We’re just beginning week four in lockdownland in the Bay Area. The imminent Doctor Brix, one of the few rational voices on the Trump coronavirus team has strongly advised people to stay away from the grocery store and pharmacy over the next two weeks and I’ve taken it to heart.
I’m limiting trips from the house to no more than one per week (preferably 10 days if possible) but running is not included in my outing ban. There are ominous signals that even getting out for a run might be put on the out of bounds list. A recent article in Riverside County’s Desert Sun reports that county officials would prefer that individuals do not leave their homes, even for a jog around the block, but will not arrest people for doing so.
It’s a drive to get to my running courses. I avoid the convenient Refugio recreation path near the house, a paved track that snakes two miles along the course of tree lined Refugio Creek downhill to the city park. During these covid days the narrow path doesn’t allow for the now chic social distancing. When you pass someone on this path you’re almost shoulder to shoulder and there are areas where you can’t easily step off to the side.
I usually drive to the newer section of Hercules, park in front of the upscale Aventine Apartment building and then run through the neighborhood to the bayfront trail. The sidewalks and paths are wider here and it’s easier to step off to the side to let others pass safely.
My run takes me past the current signs of the times; closed or disrupted businesses, lives turned upside down, coping, cooperation and charity.
There’s a little Korean restaurant near where I park my car and start my run. It’s business as usual for them, the corona usual that is. The sign on the door says open for takeout only.
About ¼ mile along my route the little city park is open but playing basketball is banned. Predictably people ignored the signs forcing the city to take more drastic measures and remove the hoops.
About ¾ of a mile up the road is a little pocket sized pub, The Powder Keg, a name inspired by the black powder company that spawned the original company town. The Powder Keg is a typical local pub right down to its location on a neighborhood street corner. It attracts a boisterous crowd of regulars who gather to talk politics, sports or just engage in random bullshitting. It’s typical pub fare here;, burgers, fish and chips, wings and wash it down with beer, whiskey, or local wine. I’ve known Gigi, one of the owners for years since I was a regular at her sushi restaurant which she later sold in order to go into the pub business. I would occasionally run into Gigi at the park or one of the local businesses but It’s been some time now.
The Powder Keg has completely shuttered and has even eschewed takeout.
I stopped briefly during a run last week and peeked through one of the glass doors at the darkened dining room. The Powder Keg tells the story of what happened just a few weeks ago when everything that we knew to be orderly became unbalanced. The little pub was just getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day. As if time abruptly stood still the Guinness banners still hang from the wrought iron fence that surrounds the little patio. Just inside next to the bar a stack of paper shamrocks meant for decoration sits on a barstool, testament to the corned beef and cabbage, the shots of Jameson and the hoisted mugs of stout that never were. I wonder how Gigi and her staff are doing. I wonder if the Powder Keg will even open up again. I remember when the Bush recession pummeled some businesses that never recovered; never had enough left, never answered the bell when the economy finally turned around.
My run takes me along a short little strip of businesses on Railroad Avenue. Two salons are closed and the insurance agent is only taking appointments. The little Dynamite Pet Store has cut hours and is only taking a few customers at a time. A courier that caters to the local Filipino community is still in full flourish. The realtor at the end of the block looks open but is anybody really buying a house these days?
Further up on Railroad is another restaurant, Leila By the Bay, that sits on a hillside looking down on the street and San Pablo Bay beyond. On a normal day diners on the patio might see me chugging up the hill with Lexi leading out. These days Leila’s main course is a helping of kindness and charity. On the restaurant’s website is an offer for free lunch for Hercules kids and their families who are struggling during the current crisis.
Free Lunch for Hercules Kids at Leila
We have kids in Hercules that are on reduced and or free lunches
Since schools are canceled there will be a number of kids who do not get to eat as most of their meals come from school.
If you and your kids are hungry, please stop by Leila by the Bay. Do not be shy or embarrassed. Just come & let one of our servers know quietly you seen this post or heard about it.
We will make sure you get a meal. We serve the community and don’t exist without you all.
Mo and the entire staff at Leila By The Bay.
I went there shortly after it opened years ago and wasn’t bowled over and so I never went back. I’m bowled over now by their generosity and when this is all done I think I need to pay a return visit.
Along my runs I see official signs and incidental messages, even those in children’s sidewalk scrawls that tell the story of a world turned upside down.
For years now I’ve limited my runs to usually no more than three days a week, the other four days of exercise being workouts at the gym. Coronavirus has changed that. The gym is of course closed so running has become an everyday activity
I’ve often scoffed at the notion of running as some sort of mystical experience, a spiritual and mental cleansing agent. For me running has always been something that I do, another form of recreation like reading or writing or just shooting baskets in the backyard. There’s never been any ultimate reality or meditative magic about running. Yet over the past two months running has been the constant amid a constant and mostly distressing flux. I don’t know that I’ll become a convert to the religion of running but it’s a faith that makes more sense to me nowadays than the religion that’s begging god to stop what he apparently started.
Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister and a man who knew crisis first hand said, “Every little thing counts in a crisis.”
I guess that my little thing is running. It’s the thing that’s keeping me balanced. It’s what I knew for decades before I knew the word covid. It’s the little thing that carries me through, carries me daily past the signposts that tell of a hurting and more importantly a coping world and it’s the little thing that I know will always be. It’s my bridge from the what seems like a far side past and a farther side ahead.
The day is going to come when we get to the other side and the other side will no doubt be a changed place but I’m consoled with the knowledge that on the other side I will still be able to get up and feel the chill fresh air, see the dawn’s light shimmer on San Pablo Bay and enjoy the company of my dog while hearing little more than the footfalls of a morning run.