Forcing my way in

Keep out
The entrances to the Van Cortlandt Park track were gated this morning. Either the groundskeepers were on vacation or the city has imposed a cutback in services. The paddleball courts were open and in use and I wished for the dozenth time that I had a partner so I could play. Just about any competitive game is more exciting than walking and jogging, but you do what’s available to you.

It looked as if the track was not going to be available. I walked north alongside the bleachers to see if I could find an entrance. Much to my surprise, I saw the usual crowd taking their morning constitutional on the track itself: The young, fit Asian girl who always asks me what time it is; the moderately plump Hispanic blonde who looks trimmer with each passing week; the stocky Albanian bullet of a lady who takes her walk in her housecoat; the dozen or so black and Hispanic joggers who go the extra mile to lose their love handles. I wanted to be on the inside track, you might say, with them.

As I peered about for an entrance, I encountered an older Irish lady. “Are you trying to get inside?” she asked me.

I said yes and complained that the entrances were gated.

“Walk up ahead,” she said. “You’ll see an entrance with a chain-lock. Just give it a bit of a shove and you’ll get in.”

The woman’s fortuitous appearance and her advice struck me as something from out of a dream. Would that I encountered such useful help in so many other situations in my life!

I looked past her to the other entrances. “They’re all locked,” I said.

Like a biblical angel, she encouraged me to go on ahead to find a way in.

I came upon the entrance gated shut with a loose chain. I pushed and the gate opened wide enough for me to scooch down and steal into the park.

By my sixth walking lap around the track — at eight in the morning it was too humid to jog — I was congratulating myself that I had sufficient practical sense to work around the city’s bureaucratic sloth, or whatever it was that kept the track inaccessible to a population with few enough athletic resources. Soon, though, my sky-is-falling nature kicked in: If some criminal wanted to get his jollies, he could stand by that one haphazardly chained entrance, herd the Sunday morning joggers onto the track, lock us all in and hold us hostage.

“You really know how to enjoy a hot summer’s day,” I told myself.

If you think I’m a tad on the paranoid side, explain why one of the joggers, a young black guy, was jogging with a handgun in his hand. I hoped it might have been a hook; on my way to the park, I drove past a young man with a prosthetic right arm. This is the Bronx after all and the borough sends its fair share of young men off to Iraq and Afghanistan. Nope. It was a handgun. The fact that the guy was jogging alongside a young Indian woman was somewhat reassuring, if inexplicable. She looked as if she could have been a computer scientist. Maybe she was his parole officer and they were taking the handgun out for a run?

What if that sweet Irish lady was the Grim Reaper?

Who can say why the morning was just one more unremarkable Sunday instead of a 750-word story in The New York Times metropolitan section: “The gates were locked at the Van Cortlandt Park track, but 25 Sunday morning joggers who forced their way onto the field could not know that they had run the last lap of their lives.”


Create a word cloud of my text




  1. Janet said

    Very fine and quite a story. I think you should send it to The Times in some form. Maybe it would make an acerbic addition to the overly-sweet Metropolitan Diary column.

  2. mirel said

    Agree with Janet – it was a great story. And I can relate. No matter what the situation, I come up with some paranoid thing to worry about (guns, bombs, you name it). I inherited this trait from my mother, who ruined our trip to the New York World’s Fair in 1964 by worrying that a fellow rider on the monorail had a bomb hidden in his crate of spinach (to this day we refer to this as the “spinach bomb”). But there’s one big difference between us — you wouldn’t have caught me dead sneaking into that locked park!

  3. Modestine said

    You’re selling yourself short, Mirel.
    I can’t find the YouTube video of you flying in, what was it, a four-seat prop plane over Belize? I’m sorry, you’d never get me to do something insane like that.
    Meanwhile, I did end up finding another example of your courage when I discovered this video:
    I don’t know why you had Prozac do all the talking, Ms. U of P Law Review Editor, but your presence in that New Jersey hearing room showed a lot more bravery than my scuttling into Van Cortlandt Park.

  4. Carol said

    In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling, what an appropriate post! Be careful, my brave friend.

  5. Edie said


    Thank heavens that you’re imaginative–and safe. By the way, it’s time to put the stories in a book and publish them. We, your friends, will start thinking about an appropriate title…

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