Sunday, March 27, 2011

Read At Your Own Risk

Running, I sometimes think, is overrated. I say this partly on the basis of having seen people run who are even chubbier than I am.

They're never smiling. Never. Neither are the skinny ones.

Today was the Capital 10K race, about which I know very little (and will not even bother Googling it to see if I should spell it "Capitol" or "Capital"); but we shared the streets with some 22,000 runners today - largely without injury!

A friend with a kickass bluegrass band had sent out an invitation to come see him play at 8:30 this morning at the Farmers' Market at 15th and West, a straight shot across race-congested downtown, and just two miles or so north of where I live. Well, would you even try driving, under the circumstances? Most major thoroughfares were closed. And it's not like I couldn't do with a bit of exercise. So we decided to hoof it.

Have you ever set out for a destination without being entirely certain where you were headed? Surely you have. No matter what your name is. You must have done this from time to time. "Zognitz and 94th? Sure, we can get there in 48 minutes! Just be sure and take Dowsydip Drive, so you can avoid the crosstown traffic!" And then, after hiking seven miles to Zognitz, you suddenly realize, with a painful sinking feeling, glancing at your walking companion, who is sweaty, panting, tired, and verging dangerously close to grumpiness, that you might just possibly have confused your destination with one on at Zbignab Drive on the other side of town. Furtively, you belatedly consult GoogleMaps on your iPhone. "Oh, hey... wait, hey, um..." you say.

I have always relied on the good-natured patience of others.

Still, from my point of view, the walk was a wonderful one - from our home neighborhood of Travis Heights through the office parking lot at Riverside and Congress, which had evidently been set up as Potty Central for the jogging horde, up South First to Auditorium Shores, along the hike-and-bike trail to the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, where for some reason I can't entirely understand there was an upright piano.

It was cabled to the railings of the bridge, but the plastic sheet intended to protect the piano from today's anticipated light mist had blown off, the wooden dowel at its end not sufficiently heavy to keep it in place. Well, by God. I may not be much of a hero - in fact, I go to pieces at the slightest suggestion of conflict, forget about anything remotely resembling an emergency - I have never done what I felt to be an adequate job of protecting my children, when they were small and helpless, against the varied onslaughts of unsympathetic teachers, bullying classmates, and neighborhood toughs. But damned if there isn't a bit of backbone in me after all, and what it takes to bring that out is a defenseless piano on an ominously cloudy day.

"Waitwaitwait," I said, "stop, come back, we have to cover this up."

So we straightened out the plastic sheeting, pulled the wooden dowel back into place, and tucked the bench in over it - the bench then unprotected, but it was the only way to keep the plastic sheet from blowing off again - and made sure all was secure before we left. An hour or so later, it began drizzling. I can't help wondering, rather glumly, if the piano's owner will come back, find the finish on the bench ruined, and blame the stranger who uncovered it, not realizing that the cover wouldn't stay on otherwise. I really hope not. It was the first truly good deed I feel I've done in a long time.

At any rate, we rescued the piano, continued on our hike, had breakfast at Sweetish Hill, saw many beautifully elegant Old Austin homes, enjoyed the sensation of seeing on foot many fascinating sites that we've always missed before because we're always in car, discovered that West Lynn Drive is not West Avenue, backtracked a couple of miles to the proper spot, and saw our friend play half of the last song of the truly awesome Blacktop Bend's set, before heading back for lunch at Hickory Street and home.

At the Lamar underpass under Third Street is an art installation - a mural or two, the infamous stupid blue highway-sign thingies, and a written manifesto of sorts, profoundly meaningful and deep, several paragraphs in block letters on a white background on the support structure of the bridge. I stopped to scan it, having driven past it often; but my eyes gravitated towards a Sharpie'd inscription at the bottom:


Ha! Touché.