The Race to the Airport.
The Small Talk.
The Drive Back Home.
Stewing in Silence.
Lamott’s Drowning in Uncried Tears.
Smoke from Melancholia Filling the Cockpit.
An Amputee Rubbing his Stub – Where’s my Limb?
Tongue’s first day with his Missing Tooth.
Zeke Turning, Turning, Turning. Can’t find his spot. Lands Heavily, and Sighs.
First Thanksgiving Dinner with the Circle Broken. His Seat Sits Empty.
“Who’s Picking Up Eric at JFK Airport?”
5:33 a.m. I enter the on-ramp. Pre-rush hour traffic is gliding down I-95.
Where you at today? What’s it gonna be? Which DK is going to show up?
I glance at the dash. 39° F. Overcast. Low hanging mist. Light is beginning to creep through the gloom.
A fulsome night of sleep. No anchor pulling down on this a** today. Today, I’m rumbling.
I glance at my watch – a late jump for an early morning meeting.
The first rule is the best. Rule number one is that ‘it doesn’t matter.’ ‘It doesn’t matter that what you think. Follow this rule and it will add decades to your life. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid…it doesn’t matter.’ Wisdom at last.”
The app calculates my arrival time: 5 minutes before the meeting start time.
Tight. Too tight. Serves you right for agreeing to burn it on both ends. Burn. Burn. Burn. [Read more…]
I read One Day three years ago.
But The Line, this line, never left me.
The words would land softly, gently.
And my veins would pulse with Gratitude.
And then some days you wake up and everything’s perfect.
I turn the dial to 70’s on 7.
The Floaters with “Float on.“
The left foot begins to tap.
My body begins to sway, a rocking chair.
Take my hand, come with me, baby, to Love Land
Let me show you how sweet it could be
Sharing love with me, I want you to tell me
Float, float on (Come on, come on,
(Come on, baby, yeah, yeah)
Float on, float on (Ooh, ooh, baby)
Float, float, float on
Float on (Float with me), float on [Read more…]
The email message arrived a few days ago. The sender and the location were all unidentifiable. Yet, the message was deeply personal. I read it in the silence of the early morning hours, both hands resting on top of the desk, my breath slowing as my eyes worked down the page.
“I’ve been following your blog since early 2013. After a series of your “life is a miracle” shares, I felt I needed to reach out. While our core beings are quite similar in that our hearts’ beat, our body temperatures hover in comparable ranges, and our bodies crave food and water, many of us depart from here in our day-to-day existences…
If I’m sitting and looking out from your perch, I would enjoy the view. Married, family, job. Fridge full of food. A warm house for shelter. Good health. A community of Followers and bloggers to banter with and share inspirations…
Kierkegaard would say that the yardstick for a human being is how long and to what degree he can bear to be alone. I continue to be tested by this yardstick. I’m quite alone. My effectiveness in bearing it? Let’s say it’s day-to-day, and I’m doing so without the benefit of your accoutrements. Yet, I find my peace, and I accept my position in this Life…swallowing hard on my down days.
Look around. I mean really look around and take stock of your life. All of this can change. It can change at any moment. And it can turn very badly. It did for me… Be grateful Now for your blessings as you have many.
[NO CLOSING SIGNATURE OR SALUATION]
Friend, if I can take the liberty of calling you that, you’ve left me Still and without many words, and I’m thankful for your message. Where ever you are and who ever you may be, on this Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., may you find nourishment, may you have shelter and warmth, and may you be surrounded by the love of family and friends.
Photograph Source: Murrskeez
Monday, November 17, 2014: Rain. 35° F.
The Work Day Monday starts on Sunday. The peaceful easy feeling of Saturday drifts into the grace of Sunday morning, and comes off the mountain in slow motion, the avalanche building momentum until it covers the village at the base of the mountain. It’s 3 pm on Sunday afternoon and my attention shifts to the work that I planned, but failed to get done on Saturday. There’s my briefcase, bulging with those good intentions from Friday afternoon. (A white-collar Suit but a dues paying member of the proletariat. A plebe, never freeing his rough, calloused hands from the shovel. Need to dig. Never finished. Never complete. Never good enough. And the bell tolls. And the bell tolls.)
I’m reviewing Monday’s calendar. A 7:30 am Breakfast with a colleague. A commitment that was made a month ago. Let’s have breakfast! This will require a 5 a.m. wake up call, a 6 am train, a 7 am arrival at Grand Central and a brisk 15-20 min walk to breakfast. (Why are you pushing the clock? Last time you checked, you were the Boss. Who’s running who? Just cancel and reschedule to a later date. You had a conflict that came up. Who would know?)
I ask Rachel what train she is catching. 7:34 a.m. Father-daughter will ride in together. (I cancel my breakfast meeting. A last minute conflict came up. Unavoidable. My apology covered in a mist of guilt.)
We’re standing on the platform. She has her spot. She knows where the train stops, where the doors open, where she can position herself to get a seat. She’s in front, and holding her ground. Other crafty commuters, a herd, all huddle around her. The rain is rapping on the tin roof, and spills over onto the tracks. [Read more…]
you know when someone asks you a general question like “how are you” or jokingly says something like “do you ever even sleep” and there’s that split-second moment where you consider actually telling them things
like whether they’re good or bad things whether they’re sad or happy or anything at all you just
think about telling them
but you don’t
Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye:
Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”
We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours. [Read more…]
I was rattled.
My Fingers are on the keyboard.
Autocorrect is humming in the background but finding nothing.
Where the H*ll are you?
Red dots underscore the word and shout: “WRONG“!
I push back from my desk. I stop. I inhale.
You used to be an Automaton. Letters used to spill out, from head to fingers to screen. Letters all beautifully lined up in single file, in correct order. It’s ok. You’re just tired. You didn’t get much sleep. You’re alright. It will be ok.
I go at it again.
Red dots return.
No sign of Autocorrect.
My pulse quickens.
The cursor flashes at the end of the Word. Bing. Bing. Bing. Bing. Bing.
Red dots underscore word. Red dots. Blood platelets. Stop the bleeding.
And coffee, for one who knows it as I do, means making it with your own hands and not having it come to you on a tray, because the bringer of the tray is also the bearer of talk, and the first coffee, the virgin of the silent morning, is spoiled by the first words. Dawn, my dawn, is antithetical to chatter. The aroma of coffee can absorb sounds and will go rancid, even if these sounds are nothing more than a gentle “Good morning!”
Coffee is the morning silence, early and unhurried, the only silence in which you can be at peace with self and things, creative, standing alone with some water that you reach for in lazy solitude and pour into a small copper pot with a mysterious shine—yellow turning to brown—that you place over a low fire. Oh, that it were a wood fire!
Stand back from the fire a little and observe a street that has been rising to search for its bread ever since the ape disentangled himself from the trees and walked on two feet. A street borne along on carts loaded with fruits and vegetables, and vendors’ cries notable for faint praise that turns produce into a mere attribute of price. Stand back a little and breathe air sent by the cool night. Then return to your low fire—If only it were a wood fire!—and watch with love and patience the contact between the two elements, fire colored green and blue and water roiling and breathing out tiny white granules that turn into a fine film and grow. Slowly they expand, then quickly swell into bubbles that grow bigger and bigger, and break. Swelling and breaking, they’re thirsty and ready to swallow two spoonfuls of coarse sugar, which no sooner penetrates than the bubbles calm down to a quiet hiss, only to sizzle again in a cry for a substance that is none other than the coffee itself—a flashy rooster of aroma and Eastern masculinity.
Remove the pot from the low fire to carry on the dialogue of a hand, free of the smell of tobacco and ink, with its first creation, which as of this moment will determine the flavor of your day and the arc of your fortune: whether you’re to work or avoid contact with anyone for the day. What emerges from this first motion and its rhythm, from what shakes it out of a world of sleep rising from the previous day, and from whatever mystery it will uncover in you, will form the identity of your new day.
Because coffee, the first cup of coffee, is the mirror of the hand. And the hand that makes the coffee reveals the person that stirs it. Therefore, coffee is the public reading of the open book of the soul. And it is the enchantress that reveals whatever secrets the day will bring.
— Mahmoud Darwish, from Memory for Forgetfulness (University of California Press, 1990)
What kind of Dog snarls at the hand that feeds him? My hand. For no apparent reason?
Dad, you mean you haven’t noticed?
[DK: It’s the end of a long day. I lift my eyebrows, but don’t respond. Rachel assesses her Father’s reception and interprets the non-response as a green-light.]
Well, let me explain it to you.
You are both moody.
And wildly unpredictable.
You can go aggressive “at boo.”
You coming running at the sound of a fridge door opening.
You’ll eat anything.
You don’t share your food.
You wolf down your food without tasting it.
You slurp your soup.
You lick the bowl. And your plate.
[DK: I shift uncomfortably on the couch.]
It was three weeks ago, 6 p.m. and I’m on my evening commute home. I-95 is snarled in both directions. Heavy, slow-moving metal edging its way up, a car length at a time. I’m looking ahead to find a break. I see none. Waze flashes an update: “Your drive time is extended by 10 minutes. Accident ahead.”
But that’s not the story. No. That’s not what drifts in during my 7-mile run on Sunday. It’s not what emerges during a meeting late Monday afternoon. And it’s not what’s hanging around the edges, gently finding its place among the mental chatter of Work.
It’s a white speck 75 car lengths ahead, hovering a steady five feet above the sea of car tops. A white speck, moving against traffic. First the speck. Then Wings. Then the gull.
The bird’s line is a straight shot.
Seagulls that I know, float in wind tunnels, they surf, they lallygag on shorelines. Not this one. This Gull’s wings are flapping, beating fiercely and maintaining the rhythm of an Olympic rowing crew free of its coxswain: I need to get there. Quickly. I need to get there. Now.
It’s 15 car lengths now. The bird is keeping its line, passing under a bridge without interruption. Jet Gull – – at low altitude and maintaining flight speed. I’m locked in.
I bend my head to see him. He doesn’t look down, or around or even shift his glance. Focus. Hurry. Get there. Now.
Blink. He’s in my rear view mirror. Gull. Wings. A Speck. Gone.
My gaze turns back to the sea of cars in front of me. Gull, where are you going? Why the Rush?
Its 4am. Today, Hump Day. Weeks later. I’m flicking through my Reader and I come across This.
A seagull froze, motionless, in the sky – lost in thought. Then suddenly it remembered something important, perhaps that life is as short as a blink, and went dashing off a full pelt.
Synchronicity? Coincidence? Serendipity?
I’m on the first train. I’m with my commuters deep into the morning papers. The silence is broken for three short intervals – the conductor collecting tickets and two stops on the Express. Otherwise, a library. 55 minutes of heaven.
Yet, the silence is thundering.
EBOLA. Mid-term elections. School shootings. Shooting rampage in the Canadian Parliament. Ukraine. Work-budget-goals. Man attacks NYC cops with a hatchet. Markets tumbling. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Hong Kong protesters. Millions of air bag recalls. Stepfather Charged After 3-Year-Old Girl Beaten to Death at Brooklyn Shelter. OMG. Turn the page. Turn the page. Turn the page. Unable to find something Good, I put away the news, close my eyes, lean my head against the window and drift into Grand Central.
I twist in my ear buds, first right and then left. I exit the train to 42nd street with hundreds of early morning commuters.
Zibby introduces Jesse to classical music in Liberal Arts; DK had no such Muse. Yet, the impact is no less Divine. The biting winds of darkness and doubt whistling through the skull are placed on Pause. My 12-minute cross-town walk is filled with ethereal beauty, a peace, a calmness, a lightness. The delivery trucks. The yellow cabs, honey bees buzzing in and out. The shop owner opening the gate. A construction worker taking a long pull on his cigarette. A student sipping coffee in an empty Diner. The leaves on a lonely tree rustling from the gust of a passing bus. All of it, a symphony. [Read more…]
I jumped into a cab after de-planing in Fort Lauderdale late Sunday afternoon. An uneventful flight. Largely uneventful that is, with the exception of the couple sitting in the front of the aircraft in premium seating. They were wearing face masks and plastic gloves synched with rubber bands. (Ebola.) If you gotta fly and you’re freaked, put on the protective gear. (It would be a cold day in Hell before you’d see me absorbing the ‘looks’ on a three hour flight.) Face-Mask-Man catches my stare. His eyes lock on mine as if to say: We’ll see who’s the Fool.
“Do you take American Express?”
The cab driver’s response is undecipherable.
I’m guessing he’s in his 60’s, his accent places him from the Islands, and he’s wearing a day or two beard.
I ask again.
“Do you take credit cards?“
This ‘Sir” thing is de-stabilizing. When did I become a Sir?
I note that I have plenty of legroom in a Yellow Cab. I’m grateful for one of life’s rare and simple pleasures.
How was your flight?
Good, thank you.
Where you coming from?
Is it cold?
It’s getting there.
89°F. The air conditioning is either not working or he’s conserving fuel. I open the window to let the tropical air blow in.
Do you want me to turn on the air?
No, it’s fine, thank you.
Is the friendliness a ploy for a larger tip? I scold myself for the unprovoked cynicism. And then reverse course and conclude that a friendly driver would earn a larger tip and that my cynicism was rationally placed. And the wheels on the bus go round and round.
What is the address again?
I repeat the address.
Is that on A1A?
I have no idea. Sorry.
Anticipating a bad outcome, I grab my smartphone and turn on Google Maps. And wait. I don’t want to be pushy and start offering instructions. Not yet anyway.
6:02 am. Sunday, October 19, 2014. 52° F. Breezy. Autumn.
Mind rolls back to yesterday afternoon. Saturday at 4pm, and my body was signaling late Sunday. The heaviness of Work returned early, a thick Bay Area Fog. (Where’s my weekend?) I’m on a JetBlue flight heading South on Sunday afternoon to catch Monday morning meetings.
I’m ten pounds up from my six-month low. Ten pounds! My last running post was Sept 7th. My last run outside was Sept 14th. Over one month ago, and THAT run is still fresh. I glance at my notes from that day:
Garmin flashing 0.72 miles. Stomach cramps. They will work themselves out. Just slow it down. Keep your feet moving. 0.78 miles. Legs moving, body is haunched over. 0.80 miles. Pain ripping through left calf. I moan, stop and clutch my leg. No Mas. I turn and return home. To the couch.
I decide to break my pre-run routine. (Which, besides complaining about running, is to do nothing, but get out the door.)
I get down on my knees. I’m thinking 1 Plank. I position my iPhone stopwatch where I can see it. I take a deep breath in preparation. (My blogger friends are deep under my skin. Bone deep. If Lori can do three two-minute planks in one work-out and Carolann can do a four-minute plank, this is just a matter of practice, right? And, last time I checked, I’m a Man, right?)
I get in planking position. I’ll knock one of these off before my run, and then have something to write about when I return. I’m glaring at the stopwatch. (I’ll show them.)
(Think I got this.)
(Breathing a bit heavy, but I’m just finding my groove.) [Read more…]
It’s dark. 5:40 a.m. I’ve got an early morning jump, and I’m high stepping it to the station. It’s October 14th and the weatherman is calling for mid-70’s. (And it’s damn humid before sunrise.)
I’m feeling Prime this morning. Another night of solid sleep. Something is working, exactly what, is unclear.
I strap on my earphones. I get off the train. I’m lost among the throng, and fidgeting with my ear pieces. (Apple.co can drag music from the clouds and shoot it into my head but can’t seem to get these earbuds to stick.)
I enter the main Grand Central terminal. The wall size Red, White & Blue greets me. O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
As do Police. Police Dogs. Bullet proof vests. And Guns.
I glance up as I exit the station. Nestled within a green leafy planter on a pole eight feet up is a sign: NYPD Security Camera. And surrounding the station are Police Cars. Police Vans. Unmarked Cars. And more German Shepherds.
I turn up the music to drown out the dark, and I continue down 42nd street. Fink is playing: Looking too Closely. Looking too close. No. No. No.
I pick up my pace. Everyone is standing still, or moving in slow motion; I’m passing them on my right, on my left. (The DK Express is hauling a**.)
With no safe jaywalking opportunity available, I wait for the Walk sign. Dark thoughts roll back several weeks. (Ocean Voung whisks in: “There’s enough light to drown in but never enough to enter the bones & stay.”)
It’s mid-morning, mid-week in August.
I’ve been searching for a passage that I read weeks ago. I can see the font size, the paragraph, the white space, the light above and below the words. Strings that dangle in my consciousness. Yet, despite my end of day Google searches, I’ve come up empty. It goes something like this:
People ask you: “How are you doing?” You turn on the auto-reflex-reflux. You pound the drums with your sticks and dust up dregs. You don’t want others to know, but Life is Good. Very good actually. So, why? Why lead with the dark?
She stands at the turn of Exit 10. The front end of the last mile of my morning commute. The entire elapsed time is less than five seconds, tops. I turn the corner, I look for her, and I’m gone. And she’s gone.
She’s standing with other early morning commuters waiting for the Bus.
Correction. [Read more…]
Headphones strapped on. A Pandora Mix of David Gray.
Situations running through my head.
Three good nights of sleep to rejuvenate the soul. A Southern Baptist Preacher, arms reaching for the Heavens: Praise the Lord.
If there is a God, she sang The Best Thing I Never Had on The Voice last night. Beth Spanger, a young lady from Aiken, S.C. I see Light, the woman is Light.
Thursday. September 18.
I’m up at 3:00 a.m., and operating on four and a half hours of sleep. Even this Bull-Head understands that this, This, is unsustainable.
Insomnia. A discipline, unlike dieting, I’ve perfected. I now understand, her words, Marina Tsvetaeva, and their meaning.
“After a night of insomnia
the body gets weaker,
Becomes dear but no one’s —
not even your own.”
I look out the window. It’s not dawn but pre-dawn. Moonless. Dark. And Still. Me, the crickets and the hum of the electrical current running the overhead lamp.
I rifle through my schedule for the day. 6:00 a.m. train. Breakfast and lunch with colleagues. A team dinner in the evening. Calls and meetings jamming all white space in between. 18 hours from now, I can take my suit and shoes off and crawl back into bed. I blink my eyes. Once. Twice. Three times. I cannot clear the blur. I close them and rest for a moment. Give me 20 minutes and I’ll be good – – fully functioning. Just 20 minutes.
The day landed as expected, full, including two nightcaps for this teetotaler after dinner. I pull the maraschino cherry from my cocktail and drop it in my mouth, when a colleague lets fly: “V.O. Manhattan, huh? My Father used to drink those.” I smile, proud not to have taken the bait. How socially acceptable and behaved you’ve become. There was a time you’d come across the table and level the score and then some. An eye for an eye, a leg, and an arm. [Read more…]
8:06 p.m. on Friday evening.
I’m getting off the train returning home from a long work day in Manhattan.
Susan and Zeke greet me at the train station for our walk home.
Zeke’s tail is wagging wildly, his head on a swivel searching for a present to bring to Dad.
“Eric had a bad day.”
I’m still winded from walking up the stairs from the platform.
The weight of the work week lifts, and anxiety flushes in.
My pulse starts to race. I’m gulping for air.
Bile rolls up my empty stomach and sits gnawing in my throat.
No. Please, no. Not my Son.
“He went to a bull fight with his friends.”
Panic begins to ease. Ms. Drama’s overstatements, or my fatigue misinterpreting degree of “bad day”?
“They left before half. He said there was one bullfighter. The matador has six ‘assistants’, 2 mounted on horseback, three flagmen and a sword servant. Six men looking to kill a single bull. He said it was barbaric. Sickening. He had to get out of the stadium.” [Read more…]
Traffic is building.
I turn the corner to the I-95 on-ramp. Man in coveralls is standing next to his graffiti stained Seafood Delivery truck. He glances up at me, pauses briefly, and then continues to flick through a bulging wad of bills in his right hand. (You declaring that income, Friend?)
There’s a semi truck in front. A Friendly’s ad adorns its back door: “Eat More Ice Cream.” (What kind of cruel joke is this? You friend, need no more ice cream. Saliva begins to build up, quicker than the traffic flow. I’m worse than Pavlov’s dog. I could use a tall, thick Coldstone Vanilla shake. Right now. I’d skip lunch if I could indulge. I would. I might.)
I come up on a gargantuan, two-trailer Fed Ex semi. Driver sitting up high. The truck gleams in the morning sun. (Bucket list: Need to drive a Semi cross-country. Is he delivering new iPhone 6+s to Manhattan Apple Stores? Gadget man starts to twitch.)
This morning, I shared a gif of a parrot taking a shower.
I then check my emails and receive this message, the first of the day.
Good morning. I am very sorry to tell you that Birdie passed away this morning. She had been just fine until about 6 months ago when she began having occasional seizures. We are assuming she had one last night. Jessica found her at the bottom of the cage this morning and it seemed like she was hanging on for her to get home. She died shortly after Jessica picked her up. She spent most of every day on Jessica’s shoulder or inside her shirt during the winter months. Jessica is devastated. She lost her best animal friend.
In case you missed the original post on the background of Birdie and our family, you can find it here: “I Miss Birdie.”
Sad Day. Yet, what incredible joy this little creature brought to our family.
All the variety,
all the charm,
all the beauty of life
is made up of light and shadow.
~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
R. Dass: “Everything changes once we identify with being the witness to the story, instead of the actor in it.”
6:31 am. September 6, 2014.
76° F. Humid.
He’s wearing black shorts, above the knee.
He has two bands on his left wrist. Both black. A Garmin GPS, tracking time and distance. A Vivo Fit, another Garmin tool, tracking his step count. His head bobs, no, it tics, checking progress on his devices every 30-40 seconds.
His shirt is canary yellow, sleeveless. The sweat stains are darkening his shirt, spilled black ink creeping down his chest.
His running shoes are off-the-shelf new, with hyper-green florescent laces, tied with symmetrical bows on each foot.
His head is down but for the presence of oncoming traffic, when he’ll steal a look up, and offer a wave to the driver who gives him wide berth.
He’s heavy footed. Solemn. A hulking, Dutch plow horse, blinders blocking out peripheral vision. The furrows behind him, turned and plowed over and under and over again. [Read more…]
Crickets. Birds. And me.
Humidity 90%, but cut by a cool morning, 57º. Running weather.
I check my exercise log. Last running entry: August 3rd. I scan the page. More white space than entries. Ray is down 36 lbs in 7 weeks. I’m, well, you know, Up. And, staring at white spaces.
I’m out the door.
It’s Thursday. Evening.
(Another) last supper with the kids before they depart. It’s a short week, I’m off from work on Friday. Heaviness lifts. Weariness lingers. Gratitude drifts in. A peaceful, easy feeling sets in over dinner. Family. Our family dines together.
It’s Friday. Morning.
Eric comes up to the attic. “Why are you a hermit, Dad?”
We exchange fist bumps. As he turns, I jump him from behind and we wrestle. He’s become unmanageable. I pull up before things break, on me.
It’s Friday. Early afternoon.
We’re in the car to JFK.
President Obama visits Weschester County on Friday afternoon – the same Friday kicking off the long Labor Day weekend. His security team has shut down I-95, 287 and all major thorough ways, snarling traffic. The result: A 2.5 hour drive to JFK. Purpose of the President’s trip: Fundraisers. [Read more…]
His name is Christopher Thomas Knight. He was born 1965. He was 20 years old when he disappeared into the woods in Central Maine. He was captured in April 2013 when he was 47. During his 27 years in the woods:
- He never slept inside. He slept only in a tent. An unheated nylon tent. In an area which falls to 20° below zero in the winter.
- He had contact with only one person during the entire time, in the 1990’s. A hiker.
- He never used a shower. Or a toilet.
- He never made one phone call.
- He never drove in a car.
- He never spent any money. (1000+ burglaries provided sustenance)
- He never in his life sent an email or even seen the internet.
When he was asked about Thoreau, who spent two years in the woods at Walden, Knight dismissed him with a single word: “dilettante.” (def: dabbler, amateur, nonprofessional.)
At the very end of each of our visits, I’d always asked him the same question. An essential question: Why did he disappear? He never had a satisfying answer. “I don’t have a reason.” “I can’t explain why.” “Give me more time to think about it.” “It’s a mystery to me, too.” Then he became annoyed: “Why? That question bores me.” But during our final visit, he was more reflective. Isn’t everybody, he said, seeking the same thing in life? Aren’t we all looking for contentment? He was never happy in his youth—not in high school, not with a job, not being around other people. Then he discovered his camp in the woods. “I found a place where I was content,” he said. His own perfect spot. The only place in the world he felt at peace.
This story hasn’t left my consciousness for days. Don’t miss reading the full story at GQ: The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit.
Portrait Source: centralmaine.com
Late afternoon meeting. Location: Cross town.
83°F. Mid August. Sticky. Cotton dress shirt is clinging to my chest.
Take a Cab? Rachel suggests it’s 15 minutes point to point on foot. Cab? A crap shoot in cross town traffic.
I hoof it down 47th. Building construction has cut the sidewalk in half. 2 lanes, with a solid lane divider. No passing due to heavy oncoming traffic.
I’m closing the gap with a middle aged man in front of me. His head is down tapping on smartphone. My pace slows to crawl. I cut the gap to a few feet.
I try to pass on his right. Not enough room. I slow and trail behind him.
What’s the rush, right? Breathe a little.
He hasn’t lifted his head. Inconsiderate SOB is still tapping out texts. Oblivious to the growing conga line behind him.
Susan finds an abandoned baby bird on the lawn in the backyard. She has to protect it. To save it.
She cups it in her hand. She calls out to me to help.
“Put it back.”
I don’t get a response. A few minutes later she has the bird in a clear, plastic container. Where did she find that? (Note to self: Cache of Bird paraphernalia is growing.)
“Look at how cute she is.”
I glance at it. I’m gulping the flashback: What’s with you and birds? It was a different mother then. A Robin. Also, trying, to protect her young. The irony not lost on me.
“What do you think we should do?”
“I think you should put it back.” She’s getting attached. This will end badly.
“But it can’t fly!”
Zeke is circling. He’s sniffing wildly. His eyes are full. His breed and his blood, the Vizsla, was trained for generations to look up. To flush. To retrieve. It’s all about Birds.
“Its Mother can’t find it either. Go put it back. Near the trees.”
She ignores me. (Again.) I see her cupping the bird. Bobbing its beak in water.
“Come on birdy. Take a drink. Then we’re going back.”
That was Thursday.
Birdy had reappeared near the fence yesterday afternoon.
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.
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.
A 3M Post-It Note. Picture not to scale. The post-it is actually 1″ x 2″, dwarfed by the two-foot high, 45-quart, air-tight, dog food storage container which sits underneath it. But, the Post-it punches above its weight class.
3 Words + a few symbols = Irritation.
She doesn’t think I will give him the right dosage.
She thinks I’ll overfeed him. You’re cutting his life short by giving him all these snacks.
3/4 C (Dog Food) + H20 (Water) + 1/4 C Green Beans (to help him with his digestion).
Mom and Eric are on a road trip for the weekend to see family. Rachel is in the city with Friends.
Dad and Man’s Best Friend Zeke are Home Alone.
Back to the Post-Its.
Millions of thoughts slide in and out – – moments of significance, yet these seeds on the blooming dandelion blow away. This ordinary moment hangs on. Why?
She met me in the hallway in front of the elevators. We were both finishing our day. She looked fresher, wearing a blue skirt and jacket, standing with a colleague – offering up a “Hey, Dad.”
It’s early evening in Midtown. The humidity, stifling. Crowds are milling around the theatre ticket booths. Father and Daughter are out of the building looking to catch the 6:49.
We reach a “Don’t Walk” and I point down to 47th. She tugs at my suit jacket.
“Dad, I’ve timed it. It’s not faster to zig-zag. Just wait. Take it straight down. It’s faster.”
She’s timed it. It’s faster. [Read more…]
It’s the end of a (very) long day, concluding with a work dinner. I drag myself out of the car, pulling my briefcase behind me. My shirt tail is untucked. My tie half undone. My shoes, dusty and scuffed. A disheveled, sloppy mess.
I’m hopeful that I can slither into the house and get a few minutes to myself. I enter. The house is quiet but for the soft murmur of a TV running on another floor. I slowly strip my shoes and socks, with my bare feet cooling on the wood floor. I’m in decompression. Hose me down with pure oxygen. Let Solitude rain on me.
There’s Thunder. Four legs storming up the stairs. Zeke’s bounding down the hallway. Dad’s Home! He wiggles in and out of my legs. Kissing (licking) my suit pants, leaving white slobber dripping from my crotch. Well that’s nice. Ah, just forget it. It just adds to your ensemble.
Susan rounds the corner. My Hummingbird spewing nectar all over. She’s talking. I’m listening. (Sort of.) The subject turns.
SK: Do you want some feedback? [Read more…]
Mid-July, and it’s 63º F. Overcast. Low humidity.
PULL UP THE DAMN DOUBLE-DECKER GRATITUDE BUS.
I’m out the door. And down the highway.
I’m flicking through my playlist. James Taylor. Click. Bonnie Raitt. Click. Bryan Adams. Warmer. Click. David Sanborn. Cool down, maybe. Click. Sara McLachlan. Animal Cruelty Videos. Click. Click. Jimmy Buffet. Margaritaville. NO. CLICK.
And then, AC-DC.
And THEN, AC-DC.
THUNDERSTUCK. Sound of the drums beating my heart.
Block: Morning weigh-in. Re-grip the sticks…and Swing.
Block: Heavy legs. Re-grip the sticks…and Pound.
Block: Lack of sleep. Re-grip…and Slam.
Block: Work. WORK. Re-grip, unleash and Pulverize ‘em.
Time Check: 6.12 miles @ 55.08 minutes.
6:00 am. 60º F. Light breeze. A Runner’s paradise. I’m out the door.
Mood Check: On a continuum of Bliss on the right and Rage on the left, the needle is twitching left of center.
It is said that, today, we live in a secular society, believing in worldly, non-religious, non-spiritual “things.” Just look at me. Every morning when I step on the scale…no matter what caloric catastrophe I engaged in the day before, I believe our Taylor 7506 Digital Scale is going to deliver. This morning, was just another morning. My cup runneth over. With belief.
A deep breath. A pause. One step up. Then the other. The digital read-out comes to life. Gremlins scurrying around with their algorithms. They’re flicking in a range from 208.5 to 207.8 and back. Why do you think they flick in a range? They didn’t use to flick in a range. Belly jiggling, so they can’t lock on? My eyes get large. They settle on 208.3. DAMN IT.
Ten pounds up in less than 60 days. If God was Good…If God was Great, this wouldn’t be so damn difficult. I’m drowning in temptation. Cereal. Danishes. Fruit and Cheese filled croissants. Ice cream. Pasta. And that was just yesterday. It’s raining on me.
And by now, you know what comes next: PENANCE. [Read more…]
6:30 pm. Saturday evening. Family sits for dinner.
Susan is sitting to my right. A hummingbird, fluttering her wings, spreading honey.
Rachel to my left. Her boyfriend Andrew, next to her. Rachel’s jabbering on about her first week of full-time work. She’s coming down, down from the high of college graduation, and seeing the next 30 year highway of her life. Commuting. Work. Exhaustion. Weekends. Loop it back and hard again. (Is that the gratitude Bus Rachel has pulled up for her Mom & Dad?)
Eric, is down at the end of the table. He’s sneaking glances at his phone. I glare. He puts the phone back in his pocket.
Zeke’s laying under the table. Hoping for something, anything to hit the floor.
And there’s The King, at the head of the table. Fork in the right. Scepter in the left. (Surveilling the landscape. Inhaling it deep into the lungs. Same somber script running. Eagles and Peaceful Easy Feeling is playing. Sand racing through the hourglass. How many of these do we have left?)
“Dad, look at Eric’s guns.”
“His biceps. They’re bigger than yours.”
I glance at Eric’s “guns.”
He looks down. And blushes. (Did I see a smirk?)
DK: David K-A-N-I-G-A-N. No middle initial. (Here we go again.)
NS: (Smiling) We can weigh you when we get inside.
DK: Today or this month’s average?
DK: 208. (She doesn’t know that you’re up 10. Why avert your eyes you coward?)
NS: Name of GP?
DK: (Pause) Don’t have one.
NS: Don’t have a GP?
DK: It’s been a while.
NS: Date of last physical?
DK: (Pause) Don’t remember. (She steals a glance at my ID. Checking DOB.)
NS: Blood type?
DK: No idea.
NS: (Staring eye-ball-to-eyeball now)
Some things can’t be left unchecked. No Sir.
My youngest Brother Lorne replied to my post “I came that way. D0K” with this:
That was funny but don’t feel sorry for you. On a weekly basis I go through this. First name Lorne. Loren? No. Lauren? No. Lauryn? No. Mark? Mark…WTF! And the other day…Thor! Really? How our parents allowed you and my other awesome brother to name me I will never understand!!
JB: Full name please?
DK: David Kanigan. David K-A-N-I-G-A-N.
JB: Full name please.
DK: David Kanigan. David K-A-N-I-G-A-N.
JB: That’s your full name?
(Yes. Oh, yes. I know what’s coming next. This scene, played out, over and over. Hundreds of times. Blood pressure clickety clacking up.)
JB: Middle name please.
(She lifts her head to look at the Alien. And pauses, wondering whether to push forward. Then, courageously plows ahead.)
JB: You mean you weren’t given one at birth? Or you changed your name?
(I look down. Two arms. Two legs. Flip flops reveal 10 toes. How many years do I have to take this sh*t?!)
(I look up. Smile. Which way do I take this? High Road. Or Low Road. I count. One. Two. Three.)
Kids are rustling me awake from my mid-morning nap in the backyard.
Dad, Dad, it’s time to open the gifts!
(A flash of Christmas mornings past. Wow, that was quite a nap, Rip. They’ve migrated up from cologne and neck ties. Hmmmm. Right pocket, left pocket, transfer of funds? All within Dad’s pant pockets? Not nice Dad.)
Thank you. Wonderful Gift!
Family sits together for brunch. Scrambled eggs, western style, bacon, sliced peaches, English Muffins (with jam, of course). (Family sitting around the table. Soul warming. How many of these moments are left?)
We head outside. 68º F. Low humidity. Wind gusts at 16 mph. Trees rustling overhead. Zeke is barking, while giving chase to the Frisbee flying to and fro overhead. The Kanigan family exercise for the Day.
I reach for my book. Zeke is sprawled out on the back stoop, basking in the sun, and watching Blue Jays pecking at seed in the feeder. Rachel and Eric shade their eyes from the sun, and their iPhones, as they check their texts. I settle in on the lawn chair with my book. (Front doors unlocked. Families sitting together for meals. Kid’s playing catch with Dad in the backyard, or playing outside with friends. Pick-up games. Fishing. Exploring the mountainside.)
Wednesday: 2 am. A knife stabbing the muscle in the right calf. I’m gripping the iron railing on the headboard. And pointing my toes. (Susan’s remedy. I’ve always thought it was Bullsh*t, yet here I am pointing my toes.) I’m writhing in pain. Cramp. Zeke awakens, rolls over and starts licking my face, I’ll save you Dad! Dog mung-mouth-sleep-breath — I’m snorting ammonia. The bed is rolling like a stormy sea – yet, Susan is not moved. She stirs, but doesn’t wake. The entire team carries Lebron off the floor with his leg-cramps, and I don’t even get a: “Are you ok?” Where’s the empathy here people?
Thursday: 3 pm. Work meeting. Same leg. Same calf. Pitch fork stab. Cramp. I’m gripping the arms of the chair. Eyes are gushing water. I drop my head to take notes to avoid eye contact. Meeting ends. I walk up the stairs alone, limping, and heaving. Hydration? Vitamin deficiency? Sleep deprivation? Hunger?
Saturday: 4 am. Feelin’ large. I step on the scale. NO! Just.Can’t.Be. NFW! I strip off t-shirt and underwear – – I might be carrying extra poundage in my shorts. I get back on the scale – it wobbles – and falls 0.2 lbs. Pathetic! I move to the mirror. I see a six-inch scratch from the belly button to the jelly roll part, with a puff of dried blood accumulation on the handle. A tattoo from my wrestling match with Zeke. Or another sign? I check my notes. April 19th, is the last time I ran. 49 days ago. Can that even be possible? I check my weight tracker:
It was in June. Circa 1995. A sticky late afternoon. I jump in a Yellow Cab to visit a client’s home to inspect Fine Art collateral. The cab pulls up to his building. A massive, black granite stone polished to a high sheen. Money.
I offer the doorman my name and the purpose for my visit. He reaches for the phone to confirm. Sir, I’ll escort you up.
The Doorman holds the door as I enter the elevator. Hat. Uniform. White gloves. He presses the button. Penthouse.
Hi. Good to see you again. Would you like me to show you around our place?
I graciously accept. My feet are damp in my wing tips; they clop on the white Italian marble floor. The echo ricochets off the vaulted ceiling, off the contemporary furniture with its sharp lines, and off the floor-to-ceiling windows. I look out over the city – – a spectacular view – – and then look down below. I note that my hands are trembling. Take a deep breath. It’s acrophobia. Step back and away.
Would you like something to drink?
I thank him and pass. I can’t have anything near my stomach now. I’m nauseous. Stomach is churning. I’m breathing rarified air. I don’t belong here.
The air conditioning, noiseless, offers a cooling feathery touch. I shiver. Fine Art and humidity are not friends. The temperature, constant and cool, preserves.
Here’s what you came to see.
It’s Tuesday morning. A great night’s sleep. I’m Regenerated. I rise. I rise. I rise.
I walk to the train station to catch the 5:40. 62° F. The Air is still. The Birds are singing. Blue skies.
The Train pulls up. 5:39am. Second train of the day. It’s packed.
I wedge past another commuter and take the window seat.
A Lady, mid-60’s, is facing me. She’s in a 3-seater, on a full train, with her purse blocking the seat to her right and a bottle of Poland Springs water blocking the left. “Prickly.” She has a cup of coffee in an unmarked styrofoam cup in her left hand and she’s pecking away on a crossword puzzle on an iPad. She does not lift her head as I pass.
It’s Quiet. The soft hum of the electric current powering the train. The clickety-clack of the tracks. And the Lady snorting and re-snorting phlegm up her nasal passages. Is she swallowing it?
The Conductor breaks the silence on the P.A.: Good morning! I have an important announcement. He pauses. The heads in the car all bob up to listen. Today’s Danny’s last day after 20 years with MetroNorth. He’s covering the middle cars. Danny, we all wish you good luck in your retirement. God Speed. [Read more…]
You going to say, you don’t have 12 minutes to watch this. Then you’re going to look back weeks later and find, it has never left your consciousness. Watch Narcose.
Deep water freediving exposes its practitioners to a form of narcosis, which induces several symptoms, among which a feeling of euphoria and levity that earned this phenomenon its nickname of “raptures of the deep”. The short film relates the interior journey of Guillaume Néry, the apnea world champion, during one of his deep water dives. It draws its inspiration from his physical experience and the narrative of his hallucinations.
SMWI*: Saturday Morning Work-Out Inspiration
Just another Friday morning commute.
Mind is pond skittering. Nothing heavy on the calendar. Chance to leave early. Long weekend. Kids home. 58° F. Morning sun warming with forecaster calling for more Spring heat. Gnawing on a protein bar. Windows down. Feelin’ light. Feelin’ Gratitude.
Ray P comes sauntering in. His Detroit Tigers’ baseball cap is slung low. His pants hiked way up and cinched with a belt burnishing a oversized golden buckle. A middle aged client from 20 years back who inherited a small sum from his Mom who had the foresight to dribble out food money in monthly installments. Mail was unacceptable. He had to pick it up. He’d bite his lip hungrily ripping open the envelope…stare at the check, look at me: “Son, I’ve got the world by the a**.”
I’m at the speed limit in the center lane, flowing with the other fishes, no obstructions this morning. Son, I’ve got the world by the a**. [Read more…]
Start time was 4:00pm. We pulled into the parking lot at 3:40pm. We made it. But it wasn’t pretty. Torrential rain, back-ups on the NJ turnpike, standing water, all treacherous, extended our drive time by 90 minutes. Being late for this event was not a memory I wanted to bank. We walked briskly for a mile to get to The Pavilion, the venue for Rachel’s college graduation ceremony.
Late = no seats. Responsible parents arrived 60-90 minutes early. Susan (a member of the class of responsible parents) arrived earlier in the day, waited for us, and couldn’t hold our seats because we were late. I caught the scud with my chest. This time, I had no counter. Cut it too fine.
Susan found a seat. I stood at the back. Bad Dads in the back.
He had to be in his 80’s. He arrived on the arm of a Graduate, had to be his Grandson. A navy blue suit, oversized but neatly pressed. Black wing-tip shoes that had long since lost their gleam. A powder blue handkerchief peeked out of his suit jacket pocket. A taupe colored shirt with the tail hanging out. He dragged his right leg behind him, his Grandson offering ballast. (WW Veteran?)
He grabbed the chair in front of him and slumped down heavily. They were seated in my line of sight up 1 row.
The distinguished guests and the faculty processional was followed by a thank you to Parents, family members, and significant others. His Grandson softly nudges him.
It’s Saturday morning. I’m flicking through Netflix and there it was – “Recommended for me: The Legend of Bagger Vance.” It was ten, maybe eleven years ago. The Executive Coach assigned to me recommended the book. An Executive Coach from Little Rock, Arkansas. Hired and paid for by the Firm. “Good for my career,” they said. (Good for my career? I didn’t need help with my career. My team’s results were exceptional. Employee Survey scores ranked my team’s morale #1, with no one remotely close. Little Rock, Arkansas? Come on. You’ve got to be kidding.)
The first meeting was scheduled. Big Cat was tired, wary and his fur was up. (Last thing I need is some corporate shrink dishing out pablum that I wouldn’t eat and then reporting back to management that I was a head-case. What can he possibly teach me? “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.”)
He outlined the program. Clinical. To-the-point. No wasted words. No wasted movement. He explained that he wanted to conduct a 360-survey with my direct reports, colleagues and key partners. Get me the names, and we’ll get started. He was in and out.
Session 3, the survey feedback comes in. Big 4-inch ringed binder. I’m flipping through the pages. I skip the strengths. I know what they are. Eyes scan the charts, and land on the categories hitting the low points. (Memory is hazy…but I remember thinking Holy Sh*t as a read through the color commentary: “Ambitious. Would roll me if I missed. Aggressive. Relentless. Tough. Standards unrealistically high. ‘Always on.’ Don’t really know him. An enigma, can be hard and soft, therefore difficult to read. And Trust.” I gently closed the binder to trap the words in – dropping my head and tasting the bitters of stomach acid.) [Read more…]