If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you’ve read about my park. Of course, it’s not my park at all, it’s Yorba Regional Park, part of Orange County’s Regional Park system. Muri and I both buy annual passes every year and it serves, on occasion, as our office, outdoor family room, picnic pavilion and spiritual enclave. If we’re in the mood to watch people go by, it can also be a kind of Theater of Life. Most of you are probably too young to remember Naked City, a police show that aired in the late fifties. During the introduction to Naked City, the narrator would say, There are eight million people in the Naked City and everyone has a story.
Well, there aren’t quite that many people in my park, but each of them has a story, too. Here are a few of them. Ever since I’ve been going to the park, the Lab Lady has been there. She drives her Labrador Retriever around in her SUV to find squirrels to bark at, even though her Lab seems less interested in them than she is. Although I have a hi-how-are-ya familiarity with many of the parks denizens, I leave her alone. She’s been known to growl at me when I come around a curve on my bike and the park consensus is that she’s a grouch. Another regular is Camper Guy, a man who appears to live in a small camper that shows up in the park first thing in the morning and stays until closing. Wiry slim and tan, he spends part of the day sleeping and the rest walking in the park. He’s friendly enough but is usually by himself. Lately, though, the Lab Lady and Camper Guy have been walking together … or just sitting together, talking.
Then, there’s the Banana Couple. They walk nearly every day and as they pass my favorite spot near the lake, they are always sharing a banana. He wears the same floppy camp hat and checked flannel shirt every day and she often wears a pale blue long raincoat that looks like something out of the old West. By the time they return from their walk, they are usually holding hands, which is nice because they are older than they appear from a distance. I know that because, like Muri and I, they deliver Meals on Wheels, so I’ve met them. I can’t remember their names though, so Banana Couple will have to do. There’s the Baby Brigade, ten or so hard-bodied Moms who jog by pushing their babies in strollers, stopping occasionally en masse to do exercises that would leave this old bod too sore to move. And there’s Lonely Guy, a man about my age who walks his little fluff-ball dog in search of anyone to talk to. His poor dog, Woofie, feels really used but like most dogs, he’s a good sport about it and occasionally gets to sniff the pooch of one of Lonely Guy’s victims.
Then there’s this other guy. He sits in his car writing in a notebook or, sometimes, at a picnic table painting. He takes pictures of ducks and geese and tree trunks that look like they have faces. When someone bothers the ducks or the geese, he may bark at them and even though he’s a cat-person, he’s been known to do the same to people being mean to their dogs. Sometimes he walks and sometimes he rides a bike but he’s always noticing things others don’t. Sometimes, a woman shows up in another car and sometimes, they walk together, holding hands. I wonder if his wife knows about her. And he likes to give people nicknames. What kind of a guy does things like that? He needs a nickname. Let’s call him Older Eyes.