Monday, April 18, 2011

Walking in Pipestone

I wrote this piece back in my college days.  It was written as the final paper for a single credit walking course.  We were supposed to write a research paper about why walking was beneficial.  Being that there were 44 students in the class and the professor was pretty much just out of high school, I decided that I would write something different.  Something that would wake her up in the middle of reading 44 boring explanations of why walking helps your heart rate increase for thirty lousy minutes.  What a nap!

I got an A.  Later, I received a card in the mail with a huge thank you for doing exactly what I expected to do - make her day.

I hope you enjoy it and get a real sense of the town of Pipestone, Minnesota.


Walking in Pipestone

Every morning, without fail, I wake up and get dressed. Ok. Maybe “wake up” is a bad depiction of what really happens. I really just crawl out of bed and listen with great envy at my wife’s heavy and even breathing. She sounds so comfortable. Under those covers was warmth. The makings of a twenty-five hundred dollar bed.

We used to sleep on a $349 mattress, purchased from a dealer with a trailer he pulled behind his rusty Chevrolet that belched blue smoke as he backed into our driveway. It took a year to get the exhaust smelling fabric to smell remotely like Febreze. Then, after that year was up, a good night’s sleep was spent rolling into the middle of the bed due to the collapsed spring system. Something about the cheapness of the bed seemed to naturally translate to the quality, as well. 

Not to mention Kristine’s – that’s my wife – back. Sleeping in a fly-by-night excuse for a bed will do that. So, much to the delight of the thumb twiddling expensive material air-bed salesman, we bought a good bed. Now, here I am, sitting on the edge of it, debating whether to complete the stand-up routine, or fall back into the bliss and enter the world of dreams again. 

Usually – and I say usually with either a grain of salt, or a slightly noticeable wink – I would unbend the knees and head for the shower. There is nothing like a warm forty-five minute shower that will increase your water bill. This fact alone keeps me jerking awake at least once a month. But, at this moment, who really gives a rip about a lousy water bill? I’ll deal with that when it comes. No matter that it seems to consistently increase with each proceeding month. I blame it on the kids taking extra baths every day. I’ve seen them! I really have!
I prepare myself for the shower which consists mostly of convincing myself that it is the right thing to do. Bed beckons with fingers stronger than stalactites hanging from Minnehaha Falls. I am just about ready to jump in the shower when a few additional cobwebs escape the confines of my left nebula and I realize that I have promised to walk, jog, or run every morning. Taking a shower and then doing the deed wouldn’t be very algorithmic. In fact, this process may have the effect of doubling my water bill due to the need to repeat the shower after the exercise routine.

So, walk I do. I put on weather appropriate clothes and leave the house. On any particular day, I inevitably wear the wrong clothes. Too much, too little, too hot, too cold, you name it, I wear it. I consider this horrible fact part of the misery of forced exercise. As long as it is a miserable thing to do, why be comfortable doing it? I know it’s good for me so I must suffer. For example, if my plan was to get all hot and sweaty while working out, comfort would be doing it in the buff. But, that is not acceptable in our society, not to mention my wife would kill me and the mayor I respect would have me run out of town. I think I would still respect her after she did that, as well. So, in my misery I go.

The same thing happens every morning. The Chinese man with the limp is in his driveway looking at his car. I race by, say hello, he says hello, bows halfway to the ground, I smile and wish I was that polite, and then forget the whole process happens as I look ahead to the next sights, sounds, and smells. Speaking of smells, my run would be much easier if it wasn’t for the grease dumpster outside of the Coborn’s store. Taking a breath of that causes me to cough violently, sending bloody phlegm to the pavement, splattering on the walls of historic Pipestone. I have left half the contents of my alveoli on that grocery wall at times sans the cilia. Life is great in a small town. 

I walk, jog or run past the ugliest recreation building a town person will ever see. It is so ugly it doesn’t even have the dignity of being capitalized. It has tile on the exterior that makes you think of a bathroom that your old great-grandmother used to bang on the door of, in which sat your grandfather, yelling that he was having trouble going, when you really knew that he was sitting there, getting a red derriere, reading the latest Lutheran Monthly, which probably exhorted the virtues of telling the truth.

The recreation building was seriously spruced up a year earlier with the addition of an extra patch of asphalt right in the middle of the lot. The city had sent their best alderman down to inspect the lot and he concluded that the lot was a bit potted. Once the determination had been made official at not one, but two city meetings, the funds were appropriated and the brother of the local sheriff brought in his skeleton crew and patched it up. This made the lot look like a true hospital chopper launch pad, greatly increasing the potential value of the property. I jog on, thinking that someday, just once, I may paint a big white ‘X’ on the patch. But then, I’d probably be caught – small town and all.

The next six or so blocks are dotted with homes that are decorated from the seventies. The type where you can tell what generation the owners are from. Their steps are covered in that green mini-golf course carpeting. Only, it’s so fake and shiny that it looks like you tied a bunch of produce twist ties together and called it a step. Also, during the Christmas season, the big lighted candles come out of storage. Decorations that you haven’t seen at Macy’s for decades appear in full force symmetrical fashion. Symmetry is a must. A house must look like you lost your color sight and ended up on the set of the perfect Leave it to Beaver episode. One blade of grass out of place and it’s a “Dear…can you tell Beaver to cut the lawn? That’d be nice dear.”
I turn onto the main thoroughfare through town. The one where the town deputy cruises at the exact same time in the morning. I end up waving to him just to score some points and not be written a ticket when he stops me once a week. It usually works. I buy him coffee at the local diner on occasion. If you thought Governor Blagojevich was a rotten liar, cheat, and a thief, you outta see a small town cop get drunk on coffee and doughnuts. It’s a sight to see. All town budgets could be balanced and school systems would run as smooth as a woman on Metamucil if only the glaze on a doughnut had not been invented. It is this substance of purity, this delectable melted sugar that starts the flavor at the tip of the officer’s tongue and ends up with a slightly bitter end, that brings down most petty officers of the streets. Keep a few Medicare Drug Plan replicas around and you’ll be ticket free for life. You’ll just hate yourself.

I shrug off the horrid thoughts and run past the house of the Amway Sales/Seventh Day Adventist Preacher’s house. The wife’s name is Aquarius but I just call her Horoscope for short. I look at the way they tore apart their house and then pieced it back together to make it a form of ancient American architectural art. It is one of the many – and arguably the best – bright spots on my walk. The legend goes that one day, the wife was washing her laundry in the cantilevered wash room and the room just fell away from the house. She counted her lucky stars as she had just backed up to fill the dryer which was not included in the fall-off. Neither was her Taurus in the drive. She also didn’t have cancer. Her good luck was…ok, enough of the horoscope jokes! She’s fine.

I arrive home, take a shower, and get on with my day.

1 comment:

  1. IC,

    That's another way to look at jogging. Maybe, there's some connection to going outside the box of organized religion and finding a way to express God in a new way.