The People of the Park

Duncan Park … one of Jacksonville’s many scenic gems, just a block from my Jacksonville dwelling and a great place to people watch. It’s not the first time I’ve lived near a park. In fact, the Arenzville city park was in my back yard but the only way for me to view it was to stand in my bathroom and look out the window. You can only stare our of your bathroom window for so long without drawing attention to yourself as having some sort of medical problem. The Arenzville Park is also home to our baseball field so my customary view of the park was of the backside of the left fielder. You can only stare at some things for so long.

But Duncan Park is right on my runway when I leave the house. Actually, I can depart Sandusky in four different directions, but I tend to veer toward State Street, never tiring of the stately homes cushioning the town’s most beautiful avenue, and that always takes me by the little green space named after Illinois’ sixth governor. Duncan Park covers about half a city block on the west-ish side of town and it’s dissected a bit by a half-circle drive that give the houses on its southern border a sort of plantation feel. The park is just large enough to give the local dogs some real exercise but small enough that you can see the entire breadth of the thing in one viewing, and that’s where I’ve come to know the people. Actually, I don’t know their names but I’ve come to recognize them by their distinct characteristics. For example:

The Multi-Dogger. At first I thought he must be the town’s most avid dog owner since he always strolls the park with three or four dogs pulling at their leashes, then it dawned upon me that he was walking various and different dogs from day to day. Aha! A professional dog walker! I didn’t know Jacksonville had such things. If we have such high-class services in town then a Chick-fil-A can’t be far behind.

Then, there’s the Meandering Lovers. I mean, I guess they’re lovers. They’re young, they walk side by side, they never seem to look at each other, they hunch over like typical teenagers, and they never seem to speak to each other. Sounds like love to me. The couple never strays off the park’s sidewalks so I assume they may have a grass allergy.

The Hands on Hips Grandma. I really like this gal. When the weather’s decent she’s to be found standing command over the playground equipment, several grandchildren, and one small dog that seems confused. I’ve never spoken to her but she has that grandmother look and I suspect that she’s a former teacher as she stands there with an air of “Don’t mess with me,” that can only be acquired by spending many years on a elementary school playground. She seldom turns around, there being no need since she has eyes in the back of her head. Imagine an American Eagle with curly hair and sweatpants.

Mr. and Mrs. Fitness. You have to look quick to find these two because they treat the semicircle of Duncan Park as if it’s the Indianapolis Brickyard. The don’t run or jog, but their idea of walking could blow away much of the traffic on State Street. The often wear matching workout outfits and bear a striking resemblance to George and Jane Jetson.

Marlene Dietrich. Okay, she’s probably not the famous movie star recluse, but she looks like her in her dark glasses and large sun hat. Marlene only comes out in the summertime, but she’s worth a second glance as she strides around the Duncan greenery, seeming to survey her realm. She nods politely when the Jetsons wave at her.

The Kid in Black. I’m sure he owns more than one color of clothing, but I’ve never seen him in anything but his daily dark outfit, lurking around the swing set when no children are present. Sometimes he swings … alone. Ah, the mysteries of West Jacksonville!

The Perfect Ten. This couple is delightfully mismatched physically as she’s tall and thin and he’s shaped like a miniature sumo wrestler. They look like the number ten coming at you. I like these two. They always smile and wave and are never in hurry to get anywhere.

The Confused Stumbler. Yes, sometimes I walk the park myself.

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