Walking. Anybody Can Do This. (Not)

2:30 a.m., I’m wide awake, ready to start the day. Hello Day!

It’s a few hours before I set off on the 55th consecutive day of a five-mile walk to greet the sunrise at Cove Island Park.

I’m anxious to see what’s in store for me this morning. And worried that I might sleep through the 4:55 am to 5:15 a.m. peak feeding time for the waterfowl. Normal people set an alarm. I have four gadgets on the night stand next to me ready to jump into action. But for some reason I can’t explain, I don’t. I can’t. A life time of never needing an alarm to get up, I’m not going to start now. I don’t change. And, let’s face it, You don’t either.

4:25 a.m.  I gather up the camera gear. I double check to find the memory card is in its place — the recollection of backtracking 1.5 miles three days ago, getting soaked by a sprinkler system that turned on at 5 a.m., cursing the rest of the way home, and needing to take the car to the park for fear of missing feeding time. All of this is fresh. And it ain’t going to happen today.

I throw the sling around my shoulder. Take a long swig of ice cold water. And I’m out the door.

Photography.  Camera. New hobby thing. Mixing it up a bit.

I’ve watched hundreds of instructional videos on Youtube. Paged through the camera user manual – a lot of damn good this did.  Texted back and forth with a buddy who gave me some tips.

ISO. Shutter speed. Aperture.  Exposure Compensation. Continuous tracking. EVF. LCD. Autofocus. Manual Focus. Single Point. Zone. Wide Angle. Tracking. Single shot. Burst. Still. Video.  Good God. My Head is spinning.

Then add to the soup, small (very) buttons. A small, sensitive touchscreen. Clumsy, large hands. Not yet arthritic, thank God, not yet anyway, something to look forward to. Throw in farsightedness, and you have menus and pop-ups jumping in and out. And blood pressure surging. Jesus, I’m of average intelligence, it just can’t be this hard.

And forget the quality (and breathtaking expense) of the camera equipment, lenses, battery (and back up), and memory cards, there’s so much more to this Photography-thing that was lost on me. [Read more…]

Walking. With On Golden Pond.

3:30 am: Up. Six hours of sleep, easily two short. Two shots of Tylenol PM won’t keep this guy down. I think about amping up the dosage to three, soft baby blue, colored pills —  bad idea Doctor, bad idea.

3:35 am: Skim morning papers. RSS reader feeds. Blog Posts. Emails. Texts. Read a passage from Joyce Maynard’s At Home in the World where J.D. Salinger tells her: “Some day, Joyce…there will be a story you want to tell for no better reason than because it matters to you more than any other…You’ll stop looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re keeping everybody happy, and you’ll simply write what’s real and true. Honest writing always makes people nervous, and they’ll think of all kinds of ways to make your life hell. One day a long time from now you’ll cease to care anymore whom you please or what anybody has to say about you. That’s when you’ll finally produce the work you’re capable of.” Hmmm. Not ready for ‘real and true.’ And ‘honesty’ makes me nervous. But Salinger does offer sound reasoning for the mediocrity that spills out onto this page. There’ll be time enough to chase the written word that I’m capable of.

4:25 am: Strip, including Apple Watch. Ounces make massive differences. I step on the digital scale, and inhale. The figures race upward, like slots in Vegas, having similar odds.  It stops hard on the Score. I exhale.  Wow, good result. Space for large breakfast.

4:35 am: Check temperature. 60° F. Put on long sleeve shirt. 60° F and I need long sleeve shirt. For some reason this triggers a scene from “On Golden Pond” where Katherine Hepburn shouts: “Don’t be such an old poop Norman.”

4:40 am. 38 consecutive daybreaks in a row. On same walk. same location. same loop. I know precisely what time to leave the house to walk the mile to Long Island Sound and arrive ten minutes before Sunrise. I make a point to google WebMD when I get home to diagnose my form of OCD. I pack my camera bag, take 3 large gulps of water, and head out the door.

5:10 am. I’m on shoulder of Weed Avenue. The geese, 50 or so, float ever-so-still, catching their last bit of shut eye before the day starts.  There are two swans, with their heads tucked under their wings. Must be cozy in there. And mallards interspersed among the others in the sleepover.

There’s no traffic. Long Island Sound is quiet. The World gives Sun its moment of silence.

5:25 am. Here comes the Sun. The World stands still to watch the spectacle. I snap a few shots, put the camera down. And watch, the Sun, in all its glory, with gold and orange hues.

A loon, with its long, curved neck, breaks the silence with its call.

And this triggers another line from “On Golden Pond“. “Come here, Norman. Hurry up. The loons! The loons! They’re welcoming us back.”

Yes, they welcome me back. Thankfully. Again.

Each breath, a Gift.


Daybreak. 5:25 am. June 13, 2020. 60° F. Wind: 9 mph. Gusts: 22 mph. Cloud Cover: 3%. Weed Ave, Stamford, CT.

Running. And, a disturbance of the peace.

 

Long run. Sorry. Not long. This little white lie is triggered by 25 years of muscle memory. Feels good to think it was long, and to say it was long. It wasn’t long. They’re not long anymore. They used to be long. Days of running a 10 miler, no water bottle, no music player, no books on tape, mind on lock, feet on auto forward and go —  used to be —  long time ago —  not anymore. Long gone.

I get done with my run. Not long. 3 miles of stop and go. No traffic. A brisk 42° F.  Shelter-in-Place has humans hunkered down.  The Canadian geese are essential personnel.

Long runs have been supplanted with long hot showers. At ~ 3 minutes, guilt washes down from the shower head, water rushes down the drain. A Waste. Guilt passes. I turn up temperature, steam fills the room. Stiff muscles loosen, tired bones ache, body yearns for a late morning nap.

Temperature has climbed to the mid-50’s.  I step outside. Tree Blossoms. Budding trees. Fresh blades of grass. The morning sun warming.

With the squirrel problem solved in 2016 with high tech bird feeders (Miracle-Man-Made), nature is all in its orderly place in the back yard.  Squirrels and chipmunks feed at ground level from the seed spilling from feeder. No acrobatics, no swinging-from-feeder squirrels guzzling $30/bag organic bird feed.

I turn my attention back to my reading.

I’m distracted by birds which flit in and out of the yard. This morning, it’s Finches, canary yellow. 3 or 4 at each feeder at a time.

Down below, and around the yard, Mourning doves. Cardinals, male and female. Brown breasted robins.

Bird song fills the air.  The flutter of wings dart to and from the feeders.  All having breakfast, peacefully co-existing.

I stretch my legs. Body stiffening. Back to reading.

A handful of birds remain at the feeders but the birds at ground level are gone. It’s become quiet. Bird song is gone.

The three feeders front a 3-foot high rock wall which fronts the fence along the lot line.

There’s a fracas below, in what appears to be squirrel vs. squirrel quarrel, each protecting their feeding grounds.

The fracas continues. This time with a squeal. Not squirrel or chipmunk like.

Out of the rock wall, a rat, mid-sized, darts out to feed.

Out of the rock wall, another rat, mid sized, darts out to feed.

Out of the rock wall, a third rat, mid sized darts out to feed.

And then, out of the rock wall, a chubby, likely pregnant rat, 6 inches long excluding tail, darts out to join her family.

Chubby charges at the birds below the feeders clearing the way for her family.

Rat infestation.  Rats, disturbing the peace. Rats, a mere 30 feet from the house, planning to seek shelter next winter in the warmth of our basement.

I close the Kindle app. I was finishing an essay on “The Emotional Benefits of Getting Older” – and it’s punch line: “People at older ages had more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions, and their emotional experiences were more consistent.” But which age group was more emotionally solid and showed better mastery of their urges? “The people who experience the most emotional instability are in their 20s,” he said, a volatility that gradually declines with every decade.”

Once again, DK is off the page and well beyond the tail end of the statistical curve.

Man-child. Old-Man-Child.

F-*king Rats have got to go. Now.

I move the cursor into the Google Search bar, and type R-A-T T-R-A-P-S in Amazon Search Bar.

2 days shipping.

Backyard needs to be restored to order, Now.


Notes: Thank you Susan for video

Running. With Perforated Edges.

6:39:47 a.m. April 10th. The time stamp on photo.

I recall the moment. The end of my run, I’m rounding the last corner before home, breathing heavily.

Morning sun. A light warm hue painting the tips of trees and bushes. Beautiful.

I slip off my glove, the tip of my index finger is moist, trembling, and sticking to the screen. I wipe it dry and slide the menu bar from Pano, Portrait, Video, Slo-Mo, Portrait, and stop on Photo. Pleased, I pause for a moment longer, admiring the view, so glad I was able to catch the moment. 

I walk the rest of the way home, catching my breath.

I’m sitting in the backyard, 30° F, sweat drying, goosebumps form on skin. I shiver. Legs sore, but that good sore after finishing a run.

I open the camera app to check out the photo.

I tap the image, and it pops up. It stutters for a moment, then a series of frames, and it stops. Irritated.

I tap the image again. And there on the top of the image, a “Live” tag.  WTF is that?

I tap the image again. It stutters, pans through a series of frames, and then stutters to silence. Jesus. You can’t even get this right.

I grab the phone and slide my index finger along the menu options, and don’t see a “Live” option. Damn it!

Index finger. Dotted line. Bad outcome. Mind draws up the Moment.

35 years later, like yesterday. My hands trembling. The course of Life would change based on the GMAT test results in that ever so thin envelope. Before I tear it open, the tip of my index finger slides along the perforated edge, my skin tingling as it passes each tiny raised dot.  I don’t recall who was with me at the time: “How’d you do?” I walked away, needing to be alone, needing to be quiet, needing to be still.

I’ve been dragging that anvil around for 35 years.

I turn back to the photo. Love photos. But it’s clear, cameras, are not my thing.

The photo syncs on iCloud to my laptop. (Magic!)

I convert the Live Photo to a still image.  Upload it to the blog post.  And pause.  Didn’t notice my shadow in the photo until now.

I run my finger around the silhouette. There you are DK. 

You caught yourself in the shot.

Your legs look a bit long, but you turned out to be ok.

Workin’ WFH. With Yiyun Li.

WFH. (Work From Home). No shoes. No socks.  Chained to the desk. Lower back groans.

HBR: “The risk is substantial. The lines between work and non-work are blurring… (those) who feel “on” all the time are at a higher risk of burnout when working from home than if they were going to the office as usual.”

I pause for a few page turns of Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life:being caught by the mesh of one’s mind.”

Friday Night. 11:30 pm. Everyone in bed – but me. I’ve shifted positions, from desk to couch.  I’m clearing out a swollen email box. 214. 210. 198. 175. 143. 138. 117.  18 hours. Calls. Conference Calls. Conference Calls. Conference Calls.  110. 108. 106. 104. 101. 99.

Get up to stretch. Walk to the kitchen. Grab a ramekin. Scoop out 3 heaping tablespoons of Talenti, tamp it down, lean in on the spoon again, add another scoop.  Today, Talenti for late breakfast, for dinner, and again, now, at midnight. Mint Chocolate chip. Close eyes. Gelato slides down throat, soothing. The only thing that is.

88. 85. 84. 83. Losing focus. Re-reading same email 2x.  Replies are littered with spelling mistakes. Autocorrect, correcting incorrectly. F-** it. I send it anyway. Does it really matter. Lose. Loose. Lose.

81. 79. 64.

Back to Yiyun Li. “Even the most inconsistent person is consistently himself.”

63. 62. 59. 57. 56. 54. 53. Li: “Wanting nothing is as extreme as wanting everything.”

50. 47. 43. 41. Li: “Did we ever ask ourselves: Why are we so lonely, so proud, and so adamant about perfecting our pretense?”

40. 39. 38. 37. 34. 32. Li: “we are, unlike other species, capable of not only enlarging but also diminishing our precarious selves”

30. 29. 27. I’m closing in on clearing my cue, but like Sisyphus, the closer I get to zero, the steeper the hill seems to get.

26. 25. 24. 23. Neck aches. I mean aches.  I turn, twist to adjust my position. 23 left. Come on. Bring it home.

I stare at the remaining cue. And stare. And stare.

And quit.

I gently set my iPhone on night stand. Twist in the earbuds, skim to find Chill Playlist, and hit Play.  But Yiyun Li can’t help herself, and lip syncs over it.

…the worst kind of fidgeting is that of one’s mind…I wonder…—not that one has known…but that one knows…This ceaseless effort—

 


Notes: Photo – Shibari & Photo Geoffroy Tako Baud. Model Lafille Delair (via Newthom)

WFH? Give me another 4 weeks.

Week 2, Work-From-Home, which today in work parlance is WFH.

No early commutes in, or exhausting rides home. No hiding your iPhone to play Words-With-Friends during slow meetings. Had enough? Just turn on ‘Do Not Disturb’, close your eyes, lean back in your chair, and drift away for a few moments.  Or turn to your Kindle app and read a few pages from Yiyun Li’s Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. “Can one live without what one cannot have,” she asks. I pause at this, and Wonder. Can I?

And WFH here, involves Father and his 26-year Son.

Both suffer from immune deficiency disorders of differing severity levels. Both hunkered down to stay out of the path of COVID-19.

Father in his make-shift office. Anchored to his chair, desktop computer, internet phone, headset and a notepad to scribble. Many days, not more than 1300 steps all day, most to run down to the Fridge. Potato Chips. A fix (or two) of Talenti Gelato. A handful of pistachios. Then, a short run back upstairs to calls. Up 6 lbs since WFH has commenced, and unfazed. Could be worse.

Son prefers to work from his bed. Two laptops running, iPhone on his bed, playstation cued up, ear buds to take his calls. He’s sipping from a tall glass of water. No junk food here. He’s lean, fit, a full head of hair and sits in his shorts and tee-shirt, sock-less, while the morning sun beams in. When did I get so old?

I sit next to him on his bed. Nudge him over. “Come on, give me a little room.” He grunts, and moves over. I lean into him while we check messages on our iPhones.  Illya Kaminsky, that word magician, describes the moments. “…but something silent in us strengthens

And then we have lunch.

And then we sit and have dinner, and we argue over the madness in the 6pm White House Briefings.

And the next day, we repeat.

COVID-19? Give me another 4 weeks. I’m going to remember this.


Art: Kendall Kessler, Clyde and Alan

Walking Cross-Town. With Time Lapse.

Photographs, Yes… Love ’em.

Time lapse photography, not so much. Haunting. The clouds zipping by, dragging me along, hands desperately clutching the relentless spinning flywheel of Time, all slipping from my grasp.

This same morning walk to train. This same Metro North train. This same commute. This same cross-town walk.

Always black shoes. Always dark socks. Always conservative neck tie. Always black coat. Always black brief case.

That overhead drone, its dark eye, rotating, whirring, peering downward, tracking my steps. My progress.

13 years ago, it was the first train, always the first train, the 5:07 am to Grand Central. DK and the Traders. I take the aisle seat for quick ejection. I graze through the morning papers, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times. Eyes active, skimming, inhaling pages, hungry.  I shift to the pile up of late afternoon and overnight emails. Respond to the Team – they begin to roll out of bed, checking their smartphones. DK’s emails flashing, flashing, flashing...Unread. Years of the same Strategy, pull them along in my wind tunnel. He’s up, he’s moving, and they’ll follow along, or….they won’t.

Train arrives at Grand Central. I’m up, and Ready, standing in the vestibule. The hiss of the doors, and I’m off. Accelerating down the tunnels. Passing other Suits. Pulse up, heart racing, I make the turn in the tunnel and approach the escalators to the exit: Escalators are for pu**ies. I take the stairs. 75 of them, straight up.  Fearless, I gobble them up two at a time, brushing by walkers on the right. Get to the top, breathless, I jog to catch the open door onto the street, catching the Walk sign, 5, 4, 3….

I’ve figured out the pace, the precise cadence to catch the next cross street Walk sign.  Foot steps brisk, moving.  Brief case swings in right hand, there are re-grips but the smooth, cowhide leather never leaves the firm grip of the right hand.

Eyes are locked on next street, the next cross walk, the next Walk sign. The mind, in parallel, rifling through the morning calendar.  The office, ETA of 12 minutes, if I hit that street and that street and that street, just right. 

And more often than not, I would hit it just right.

13 years ago, and now, This Week. [Read more…]

Go on.

Thirty years ago, I was remembering, an eminent writer had given me some unsolicited advice.

Just look at an orange, she said.

Go on looking at it. For hours.

Then put down what you see.

– C. P. Snow, Strangers and Brothers: Last Things


Photo: anka zhuravleva

Riding Metro North. Searching, for Important.

Jenny Offill : “To live in a city is to be forever flinching.”

Tuesday morning.

A brisk walk to train station.  32 F feels like 26 F.  No snow, no slush, no sleet.  Dry.  January.  I’ll take this all day, all winter long.

5:48 am train to Grand Central.

Plenty of empty seats.

I slide by her into a seat next to the window.

She offers me a smile, and tucks her legs in to let me pass.

I nod, offering my thanks.

She’s reading a soft cover book, verses of some sort. I can’t make it out. 98% of the rest of us are heads down into our gadgets.

She’s wearing a long (long), black puffer coat, that drapes down to the top of her black boots. A black knit cap. A knitted scarf wrapped around her neck.  She’s in her late 60’s to mid 70’s would be my guess. She turns the page. Why am I so distracted by her? Her elbows and knees are tucked in, and she’s sitting comfortably in her lane. Lady @ Peace comes to mind.

But for the industrial heaters blowing warm air through the ceiling vents, the train car is silent.

She gets up in anticipation of her stop.

The vestibule is crowded with passengers waiting to get off.

She waits quietly at the back of the line. [Read more…]

Walking Downtown. With Air to be reckoned with.

Jenny Offill describes her mood…”she’s tired all the time now…she can feel how slow she is walking, as if the air itself is something to be reckoned with.” I read the passage a week ago. And Mind keeps flipping it back.

Sleep app congratulates me this morning on seven consecutive days of hitting sleep targets. Grooving a routine. And it’s working. I’m sleeping.

But, tired all the time.

Lower Manhattan this morning.

40+ F, but don’t get caught out without a coat.  Frigid winds blow through the tunnels between the hulking skyscrapers.

Colleagues take the subway to a client meeting: It’s only two stops!

I let them go. I need to walk. Shoulder stiff. Neck aches. Need to be alone.

A lifetime, swift walker. But not lately. Like a glider banking energy, I’m waiting for a tail wind, or even a gust.

Not my photo above, I couldn’t muster up my own shot.  I pause to watch the tourists take their shots with the Bull.  In all the years, this is the first time you’ve stopped (paused) to admire him. You are a beaut Mr. Bull.

Bullfighter or the Bull?  Red cape, the muleta. God Save the Bull.

Three minutes to destination.

I take a take breath and step into the building.

Game time.

 


Photo: Alexander Nilssen, Bull of Wall Street

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