Fighting Poverty with Passion
It’s hard to believe it’s already December. As I see pictures and videos of my family and friends still in the Northeast, I’m always thankful of the mild climate in New Orleans. Although we had a few weeks of cold, the first weekend of December was back to being beautiful. As the sun shined down through clear skies, New Orleans’ residents basked in the newfound warmth. Temps in the mid-70s meant there were some changes in what we wore outside, with some wearing considerably less warm clothing than usual. I myself was struck with a desire to spend some time outside and went on a solo hike at the Woodlands Conservatory to clear my head and spend time communing with nature.
I apologize in advance for the high word count of this blog post. The paragraphs below are worth the extra few minutes. Continue reading if you dare.
Spending a few hours outside was an exciting prospect for me. I’d first gone to Woodlands for a service planting trees with last year’s Americohort. Since then I have heard good reviews of their hiking trails and decided to finally test the waters. There is a five and a half mile loop I scouted out online and decided that would be the perfect way to enjoy a mild afternoon outside. Along the hike were also some old World War II structures I was looking forward to checking out as well. Upon getting there I was surprised how scantily populated the parking lot was. There was only one other car there, and its occupants passed by me withing a few minutes of being on the trail. We exchanged greetings, talked about the weather and the bugs, and they said they were on their way to lunch. Wow, I thought to myself, I guess I have the whole place to myself.
Along my ramble I was accompanied by many critters; frogs, turtles, owls, and a few armadillos. The dry leaves on the forest floor amplified the sounds of small animals, falling leaves, slight breezes to make them sound much larger than they are. Along the way I also noticed animal tracks in the mud, mostly deer hooves and some paw prints my basic understanding of forest fauna did not cover. About two thirds of the way through the loop, after following the levee for a few miles, there is a cell phone tower a few hundred feet off the trail. At this point the trail makes a hard turn away from the levee and into the thick of the trees. As I rounded the turn I walked through a particularly leaf-covered part of the trail, which rustled more loudly than usual. Ahead and to my right I heard a commotion coming from a small clearing in the trees. A deer! I naively think. I whipped my head towards the sound of a spooked stationary animal taking flight, and was greeted by something else entirely.
What I saw would change my life forever. Galloping through the trees and down the trail ahead of me, was a naked old man.
I stopped dead in my tracks. My first instinct was to giggle, but within a moment’s time the reptilian part of my brain kicked in and I felt a jolt of adrenaline course through my body. I stood there speechless, heart beginning to pound as the mysterious nude geezer sprints away from me down the trail. My mind left the forest and I was transported back to the JCC locker room, as the saggy butts of old returned from my past, haunting me as this pale ghostly tuchus ran like the wind further into the bowels of the nature area. I only saw the naked man for at the most five seconds, but it felt like millennia. He didn’t look back at me, and for that I am thankful. My mind was too sluggish to call out to him. I didn’t know what to do. I scanned the area of the forest he’d emerged from, unsure of whether I would see more geriatrics in the buff. I saw no signs of any more people emerging from the woods, and was thankful that he’d run away from me.
As a young camper, I’d learned what to do if you’re approached by a bear but never the proper safety measures for being approached by a naked old man. After a few minutes of nervously laughing to myself, I figured I may as well continue down the path. Each frog croak became more sinister and the distant sound of little pawed feet scurrying over leaves in the distance sent shivers down my spine. My breath became more labored as my heart remained in my throat. Within a half mile of the scene of the crime, I came across the first of the WWII bunkers. I had convinced myself the man was lurking nearby, probably listening for my footsteps from inside a building waiting to jump out and attack me. The doors to each building opened in such a way that you could not look in until you’d past it. My blood ran cold as I stood on the path staring at the line of structures ahead of me. I could feel the crazed, beady eyes of the nude marauder boring a hole in the back of my head as I briskly made my way down the path, too scared to look back into the buildings for fear of once again encountering the disrobed rougarou.
I passed close to a half dozen bunkers, vigilantly scanning my environment yet ready to avert my eyes should I encounter the old man again. My heart skipped a beat. I saw a human-like figure approaching in the distance. I will not write the string of curses I muttered anticipating my coming tussle with the nude man. Alas, two young hikers approached. We exchanged greetings and we talked about the weather and the bugs. I need to warn them, I thought to myself. I must alert them to the chance of their impending doom!
They began to walk down the path towards the structures full of dangerous naked forest dwellers. My conscience got the better of me. I nervously asked if they had seen an older man pass them on the trail. No, they replied. They hadn’t seen anybody pass them. That means he must still be out there! Probably watching us right now, biding his time until the perfect time to strike. I explained my story to them, probably frothing at the mouth from post trauma, adrenaline fueled mania. They stared at me like I was the naked old man, not believing a word of what I’d said. I wished them safe travels and we parted ways.
My mind was occupied the remainder of my hike. I safely made it back to my car, paranoia causing my to keep my head on a swivel the entire way back. As I got into my car, a group of young cub scouts was arriving with their leader. I was too petrified to alert them to the dangers that lurk ahead. I hope they made out it in one piece.