Tag Archives: Astoria Park

Walking in the wind

My wife and I went for a walk to the park this morning. Yesterday it was so nice out, when I left for work, I was only wearing a t-shirt and jeans. But this morning’s weather was noticeably different, I could feel it from inside the house, the window in the second bedroom was open just a crack, and it was significantly colder, way too cold for just a t-shirt. I grabbed a hoodie thinking that I’d be OK.


But I wasn’t OK. The wind was just way too powerful. Like I’m not even sure that a jacket would have helped much, because my face would have been equally assaulted by the wind. I think my dog was uncomfortable too. He’s kind of feral as it is, but these gusts, he just get squirming, fighting the leash, twisting his nose and his neck up and around, as if some sort of mysterious scent had been carried from far away, like he needed to follow a million phantom trails.

I always think about that, about my dog, about him running away. I don’t think he’d run away on purpose, but I could imagine him getting a whiff of some food or something from blocks away, and he’d be off, and that would be it. Would I ever see him again? I like to think that, yes, I’d find him, or he’d find his way back home, but it’s such a big city, and there are so many cars, and does he really know where we live? Like in relation to other buildings?

Whenever we go for a walk with the dog, we’re on the sidewalk, we’re going to pass other people. I get it, that not everybody loves dogs, but I don’t get how some people are so terrified of our pet. It’s like, we’ll be walking down the block, we see someone else walking in the opposite direction, and they’ll make a visible face of terror before crossing to the other side of the street. You really think my dog is going to bite you?

Of course it doesn’t exactly help that, every once in a while, the dog will be moved to jump toward a random person. He’s not violent at all, but he’s big, and stupid. It’s like when people come over the house, his first reaction is to jump all over whoever walks in the door. Yeah, I guess if you’re not used to it, or if you’re already somewhat nervous around dogs, this might not be the most welcome of gestures.

But yeah, today he was just totally unmanageable. He was pulling ahead, gnawing on his leash, barking at every dog that we passed on our way to the park. We always stop for coffee along the way, and usually we just tie him up outside to wait, but for whatever reason, he wouldn’t have it today. He just sat outside and howled, to the point where everybody inside the coffee shop was giving us that look, like what the hell is wrong with you? Go outside and take care of your dog.

We got to the park and it was even windier out in the open space. I spotted these plants in the middle of the grass and I told my wife, “Look, those are onions right there.” And it’s not like she wasn’t interested, but yeah, for whatever reason, I was very interested. “Onions?” I could tell she didn’t believe me. “Yeah, wild onions.”

And they were all just sprouted out of the ground. I made a plan, like I’d grab the whole bunch and just pull them right out of the dirt. But when I actually did it, when I put my hand around the sprouts and pulled, nothing came out, the green parts just all broke off. And yeah, they were definitely onions. I got that onion smell that hit me in the face all at once. Worse, it wasn’t a clean break, it was like all of those onion stems kind of got mushy and turned into a green onion paste that was now all over my hands.

“Gross,” my wife said, and yeah, I tried to play it off all cool, but it was pretty gross. I smelled like onions, and there was nowhere for me to wipe my hands off. It was kind of like earlier last fall, we were in the park and I saw these plants, it was definitely Swiss chard. “Look honey! Wild Swiss chard!” and I should have just left it alone, because as soon as I touched those green leaves, I noticed they were wet, and it hadn’t been raining out, and what if it was some dog or squirrel that had peed all over them? And I couldn’t wash my hands, I was so far away from home.

I don’t know why I can’t just admire the plants from afar. It’s not like I’m a forager or anything, I’m not going to take this stuff home and eat it. The next time I’m out and I see any sort of vegetables growing in the park, I just have to remember to keep my distance. It’s like, I get mad at my dog when he starts chewing on garbage, why is it OK for me to start pulling things out of the ground? I’m telling you, I washed my hands like five times since we’ve been back, and I can still smell it, onions, it’s like it’s in my nose, all the way up.

A winter walk through Astoria Park

I was taking my dog for a walk through the park last weekend. There was still a ton of snow on the ground, snow that’s become a fixture in my head of what I think of when I imagine the outside world. It hadn’t even snowed in like a week, but there was still so much. Even if it were warm out starting today, and I guarantee there’d still be piles of it everywhere, snow that’s fallen, partially melted, frozen, remelted, all resulting in these giant piles of weird sno-cone like slush.


I kind of got used to seeing the snow mostly confined to the huge piles alongside the sides of the streets. But here in the park it was everywhere. None of the paved paths had been cleared off, and so I kept dancing this way and that, hopping from clean piece of ground to the next, regretting my decision to wear sneakers instead of snow boots.

This winter has been a cold one, and even though I tell myself that I like being outside during the winter, that I enjoy the brisk temperature, I’ve definitely recoiled somewhat. There haven’t been as many outdoor runs as there were last year. And just looking out across Astoria Park, it was giving me the same feeling that I got as a little kid after returning home from a weeklong vacation, everything was familiar, but oddly out of place. It became obvious that feeling that I hadn’t been here in a while.

As I walked along one of the paths, I came across these two parents and their very small children. There was a stroller to the side, so clearly they hadn’t made the little kids walk all the way here. But they were all crouched down around a somewhat clean pile of snow. The little kids had plastic buckets and shovels and it was hard to really describe what they were doing. Is that how little kids play? They just kind of shovel stuff and dump it into buckets?

The whole scene struck as me as crazy, but in a cool way. Like I couldn’t even get myself outside much this winter. But these parents had two kids. That’s got to be a lot more difficult than just forcing yourself to leave the house. You’ve got to get their coats and their boots and make sure that they both go to the bathroom before they leave. And this one kid, the younger one, he definitely had to have been in diapers. What if he decided to pee? Would you have to change him right there in the freezing cold? Or would the diaper freeze against his skin?

And then I’m picturing myself, if I had kids, I’d be standing and watching them just playing with the granular snow. Would I be bored? I mean, I never just go outside and play in the snow. And while there’s that idea that it would be nice to get in touch with my inner child, to go out there and get dirty and make snow castles or whatever, I can’t really see it happening. I’d much rather stay inside on the Internet. But maybe if you have your own kids you like watching them enjoy it, I don’t know.

But then I saw the daughter, she had her bucket overflowing with snow, she threw down the shovel and she grabbed the bucket with both hands. She opened her mouth and slowly brought the bucket up. The mom stopped it from happening, she put her hands on top of the bucket and said, “No. Don’t lick it. OK. No. Don’t.” And the girl put the bucket down and her mom backed off. And then two seconds later that little girl was back at it, she brought it up faster this time, hoping to avoid her mom from stopping her. But no, adults are always faster than little kids, and so I heard that voice as we walked past the family outing now receding in view, “No, honey, don’t eat the snow. OK. We don’t eat the snow. Honey. Baby. OK? No.”

I’m just left with the sounds and images of this world totally foreign to me. What if I have kids and I’m not paying attention and they eat something gross off of the floor? I’ll take them to the hospital after days of violent illness, the doctor will be like, “Did junior here eat anything funny?” And I’ll be like, “Uh … I don’t know.” And the doctor will be like, “Well, it looks like a fair amount of dirt has been ingested. I’ll treat the child while you have a conversation with the social worker about negligence.”

How did we get this far as a species? Why do little kids want to put stuff in their mouths? When is all of this snow going to melt?