About right.

Is this verbal violence, then, simply incompetence? Is it the verbal equivalent of someone who has not learned the piano sitting down and trying to play Rachmaninov’s Third? The rudeness of these public figures gives pleasure and relief, it is clear, to their audiences. Perhaps what they experience is not the possibility of actual violence but a sort of intellectual unbuttoning, a freedom from the constraint of language. Perhaps they have lived lives in which they have been continually outplayed in the field of articulation, but of this new skill – rudeness – they find that they are the masters.

~ Rachel Cusk, from “On Rudeness” in Coventry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. September 16, 2019)


Notes:

Waiting. At The Star Market. Trying to Bend the Image.

7:05 am. Stamford station.

I’m waiting for the 2151 Acela to Baltimore. Overhead board flashes On Time, Track 2.

There are two empty seats adjacent to a scruffy, long bearded old man. He’s wearing a heavy jacket, way too heavy for August. A rollerboard stands to his right. His head bowed, sleeping. You’re asking for trouble. Find another seat. I look around, and can’t find another seat. I catch others watching me, judging, ‘The Suit won’t come near That.’

And Mind, ever so efficient, calls up a Marie Howe poem, The Star Market:

“The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday. An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps. Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them: shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay..Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself…stumbling among the people who would have been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands and knees begging for mercy. If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought, could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?”

He lifts his head, turns towards me and stares.  I freeze.  The Others are now watching. I pause, and make my move.

I take the seat next to Him.

Others watch for a moment, eyebrows raised, and then go back to their smartphones. Did you do it because you wanted a seat? Or because others would think less of You, or that you didn’t want this Suit to meet their expectations? Or because you didn’t want Him to think you thought any less of Him?

There’s one empty seat between us. But there’s tension in the gap. He turns to look at me, I can feel his eyes on me. Here it comes, Can you help me out with a few bucks, Sir?”  

He sits silently. [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…]

Monday Morning

january wakes up with the first light of dawn. swings his feet out from beneath the blankets to touch a cold floor. the air around his is quiet and crisp. today starts a new day. a day to be kinder. a day to be braver. a day to be more.

Kelsey Danielle, @ Misguided Ghosts


Photo Credit

Running. The Day After, and Spewing…

That’s me running. The morning after Thanksgiving. Actually, no, it’s not. It’s not even close.

I’m not running near the ocean. I don’t have Ray Bans.  I don’t have orange Nikes or a tight fitting orange running jacket. I can’t have anything that snug around the belly that would trigger IBS, as one can’t be too careful a few miles out without facilities.

16° F. What the h*ll am I doing out here? It’s her. She’s responsible. 

My posture is not that.  My chest isn’t raised, leaning forward, taking short sips of cool air. I’m hunched over, panting, and I’m a mere 1.3 miles out. And oh, I’m damn sure, that if she were a runner (I don’t know that she is), she would look like this. With her sh*t all together.

While I know jack about my body parts or their workings, I do know that something just ain’t right between my right hip and my upper thigh – we’re hobbling here, not running.

I’ve never met her. She’s a WordPress blogging acquaintance. Unclear why she Follows, but I’m sure it’s rubbernecking. She’s a writer. Like a real one. Professional. Not like this show. [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…]

Flying Over I-95 N. In Magic Kingdom.

Is that Magic Kingdom? Disney? Yes. Were you there? No. But Yes, in gusts of memories as I sat in a large ballroom at the J.W. Marriott in Orlando, listening to a speaker discuss “Cybersecurity in the Modern World.” Fastpasses. Teacup. Turkey legs. Splash Mountain. The monorail train ride to the park, Eric’s favorite part of the trip. The body aches, as I carry him on my shoulders along the parade route so he can see over the crowds. It’s a Small World (afterall).

It’s the late afternoon flight departing from Orlando — the 5:41 p.m. on jetBlue #1694.  “We will be boarding in a few minutes. This is a full flight. We are oversold and looking for volunteers to take the next flight.”  A morning flight was canceled “due to inclement weather in New York.” Why ‘inclement?’ Why not ‘bad’? Or ‘stormy.’ Or ‘wintry.’

A large crowd mills around the gate, impatient. “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things doesn’t belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the other by the time I finish this song.”

Mom’s, exhausted, shoulders slumped, have large bags slung over their shoulders. They watch their children run around the waiting area, others are consumed on their handhelds. Dad’s sit and watch loops of CNN on the overhead TVs.  Moms, Dads, kids, holiday, Disney and then me — the Suit, work.

We board.

We lift off. [Read more…]

Flying Over I-40 N. With Fitbit Step Challenge.

3:45 a.m. Alarm. Whoa. Laying flat on my back in darkness. Where am I? Not in my house. Not in my bed. Not on my pillows. Get a grip.

3:50 a.m. Grab iPhone. Check my position in the Fitbit Work-Week Step Challenge. On top at bedtime, slipping to 6,250 steps behind overnight. Irritating. Damn it.

4:45 a.m. Arrive at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Check in. TSA line. Security check. All uneventful. Check boarding pass: Gate C-14. Boarding, 6:15 a.m.

5:05 a.m. I walk. I step. American Airlines Admirals Club 100 feet ahead…soft seats, coffee, a Continental breakfast and 20 minutes of shut-eye. Stupid Challenge. Getting dragged into this stupid step contest by Rachel (daughter) a month ago, and I just can’t seem to Release. Three millennials and me, the Middle Aged Man who’s forgotten that he’s lost most of it. Release, Dummy. Eject. Three of the most difficult words for an Addict: Just let it go. I pass the Admirals Club, stepping heavily down the concourse, dragging my bloody luggage, wheels turning and with every fifth turn an irritating squeal. Gotta get my steps in.

In Week 1 (Oct 23-27), I fell behind the three young ladies, way behind – a whopping 42,228 steps behind on the final day – @ 2,000 steps per mile, do the Math. At 11:50 pm on Friday night, 10 minutes before the expiry of the last day of Week 1, I took my 42,228th step of the day to become the Week 1 Winner of the Fitbit Workweek Challenge – leaving the Millennials in silence, and me on the couch the entire weekend. But the message was sent, don’t be messing with Goomba, the Step-King.

(As to Week 2 and 3, we’re not talking about that. Let’s move on to Week 4.) [Read more…]

Flying Over I-40 S. With Pema & Lav Doors.

3:25 a.m.  Alarm. Whoa.
4:00 a.m.  In the car to LaGuardia.
5:30 a.m.  Boarding AA #0125 to DFW.
8:12 a.m.  Sitting and thinkin’.

I look up from my e-reader, and there’s the lavatory, one seat over and across the aisle.  Its folding door is open, its spring faulty and not permitting the door to auto-close.

Passenger traffic.  In, out, in, out, in, out, in, out…door stays open. Disinfectant mix leaks out, both nostrils instinctively fire a gag reflex to block.

In, out, in, out, in, out, in, out…door open.

You get the idea.

Should we discuss toilet-door etiquette here? Have a training session perhaps?  Or does it fall in the common human decency category?  You go, do your business, you leave, you shut the bloody door. Could it be clearer?

But I’m trying here. Pema (my inspiration in the notes below) tells me that I need to be liberated from my suffering. This flying off the handle and going mental over things I can’t and will never, ever control isn’t healthy.  She tells me to pause. To breathe. To slow down.

So I do that. For a moment. But now I find that I can’t break my engagement.  I monitor the foot traffic in/out. I watch the body language of those that close the door (Human) vs. those that don’t (Savage).

[Read more…]

Flying Over I-40 N. Apple-Pie-In-A-Jar and Ordinary Moments of Kindness.

It worked.

For four consecutive nights, two baby blue Advil PM pills worked their magic.  7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours of deep, dreamy sleep. Wake fresh, and refreshed.

And then, it didn’t.

Last night.

6:00 p.m.

Early dinner at Hotel restaurant. Delicious pan seared halibut, its light, ivory flesh falling away from the buttery crusted filet with the touch of my fork. Creamy Mac & Cheese as a side. Two cocktails to chase it down. And, a deconstructed “apple-pie-in-a-jar” for a night cap. Spoon to jar to mouth, a pendulum, without pause, a sugar addict’s fix. God, I love dessert.  Delectable in the moment. Regrettable the moment I set the spoon down, scraping the last of the thick sugary cream from the jar. And I thought of grabbing this jar in a vice grip with two hands, lifting it to my face and licking it clean with my tongue. Oh, yes I did.

I sat, restless, waiting for the check – – and tucked my thumb down the front of my pants to let some air in.

8:45 p.m.

Cued up Michael Barbaro’s Podcast The Daily.

And it was lights out.

12:30 a.m.

Overheated. Turning, and turning, and turning. I jerk the covers off. 

[Read more…]

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