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…]

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…]

It’s that time again


Olympic gold medal ice dancers Charlie White and Meryl Davis skated at the Rockefeller Center ice rink in New York on Tuesday, marking the official opening of the rink to the public for the winter season.   (Photo by Carol Allegri / Reuters)

Source: wsj.com

Driving the East River Drive. Every risk, shimmering.


It was Tuesday. Yes, Autumn. Yes, New York City. But it certainly didn’t look or feel anything like this. Add 5,000 cars.  And move the map to the FDR, the East River Drive.

I’m one hour and 20 minutes on the road and Waze is signaling that I’m still 30 minutes away. 1:50 for a 0:45 min ride. And now, the crush of the morning rush.  My lower back is stiff.  There’s a nagging kink in my neck. And, I can’t settle. I shift left, then right. I grab my water bottle, take a pull. Tap my fingers on the console.  I glance at my watch. I’m going to be late. Didn’t count on this delay. I push the pace. DK won’t be late.

If you’ve never driven the East Side Highway, think Daytona 500 with a crudely straightened 3-lane track.  Three lanes made for 2.5.  Traffic, sardines, tightly packed. There’s zero room for a slip, no room for wandering. Hugging your left shoulder is a 4-foot cement girder offering a bumper car cushion. Drains (sink holes) are distributed every 1000 feet to release rain water.  Off your right shoulder, another car – open your window and finger brush the door panel.  You grip the wheel, white knuckles, and Glare, eyes panning up front, left, right and down (especially down to avoid the abyss) and then back again. The Gotham Death March.  I push the pace with the cabbies, we dart in and out, looking to gain one car length, maybe two.

SiriusXM is spinning 70s on 7. [Read more…]

Driving Uptown. With MAN from X.


DK:  Broadway and 49th please.
CD:  Times Square?
DK:  Yes. Please.

DK:  Your cab is so clean.
CD:  Thank you Sir.
DK:  How long have you been driving?
CD:  Nine months.

DK:  Where are you from?
CD:  X (A Caribbean Country)

DK:  Do you have family back at X?
CD:  Yes Sir.  My wife and 2-year old daughter.
CD:  I’m saving money to bring them over.
CD:  I do miss them. I’m hoping to see them at Christmas.

DK:  How many hours a day do you drive?
CD:  I start at 7:30 am and drive until 8 or 9pm.
DK:  Weekends?
CD:  I try to not to work on Sundays.

CD:  And then I study.
DK:  Study?
CD:  I want to become a Cop.
DK:  Cop?
CD:  Yes.
DK:  May I ask why?
CD:  Police, politicians – are thieves in X.
CD:  I would be proud to serve this city.
CD:  I think I would be a good cop. [Read more…]

Catching Metro-North.


6:13 pm.
Madison Square Garden to Grand Central.
10 blocks North — 3 blocks East.
22 minutes to the 6:35 pm New Haven Line.
Rush hour. On foot.

Doable? Let’s go.

Street Vendors.
Food cart. Pita. Gyros.
Bus tour hawkers.
Three abreast.
Black Cars.
Red lights.
Bumbin’Jostlin’ (Sorry!)
Walk signs.
Don’t walk.
Soft spring breeze.
Pungent marinating garbage.
Zig. Zag.
City Buses.
Car horns.

[Read more…]

Kill the lights


Eleanor Randolph, NY Times: Kill the Lights, Not the Birds:

As many as a billion birds die each year in this country as they attempt to follow their seasonal routes — flying north in summer months, south in winter.  Because many songbirds, sea birds, and other avians rely on stars to navigate, they grow confused by artificial lights.  As a result, these birds die in droves as their ancient routes are interrupted by tall, brightly lit, glass buildings.

We can’t unplug the nation for the birds, of course.  But bird lovers in New York can celebrate another conversion in their intrepid campaign to dim non-essential lights during the bird migration seasons. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York promised on Monday to begin right away turning off excess lights in state buildings from midnight until dawn as the birds fly across his state. […]

Bright lights once helped define human success, a triumph over the limits and perils of nighttime. Now we know that dimming those lights can mean a different kind of success — the survival of thousands and thousands of migrating birds.

Read entire essay:  Kill the Lights, Not the Birds

Photo Credit: wiki commons

Foot Soldiers


“Finding unexpected beauty in the hands of shoe shiners”

This hand: German Orellana, 55, Ecuador.
Photographs by Christopher Griffith.

Don’t miss photos of 15 other NYC shoe shiners in The New York Times Magazine: Shoe Shine Slideshow

Full Moon Rise


Full moon over New York City skyline, seen from West Orange, NJ on Saturday, April 5, 2015.

“How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

—Paul Bowles, from The Sheltering Sky

Photo Source: Julio Cortez. wsj.com Photo of the day, April 5. Quote Credit: Memory’s Landscape