Posts Tagged ‘University City’

Aug 10 2012 003

We came across a row of mysterious doors in the park last Friday evening. There was no explanation for them, although signage is abundant everywhere else in the park— especially next to the creek, which the locals call a river. Stern warnings advised us repeatedly not to swim, fish, or dabble in the waterway, which is a possible conduit for sewage when the rains fall heavy.

If playing in the water is forbidden, maybe it would be all right to play with the doors. There is no posted warning not to, nor is there any explanation of what they are for. A child’s elaborate play village?  Representative of a pretend motel or apartment complex?  I decided the doors must be part of an art installation, perhaps in the process of being dismantled. I went online to see if I could find anything about it. I couldn’t.

What I found instead was artist Jeff Waldman, who installed tiny, unexplained portals around the San Francisco Bay Area. He sent out a call for artists to create little Alice-in-Wonderland fairy doors, and then he attached them randomly around town for people to discover and enjoy.

Jeff Waldman is all about joy.  Here’s how he describes another of his Happiness Projects, one that involved swings:

To start, we set out across San Francisco and installed swings. A lot of them. The first in a series of projects aimed at discovering the unexpected, lost and often ignored pleasures that make life so amazingly joyous.

The moment when you first surrender yourself—for many, the first time in decades—your stomach rises a bit, the wind catches your hair and at the apex of that first swing it’s instant smiles. Lying on your back, staring up the sky through a few lofty branches and for a second gravity is only teasing about pulling you down. Some giggled. Most laughed. No one walked away without a huge grin and sunnier disposition.People passed these on their way to work. Walking home. Running errands. Going through the motions of a mundane existence. Almost all of them stopped to see what we were doing. Some asked to try them. Others had to be offered an excuse to succumb to something so child-like. Every one of them learned an incredible lesson in giving yourself up to simplistic delights that every child knows so well and so many adults have dismissed and forgotten.

The man in the parting shot of the video let his young autistic son try out our second install of the day. You could see Dad eyeing the swing the whole time with a little jealousy. That itch in the back of his brain that hadn’t been scratched in forty years. We asked him if he would please get on it…that it would make our day. He didn’t require much goading. He wedged himself in and gave a little shake to get going. He didn’t have much luck so we offered to give him a push. He scoffed just a bit. Everyone old enough to have a mortgage thinks they’re above a push. But he relented. Surrendered to that basic urge to indulge in something joyous. The very second he took off there was a giggle. I swear to God, a giddy little scream escaped that man and his legs kicked out instinctively. His son laughed near the point of tears, probably not having seen his dad let go like that in quite some time. Instant and utter happiness.

We could all use more happiness. So get out there. Open a mysterious door. Swing. Let yourself be pushed, especially if you have a mortgage.

Enjoy the ride.

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House in U City, Memorial Day 2012

My feet hurt.

Still, I’m happy to have finished the 38th Annual University City Memorial Day 10K, and a sense of completion is pretty much all I have to be proud of. Let’s listen to how Ernesto told it, when he picked me up after the race:

I stopped and asked a guy with a computer if the race had ended. He said it had, and they were waiting for one last runner to make it in. I asked if that last runner could be my wife. He looked up your name, and said, ‘No, she has finished! She came in 21st in her age group.'”

“Out of 21?” I asked.


Last in my age group, and 433rd out of 447. As one little girl put it, when I was chugging along at a blistering 13:33 pace toward the back of the pack:  “Daddy, why do they call this a race?”

(Mind you, that was early on in the run, when there were still people around.)

It was all worth it, because the run benefited several worthy local causes, including the public library, the Green Center, and U City in Bloom.

In honor of Memorial Day, having run with perseverance the 10K race set before me, I would now like to share an excerpt from an article called “Ten Facts About Memorial Day” by David Holzel:

On May 30, 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant presided over the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery — which, until 1864, was Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s plantation.

Some 5,000 people attended on a spring day which, The New York Times reported, was “somewhat too warm for comfort.” The principal speaker was James A. Garfield, a Civil War general, Republican congressman from Ohio and future president.

“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion,” Garfield began, and then continued to utter them. 

Garfield’s speech went on for an hour and a half, slightly longer than the amount of time it took me to finish the Memorial Day 10K. 

It was somewhat too warm for comfort here, too.

Special greetings to retired Navy Commander Ruth F. in Jacksonville, FL, who is selling poppies this weekend for the VFW. 

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