Early morning runs
I once went running in Central Park at 4am in the morning. I’d been staring at the ceiling for a couple of hours already. 7hrs soul delay or jet-lag if you prefer the more technical terminology. I’m staying in Hell’s Kitchen. (I refuse to call it Clinton) It a personal nod to Daredevil, whose domiciles here… in a different reality, also a hardcore catholic I might add.*thinks* The only other one I can think of is Hellboy. Overtly catholic I mean. Oh… and Nightcrawler. And maybe Gambit.
People like to believe that NYC is the city that never sleeps. Well I call bullshit on that. I start off at Columbus circle which is a couple of blocks up. I start running in the direction of the ice rink, my idea is to run the loop and round the reservoir but I end up veering off into the mall, so not quite the outer edge…
I meet exactly one person on my entire run. A cyclist with a head lamp who greets me with cheerful ‘good morning’ near the Sheep Meadow on the way back down. (in of itself quite weird… maybe he was Canadian) I am tense and on edge the entire time. It’s seriously eerie being the only person around. This is New York after all. Thoughts about areas cordoned off in yellow tape in various procedural police shows plague my mind and the idea of being pulled into the shrubbery by unknown assailants and waking up in an ice bath in room with cracked plaster and lit by a single dim light bulb seem suddenly a realistic concern.
This Pratchett-ism made me think of that, because that morning there was definitely the perception that I was not the most terrifying thing in the forest. There must be a reason people aren’t jogging at 4am in Central park right? Maybe its just because they’re sleeping though.
It’s not unusual for me to go running at strange times. In Johannesburg I regularly used to start with a run at four am. And Jo’burg is infinitely more terrifying than New York. Not as terrifying as… Lagos, which is my number one go to metropolis NOT to go tromping around in. But still Jo’burg is up there in the top… eh… twenty at least.
Back when I was kookier I used to go running with a Derringer. (A Rohm chambered for .38 special… a weapon once referred to by one of my more tactically minded friends as a ‘complete piece of shit’) I like derringers because I used to fancy myself a rogue Ezra Standish (Magnificent seven) type with a derringer up my sleeve. Which yes, I know, is completely ridiculous. I’m less insane now. Marriage has mellowed me dramatically.
In any event my standard run takes straight up from my house round the water tower which is the highest point in my neighbourhood, and then back down past the police barracks and then home again.
The police barracks are a throwback to Apartheid when this was a major staging area for suppression and other crimes against humanity. Its quite a vast complex. Or rather it used to be. At the far end was the Commanders residence and a couple of tennis courts where me and my friends would ride our bikes to and sometimes go play. (which was totally fine because we were white)
I have this enduring memory of looking at the commanders residence, an abode set back from the barracks building for the highest ranking officer and his family. All the windows had these metal mesh screens over them which were in turn bolted into the wall. Being nine or ten years old I commented on how weird that was. (I didn’t know anything about Apartheid and the only other subtle notion I had that things were not entirely normal were the posters plastered in every mall and store about how to identify and deal with limpet mines). In any event it was explained to me that the mesh window screens were to stop grenades being thrown in or rifle-grenades being fired in from the street. Officers (and their families) were obviously high value targets.
In any event those Tennis courts are now abandoned, weed filled and unusable. Which is quite sad. The barracks themselves are also a bit run down and shabby, although still in use.
Zero dark thirty and I’m on my back down the hill from the water tower when this car pulls up behind me. It’s crawling along in a suspicious manner that does not inspire confidence in their intentions. I move to the side of the road but it makes not effort to pass me. Damn. I think to myself as it pulls up behind me. I slow down and reach into my hoodie pocket and pull back the hammer on my derringer. They pull up next to me and wind down the window. In the four thirty gloom I can make out two occupants.
They flick on the internal light. Its two police officers in dress uniform. I relax. ‘Hi’, I say tentatively. ‘Sorry, do you know the way to the police station they ask me’. ‘Oh sure’, (I un-cock the hammer on the derringer), ‘left at the stop street, then right and then left again, it’ll be on your left hand side.
They thank me and drive off.
I’m so helpful I muse to myself.