Lake Merritt has this pristine quality to it, despite being under a multi-decadal siege by industrial civilization. It is, in fact not a lake; it’s an estuary, as all the birds in the bird sanctuary can attest.
Running around the “Lake” gets you brownie points in contemporary Oakland: the activity draws an intensely eclectic crowd, both ethnically and socioeconomically, from all corners of the Town. There are the Peacocks – the gay and bisexual men for whom running around the lake is akin to going out to the Castro, and therefore merits dressing up with almost Drag Queen-esque flair. There are also your Average Joes, the Obviously Wealthy Individuals, the Characters, the Shameless Male Soliciters of Female’s Numbers, the Downlow Men trying to pick up other men, and the Bro Athletes, among other archetypes.
Today’s story, however, involves neither a Peacock nor a Brothlete. It involves a middle-aged white man in what you might have mistaken to be a one-piece spandex bodysuit meant for running.
It all began when I noticed this chump skipping – as opposed to running – past me on the right. I wouldn’t have given him a second glance, or thought, except “That is definitely kind of a strange way to exercise” were it not for what happened next. Skippity Chump suddenly found himself verbally assaulted by a big burly dog who was chilling in the back of some dude’s truck. S. Chump then proceeded to get considerably upset and afraid, almost colliding with the other passers-by. He reeled at this malicious attack on his serene skipping workout session, crying out at the dog’s owner through the vehicle’s door: “You again!” S. Chump stood briefly, confrontational and miffed, facing the truck. As he gaily jaunted off, the owner showed himself: a mighty fine looking black man who fortunately took Skippity Bro’s disproportionate disconcertedness in stride and restrained his pet with no visible signs of distress.
Someone walking the other way then quipped, “Did that runner just get scared by that dog?” to which the person’s walker mate replied: “Yes.”
I then thought to myself: that man, that chump, was NOT running, passers-by. Oh no. He was skipping. Herein lies the crux of the problem. If you skip in Oakland, you’re gonna get fucked with, be it by a dog, a man, or a gaggle of grass-grubbin’ geese.
Who did he think he was, skipping around the lake? You just don’t do that, man. You should know better. Next time you pass homeboy’s truck and attached dog ornament, please do not skip. Run, walk, do lunges, don’t speed walk, and don’t skip. If you do skip, you’re going to get fucked up even worse. Just saying…