The Fixer

It doesn’t matter what time of day. My digestif after scrambled eggs at breakfast. A satisfying and necessary fulfiller after lunch. A smooth finisher after dinner. A soothing pre-bed, night time snack. And of course, that something-something between meals.

There it is.

Mint-Chocolate Chip Gelato.

I’m in line at the check-out counter at Palmer’s Market, gripping four (4) cylindrical containers of Talenti Gelato, two pints in each hand. The ice crystals cool the palm of my hand, and I wonder how long it took to ship this gelato from some quaint dairy farm in Southern Italy. A farm that’s been in the same family for hundreds of years. Farm-fresh from cow to these hard plastic cylinders to the freezer at Palmer’s Market, with all of the hand made manufacturing processes in-between. (Gelato, gelato, I find myself repeating gelato and liking it, especially the finish. My lips form an “o” like “o” isn’t this “o” so wonderful).

I move up in line, gently setting the gelatos down on the conveyor. They slide forward.

[Read more…]

It’s been a long day

It’s not that I come back to writing after something revelatory or after a profound moment of change, but rather, it’s something small, inconsequential even. I eat berries, I drink stovetop espresso, I run until my knee gives out, I stand in the middle of my room for long periods of time, I water my plants and talk to them….I’m surprised when I eventually do come back to write. I read Alejandra Pizarnik’s line from her poem “Del Silencio” (“Fragments for Subduing the Silence”): Sin embargo, quedé cautiva de la antigua ternura. Each time I read it, I realize that’s all I can do: be tender and patient with myself, and captive in something older than me.

~ Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, from “Writers Recommend” (Poets & Writers, April 12, 2018)


Notes:

Riding Amtrak 2151-2172: Baltimore.

Five days gone. 4 memories remain. Freeman Dyson’s memory: Unreliable. Selecting. Rearranging. Forgetting. Embroidering. Inventing.

Scene 1: 

My assistant. So grateful to have an assistant. So grateful for her. Two introverts in well plowed furrows. “Are you sure, you want to go there and back same day? 7 hours on train, in 10 hours?” I look up. She knows the answer. There. Back. Exhaustion traded for sleep, sleep in my own bed.  Book it.

I’m waiting on the platform for Amtrak 2151 leaving at 7:54 am to Baltimore. It was for Dickens, and it was for me:  “One of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Scene 2:

She boarded at Penn Station. Student. Maybe 20. She’s determined, bangin’ away on an old model MacBook Air. Wireless white earpods pumping in music, she’s bobbing her head. The cover of her notepad: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. Biomed? Engineering? Medicine? She snaps the laptop lid shut, turns her head to the window, leans back, closes her eyes and lets the morning sun warm her face. Confident. Ivy leaguer. At peace.

It’s Thursday, three days later, and I’m deep into Irvin Yalom’s Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist’s Memoir. I wouldn’t be caught dead seeking therapy, but this, ‘this’ memoir is well within bounds.  I’m back on the train, Ms. Johns Hopkins sitting across from me, and me, I’m so Irvin Yalom, so wanting to repeat that trip: [Read more…]

Running. In Place. With Hagerman.

July 2, 2017. My last Running post.

The last time I ran outside? 258 days ago? Could it be that long ago? Really? Wow.

Updike: “How innocently life ate the days.” How obviously it didn’t eat my expanding waist line.

Read that we spend 87% of our time indoors, 6% in autos and … do the math on the balance, time spent outdoors. Ouch. My outdoor count is lower than average. And here I sit, lay actually, on the bed, indoors, yet another Sunday morning. Motivation to get out: 0% 

Haven’t been able to shake last Sunday’s share: “Boycott. The Embargo. It was draconian and complete” and Hagerman going cold turkey on media, social media, politics et al.  Look at him in the photo above — look at those night stands. There’s nothing there.

I take inventory from my current semi-horizontal position on the bed:

Lamp. Cable TV Remote. Smart TV Remote. Cable Box. Smart TV. Land-line phone. Apple HomePod. (Don’t buy it.) Cell Phones (2). Not a typo. Laptop. iPad. Apple Pencil. Plus backup. Over-the-Ear headphones. Earbuds. (New ritual. Fall asleep to daily podcasts.) Digital Clock. (2). Wireless Charger. Power strip with power cords.  Octopi (…puses?) (Angry, tangled and snarling.) Hard cover books stacked on shelf in nightstand. (Gathering dust).

NY Times story on Hagerman was titled The Man Who Knew Too Little.

This story is titled:

Man Who Knows Nothing And Is Tethered to his Gadgets Needing Detox, Intervention, or Something.


Post Inspiration,  Jonathan Franzen, Best American Essays 2016: “Kierkegaard, in Either/Or, makes fun of the “busy man” for whom busyness is a way of avoiding an honest self-reckoning. You might wake up in the night and realize that…you need to think about what your carbon footprint is doing to the planet, but the next day you have a million little things to do, and the day after that you have another million things. As long as there’s no end of little things, you never have to stop and confront the bigger questions.”

Flying South Southwest to DFW. Non-Stop. (Not Really)

airport

7:39 a.m. I have an hour to kill waiting to re-board and I’m searching for a photo for this post. I find it on a site titled “Under Heaven.” Isn’t that a coincidence. The photo is a near replica of the skyline that I see from the waiting area at Philadelphia International Airport. A patch of bluest of blues. An orange strip lining the horizon. Sun beaming in through the floor to ceiling windows. A Monday Morning Wake-Up Call. I live. I live. I live. I live.

7:15 a.m. The flight attendant states the estimate for the aircraft repair is one hour. We are asked to take our luggage and deplane. Because 1 hour is an estimate and you know how these things go. But, no one, and I mean no one is complaining.

7:00 a.m. It’s silent in the cabin. I mean Silent. It’s a long approach to the runway. Back wheels bump bump on the tarmac. Front wheel taps to follow. Reverse thrusters slow this 183,000 pound Airbus A321 bird. Whatever thrusters are, I’m grateful. The passengers begin to whisper and the plane taxis to the gate. I’m grateful for Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell. Rocky. Steak & Cheese Sandwiches. The Eagles. All of it. 

6:44 a.m.  The Captain comes on the intercom. “I have control of this aircraft.” And he stops. WTH does that mean? As opposed to being not in control? Noted that he didn’t say: “this is a routine maintenance issue.” I steady my hands, both trembling. No! No! No! No! I’m not ready to leave yet. I’m not looking for a room at the top of the world tonight. Four Seasons. Westin. Marriott. Red Roof Inn, anything. But not there. Not now. Not yet. [Read more…]

Riding Metro-North. With Holy Cow.

Morning. Today. 5:01 a.m. First train to Grand Central.

Dark Sky reports 33° F, feels like 25°.  Feels like: Not Spring. March 5th.  Spring backward. Falling and stumbling forward.

I wedge myself into a two seater, nudging the occupant awake. (Same occupant who was sprawled across two seats).  He’s annoyed. I’m annoyed that he’s annoyed. I’m way more annoyed. 

I glance up at the few unfortunates standing in the vestibule. Now they should be annoyed.

But for the low throb of the annoyances, and the giant overhead heaters blowing through the vents, the train car is silent. No talking. No whispering. No paper shuffling. Nada. Silence.

It’s as if Jack Kornfield blew the whistle and yelled Go: “It was the silence, stopping and taking a breath, opening the heart, seeing that the whole planet, and everything on it, is holy.”

And at that moment, the lead-weighted shoulders are freed.

The soles of the feet, through the leather soles of my lace-ups, feel the vibration of the steel of wheels on the steel of the tracks, bumping along with the rhythmic skip of steel on steel at the ties.

The seat under me is soft and shifts with each rail tie.  The train car rocks, my body sways ever so slightly left and right and then back again. My knees gently knock on the seat in front, first right knee then left.

Feet, knees, palms, seat — sensations are elevated.

I close my eyes. Drift off, and float along on Kornfield’s holy train.

His holy car. Holy Cow.

I awaken to the conductor’s announcement: “This station is Grand Central. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.”

Meditation? Nah.

Mediation is not for real men.


Notes:

Riding Metro-North. With Aglets & Eyelets.

Irritated. 

I’m not going to lay down words here about my non-eventful walk to the train station, the brooding weather (light rain), what morning train I’m running to catch, or what day it was. DrossWho cares?

No. I’m not going to spew my wonder (disgust) as to how it’s possible, on the 3rd train of the morning (pre-6am) to be standing. Standing, Again, on a 56 minute ride to Grand Central. There are worse things you ingrate. Hmmmmm….possibly one or two things worse.

I carve out my less-than-a-square-meter of space in the vestibule, among the other Unfortunates. I set my bag down, and grab the stainless steel pole. Relax. Take a deep breath DK. Look at the others around you, in exactly the same situation, yet remain poised, calm, accepting. 

And then there’s you.

Unmoored by a slight ripple of inconvenience, and your mind is chattering, battering, judging.  Me vs. Me, both sides punching.  This whole meditation thing, is just not there, not in the wiring.  It’s like you wish you had copper piping running through the entire house, but it’s plastic. It will always be plastic. It will only ever be plastic.  So accept ‘that.’ [Read more…]

Riding Metro-North. Delayed, but it could (always) be worse.

Wednesday morning. 5:46 a.m. I step out, lock the door and step it to the station.

8 minutes to the 5:54 am train to Grand Central. A six minute walk. Tight.

I’m a few hundred feet away and the overhead speaker signals a five to ten minute delay. Naturally.

  • 6:00 a.m. No sign of the train.
  • 6:10 a.m. I set my bag down. No sign of train. Other commuters stir impatiently.
  • 6:15 a.m. No sign of train.  A second wave of commuters stack up on the platform waiting for the 6:16 am. train.
  • 6:25 a.m. No train.  Announcement over the speaker announces further delays due to “police activity.” I check Twitter for a Metro-North update. 10-15 minute delays, my a**.  I keep on reading…and the edge comes off. Slip and fall? Jumper? Heart attack?

[Read more…]

Riding Metro-North. With Missionary Man.

What does it take to sit? No, I mean Sit. Not sit with your iPhone. Or sit with your iPad.  Or sit with your book. Or sit with your paper.

Just Sit.

He was in the window seat in a three seater. I took the aisle. The middle seat was empty.

It’s a one hour ride on the third train of the morning, the 5:56 Metro North to Grand Central, an Express.

His hands rested on his lap. There was nothing particularly distinguishing. Black loafers. Smart black coat. Black slacks. Thin brown leather case, comfortably worn.

He would occasionally glance out the window. And then return, looking straight ahead.

Man at Peace, of normal height and weight, casting a mountain of a shadow.

My hands would not, could not reach for my earbuds. The iPhone heavy, an anvil. My case, stuffed with other electronics and power cords, and papers, a barrel under arm.

I’m restless, fidgety, and shift in my seat — left, right, and back again. And do over. And over. And over.

I want to be that. Him. [Read more…]

Flying Over I-95 N. In Magic Kingdom.

Is that Magic Kingdom? Disney? Yes. Were you there? No. But Yes, in gusts of memories as I sat in a large ballroom at the J.W. Marriott in Orlando, listening to a speaker discuss “Cybersecurity in the Modern World.” Fastpasses. Teacup. Turkey legs. Splash Mountain. The monorail train ride to the park, Eric’s favorite part of the trip. The body aches, as I carry him on my shoulders along the parade route so he can see over the crowds. It’s a Small World (afterall).

It’s the late afternoon flight departing from Orlando — the 5:41 p.m. on jetBlue #1694.  “We will be boarding in a few minutes. This is a full flight. We are oversold and looking for volunteers to take the next flight.”  A morning flight was canceled “due to inclement weather in New York.” Why ‘inclement?’ Why not ‘bad’? Or ‘stormy.’ Or ‘wintry.’

A large crowd mills around the gate, impatient. “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things doesn’t belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the other by the time I finish this song.”

Mom’s, exhausted, shoulders slumped, have large bags slung over their shoulders. They watch their children run around the waiting area, others are consumed on their handhelds. Dad’s sit and watch loops of CNN on the overhead TVs.  Moms, Dads, kids, holiday, Disney and then me — the Suit, work.

We board.

We lift off. [Read more…]

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