PROJECT AWESOME: Do you have a permit?

Guest Post by Carleigh Nichole

“Do you have a permit for that?” The man with the stiff bristle moustache resembling frayed edges of a broom interrogated our group, his accusing tone looking to land a chastising blow on the leader of our bizarre upbeat running brigade. Danny’s boundless bundle of frenetic and zany energy wasn’t nicked by the man’s cold tone of insinuated disgust. The man clutched his binoculars near the loops of his belt, holstering his fingers through the dangling string. Danny laughed, a little maniacally, blonde wig clinging to the sweat and dried zombie makeup on his cheeks, sprinkled with patches of sweat and streaked with lines that cut through the crackled paint. “I’ll call the police,” he continued, “I have their number.” Remembering a three digit number seemed somewhat of an achievement.

We had been up since 5 am, some of us, to gather on Primrose Hill in full Halloween fancy dress and pummel our legs for an hour until the exertion and shouted words of encouragement would end with comparisons of squat tallies and mutually shared eruptions of relieved laughter. I’d dressed as Hobbes, the imagineered feline of Bill Watterson’s, while my partner in crime slinked into Calvin’s skin, slicked and sticky hair working perfectly for his ensemble at the tail end of our workout. That morning, our adventuring, energetic, and committed group of runners (filmmakers, authors, engineers, accountants, students—all seekers of the “ex” in the “existential”) gathered for a rose colored sunrise and gawked at each other’s DIY Halloween efforts, patches of neon orange and flecks of face paint appearing in the dissolving grey glow of an early morning in London.

Our crew grunted out a grueling workout, encouraged by the frequent high fives and peals of bestial screams that cascaded their way down the hill and generated curious and bemused looks from personal trainers, solitary runners, and the dogs bounding around the park. Two dudes finishing the flat remains of lukewarm beers had taken refuge on this hill, trudging their way to the top in the dark and selecting the grains of the wooden bench as their bed, one with a spectacular view of London’s silhouette in the early morning fog. They were cautiously curious of us, a colorful group of young twenty-something’s and middle-aged entrepreneurs, buzzing around the park with photon bursts of energy and screeching out the chorus to “Thriller.” I tried to aid Danny in his friendly recruitment efforts, busting out some fancy footwork to jokingly engage them in an early morning dance off and put last night’s beer with this morning’s buzz to good use. They responded to our mirth with nervous laughter and genuine warmth, but as it turned out they were just visiting for the night and, wishing us well, and slowly meandered back towards the train station.

By the end of the hour, my lungs were stretching and heaving, pulling into their tiny rhizomic pockets gulps of crisp autumn air. (I am not a runner by habit, so these intensive workouts with seasoned marathoners and record holders pose a very real and very novel challenge for me.) Gathering together at top of Primose Hill after our workout, we chuckled and chatted as we peeled off layers of sweaty exercise gear, clipped into biking shoes, and rehydrated. “Coffee?” someone asked, voicing a question that has become as much a part of our bi-weekly ritual as the hugs and high fives for newly initiated attendees. “Fuck yeah,” I answered, enthusiastic fondness for a good Americano and fresh, crispy croissants only superseded by the chance to extend my morning’s encounter with the innovators, inventors, creators, and Good People in our running group.

“Do you have a permit for that?” the man asked, interrupting the bubbling flow of our conversation with his punctuated arrival in our circle. While bandying back and forth with Danny over bureaucratic loopholes and regulations concerning the use of public space, the rest of us had instantaneously and implicitly agreed that we would politely ignore this encounter, discrediting the disruption and avoiding an unwanted confrontation. The man, satisfied with having vocalized his disapproval, shuffled away, throwing us stern and surreptitious glances over his shoulder. As we made moves towards the coffee shop, Danny shouted, as much to us as to him: “Have great day. Remember to smile at everyone you meet!”