Flying over I-40 S. With Lav #2.

Who’s the guy in the photo? No idea. Loved the shot, it goes up.

Does he resemble him? No. Hair color? No. Glasses? Hmmm, black frames, but not the polaroids. Body frame? Close. So what’s the connection? For some inexplicable reason, Tattoo runs up shouting “Ze plane! Ze plane!” to announce the arrival of a new set of guests to Fantasy Island. Not “ze plane” – “ze cane Boss“, “ze cane.”

I’ve been in here, this same room, a hundred times, maybe more. Always early morning, and an hour before boarding. The first flight from LaGuardia to Dallas.

Yes, we’re back talking about Lavs, after Lav #1 earlier in the week, and Lav Doors a while back. It’s the Men’s restroom at the American Airlines Admirals Club. Here, there are three certainties when you enter: (1) the smell of clean, before hundreds soil the floor with urine and slop the countertops with water and soap suds, (2) Musak pumping Chill music through the ceiling speakers and (3) Chill, like Arctic air, that triggers goose bumps on your skin…get dancing!

It’s July, 82° F, and he’s wearing a blue windbreaker.  Navy blue slacks. A baseball cap. 5’4″ tops, if stretched out from his stoop. Glasses, black frames; lenses…coke bottles. Age? ~ mid 80’s.

He’s standing at the urinal to my left. His cane, hard wood, weathered, has a silver wrapper for a handle. It leans against the wall, waiting. [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:

Running. With Potpourri.

I’m off. Running. 6:05 am and it’s 76° F, already. Humidity is thick, legs are heavy, body is huge, mind is resisting, all of it groaning under the pressure of NO.

Scenes of the last 3 days flicker by.

pot·pour·ri (n) a mixture of things

In a small patch of grass, with Holly Pond on its right, a guard rail on the left, and Post Road to the North, is a flock. Not of a like-kind. But 2 adult geese, 3 toddlers, a mallard and a sparrow. All quietly feeding as I approach. Mother Goose, protecting her young-uns, approaches, neck fully extended…tall and fierce with her wings spread wide…hissing. This luncheon is human-free, and I was not welcome. All these creatures, peacefully feeding, and yet we, a higher level of intelligence can’t seem to sit in a room and have a civil conversation.

I’m in the dentist chair. Not flat, but with feet higher than head. Hygienist is wearing a face mask and magnified eye goggles. Poking, scraping, suction, flossing. I’m lolling in and out of nausea and claustrophobia. Overhead lamp beams down. I’m Dustin Hoffman in the scene from Marathon Man. Blood rushes to my head. I swallow, shift my legs and grip the arms of the chair. Hygienist notices the discomfort and withdraws. Breathe DK, breathe. I regain my composure.

Feet and legs have been hurting after my runs. Time for new shoes. I’m third in line, waiting to check out at Dick’s Sporting Goods. It’s late afternoon on July 4th. I’m watching one of three check out clerks. She’s large boned, broad shouldered, and tired. I walk up and hand her the shoes – with an intense desire to see what shoes she is wearing. She’s been standing since 10 am on a statutory holiday. She places the shoe box into a plastic bag, drops in the receipt and offers an obligatory “Thank you.” I’m walking out the door. Should have tipped her. Should have. Should have. Should have. [Read more…]

Running. With Restraint. And With None of It.

What do you excel at?

A) Habitual repeating. (Professional kind)

Consistent, effective execution. Compulsive in following through on commitments. Dependable. You can count on him.

And that’s life isn’t it, the antithesis of what makes you effective at “A”, makes you a disaster a “B”.

B) Habitual repeating, in bulk. (Personal kind. Random, exculpatory list below.)

  • Thoughts. (Swirling, incessant, dark)
  • Doubts. (Many)
  • Food (Binges, sugar, fast food, anything).
  • Running ‘paths’ (Note emphasis on paths and not running, there should be zero inferences to mastery in frequency, distance or pace.)
  • Blog post ‘themes’. (Note emphasis on themes. And no mention of original work.)

How many times can you spout on about the same sh*t? Let’s see. Let’s use metaphors, not your own of course. Because that would take talent, effort. How many times? Richard Powers, “A thousand—a thousand thousand—green-tipped, splitting fingerlings.”

So here we go again. [Read more…]

Walking. O say can you see by the dawn’s early light.

Olson_4_little_boy_border_agent

Dallas, TX.

Wednesday. 4:05 am. Pre-Dawn.

It’s sticky, the air is heavy, rain showers are imminent.

I’m walking from an outbuilding to the lobby to pick up an Uber to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. I’m on the first flight back to New York.

Two bodies are framed in their silhouettes. They stand under a street lamp filling a work cart with garden tools. They stop talking, watch me approach and offer a “Good morning Sir” with full smiles and broken English.

Of Mexican origin.

I approach the front desk. Martina is the tag on her lapel. “How was your stay Sir?” She doesn’t break eye contact. Customer Service coach whispering in her ear during orientation, be confident, you belong.

Of Haitian or DR origin. [Read more…]

A Division of Labor. A Promise Kept.

Saturday morning. Bird song, many species, ease softly through the window. The body, the bones and the mind at rest. The peace and sanctuary of Saturday morning. Bliss.

Until, it’s not.

For most, the smell of freshly cut grass conjures warm images of youth, of order, of parallel lines, or of a task completed. Or perhaps it’s the smell of rich, black soil, or the solidity of earth under one’s feet. Or perhaps a feeling of rebirth or growth.

For most.

But not for me.

This past, this dipping back into youth, of weekend chores, of hundreds of yards of uncut grass, of an aging push mower, of a hot sun bearing down, of a rush to finish – offers no such relief.

[Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Walking backwards.

7:34 p.m. train. Grand Central station. Last peak hour train home. Standing room only. Heads down, glowing screens, wifi slow, thousands sucking on the same straw. Pages loading slowly, then stopping altogether. One head, after another, mine too, lifting in frustration.  Beach ball spinning, locked up. There’s a message in this. To thousands of us sitting on this train. Whether we are listening, now that is another story.

8:31 p.m. Walk home. Down the platform. Up the stairs. Across the bridge over I-95. Up the hill – and the last 1/4 mile stretch, before losing this tie, this shirt sticking to my back, and these leather shoes strapped around my feet for last 12 hours. Free me, please!

I see them in the distance. Two boys, 7 or 8 years old, kicking a soccer ball on front yard. Mom sitting on the porch reading. When’s the last time I’ve seen this? [Read more…]

Flying Over I-40 N. And leaning in.

bear-plane

4:15 am. In Uber, bleary eyed. Please, no small talk. Absolute silence will score a larger tip. I think about letting him know, the thought vanishing in 3 seconds. Inhuman.

Air conditioning dries the skin, sticky from the early morning humidity. It’s summer in Dallas.

SiriusXM is set to Symphony Hall, playing Bach or Tchaikovsky or Chopin. Wrong side of 50, and you can’t tell one composer from the next. Kyo Maclear: “Die knowing something. Die knowing your knowing will be incomplete.” Makes Sense. I sit in the back seat wondering why this is so difficult, how I’m so badly twisted. Keep running, or Die ignorant.

AA1150, DFW to LGA. 6:00 a.m. boarding. 6:35 am departure, 11:09 am touch down in NYC. And beat the soul sucking rush hour traffic. Home. Soon. Weekend. Body tired, let’s go, and softens.

First flight out. Airport opening. TSA agents. Airport personnel. A youth soccer team from Argentina. I find a seat outside of the Admiral’s Club, which does not open until 5 a.m. A Google alert flashes flight delay to 10:30 a.m. No!

I rush to call American Airlines to find another flight – the automated message says due to inclement weather, hold times are longer. “We will return your call in an estimated 38 minutes.” 38 minutes. You’ve got to be kidding me.

A second Google alert flashes, my flight is now delayed to 10:45 a.m. It’s 4:55 a.m. now.

I’m first in line as the doors are unlocked to the Admirals Club.

“Is it weather? Or is the delay due to an aircraft maintenance problem.”

“Sir, it’s aircraft maintenance.” Oh, no. Estimates for departure times on maintenance problems are notoriously bad. [Read more…]

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…]

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