Walking Cross-Town. With Smoke.


The bi-fold doors open.

We spill out of the train into the underground tunnel at Grand Central. It’s Monday morning.

I’m walking briskly in a free lane. Not exactly free. Under foot is a yellow warning strip, with hundreds of half-moons of steel affixed to the two-foot corrugated shoulder on a highway warning of trouble. My eyes bob ahead and down, wary, looking to avoid toppling down eight feet onto the empty tracks. Livin‘ la Vida Loca.

I bear down on a commuter who is ambling along. Buddy, move left. I’m on his heals. Compressed air is released from the lungs, the Jake brake is pulled, the exhaust valves fly open, the big rig vibrates, rattles and slows.

He has thick soles, black lace-up orthopedic shoes. He is limping badly. Vet? Amputee? Back injury? I cannot pass him on my left, commuters are thick.

And then it comes. A memory, smoke grasped… [Read more…]

There is nothing, and there is not one bloody thing.


In September, 2007, Mary-Louise Parker adopted a child from an orphanage in Ethiopia.  The child’s Uncle walked a distance that Parker stated she would complain if she had to travel to in a car. The journey was made with his children, three of which were under 10. The baby was carried on his hip. This excerpt is from a letter written by Parker (“Dear Uncle“) as a tribute to him.  In their first meeting, he said: “I hope that she will be taken care of, go to school and perhaps one day be something, a doctor.”

There are so many reductive adjectives used to describe those materially less fortunate, words the privileged use to anoint them. Words like proud, or graceful…It never rings true. Having seen what I saw when you brought me to the hut where my daughter was born, and introduced me to the people in your village, I felt like I was hovering over every judgment of my reality and yours, unable to land. None of the families I met were intact, everyone had lost children, parents, or a spouse. There was not enough of anything for anyone. The only bounty was in categories of suffering or possible ways to die. I didn’t feel them looking at me with distance, they all smiled and shook my hand.

I hid my embarrassment at how stupid I felt when I entered your hut and was alarmed by the darkness that swallowed me despite it being late morning. Of course I knew there was no electricity, no light would be there except for what might creep in through that ceiling of straw. I knew it, but I couldn’t fathom it until I stood inside with you and stared at an actual nothingness and my eyes adjusted to near black. There is nothing, and there is not one bloody thing. As you pointed at different parts of the hut that were designated for the cows to sleep, or the spot where your family of twelve eats when there is food, or where you slept, I saw spots with absolutely nothing in them. There was an absence of comment on your situation that made you seem twenty feet tall. It’s something I could never know if I hadn’t stood there, with you showing me what life is like on another planet where there is no complaining, or showing disappointment. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. The Return.


5:30 am.
A brisk walk to catch the 5:40 train to Grand Central.
28º F. Cold. Can’t touch me.
Running on a four hours sleep. Can’t feel it.
Dark. Spring forward. Fall back. Fall back into darkness, on both ends of the work day.
But today, light beams.
Thanksgiving week.
A scheduled vacation week. And here you are, Day 2 of vacation and off to work again.
And, looking forward to the day.

I find an open two-seater in the Quiet Car.
I lean my head against the window, close my eyes, and replay last night. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With the Blues.


I run out the door at 5:30 a.m. to catch the 5:40 Express to Grand Central.
55° F. Breezy. A spring day in November.
Hit me Big Man, hit me with more of this.

There, out of the corner of my right eye, it slithers. A brown snake.  A full cup of spilled coffee tipped by the jarring of steel on rough track.  It’s three feet away and closing in.  Roots of the tree spread.

I point.  He catches my eye. He shifts to the empty seat on his left as the snake veers to his right.  He tips his hat, grateful.

We both watch the flow, creeping. Two men.  A suit on one side with his Tumi bag, Shinola Watch and e-Reader in hand.  A construction worker on the other side, with his well-worn blue jeans, a green florescent vest, steel toe boots, leather supple and well oiled. A lunch bag is tucked on top of his backpack.

He turns to his NY Post.

I turn to my e-Reader.

And my morning reader starts to pop.

Michael Wade: “I would be impressed by a college that gives credits for blue collar labor.”

NY TimesHalf of New Yorkers Say They Are Barely or Not Getting By, Poll Shows

Steve Layman: You probably don’t deserve what you have. So keep moving and earn it” via Austin Kleon.

The train pulls into Grand Central. And we pour out. I approach the main terminal.

“Awwww Puppy.”  I see an older dog ahead at the entrance.  A golden lab mix on a leash wearing a blue vest.  You look like a “Sadie.” [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Vive la France.



2:45 am.

How quiet it is.
Too soon to wake.
Too late to stop the mind.
A hamster on the wheel, spinning.

Duras: “How quiet it is,” […] “Who’d believe our nights are such an ordeal?”

3:30 am.

In the Quiet Zone.
Ascending to de Botton’s higher consciousness. Or somewhere.

Alain de Botton: “Perhaps late at night or early in the morning (when there are no threats or demands on us), when our bodies and passions are comfortable and quiescent, we have the privilege of being able to access the higher mind …We loosen our hold on our own egos and ascend to a less biased and more universal perspective, casting off a little of the customary anxious self-justification and brittle pride.”

I do feel that ascension. Now if I could only park here.

6:51 a.m.

Father and his daughter walk to train station.  It’s 45° F.  “It’s cold Dad.” I look down at her bare red legs pockmarked with goose bumps: “Why aren’t you wearing nylons?” She snaps back at me: “Really Dad? Nylons. Nobody wears Nylons anymore? That’s creepy.

So, now I’m on the wrong side of 50 and creepy.  OK, so it wasn’t a focus area. And, it’s not that I haven’t looked at women’s legs. And there you are, a flat stone skipping silently across the water, jumping decades of fashion revolution. [Read more…]

A Slow Walk. Back.



All systems go.
Light gushes in and warms.

The day was crisp and bright, the atmosphere quivering with life.”


Morning shower – a slow bend to soap.
A twinge in the lower left back.
A punch in the stomach. A kick in the…
Hands stretch to reach for the wall.
Cannot straighten. Will not straighten.

“Ash, bits of bone, a handful of sand”


Shifting and shifting and shifting on train seat.
I stand and let the up escalator work – can’t take the jarring from the stairs.
I ease up and down from curbs as I cross-town.
I shift my briefcase from left to right to left hand to transfer weight.
A slow walk, yet breathless. Sweat beads on my forehead.
A low throbbing migraine. Knee bone connected to…
Rain falls, a light mist, cooling.

“We are wooed, then mocked, plagued like Amfortas, King of the Grail Knights, by a wound refusing to heal.” [Read more…]




Take a moment


Source: Alan ShapiroPaying Respects to our fallen heroes on Veteran’s Day (via milsotherapy)

Riding Metro North. It’s that time…


6:38 am. 36° F.
November 9th. First day of overcoat weather.

I snag one of the last seats on the aisle.
Iron Man is full, standing room only.
And it’s Iron Man, not Iron Woman, or Iron Person.
Nothing graceful about a single, 145,000 pound train car.
No curves. No nuance.
A muscle car. A Beast.
Clacking steel on steel.
The wind gust from a passing train slams the air pocket in the bi-folding doors.

It’s Monday morning. Silence.
Commuter Code: No Exceptions. All cars are quiet cars. No Talking. NO TALKING.
Newspapers? None in sight.
Trees saved.  Whispers of flicking fingers on digital. The new order.

I’m a Dyson DC65 Animal Upright Vacuum Cleaner, sucking up and digesting two morning papers, unread blog posts, two chapters of Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking and onto morning meeting preparation. Mr. Pro-duct-tivity.  A good night sleep + all body parts functioning + who-knows-what = This Machine is Rollin’.

Metro North pulls into Grand Central.
I bolt out with the herd stampeding for the exits.
I’m humming Luther Van Dross’ Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.  We’re on the move…we’re in the groove. Don’t you let nothing, nothing stand in your way… [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. Miracle? All of it. 


7 am.
Clear. 50° F. Blue skies.
I’m flowing down I-95 S.
I lower the windows and rest my arm on the door frame.
The gusts fill the cabin. November chill.

70s on 7 is spinning Neil Sedaka and Bad Blood.
Doo-ron, doo-ron, di di, dit, do-ron-ron

To hell with these nonsensical lyrics. I plug my own.

I do what I want to do.
I hear want I want to hear.
I See. Thank God I can See.
Good Blood. Good Blood. Good Blood.

And the brain train starts to pull,
the steel couplers snap between the rail cars,
the words begin to slide down the rails.
And here they come. [Read more…]