Running. With Ghosts.

Friday morning weigh-in: 2 pounds up. Disgusting. Shameful.

It’s 5:25 a.m. 58º F. I’m out the door.

Memorial Day weekend.  Squirrel lays in the gutter on Post Road, its claws tucked inward, no defense against Auto.  The mind leaps to the Thursday morning commute, a large doe lies on the shoulder of I-95 S, a fresh kill – no chance against Semi. Shake it off. A few hundred feet further up, road refuse, a MacDonald’s Big Mac carton and an empty plastic soft drink cup. The mind leaps again, this time to Ben‘s comment on an older post – his boys have returned from visiting a turtle hospital in the Florida Keys where they watched the creatures suffer from ingesting plastic drinking straws. They’re quick to anger at the waiter who sets two plastic straws on the table in front of them. Boys. They get it. This world still has a chance.

My pace slows, with the mind leaping from black to blacker blacks, gulping energy, sapping strength. Shoulders and legs are heavy, they sag. I’m winded.  GPS: 1.5 miles out. It’s mental DK. It’s mental. Alter the narrative, Damn it. Alter the narrative.

I round the corner to exit Post Road to Cove Road.

My head is down. I don’t notice low tide. I don’t see 100’s of geese floating in silence. What do you think you will see looking down at the asphalt.

And here it comes. From somewhere.  Chögyam Trungpa’s inclination. “You have an inclination: In the flash of one second, you feel what needs to be done. It is not a product of your education; it is not scientific or logical; you simply pick up on the message. And then you just act: You just do it…that basic human quality of suddenly opening up is the best part of human instinct.”

I don’t look right towards the homes, the driveways, the spray from the automatic sprinkler systems in the front yards. [Read more…]

Driving I-287 East. A long day, longer.

I duck out of the office. It’s been a long day.

Waze flashes an estimate for a quick ride home: 28 minutes.  The Dark Sky App sends an alert: Large storm is bearing down.

I’m one mile from the exit to I-95 on I-287.

The sky blackens.

A few leaves gust and float overhead.

Another wind gust blows a large swarm of leaves from the hillside, they hang mid-air, swirl and gust upward in a wind tunnel. Ominous.

Then comes the rain.

Then darkness. [Read more…]

Running. With Mint Chocolate Chip.

Here we go again.

Up 10 lbs in less than 30 days. No walking, no step challenges, no running, no elliptical, no treadmill. How easy to Quit. Devilishly insidious. One day. And then a week. A Month. And counting. How fast it all comes apart.   

Laying in bed, skimming blog posts, RSS feeds, morning papers – words skittering by, wispy clouds, digesting nothing. I pull the covers up. I’ll run this afternoon. Maybe. Sure I willNo I won’t.

I’m out the door, Running.

Mile 1: Cool, 50 F. Lower back stiff. Legs heavy. Can’t see 3 miles today. Hell, not sure I can see the end of 2.

Mile 2: Lower back loosening. Legs heavy. Stomach queasy. 7:30 PM yesterday. Snack run to Palmer’s Grocery. I cut through the rows to the freezer aisle. I wipe the condensation off the glass. Eyes move from Brand to Brand to Brand. Momentary calm settles in. I grab a pint of Häagen-Dazs Mint Chip Ice Cream. And then a pint of Talenti Gelato Mediterranean Mint. And then something called Graeter’s Handcrafted French Pot Mint Chocolate Chip. And a quart of Edy’s mint Chocolate Chip. Yep, 4 containers of Mint Chocolate Chip. [Read more…]

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:

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

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…]

Nirvana (-ish)

pelican

This morning. (And not Fake News, mostly.)

Sleep in till 7:45 am. Wow. Let’s do that again, and again, and again.

Read the morning papers. Read a few chapters of Patricia Hampl’s new book: The Art of the Wasted Day. And commit to workin’ on this Art today.

A heaping breakfast. Two-egg ham and cheese omelette. Bacon. Pork sausage links. Fresh cut fruit. Fresh baked pastries. And that would be plural on the pastries x 2. These same pastries were dipped in home made strawberry jam.

A short walk to the beach. Me and my breakfast hangover land heavily on the beach chair.

81º F.  Partly sunny. (Feels like 92 F.)  Warm winds @ 7 mph from the NE.

Miles of soft sand in both directions.

The Atlantic laps the shoreline.

Wispy clouds provide intermittent relief from the sun.

Out in the distance, hulking ocean freighters and their giant steel containers carry their cargo to ports away.

Pelicans, with their massive wing spans and beaks, cruise three feet off the ocean top, and plummet, splashing in search of breakfast. And they come again, and again and again — feeding. I look closely for a wing flap wondering how the maintain their locomotion. Can’t see it. Miracle. All of it.

Paragliders float up high, held aloft by giant multicolored rainbow parachutes.  Muffled sounds of jet skis in the distance.

Families and beach goers begin to arrive. Hundreds and hundreds fill the shoreline quietly and peacefully milling, settling, reading, playing, sleeping… children pull out their plastic shovels and pails out of Mom’s beach bag and start building castles…

My toes auger into the soft sand, dark and cool a few inches down.

And, oh yea, there’s a little of something else.

[Read more…]

The Fixer

It doesn’t matter what time of day. My digestif after scrambled eggs at breakfast. A satisfying and necessary fulfiller after lunch. A smooth finisher after dinner. A soothing pre-bed, night time snack. And of course, that something-something between meals.

There it is.

Mint-Chocolate Chip Gelato.

I’m in line at the check-out counter at Palmer’s Market, gripping four (4) cylindrical containers of Talenti Gelato, two pints in each hand. The ice crystals cool the palm of my hand, and I wonder how long it took to ship this gelato from some quaint dairy farm in Southern Italy. A farm that’s been in the same family for hundreds of years. Farm-fresh from cow to these hard plastic cylinders to the freezer at Palmer’s Market, with all of the hand made manufacturing processes in-between. (Gelato, gelato, I find myself repeating gelato and liking it, especially the finish. My lips form an “o” like “o” isn’t this “o” so wonderful).

I move up in line, gently setting the gelatos down on the conveyor. They slide forward.

[Read more…]

Running. And only God knows why.

Here we go again.

“Come on Dave. Sign up.”

It’s a Step Challenge at work.  Voluntary contributions, not tied to step count, benefit a Children’s hearing and seeing charity. The Challenge is two work weeks long, ending yesterday.

Normal humans enroll, walk with colleagues, kid each other on their position in the rankings, go home, kick back and go at it again. All good fun!

Well, there just ain’t anything normal here. Fun? Participation? Bah!

You’ve seen the carrot tied to a stick leading a stubborn mule…the mule plods forward, eyes locked on the prize…dragging one hoof in front of another, puffs of dust misting behind the sorry beast.

While the myth certainly is compelling, haunting even, studies have proven that while the animal is coaxed to move, it won’t move with elongated locomotion.

Well, once again, I’m here to prove that these scientific studies are garbage. (Think Butter was bad. Think Salt was bad.) Some mules will mindlessly chase a carrot, or less.  The prize? None, but for the potential of seeing one’s name on top of a steps leader board.

It’s Friday morning. I’m at least 10,000 to 20,000 steps behind, with 10 hours to go. [Read more…]

Who can forget the small, symmetrical thrill


Consider the beer can. It was beautiful – as beautiful as the clothespin, as inevitable as the wine bottle, as dignified and reassuring as the fire hydrant. A tranquil cylinder of delightfully resonant metal, it could be opened in an instant, requiring only the application of a handy gadget freely dispensed by every grocer. Who can forget the small, symmetrical thrill of those two triangular punctures, the dainty pfff, the little crest of suds that foamed eagerly in the exultation of release?

– John Updike, from “Beer Can” in Assorted Prose


Notes: Photo – vinepair. Quote: via Swiss Miss

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