Walking. With the Silent Generation.

I counted him out yesterday morning. There was light drizzle from 5:00 am to 6:20 am, and it continued for my entire 5 mile loop around Cove Island Park. But he didn’t disappoint. There he was.

We intersect most mornings.

Never met him. Don’t know him. Never spoken a word to him.

But I imagine his life.

He’s a member of the Silent Generation, following his Parents, who were members of the Greatest Generation who survived the Great Depression. Waste not. Want not. Sacrifice. Freedom. God. Country. (I’m consciously leaving out ‘Guns’.)

He didn’t come from the Privileged. He was drafted, he didn’t seek medical deferment, he fought in the Vietnam War. Memories haunt, Demons always in pursuit. Jennifer Pastiloff’s: “Get out of your head. It’s a bad neighborhood.”  So he walks.

There’s no Apple Watch tracking his steps. No iPhone pumping in music or books on tape.  Nothing to shake that gnawing, that scraping…

There are two flags that hang on his house; they are worn, the whites have long lost their sheen.  They don’t just make their appearance on July 4th, they hang 365 days a year.

The homes around him, one by one, are torn down, rebuilt, taller, larger, and fill with young families fleeing Manhattan. Property values have soared, his taxes have followed upward, and now pinch. He could flee to Florida, land of no State income tax, but that has never crossed his mind. He was born here, and will die here, his home town.  He completes his own tax returns, reports his modest pensioner’s income and pays all of his taxes, because that is what has to be done.

The curtains are always drawn. He’s a Widower, married for 40 years, and then lost Her to Cancer.  No one to open the drapes.  No dog to keep him company. No cat to nestle next to his feet, purring, as he watches The Evening News. Income is tight, he can’t afford the expense. He misses his Wife.

The lawn is cut, never shaggy. A fence, freshly painted brown, provides token separation from the neighbors, with toys strewn all over their front yard.

His Story may be entirely different. But it’s what I see. What I need to see.

Yet, what doesn’t require imagining, is this.

I’ve come to look for him each morning. I round the turn to walk up Anthony Lane and there he is.

No matter how far up the street I am, he looks for me, and always throws up his hand to wave Hello.

Because that’s what he was taught.  And that’s what he Believes. Character. Honesty. Decency. Be a good neighbor.

Some day, I’ll either tire of this same morning walk, or he won’t be there. One, or the other.

And, I’ll miss him.


Notes:

  • Photo: DK, Saturday, Aug 30, 2020
  • Inspired by: “If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it.” — David Foster Wallace, from “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace” by David Lipsky (Broadway, April 13, 2010)
  • Inspired by: “We may be in the middle of a story we don’t know how will end, or even whether it will end, but we are not helpless characters created and directed by an unseen novelist. We have the power, even in this Age of Anxiety, to enfold ourselves in small comforts, in the joy of tiny pleasures. We can walk out into the dark and look up at the sky. We can remind ourselves that the universe is so much bigger than this fretful, feverish world, and it is still expanding. And still filled with stars. —  Margaret Renkl, “A Reminder to Enfold Yourself in Small Comforts” (NY Times, August 24, 2020)

Lessons from Lucy

dave barry

I turned 70 in the same year that my dog, Lucy, turned 10—or, in dog years, 70. So we’re basically at the same stage of life, namely, Getting Old.

Lucy is handling it a lot better than I am.

I’m not complaining: I’ve had a good life, and I’m content. But Lucy is more than content: She’s happy, often exuberantly happy, constantly finding excitement and joy in everyday events. It occurred to me that maybe I could learn some life lessons from her—that I could find more happiness in my own life by doing the things Lucy does, except of course for drinking from the toilet.

One thing Lucy does is love people. She is extremely friendly. Even though, as a puppy, she was abandoned to the streets, where she probably had some unpleasant experiences, she shows no fear of strangers, human or canine. She is determined to shower love upon everybody she gets anywhere near. And she is always making new friends.

Pretty much everybody loves Lucy. It’s hard not to: She greets all visitors, whether or not she’s ever met them before, by running up to them, tail wagging, and expressing her love for them with every inch of her quivering-with-happiness body. She is ecstatic when, for example, the bug man comes. Every South Florida household has a bug man who comes once a month to spray deadly carcinogens around as part of the ongoing battle between humans and what we call “Palmetto bugs,” which are cockroaches the size of mature squirrels.

The bug man is Lucy’s best friend. She follows him from room to room, ready and eager to assist in the event that he needs to be licked. She’s like this with all visitors to our house; every one of them is her best friend. So is everybody she meets when we’re out walking around. She has many, many best friends. She is 75 pounds of pure, unstoppable affection, a powerful groin-seeking missile of love.

~ Dave Barry, from “Learning a New Trick From My Old Dog: Friendship” (wsj.com, March 15, 2019)

Dave Barry is the author of the forthcoming “Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog” (April 2, 2019)

Sunday Morning

Lord, make a factory of peace,
Make more hope,
Hate, the least.
Make war as small as a speck of sand
And terrorism a wick on a candle that burns to ashes.
And make love and peace as big as a skyscraper.
And hope like a mountain that’s 1,000 feet tall.
And make the volume of friendship be so loud
It shakes the ground.

~ Alex House, “The Volume of Friendship.”  Alex House lives in Upton, Massachusetts. He wrote this poem in Sunday school on Feb. 16, 2003, when he was 8 years old


Notes:

  • Inspired by: Tim Kreider – “Go Ahead, Millenials, Destroy us” – “As with all historic tipping points, it seems inevitable in retrospect: Of course it was the young people, the actual victims of the slaughter, who have finally begun to turn the tide against guns in this country. Kids don’t have money and can’t vote, and until now burying a few dozen a year has apparently been a price that lots of Americans were willing to pay to hold onto the props of their pathetic role-playing fantasies. But they forgot what adults always forget: that our children grow up, and remember everything, and forgive nothing. […]  My message, as an aging Gen X-er to millennials and those coming after them, is: Go get us. Take us down…Rid the world of all our outmoded opinions, vestigial prejudices and rotten institutions…the moribund and vampiric two-party system, the savage theology of capitalism — rip it all to the ground. I for one can’t wait till we’re gone. I just wish I could live to see the world without us.
  • Poem: Thank you Beth @ Alive on all Channels
  • Photo:  Chris A with The.Magician (via see more)

Dinner! Let’s eat together…

Stick with this to the finish…


Thank you Susan

The blind man himself saw, and the sighted one close behind him knew it

sky-cloud-summer-memory

In order to guide me better, Jean had invented a code. The pressure of his hand on my right shoulder meant: “Slope on the right. Shift the weight of your body to the left,” and vice versa. Pressure in the middle of my back said: “No danger in a straight line in front of you. We can walk faster.” Pressure on my back but on the left side was a warning: “Slow up! Right turn ahead.” And when the weight of his hand became heavier, it was because the turn ahead was a hairpin bend…

Jean and I ran into a hard fact — the fact that limits do not exist. If there are any, they are never the ones they taught us. People around us seemed satisfied when they said that a lame man walks with a limp, that a blind man does not see, that a child is not old enough to understand, that life ends with death. For the two of us, in our summer of green fields, twilight and dawn continually revolving, none of these statements stood its ground. We had friendship on our side. We had ignorance and bliss, and we looked at everything through these channels. They taught us all we knew. The blind man himself saw, and the sighted one close behind him knew it. Life was good, very good.

~ Jacques Lusseyran, And There Was Light: The Extraordinary Memoir of a Blind Hero of the French Resistance in World War II


Notes:

 

Walking Cross-Town. With Smoke.

red-walking-sven-pfrommer

The bi-fold doors open.

We spill out of the train into the underground tunnel at Grand Central. It’s Monday morning.

I’m walking briskly in a free lane. Not exactly free. Under foot is a yellow warning strip, with hundreds of half-moons of steel affixed to the two-foot corrugated shoulder on a highway warning of trouble. My eyes bob ahead and down, wary, looking to avoid toppling down eight feet onto the empty tracks. Livin‘ la Vida Loca.

I bear down on a commuter who is ambling along. Buddy, move left. I’m on his heals. Compressed air is released from the lungs, the Jake brake is pulled, the exhaust valves fly open, the big rig vibrates, rattles and slows.

He has thick soles, black lace-up orthopedic shoes. He is limping badly. Vet? Amputee? Back injury? I cannot pass him on my left, commuters are thick.

And then it comes. A memory, smoke grasped… [Read more…]

Rollin’ with Tumbleweeds

tumbleweed

He called looking for a sounding board.

I’ve been offered a job.  We’d have to move North…

I push my chair away from the desk, lean back, and lean in.

More money….Bigger job…Great company…

He’s a kid again, bubbly about his shiny, new red Schwinn.

I’ve been here for 14 years. I’m stale. I need a change.

Like the Blue Moon, he beams down triennially with the same bright light.

The kids are in college. They’re not holding us down here any longer. Jane tells me to do what I think is right.

He’s seeking counsel from a Corporate Gypsy, who’s been unwavering in the triennial counsel: “Go.” But he doesn’t interrupt.

But…

Here it comes. The Gates are coming down… [Read more…]

Friend

cerulean-cirlces-960x600

I have no idea how he knows when I need him.
We can go weeks without speaking,
and then, when my blue moods threaten to turn black,
he will show up and tell me my moods are:
azure,
indigo,
cerulean,
cobalt,
periwinkle–
and suddenly the blue will not seem so dark,
more like the color of a noon-bright sky.
He brings the sun.

— David Levithan, The Realm of Possibility


Notes:

The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence. […] But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.

~ David Whyte, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words

 

Thank You For Being a Friend


Loved this. And can’t seem to get Andrew Gold’s song out of my head:


Source: Grindtv.com

 

R.I.P. Birdie

bird-sun-conure

This morning, I shared a gif of a parrot taking a shower.

I then check my emails and receive this message, the first of the day.

Good morning. I am very sorry to tell you that Birdie passed away this morning. She had been just fine until about 6 months ago when she began having occasional seizures. We are assuming she had one last night. Jessica found her at the bottom of the cage this morning and it seemed like she was hanging on for her to get home. She died shortly after Jessica picked her up. She spent most of every day on Jessica’s shoulder or inside her shirt during the winter months. Jessica is devastated. She lost her best animal friend.

In case you missed the original post on the background of Birdie and our family, you can find it here: “I Miss Birdie.”

Sad Day. Yet, what incredible joy this little creature brought to our family.

RIP Birdie.

All the variety,
all the charm,
all the beauty of life
is made up of light and shadow.

~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


 

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