Walking South Flower Street.

I’m riding up the elevator. There are four others in this box, and I’m pressed against the back. The three outer walls are glass, floor to ceiling. My chest tightens. I have a need, I mean a real need to shift closer to the center but there’s no room to move. I squeeze the handle on my roller board, averting my eyes from the concrete floor 29 floors below me. Get me out of here.

It is a Westin. Fond memories of Los Angeles are anchored here. An infinity roof top pool. Chill music. Aquamarine mood lighting. Warm evening air. You were younger then. Work travel was a benefit. Dining out on the corporate card within your daily allowance. Lingering at the hotel bar for a nightcap. Watching the Lakers on the overhead T.V.

The elevator door opens. How many times in your life have you been in this exact spot, dragging your luggage (and your a**) out of an elevator, late evening or night, eyes desperately scanning for the room number on the wall, body craving sleep, body yearning for your own bed, your own pillows, your own comforter…Home.

There’s a large stain on the carpet. And then another. And another. I reach for my key. I step in. There’s a faint smell of tobacco. And then industrial disinfectant. I set my bags down and step into the bathroom. No separate shower from tub, caulking around the tub has separated. The faucet is dripping, splashing around the drain and a soft brown stain. My hands reach for a towel, the same towel used by hundreds of patrons, I pause, searching for blood stains, discoloration of any type. When I can’t find it, I advance – it’s coarse on my forehead and my cheeks, the industrial washers scrubbing out the remaining useful life. I breathe in the fabric of the towel. Smell? Nothing.

The air conditioner is a dated, large wall unit that’s better suited for a 2-cycle lawn mower engine. It’s emitting non-stop, soul crushing bedlam. Intolerable. [Read more…]

Flying. On Sunday with Sparrow.

Sunday morning. 6:15 a.m. Driver is racing down I-95 in light traffic. What’s the rush?

Destination: JFK. On Sunday.

There is something unpleasant at its core about cutting your weekend in half, to fly across the country to get to a conference kick-off on Sunday evening. My weekend (Not). A large paddle wheeler, turning, turning, turning, wooden paddles slapping against the water, pausing briefly when the rhythm is broken by a swell.

There’ll be no sleeping in. No lounging in bed. No CBS Sunday Morning with Jane. There’ll be no Sunday morning papers. No pancake breakfast. No Netflix binge watching. No dozing off on the couch under the comforter, windows open, strands of cool breezes welcoming Autumn.

Thoughts alternate between irritation (did you really need to commit to attend this conference) to mild irritation (you could have left on Monday) to resignation (make the best of it pal, a commitment is a commitment).

I open my backpack, pull out my iPad, and find it’s 13% charged. No! No! No! I Swear I plugged this thing in last night. I walk around Gate 24, and then 25 and find an open power outlet at Gate 26. [Read more…]

Walking Mid Town. With Keats…

Early evening. Heat shimmers from the asphalt. I stand waiting for the Don’t Walk sign to turn…I’m three blocks from the entrance to Grand Central and my Metro North train ride home.  Hulking skyscrapers, mid-town Manhattan Gods, offer shade, a welcome cover to a day that needs to end. You are spent. 

And…as I stand waiting, here they come. Non consecutive lines from the Keats’ sonnet Bright Star

The moving waters at their priestlike task…
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell

And why Keats? Why this poem? Why these lines? Why now? What algorithm upstairs decides it’s time for this?  Here on 42nd Street, so far from the glacial waters of Home, so many galaxies from The Rockies, so many months from snow.  Yet, and somehow, and for some reason, it’s pulled up.

I feel the pillowy softness of snow in August, and the cool melt of crystals on my tongue. And I’m swept away, miles from the cacophony of horns, engines, tourists and the sweltering August heat.

The light turns. I walk. I cross the street and the smell of fried chicken fills my lungs…I inhale deeply…tantalizing. Keats’ grip on me vaporizes. [Read more…]

Flying over I-40 N. With Roy Orbison.

I’m in the same seat, 24E Exit.
On the same plane, an Airbus A321.
On the same airline.
On the same flight.
Returning home from same city, AA1263 DFW to LGA.

To my left, across the aisle, and up one row, is same lavatory.

And here they come.

Wife, I’m guessing, is guiding him. They are 10 rows up, and shuffling down the aisle. He’s tall, 6’4″ est.  Middle aged, gray hair. Collared short sleeved shirt. Khaki pants.

Thick, black framed Roy Orbison glasses.

Blind.

The two of them make their way down the aisle. I set my iPad down to watch. She’s smiling. He’s grinning. Not a care in the world these two. And, You? A billion interconnected miracles happening every second for you to be you, and for you to see this moment. 

My index finger reaches for the volume button on my iPad to turn off the device. You can see the button. You can see the text on the screen. You can see your bag under the seat. You can see the zipper on the bag as you open your bag. You can see the compartment where you wish to set it in. You can see the two of them approaching. [Read more…]

Running. With light that falls.

6 a.m. Friday morning.

I’m running. Down the hill, around the corner, and down the sidewalk on Post Road.

I adjust my stride to miss the cracks between the concrete slabs. Grass sprouts up from the cracks, asparagus colored green, bushy clumps – it was a Simone Weil moment: “Only the light that falls continually from the sky gives a tree the energy to push powerful roots into the earth. The tree is actually rooted in the sky.”  How? How does this grass push its way through the concrete? The light, roots the grass to the earth, pulls it upward to the sky.

The street is empty but for a big city bus a few hundred feet up the road. Its body is dark, a hulking silhouette, its interior beams, illuminated. It’s odd to see a large bus in our small town, so early, so far from Manhattan. The bus is full, passengers lean their heads against windows, their mornings started in darkness some time earlier followed by…

A long walk to the bus stop.
A long wait for the bus, delayed.
A slow tip of the hand to release coins into the dispenser for the fare.
A long ride on the bus to work, seats worn, cushions flat, flush to metal.
A long walk from the bus stop to work. 
And do it all over on the return at the end of the day.

It’s a few feet from our back door to the garage to my car. The gas tank is full.  I push the button for ignition, the cool air conditioning envelopes me in the cabin. I adjust my position in the soft leather seat. Always have a seat. Never a long walk. Never a need for coins.

I pass a bus on the street on my drive to work. Passengers look down, with blank-eyed stares.

Yes, Simone. Yes. The light. The sky. The trees. The roots. The earth.

And…The Lottery.


Notes:

  • Post inspiration: “I honestly believe that…things can change in an instant, and made it key to my philosophy of life: neither money nor my work define me. I like them, they allow me to do many things I enjoy, but if I did not have them, I know I would be able to find something else to do, I would be able to survive, I could be happy…I never take anything for granted, and I never forget how lucky I have been, and am.” ~ Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir
  • Photograph: Skogrun
  • Related Posts: Commuting Series

Sunday Morning

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one in the end—not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.

~ Brian Doyle, from “Joyas Voladoras


Photo via Your Eyes Blaze Out

Miracle. All of it.

I used to live in Tucson, Ariz., and like Mr. Atkins I came to love the Sonoran Desert. The magic of the place, for me, is the way its sparsity makes it legible. It’s easy to identify the few shrubs and cactuses and to witness the drama of survival in their struggle to plant roots and retain water. The changes of the seasons are visible in bird migration patterns and the sensational periods of desert flowering. You can always gain your bearings once you know that the saguaro cactus grows more densely on the southern side of the hills and that you can estimate the recent rainfall by studying whether the ocotillo has dropped or regrown its leaves. When the fauna chooses to be visible, you have an unobstructed view. Whereas forests and mountains are overwhelming in their tangled profusion, the desert teaches an elementary class on nature’s rhythms to anybody who cares to attend.

Mr. Atkins communicates some of this in his book’s loveliest episode, when, while living in southeast Arizona, he gets lost on a solitary hike and stumbles into a rare moment of revelation. Anxiously trying to find his way back to the trail, and menaced by a threatening rattlesnake, he suddenly spots a single cottonwood tree beside a small brook—“the place that had been my destination all along, though I hadn’t known it was there.” In silence he watches a “small cyclone of cadmium-yellow butterflies” and a pair of eagles circling overhead. In this place of emptiness, of danger and derangement and death, he has been shown a secret about the miracle of life.

~ Sam Sacks, a Review of ‘The Immeasurable World by William Atkins’ Solitude in the Sand. Journeys in Desert Places. (July 26, 2018, wsj.com)


Notes:

  • Photo: Olivier Reynes Photography with Saguaro
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.
  • Inspiration: Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

 

Walking. Solus, with the Light-House.

It was a week ago. An otherwise unforgettable day, but for a moment, a single firefly with its other worldly bioluminescence, which keeps circling back.

“Do you want a ride home?”

It’s a short walk home from the train station, ~2000 steps. One hour in the quiet car on Metro North didn’t quench it, the thirst for more solitude, more Alone, more decompression. I walk.

The torso leans forward, the feet step one-two-one-two.  Lean forward? A tip from a Youtube fitness coach who explained that it propels you forward. So I lean forward. If he told you to hop on your right foot and rub your stomach round and round with your left hand, you’d do it.

It’s humid. God, it’s Humid. Torso leans forward, thick air pushes back, slowing forward motion. Thunderheads build in the distance.

The neck tie is in my brief case. The slim fit button down shirt soaks up the sweat on back, arms and neck.

Black leather lace-ups wrap tighter and tighter, and pump like pistons (up, down, up, down) – a squishy, pus filled blister, like the thunderheads, is ready to explode. Humidity. Sweat. Blister.  It’s a scene out of Beau Taplin’s “Run Freely“: “Human beings are made of water. We were not designed to hold ourselves together, rather run freely like oceans, like rivers.[Read more…]

Riding Uptown. Man on Venus. Man on Mars.

“How long to Grand Central?”

“20 minutes, maybe 30, it’s Rush Hour.”

Uber driver. Black Toyota Camry. Leather seats worn. Dashboard tanned with thousands of hours of direct sunlight.

“Your English is good. Where are you from?”

He glances at me in the rear view mirror. Reticent.

“Ethiopia, Sir.”

“How long have you been here?”

“9 years.”

“And your family? Are they here or back in Ethiopia?”

“Oh, they’re all back in Ethiopia. I’m here with my wife.”

“Do you miss home?”

Long pause.

“People think it’s easy. Here in America.” He pulls up. Polite, respectful.

I shift the conversation. We’re a few minutes out.

“You have a 4.94 (out of 5) driver rating. Wow. That’s something. How do you do it?”

“I don’t know Sir.” He smiles.

“I’m curious. Out of 10 rides, how many riders tip?” [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Slowly…slowly…wind it up…


Source: Great Grey Owl Chick from Head Like an Orange

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