Running. With Half Pass.

feet

Iron couplers connect railcars. One to the next, to the next. Synchronicity? Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?

Terri Gross interviews Leonard Cohen‘s Son, Adam, on a NPR: Fresh Air podcast titled “Leonard Cohen The Poet, Writer, And Father where he talks about his Father: “He was preoccupied with the brokenness of things, the asymmetry of things, as he says forget your perfect offering…or as in his song Anthem…Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

I turn the page in Haruki Murakami’s new novel Killing Commendatore and the title of Chapter 4 flashes and sticks: “From a Distance, Most Things Look Beautiful.”

I’m running to Stamford Cove Park. Off in the distance, a man grips three leashes, two small, white dogs of the same breed on his left (Rat Terriers?), and a larger Mix (Rescue?) on the right.

I approach.

I’m drawn to Mix. All four legs move sideways and forward, a Half Pass dressage. A defect. I slow to follow the pack from a few yards back, the Terriers pull on the leashes, the mix struggles to keep up.

The Mind calls up a passage by Tom Hennen that I came across earlier in the week: “I am struck by the otherness of things rather than their sameness. That each thing on earth has its own soul, its own life, that each tree, each clod is filled with the mud of its own star.” [Read more…]

Riding I-95 South. With Cuts.

I’m crossing the I-95 overpass, aiming to circle back and slide down the ramp into the pack – the morning rush is backed up for miles.

I wait at the stoplight.

Four girls, 7-8 years old, blue skirts, sweaters, hair pulled back, backpacks bouncing on their backs…hustle across the crosswalk, all four with iPhones cradled in both hands. Texting. Surfing. Instagram. Facebook. Snapchat.  Hands, eyes, fingers, all blind to the onset of autumn in the trees overhead, and the yellowing leaves which quiver from the gentle breeze easing in from the North. The light turns, I see them in the rear view mirror, heads down. And likely still down at this moment. The scene replays in a loop. Something Large, is irretrievably Lost.

I inch down 95.

Something Large, is irretrievable Lost.  A 1/2 mile stretch on my right, formerly lined with thick, lush trees, the same trees that separated the commuter train lines from the suburbs, the same trees offering a moment’s sanctuary from Work-to-Come or Work-Behind-Us, these same Giant trees, thick with foliage…are Gone.

A giant yellow earthmover hulks along the highway, resting from the mayhem it delivered overnight. Creating What? Room for a second lane exiting into Greenwich? Another rail line? Tree-free space to stand-up cinder block distribution warehouses for Amazon, that stretch for acres, offering convenient access to I-95?

I pass the clear cut, the traffic eases and it’s all behind me. Or so I think. [Read more…]

Amtrak 2151 Acela Express. With Centi.

7:28 a.m. Boarding time: 7:52 a.m. Amtrak to Philadelphia. Rocky Balboa. Eagles. Flyers. Liberty Bell. Cheesesteak Sandwiches.

I’m waiting at the Stamford train station, sitting on a hardback plastic seat. So hard, you could substitute it for Kevlar. Lower back, displeased with status. I shift, restless.

To my left and across, two men, middle aged, hard hats on floor, work boots, unshaven – sit and discuss his work injury…hurt so bad…Percocet…MorphineFloating. Both chuckle.

Across from me, large man, head bobbing, mouth gaping, asleep.

Passengers pass by through the automatic doors to Tracks 2 & 4. The doors hiss, at each open and close.

My eye spots movement below.  A centipede.  (And I’m not interested in you Entomologists out there telling me that it’s not a centipede. Where’s the 100 feet?  We’re going with Centipede.)

Back to my Friend.

His legs are flailing.  Turtle on its back, issuing an SOS distress signal. I watch it struggle for a few minutes and then turn away. I flip through emails.

Can’t focus. Distracted. Anxious…must be Centi’s anxiety transference. “Help me DK!”

I look around to see if anyone is watching. Then when I’ve established the coast is clear, I reach down and gently try to flip him. He sees a Giant: Danger! He rolls into a tightly, tucked black ball.

I grab my iPhone recognizing that there’s a story here.  I’m 9 snaps in.  Fuzzy shots. Too far away. Too close. Blurry.  I look up and see the Percocet Boys are now watching.  What’s that Idiot Suit doing?

I wait for him to unravel, my head is down, eyes are locked in.  Please, unravel, and do so with 100 feet down.

I wait. [Read more…]

Riding I-95 North and South. Empty Nest. (Not)

It’s 1:35 a.m. I’m up. What’s that kid’s tune? How does it go? Head and shoulders knees and toes. Knees and toes. I wiggle my toes, roll over in bed to my other side. Beyond fatigue. Restless. It all aches. Get up and write about it.

560 miles. 4.5 hours down on I-95 S to Washington, D.C. 5.25 hours back in heavy traffic.  Three hours in between clearing out Eric’s apartment and filling a U-haul. Who said girls accumulate more sh*t than guys? Clothes. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Box Spring. Mattress. Headboard. Television. Couch. Chair. Dresser. Boxes and more boxes and more boxes. Five flights of stairs. I’m too old for this sh*t.

It started at 5:15 a.m. yesterday. No, that’s not correct. We moved him in almost 2 years to the day. Job in DC. Girlfriend in D.C. Followed by break-up with girlfriend four months ago. No reason given. We loved her. He bristled upon any query. Someone who had become a welcome addition to the Family, Gone. Sad, really.

And it was but a few weeks after we learned of the break-up (via Facebook status change), Dad started in on his Son.

Your job enables you to live anywhere? Why sink $2,000 into rent every month?

Your Mom would love for you to come home.

We’ll get a puppy, really, if you come home.

I’ll knock the wall out between your old room and your sister’s room. You’ll have a giant suite!

Think of the money you’ll save if you move back home. You’ll be able to afford that travel you so love to do.

Did you talk to your Boss about changing your base location to NY?

Are you still paying $2,000 a month rent? On your salary, how do you save any money? [Read more…]

Flying. On Sunday with Sparrow.

Sunday morning. 6:15 a.m. Driver is racing down I-95 in light traffic. What’s the rush?

Destination: JFK. On Sunday.

There is something unpleasant at its core about cutting your weekend in half, to fly across the country to get to a conference kick-off on Sunday evening. My weekend (Not). A large paddle wheeler, turning, turning, turning, wooden paddles slapping against the water, pausing briefly when the rhythm is broken by a swell.

There’ll be no sleeping in. No lounging in bed. No CBS Sunday Morning with Jane. There’ll be no Sunday morning papers. No pancake breakfast. No Netflix binge watching. No dozing off on the couch under the comforter, windows open, strands of cool breezes welcoming Autumn.

Thoughts alternate between irritation (did you really need to commit to attend this conference) to mild irritation (you could have left on Monday) to resignation (make the best of it pal, a commitment is a commitment).

I open my backpack, pull out my iPad, and find it’s 13% charged. No! No! No! I Swear I plugged this thing in last night. I walk around Gate 24, and then 25 and find an open power outlet at Gate 26. [Read more…]

The still, quiet voice


“I have to listen to music while I write, and usually I play just one song at a time. I repeat it all day, often for weeks on end. Months, even. There’s one song that I replayed up to 30,000 times during the ten years I was writing The Incendiaries. I love that song and its powers; I can’t tell you its name, lest it stop helping me. By obsessively replaying a single song at a time, I can, if I’m lucky, set the pitch. It gives me a place to start. The ritual of it, the repetition, lulls and quiets my anxious, everyday self. The ego goes silent, which lets my writing self emerge, and begin to sing. Even now, months after I last edited The Incendiaries, to play the song I can’t name is to be pulled back toward my novel, into my made-up town of Noxhurst. The still, quiet voice. That’s what I used to listen for, back when I was deeply religious: the still, quiet voice of God. I’ve lost that kind of faith, but I do believe in fiction’s voice, and in spending the rest of my life, or so I hope, listening for it.”

— R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries: A Novel in Poets & Writers, July 26, 2018


From a book Review of The Incendiaries by Ron Charles in The Washington Post on July 23, 2018: ‘The Incendiaries’ is the most buzzed-about debut of the summer, as it should be. “…Kwon, who was raised Roman Catholic and has said that she lost her faith in her teens, seems to understand with extraordinary sympathy just what that loss entails. And as her debut novel catches fire and burns toward its feverish conclusion, she offers a strikingly clear articulation of the fanatic’s mind-set: It’s not an excess of belief that drives some believers to violence; it’s a maddening lack of belief, which requires that radical action be substituted for faith. In a nation still so haunted by the divine promise, on the cusp of ever-more contentious debates about abortion and other intrinsically spiritual issues, ‘The Incendiaries’ arrives at precisely the right moment.”

Walking Mid Town. With Keats…

Early evening. Heat shimmers from the asphalt. I stand waiting for the Don’t Walk sign to turn…I’m three blocks from the entrance to Grand Central and my Metro North train ride home.  Hulking skyscrapers, mid-town Manhattan Gods, offer shade, a welcome cover to a day that needs to end. You are spent. 

And…as I stand waiting, here they come. Non consecutive lines from the Keats’ sonnet Bright Star

The moving waters at their priestlike task…
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell

And why Keats? Why this poem? Why these lines? Why now? What algorithm upstairs decides it’s time for this?  Here on 42nd Street, so far from the glacial waters of Home, so many galaxies from The Rockies, so many months from snow.  Yet, and somehow, and for some reason, it’s pulled up.

I feel the pillowy softness of snow in August, and the cool melt of crystals on my tongue. And I’m swept away, miles from the cacophony of horns, engines, tourists and the sweltering August heat.

The light turns. I walk. I cross the street and the smell of fried chicken fills my lungs…I inhale deeply…tantalizing. Keats’ grip on me vaporizes. [Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. With the lid popped off.

“Bring an umbrella. It’s going to rain.”  She follows the weather. She barks out the forecast. It will be 35 years in September, and I’ve found she’s right 50% of the time. And I remind her of the 50% on the wrong side. It keeps the wheels on the bus going round and round. I mumble under my breath: How hard can it rain? Do I really need to haul an umbrella around, another 1.5 pounds in my already overstuffed bag.

I take the umbrella.

It didn’t have to be this tight on time. It really didn’t.  I could have postponed an 8 a.m. conference call, taken the earlier train and given myself ample wiggle room to walk, to take an Uber or to catch a cab. I even thought about it, at length.  But no, No Sir. Why defer, when you can do it now, right now. Pack it tight, pack it in.  The Counselling Blog (I need it / I read it / I won’t admit it) shared a quote yesterday that was shared anonymously:  “I try to contain my crazy but the lid keeps popping off.” I get it. I do.

I have a 10:30 a.m. training session that I am leading with 20 colleagues. The train is scheduled to arrive at Grand Central at 9:59 a.m. It’s 10 minutes late, and it’s a 13-minute walk across town if you hit the street lights just right. Tight. Too tight for a guy who likes to arrive early, set up the room, sit and relax, and review my presentation notes.

I exit Grand Central Station. It’s raining. No. I mean, it’s Raining. Sheets. I stand under a covered area and look for Cabs. Are you kidding? Waiting for a Miracle. I pull up the Uber app and it says no availability for 12 minutes. I don’t have 12 minutes and it would take another 15-20 minutes to get across town in this traffic.

I pop open the umbrella. There are streams of rainwater rushing down the streets into the drains. Monsoon on Madison. Puddles are accumulating at the cross walks. The marble in front of the major hotels is smooth, gray and slick like ice. I need to slow my pace as the umbrella in my right hand is stretching me up, my overstuffed backpack in my left is pulling me down and my smooth, leather soled lace-ups are struggling to stay anchored to the concrete slabs – an off-kilter Rickshaw teetering on a single wheel. Treacherous. [Read more…]

All of it is really just absurd and seems improbable

“While working on my first novel, I developed Central Serous Retinopathy, or stress-related vision loss in my left eye. Doctors said it was imperative that I relax, but I wasn’t about to give up my passion. Then it hit me: the absurd reality that writing a book robbed me of my sight. The human brain is powerful enough to send a man to the moon, yet, writing nearly blinded me. In that moment of clarity, I realized that reflecting on the sheer absurdity of existence was key. Now, whenever I find myself overwhelmed, I sit back, pet my dog, and count the innumerable bizarre occurrences that had to happen just so in order for me to be sitting in front of my typewriter at that moment: the highly volatile mixture of elements that exploded into our universe; the curious Tiktaalik fish that thought, What’s on that dry stuff?; and the fact that my mother and father, millions of years and coincidences later, graciously decided to make another human. All of it is really just absurd and seems improbable. Once I’ve reflected on that for a while, writing hardly seems impossible and I enter a state of repose, grateful to get back to work.”

— Michael A. Ferro, author of TITLE 13 in Writers Recommend (Poets & Writers, July 12, 2018)


Image Credit

Walking. O say can you see by the dawn’s early light.

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Dallas, TX.

Wednesday. 4:05 am. Pre-Dawn.

It’s sticky, the air is heavy, rain showers are imminent.

I’m walking from an outbuilding to the lobby to pick up an Uber to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. I’m on the first flight back to New York.

Two bodies are framed in their silhouettes. They stand under a street lamp filling a work cart with garden tools. They stop talking, watch me approach and offer a “Good morning Sir” with full smiles and broken English.

Of Mexican origin.

I approach the front desk. Martina is the tag on her lapel. “How was your stay Sir?” She doesn’t break eye contact. Customer Service coach whispering in her ear during orientation, be confident, you belong.

Of Haitian or DR origin. [Read more…]

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