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…]

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. With Kvetch.

man spreader

Friday, November, 13th.

Morning Paper.

“Confiscated glitter spray at airport security…Mouldy bread…No caffeinated coffee…Cannot find simple persian rugs with cherub imagery…Lack of free time…Horrors of luxury travel…Mediocre meals…Rude customer service…The obnoxious guy at the next table…The Talkative taxi cab driver…A hostile airline ticket clerk…The interminable security line…The malodorous seatmate and crying baby.”  Teddy Wayne, the author, continues in The Microcomplaint: Nothing Too Small to Whine About.  “It was once considered unbecoming, or annoying itself, to moan publicly about trifling personal ordeals. Now, in a seismic shift for the moral culture, abetted by technology, we tolerate and even encourage the “microcomplaint”: the petty, petulant kvetch about the quotidian.”

I finish the article and mumble my POV: Micro b*tches and then tweet or blog the h*ll out of them.  Can you believe these people? Grab a six-pack of perspective people!

Wednesday, November 18th.

5:40 a.m. Metro North to Grand Central.
Train whistle blows as it approaches.
I’m assessing the passenger load as the train cars pass. 5:40 and jammed.

There’s a single aisle seat open in a two seater.
My seat mate doesn’t raise his head from his magazine.
His oversized backpack sits on the floor between his legs.
His legs, spread wide, encroach. A Manspreader! In My Space. [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…]

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…]

Riding the 7 Train. And the Moscow Metro.


I’m gripping the rubber handrail of the escalator that is creeping down, way down, into the bowels of the NYC subway system at 42nd and Grand Central, the second busiest station in the city. This, a ride down the shaft of a deep, underground coal mine. Black dust, airless and layered with noxious fumes. This, a visible symbol of America’s decay, its infrastructure crumbling.

There is no welcome mat out for the timid, or, for any bics: the acrophobics, the claustrophobics or the mysophobics. The incline is steep. The crowd thick and wary. The noise deafening. Even the Earth shivers from fright under Gotham when the trains rumble by.  Here, here. The richest city in the richest country in the world, and here we are. The Suits. The Homeless. The Helpless. The Pick-Pockets. The Cons. The Certifiable. And the Artists, the canaries in this coal mine – their instrument cases open, serenading the masses with Bach or Mendelssohn, a thin stream of light amid this train wreck (no pun intended).  Add the pungent stench of urine and this here is a petri dish of trouble.  Grade? A Dump.

I’m waiting for my cross-town train and the mind drifts back, way back.  [Read more…]

Running. In Warsaw.


The hotel lobby. (~2006)
High cathedral ceilings. Dark wood grain walls.  Turkish Rugs that run and run.
There’s a whiff of lemon in the air, the wood floors scrubbed by the overnight crew.
The Bellman, adorned with a red cap, offers a “God Morning” in broken English, and quickly drops his head back to his book.
A step back in time.

There’s no mistaking Warsaw (Poland, not Indiana) for the youth and flamboyance of Barcelona or the hushed old money wealth of Geneva or the modern efficiency and hum of Tokyo.

Warsaw is the Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. Long past his prime and wearing deep scars of bone jarring defeat. Tired, hurt and a heaviness that lingers.

It was a slow run 9 years ago.
An early Sunday morning in autumn.
A single 40-minute run cutting deep furrows which are turned over and over again. [Read more…]

Flying. Gate C-12. Nashville.


2:15 pm flight.
Nashville, TN to LGA.

Gate C-12.  This would not be mistaken for Gate 4 in Albuquerque, a share with over 500,000 views.  No Sir. No such Magic.

Day 4 of a grueling road trip.
A thin cushioned seat at the Gate.
Followed by an announcement that the flight would be delayed 80 minutes.
It’s a wonderful life!

I walk.

Country girls with their long hair, tall boots, and skinny blue jeans.

A live performer strums his guitar, his love lost, his heart break. Patrons sit at the bar watching CNN and nurse their microbrews.

The intoxicating pull of a Quiznos Swiss Turkey Club, Hot fries from Burger King and Tall Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks – “Freshly steamed milk with vanilla-flavored syrup is marked with espresso and topped with caramel drizzle for an oh-so-sweet finish.”

But I resist. I walk away from all of this.

And I walk.
[Read more…]