Every travel writer gets started in a different way right? I suppose I should start by going somewhat further afield than down the block, but when your funds are as limited as mine, I'm sure the Rick Steves of the world will forgive my narrow focus.
I ran today, which was a poor decision. For the last two days, my lungs have been burning and what feels like a ball of snot the size of a dogs testicle has been forming in the back of my throat. Today, though, the lizard part of my brain said "You know what will feel good? Putting on skin-tight clothes and straining the muscles you haven't used in a week outside in the cold." Easily led as I am, I listened and jogged down the back stairs to the street.
My neighborhood is pretty nice, as city hoods go. We have a church and an elementary school right across the street and then more churches every block from there out. I'm not kidding; churches stand like gargoyles a two minute walk in any direction. They forgo the bells as a call to prayer, I'm assuming because anyone wishing to worship will just walk until they run into the wall of a house of god. For my run, I usually head south to the main road and then run in the bike lane, moving against traffic and the very occasional biker (Portland, this is not).
I started my run around 4:30 so the traffic was reasonably heavy and the kids were all out of school. One interesting thing about living in a city is the way in which play is changed. I grew up in the country, where every family had a driveway with a garage and basketball hoop, perfectly paved. You'd practice your kick-flips and trick-shots, mom and dad having pulled the car into the garage first. Here, kids play in the street, moving when traffic comes their way, making the rules up as they go. Today, no one was playing, but a hoop was hanging over the curb, indicating that, despite the cold weather, someone had been outside recently. A nice sign in a world where it seems like every kid in suburbia spends more time plugged into a headset than out in the sun or snow.
On Kalamazoo street, I head uphill. It's mostly homes, with an occasional business, and further down, a few liquor stores, barber shops and a manpower incorporated. Here, though, I ran past an apartment complex and under a wire bridge, the chunks of a broken Halloween pumpkin still lingering in the bike-lane. As I pass the park across the street, a biker cuts into the lane, heading the same direction I am, no one knowing the rules of the bike-run-car trinity around here. He's pedaling languidly and glances over his shoulder at the crest of the hill. He gives me a nod when I pass, an indication that despite any differences we have, we all live in the same neighborhood and that's good enough for him. I pass him again later on the way home and get the same nod.
I turn around after a paint spill and at the corner where the drainwork, installed to catch big stuff before it gets into the sewer, has been torn out.
The big chemical company, the one my science-major friends all told each other to avoid applying to, is closing up for the night and I cut off a worker's truck as I run by. Every time I cross an intersection I get a little twinge, thinking that this could be the time that somebody doesn't look in the right direction. However, I just get a wave and then it's the final hill home. I always push this one, and this time of year there isn't anything to slip on, the nuts of the summer gone and we haven't had any snow to speak of in a week.
As I finish up, pushing past another church and the dog who's barking is getting increasingly frantic, rising to a droning whine at the end, I breathe better than I have in days. Of course now, typing this, I'm a burning, phlegm-lunged mess again, but there, running to that last driveway I use as a mile marker, I'll be fucked if you could tell something was wrong.