unplug them people
and send them home
It’s closing time
— the prophet lyle lovett
For someone who prides himself on his pessimism, I’ve been way too hopeful about the track. I’ve been going there and running the mile loop around the perimeter in hopes that it might magically open again.
It’s been ominous lately. The Wizard of Oz gate is always locked. None of the usual scofflaws who jump the fence have been around. The place is abandoned.
The security guy told me a long time ago that the Board of Regents was probably going to shut the place down. Since then, it’s been off and on. I feared the worst.
But today, a glimmer of hope. As I started down the dirt road near the track, I could see two Football Guys with a stack of footballs around the 20. They were kicking into one of the abandoned soccer goals. And Sprint Dude and his young accomplice were there. Back in Business!
I made the loop around the soccer fields, past the baseball field, in front of the batting cages, and up to the gate, expecting it to be open. And it was!
Problem: The cop cart was parked next to it. And the cop was out talking to the Football Guys.
I continued on my second loop. I pondered the possibilities. They were:
— The cop is a big football fan and wanted to talk with the guys about Gronkowski’s sudden retirement.
— They had jumped the fence and he had unlocked the gate to kick them off.
I came around the dirt road again. They were still talking. Hopeful? It wouldn’t take this long to give them the boot. I ran the back road, hopeful my third mile could be on the glorious confines of my beloved Lane 9. As I came back around, HE WAS STILL OUT THERE! I was baffled.
As I came back around on the end of lap 2, the gate was locked. And the Football Guys were gone. But the sprinters were still there. Maybe just a football field thing.
I spent the third lap thinking a lot about the track. I’ve been running here almost 20 years. It’s part of me. I don’t know what I’d do without it.
As I came back around for the end of the third mile, the cop was locking the gate behind the sprinters. I violate the sacred rule of Never Talking to Strangers, and asked him what’s up.
He said it’s officially closed forever now. The track team is dead, the football team is dead, the stadium will be dismantled and turned into a lovely open field. It may not happen for a while, but they’re going to close it permanently till then because of the liability worries.
He was a really nice guy and he sympathized. He’s older, a retired cop, and understands. But they’re rules. We get no money from the county or state, he said, heading off the indignant “I pay for this track!!!!” argument. Things used to be different, he said, and his mind drifted off.
I asked him if it was OK to run the mile loop without getting shot and he said probably. So I guess that’s the course for now. He said I should take up swimming instead. I told him I sink like a rock. We both laughed.
And that was that.
Funny. You think back to the last time you saw someone before they died. What was that interaction like? Did you part in a grand way? I don’t remember what my last run there was like. But I’m sure it was pretty damn great. The track always had that magic.
All good dreamers pass this way some day, Joni said.
I’m sorry the dream has to end.