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Jogging…part II

May 18, 2011

I am not sure why I decided to take up jogging, for in reality I have also lately had the strangest urge to take up smoking. I have never smoked, but it is as if I have started channeling my late father’s forty-five years of masticating for John Players. I suddenly don’t seem to care that I once watched thick black sludge being piped out of my father’s lungs in the last couple of days of his relatively short cancerous life.

I’m suddenly indifferent to all the hacking and sweating and choking I watched him go through every time he ever so slightly exerted himself. The urge to smoke is upon me – I have no reason, no experience – yet I crave it, as if I only stopped last week. Strange.  

I must be watching too many French movies and hanging out with too many young hipsters.

I end my jog at a patio bar on the Danforth and I sit with a lemonade and watch an old Greek fellow at the other end of the patio as he pulled on his pipe and drank his mug of beer. Maybe it’s because of him I want to smoke. He looks like a character straight out of a Kazantzakis novel. As if I am looking at Zorba, the Greek himself. (He really did look a lot like the man in this picture – only older.)

 The drifting aroma of his tobacco was sweet. Timeless. He seemed quite content with himself, lost in contemplation; with an old-man pose we all want to see in our grandfathers. He sits serene and content at the end of the day, watching the sun set in the western sky.

With sagely gentleness he looks out towards the DonValley and the setting sun with a solid pipe in his mouth. He is quiet and still and I wonder what it is that occupies his thoughts. I have an old neighbour who is also from Greece. She thinks she’s 86 years-old now, but she’s not entirely sure. She has a bad ache for the opiate Oxycontin, and you can always tell when she is in the midst of a hillbilly heroin binge (because she can get around relatively pain-free but is a muddled mess to talk to); but when her head is clear she talks of a village in the north of Greece, and goats, and wine, and cats. So I can’t help think that the old Greek man here on the patio – so out-of-place with his classic Greek hat and old heavy black sweater and pipe – thinks backward to a village, a time, a place, that no longer exists.   

I sit until the sky begins to darken and I turn and see a faint star emerging off in the east. I am surprised to see it for we have long sacrificed our stars to our fear of the dark. We cover ourselves with a night-time dome of yellow smudge to ward off the demons. Afraid, I suppose, to see how small we are in the infinity of it all; we stand under this dull yellow soup and loudly say our prayers. Afraid too of raccoons and skunks and valley foxes who come up at night to steal your cat away.  

My sweat begins to cool and I feel a slight chill coming on, and so I lift myself from my perch and make my way home. Feeling the sweet tightness in the back of my legs that comes from a decent spring run…

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