Driving. To Exit 9.

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It’s Wednesday evening.
I’m on my commute home from work.
Traffic is flowing on I-95 North.
A school of fish gliding down a rapid current.

He drips into consciousness at Exit 5.
There are three words on a piece of tattered cardboard, written with a thick, black, felt pen.
The words are stacked.

Homeless.
Hungry.
Help.

My thoughts shift to a Netflix movie. I’m replaying scenes from 13 Conversations About One Thing as I’m chewing up highway. John Turturro: Life of predictability. Fullness of routine.

He stands at the same Exit. Exit 9. My Exit.
There’s a stop light at the end of the long exit ramp.
You can’t avoid him, unless you are at the back of the line in rush hour.
And then you pass him at 15 mph as you negotiate the corner.

White male. 35-40 years old. Clean shaven. Average weight and height. A coat a bit heavy and oversized for the season, but not unusually so. His eyes, those eyes, emit distress.

Addict? Alcohol? Prescription Drugs? Coke? Meth? 
Unemployed? Unemployable? Record?
Bad decisions? Bad luck?  
He doesn’t give much away.
[Read more...]

Running. With AAA.

photography,black and white,tire,flat tire,
Yahoo Weather Update:
57º F. Humidity 97%. Visibility 4 miles. Areas of dense morning fog. Mist.

Mist. And Ambivalence rains. Mind says yes. Body says rest.

I gear up.
Red and Black shoes. Black running pants. Red top.
Red. Rhino. Run.
I’m out the door.

The Mind whirrs back to Wednesday.  We’re in the car on our bi-annual trek to pick up Eric at College.  It’s a 10 to 14 hour drive and we’re standing in wall-to-wall traffic on the GW Bridge. We’re tracking to the wrong end of the range and the horse has just left the barn.

We clear the bridge and I’m barreling down the NJ turnpike.  72 mph. OK, 78 mph. Making up time.

The Warning light flashes on dash. “LOW TIRE PRESSURE.”  Followed by a PHSSSSSST. And then, a WUMP. WUMP. WUMP. WUMP. (Blood rushes to head. Why is it so hot in the car? Tension fills the cabin. Co-Pilot has seen the Captain manage the unexpected. It’s not pretty.)

I pull the car over to the shoulder. (I come from a long lineage of handymen. DNA somehow skipped me. My fix-it depth consists of bangin’ on the Alt-CTL-DEL key.)

Susan calls AAA. ETA is 30 minutes. (30 minutes to show up. 15-20 minutes to put on the provisional. 90 minutes to 3 hours to find a service station to replace tire. Estimated 2.5 – 4 hour delay. Mood darkens. Migraine thundering on queue.)

AAA arrives. I get out of the car to car to greet him. He gives me a hand signal to stay off the highway. His lips mouthing “too dangerous.” A Semi passes by and kicks up a wind gust. Diesel exhaust fills my lungs.

[Read more...]

The Dream Dealer


Good Friday or Christmas Day, this message rings in the season.  In this clip, the film producers spent the day talking with people who were going to spend their Christmas on the streets.  You can find more on The Dream Dealer here.


White T-Shirts

photography

We wait for the phone to ring.
Every Sunday.
For the obligatory college briefing call.
(As long as you feed from the trough, you’ll call home on Sunday. Non-negotiable.)
Rachel jabbering. Eric tight lipped…leaking information on a need-to-know basis.
Not last night.
Big day for me on Tuesday Dad.
I forgot it’s his 20th birthday.
You forgot right?
Of course not.
Of course you did.
You know that I’m leaving for El Salvador on Saturday.
I’ll be taking vitals…blood pressure, temperature…and recording it.
Dad, I’ve been told there will be thousands, all waiting for medical care.
We’ll be readying patients for the doctors and dentists.
And then feeding homeless at night.

I’m dressing for work this morning.
I check the weather app. -5° F with wind chill.
How many children are huddled and shivering in the cold? Hungry. A soda can and not much else in the fridge for breakfast. Not in El Salvador. Here. Right here.
I shudder.
I reach for a t-shirt. Folded. Stacked. Clean. White.
I’m drawn to the label. I squint to read the small print.

XL 100% Pima Cotton. Machine wash warm with like colors. Only non-chlorine bleach if needed. Tumble Dry Low. Warm Iron if needed. Made in Bangladesh.

Made in Bangladesh.


Image Credit

Lie to me

lunch seaside

It’s lunch. It’s a small informal gathering. Light conversation.

Discussion turns to summer vacations. And rolls around the table clockwise. One is going to the Far East with family. Another to the Cape. A third to Montreal.

The must see art exibits. The lazy days at the beach. Late afternoon cappucinos at the outdoor cafes on the cobblestone streets. Evenings spent people watching from the hotel veranda. The concerts on the grass.

I feign a glance at my watch and look right. I can sense the uneasiness. She’s shifting uncomfortably. Rubbing her hands. Her forehead is glistening. (Dr. Cal Lighman, Lie to Me, flashes up.)

It’s her turn. Everyone’s eyes shift and wait. An uncomfortable silence. A pause in the discussion of the world tours. There’s a surge in my chest. [Read more...]

Riding Metro North. A break in rush hour.

MetroNorth Train
It’s a brisk morning. 45F.

I board the 5:59 am Metro North train to Grand Central.

I settle in with the morning news. Rifling through the papers. Eyes scanning headlines. Going no deeper. Distracted. Then annoyed at my lack of focus. I turn to my work papers to prep for my late morning meeting. Mind wanders again.  I toss them in my bag in frustration.  I lean my head against the window. Close my eyes. And listen.

There’s no conversation. No disturbance of the clickety clack except for the periodic rough jostling of the rail cars on uneven rails. This being no high-speed train.

Conductor breaks the rhythm.

Tickets. Tickets please.”

I pull the ticket out of my shirt pocket.

Conductor stops five rows up.

Sir, these tickets are for non-peak rides.”

Soft voice responds but words are undecipherable.

No, sir. You will need to purchase Peak ride tickets.”

Other riders now rubbernecking to check out the break in morning routine. [Read more...]

I can only muster thoughts for one

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‎“I talk about love, forgiveness, social justice; I rage against American materialism in the name of altruism, but have I even controlled my own heart? The overwhelming majority of time I spend thinking about myself, pleasing myself, reassuring myself, and when I am done there is nothing to spare for the needy. Six billion people live in this world, and I can only muster thoughts for one. Me.”

~ Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz


Image: kellensblog via thegiftsoflife. Quote: middlenameconfused

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Go without a coat; find out what cold is.

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‎Go without a coat; find out what cold is. Go hungry; keep your existence lean. Wear away the fat, get down to the lean tissue and see what it’s all about. The only time you define your character is when you go without. In times of hardship, you find out what you’re made of and what you’re capable of. If you’re never tested, you’ll never define your character.

~ Henry Rollins


Image: holyholychic via thegiftsoflife

Sunday Morning: Everything is Incredible

Agustin is from Siguatepeque, Honduras.  He was born “lame with his right leg shorter than his left.”  He was later struck with polio leaving him severely disabled from the legs down.  He dreamed of being a pilot but because of his disability, he couldn’t fly.  He turned his energy to building his own helicopter largely from parts found at the trash dumps.  He started building in 1958.  He is still pursuing his dream today more than one-half a century later with his helicopter still under construction.

His Minister:  “I don’t know what he’s paying for his helicopter in the ultimate sense.  I think he’s paid a lot for that helicopter.  I think he’s paid an awful lot.  You might say what has he gotten out of it?  I don’t know.  Maybe its kept him alive. Maybe its been able to conquer loneliness.  Maybe its been able to conquer poverty.”

Agustin later in the story explains: “The problem is that everything is incredible and people just don’t accept it.”

This video is beautiful. Sad.  Touching.  And inspiring.

And, yes, Agustin, we are blessed. And everything is incredible.  And often times we take it for granted.

Good Sunday morning.


Everything is Incredible from Tyler Bastian on Vimeo.


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