My running path

Inner City Greens

Text and illustrations by Don Armstrong

I left New York City abruptly last year, fed up with the noise and concrete and 8.4 million neighbors. I wanted small, serene and green and considered towns from Gulfport, Mississippi, to Houston before settling on Alexandria, Louisiana (population 48,426), where I found a house with a porch swing in a section called the Garden District. But the clincher was City Park, a ribbon of grass and trees with a creek, or bayou, as they say here, weaving through its middle, encircled by a 1.2-mile walking/running path. For years I had run a mile and a quarter each day to get to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, a much bigger — and therefore better — running site in a neighborhood outside my pay grade.

City Park is three quarters of a mile from my door, with no boulevards to cross en route, unless you count the absurdly named City Park Boulevard — two lanes, no parking, almost no traffic. There’s also no illusion, once in the park, of leaving the city behind. You’re always within sight of the houses at its perimeter.

On the path, you pass a zoo and a small golf course and come within a few hundred yards of a 3,500-seat baseball stadium, Bringhurst Field. But none of that diminishes the almost smothering palette of deep greens and soft browns, the squirrels darting for safety and box turtles that slip under the water’s surface if you stop to gaze. When you first hear the croak of frogs that also populate the bayou’s murky depths, you’re apt to mistake it for something mechanical. It’s not. I suppose it’s just a sign of Mother Nature’s sly wit.

Illustrations hand-drawn using Photoshop CS5 version 12

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