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Rabbit Run

When did jogging get so dangerous?

I count rabbits. That's not the name of the latest coming-of-age indie darling to stun the packed, B.O.-scented screening rooms at Cannes. It's just something I do.

For the most part, I've abandoned the OCD behavior that I exhibited as a child. I no longer name and catalogue inanimate objects, for example, and I no longer haveto make my bed every morning; I just choose to. But the obsessive counting of things is a habit that I have not been able to ditch. And as I jog around the perimeter of City Park each day, I count all the rabbits I see.

Here's how it works. When I set out from my apartment, I gauge the weather and estimate how many rabbits I'll see. If it's extremely hot, there won't be many. Same if it's extremely cold. But if there's a nice, cool sunset? Brother, you're going to see some rabbits. It's like science, but without all the learning.

Last Friday, after estimating that climatic conditions would yield six rabbits, I set off on my jog with the goal of seeing exactly that many. Typically, I count all my rabbits while running down 23rd Avenue. Portions of the zoo lie along that street, and many people who have rabbits they don't want anymore hurl them over the zoo's fence and hope for the best. This, combined with the fact that rabbits fuck a lot, yields a plethora of bunnies that live in the area. But they weren't out Friday. I was nearly to Josephine Street, the unofficial end of the rabbit zone, and I had only seen five. I badly wanted to see that sixth -- if I guess the perfect amount of rabbits, my OCD allows me to buy sugar cereal that week -- and I was carefully scanning the underbrush as I ran. Suddenly, a white blur shot over my shoulder, mere inches from my face, then crashed to the ground. It induced in me the same sensations that Japanese cartoons do in children, and I nearly seizured in shock, stopping dead in my tracks as my life flashed before my eyes.

There were more burritos than I remembered eating.

When I came to my senses, I looked around to see what had halted my progress. Lying on the ground in front of me was a golf ball. Gadzooks, I thought, that thing had been mere inches away from cracking me in the back of the skull! And that sucker had been moving -- it would have knocked me out cold! And what if I had been running in the other direction? That golf ball would have knocked my eyeball straight out the back of my head! It would have burst my mouth open like a piñata, catapulting carefully orthodontured teeth into the heavens. "My face, my beautiful, beautiful face!" I would have cried, in an incredible Nancy Kerrigan-like moment. "Why me?"

I looked over at the City Park Golf Course and saw three golfers nearly 150 yards away, waving cheerfully in that standard "li'l help?" fashion. So I picked up the ball and hurled it as far as I could into the zoo, much like an unwanted rabbit. Before you write angry letters about my cruelty to animals, allow me a brief anecdote. My mother, who has worked as a zoo volunteer for the past fifteen years, informs me that golf balls fly into the zoo all the time. Usually into Primate Panorama, and often the orangutan exhibit. The orangutans retrieve the golf balls and give them to the zookeepers, who reward them with treats. But that's not the end of it: Orangutans are so industrious that they sometimes chew the golf balls, breaking them into multiple pieces that they give the zookeepers one at a time. More pieces equals more treats. So by throwing that ball into the zoo, I was merely guaranteeing an orangutan a treat.

Jerk.

"There has never been anyone seriously hurt there," Tom Woodard, Denver's director of golf, assured me when I shared my experience. "To hit a ball left on the 23rd side, you have to hook it. Most slice the ball, so the majority of balls go the other direction, towards further into the course." But this doesn't hold for hacks or lefties, he explains, which is why I found myself nearly bludgeoned to death by the wayward Titleist of some Republican too obese for tennis.

Woodard went on to explain that vehicles do occasionally get nailed by golf balls, all over the city. The most famous incident was in the late '80s when a senior golfer -- that's over 62 -- shattered the windshield of a passing motorist, who then pulled over, chased down the elderly golfer and promptly beat the shit out of him. Now, that'll ruin a Grandparent's Day faster than a locked door at Furr's Cafeteria.

"As far as I know," Woodard said, "you were the first jogger almost hit."

This revelation did not excite me. Being the first pedestrian murdered by a golf ball is not an honor that I seek. Besides, during my moment of crisis, I had none of Woodard's assurances to comfort me. I just knew that something very, very bad had almost happened, and I didn't like it. I allowed my heart rate to return to normal and set off at a markedly increased pace. I had only seen five rabbits. And after guessing the number of rabbits incorrectly, if I don't make it home in eight minutes, I'm not allowed to speak for three and a half hours. And I have to shower twice.

 
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