Riding Metro North. With Four.

5:40 am train.

Full.  How can this be possible?

I stand in the vestibule, irritated, and then remember that the 5:40 am train is a Peak train, and further remember that I’m paying a Peak Fare rate to Stand. Irritated.

I set my bag down on the muddy floor, irritated, and wait, hoping for someone to get off at the one and only stop on the express train to Grand Central.

I see a commuter to my right zipping up his backpack. I grab my briefcase, block the aisle (and the commuter who is waiting on the other side of the vestibule) and grab the open seat.  Commuter code: You snooze, you lose. Smiling. I’ve become a New Yorker.

I pull down the bench, a handicapped seat which flips up.  There’s an awkward shifting of knees and legs to avoid all contact. There will be no man-touching.

Two men across from me. Two men to my right. And me.

  • Sleeping. Reading. Reading. Sleeping. Reading.
  • iPhone. iPhone. iPhone. Not visible. iPhone.
  • Earbuds. Earbuds. None. None. None.
  • Sneakers. Loafers. Lace up. Sneakers. Lace up.
  • Baseball cap. Balding. Full head of hair. Hoodie. Balding.
  • Backpack. None.  Backpack. Backpack. Briefcase.
  • No watch. No watch. Wristwatch. Unknown. Smartwatch.
  • T-shirt. Business casual. Suit. Jeans. Suit.
  • Nails (grimy). Nail biter. Manicured. Unknown. Nail biter.

The train car is silent but for the rocking of the car on rails.

We pull into Grand Central and exit without an acknowledgement of the other.

4 head right. I head left.

I walk alone, down the tunnels, with the sound of my footfall on concrete and with Patricia Hampl (again).

“There may be no more solitary location in America than a New York subway—take a look at the faces of those commuters, their heads bent to their open books like monks at their breviaries, little glowing screens casting an otherworldly aura onto their intent faces. They are elsewhere. They are alone. Alone with words as much as any writer at a notebook or screen.”


Notes:

Monday Morning

Today I was a believer. Perfection was very near. I could touch it…

This early day in May was very windy, overcast, clouds bundling their way from window to window in a big troubled hurry, the windows clattering.

Today we begin again.

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Photo: Kuplenko (via newthom)

A Wasted Day. Not.

kindle

I downloaded a sample from Amazon during my week off. Patricia Hampl’s The Art of a Wasted Day.

I skimmed a chapter and then another.

I couldn’t build a head of steam. And with one finger poke, it was gone…leaving a blank space on my Kindle app.

Not a chance I’ll be guilted into turning pages that don’t have wind at their backs. Midlife isn’t the Muscle Car. It’s Ruth Baumann’s Diagnosis: “Days like clocks tick. As do I. Quietly.”

And, yet, there She was. A slow, low murmuring. Her voice calling me back.

I’m back to Amazon, one-click, $12.99 in the till, and it’s done. Back to the Kindle.

It’s more like a basket of shards, her word, not mine.

Verbose (for one who likes to get there as the crow flies). Wandering. Catenated religious references. Historical events. Biblical passages. Notable geographical sites. BahWho cares?

Eyes glazing over, skipping words, jumping sentences, leaping paragraphs.

And then a few words catch the eye. And then a flock. Of Finches. Of Barn Swallows. Of Juncos. All landing softly. They too murmuring…slow down Friend. Be still. There’s something for you here.

And there is. And there was. And she wouldn’t let me go.

Would you recommend it?

No.

Did you love it?

Absolutely.


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you’ve finished just to stay near it.” — Markus ZusakThe Book Thief 
  • Photo: Getty

Truth

Here’s Pavarotti copied from an interview somewhere:

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)

 


Photo: BonAppétit, Pappardelle with Arugula and Prosciutto

 

Oh my, I say

It is the season of the meruňka—apricot time. It’s unclear when, exactly, she had time to make the dough for the little pillows of these dumplings, when she managed to buy the apricots… She pours melted butter over the ivory lumps in our shallow soup plates, then a brief snowstorm of sugar and crumbled white cheese, dry and salty. We pierce the puffery of the dough with big dessert spoons. Out comes the yellow-orange fruit, melting from the dumpling’s creamy white, like a perfectly coddled egg. Oh my, I say. They both beam at me. You see, you see, Anna says, as if I have finally seen the light she keeps trying to show me. My pleasure is proof that, in spite of everything I get wrong, maybe I’m learning after all what matters in life.

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Notes:

Walking Cross-Town. With an unsorted heap.

Hampl is not far from this mind. Hampl was there on my train ride to the city on Thursday and there with me as I walked across Manhattan to the office. And Hampl’s here with me today, early Saturday morning, as I sit in darkness, in silence, but for the tapping of keys, with birdsong easing through the open window bringing in the dawn.

Life is not a story, a settled version. It’s an unsorted heap of images we keep going through, the familiar snaps taken up and regarded, then tossed back until, unbidden, they rise again, images that float to the surface of the mind, rise, fall, drift—and return only to drift away again in shadow. Call them vignettes, these things we finger and drop again into their shoebox.

He shifted his legs as I took the empty seat across from him. Early 30’s. Two to three day beard. He smiled offering me “Good morning.” I’m settling in. How startling it is to be greeted with a ‘good morning’, a smile, a greeting on a morning commute. 

She was on the right side of 50. Anxious. She had to go. I mean really Go. She paced in front of the toilet. It was occupied. She knocked on the door. She knocked again. She stepped back and stood in the vestibule, waiting. She lifted her right foot, and then her left, and quickly repeated the sequence. She then grabbed her mid section and grimaced. She walked back to the toilet and knocked on the door again. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning

Theirs was then and remains even more today the stranger passion, the one little understood—or even comprehended as passion. Not erotic life, but the pleasure of the mind filling like the lower chamber of an hourglass with the slow-moving grains of a perfect day—sky, carnations, walking, reading, writing, Toasted Cheese, the presence of another who wishes to be so still, so silent too… It is possible to feel the fact of being alive as it breathes in, breathes out. It’s a life. It’s the life.

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Image: (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Saturday Morning

clouds

Still looking for bliss in nothing at all, the cloudy mind moving over existence, outside time.

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Notes:

  • Post Inspired by Patricia Hampl: “Daydreaming doesn’t make things up. It sees things. Claims things, twirls them around, takes a good look. Possesses them. Embraces them. Makes something of them. Makes sense. Or music. How restful it is, how full of motion. My first paradox. I couldn’t care less what it’s called. It’s pure pleasure. Infinite delight…This is what is called the life of the mind. It’s what I want to do. It’s where I want to be. Right here.” (Patricia Hampl, The Art of the Wasted Day)
  • Photo by Mikael Aldo (via see more)
  • Related Posts: Patricia Hampl

 

T.G.I.F.: “I’m done.”

Onward to the night, which is to say insomnia, cell phone on the bedside table, the mind drilling away with yet more frantic interior list-making. Don’t forget! Remember to … Have you … Did you …? Whole decades can go this way—and have—not just in domestic detail, but awash in the brackish flotsam of endeavor, failure and success, responsibility and reward. My work, as I say with foolish vanity. Deadlines piled upon deadlines. That devilishly apt word deadline, the heart seizing as if shot, hands wringing for a reprieve—a week, a day? But delivering. Always delivering. You can count on me. That, in fact, is the problem…

What a surprise—to discover it’s all about leisure, apparently, this fugitive Real Life, abandoned all those years to the “limitless capacity for toil.” What a hard worker you are: always taken as a compliment. You can count on me. Smiling. Deadline met. Always. You should try meditating or maybe yoga, yoga’s good, someone suggested when I mentioned the fevered to-do lists, the sometimes alarming blood pressure readings, the dark-night-of-the-soul insomnia. But meditating is just another thing. Yoga? Another task, yet another item for the to-do list. I find I cannot add another item. I’m done.

~ Patricia Hampl, The Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Portrait: upne.com

%d bloggers like this: