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…]

Driving I-95 S. With Hammer at Rest.

A nothingburger during a nondescript morning commute a month ago.

Not a Vuong nothing Moment that changed everything after it.

But it changed Something.

Why this particular Moment among the billions?

Why is it called up when it is?

And here IT comes again this morning.

This Moment. It’s pulled forward, to the front. Taking its right hand, sweeping aside the incessant swing of the Hammer on the searing molten metal, of not enough, not good enough and Now.

And it’s exactly at this Moment, when the Hammer rests, and Vuong’s luminescence offers its cooling respite.

It whispers listen, pay attention to This. And it hangs around until I do.

The pre-rush hour traffic on I-95 was detoured onto Exit 2. GPS routes me through Port Chester. I pull up to a stop light, and there they are.

Father and Son. Son, maybe 4 years old.  Dad is wearing an overcoat, much too heavy for the season.  Son looks up to his Dad, Dad bends over and picks him up, hugs him tight, then sets him down.

And they walk. Dad’s lunch box swinging in his left hand, his Son’s hand swinging in his right.

Let’s play it again Vuong. One more time.

The Hammer rests, for this Moment.


Photo Credit

Walking Cross Town. Solvitur ambulando, as they say

Thursday. Metro North train pulls into Grand Central. The morning calendar is light. I’m in no rush to get across town to the office.

I sit on the train reading Ocean Vuong’s new book: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Justin Torres’ book review: “the book is brilliant in the way it pays attention not to what our thoughts make us feel, but to what our feelings make us think.” And he’s got it exactly right.

I sip it page by page.

The train clears, and I sit alone. Train engines shut down. Air conditioning rests. I sit in silence.

I finish the chapter, with eyes skimming Vuong: “We sidestep ourselves in order to move forward.” 

I tuck the iPad into my bag. I pause for another moment to enjoy the quiet.

Our feelings make us think…” and I feel just below the surface of the skin, the pull, it tugs, whispering: It’s time, it’s time you get back after it. You had your moment.

‘We sidesteps ourselves…’

I resist the pull for another moment, noting its strength, bordering on a Tsunami. Please, give me another moment. Just one.

I grab my bag and walk.

Instead of 47th, I walk up one block and take 48th street. Mixin’ it up a bit.

Silver Star Spa. Small door for an entrance. Chipped paint. Sketchy. “Best Asian massage in NYC.” I bet. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 North. Private One-Hour Conversation.

Tuesday.  It’s late. It’s been a long day. I glance at my smart watch, 4,500 steps, well short of 10,000 target. Should have walked across town and taken the train. No you shouldn’t have.  Air is heavy. Feels like mid-August.  My head swims from the second glass of red wine. I walk half way up the block and back, while I wait.  4,935 steps. Well that’s Something.

I’m in back seat of car. Phone rings. Work. The call carries on. Something is off.  Antennae go up. I can feel him. Driver is listening. I’m conscious of my words. I shift to deeper code, quickly end the call, and set the phone in my bag. I sit quietly. Irritated. No privacy anywhere. Rude.

It’s silent in the cabin, air blows cool. Tension seems to rise a few clicks in the silence. You’re just tired. It’s all in your head Pal.

He breaks the silence.

“Sir, what is it that you do?” I’m wary about my response, but I respond, and at 100,000 feet. He’s not getting anything out of me.

“How long have you been doing it?” I respond curtly.

“That’s a long time.”  At this point, I feel I need to take control of the conversation.  “Why do you ask?” [Read more…]

Walking Cross Town. A Good Walk Spoiled.

Just another day.

Walking cross-town to the office.

Paddling in an introvert’s dichotomy soup – preferring to be held in the comforts of Home, of the Known, yet, nourished by the anonymity of the city. The City. Where I can walk for days, for weeks, and never be recognized, and never recognize anyone. Where you can walk for blocks in your own head and remain peacefully undisturbed, in your anxieties, your doubts, and flashes of unexpected wonder.  A small dog on a leash, sniffing, then pulled by the owner, both navigating through the rush hour throngs of feet. I watch them. The branches of a Japanese bonsai tree in a small green patch fluttering in a wind gust, as the hulking, soulless gray skyscrapers glare from above. I look back to carry it with me. A bird, or a small flock of birds, sailing in the wind tunnel of 46th street. My arms are pulled upward to sail with them. There are these few, so few, that rush to park upfront, for immediate recall.

So I walk. I’m left alone. Whatever the day, and no matter the weather. It’s my time.

It’s Tuesday. Same landscape. Same story. Same velvety cocoon.

Your name is called out.

You are sure it is a mistake.

You keep walking. You don’t acknowledge the shout behind you.

The call is repeated, a rude awakening from a deep sleep, in the midst of a beautiful dream.  This good walk spoiled. Shattered. [Read more…]

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