There have been a couple of bombings in Austin, anonymous packages left on porches and one of them set off by a tripwire. No-one knows what is going on, but people have been killed and Austin is just down the road, relatively speaking. Now one of the bombs has gone off in a FedEx depot on the outskirts of San Antonio. Someone on facebook suggests that it seems like the sort of thing Atomwaffen Division have been known to get up to. I've never heard of them, so I have a look on Wikipedia and discover them to be a neo-Nazi organisation who, aside from anything else, somehow have a presence in San Antonio. I find this last detail particularly bewildering because I would have thought that, had I grown up preferring the company of white people to such an extent, San Antonio would be the last place I'd want to live; but then maybe my expectations of logic and consistency are outmoded, given events of the last year or so. Atomwaffen Division might have cells in Kenya or Bombay for all I know.
This is on my mind as I cycle to McAllister Park, as I do each morning. I imagine tripwires strung across the trail waiting to blow me to bits, but it's just one of those thoughts you have and about which you can do nothing. What will be, will be.
I cycle to McAllister Park every day, a round trip of twenty miles which keeps me fit, roughly speaking. Now that I work from home, my daily commute has become a separate oxbow of my time, its own phenomena divorced from the need to actually get anywhere in a geographical sense. About nineteen miles of the journey follow a greenway called the Tobin Trail through countryside and undeveloped land, away from the traffic. It's mostly cyclists, runners, people out walking their dogs and so on.
The point at which I turn around and come home is a covered pavilion at McAllister Park, near some bogs. I usually stop off and take five minutes rest while drinking my flask of iced tea. Usually I'm alone, but today there are others, women with small children. I listen to them as I drink my tea and realise that these are home schooling parents who have, for whatever reason, chosen not to send their kids to a regular school containing teachers. I am told that if you are able to demonstrate that you can teach your kids at home to a reasonable standard, then the American educational system is okay with that. It sounds dubious to me, and the term home school seems suggestive of parents who don't want their offspring learning about no darn evolution or any of that fruity stuff, but then what do I know? My wife's cousin Jenni was home schooled, and Jenni is wonderful, so either I have it completely wrong or there are exceptions.
I sit drinking my tea listening to the screech of free range children. I listen to their parents. They sound normal enough, although it turns out that two of the kids - brother and sister, both very young - are named Samson and Delilah. I don't know what to conclude from this realisation.
Cycling back, I pass a discarded plastic water bottle at the side of the road which runs through McAllister Park. I pass discarded plastic water bottles all the time, but every once in a while it annoys me enough to impede my progress. I get off and pick up the water bottle with the intention of popping it in the blue recycling bin which I will pass as I exit the park. I pick up the bottle and notice another about five feet away, then a plastic carrier bag swaying in the breeze, caught in the thorns of a bush. I might as well finish the job, I tell myself, as usual.
Litter annoys me, but this type of litter particularly annoys me because it's almost certainly runners or cyclists, the sort of self-absorbed wankers who habitually purchase bottled water. They're happy to improve themselves, but not the planet. That's asking too much, so they presumably just drain the bottle and off it goes into the grass to spend the next five hundred years half-lifing into the soil. I see them every day, self-important old codgers in bright green lycra on the weirdest, most expensive bikes money can buy. They don't believe anything is legitimate unless they've spunked away a ton of money on it, so you'll see them in their artisan cycling socks, glowing in the dark on streamlined Branestawm contraptions with an unorthodox quota of wheels and the seat mounted in the last place you would expect to find it.
Having been raised right, I can't even imagine what it must be like to drink a bottle of water then just lob the bottle into the hedge. I didn't even do it as a kid, and I wasn't even a particularly enlightened child. Were I running the show, littering would carry a mandatory ten-year jail sentence, but then a lot would be different were I running the show.
I'm now standing in the grass with two plastic bottles in a carrier bag pulled from a bush. I can see a flattened beer can about ten feet away. I sigh and pause the music on my Discman so as to be able to hear the warning rattle of any rattlesnake which may be in the area. Poor People's Day is a great album, but I don't want to die. I gather up the beer can, then another bottle, then notice a second plastic carrier bag down near the pipe which allows water to pass beneath the road in the event of flooding. There is something in the carrier bag. It seems to be a turd, specifically a human turd. I suppose someone was caught short, maybe a little kid, and so we end up with a shit in a bag tossed from a car window.
The toilets are situated about one hundred yards down the road.
Poo under other circumstances constitutes a fertiliser, but this one is in a fucking carrier bag.
Where do you even start?
What the fuck is wrong with people?
Thankfully the smell isn't that bad, and I've been able to pick the thing up without coming into contact with its precious cargo. I empty the first carrier bag, spilling plastic bottles and a beer can out on the road, put the bag of poo inside that, then tie it at the top. I manage to squash all of the bottles with the can into the other hand, get back on my bike, and ride off towards the bins.
As I arrive home, I hear from my wife.
'They've caught the bomb guy,' she tells me, then adding, 'he was home schooled. He blew himself up before they could catch him.'
His name was Mark Conditt. He was 23, white, and was described in the New York Times as follows:
Mr. Conditt grew up as the quiet, socially awkward oldest child of a devout Christian family that held Bible study groups in their white clapboard house, where an American flag hangs from the front porch.
Mark Conditt didn't approve of same-sex marriage, described himself as a conservative, and wished to see an end to the sex offenders register; and, as I said, he was home schooled; so this is, by pure coincidence, the second time today I have found myself thinking about home schooling.
I feel there's a pattern in all of this, but maybe it's just me.