Tarzan of the Valley


Sandow Birk, 2005. Orange Line rapid busway, Tampa Station. “

The remains of a mylar balloon fluttered in the landscaping along the bike path.

Won’t somebody think of the turtles?!” I thought, as I always do, whenever I see a discarded balloon. Ever since we went on a whale-watching trip and the guide explained how balloons end up in the water systems where they look like jellyfish to the turtles. Who eat them. And die. Terrible deaths.

Won’t somebody think of the turtles, indeed.

I was nearing the midpoint of my run: an intersection where the bike path runs alongside the Tarzana bus stop for the metro line. So, thinking of the turtles, I picked up the dead balloon and carried it across the busway to the trash bin.

The bus stops along this bus route are… characters. The Tarzana stop, for instance, is paved with a zebra-print design. Another stop includes the curiously, incomplete statement “To get to the other side” like a punchline without a joke.

A low retaining panel delineated the edge of the platform and a placard caught my eye. Small, and densely worded, I doubt I would have ever noticed it if I’d been hustling to catch a bus, so I cast an eye over it while I caught my breath. It detailed the history of “Tarzan of the Apes”, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs: a pencil sharpener salesman from Chicago who took up writing fiction because he thought he could do better than the stories he was reading in pulp magazines.

“Tarzan of the Apes” took off, of course, spawning other books and movies: making Burroughs enough money from the royalties to buy a fancypants ranch in Encino with enough extra land that it could be developed for housing. Which turned into a community. Which got a post office. Which dubbed itself “Tarzana”. The rest is history.

Oh yes, and if you’re bored while you wait for the bus at the Tarzana station you can read the full text of “Tarzan of the Apes” off the retaining wall where every page is replicated in proportional size.

The more you know…

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on June 25, 2020.

2 Responses to “Tarzan of the Valley”

  1. It’s been almost two months since you’ve posted anything, are you alright?

    • Hi! Yes I feel very guilty about that: every day I put it on my list to post something and every day it’s the one thing I don’t get to. I’m doing well, though, and I’ll make an effort to post soon!

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