Hello, Hayward!

Chapter 37, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



Three strides past the statue, my eyes opened wide, and I saw the real Hayward Field for the very first time. It was then I realized my homemade vision was nothing but a fraud, my months of visualization a sham. Stepping onto the track sent electricity surging through my legs and curling up my spine. I was stunned. Even the voice in my head was speechless.

Either I was having a religious moment or a stroke. I wasn’t sure which. Try as I might, I couldn’t verbalize the majesty of the place. I still can’t. Best I can do – start with a vintage Grateful Dead concert when Jerry Garcia was still with us, sprinkle in the karmic vibrations from the Super Bowl, stir in a good helping of solemn reverence from your favorite church, mosque or synagogue, and top with the high from your first taste of sex.

In my inadequate parlance, ladies and gentlemen, that was Hayward Field.

Enchanted, I stopped to drink it in, but Hayward’s magic crashed over me like a tsunami. Sensing I was drowning, a helpful Trials volunteer wearing the standard, mallard-green shirt and khaki shorts stopped to help.

“I’m sorry, Sir, you will have to leave,” he said, breaking the spell. “The facility is closed for public workouts.”

For three minutes, I tried to convince him I was there to compete. At last, he pointed to the warm-up area outside the track. There, I found a pack of young hyenas posing as athletes in every hue of track uniform. They played merry-go-round on the baby track ringing the tennis courts. Behind us, the crowd crackled, stuffed in monstrous, boxy grandstands flanking the track. A proud video board stood on the north side, showing home movies of earlier events.

As I loosened my legs, I clung to Harry’s prescribed warm-up list. I closed my eyes and saw myself snatch the lead coming out of the last turn. My heartbeat chanted.

… Hayward … Hayward … Hayward …

Opening my eyes, I stood up and swayed, repeating my Tai Chi for the thousandth time. Another well-meaning volunteer stopped to tell me the Tai Chi class was on the other side of campus.

“You can still make it, Sir, if you hurry,” he said.

… you know, maybe you don’t belong here, “Sir” …

“I think I liked you better when you were speechless.”

In the middle of the warm-up area, I marveled at the spectacle. The air was the cleanest, the sky the bluest, the grass the greenest … OK, the air smelled a little smoky because of all the northern California wildfires burning in the last week, but I didn’t care. I let the track speak to me as I meditated, maybe an hour, maybe more.

“Hey, Princess, are you coming or not?”

No, that was not the track.

“I have been hollering for five minutes,” said my coach. “Why do you make everything so difficult?”

“What?” I said, teasing Harry.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

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