A couple months ago, we moved to an apartment overlooking Parc Merl, one of the most beautiful and popular parks in Luxembourg. We anticipated, and have relished the mind-, body- and soul-soothing peace and tranquility that comes with living near such a lovely setting.
What we’ve been pleasantly surprised by, however, is the entertaining diversion provided by the daily perambulations and faire du joggings of the park’s regular walkers, shufflers and runners.
Here’s a snippet of the type of conversation my wife and I find ourselves having on an almost daily basis, usually while looking out our kitchen window which faces out onto the park.
“Has Monsieur Moutarde been by?”
“Not yet; I saw Trekking-Pole Polly though. Keep-on-Chugging Charlie too.”
“Really? Sorry I missed them. Mr. Tiptoe-Through-the-Tulips-Which-Are-Really-Roses went by about an hour ago.”
“Hey look! …”
Monsieur Moutarde is the nickname we’ve bestowed upon an older gentleman who, on his evening constitutionals, invariably sports a mustard-colored pants-, gloves- and scarf ensemble. Similarly, Trekking-Pole Polly--whom we sometimes call Hiking-Stick Hannah--is a middle-aged woman, outfitted as if she were tackling the Himalayas, and whom we’ve never seen walking without her trekking poles.
Keep-on-Chugging Charlie is a somewhat hefty young gent, who chugs along steadily like a locomotive, seemingly undaunted by gravity’s hold. And Mr. Tiptoe-Through-the-Tulips-Which-Are-Really-Roses is a man of indeterminant age who runs on his tiptoes like he were sneaking up on someone, and who tends to take extra laps through the rose garden. (Admittedly, the name’s a stretch but it amuses us just the same.) Collectively, we refer to them as the Parc Merl All-Stars.
I want to note that we’re not at all making fun of these people. On the contrary. We admire and are inspired by their commitment to exercise and appreciation of the outdoors. We started naming them, I think, as a way for us to quickly create some familiarity in our new home. Seeing these folks every day--as well as other park All-Stars such as Lord Nelson and the Leaps and Bounder--established a sense of routine, which goes a long way toward instilling a feeling of homey permanence. A sense of, We live here now. This is our new life. And these are our interesting new neighbors, the Parc Merl All-Stars.
(Lord Nelson, by the way, is a distinguished-looking gentleman whose right arm used to be in a sling, and his sleeve pinned to the front of his jacket like the British naval hero. The Leaps and Bounder is a young, crazy-fast woman who takes such long, gazelle-like strides she fairly leaps her laps around the park.)
I’m a runner myself and over the years, I’ve done (and continue to do) my share of faire du joggings through Parc Merl. Thus, it seems only fair that I come up with a nickname for myself. It’s difficult to see yourself as others see you, but I gave it a shot. I set my camera on a tripod by the kitchen window, pointed it toward the park and videoed myself running back and forth.
I did not do this without some trepidation for I am well aware that my running style is not beautiful. Over the years, more than one person has stopped me while we were running to ask if everything was OK.
“Yes, why do you ask?” I respond.
“It’s just that you look like you’re …,” and then they abruptly stop, realizing they’ve made the mistake of asking a fat lady if she’s pregnant.
As expected, the video I shot offered ample opportunity for nicknaming. When I run, my hips are thrust forward as if I’m compensating for a pregnancy belly (speaking of being pregnant), and I look to be repeatedly stepping on something that hurts my feet. My shoulders are hitched up and back too, like I’m continually being struck on the back with ice-cold water balloons.
“Hey look, here comes Pregnant Dude Running Over Hot Coals!”
That’s something I could imagine us saying from our kitchen window if we saw me running.
“Hey look, here comes He Who Suffers the Slings and Arrows of Ice-Cold Water Balloons!”
“Hey look, here comes Preggers Pete, the Water Balloonatic’s Bullseye!”
The possibilities are endless, really.
Mike McQuaide is the author of the 2018 Publikumspräis-winning “An American in Luxembourg” (Editions Saint-Paul) and creator of the popular Facebook and Instagram pages of the same name.