The People in My Neighborhood: The Track Rats

The Daily Life Text

These are people in my literal neighborhood, not people in my imaginary neighborhood. I know a couple people already, like the crossing guard who says hello to Sprocket every morning (she says it makes her day) and the woman with the delicate Italian greyhound who plays like it’s a much larger dog.

But it wasn’t until I spent two hours on the track, two weeks in a row, that I felt a part of the neighborhood. The track is 1/5th of a mile long. It sits right below Eastview Middle School, which was built in 1929 and still retains most of its architectural charm. Jim and I have run around the track before, in the summertime, but we were not partaking of many of the activities that were going on. Rather, our activity–the dull pounding of pavement in a loose oval, around and around–seemed downright odd, and totally unpleasant, compared to the fun going on in the center of the oval. Families picnicked. Friends brought volleyball nets to play what my brother, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in South America, fondly calls “Ecuaball.” Kids rode their bikes around the track, dodging boring people like me and Jim. Soccer was had, and rubber balls were bounced, and even though there was a big sign saying NO DOGS ALLOWED, there were one or two who ventured onto the field and gamboled about with the children.

It was a community space, and we felt like intruders, robotically moving around, and around.

But recently, as the days have been getting shorter and I have found myself with no safer option than to put in two hours at the track, I have discovered another set of people. They are another type of authentic neighborhood person, and being there with them has helped me to feel more a part of this community.

I have run into them each once, and some of them twice.

  • The Boxer. The Boxer is pretty amazing. When I got there, he was already on the track, and he didn’t leave until an hour later, I don’t think. He wears a heavy sweatshirt and leaves his hood up, and he runs on the outer side of the track, which might account for why I am able to lap him. He jogs loosely, arms sort of flopping. He never sprints. What he does that absolutely makes me want to stop and watch, though, is use the straightaways to practice a few footwork moves. He jabs and spins, stays on his toes. In the deep dark of the night, with snowflakes falling all around and the wind whipping them into a fine smoke at your feet, there are few things more magical.
  • The Loner. I’ve seen this guy each time I’ve been to the track at night. He’s OK with two people on the track, but when the number boosts to three, he vanishes, and you think he’s gone, until you see his grey hooded sweatshirt on the turfed level above as he completes his lap. Each time, you can see his face turn towards the track–the point at which you can see him is also the only point at which he can see the track–and you know he’s checking, either to see if you’re still there or to see if the track has become less, um, crowded.
  • Le Flaneur. An older gentleman, he arrives in a car coat and a fedora. He wears a red plaid scarf and walks a mile or so, five laps. He executes a very slow jog sometimes, slow even by my standards, presumably when he gets cold. He waves when he arrives and waves when he leaves if you’re within sight.
  • The Hooligans. They are inevitable. The first time, I arrived on the track at 6PM and predicted someone with nothing better to do would show up around 7. They did, right on the nose, screaming and pushing each other around in a shopping cart, which they then left. As hooligans are wont to do, however, they left within fifteen minutes.
  • The Football Star. He takes up only one part of the track. He runs on the grassy part of the track just inside the oval and sprints hard, running drills, with an imaginary football under his arm.
  • The Heartbroken Greaser. He wears a leather jacket, motorcycle boots, clomps along the track. Huge on-ear headphones. Moping. Lots of hair. He walked a good two miles before he left, and that was only to run down into the parking garage, where they were ticketing cars and his, apparently, was wailing. I guess he hadn’t had enough of soul-sucking walking in the dark beginnings of snow, because he came back to do another two laps before he left.

Some characters, right? I’m rarely alone on the track. I guess that’s why I don’t mind it so much. Why would I ever consider a treadmill again???

Woman, Clean Thy Closet

The Daily Life Text

I’m taking a break from purging my closet to write this post. A girl needs a break, after all. Since I’ve spent roughly the last two hours purging, I have been reminded of a few things.

  • I am an inveterate pack rat. This means not only that I keep things I really should throw out, but also that I keep things in the hopes that I’ll someday use them. Things that people bought me that I’ll never ever wear or use; or things like, um, socks or gloves that have lost their mates, or old T-shirts that I think that I’ll eventually turn into rags or donate to the local animal shelter or something. Freecycle has been a lifesaver, but…
  • I am a panty-waist. I keep a lot of things around in the fear that I will eventually go looking for it and then suffer horrible pangs of guilt or sorrow that I gave the thing away. In reality, of course, there’s only one item that I really wish I’d kept in the years I have of giving things away or throwing them out, and that’s a little loden-green vest with suede edging that I got at Loehmann’s with my mom AGES ago. Fifteen years ago, maybe.
  • Purging makes meĀ  nostalgic. I feel like I have to call up all of my long-lost friends and have a conversation of some sort.
  • Purging results in a bigger mess before the benefits of a more orderly life can be reaped. You should see all of the handbags all over my effing floor. Horrible.
  • Purging makes me think of the lifecycle of a product. I have socks and pantyhose from a good five years ago and they’re still all elastic and fine. I haven’t worked in an office for about that long, so what the hell am I doing with pantyhose? And what will happen if I throw them out? Can I depend on them actually degrading and not clogging up a landfill? This is terrible. I will have to see if there’s anything I can actually do with all of these textiles.

Okay. Back to it. Do I really have to throw out this enormous pile of single socks? So sad!!