Walking Cross Town. Small gestures with big tailwinds.

Late to bed Tuesday night, following long return flight from Phoenix.

Late jump Wednesday morning.

4th morning train to NYC.

Light misty rain.

And, Terry Tempest Williams continues to lay tracks.

In the end, it’s rarely the large gestures that count, it’s the small ones.

My antenna is up.

On train, a middle aged man gives up his seat for a lady. She’s not young. Not old. Not pregnant. He just does it. And stands for the entire 55 minute ride.

At Grand Central Station, Construction worker, hard hat under his arm, looks behind as he crosses the threshold of the exit, sees me coming, holds door open. I was several yards back. Let’s say 10 yards back. Rare occurrence. It was a conscious act.  Everyone is exhausted with political attacks, the lack of civility. How about some decency today?

And the gestures, small, keep coming.

Flight to Phoenix. Elderly lady sits in aisle seat. Not her seat. “Would you mind taking the window seat.” She gestures asking him to lean closer: “I have a bladder problem.” He slides across and takes the window seat. “No problem.” She exhales.

Susan out for a morning walk in Phoenix. She returns to tell me “the most unbelievable story.” I roll my eyes. Can’t wait to hear this.  She comes across a lady walking “Sunny”, a Golden Doodle.  Lady asks where we’re from. Susan explains. “Here to visit my husband’s younger brother. He’s hospitalized and breathing with the aid of a ventilator.” Lady pauses to assess the receptiveness of her planned gesture.  “I’m sorry to be so forward, but would you mind if I said a Prayer for him and for you.” And then proceeds to reach for Susan’s hands, and Prays.

I walk across Fifth Avenue. It’s 7 a.m. E.S.T. and 4 a.m. in Phoenix.

He’s sleeping now, machine pumps oxygen into his lungs.

I stand waiting for the cross walk sign to turn.

I look up, light drizzle brushes my face, three flags flap over a major hotel entrance.

I inhale deeply, and then exhale, and this Agnostic fires up his own Prayer.

Breathe Bro. Breathe.


Photo: Mine with smartphone. At Times Square yesterday morning, at the end of my cross-town walk. NYC awakening.

 

Driving I-95 South. Baptized without God.

5:33 am. Friday morning.

Google Maps signals 17 minutes to destination. Smooth ride, cruising down I-95 South. Truckers, insomniacs, and DK listening to Audible, his book on tape. More Terry Tempest Williams, her new book, Erosion: Essays of Undoing.  Terry’s way in my head, and beyond, and yes, we’re on a first name basis now. “Our undoing is also our becoming. I have come to believe this is a good thing.”

The Heads-up Display on the windshield flashes alert: Object ahead on highway. It flashes an alert again. I tap the brakes.

A wind gust blows leaves across three lanes. I exhale.  Wonders of technology. Car warns you about objects on highway, or if you veer outside your lane. I’m listening to books on tape, beamed from the cloud. GPS tells me how long to the office. And I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday.

The car wobbles over uneven pavement. 4000 pounds of car, wearing grooves into the asphalt, with my back and forth 4-5 days a week.

Read somewhere from a survey that 85% of us wished to travel more.  And that one in 10 Americans surveyed say they have no interest in going anywhere.  Welcome readers, to Me, I’m on top of this stack of 10. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Seat Selection Psychology.

I’ve noticed.

It’s happened enough times, to notice. Is it only me that notices these things?

Typically off peak trains.

I’m early.

I take the window seat, in a three seater. Always a 3-seater. Always the window seat.

I don’t place my bag on the seat, a Welcome mat for other commuters.

Train car begins to fill.

Ladies. Men. All colors, sizes.

They take a quick glance.

And they pass.

They’ll crowd into a two seater across, in front, behind. Or a three seater in front, behind.

The car reaches capacity,  and he (or she) will approach,

look up and down the car,

and take the seat.

But why?


All of the seats already had an occupant, which meant I was going to have to position myself next to a stranger. In a different mood, I enjoyed this game: one had ten seconds to scan the occupants and select the slimmest, sanest, cleanest-looking person to sit next to. Choose wrongly, and the fifteen-minute journey into town would be a much less pleasant experience—either squashed beside a sprawling fatty, or mouth-breathing to minimize the penetration of the reek emanating from an unwashed body. Such was the excitement of traveling on public transport…I stared at the floor, my mind racing. Did I … did I look like the kind of person who ought to be avoided in a game of bus seat selection? I could only conclude, in the face of the evidence, that I did. But why?

~ Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.


Photo credit

Riding Metro North. Stones, truths and time.

Sunday afternoon

I’m sitting on couch, wrapped in a soft hand-knit throw, reading Rachel Cusk’s new book “Coventry“: “I wanted only to be allowed to stay where I was; all weekend, the feeling of Sunday evening’s approach was as cruel and meticulous as the ticking of a time bomb.”

Weekend dripping away.  Work enters consciousness. Calendar. Meetings. The unfinished business.

Monday morning.

8 a.m. Dentist appointment. X-rays. Open wide. The pinch of hard plastic on the soft tissue inside of mouth. The squeeze of metal on molars.  The heavy cloak of the x-ray protective vest weighing on chest. All triggers the gag reflex. Then, cleaning. 48 minutes later, I’m released. I get up. Vertigo. Can’t find my footing. Woozy.

Cusk: “It is the body of a nearly forty-nine-year-old, but it doesn’t feel that way. I have never felt myself to be ageing: on the contrary, I have always had the strange sensation as time passes that I am getting not older but younger…This is not, of course, a physical reality.

I pay, exit, find my car and enter I-95 traffic in right lane. And stay in right lane, following traffic. Semi trailer to my left, an arm’s length away.  Decal below his rearview mirror trimmed in silver: “In memoriam of Armando.” Son? I stare at the lettering a-r-m-a-n-d-o, it slides closer to me. I return attention to the road in front. Damn it, it’s me! I turn the wheel right to veer back into my lane.  Cob webs heavy. Tailings of vertigo from Dentist chair. Fading sleep medication. So that’s what it’s come to. Old man in right lane, following traffic. Since when have you followed traffic, in the right lane, followed anything, or anybody? [Read more…]

Flying S.S.W. This ain’t Disney.

August 7th. This morning. 6 a.m. LaGuardia Airport. New York City.

Peak summer vacation season.

Young Parents. Families. Children. Babies. Backpacks. Teddy Bears. Duffel bags. Baby bottles.

Mothers, carrying delicate cargo, children nuzzled in necks, arms straining, heavy eyelids – – and it’s only 6:15 am. It’s going to be a long day.

ID’s. Passports. Longer. Everything’s longer. Wait times at check-in. At security. At X-Ray machines. But today, it’s ok. Families, together, excited, it’s summer vacation. There’s a sense of community in the terminal this morning. It’s buzzing. A good buzz.

Air conditioning blows in the waiting area, children huddle, gathering warmth around knees of their parents.

CNN blaring from TVs overhead. White Nationalists. Hate. More dead. [Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. Not Autopiloted. Not Missed. Not Today.

It’s Hump Day. Darlene shared a wonderful video on a camel farm. In watching it more closely a second time, I catch that the camels are raised for meat. And that, was the end of that. So Caleb is taking a break this week.

Tuesday. 5:48 A.M. Metro North train to Grand Central. Train on time. Plenty of seats. No tourists chatting in Quiet Car. Everyone bathed, B.O. full contained under sprays or sticks. Fully rested with 7.5 hours of sleep. What’s up with that?

End of July in NYC. That means one thing in the train tunnels. Suffocating heat. It starts around shirt collar, sliding to jacket collar, and then sweat drips from neck line down the center of your back. It really is something special to start your day.

Walking down the tunnels under the tracks to the exit. NYC, in the top 5 of the World’s Greatest Cities. Ceiling panels missing. Electric wires protruding down, a mere 6″ above your hairline. Large giant garbage pails capture water dripping from God knows where. Giant floor fans stirring air, cooling nothing, moving around heat. We’re so much better than this.

I approach the escalator. Turtles stand on the right. DK, passing on left. Winded at the top. Too old for this sh*t.

Dark Sky app says 77% F. Heat Advisory. Wind 2 m.p.h. – 2 mph? That seems high. Nothing moving in the atmosphere here. Humidity 1237%.

I cross street. Garbage fermenting somewhere. Demolition crews are hauling out refuse on carts into large dumpster. His mask hides his face. White dust coats his black tee-shirt. Asbestos. What a job. DK, what could you possibly ever bitch about?

[Read more…]

Driving I-95 South. With Jazzman.

5:38 a.m. T.G.I.F.

68 F. Glorious Summer Day. And, yet for some reason you’re dragging. 

I-95 S traffic is smooth.

7 1/2 hours of sleep. Yet, groggy. Eyes blink to clear.  Makes no sense, you’re so damn tired. 

Exit 8, one-half mile ahead. Get off, go home, go back to bed. Call in Sick.

I slide into the right (slow) lane. A foreign place to me. 

I reduce speed to 55. A walk at a pace uncomfortable for me.

I pass Exit 8.

I trail a Semi. “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” I can’t see much of anything right now Friend.

Waze signals 17 minutes to destination.

Exit 5, one mile ahead. Get off, go home, go back to bed. Call in Sick.

I pass Exit 5.

I reach for the radio.  Spin knob to find Sirius 7 on 70’s. Carole King with Jazzman

Lift me, won’t you lift me
Above the old routine;
Make it nice, play it clean, jazzman
He can sing you into paradise
Or bring you to your knees
Jazzman, take my blues away…

I shift in my seat. Snap out of it. 

Exit 2, last exit. Get off, go home, go back to bed. Call in Sick. Call in Sick? When you really aren’t Sick? Light calendar, handful of appointments. Martyr. Moron. 

I pass Exit 2.

I swing into the center lane and then again over to the left lane. I accelerate. Sigh. I’m home.

I pull into the parking garage. Near empty but for the cars parked overnight.  I walk down the empty hallway. I set my briefcase on my desk.

Lift me, won’t you lift me
Right back into my old routine
Sing me into paradise
Or bring me to my knees


Photo: Jamie Schafer

Riding Metro North. Right Place. Right Time.

Tuesday morning. 5:33 a.m. Second morning train to Grand Central.

I pause in front of the empty aisle seat. The occupant, feigning sleep, awakens immediately after my “excuse me.” He looks up the train car wondering why I hadn’t found another seat. He slides over roughly signalling displeasure. Bullsh*t.

I set my bag down onto the floor, reach down to grab my iPad, and in doing so, I clip his arm which extends into my air space. Ladies, no worries. I size up opponents carefully before jostling them. He tucks his elbow in.  I settle in, with territorial boundaries established, and all parties now in their rightful places.

I catch a whiff, it lingers for a minute, it’s foul, and then it disappears. I go back to reading. 

The train makes its first stop at Stamford. Doors hiss, open, passengers pass by, and there it is again. B.O. Heavy, thick B.O. This time it hangs. It can’t be me. Has to be Him. It vaporizes.  It can’t be Him, otherwise it would persist. I go back to reading.

Passenger passes by, and there it is again. I glance around to locate the source and then look up, and there resting (rotting?) on the overhead rack is a large, canvas backpack. Directly over top of Him. Cigarette smoke penetrates my suit jacket, does B.O.?

Train arrives at Grand Central. I get up quickly, woosy, with vertigo, looking up after 30 minutes with head in the morning papers. I exit into the underground tunnels.  Head spinning, ears ringing from the roar of the train engines, the heat, the crowds spilling down the tunnels, all swallow me whole. I step to the side out of traffic, slow my pace, take a few deep breaths and inhale a trace of urine and rancid food from garbage cans marinating overnight. 

I enter Grand Central terminal, look for the Lexington Avenue exit and punch my destination into the UBER app. 

I step on Lexington and cross the street to catch my ride.  We take FDR Drive South, and the morning sunrise pours through the window.  21 minutes to the office.

“Would you mind if I opened the window?”

“No Sir, not at all.”

I roll the window down.  I can smell, and taste the East River. The water shimmers and sparkles.  The Sun warms my face. The morning breeze is refreshing, and clears the head. The world is silent but for the wheels spinning on FDR Drive.  Buechner’s passage from the day before comes to mind: “we hear a whisper from the wings…you’ve turned up in the right place at the right time.

I will remember this.


Notes: Photo via poppins-me.

Driving Kenilworth Road. With Intuition +.

Just another morning commute. And then, maybe not so much. Like a take from Hannah Nicole’s A List of Soft ThingsWatching a time happen and thinking, I will remember this.”

5:25 am. Tuesday morning. GPS estimates 15 miles in 21 minutes for the morning commute.

Traffic flows.

Body is rested. (For a change.)

Mind is clear. (For a change.)

Sirius 7 on 70’s fills the cabin with Johnny Nash. I can see clearly now, the rain is gone / I can see all obstacles in my way / Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind / It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) / Sun-Shiny day / Look all around, there’s nothin’ but blue skies / Look straight ahead, nothin’ but blue skies.

I scan through the playlist for the Eagles’ Peaceful Easy Feeling. Can’t find it. Try to lip sync a few bars. Painful. I give up, and turn my full attention to the road.

I’m on the last leg of the morning drive. I-287 W, exit to the Hutch. I wait at the stop light. 0.3 miles from the office.

I wait.

Light turns green. And just at this moment, my skin tingles. Odd.  And then there’s a whisper: You might want to slow down here. [Read more…]

Driving Down MacArthur Blvd. Full of Pride.

He arrived on time. At the end of a 14-hour day. I’m bushed.

This day, which was preceded by five hours sleep on an alien mattress, which was preceded by a late night dinner, which included one oversized slice of home made peach pie (à la mode of course), and this was chased with a s’more. Yes, a S’more, you read right. With a home made golden graham cracker at its base, topped with a thin slice of Swiss chocolate, and a giant, home made marshmallow, with the waiter cautiously holding the blow torch as the sugar crackled and blackened into a light char.  Three bites, and it disappeared. A sugar addict with his fix, floating lightly above the table, abstaining from my dinner guests’ chatter, floating higher, higher, up and up in his delirium.

I slide into the back seat.

“How was your day Sir?”

I’m not in the mood for banter. Please, please, get me to the hotel. A long hot shower. Room service (sans S’mores). And early to bed.

“Great, thank you.” A.K. Benjamin’s passages dripping in and out of consciousness: “Studies have shown that your generation, our generation, lies on average two or three times every ten minutes, men to make themselves look better, women to feel good.” And he’s right.

I did not counter to ask him about his day. A direct signal that this door was not open for chatter.

“Would you like a bottle of water?”

“No, but thank you for asking.”

I pull out my smartphone, drop my head, emitting another direct signal of non-engagement. I glance up and see his eyes in the rear view mirror.  Tension rises in the cabin. He picks up on the body language: This guy is shut down.

He has a teddy bear on the console. Rainbow colored.  Odd. [Read more…]

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