asked me if this quote is mine: “Saying you aren’t photogenic is kinda like saying you’re better looking than all available evidence.” No, but I wish I had. It’s pithy and logical.
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A Bit Of Daily Motivation: “Have you stopped to think that somewhere there’s a tree growing that might one day become your coffin?”
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Love, X
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The Night Beckons Me

As the August sun relentlessly heated the front of my apartment and the metal door that fronts it, I walked across the parking lot to the dumpster. The remnants of the chicken I’d baked wouldn’t fare well until tomorrow. It’s nice having a dumpster that I don’t need to roll out to the curb. On the other hand, I find myself cleaning up after the other residents and the trash company that does the trash maintenance.

I watched the traffic on Gregg Avenue and across the railroad tracks on the opposite side of the street. I should be tired. When I woke up last night, thinking it was morning, it was only 11:11. By rough calculation, I would guess I’ve walked twenty miles since then. Though I can’t explain why, knowing that the Greenway trail was only a couple of minutes away made me want to put on shoes and walk a dozen miles again.

Covid and my personal life have aligned to make my previous concerns a little bit less than significant. Everywhere, everything is changing.

The sunset, though? And the wall of music that the insects provide; they are a cacophony of sameness. Beauty, too.

I won’t answer the call of the wanderer tonight, though the sidewalks and trail whisper my name.

I’ll lie in bed and listen, if need be, to the day swiftly approaching. I’ll rise to meet it, whether sleep embraces me or not.

Heat. Light. Color

In a nod to the 1970s, my bathroom shower still had those horrid track-guided sliding glass doors on them. Mine are now resting comfortably in the back recess of a closet. In an ideal world, the tenants at this complex would gather ceremoniously under a full moon in the parking lot and shatter all such remaining glass doors with golf clubs. Today, I spent a bit of time compiling layers and pictures to create another custom shower curtain, one filled with pictures and meanings, both hidden and plain. I loved the previous one I had, but it was filled with a life that is no longer mine to claim.

I waited until after 3 p.m. today to take a long walk. It seemed appropriate to bake off my remaining energy under the blistering sun. Some of the trail was shadowed by foliage. I walked further along it than I previously had, so my eyes feasted on new sights. I broke my previous pushup record by 3 p.m. Today, I broke it through diligence and determination, rather than systematic application. I wanted yet another way to remember my first full day in my new apartment. Tomorrow will remind me that today was memorable.

After my walk, I laid on the laminate floor, my blue box fan blowing on me. I got up, poured wine into my antique green cup, and toasted my past, the one whispering in my ear. If you want to think a bit, google the word “Olēka,” and watch the video on YT.

The picture is from last night. It’s a solar-powered lantern, sitting on the banister railing outside. Below, you can see my little car, sharing the same color.

Color.

Light.

Heat.

May your life have a dash of each to fuel you.

Love, X
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Personal – The Move

At the end of the week, I’m moving to Fayetteville to an older apartment off of Gregg. I chose it because someone I trust lives in the same small complex. I had to wait because the last tenant detonated a White Trash Bomb inside. So, I get new, albeit warped floors (no carpet), and a new metal door. You know bad things went down if the door has to be replaced. I get a new fridge, too. I suspect the previous tenant’s fridge went to the Hoarder’s Hall of Fame in Biscoe.

I have a renter’s insurance policy. If someone breaks in, they will regret it. Not because I’m going to hurt them, but because I will make them grammatically diagram sentences until they repent from their life of crime. Anyone who breaks into an apartment where I’ll live hasn’t analyzed the cost/benefit of choosing WHERE to commit a crime. Which reinforces my assertion that if a robber breaks in, I do not doubt that he will LEAVE something for me as a gift rather than take something.

Note: I have a priceless Thomas Kinkade collection of reprints worth about $4 if the apartment burns down.

There are “X”s and a “10” on the door if someone has any doubt who lives there. It’s a bit embarrassing that they think I’m a 10. I assume that’s what they meant.

It’s not too far from work. I can walk fast and be there in 22 minutes. I can walk normally and be there in 30. (If I skateboard there, it’ll take 57 minutes, with 45 minutes of those waiting on the ambulance to pick me up.) I’d rather not live alone, although everyone tells me that I need to, just once. Each time, I feel like I’m being prepped for a timeshare pitch. Or maybe membership into a cult. 🙂 I’m not certain why people espouse the joy of single living. I’m a great roommate, and generally speaking, I would always opt to be around people. There are so few people who live alone who seem to be joyous. Content? Yes. Clint Black, the dubiously eloquent country music star, put it best: “…so we tell ourselves that what we found is what we meant to find…”

One of my superpowers is that it’s almost impossible to bore me. I assumed everyone was this way until I was much older.

The apartment has two bedrooms. Once I get an exhaust fan installed, I am going to perfect my recipe for Blue Sky. (Sorry, “Breaking Bad” fans.) Let’s be honest here, though. Most of you who know me probably wonder what in the heck I’ll be doing without adult supervision. I am practicing both my yodeling AND maniacal laughing. I may learn to play the bagpipes, too, just in case the yodeling and maniacal laughing doesn’t convince everyone that I’m strange. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to discern a novice bagpipe player from an accomplished one. I can make the same music by squeezing an opera singer much too hard.

I am going to miss Springdale. Not East Springdale, per se, even though it’s been good to me despite the awkward access and relative lack of restaurants. I’ve walked and learned so much about it during the pandemic. It is a bit strange to have intimately become familiar with so much of it only to move a town away. I hadn’t planned on moving away from this area, but that’s how life is.

I would list the amenities for my next place. There’s one problem, though. There aren’t any. Door, walls, floor, ceiling. The minimum. (And that’s more than enough, to start!) The Razorback Greenway is close, allegedly 5 minutes to walk to the nearest crosspoint. I love the trail system. But I also discovered that I love urban walking more than the trails. The train tracks run parallel on the opposite side of Gregg. It’s a good thing that I have a universe inside my head. It might be the only thing keeping me on the right side of sanity and happiness. I don’t need much. Most of us don’t, even though we drown ourselves in things and distractions. I’ve already walked dozens of miles around the area in the last few weeks. Subway is 10 minutes away if I walk, as is a great coffee place. The bonus is that there there are two pubs/breweries very close, too, in case I decide I need to follow the family tradition of drinking myself into oblivion. (The family motto: I don’t drink to remember, I drink to forget that I don’t remember.)

“Most of us cook with two pans – yet have dozens. It explains why there’s a lot wrong with how we live.” – X

The next part of my life is going to be utterly alien to me, anchored by necessity. It’s a certainty that I’m going to continue to walk endlessly and find everything interesting for miles in each direction. I laugh when people tell me, “You have to be careful, X. It’s a different place over here.” Be careful? Life has already reminded me that the dangers that cause the most upheaval cannot be avoided, no matter how careful you are.

The most significant current danger to me in this life is failing to remember the lessons I’ve learned. Getting robbed is an inconvenience – but temporary. Dealing with the consequences of my stubborn stupidity – that’s timeless.

Also.

I’m going to struggle with being unanchored for a while, and that’s okay. And if it’s not, well, that’s too bad. I made my bed, and now I’m going to lie in it. On that note, I will not have to make the bed if I don’t want to. I’m not one of those nutty people who insist that a made bed sets the stage for a great day. A peaceful mind does that, not the surroundings into which one arises. I’ve slept with a comforter-only for decades. The only reason I can think of to ‘make’ my bed is in the rare event I suddenly begin to worry about such goofy considerations as “What your bed says about you to other people.”

I am, of course, afraid of the uncertainty, the loneliness, and the ‘new normal’ that I’ll have to adopt. I have to “choose my hard,” so to speak, and pay the price for my choices.

Life moves forward, even if we try to avoid it.

I’ll be looking at my ugly trim in my new apartment, listening to the foreign sounds of other people around me. But I’ll also be laughing internally, wondering what my neighbors think of the “Police Tape – Do Not Disturb” ribbon tapes in an x-pattern across the entryway of my door.

I’d write a bit more, but I need to go listen to feral cats screaming. I’ve been told it’s the best way to appreciate bagpipe music.

Love, X

P.S. Anyone who wants my address can have it. I mean literally. Just kidding. Write a message if you want or need my phone number or address. Unless you thought my “Breaking Bad” joke was true. Or you’re a die-hard Thomas Kinkade fan. I doubt the Venn Diagram of those two types of people ever converges, much in the same way that Mensa doesn’t recruit at NASCAR events.

The Allegedly Iffy

The Allegedly Iffy

I’m out walking through the allegedly iffy stretch of town. The moon is beautiful and a little iridescent against the horizon, before the sunrise. I can feel the heat of the day waiting to blanket everything. But it cannot bake away the beauty of the morning before the sunrise. Last Saturday morning,  I ignored the lightning and the rain and walked anyway. It turned out to be an extraordinary walk.

My path was different this morning. New things to see, places to find, and streets to mentally catalog. Walking these places touches them into my memory in a way that driving never will. Though there is nothing magical on these streets, I know that I will probably remember this morning. I have been continually surprised by the equidistant nexus of places I can reach in thirty minutes. Because of the campus and the number of people living over here, the ebb and flow of activity never ceases even if it’s difficult to sometimes spot.

My first conversation and interaction happened as I made my first left turn. A very physically fit man was walking a mastiff on the opposite side of the street. He would have to be fit to corral that large dog. Even the leash or rope he was holding looked to be over an inch thick. In his hand he had a travel mug of coffee. He lifted it and said, “This is the most beautiful part of the day.” I agreed and laughed. He told me to have a great Saturday. As I told him the same, it occurred to me that expectations often wildly contradict reality. Sometimes, they render everything with a sheen of mystery; others, with an ache.

Almost everyone waved or saluted me as we passed. Even the Latinos up on the crane against the large expensive building they were working on. So much of the architecture over here is distinctively beautiful viewed without people or complete light to interfere with it. I think all the people trying to enjoy life late at night with crowded spectacle are missing out.

But what do I know? I’m just a dude, walking. I couldn’t have reached the glass and steel of this architecture without traversing the allegedly iffy.

I think that is my metaphor for today. One day, looking back, I hope to discover that the same metaphor will encompass my recent past. If your yesterday wasn’t what you wanted or needed, shake it off and call it your allegedly iffy. It’s damn hard to appreciate the good times without a kick in the teeth every once in awhile. I’d prefer to evade the kick, but if we could vote, trauma would never touch us.

The sun is crowding the top of the horizon now. Although I’m in the deep shadow of this stretch of the trail, slivers of the sun pierce the canopy, like verdant curtains swept open inside one’s living room.

Stolen Thunder

I stood under the canopy watching the lightning streaks. I held a cup of delicious dark bitter coffee in my hand, my first cup of the day. I was already drenched, so it didn’t matter whether I was protected from the rain or not. There aren’t a lot of instances when you have the premonition that you might easily recall the moment later. The place was mundane – but they all are, really. I took a little bit of delight and traced it in my memory. A few seconds after the next big streak of lightning, a huge boom echoed and somewhere in the distance someone gave a little shout and said, “Let’s go in!” Apparently, not everyone takes delight in drinking their coffee during a torrential downpour. There is no accounting for taste, is there?

Nearby, the traffic light seemed more vibrant in the dense rain and early morning light. The rain and thunder had attempted to veto my walk. I ignored the imposition and set out anyway. Who knows how many more times I’ll have the opportunity to watch the world duck and run simply because it’s raining. For that matter, or watching people pay $8 for a dessert disguised as coffee.

Despite the intense dark of the sky, I stole a long walk from this morning. During the first part of my walk, I stayed urban; for the second part I abandoned all concern about the weather and rain. Being somewhere new affords a different pleasure and I don’t need to be somewhere exotic to feel alive. (A truth I should learned more distinctly when I was younger.) I could share several pictures, ones I grabbed each time I took my phone out of the ziplock bag I had tucked into my pocket. But these would not be shared memories, and often that makes all the difference. It is why we feel a little empty looking at other people’s vacation photos, especially when the people we love are not in them.It is our presence and our memories that add value to a place or a vista.

So I’ll use my words to futilely attempt a description: I walk alone on this wide expanse of trail.To one side, the angry creek roars. The sky intermittently opens up and drenches me but fails to touch my enthusiasm. The birds carry on their business, and I watch a hawk on the edge of the farm and rows of test corn, probably searching for mice. It feels like I could walk forever, and possibly without encountering other people. The thunder is my applause. Somewhere out here with me there must be a touch of the ordinary. But I don’t see it.

Red is for stop
green is for go
Add this small thing
To the list of things
I do not need to know
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PS Lest you think everything is rainbows and butterflies… toward the presumptive end of my walk, I watched a bitter domestic fight in one of the single story apartments dotting my return. The woman stood outside screaming obscenities and threats as someone inside through her belongings out onto the wet sidewalk. Though she doesn’t know it, her life is both ending and beginning. Worse still, because of my life experience I can mentally chart out the rest of her life. As several of the neighbors stood outside in the light rain to watch the drama, I couldn’t help but think about how needless it all was. Needless and probably inescapable.

How strange to consider how enjoyable of a morning I had just walking, one of the simplest things in the world – while the woman in question probably was having the worst morning she’s had in years.

I’m going to go back to my regular morning, and if I’m lucky, like all of us, I might experience another touch of the divine. And another cup of coffee, one without the kiss of rain.

Love, X
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Downtown Dummies – An Art Installation Sponsored by Prank Sinatra

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I keep lists of jokes, ideas, and amusing things to amuse my amusing self. Last year while I was walking before sunrise in downtown Springdale, I burst out laughing with one of them.

I’ve been secretly fantasizing about an idiotic prank for quite a while. I’ve browsed on eBay, Amazon, and retail clearance websites trying to get a reasonable cost to purchase several dozen mannequins. The best cost I could devise was about $750. Three weeks ago, I could have purchased an entire lot, clothing included, from a defunct retailer.

After purchasing all the mannequins and keeping them in a self-storage unit, I’d rent a U-Haul. Early in the morning, I would drive around downtown Springdale and strategically place the dummies in key places. (Benches, leaning on walls, astride Spring Creek, behind patrol cars, etc.) It occurred to me that I could create a story if I was creative enough in my implementation. (With the epilogue involving me getting bailed out of jail, I presume.)

I even had a list of explanations if I were caught. I’d say, “It’s an art project for the Revitalization District.” Or, I’d say, “Look at that!” and as the person looked, I’d run like hell in any possible direction.

If I keep my movements low-key, no one will think twice about dummies downtown. There are always several standing or loitering around down there and several have been elected to keep the city running. Just kidding, Doug. I’m a big fan, with the exception of that horrendous city logo – the one which invokes an image of the floor of a New York City Taxi when I look at it.

I’ve had more fun thinking about doing this than you might expect.

I’ll probably never do it now, especially after sharing it with everyone.

If there’s anyone out there reading this, though, it would make an excellent prank.

It would also make a beautiful art project if it were planned with care.

Saturday Morning Considerations

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.

Armadillo By Morning

Last night, my wife asked me how I choose where to walk next. I answered honestly that I had no clue. Most mornings, I seldom end up anywhere that I had intended. I could point out that my life has taken the same course, but for the moment, I’ll skip the cliché of a life without compass.

This morning, I lay in bed with the cat nipping my shin and toes for at least an hour. It was too early to get up, so I used my other foot to pet the cat until my calf muscle was insisting that I stop. I felt guilty for having delighted in petting a neighborhood cat last night, one we alternatively name “Marsha,” or “DevilCat.” Last night, as my wife and I sat on the bench in the front of the house, DevilCat darted around the corner and demanded affection. Our own cat Güino peered suspiciously and contemptuously through the bottom of the blinds as the intruder greeted us outside. This is the very same cat who screeched and hissed at the office window yesterday morning at 4 a.m. startling me as I sat there trying to navigate the complexity of getting both of my shoes on the correct feet at such an hour.  DevilCat’s eyes are hilariously large in the dark, like a teenage girl getting to order her first mocha frappuccino at Starbucks.  Marsha the DevilCat, as it turns out, is quite the friendly feline, despite having a demeanor which would frighten Freddie Krueger.

Although I left this morning with the intention of going to Emma to walk and check out the new goings-on (including the crater recently added at the first stop sign), I ended up in Lowell, along Goad Springs Road. North Goad Springs has a beautiful stretch of trail extending for a long distance. For no reason whatsoever, I parked across from the convenience store there, on an empty and graveled area near the road, and walked South instead, on a portion of the trail I had never walked. The trail below my feet was a wide expanse of modern concrete, a vague grey ribbon marked with intermittent yellow dashes that I could barely see. If only life would take a moment to give us such direction, even if only in the most dimly-lit way possible. (I promised clichés, remember?)

The first portion of the road there is dense and people have little cause to drive the road near the trail at that hour. It was a wide open sky, one without clouds but decorated by a hazy sliver of a moon above, in the shape of a cookie bitten once by an overzealous 5-year-old. It’s scenic and quite beautiful during the day; at night it is magnified into something beyond. I think I’m going to need to coin a word describing the overlap of differences between scenes during daylight and night, one which conveys the magic of both isolation and of something just about to happen at every moment. If other worlds exist, they certainly exist in the margins of what we think we see and no time of day is more prehistoric than the swath of minutes before sunrise.

Off to one side of the trail a solitary yard light last cast an orange sherbet glow, creating a diaphanous haze like one sometimes gets over one’s eyes coming out of the pool. I couldn’t see what the light was supposed to be illuminating. For me, it was simply an unexpected orange beacon casting thousands of beams of light into the trees and brush as I walked by.

At the first bridge at the curve at the bottom of the valley, the temperature dropped precipitously as if 17 ghosts sneaked up on me to send a shiver down my spine. (Ghosts always travel in odd numbers, if you were wondering.) It was as the valley hadn’t gotten the message that it was still warm above.

As I exited the valley and began my slow climb it was startling to see on my left a huge reminder of civilization in the form of a multi-floor building off in the distance. It was comprised of 200 stacked and similar brightly-lit rooms, all of them lit unnecessarily.  I imagined that a mischievous janitor had run through the building, flipping all the lights on for his own amusement. In his defense, no one would stop him. Why all the lights were on was a mystery I thought about for a moment and forgot as I moved past.

And just like that, before I’d even settled into the idea of possibly being tired, a huge construction crane towered above me, against the night sky. I couldn’t believe that I had already reached the unlikely intersection of the trail, the interstate, and the area where the new East-West corridor above Springdale met them. As I walked under the interstate, the whump-whump of the vehicles passing above created the otherworldly post-apocalyptic feeling that I had anticipated. It brought to mind a period over 30 years ago in the mid-80s, when the interstate was being built and still referred to as “The Bypass.” We weren’t sure what it was bypassing. And we certainly had no idea that such a road would transform every aspect of our lives in this corner of the state. Even back then, in another incarnation, I spent many nights running, walking and biking on those unfinished lanes, even when they were still just miles of compressed gravel. It’s a memory that I cherish and one that is almost impossible to replicate in today’s more modern world, governed by strange ideas of safety and caution. I owned those roads then and in some way, I still own them. The great cycle of time has provided me with a way to relive those hours in the dark, all the while experiencing new incarnations of the same fleeting feeling of isolation in the midst of so much.

Before deciding to turn back, I walked under the mammoth overpass of the new road, stopping to look straight up and feel the dizzy recognition of immensity. The twinkling stars above it and me provided the perfect backdrop. It would have been the best possible picture to have somehow captured the perspective of it. Providing no catastrophe strikes, in a blink of an eye in the course of time, someone will stand in the same spot, years from now, seeing the same sight I did this morning.

Doubling back and retracing my steps I had forgotten that the cool valley would be waiting for me. It enveloped me in a cool haze. All I can compare it to is that first blast of cool air when you are 8 years old and you’ve been banished to the great outdoors for most of the afternoon.

I stopped to look up at the silver moon that reminded me of an older movie logo, the one with the small boy fishing off the cusp of a bright partial moon. On my right, there was a single solitary tree towering above a bench several feet away from the trail. I thought of some future afternoon, one with a cool breeze, when I might return and sit on that bench, a visit without real motive.

Apart from the impersonal interstate I only encountered two vehicles. One was a white truck which was being driven so slowly I speculated they might have been attempting to go back in time and the second vehicle was a police car out of jurisdiction driving so fast I thought it might be a DeLorean attempting to reach 88 miles per hour. It’s possible that the police car driver was also accumulating frequent flyer miles. I met several armadillos, too, none of which seemed interested in making my acquaintance.

There’s no message in this story, just moments.

As you slumbered, I walked with the moon and made friends with old memories. Or vice versa.