Riding Metro North. With Nana.

5:55 am train to Grand Central. It’s the 2nd stop.  My head is down, I’m flipping through the morning papers.

The voice is soft, kind: “Excuse me.” She struggles to avoid contact as she slides to the middle seat; she’s directly across and to my left.

Someone’s Mother, Someone’s Grandmother, a Nana.

She settles in, straightening her neat, navy skirt. Her hands clutch a thin, pocket umbrella and rest on her lap, on top of a small black purse attached to a black shoulder strap.

Of Central American origin, Guatemalan, if I was guessing, of Mayan origin, guessing again.

I catch her in a quick glance at me, she was guessing: “Suit. Privileged. WASP. Ivy league educated. Money.” Wrong on most, but not all counts. OK, let’s call it wrong on some counts. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With William Edward Hickson.

6:16 am to Grand Central.

Train car is packed but Silent.

I’m riding backward, feeling lighter, refreshed, alive. Looking East, now in Daylight Savings Time, it’s a ride in morning light, following months of lurking in darkness. A orange glow lights up the horizon and triggers Cummings: “the / mercy of perfect sunlight after days // of dark, will climb; will blossom: will sing (like / april’s own april and awake’s awake).”  

I can feel all that.

Back to the morning reading.

New thing: Riding + reading = Nausea.  Eyes, knees, shoulders, and now stomach. Middle age creep. Oh, how to be blessed for 50+ years with a cast iron stomach that can be filled with any grade of fuel, and bam, like a light switch, Gone. I’ve become a delicate flower, a petal to be handled with care. Stress? IBS? I softly lick my lower lip and find the sweet remnants of one of 2 glazed, cheese danishes from last night. Who the hell knows. It’s all exceedingly fragile, I’m teetering like a Jenga Tower.

I set the e-reader down, lift my head. Need to stabilize. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With Both Thumbs.

5:40 am to Grand Central. Standing room only, 4 men stand in the vestibule. How is this possible on the second train of the day?

One of the four left standing, leans against the railing.  Italian shoes. Beats Wireless Ear buds. A snappy form fitted Canada Goose vest. Shirt cuffs unbuttoned. Stylin’. A Starbucks cup in one hand, a smartphone in the other, he flicks screens, grins, and sips his coffee.

Lady in the seat directly across reads the New York Times. Yes, like a real newspaper, a legitimate oddity on a commuter train. A glance up and down the rail car reveals no single other newspaper, just the hum of the air-conditioning and the silent flicking of hundreds of index fingers.

Lady next to her, a face white as snow, contrasting with her black coat, tall black knee high boots, and the white skin of the knee bunching out of a black knee brace. She grips a large, black, Samsonite wheeled carry on, with her black back pack resting on top.  Her makeup groans to cover darkening bags under the eyes. The dike is leaking, age is ready to break, for her, for me. Cat Steven’s tune drifts in: Morning has broken….black bird has spoken… [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With SkinnyPop.

train-car-jpg

Michael posted it. I chew on it.

“The older I grow, the more I listen to people who don’t talk much.”  Germain G. Glidden.

Like a needle stuck in a rut, it churns.

The older I grow…The older I grow…The older I grow.

It’s Monday, an unexpected break, with two cancellations. I mosey cross-town to catch an early afternoon train.

The hallways in Grand Central, teeming in rush hour, stand empty, resting.  The board flashes Track 106, departing in 30 minutes.  30 minutes. 30 minutes. 30 minutes.

The stomach growls. I circle the snack bar. Once. And then twice. And then back again. Snickers Bars. Doritos. Mixed Nuts. M&Ms. Papers. Magazines. Sodas chilling. An oversize bag of Jalapeno SkinnyPop. Bingo. I grab the bag and a Kit-Kat Bar.  The tattooed counter man lifts his head from the NY Post, “Bag for this?

I step into the last car, it’s dimly lit. [Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. 47th, wrong side.

walker-photography-mist-fog-light

6:32 a.m. I exit Grand Central onto 47th. I glance at my watch, plenty of time for the 7 a.m. breakfast.

The crane’s steel arm groans and stretches up four floors. One worker guides the load of sheet rock in through the window. Another waves off the early morning commuters with his red caution flag. He looks me in the eye and directs me to the other side of the street.

I cross.

Have you ever walked this side of 47th? Ever? Eight years. 100’s of cross-town walks. Zero recollection of ever walking on the other side.

I glance over. It’s now free of construction. The wind whistles. Come back. Now. Come Home to me.

I lean right but resist. No.  Not today. Live dangerously DK.  Go way out on a limb.

I walk.

The legs and feet are heavy. I trudge on alien ground. The Amygdala twitches.

I pass delivery upon delivery truck offloading the day’s supplies.

“Fiji Water. Fiji. Untouched by man. Every drop is green.”

I pass the jewelry district

“Time in Motion – Watch Repair”
[Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. Blink, Damn It. Blink.

It’s 7:38 am.
The train pulls into Grand Central.
I lift briefcase – oh, oh. It’s unusually light.
Meeting notes and reports were left behind on the nightstand.
Late jump. A mere hour difference from your habitual start and you’re unhinged.
First morning call is scheduled at 8:15.
Maps signals a 30 minute walk from Grand Central to the Office.
Cab v. Foot?
I check the vitals.
Temperature? Rain? Cross-town traffic? Mood? Criticality of call?
Vitals check out.
I can beat 30 on foot.

Heavy construction lines the arteries, 48th cross-town and 7th downtown. Tourists crowd the sidewalks and hover over the filming of the Live Morning show – a shapely aerobics instructor flanked by two middle aged men wearing hot green lycra pants.

I glance at Maps. I’ve lost time. Arrival time now estimated at 8:13 for the 8:15 meeting.

I accelerate the pace, and this against a wall of foot traffic heading uptown. A hurdler off-step, I hit each Don’t Walk sign.

I glance at Maps: 8:17 ETA.

Humidity surges.  I loosen tie.  My neck moistens the shirt collar.  Fresh? Not.

The morning sun beams. A smooth thin film coats the forehead, legs and back. [Read more…]

Homebound from Baltimore. Amtrak 2150.

train-tracks-commute-tunnel

5:30 a.m. Return from Baltimore on Amtrak’s first run of the day.  The Quiet car is sparsely populated. Light rain falls. The train rumbles north to NYC . . . Boston last stop.

At Penn Station, commuters fill the empty seats. A Suit takes the open seat next to me. He opens his laptop, twists in his earbuds and settles in. I glance over. Millennial. Blue navy suit. Sharp red tie. Country of origin? Non-U.S.

Five minutes pass.

He grabs his laptop and walks to the back of the train and disappears into the next car. I’m happy for the elbow room. I return to my emails.

P.A.: “45 minutes to the Stamford Station.”  On Time.

I scan the morning papers.

40 minutes to the Stamford Station.

I hadn’t noticed his black duffel bag on the floor – black straps, logo-free and hulking motionless in the shadows.  A black umbrella rests on top. The aisle seat remains empty.

30 minutes to the Stamford Station.

I return to my reading, but my eyes are drawn to the unmarked bag, the umbrella and the empty aisle seat. My ears are alive. Ticking? Flashing digital countdown timer?

20 minutes to the Stamford Station. [Read more…]

Riding Uptown. Saving the Best For Last.

taxi-cab-new-york-city

The memory was triggered by a tune played on the car radio on a balmy December day last week. A tune I’ve played hundred’s of times since it was released in 1991. A tune that sits on top of the same playlist that has been transferred from iPod to iPod to iPod to various iPhone upgrades for almost 25 years. It’s Marc Cohn’s hit “Saving the Best for Last.

Got into a cab in New York City 
Was an Oriental man behind the wheel 

It wasn’t an Oriental man behind the wheel. It was a cab in New York City.  He was in his 60’s.  He didn’t do much talking, and certainly not about mansions in heaven.

Started talking about heaven 
Like it was real 
Said “They got mansions in heaven” 
Yeah the angels are building one for me right now…

It was July. The midday heat exploded, and like a desert mirage, the waves were radiating off the Manhattan asphalt.  All four windows in the cab were down, hot air was gushing in. I took my jacket off, and loosened my tie.

I couldn’t get the words out: “Can you please turn on the A/C?”  It was as if my tongue was jacked with Novocain.  A/C Broken or conserving petrol?

We’d lock eyes in his rear view mirror. A Suit staring into the deep dark eye of an elephant, with its leg chained to steel spike.

And I know…
They’re saving the best for last 
Look around this town 
And tell me that it ain’t so 
They’re saving the best for last 
Don’t ask me how I know 
‘Cause it must be 
Saving the best for last for me

There was a 34 oz plastic bottle resting in the console, the Polish Spring label worn from the refilling, the hundreds of grips and re-grips, and the punishing heat magnified through the front window.

Classified ads sit on the passenger seat, folded neatly. A black Bic is clipped to the top left, the plastic cap marked with deep chew marks. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With My Schwinn

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5:40 am train to Grand Central.
50º F. Top coat-free morning.
Warm.

Morning papers.

Photo of the Day: Jogger in Beijing. Eyes visible. Face covered with a mask. Street flooded with smog. Mile 1 of apocalypse?

Climate change.
Trump
Fear.
Guns.
Grim.

Hoo-Ah!
Lt. Col. Frank Slade (aka Al Pacino) in Scent of a Woman: “there isn’t nothin’ like the sight of an amputated spirit.

Bend it. Bend it back.

Mid-summer. 1970’s. Billy’s out front. Brother Rich and cousin Jim tail far behind.  The fishing pole is in my right hand and bending in the wind. I’m griping the handle bars and pumpin’ my legs.  Up down. Up down.  We reach the final leg, a steep decline.  Heads are tucked down and in over the handle bars. The Schwinn accelerates.  We lean into the slow turn right. And then into the slow turn left. The white birches lining the road are a blur.

Metro North makes its first stop and rolls on.  I turn my gaze to the window.  Lights from lamp posts, street lights and apartments illuminate the darkness and whiz by.

I turn my right shoulder ever so slightly to cock the rod.  Out of my right eye are lush forests.  I cast. The floater and lead are suspended in the air. The worm is tucked in tightly on the hook. Towering above, the Cascade Mountains watch over. And the cloudless blue skies watch over all of us.  The Kootenay River, clear, clean and lined with moss covered stones, meanders down stream.

The train pulls into Grand Central. We spill out.

The floater, red and striped, is suspended.  Hanging, frozen in time.

Hold it.

Stop right there.

Don’t let me go.


Notes:

Riding Metro North. Floating above it all.

art-light-gabriel-dawe

I’m walking across town on 47th street to catch Metro North.  Times Square bursts to illuminate the light drizzle falling between the skyscrapers.  It’s 48° F, cool, but comfortable for the first day of December. There’s plenty of time to catch the evening train. I’m a victim of a poor night’s sleep and a long day but I float above it all – above fatigue, above the snarled commuter traffic and I welcome the soft, evening rain. This day is done. This tank is empty. There’s nothing left to do but let it fall.

Fragments from my morning reading of Clarice Lispector’s book parachute in…now the rain has stopped. It’s just cold and feels good…The days melt into one another, merge to form one whole block, a big anchor. Her gaze starts evoking a deep well. Dark and silent water…

I take my seat. Rain drops bead on my shoes and mar the morning shine. Floating, watching it from above, the rain water slides down the side of my shoe. [Read more…]

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