Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dispatches from the Park

... an occasional series, vignettes, each of which isn’t of much consequence alone and which together still don’t have much substance, but whose compilation satisfies a craving for taxonomic orderliness.

A Dog-Powered Recumbent Bike
I’m sitting on one of my benches, and here comes a recumbent bike being pulled by a black cocker spaniel on a leash, a heavyset man sitting regally in the seat.
They go by pretty fast, the dog looking eager enough. They come around the circular path that surrounds the greenbelt and bench a second time, and they’re still going along at a pretty smart clip. I start to wonder if that fat guy is taking advantage of the dog. He doesn’t even have to pedal; the dog is doing all the work.
It’s alright. They come around the third time and the dog in in the guy’s lap, getting the free ride this time.

An elderly parent/dutiful child going by on the footpath. You can always tell; they’re together, but a little apart. This time it’s a father, probably in his late 80s, and a son probably late 50s or early 60s.
The son watches the older man, who walks very slowly and with an occasional wobble. The older man wears what look like Birkenstocks, the sandals popular years ago.
Both men wear shorts, but shouldn’t. I mean if you’re going to wear baggy shorts, go all the way and do those great boxy yard-wide English World War II jobs that could have accommodated an extra person. At least they had style.
There’s no conversation between the men. Playing parlor psychiatrist I deduce that the son feels imposed upon to have to nursemaid his father, but at the same time guilty because his father did it for him 50 or 60 years ago.
The old man has run out of things to say and even things to do and is really just biding his time to the end. But the weather is fine and it’s good to get out for some son and heir.

As I write, the old man has wandered a little too far afield and his son, keeping a discreet distance, trails him. The son is getting a little business done on his cell phone, so the day isn’t wasted entirely.