Flying Over I-40 N. With the World By the A**.

AA Flight 1150: DFW to LGA.  It’s 5:29 a.m., and I’m standing at the gate waiting to board the first flight out of Dallas. I’m watching the waitlist monitor, KAN.D is on page 2. Wow.  An upgrade to First, for a 6 a.m. boarding, will not happen.

Then confirmed.

“Sorry Sir, the upgrade list is closed.” 14th on the wait list. 14th! A Lifetime Platinum Member…means…Nothing.  I drag my carry-on on board, passing all the smug passengers in first class and take my seat.

The video monitor on the seat in front rotates through flight details:

  • 2 hr 59 min to destination
  • Estimated Arrival Time LGA: 10:35 a.m.
  • Altitude: 28,982.9 (and turbulent)

The GQ interview with Brad Pitt is still fresh…he recalls a conversation with Ryan McGinley…”When you get to be my age, never pass up a bathroom. Never trust a fart…”  And let’s leave the rest to your imagination.

Now that, triggered movement

I cautiously step down the aisle. The ship heaves left and right, a paper airplane battered like a piñata. If He really wanted to lean in here, we’d be dust. There’s something about flying that brings the immediacy of mortality to the forefront, not to the front to First Class of course, but to the front like in Coach.

If you possess a single cell of claustrophobia, you don’t want to be in the lavatory of an Airbus A321S in heavy turbulence.  One hand grips the cool stainless steel hand rail for stability.  The other hand rests on the lap, careful not to touch anything. The floor is wet, the soles of the shoes groan. The midsection is contorted to ensure no body part or article of clothing touches anything, and if I could have levitated above the seat without inflicting a groin pull, I would have done so.  How many before me, sitting here? (Butt) Skin to skin to skin to skin to skin.  I wash my hands, and take one look around this coffin. God, when it’s time, let it be in a grassy field, on a warm sunny day, laying among four-leaf clovers and poppies, and looking up at the bluest of blue skies. The closet closes in. Get me out of here. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. With an empty boat.

I glance at the odometer: 80,000 miles. 8 years, 80,000 miles. 80,000.

I read somewhere, some time ago, that the average person has 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day.  Reading this sentence was like swallowing a handful of methamphetamines – my mind was galloping.  How did my mind jump from 80,000 miles on the odometer to 80,000 thoughts per day and some article I read x years ago?  Who’s job was it to count these thoughts?  How did they actually count the thoughts? How many humans’ thoughts did they count to get to this average, and over what period to time to make this statistically significant? And then, a hard turn to Me.  Am I average, below or above average, and if so, why? Do those of us who are carry more doubt have 25% more thoughts than those that are more stable?  This last one set off a burst of fireworks.

I’m exhausted chasing this thread.  Repeat: Mantra. Mantra. Mantra. Let it Go. Let it Go. Let it Go.  Or as Val in Finding Your Middle Ground suggests,  “I inhale peace. I exhale release… I inhale peace. I exhale release… I inhale peace. I exhale release.” I grow impatient with this mantra, my breathing accelerates, I cut it down.

Release. Release. Release.

I pause a second or two between each “Release” and reach for the volume button on the radio. No doubt I average over 100,000 thoughts a day. No doubt. And a small percentage of them can even be nurturing.

And It comes back.

A single thought. A thought that recurs, and recurs, crawling over the millions and millions of old thoughts, to stand on top of all thoughts. One experience, one feeling, during a single hour of Life, one thought that flashes back like tinsel. [Read more…]

Driving Merritt Parkway North. With Whale.

Friday evening, late rush hour. Traffic is crawling up the Merritt Parkway, my alternate route for I-95 North. Waze is navigating.

Sirius 70’s on 7 cues up Steve Winwood with Back in High Life Again. Damn tune is more than 30 years old! “From fifty to eighty”, Grace Paley said. “Seconds, not minutes.”

The intermittent stop and go, inches us forward. The pace, is ok. It’s been a long week, a long day, and we’re in full surrender mode. Weekend come, come, come, pick up the pieces. Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty had a…

It, the day, started at 5:30 am.  Office dark, floor quiet, and I’ve lost myself in a deliverable with a short fuse. A losing of yourself in yourself. The clock is ceaseless, unrelenting, in its march forward: 6:00. 6:30. 7:00. 7:30. 7:45, and all without notice to the occupant in the office.

I save my work. Hit print. Close my eyes for a second. The internal gearing of the laser printer warms, the file contents zip across the cables and Bam! – each of the four pages are spit onto the floor.  I peek at my watch, 8:00 am. Two and a half hours. Wow.

I lift my head from the silvery screen, making a quick break from my opioid, and stand. Too fast. 

The lights dim, the eyes blur, nausea fills the belly. I reach for the arm rest on the chair. Steady Dave, steady. [Read more…]

Running. With Pus.

Location: South Beach.
Temperature: 74° F. Humidity: 70%. Wind: 5-12 mph and gusting.
Run Plan: 11 miles.
Time: 6:45 am.

This is Dad and Daughter’s second run in preparation for her 1/2 marathon in two weeks. Run 1 here: Running. 10, on Good Friday.

Mile 1.0: The shoe-to-sock-to-skin chafing is working up a blister, not on one foot, but on the ball of each foot. With each step, the fluid-filled bubbles form from the friction, the high humidity, the sweaty feet, the damp sweat socks. The result? A stinging bite with each footfall. So early in the run, a (very) bad sign. Wore the wrong shoes, and paying a hefty price. Mind rolls forward, I’m in the bathroom post-run, in awe at how anxious I am to prick the juicy, squishy bubble, when I know I will be suffering with each step for days.  Awed again at the creation of this pus, it’s as clear as the run-off from a mountain stream in Spring. Miracle really, my mind and its workings, and this pus, this beautiful liquid created from something so raw and painful, and the healing process begins.

Mile 2.0: Feral cats meander on the boardwalk.  Lady with wild hair (and wild eyes) feeds them Li’l Nibbles Dry Cat Food from a Ziploc plastic bag, scooping a handful, and letting the nibbles slide out of her hand like sand from an hourglass. Cats watch from a distance, hungry but wary. She organizes the nibbles in the shape of a half moon, and walks to the next drop zone, eyes stare blankly ahead. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With Nana.

5:55 am train to Grand Central. It’s the 2nd stop.  My head is down, I’m flipping through the morning papers.

The voice is soft, kind: “Excuse me.” She struggles to avoid contact as she slides to the middle seat; she’s directly across and to my left.

Someone’s Mother, Someone’s Grandmother, a Nana.

She settles in, straightening her neat, navy skirt. Her hands clutch a thin, pocket umbrella and rest on her lap, on top of a small black purse attached to a black shoulder strap.

Of Central American origin, Guatemalan, if I was guessing, of Mayan origin, guessing again.

I catch her in a quick glance at me, she was guessing: “Suit. Privileged. WASP. Ivy league educated. Money.” Wrong on most, but not all counts. OK, let’s call it wrong on some counts. [Read more…]

Running. 10, On Great Friday.

Zero Interest. Not on my bucket list. Not sure what possessed me to agree to it.” A colleague at work convinced her to sign up for the SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon in Central Park at the end of the month.

“Rachel, you aren’t a runner. You’ve never run. Do you realize how far that is?”

“Dad, I can always count on you for encouragement. You’re always right there for me.”

So, I watch. Fully expecting her to pull the rip cord and bail.

She’s following the recommended training regimen for newbies. I follow from the shadows as her notifications ping my smart watch, signaling completion of her treadmill runs, her outdoor runs, her elliptical sessions. Her pace: consistently sub 9-minute miles.

Disbelief. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With William Edward Hickson.

6:16 am to Grand Central.

Train car is packed but Silent.

I’m riding backward, feeling lighter, refreshed, alive. Looking East, now in Daylight Savings Time, it’s a ride in morning light, following months of lurking in darkness. A orange glow lights up the horizon and triggers Cummings: “the / mercy of perfect sunlight after days // of dark, will climb; will blossom: will sing (like / april’s own april and awake’s awake).”  

I can feel all that.

Back to the morning reading.

New thing: Riding + reading = Nausea.  Eyes, knees, shoulders, and now stomach. Middle age creep. Oh, how to be blessed for 50+ years with a cast iron stomach that can be filled with any grade of fuel, and bam, like a light switch, Gone. I’ve become a delicate flower, a petal to be handled with care. Stress? IBS? I softly lick my lower lip and find the sweet remnants of one of 2 glazed, cheese danishes from last night. Who the hell knows. It’s all exceedingly fragile, I’m teetering like a Jenga Tower.

I set the e-reader down, lift my head. Need to stabilize. [Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. With a Note to Todd.

It’s Sunday. Sun’s up and it’s warming. Squirrels are foraging, birds are pecking at the feeders, others chirp overhead in the trees, still bare and free of spring shoots.  Dickens had it right: “It was one of those March April days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Day of Sabbath. Day of Peace (should be). Several hours remain, and they are leaking fast – Monday’s calendar is already bullying its way in.

So why go here?

Because it goes where it wants.

It’s Friday afternoon, and voila, the appearance of a fortituous gap in the calendar. The elevator is racing down from the 39th floor to the Lobby.  I check the train schedule, 1:04 pm departure, 24 minutes to walk across town to Grand Central. Doable.  Fingers, eyes and mind skitter from the Metro North App, to iMessage, to Work email to Gmail.  The mental box continues to drop, one eye is on the floor indicator, like it might not stop on the ground floor and keep going. The stomach does a wee backflip and settles. Otis Elevator Man has this under control. How all this sh*t works is lost on me. Best I don’t know.

I step into the lobby and then onto Times Square.  A ZOO, even in the drizzle. I glance right, left, and across the street, the scene is Same – the jeweler on break for a smoke, the Construction worker with his florescent vest, the driver of the double decker tour bus, the traffic cop pausing between lights – all have their heads are down inside smart phones, and outside the World.

Me too.

I wait for the Walk sign, and it’s back to Gmail.  I pop open a WordPress notification from Todd’s blog – Bright, Shiny Objects, with the post titled: “Why?” I click the link, wait impatiently for the cell service to catch up, thousands of others doing the same at the same time, the rain, the overcast, the tall looming skyscrapers block satellite reception – it clears.  I chuckle, and whisper: “Truth.”  I punch out: “Great“, hit send, and the gremlins grab it and race off to Algoma, WI.

The signal turns to Walk.

I walk.

Six minutes later, my phone buzzes, the gremlin’s have raced back from Algoma with a reply from Todd:

How do you do it?[Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With The Case.

case

I’m sitting out of your view, bottom right corner of the photo. It’s the fourth train of the day, the 6:16 am to Grand Central. Standing room only. Sort of.

That’s him, with The Case. Large. Brown. Leather. It’s gotta be 20″ x 14″, an old school Beast. The four brass nubs protecting the base have lost their sheen. And Case, takes up an entire seat. The commuter across from Case, has to sit diagonally to avoid contact. Overhead storage is empty, the vestibule has four riders standing for the 50 minute duration.

A Suit walks down the aisle looking for a seat, slowing as he approaches Case’s Owner. He pauses to see if there is recognition, there is none, he elects to avoid contact, and pushes on to the next train car.

Case’s Owner wears gold wire rimmed glasses, a gold wedding band and black slip-ons, adorned with unmistakeable gold buckles, Ferragamo’s. His heavy wool navy sport coat is oversize and he’s tie-less with an open shirt collar. Hair, on top, on front, on sides has long since abandoned him, but keeps his occiput warm. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With Both Thumbs.

5:40 am to Grand Central. Standing room only, 4 men stand in the vestibule. How is this possible on the second train of the day?

One of the four left standing, leans against the railing.  Italian shoes. Beats Wireless Ear buds. A snappy form fitted Canada Goose vest. Shirt cuffs unbuttoned. Stylin’. A Starbucks cup in one hand, a smartphone in the other, he flicks screens, grins, and sips his coffee.

Lady in the seat directly across reads the New York Times. Yes, like a real newspaper, a legitimate oddity on a commuter train. A glance up and down the rail car reveals no single other newspaper, just the hum of the air-conditioning and the silent flicking of hundreds of index fingers.

Lady next to her, a face white as snow, contrasting with her black coat, tall black knee high boots, and the white skin of the knee bunching out of a black knee brace. She grips a large, black, Samsonite wheeled carry on, with her black back pack resting on top.  Her makeup groans to cover darkening bags under the eyes. The dike is leaking, age is ready to break, for her, for me. Cat Steven’s tune drifts in: Morning has broken….black bird has spoken… [Read more…]

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