Greetings From River Road Park


A slight wave of nausea overtakes me and I can feel myself frowning at the screen. I force my brow to unfurrow, take a deep cleansing breath and look out at the Black Warrior River. This ole river and I have a history, a long history– and I feel like the water that fills its banks is the same water that fills my cells. It’s Alabama water. And I feel like I am made of it as much as I am made of the Alabama clay. This river has stories. Some of those stories are secret.

It is a near perfect day. I would even say perfect. It’s a pleasant 75° with 25% humidity and a gentle breeze. I’m sitting on a smooth, black metal park bench underneath the shade of three trees I recognize but couldn’t name. That sort of thing has never been my forte. I believe the one right in front of me is a cypress tree. About halfway up, all the bark has fallen away and the skin of the tree looks like that of a manatee. Is that a cypress? I do believe the leaves on that one next to it are maple leaves and since oaks don’t produce maple leaves, well, you do the math. The one overhead I don’t know at all but if I had to name it, I’d call it a bayberry tree. I don’t even know if that’s a thing. The little round leaves look like leaves that would be on a tree called a bayberry tree if there were such a thing and I don’t know why I want to call it that since there doesn’t seem to be a berry on it of any sort. Oh wait, there they are. Little green spheres on the end of two-inch stems, they look like English peas with wigs on them. They look like something that might ripen into a berry and that berry could might be called a bayberry. Maybe the woodpeckers that tattooed the trunk could tell me, but they don’t seem to be around. What is a comma splice anyway?

I’m at River Road Park right next to the University of Alabama. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s part of the university campus now. It sure looks a lot better than when I was here as a student. I finally left “The Capstone” for good with my hard-won sheepskin clutched in my sweaty sober palms in 1997. I had attending my first class at Bama in 1986 and yes, I was leaving with only a Bachelors. Is that possesive? One would think one might learn that in thirteen years of trying to get one. (I went to a junior college for two years before transfering here.) Or perhaps one might learn how to spell possessive or transferring. I didn’t. And now there’s something called spell check– something we didn’t have during my first undergraduate. (I’m now dangerously close to obtaining a second, this one from the University of Utah. I’ll just have to transfer back two Spanish credits when and if I ever complete them and I’ll have a BA in English from “The U.” My GPA from Alabama was something like a 2.65. I have a 3.98 at Utah and that could be lifted to a 4.00 if I decided to send in the extra work to the two professors who gave me A-. I wouldn’t begin to know how to make that possessive.)

Two of the four hammock-ers have detached and rolled up their portable and suspendable beds and are leaving the park. The other two seem to have gone back to sleep after a brief break in their naps during which they played a little game of “handsies,” rocking their hammocks back in forth so much they almost clacked together like those 1970s glass balls on a string toys. Remember those? Kids these days would be so bored by those. Oh my God did I really just say, “kids these days?” That settles it; I’m officially middle a-a-a-a-ag… I can’t say it. All four hammock-ers are white and if they are wearing one thing that couldn’t be bought at REI I’ll kiss your ass. Why is their race important? It’s not I guess. Except it got me thinking, wondering, would the story be different if this were a different park and they were black– or this park and they were black– given there’s a sign right over there that says, “Please help U.A. protect our trees: No hammocks, slack-lines, etc.” Yep, I reckon River Road Park does belong to the University now. Who knows, it might have back then. A young man just breezed through on a sporty little golf cart. I could tell he worked at the park because of the authority with which he drove. “Uh-oh,” I thought. The hammock-ers are going to get it now! But he just waved and smiled at them as he passed. I was even more amazed by this when he got on past me and I could see the word “POLICE” written across his back. This ain’t Baltimore.

See y’all tomorrow.

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