Sunday, August 12, 2012

Life as metaphor

It's a beautiful San Francisco day as I step outside the house. I'm behind on my cardio time for the day, so I am taking advantage of a free hour this afternoon and the nearby park.

The sun shines through the clear blue sky as I walk through pockets of hot and cold air.

I reach the entrance to the Shelley loop and am about to start my run.

2 feet from me is a disposable diaper lying in the street.  There's a trash can not 20 feet away.

My bones feel every step and jolt as I start running. It feels like I'm moving even slower than if I was walking, and it's just...difficult. I press on, rounding the first corner

30 feet beyond that, a large black garbage bag has been thrown into the ditch between the road and the chain-link fence. It's ruptured, spilling the detritus of some child's birthday party across a large area, all sheet cake and Spider-Man napkins and colored signs and plastic forks. I sigh between gasps, moving my feet and transitioning from one side of the road to the other.

Past the open space where people throw tennis balls with their dogs, I turn onto Mansell. There are splotches of shattered car glass, green in the sunlight. There's a couple of large plastic storage tubs, cheap plastic already bleaching and splintering in the sunlight. The contents are strewn around, books and cards and clothes. A plastic bag shrouds an empty 6-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, nestled under the guard rail.

I see no birds or insects, just the odd car whizzing past me on the crumbling asphalt.

I turn by the bus stop and start running down the big hill, passing parked cars. Near the turn-in for the ranger house, I see a dresser smashed to pieces and strewn across the road. A mattress. A large CRT-based TV's carcass torn open, and an old computer monitor face-down nearby. I wince.

I pass squashed AA batteries and endless paper and plastic cups from KFC and Starbucks and Subway and who knows where else. There are lids and spoons and countless disposable wipes and napkins and paper towels, all blown against fences and pine needles and grass.

Starting back up the hill, I see a mylar envelope of Capri Sun or some other synthetic "juice" product, leaking slowly in the gutter.

I slow to a walk at the most severe part of the hill. I just can't power up like I used to a few years ago. I pass by 2 plastic bags of food tied up and rotting in the sun, not 15 feet from a garbage can.

Near the top of the hill, a sign scrawled on an unfolded food container catches my eye:

5:00 PM

Car's long gone. Sign still there.

I start running again, trudging up the hill, my lungs screaming for air and my heart pounding in my chest. 1.5 miles.

I start my second lap, passing the diaper again. At least I'm warmed up now, and everything is easier. Tolerable.

But the garbage really gets to me. John McLaren park is beautiful and wild, if a bit under-maintained. I am angry with us lazy, sloppy humans and how we continually trash the park.

As my second lap draws to completion, I slow. I pick up the leaking Capri Sun mylar envelope and toss it in the trash. I scoop up the bags of rotting food as my heart rate drops and they, too, go into the trash.

I pick up the semi-literate sign, the back of which is sticky with some sort of once-food. I fold it in half and carry it to the start of the loop, where I carefully scoop up the diaper. I walk across the street and toss it into the garbage bin all the dog walkers use for their dogshit.

I don't pretend that I've made any significant difference. But I ran 3 miles and still left the park in better shape than before I left. That's something. I'll count that as a "win" for today.

I finish my run. Tired and still angry. We don't deserve this planet.

I think of the famous Iron Eyes Cody PSA.

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