Park People

I left out part of the experience in yesterday’s post about our Saturday morning bicycle outing. It concerns the other people present at the park. We got there around 7:30 in the morning. It was raining and had been raining. But there were already people there.

At a covered picnic table in the children’s play area were two grubby looking men, hunched down and sitting rather close to each other. I couldn’t see what they were doing. Near the pavilion was a car much older than any of my children with considerably more contents than you would find in most vehicles. It was unoccupied.

As I approached the pavilion, I heard a toilet flush. That struck my naive mind as odd – who had chosen to come to the park this early in the rain and been there long enough that they now needed to use the bathroom? I soon saw who.

A blond woman of indeterminate age returned to the cover of the pavilion with a reflective silver sunshade over her head – even though the rain had stopped for the moment and the distance from the bathroom to the pavilion was very short. I would have put her in her forties or so if pressed for a guess, but she looked like life hadn’t been easy on her so I suppose she could have been younger.

She sat down at a picnic table and a few minutes later, a young black man exited the bathroom and joined her. They huddled there quietly while we attempted to make the air pump work. I began to suspect that they had slept the night in the car. Since there was only the one vehicle, I also began to suspect that the two men had perhaps spent the night at their picnic table and had walked here from who knows where.

I tried to stay aware but not particularly tense. It wasn’t fair to assume that just because they were down on their luck, they were inherently dangerous. But I was definitely uncomfortable.

Obviously, a person jogging (i.e. me) has no hope of keeping up with two people on bicycles, but the sidewalks looped back on themselves frequently so I basically kept my husband and son in sight as I trotted around. At one point, one of the men from the playground rode past me on a bicycle.

My first thought, from the innocent and naive part of my brain, was one of relief. See? He’s not homeless. He’s just here riding his bike like we are. Reality soon invaded as I noted he was very, very dirty. So was his backpack, which was carrying a water bottle, yes, but also quite a number of other things. No one goes on a morning bike ride with more than they need for that ride.

The young man under the pavilion soon disappeared into the bathroom again. When he returned, he was visibly shaking. He sat down so close to the woman that he looked like he was trying to push her off the bench. She wrapped her arms around him, rubbing his arms vigorously and then holding him tight. Drugs? I wondered. Maybe the frequent trips to the bathroom were due to illness, but if that was the case, these two were definitely living out of the car because given the choice, most anyone would rather be sick at home than at a public park. As if to confirm this, the two soon returned to the car – where the sun shade was placed in a side window that appeared to be missing and the humans nestled down out of sight.

At some point, probably around the time Hal was falling down after pitching his fit, I noticed I was alone. I circled around the playground but my husband was no longer in sight. I became intensely nervous. A young couple was in the vicinity somewhere – walking and talking. A bright red truck sat in a driveway of a parking lot – maybe good people? But sitting there not driving off was odd. And then there were the four street people hanging about.

It wasn’t that I was expecting them to be violent or anything. Not for the sake of violence, that is. But at some point in my run, I had opted to play some music from my phone. The phone was well hidden in a pouch in the small of my back, but the hiding place isn’t very hidden if music is blaring out of it. Obviously, no one is going to believe that the music is just coming out of my a**.

I hadn’t been deliberately hiding the phone to begin with. That’s just where I often carry it when running. And obviously, I wasn’t that concerned about people knowing I had it when I started up the music. But seeing that I was essentially alone – that my large and formidable husband was gone, put me on edge. What if they decided the potential to fence a smartphone was worth attacking me?

When my husband and son returned to view – probably slower than intended due to the youngster walking and crying rather than riding, I commented to my husband that I had been nervous.

“That’s why I offered you the keys to the truck,” he replied. So I wasn’t the only one who was maintaining some situational awareness. Of course, I already knew that when he worked to get my bike and its separated wheel into the backseat of the truck rather than just tossing it in the bed at the start of the morning.

After a little bit more “get back on your bike after an injury” riding time, we began loading up. As I attempted to extract the bike from the backseat, the bike riding guy hurried over to us, calling out. I was pretty sure he had said “sir” so I ignored him and focused on the wedged bike preventing the still unhappy child from crawling into the truck.

“Would you like to buy my bike, sir?” he asked. Glancing over at me, “So she can have one too?”

“She already has one,” my husband responded, gesturing toward my efforts.

“Mine’s a Schwinn. It’s a real good bike. I’ll make you a good deal – I’ve got four of them. I can let this one go.”

“She already has one but thank you.”

The man stood around for another minute while we loaded up, commenting that the brand of my bike was a good one but still offering to sell his. We were polite and thanked him for the offer. He walked off and then we drove off, glancing at the car of the other two as we did.

Other than that brief moment when I realized I was vulnerable and alone, I wasn’t particularly scared. Just acutely aware. It gave me a lot to think about though. Later in the day, assuming the weather cleared up, the park would be filled with families. Little children would swing on the swings and slide down the slides. Groups would gather under the pavilion to grill hot dogs, perhaps adding balloons and streamers to celebrate a birthday. This was how I was used to the park looking.

And these people would move off… somewhere. I had no idea where. They’d retreat from view though, possibly returning as it got dark and all the families with homes returned to them. I couldn’t help but feel, to some extent, that when we arrived so early that morning, we were actually invading their park time. Maybe I wasn’t the only one nervous.

Hal on Wheels

Earlier this spring, Hal taught himself to ride a bike. It was pretty cool. Our family, sans Jane, had joined a group from our church on a trip to a boys’ home and school. Our mission that day was to scrape paint on a large shed and then paint it.

It was extremely cold so we ended up just scraping paint. There were quite a few of us and scraping paint is… let’s just say… fairly boring and monotonous. And it was cold. So young Hal lost interest quickly.

He began exploring the area around the shed and found a cluster of old bicycles that we had cleared out behind the shed so we could reach the back wall. These bikes had seen better days. They were small, heavily worn, and had been left sitting out in the weather for who knows how long. Most of the wheels were no longer fully inflated.

None of this deterred Hal. He picked a bike and began trying to ride it. He started by walking it to a road on the top of a gently sloping hill and simply coasting down. Then he pedaled down a narrow busted up sidewalk. He was thrilled!

Fast forward to this weekend. After spending a couple of months with a not-quite-as-old hand-me-down from his brother and proving he could take care of both the bike and the newly purchased helmet, we bought him a shiny new bike.

We also committed to go riding with him Saturday morning. So very early on Saturday, we got two adult-sized bikes out of our storage building. One was basically serviceable. The other needed a new tube in the back wheel. After a quick stop at Wal-Mart to get a new tube, we headed to a local park.

This park has a very large fenced playground with covered picnic tables and a nearby pavilion and plenty of sidewalks for walking. We hurried to the pavilion to attempt to repair my bike – and to get out of the rain.

Yes, it was raining. In brief bursts. This did not deter my husband, although Hal and I were less certain.

It turned out that the air pump we had did not work so the tire was a no-go. I ended up jogging while Hal and his dad rode around. Near the end of our brief morning, I saw them – Dad riding slowly, Hal pushing his bike and crying. He had fallen and scraped his knee, but here’s the kicker. While he had indeed fallen a couple of times while riding his bike, he hadn’t hurt himself those times.

No, the scraped knee wasn’t a biking injury. He grew frustrated that he couldn’t make sharp enough turns for the area they were in so he threw down his bike in anger and stomped off. Remember I said it had been raining? Well, as he stomped around a nearby building, he stepped onto a wet metal plate that was protecting some conduit. His left leg went flying and down he went.

Once I learned the story, I asked why he wasn’t riding his bike. “It seems like you are much safer riding than walking,” I explained.

The little tantrum and its painful consequences aside, Hal had fun. He did get back on his bike after that. All in all, the morning was a success. Once I have two functional tires, I’ll be joining them. And hoping to God that my weak and long dormant biking skills don’t give me a wound to match.

Opening Night

And while we are on the topic of opening weekend movies, the fam went en masse to see Infinity War on opening night. There were a few highlights of the experience plus some insight into my two oldest children that I’d like to share.

First off, I’m not going to go into any real detail about the movie, so you are basically spoiler safe. At the same time, the movie’s been out like a month, so if you haven’t seen it yet, I find it hard to believe that it’s all that important to you. I’m not going to be as careful as I might have been if I had written it that week as I had planned.

First, the theater was packed – just like you’d expect for the first showing in town. Everyone was excited. My husband was running late so I went out to the ticket taker, gave him the ticket, and described my husband before heading back to the theater.

The trailers had already started so I carefully snuck back to my seat. Something was bothering me about the trailer though. It seemed to be staying on that scene too long – a crazy alien guy walking through a sea of dead and dying people, giving some grand speech.

I leaned over to Jane and asked, “What movie is this for?”

“This isn’t a trailer,” she responded. “There were no trailers. This is the movie.”

I was shocked! The whole reason I didn’t wait in the lobby for my husband was because I absolutely despise missing even the first minutes of a movie. But OK. That shock paled in comparison to the ones to come.

The crowd behaved just like you would expect an Opening Night crowd to behave. Lots of oohs and ahhs and cheering and shocked gasps and cries of horror and laughter and clapping. I was missing some of the dialogue because of it, but the energy was palpable and made it all worth it.

At one point, a bearded man dressed in all black came on the screen. The theater erupted in cheering. I was confused. I couldn’t think of who the person was. How could this nondescript person be this many people’s favorite? So, I leaned back over to Jane.

Who is that?” I whispered.

She stared at me for a moment and then laughed. She got her brother’s attention. “Daryl! Daryl! Mom just asked who Captain America was!” He leaned over to stare at me incredulously before shaking his head and turning back to the movie.


As I’m sure practically everyone has heard, the ending was a shocker. Actually, multiple shockers. Shocker after shocker after shocker. I sat there kind of numb thinking, I can’t believe they are doing this to their fans. I mean, Marvel fans are so devoted!

People were exclaiming in dismay. I could hear people crying. My son – insight #1 – was laughing. He was looking around the theater with a certain amount of superiority on his face, laughing at everyone there. He’s jaded enough to know that the dead people weren’t going to stay dead.

As the credits rolled, a friend came down to sit next to me. We talked about the movie and the ending and watched the credits, anticipating, like everyone else, the end credit scene(s). Well, almost everyone else. I think 5-10 people got up and left at the end. Who does that? I mean, really. You came to Opening Night of a Marvel moving and you aren’t staying through the end? Are you that dense? Or were you that mad at the ending? It made no sense.

As we talked, we saw that the end of the credits were rolling toward the top. The excited chatter that had filled the theater as soon as the last scene ended died abruptly. You would have thought the audience was an orchestra and the conductor had just circled his arm to stop the music.

Everyone waited. Silently. The last words disappeared from the top of the screen. The screen was blank. The theater was deadly quiet. And then… more words appeared at the bottom and began to scroll up.


I chuckled. They really were messing with their fans. The friend and I began to theorize that they were actually going to stick it to everyone by going with no end credit scenes. In a Marvel movie. We were wrong – there was a scene, but that pregnant pause in the credits? I think that was my favorite part of the entire experience.

It was as we walked to the parking lot that I had insight #2 about my children. They were complaining – vociferously! – about the crowd.

“Why couldn’t they have been QUIET? Sheesh! I couldn’t even hear the characters talking!”

“I know! I kept missing stuff. OK. We get it. We don’t need you to clap when your favorite character comes on screen.” (I wondered if either noticed when I clapped enthusiastically for Black Panther).

“And that one girl? Did you hear her scream?!”

“Yeah. That was crazy. I mean, who even likes Ironman that much? Chill out – it’s just a movie!”

“Like remember when we went to Star Wars? And that text and the music started at the beginning? Everyone went wild. I just don’t get it. I wish they’d just shut up.”

“Um, guys,” I tried. “That’s the way opening night is. People get into it. That’s the whole reason for going. It’s an experience. It’s different than what you get any other night.”

“Well, I don’t like it.” The other one agreed.

“Then you need to not demand that we go on opening night – because that is always what you are going to get,” I said.

“No, I’m still going to go then. I just wish people would be quiet.”


Who knew my kids were such killjoys?

The Grossest Part of Deadpool 2

We double dated with our daughter and her boyfriend opening weekend for Deadpool 2. Since she was the only other member of our household we were willing to let see the movie, it seemed like a good time to see it.

First thing I noticed as we sat down was that there was a large party of people sitting in front of us. It looked like an extended family – many of whom were children. And I don’t mean just-about-to-enter-high-school young teenagers like Daryl (who is unhappy we won’t let him see it). I’m talking twelve or younger.

I shook my head but “what evs” – not my monkeys, not my circus – a mantra I’m trying more and more to adopt. But then the movie started and it was soon made my circus – and everyone else’s – in a funny way.

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that the movie started with a lot of blood and gore and guts and death and mayhem. If you didn’t see that coming, you probably weren’t planning to watch the movie anyway. Lots of people’s heads were sliced off, blood spewed everywhere. Typical Deadpool.

But then Deadpool returned home from his killing spree to put his domestic side on display. Think “honey, I’m home!” He and his girlfriend bantered back and forth, talked about big future plans. Big upswell of emotion for Wade Wilson (that’s Deadpool when he’s not all masked-up and violent) that led to them making out.

Now, if you don’t know much about Deadpool, Wade was hideously burned in the first movie. He’s really quite horrendous looking, which is why he covers his face completely when he goes out killing, or really, goes out just about anywhere. Only the undeterred love of his woman made him more at ease with his appearance.

And here he is in a beautiful display of love and affection with his lady. That’s when the monkey invaded my circus. In a little high-pitched voice that I would place at maybe 8 years old – tops, a little girl shrieked in disgust, “Ooooohh!”

The theater erupted in laughter, myself included. But it also made me a little sad. I mean, think about it. That little girl had just watched dozens of people killed in very violent and bloody ways. That didn’t disgust her. Didn’t upset her. Didn’t make her cry out in horror.

But two people kissing? That was simply a step too far. Parents, listen up. I’m not going to tell you how to run your circus, but I will pass on this suggestion. If your kid isn’t old enough to see two people kissing without reacting – loudly – then they really, really aren’t old enough to be watching a rated R movie.


{A big thank you to Jane for helping me with the title. I think she came up with a perfect one. All I did was add the -est to the second word.}

Cookie Salesman Extraordinaire

Hal wanted to buy a video game.

He didn’t have any money.

So, he hatched a plan.

Under his dad’s tutelage, he made a batch of “Real Cool Cookies” (no bake cookies with oats, chocolate, and peanut butter). Once they cooled, his sister showed him how he could put four on a piece of plastic wrap, pull up the wrap, and tie it with a blue ribbon.

His plan was to take the cookies to church and sell them. His initial thought for pricing was a bit high – sky high, actually. I suggested that four cookies for a dollar would be good, knowing that, more than likely, when his church family saw his initiative, they’d tell him to keep the change.

His sister insisted that no one was going to buy cookies from him if it was just for a video game. I said they would. “He’s a cute nine year old, after all.”

“He’s not that cute,” she said.

“Maybe not to you.”

The next morning, he headed to church with his little box of cookies and a post-it note stuck to the outside that said simply “$1”.

He sold a couple before the service but really hit his stride after. Sure enough, people were overpaying him for the cookies or giving him money but refusing cookies.

Jane stared in shock, shaking her head.

“Damn! Daryl and I were doing it wrong all that time,” she said. “We just waited and saved up our allowance. Who knew that you could make this much money just by making some cookies? Hey! I need to buy a car. Do you think I could sell cookies?”

“You aren’t a cute nine year old,” I said.

“I’ve got it. I’ll have Arabella sell the cookies.” Arabella is her boyfriend’s two year old niece. “I sell cookies. I save for toy,” she said in a little girl voice. “Of course, it’s like a $6,000 toy but…”

“I think you’d have a hard time convincing people that Arabella made the cookies,” I said.

Jane watched him stuffing money into his little Ziploc bag labeled “cookie money” and said, “Hey, there’s a two dollar Sissy tax. I helped you with those ribbons, you know. It’s my patented design for packaging baked goods.”

To her surprise, a few minutes later, he handed her a dollar and said it was for the Sissy tax. He might be a budding entrepreneur but he’s also about as gullible as they come.

Still, he sold out of cookies and had to start turning buyers away. He had managed to make $18 and his dad had pre-bought a dozen, leaving him with just enough money to buy his game. Mission accomplished.