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…]

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…]

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…]

Riding Metro North. With Black Crow.

image
End to end, it was seconds.
But this won’t be wiped with a flick of the wrist on an Etch-a-Sketch.
5:37 am. 45 F.
Rain, a light mist.
Minutes from the 5:40 to Grand Central.
She’s approaching.
Ten Yards.
Tall. Wafer thin.
Her eyes on me.
I avert, and then return to Her.
Black hair. Neatly primped above shoulders. Dark as night.
Black pumps.
Black coat.
Black shoulder bag.
Five yards away.
Thin nose.
Black eyes. No light.
I slide back six inches from the guardrail.
She maintains her course, straight ahead.
The Earth and the platform trembles.
It’s the Iron Horse, three spot lamps from the head illuminate the rails.
She stops, in my space, the rail cars rush by…followed by a blast of wind.
We stand face to face. Eye to eye.
She glances at my black rain slicker, and then down at my black shoes.
And snaps her head back up.
Empty.
She abruptly turns and continues down the ramp.
Her tail, or tail feathers swishing behind her.

WTH was that?

I step cautiously over the Black Cat’s path and wait for the doors to open.
Black?
Nah, let’s go with Black Magic.


Notes:

Riding Metro North. Man With a Plan.

hair-breeze-wind
High School graduation.
Scholarship.
Land of the Opportunity.
He leaves.

Undergraduate Degree.
Marriage.
Green Card.
Graduate Degree.
He learns. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. And Sleeptalking.

train-gif

4:50 am.
11 minutes to the 5:01, the first train to Grand Central.
I step onto the front porch into darkness.
And into Salter’s Burning The Days…at both ends.

Peter Cottontail scurries down the driveway, his white tail bobbing.  A four-legged leaf clover.

Did I stop and allow myself to be surprised? Or did I trudge on in a daze?David Steindl-Rast prods in Awake, Aware and Alert.  Yes, David, Yes.

My head is down, I’m watching for icy patches. The footfall is covered with a moon shadow – the mind bleached with a word slurry. First Harrison: If you are strained, lacerated, enervated…take a night walk as far as you can get from a trace of civilization – a dance, and the ghost that follows you, your moon-cast shadow, is your true, androgynous parent.  And then Kalanithimy specklike existence against the immensity of the mountain, the earth, the universe and yet still feel your own two feet on the talus.  Lacerated. Enervated. Specklike. Immensity. My two feet. Flooded with Gratitude.  I keep walking.

4 minutes to departure. I pick up the pace. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With Weary.

train-gif-alone

It’s the late evening train.
Metro North to New Haven.
The Quiet Car.

On my left, sits Stoic.  No book. No smartphone. Hands on her lap. Eyes dead ahead.

On my right, sits Dude. Head down, tapping his keys, ear buds pumpin’.

Across, sits Weary.  Head back on head rest. Eyes closed.  Tinted transition glasses. Lightly salted side burns.  Hair, jet black, neatly coifed, perhaps too much so.  A Pabst Blue Ribbon Tallboy rests on the floor between his black loafers.

Weary’s eyes pop open and catch me. I avert.

Stoic sits stoic.
Dude is bangin’.
Weary reaches down for the Tallboy, takes a swig, sets it down, leans his head back and swallows deeply. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With My Schwinn

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5:40 am train to Grand Central.
50º F. Top coat-free morning.
Warm.

Morning papers.

Photo of the Day: Jogger in Beijing. Eyes visible. Face covered with a mask. Street flooded with smog. Mile 1 of apocalypse?

Climate change.
Trump
Fear.
Guns.
Grim.

Hoo-Ah!
Lt. Col. Frank Slade (aka Al Pacino) in Scent of a Woman: “there isn’t nothin’ like the sight of an amputated spirit.

Bend it. Bend it back.

Mid-summer. 1970’s. Billy’s out front. Brother Rich and cousin Jim tail far behind.  The fishing pole is in my right hand and bending in the wind. I’m griping the handle bars and pumpin’ my legs.  Up down. Up down.  We reach the final leg, a steep decline.  Heads are tucked down and in over the handle bars. The Schwinn accelerates.  We lean into the slow turn right. And then into the slow turn left. The white birches lining the road are a blur.

Metro North makes its first stop and rolls on.  I turn my gaze to the window.  Lights from lamp posts, street lights and apartments illuminate the darkness and whiz by.

I turn my right shoulder ever so slightly to cock the rod.  Out of my right eye are lush forests.  I cast. The floater and lead are suspended in the air. The worm is tucked in tightly on the hook. Towering above, the Cascade Mountains watch over. And the cloudless blue skies watch over all of us.  The Kootenay River, clear, clean and lined with moss covered stones, meanders down stream.

The train pulls into Grand Central. We spill out.

The floater, red and striped, is suspended.  Hanging, frozen in time.

Hold it.

Stop right there.

Don’t let me go.


Notes:

Walking Cross-Town. With Smoke.

red-walking-sven-pfrommer

The bi-fold doors open.

We spill out of the train into the underground tunnel at Grand Central. It’s Monday morning.

I’m walking briskly in a free lane. Not exactly free. Under foot is a yellow warning strip, with hundreds of half-moons of steel affixed to the two-foot corrugated shoulder on a highway warning of trouble. My eyes bob ahead and down, wary, looking to avoid toppling down eight feet onto the empty tracks. Livin‘ la Vida Loca.

I bear down on a commuter who is ambling along. Buddy, move left. I’m on his heals. Compressed air is released from the lungs, the Jake brake is pulled, the exhaust valves fly open, the big rig vibrates, rattles and slows.

He has thick soles, black lace-up orthopedic shoes. He is limping badly. Vet? Amputee? Back injury? I cannot pass him on my left, commuters are thick.

And then it comes. A memory, smoke grasped… [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. The Return.

firecracker-lights-blue

5:30 am.
A brisk walk to catch the 5:40 train to Grand Central.
28º F. Cold. Can’t touch me.
Running on a four hours sleep. Can’t feel it.
Dark. Spring forward. Fall back. Fall back into darkness, on both ends of the work day.
But today, light beams.
Thanksgiving week.
A scheduled vacation week. And here you are, Day 2 of vacation and off to work again.
And, looking forward to the day.

I find an open two-seater in the Quiet Car.
I lean my head against the window, close my eyes, and replay last night. [Read more…]

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