20201229 – balboa park

I went to the park alone and took notes about the abundance of interesting people I saw. I don’t know any of these people, but they contributed to the positive reflection of the day. The following remarks are merely assumptions.

When I get to the park, I walk to the rose garden across from the Old Globe and sit on the only bench that’s fully dried from the morning’s rain. I start reading Salinger’s short stories, but I get increasingly more distracted by the people walking by. Rather than fight the urge, I begin to pause my reading periodically to log what I see into the notes app on my phone.

A kid missing half an arm skates by. He, like me, is alone.

A group of middle-aged adults throw black cotton tablecloths over the clay trash cans. They are all dressed in business attire and masks cover their faces properly.

A girl with perfect box braids in a long black leather coat is taking a photo of her friend in front of a bush in the sunlight. 

Another girl in a leather blazer with her hair up in a claw clip carries a very full tote bag as she walks beside her friend.

A man holding a book about photography under his arm tries to focus his camera on the flowerbed nearby.

People walk through the courtyard in waves and I can’t decide whether I prefer the company or the solitude.

A girl wearing pointe shoes poses for a photo taken by a man with a yellow baseball cap strapped to his belt loop.

A little girl nervously approaches a fountain and sits gently on the edge, folding her hands on her knee. She pulls on her long brown hair as her mom tells her it’s okay to look at the water.

A young teen walks with their sister, father, and dog. The kid is wearing running shoes, basketball shorts, and a grey t-shirt accessorized with a grey knit infinity scarf, beret, and a folding lace fan.

A man walks with six foil balloons that all say “Happy Birthday” in various fonts. He takes a photo with his significant other as the child with them stands by to the side. It’s hard to tell who they’re celebrating.

The group of businesspeople has grown now, and they’re still standing in a circle talking.

A girl wearing a white ribbed sweater tucked into khaki trousers stoops down to take a photo of the fountain with a film camera. As she walks by, I notice her black converse. She runs her hand through her brown curly hair and I see her thick, gold hoop earrings. I made a note that she looks the way I want to look.

The businesspeople are taking professional photos together now. They laugh very loudly as they pose and organize themselves.

A family gathers around the surrounding benches to eat their sandwiches, and the air starts to smell of vinegar and olive oil.

Four people wearing inflatable unicorn costumes enter the park and I happen to leave my bench at the wrong time which results in me following them down the sidewalk. I switch to the other side as quickly as possible.

Two girls sit on a curb lacing up brand-new roller skates. The wheels are unscuffed.

San Diego winter is odd. Some people are wearing down jackets while others sunbathe in light linen dresses.

A man with a white beard plays the flute in an empty courtyard. I feel fortunate to have been there in that moment with him.

I wait outside the gift shop until there are only four other people inside. The woman at the door has soft features and blonde, shoulder-length hair pinned back in the front. She uses the talk-to-text feature on her phone to text her husband that the park is busier today. I know this not only because she sends the message as I stand nearby, but because she tells me about it immediately. We make small talk about the nice weather and she lets me into the store quickly. I buy a mug with dinosaur skeletons on it.

Two boys play music outside the park visitor’s center. One of them plays guitar and sings while the other sits behind a minimalized drum set. As I checked out at the gift shop, I recognized the Christian pop radio melody and winced at the missed notes and awkward tempo. I wonder what steps led them to play worship songs in the park today. I don’t ask. When I leave the gift shop, I notice that the boy singing has a headband resting around his neck that has “Gucci” knit across the front. 

I see the roller skate girls again. One of them slowly skates with her arms out by her sides. She holds hands with her other (skateless) friend to maintain her balance. 

A little girl with two puff ponytails tries to ride on her three-wheeled scooter. Her older sister scoots by quickly, and the woman with them tells her to slow down while she helps the little.

Two girls walk by and I notice that they’re wearing “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” badges. They talk to each other about the museums reopening.

I pass a girl wearing large, light wash jeans and a green jacket. Her long strapped bag sways beside her and we make eye contact. It’s a quiet comfort to know I’m not the only one walking here alone.

The large fountain by the Natural History Museum is back on, and people gather around to watch the water shoot up toward the sky. A golden retriever wades in the water before sloshing around in a soaked excitement.

I step on squished figs as I walk toward the Spanish village.

A family gathers around in a circle and I notice that they’re all holding pieces of paper with “scavenger hunt” printed across the top.

A man in a grid print jacket peeks past a construction fence to get a look at the biggest and oldest tree in the park.

On my way back to my car, I pass the music boys again as they start to play “No Woman, No Cry,” a surprising turn from their previous catalog.

A person on the organ pavilion stage in a rainbow striped shirt freestyles about his falling sign. He asks the incredibly small audience for a word and someone yells “tulip” from a bench in the back.

A couple taking photos at the amphitheater search in their backpack for a minute before pulling out a “Just engaged” banner.

In an effort to observe simple days more carefully, I’d like to continue this sort of note-taking more regularly. We’ll see if I can keep it up.

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