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Aretha Franklin and all hell breaking loose…

Captain’s Log: 6:24 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014

I head out the door into the morning darkness with still-hot coffee and singing to myself the last tune I heard last night and one of the most beautiful tunes I’ve ever heard; Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) by the incomparable Aretha Franklin.

In my left pocket is a Harris Teeter bag. The first quarter mile is uneventful. There’s nothing to pick up.

Then all hell begins to break loose.

Another plastic bag is twisted on a branch; it now becomes my go-to litter container. A few feet away are three beer cans. I put them on the sidewalk and stomp each flat to save space. Into the bag they go. A guy is headed toward me walking his small dog. He sees me and heads across the street at a small trot to avoid our chance meeting. I’ve seen him before and he’s pulled this stunt every time.

This isn't today's haul. Still too dark for a photo but it will be cataloged in this space soon enough.

This isn’t today’s haul. Still too dark for a photo but it will be cataloged in this space soon enough.

About 50 yards up the street is the quiet intersection of Colony and Sharon View. There’s been another accident, and while city crews did a nice job of picking up most chunks of debris, I stop for a few moments to pick up remaining plastic shards they missed. Looks like the loser on this deal was a Lexus.

Dawn is still 30 minutes away as I make a left turn and head up Colony toward Fairview. The streetlights cast warm rays which highlight a couple of flattened plastic water bottles, manufacturer unknown. A couple of pages from the Charlotte Observer are also confiscated and wadded up, also to save space. My bag is now half full and weights about three pounds. I’ve plodded about half a mile.

“Though you don’t call any more, I sit and wait in vain…” sings the Queen of Soul in my head. It really is one hell of a song. My white man’s voice is a poor substitute for Aretha’s mastery.

By now I turn left to head West onto Fairview and the trash ahead is clear. Lots of it. Flat pieces of polystyrene, more beer cans (based on a small sample size of 7-8 cans, Coors Light appears the market share leader), plus paper from a variety of sources. Much of this has blown against the median that splits the six lanes of traffic. On the far side of the road are polystyrene cups. I zig zag here and there to retrieve items. It effectively adds another half mile to my usual three mile trek. There is a rare find; a royal blue Crown Royal bag that, for some odd reason, has a sterling silver tea spoon inside. I can put one of my fly reels in the bag. Nice. About halfway between Colony and Sharon, I’m forced to stow garbage in my original bag.

Once I reach Sharon and head South, things are a bit calmer. My coffee is now cold but at  least it’s some liquid so down it goes. In the center median is a plastic Aquafina bottle that sits upright. It’s full and unopened so into my pocket it goes. Aretha’s soulful voice keeps me calm, too, as I find yet another McDonald’s bag that would normally elicit expletives.

I take yet another left onto Sharon View, and now I’m on the home stretch. It’s a final 3/4 mile. I fully expect to find at least one Coors Light can, and my prediction is true. It’s a called shot nearly every weekend morning. Some kid must really love that stuff. About halfway home, I see my morning friend Tom Philips. It’s his name that is on trendy Philips Place. This morning he calls me a “good man,” and tells me he and his wife will move in a few weeks to Lake Norman; his land has been sold to developers. We shake hands and wish each other well. I will miss seeing Tom and talking sports for the few minutes we stop to chat.

The final left turn to complete the full circuit is uneventful. I trudge up the last 300 yards or so, a bag in each hand. I don’t know what my neighbors think, but none are up anyway. It’s 7:40 now, and time to nuke a cup of coffee.

Thanks, Aretha, for sticking with me.

About Dave Bradley (264 Articles)
I was a writer by trade so one would think letters would come easily for me. It is so now, but wasn't always that way. Indeed, the first letter was written the Monday after Ellen started her freshman year in college. For years I've wondered - with no good answers - why I swiveled my office chair toward my computer screen to fire up a word processing document for that first letter. I just don't know. I just did. Perhaps it was the angst of separation or wanting to say things that had gone unsaid at that moment when we parted ways in front of her college dormitory. What was a one-off became habitual. When her brother Reid enrolled in the same college, his name was added to the salutation line. They were kids then and are adults now. No matter. The letter writing habit remains so today. I live in Brevard, North Carolina. I'm well away from where they live and don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. That's why letters, at least to me, fill the void of distance. The pages give me something to say and the space to say it. There is no assurance they read the letters; indeed, I have never asked if they do so. With the pace of their busy lives who could blame them for letting a letter sit unopened? Over time, it has dawned on me that the letters are both communicative - and cathartic. By nature, letters are about the writer; the writer can only write about their situation. Perhaps that is as it should be. It's all about the here and now from one person's perspective.

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