Thursday, November 6, 2014

No Shortcuts

Sure, it's gray out there and the sky is intermittently spitting, but the air was warm enough that my first thought on stepping outside was to go to the river.

Heading east, I ran into a chef at the first corner and another at the second. I spotted an enormous tent set up in the back of Abner Clay Park and wondered about its purpose.

Heading south toward the river, I'd put my umbrella up whenever I began to feel rain on my face but it never lasted long and I'd take it down again. Walking past Penny Lane Pub, I smelled the stale odor of cigarettes and spilled beer, particularly unappetizing before 11:00 in the morning.

Once down on Brown's Island, I found myself completely alone, not another soul on the island. Now that was kind of cool.

Taking the path down toward the silvery river to the pipeline walkway, I was greeted by honking geese and rushing water. The last couple of times I've walked the pipeline, there's been a campsite set up to one side with a couple in sleeping bags but today there was no trace of them.

All good things must come to an end, I suppose.

Walking back through downtown, I was hardly the only one in shorts today, a change from the last few days when people were acting like jackets and hats were in order (they weren't).

But it was when I got to Fifth Street that I knew something was up. Starting from midway down the block between Broad and Marshall, a line snaked down to Marshall, turned the corner and went all the way to Third Street, made a U-turn and wound all the way back to Fifth. What the hell?

I tapped on the shoulder of a guy taking pictures of this mass of humanity to ask. "America's Got Talent auditions," he replied with a rueful smile.

You mean all these people have talent, I asked. "I didn't say that," he said emphatically. "But they all think they do." Or at least their parents did; there were so many children in line with their stage mothers at their side.

Walking on the north side of Marshall, I had to dodge and weave to get around the endless members of the VCU Peppas, brass and drums in hand, and perhaps on their way to join the line. Or maybe just to play for the wanna-be talent, who knows? I didn't stick around to find out.

I kept on walking away from the deluded masses, passing a little girl with too much make-up on (as in any for a child of 7 or 8) and her focused-looking mother who was pulling a polka dot suitcase on wheels.

The child was carrying her balled-up brightly colored jacket. "Didn't I tell you to fold that jacket properly?" he mother said in a voice that would chill your blood. The chastened child looked down at the sidewalk and attempted to please her mother as she walked.

It had been a beautiful gray morning for a walk to the river and "America's Got Talent" was a giant buzz kill of an ending to it. Everybody wants the shortcut to the dream.

Not me. I'm perfectly happy living it. Or my idea of it anyway.

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