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My new friend Peter … and what I signed on for …

Okay, my doctor may not have approved of Thursday’s long hike. At 2:25 it eclipsed the prior jaunt by 15 minutes although the mileage was likely shorter, perhaps 5.5 miles vs. six (although it sure as hell felt longer). On the exertion scale the five and one-half miles were far, far more grueling. (See below.)

It was due in part to this: If Pick Up Your Path kept records (which we don’t), one was shattered: the number of full bags used.

And whereas a new picker-upper lifted my spirits the other day, the new friend I met on this walk left me absolutely elated.

The route was one seldom trod; it takes me out of my direct ‘hood and is a circuitous walk with Carmel and Quail Hollow Roads at its furthest point.

It was a haul.

From the get-go there was litter and trash, and lots of it. Nothing particularly egregious, just the normal and sundry polystyrene and assorted plastic of every make and stripe along a road that is seldom cleaned up. Lots of soda and water bottles. Those non-compressible irritants are space eaters in bags so before I was one-third of my walk, bag #1 was nearly full.

In an oddly fortunate but not unexpected way, a plastic bag was found snagged to undergrowth and it was immediately pressed into service as bag #2.

At this point I noticed a guy as he walked toward me. When we were perhaps 15 feet from each other, he stooped over the curb to pick up a plastic liquor bottle and some other piece of something. When he got to me, he introduced himself (“My name is Peter”), and said “Here you go” – as he deposited the junk in bag #2.

From there we had a pleasant conversation; he congratulated me for picking up trash and in turn he endured my 10 second elevator speech about Pick Up Your Path. He said Carmel Road was a mess and that in his view, as a stalwart environmentalist, we are “killing our planet.” There were then largely unprintable words exchanged about dunderhead legislators in Raleigh and Washington, D.C.

As we wrapped things up, Peter stuck out his hand. He surprised me – and I balked. I told him he might not want to know what my right hand had touched – but he said he didn’t care. So we shook on our new friendship and each went our separate way.

Peter was right about the rest of Carmel Road. It was a disaster zone of junk.

Honestly, I bet I didn’t go 20 feet without something else dejectedly popping into view. A plastic sandwich bag. A chunk of car bumper. A remnant of a poly cup blasted into smithereens.  More plastic bags, more 5 Hour Energy bottles (I hate those), more soda bottles plus an uncountable number of drinking straws. There was more, and more, of everything. I thankfully took a left off Carmel and merged onto the sidewalk adjacent to Quail Hollow Road.

Bag #2 was nearing the end of its service life by the time I got to Quail Hollow and Gleneagles Roads (note to PGA Championship staff: that intersection, only a short stone’s throw from Quail Hollow Club, was an utter disgrace of littler and trash. I thought “how can a well-heeled neighborhood neglect how it looks before a world-class golf event?”)


I just didn’t have the energy to dump the contents of three bags on the driveway for a photo op. Besides, there were people walking their dog behind my place and I didn’t want them to think I was too weird.

Bag #3 came was discovered a short while later as it clung, twisted, to a twig. Its honeymoon as an empty bag was short lived. It began to fill up soon enough as I plodded along northbound Quail Hollow in front of the Harris YMCA.

There were roughly two miles to go and three bags – a new PUYP record for bags used – began to take a toll on my tiring body. I’m used to hefting one bag and maybe two, but the collective threesome began to bang into my left leg. My left shoulder began to ache, not from the 12 – 15 lbs. of aggregate weight but the effort to hold the bags away from my frame. It’s not often I look forward to the end of a stroll but this was different. I couldn’t wait to set this trio of trash down for good.

Still, there was a golden lining. There were now three bags worth of junk out of circulation and there was, honestly, satisfaction in knowing my neighborhood was a little more spiffy and clean.

Temporary aches aside, this is what I signed on for.

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.

1 Comment on My new friend Peter … and what I signed on for …

  1. elizabethbradford // April 28, 2017 at 12:14 pm // Reply

    good one. I loved “honeymoon as an empty bag”…

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