Sunday Morning

In the margin of my Bible, the heading of Ecclesiastes, I’ve added,

‘Reflections of an old man chasing after ‘good things.’

~ Lisa Anne Tindal, “Vanity and Strife” (Sept 27, 2019)


Notes:

Driving I-95 S. Tethered to Nothing?

5:15 a.m. Traffic flowing. 16 minutes to the office.

Long day yesterday.  Whaddya remember? What Stuck?

In bed. 9:40 pm.

ZzzQuil slow drips.

Mind whirring, but in slower revolutions.

Right ear bud pumping in “The Daily Podcast” with “The Anatomy of a Warren Rally.”

Words drift in and out, sleep meds seeping deeper. And then Mind stops, and locks on. [Read more…]

Mostly, on point…

Here is how I spend my days now.

I live in a beautiful place.

I sleep in a beautiful bed.

I eat beautiful food.

I go for walks through beautiful places.

I care for people deeply…

I cry easily, from pain and pleasure, and I don’t apologize for that.

In the mornings I step outside and I’m thankful for another day.

It took me many years to arrive at such a life.

~ Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen: A Novel


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 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 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…]

Sunday Morning

Why is it any more ennobling for someone to claim to be a person of faith rather than a person of doubt? I like people of doubt. I like people who question what the hell is going on. St. Thomas is my favorite apostle, even if he was wrong. Galileo smelled a rat, and he was right. It doesn’t matter what you believe; it only matters how you behave. Or as it so succinctly says in Christian scripture, “Faith without works is dead.” Believe what you like, but this is what I believe. God, if there is one, speaks and expresses Herself through a group of people who the great becardiganed philosopher Fred Rogers called “helpers.” […]

Helpers are people who try to make life more bearable for those who are suffering. They are people who try to clean up the mess, are tolerant of the weak-minded, and resist those who would exploit others for their pleasure or profit. […]

So if I have a religion it’s in appreciation of helpers, whoever they happen to be at the time. I’ve tried not believing in God, but that’s just as hard as swallowing all of the liturgical mumbo jumbo. I don’t know who or what composed our universe, but I’m not sure that matters anyway. I suspect that any real spiritual peace lies in simply being a decent human being. Or at least trying to be.

~ Craig Ferguson, from “The Helpers” in Riding the Elephant: A Memoir of Altercations, Humiliations, Hallucinations, and Observations (Blue Rider Press; May 7, 2019)


Portrait: AT&T Performance Arts Center

Walking Cross-Town. Just Magnificent.

Tuesday.
10 a.m., I’m heading for a morning meeting in Manhattan.
I exit Grand Central station onto Madison, and head down 47th.

Light mist turns to a sprinkle.
Then drizzle.
Then, Wow! Rain in sheets.

Sidewalks are filled with Suits, morning shift shop workers, and tourists, loitering. Umbrellas spring open, mushroom caps blossoming in a time lapse video.

Walker in middle of sidewalk, sheltered with a giant golf umbrella. He does not shift left or right. His umbrella clips me in the shoulder as I try to pass, tipping his umbrella into mine, rain soaks my pant leg.
Really?

Walkers, giggling, three a breast, each carrying an umbrella. I tuck into a store front to let them pass.
Seriously people?

Walker, approaches me directly ahead. Mid sized umbrella. I walk on right side (This is America!) He refuses to shift lanes to his right. I slide left to avoid him, and dodge oncoming foot traffic – glaring at him as he passes.
Hey Man from UK, Etiquette! Drive on the right side of the road!

Walker, dead ahead, 10 steps. Smartphone and umbrella in his left hand, cigarette in the other. I slide between him and the building on the right, when he lifts his cigarette, the embers catching my coat. I jam my umbrella into his to brush off the ash, and he’s jostled into another walker.  He shouts “Excuse me!” as I pass.  I glance back. Cigarette hanging from his mouth. Light build, short. A Ferret. But who’s judging?

I smile, shake my head, turn my back to Ferret and keep walking, my right hand scanning my coat searching for the burn hole.

I stand at the stop light and wait, lifting my face to the sky. The rain has let up. The Walk sign turns, I step off the curb onto the crosswalk. I don’t see the puddle pooling in front of the street drain. My foot sinks into the cool, filthy, rain water which fills my right shoe.

Damn it@!*$

I limp into the building.  The wet sole of my shoe squeals with each spongy step on the marble floor. The wet sock and foot slide back and forth inside the shoe.

I step into the elevator. Breathe DK. Breathe. Amazing. You’ve managed to work yourself up into a full lather in a 12-minute walk across town. You’re Elmear McBride’s Magnificent:

Magnificent, somehow. To give in. Wreck yourself so completely. The beauty of it.”


Photo: Metro.US

Walking Cross-Town. With Cigarette.

Dawn. Manhattan. 6:10 a.m.

I exit an early morning train.

The Up escalator from the tunnel in Grand Central Station to Madison Ave., is down, again.

Commuters, a wolf pack building at the bottom of stairs, jostle for position before funneling into a single line formation up 70+ stairs.

My Apple Watch silently counts steps, counts heart beats.

I’m looking down, stepping deliberately, not wanting to take a header on the concrete steps. The alternatives (to a header) were awful: clipping the heal of the man in front, or flopping backward into the Pack, both scenarios setting off Dominos. Rubberneckers would pull out iPhones to catch the scene, photos later sold to the NY Post and run in the afternoon edition. “Dummy Triggers Dominos, Sends 20 to hospital. Grand Central exit to Madison closed for the morning as Paramedics clean up the carnage.”

A soft morning light beams ahead, a few more steps. I exit without incident, not without anxiety. What’s the bloody rush?

Winded. [Read more…]

Flying over I-40 N. With Lav #1.

airplane-black-and-white

I just didn’t know. Or perhaps I didn’t care to know. Or maybe it’s just not possible to know. How could you possibly know?

And then there’s a moment or two, when you cross that line, from passively aware or passively engaged to actually feeling. And perhaps you only feel when the suffering is so high, yours or others, that only just then do you begin to give-a-sh*t.

I’m seated in an exit row on an Airbus A3215, 1 seat back and across from the airplane lavatory: ~40” long x 34” wide x 75″ inches tall. Inches.

A Mother walks down the aisle. She grabs the back of one seat, and then the next, and the next, to keep her balance. The plane tips left and right in soft turbulence. She makes her way down the aisle.

There are two hands gripping the tops of her shoulders. She’s slight, maybe 5’2”, and stooped under the weight of the hands. The hands are owned by a strapping 14-year old who towers over her. Mildly handicapped?

She enters the restroom first, her Son doesn’t let go. She lifts one hand off her shoulder and turns to him. She slides her arms under his arms and begins to tug him in. Won’t fit. Not possible. Two full size humans in 40 x 34 x 75.

There’s silence, five minutes or so, which is interrupted by a toilet flush. She exits, pulling him out with her arms under his. She strains to extract him from the box, her face red, filled with rage.

She extracts him and pauses to catch her breath. Her Son claws after her shoulders to grab on as the plane tips. They head back up the aisle. She settles him in.

She comes hurrying back down the aisle.  And into the Lav.

It’s quiet again, now for 5-7 minutes. Then a toilet flush.

She exits. Her right hand dries her eyes, now red and swollen. She catches my glance, offers a forced smile, turns, and heads back to her seat.

You just don’t know. No chance. Not close.


Notes:

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