What better day to take a leisurely noontime lap around the NIH
campus than Wednesday, June 1, which was not only the first day
of a month renowned for the new possibilities inherent in commencement
and marriage, but also the launch date of the We Can! initiative,
targeting childhood obesity?
When it comes to fitness, many NIH’ers practice what they
preach. The pathway that circumscribes the campus, just outside
the perimeter fence, features a host of lunch-hour regulars. All
have discovered the subtle joys of this loop, including its length — one
circuit is a nearly ideal way to spend the better part of 60 minutes.
From the sunniness of its exposed public stretches (along the lawn
in front of NLM, for example, or on the straightaways parallel
to Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Rd.) to the seclusion of its
leafy, backyard portions, the path is home to strollers and joggers,
daydreamers and drudgery-escapees (Desperate Workhusbands?), retirees
and dog-walkers. Many who take advantage of the walk seem to be
A counterclockwise journey undertaken in sunny warmth from the
Children’s Inn, over toward the new Safra Lodge, to the south
boundary, then back up through NLM shows a number of hopeful signs.
Over at Multi-level Parking Garage-9, workers settled into place
the last of the “double-tee” sections of pre-cast concrete
flooring; the prosaic structure will be remembered by some as the
site of a construction fatality last November, but that scar, too,
More enduring are the roses blooming in mad profusion along the
plain brick faces of Bldgs. 22 and 14G; this year, the blossom
density is astounding. One hopes the flowers in some way reflect
the vitality of campus science.
Back at parking lot 41, on a shady oasis of grass, some men have
begun an impromptu game of soccer, using orange parking cones as
goal markers. Would any of them recall that there used to be tennis
courts in that vicinity, or that their game occupies what used
to be a Farmer’s Market, back before 9/11? Or that, further
back in time, they would have been standing in the fairway of the
Town and Country Golf Club?
There is a new green jacket encompassing the southeast flank
of the Porter Neuroscience Bldg. — most likely a noise-abatement
measure taken in response to complaints from the neighbors. Either
that or the Porter Bldg. recently won the Masters.
The east side of campus is where you find most pedestrians, mainly
along Center Dr. You notice the camaraderie of the security staff,
the folks in white shirts and black pants, calling to one another
as shifts change. You hear them laugh and talk as they gather at
the Patient Gateway and realize that, absent customers or an emergency,
there is no human thing to do but to socialize, and to enjoy one
The same goes for the red-shirted housekeeping staff, moving in
knots along the sidewalk, speaking in a variety of island dialects.
You realize that being an outsider in their company would be as
much a liability as it would be within the confines of the Medical
Board Room in Bldg. 10. Different worlds, different memberships.
June 1 might have more significance if it didn’t appear
so close upon the heels of Memorial Day weekend, the return from
which seems a terrible injustice. Next time you feel put-upon by
the needs of the moment, think of the campus loop, of freelance
soccer, of restoration, of blossom, of weight loss, of commencement.
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