Seward Street Slides

Wound up, stressed out. Grumpy.

A swirling, sludgy mess clogs my brain and plods with heavy, wheezing steps through my chest; a palpable metastasis.

*

I grab a flattened FedEx box out of my neighbor’s recycling bin and tuck it into my bag. On the train I look with slight giddiness at the bobbing, blank faces. They’re going to work, but not me!  Not yet at least.

Beyond the fluttering commuters, the perk and steam of coffee shops, and the black oil vapors seeping through the clang and clank of fresh roadwork, I climb the Castro hills flanked by houses shushed and still. The grade is steep, and my leaden-mood limbs heave with the effort.

I almost miss the park—a paper cut of concrete sliced into a hillside of modest Victorians. Like trenches idly etched by fingers in sand, twin concrete ribbons flow sinuously over the park slope. Box in hand, I scrabble up the side, slipping and flailing in my excitement. At the top, I plop onto my cardboard seat, grasp the green bar arching overhead, throw my body forward, and WHOOOSH!

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An unconscious whoop bursts out of my lungs, shattering the muddy film built up by days of nagging gloom. Also unglued from the mire, my stomach leaps thrillingly into my throat, trilling like jelly. Polished smooth like an ocean-tossed stone, the slick surface of the slide hurtles me forward at a velocity faster than my patch of cardboard. My butt skids along through the end of the chute, pulverizing the crinkled leaves collected at the bottom. My seat, scuffed and squashed, skitters down and bumps lightly against my back. Laughter escapes me like squawks from a leaky accordion as I sit at the edge of the slide, unable to move in my full-bodied mirth.

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I run up and fly back down. Whoosh!

Whoosh!

Whoosh!

After several flights I tuck my worn cardboard behind a bench, heading toward the train and on to work—limbs loose, brain clear.

*

The Seward Street Slides are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Stashes of cardboard from previous riders can often be found nearby, but bring some along just in case. Tip: shiny, wax-coated boxes (like my FedEx find) work particularly well. Too well perhaps…

The sign says that adults are to be accompanied by children, but when I inquired about this to a volunteer park gardener, she grinned and said “Oh, we have children of all ages on these slides—I wouldn’t worry about that.”

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