Unorganized Field Notes from a Neighborhood Run

Location: Clearview Oaks Community, Kenneth City, Florida

Date(s): A collection of months across Spacetime

Overview of Activity: Staying with my mother while she recuperates from hernia surgery and going for runs on the weekends. Most runs take place in the late morning and early afternoon, the neighborhood sights and opportunities for rumination and reflection and wonder are at an all-time high for the spring season.

Initial Ideas/Assertions About Running: During my first creative residency (I spent three weeks at Ragdale in Lake Forest, IL, in 2017), I read Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I was just getting back into my running practice, taking run-walk-jogs through the nearby prairie and through the quaint, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it downtown. I took notes in the margins and highlighted passages that resonated with me.

When reflecting on training for a marathon, he writes: “But just as our consciousness is a maze, so too is our body. Everywhere you turn there is a darkness… Everywhere you find silent hints, everywhere a surprise is waiting for you.”

I always feel better after I run. I always feel better after I write. To borrow this description from Murakami, it’s always like “a tight knot inside me [is] gradually loosening, a knot I’d never even realized, until then, was there.”

Topics Pondered While Running Include but Are Not Limited To: Mortality, Rayleigh Scattering, Lung capacity variation as determined by semi-regular pre-roll use, Urban Colonialism, Property Taxes, Mortgages, Venus as Evening Star and Morning Star, Black Holes as Portals, Enceladus, Muscle Density in Forty-Year Olds, Memoir-in-Essays-in-Progress, Mass Shootings, Thoughts and Prayers, Chapters as Titles or Numbers or Both or Neither, Blackness, Event Horizons, Accretion Disks, Meatless Flatbread Toppings, Making Out with My Wife, Forever Homes, Dark Matter, Building Blocks of Life, Gentrification, Gravity, Stand Your Ground, Ownership, Space, Expansion, Survival, Safety, Sobriety, Running Shoes, Epsom Salt, Fear, Comfort, Borders, Imagination, Death, Relocation, Redevelopment, Rest.

Observations at Clearview Oaks (2023 FEB 17): The condo’s residents where my mother lives aren’t very diverse, but the people are generally nice. It’s a 55+ community where folks sit in their screened-in porches and/or take leisurely walks through the well-kept greenways, chatting with each other and smiling down at tiny, yipping dogs. My mother has a few people she’s friendly with who live near her unit. That’s always been my mother’s way, making friends, building community wherever she is. One of her neighbors, a ninety-two-year-old snowbird named Terri, who recently decided not to return to Maine this year, stops by to check on her. They talk about the weather. They talk about the price of eggs. They talk about the revolving proposals to (re)paint the handrails, hire security guards, and require parking decals to better identify strangers.

A New Theory on Black Holes (2023 FEB 22): Black holes may be the source of dark energy, the mysterious and powerful force that expands the universe.

Local History (2023 FEB 18): Kenneth City, a small neighborhood in North St. Pete that started as pastureland and filed papers in 1957 to be its own thing. Clearview Oaks, the condos my mother lives in, were built in 1959 as the first condominiums in the nation, though, other sources place that honor with a 1960 development in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2000, Kenneth City was 88% white.

Observations While Running in Kenneth City (2023 FEB 18): I ran through the winding streets of the neighborhood, trying my best to choose streets that had sidewalks. The streets were quiet and mostly empty, probably as much due to the time (early afternoon when kids were still in school, and parents were still at work) as to a devotion to streaming and scrolling screens.

You can tell a lot about a neighborhood, a lot about the people who make up that neighborhood, by looking at the houses.

There were variant American flags of the black, white, and blue stripe variety adorning doorways and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags on poles in front yards. When I came around one bend, near a reservoir that runs parallel to the 46th Avenue Trailway, I saw a van wrapped in red, white, and blue, Donald Trump’s smiling face and tiny hands giving a double thumbs-up rendered across the entire passenger side. The back of the van read “No More Bullshit” in red letters with Trump 2024 in blue and yellow just above the bumper.

It’s not that I felt entirely unsafe, but what is safety if it’s parsed and piecemeal? As I continued my run, trying my best to stay out of the road, a few men in trucks passed by, slowing down a bit and looking at me in my face. I nodded, tried to smile. Some of them nodded back. Most of them didn’t. I saw small SUVs driven by women with dogs and/or children as passengers. The drivers looked through me, their lips pressed into straight lines.

Words Commonly Used to Describe Black Holes: Monstrous, Violent, Hungry, Destructive, Lurking, Stalking, Tearing, Ripping, Devoid, Featureless

Running While Black (23 FEB 2020): Ahmaud Arbery went for a run in Satilla Shores, a South Georgia neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery, an enthusiastic and frequent jogger, was a high school athlete who played football. He graduated from Brunswick High School in 2012. During a run on February 23rd, he dipped off the paved road, the street sun-dappled and framed by moss-heavy trees, and stopped in a house that was under construction, probably to look around like many folks do when they see something interesting in development. In the house for mere minutes, when he returned to his running route. Two armed White men in a truck chased Arbery down and murdered him. Arbery was twenty-five.

Description of a Black Hole (10 APR 2019): The Black Hole in the center of the galaxy Messier 87 is beautiful. The Black Hole is over 6 billion times the mass of the Sun and over 55 million light years from Earth. With data from the Event Horizon Telescope launched in 2009, scientists were able to configure the first ever image of a Black Hole, a glowing, mysterious portrait of space’s most complex phenomena.

The image is stunning. A ring of light, the accretion disk brilliant variations of orange—tangerine, amber, and marigold—burning against the infinite black of space. The blur of color at the soft, curved edges, the blaze of hot energy at the event horizon, gravity of unfathomable power in the center of it all.

Incident Report (28 APR 2017): Encounter took place in Tamarac, Florida, a city in the Fort Lauderdale area that has an almost 50/50 ratio of Black and White residents, in the spring of 2017.

I had gone for a run in my friend’s neighborhood and was stopped by the police, the squad car creeping beside me and the officer rolling down his window to ask, “Hey, you live around here?” When I answered “No” while still jogging, he put on his lights and whooped his siren as he put the car in park. I stopped at the second whoop.

The cop rolled his window down. “What you doing around here?” he asked. “Visiting friends,” I answered. He asked me if I had identification. I told him that I didn’t, trying not to antagonize him by stating the obvious—my jogging pants were pocketless as was my tank top, damp with sweat and sticking to my back and belly. I had over-the-ear, Bluetooth headphones and my phone strapped around my bicep in a sports holder. He asked who I was visiting as if he knew everyone in the world by name. I told him. He narrowed his eyes and pressed his lips together before pulling them into a frown. He pushed a few buttons on the computer to the right of the steering wheel and then told me to “go ahead” without even looking at me.

I adjusted my headphones back onto my ears, took a deep breath, then turned on my heels before launching into a long, fast stride. The cop pulled ahead of me but didn’t turn off his lights until he got to the small intersection, about a half-mile ahead. I ran back to my friend’s as fast as I could, the squad car seeming to appear at the end of every block I reached.

Black Hole Running Through Space (6 APR 2023): In images from the Hubble Telescope, astronomists have found a bold, brilliant black hole, with a mass a billion times larger than the sun, running through space at unimaginable speeds. In its wake, there is a trail of newborn stars over 200,000 light-years long and twice the diameter of the Milky Way.

A Timeline:

  • (23 FEB 2020) – Gregory and Travis McMichael murder Ahmaud Arbery
  • (31 MAR 2020) – The Glynn County Police Department’s first report
  • (2 APR 2020) – District Attorney deems shooting justified
  • (5 MAY 2020) – Cell phone video showing murder goes viral
  • (7 MAY 2020) – The McMichaels are arrested
  • (24 NOV 2021) – After a complicated trial rife with recusals, lies, police camera footage, national coverage and outcries, #RunWithMaud and #IRunWithMaud trending on the socials, pledges to institute state hate crime laws in Georgia (there were none), and even an HBCU commencement speech by Barack Obama, where he said, “We see it when a Black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning,” Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery, was found guilty on all charges. His father, Gregory, was found guilty on eight counts related to the murder.
  • (22 FEB 2022) – The McMichaels and a third man, Willie Bryan, who filmed the murder and obstructed justice by lying to misrepresent the crime, were found guilty of federal hate crime charges.

Words I Use to Talk About Black Holes: Beautiful, Glowing, Mysterious, Complex, Stunning, Infinite, Bold, Brilliant, Unfathomably Powerful.

Outstanding Question(s):

  • Who gets to feel safe and why isn’t it me?
  • What if Black Holes are portals to other worlds?
  • What the fuck are you staring at?
  • Who decides which Black Hole theories are most plausible?
  • Who the fuck made you judge and jury?
  • What if Black Holes are passages to other time(s) and other space(s)?
  • Why did it take ten weeks for the men who murdered Arbery to be arrested?
  • When will you accept that I, too, am America, and why is it never?

Proposed Name Change: Black Holes = Black Portals or Black Passages.

Observations While Returning to Clearview Oaks: I wanted to get back to my mother’s place as soon as possible. I became hyperaware of how far I was from Clearview Oaks and checked my running app map to see the best and quickest way to get back.

When I found the best route to return to the avenue that led to my mother’s condo, I picked up my pace even though I was exhausted. I felt like I couldn’t stop. Like I shouldn’t stop. I rounded a corner and came up to the reservoir that told me I wasn’t far from Clearview Oaks. Something about the way the sunlight kissed the green of the bushes and trees made me stop. The twinkle of light in the tiny waves of water gave me pause.

I said a prayer for Ahmaud Arbery. I said a prayer for myself. I said a prayer for you.

I ran the rest of the way back to Clearview Oaks at full speed, a boost of energy I didn’t know I had propelling me forward into space, a trail of stars in my wake.

Rationale/Conclusions: Black Portals and Black Passages invite us to witness infinite, ever-expanding Blackness that can never be killed and can never die but can run away or run toward, not because of fear but because of prerogative: because an object in motion stays in motion but might pause to look at how beautiful the earth is or marvel at the ingenuity of humans when we make things or take deep breaths to expand our chests and say prayers for the freedom to move through space and time without always being stopped.

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