Wednesday, March 30, 2022

April means renewal, doesn't it?


    That question doesn't get answered easily, given the fraught times we are in. Maybe the best we can do is hope for change. And meanwhile  hope to stay well enough to avoid total isolation on a run from something invisible.

    Still, a little walk can be uplifting in unexpected ways. Seeing unlikely signs of charm and humor posted occasionally on the front yards of private property. 'We Support Ukraine' sort of signs aren't exactly what I mean, since they read 'impersonal' without a name.  Today I unexpectedly came across the written verse of a lovely Louis Armstrong melody laboriously hand printed on a white board tacked up to a black stand near the sidewalk and was immediately cheered. I remembered the day in New York when I went with a friend to see the musician's home down an ordinary residential street in Queens, not far from a subway stop. This was before the site had become an education center, a well publicized homage to the great man who lived humbly among the gold spigots chosen for his bathroom. How simple and how real it was, and how strange so few people knew about it back then.

    Coming later from a visit to the nearest Safeway, I was still smiling. All the more reason at that moment because a policeman or security guard in the store had handed over to me quite spontaneously a single red balloon on a long red string. How can I fail to mention that I had gone to the section in the store in search of a single flower to go atop a wee pastry I had bought as a birthday present for a  young friend? Seeing no such lonesome bud, I laughed and asked if I could have a balloon - one of the bunch the man was holding, curiously enough. (My last trip to that same store I saw a much fancier balloon with a price tag of $17.95; astronomical I thought, until a local retailer who sells such notions said there was a helium storage....a statement I knew not how to refute. Possibly he was joking...)

    With that red balloon in hand, I walked home in a strong wind that made the thing twirl and whirl. A tiny brown dog coming towards me was cowed by the sight. It immediately went into a barking frenzy. And no wonder.  He/she doesn't often see a dancing balloon on a walk. A few blocks on I encountered an older couple emerging onto the sidewalk from their house. They smiled at the sight, incongruous enough, of a neighbor carrying a balloon in the middle of the day. 'The Red Balloon - the story,' the woman laughed, when I asked if perhaps she was having a birthday of her own. If so, I would have handed it over on the spot ...

    A recurring theme for the determinedly mobile is how often a person can be surprised on a street.

    A Metro ride and then short walk to a shoe store in Dupont Circle produced a timely encounter - though rare enough on its own. Two young men in bright yellow vests stood outside the store on a corner to waylay passersby and ask them to contribute to the International Rescue Committee - for Ukrainian refugees now pouring into Poland. The two were refugees themselves after a fashion. Each had come from Kabul a few years earlier to start new lives when they felt they could not advance at home. The one was a pilot in training most recently in Slovakia...

     Which reminds me to mention why I was in that particular Safeway that day. I had judged a quiet Thursday to be the perfect time for a second required shingles vaccine - the shringrix or whatever it is called to protect from insanely annoying and painful rashes caused by, of all things, leftover chicken virus in an older person's blood. I can't explain the science only the reaction I had was nothing like any vaccine I can remember ever. Easygoing at first, then slowly the swelling, redness, tenderness and soon the exhaustion. All a tiresome nuisance as I had big plans for Friday and I had to struggle to stay upright, intact. Soreness way beyond any memory. No way to predict such things, no way to deal with it except sleep and any artificial balm around. It took three days for normality = or what passes for that these days - to return.

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