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…]

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. One Car Short.

Thursday morning.
33°F. Feels like 23°F.
Out the door at 4:50 am to catch the 5:01.

Dark.

Directly across the street: new Neighbors. Young and DINK.  First things first. No curtains up, yet bright, white lights were carefully hand strung and evenly distributed across their bushes. The evergreens throw shadows on the front door. I pause. What was that? That softening, that load lightening ever so slightly. ‘Tis the season.

I board train. No open seats. At 5:01 a.m.?  Conductor announces that the train is one car short and apologizes. $15.25 for a one-way Peak ticket to Grand Central (Yes, Peak at 5:01 am.)  $15.25 and you get the privilege of standing. And standing for 55 minutes. Sigh.

I stand in the aisle, as the vestibule overflows with commuters. I set my bag down between my legs, grab the seat support, being careful not to brush against the passenger sitting in the seat.  I hover over him. He feels it. Nobody likes this.

We’re five minutes into the commute. I’m restless. I’m tired. I’m anxious. I’m not going to make it. [Read more…]

Riding down TX-114 E. With Ron.

The alarm rings. For this self-rising yeast, it’s a rare morning when I need an alarm.

I roll over to glance at the clock: 3:10 am. I would have slept through it. Body resists all movement. I gotta get up.

3:58 am. I-95 S. Truckers, drunks (hope not), others heading to LGA and JFK, and me.

4:45 am. Security check-in line snakes down the corridor and around the corner. At least 100 deep. WTH? Does anyone know what time it is? I look down the hall and the TSA line is empty. The good joo joo train is rolling. I wait for TSA man to wave me through the x-ray frame. No pat down required. (No hands riding too close to the crotchal area.) No random bag check. The sun keeps shining.

5:33 am. Boarding.

6:00 am. Jet doors hiss and close. I’m seated in an aisle seat (preferred). There’s no one next to me. It’s an Exit row. How do you spell Nirvana?

6:45 am. 32,000 feet. Kitty corner right, one row up. Mother. Late 20’s. Holding infant, maybe 2 months old. A beautiful baby boy. His head is nestled in his Momma’s nape. He lifts his head, wobbly, and he stares at me with his big brown eyes. Miracle. All of it. My hands tire after holding my e-reader for 20 minutes.  She holds him for the entire 3 hour and 20 minute flight, with the exception of 2 bathroom breaks. Rocking him. Cradling him. Feeding him. Mothers, Wow. 

8:55 am CST. On time landing. My checked bag is at baggage claim spinning on the carousel. Should I buy a Lotto ticket, Now?

8:56 am. Smartphone buzzes. Text message. “Sir, it is Ron Smith, your driver. I’m waiting at Gate C21.” How did we survive before text messaging?

9:00 am. “Good morning Sir. Let me grab your bag.” Ron is in his late 60’s. Chauffeur hat. “Let me get the door for you Sir.” Hat. Door. Sir. Uneasiness drifts in.

[Read more…]

Riding down Lyndon B. Johnson Fwy. With Uber.

drive.jpg.png

6:05 am.

Dallas. Dark. Autumn.

Rachel lingers in the subconsciousness. My index finger hunts for the Uber app. “It’s oooober Dad, not uuuuuber.”

What a  fantastical creature I am…of modest intelligence…and despite repeated attempts…I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the correct pronunciation of a four letter word.  My lips are self-driving, top and bottom – they quietly lip sync oooooooober. I think I got it right this time Honey.

The app pops up.

There’s so many choices. Economy VIP. Economy uberX. Premium Select. Premium Black. Extra Seats XL. Extra Seats SUV.

Economy VIP it is. Whatever VIP means.

6 minutes to his arrival. $11.28 plus tip.

Who would of thought 10 years ago you would jump into a stranger’s car and get a lift to the office. No need to pull out cash or credit card.  AMAZING.

Car pulls up. “You…David?

With Uber, you never know who or what pulls up. Insomniacs on night shift. A Dallas Cowboys’ off duty body guard. Mom’s with second jobs. Men, quiet, angry (?), between jobs, who steal glances at the Suit in the back seat. Those workin’ your maximum comfort to secure a larger tip. Is the temperature just right for you Sir? The talkers. The dreamers. All kinds.

Uber has a rating system; driver rates you, you rate the driver. Judging, on both sides, commences immediately.  If you aren’t waiting curbside for the driver, you get whacked.

He pulls up. Sporty compact. uber VIP? I wedge myself into the back seat. Rating is plummeting. Driver fails to pull up the passenger side seat to offer leg room. Amateur miss. My kneecaps press against the back of the seat. VIP.

I sit quietly.  Driver does the same.

A green pine tree air freshener swings wildly from rear view mirror. I inhale.  A smoker. Nicotine is soaked into the seats. Is there a rating below 0?

96.3 FM Country is turned on, and loud. It’s too early for country, anytime of the day. The video screen says it’s Eric Church.

I’ve been steady and learnin’ lonely
Keepin’ this turntable spinnin’

I sit quietly. The car shocks are ineffective, with each pothole, my knees ram into the passenger seat. Delta Airlines in a non-reclining, non-comfort window seat in heavy turbulence. Is that claustrophobia you are feeling? His rating is gone, now we are debating, tip or no tip.

I open the app. The Driver’s rating for 463 rides is 4.93 (out of 5). Impossible!  I note from his profile that his given name and surname is Vietnamese.

And then, I spot a rhythm.

An involuntary pattern followed by rituals.
[Read more…]

Walking Cross Town. And Doubt Farming.

Take 7.

Yep, 7th attempt to produce something, Anything, Something, Anything, that’s worthy.

I’m walking across Manhattan on 47th street and the weight bears down. Tuesday morning after a long weekend. Shoes feel heavy. Shoulders slouched. A Sherpa hauling a full load.

It’s 9 days and counting. I’ve run out of puppy pictures. I’ve finished Will Schwalbe’s Books for a Living and I’m finished with my quotidian shares of his wisdom.

So, I conduct an autopsy of the prior six attempts on partially completed blog posts:

  • Take 1: How I gained 10 lbs in 30 days and still feel good about me.
    • (23% complete. Tired topic.)
  • Take 2: How I, an introvert, primed a large group of employees at a networking event.
    • (83% complete, and Quit. Too anxious to finish, too anxious to share.)
  • Take 3: Favorite songs on 7 on 70’s on Sirius. The angelic voice of Karen Carpenter with Top of the World (’72)…I’m on the top of the world looking down on creation – – followed by Meatloaf with Paradise by the Dashboard (’77)…Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark nightI can see paradise by the dashboard lightAin’t no doubt about it…We were doubly blessed…Ain’t no doubt about it…
    • (17% complete. Despite a continuing irresistible urge to lip sync “Ain’t no doubt about it…we were doubly blessed…Tired theme. Deleted.)

[Read more…]

Morning Commute (Pretty sure I could be either driver; < 24 Sec)

VOLUME UP!

VOLUME UP!

Good times never seemed so good!


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