Driving I-95 N. With Raheim.

AA2263. DFW to LGA. Early Friday afternoon, start of a long weekend, Board flashes: “Delayed“.

It’s been a long week.

Sorry about the delay folks but we were late arriving in Dallas and we had a minor repair that we had to take care of. We’ll see if we can make up time.”

He’s makes up time.

The giant steel bird, a Boeing 737-800, does a slow gentle turn over Manhattan, the Empire State Building is adorned in red and green holiday ribbons, the stage lights of Time Square light up the hulking scrapers, the grid layout frames up the streets and neighborhoods.

The plane tilts its wings softly, leaning in towards the city. Here pal, get a closer look at the Big Apple. Whaddya think, cool right?  I’m a drop of water, a drop in something so vast, so incomprehensible…

The video monitor on the seat signals 10 minutes from destination. Altitude: 8,000 feet

A text messages flashes: “Sir, my name is Raheim. I’ll meet u at Upper Level. Text me.”  I text back: “Haven’t landed yet. Didn’t check luggage. Should be ~30 minutes.” Indicator flashes: “Read.”

Miracle. All of it.

[Read more…]

Riding Metro North. One Car Short.

Thursday morning.
33°F. Feels like 23°F.
Out the door at 4:50 am to catch the 5:01.

Dark.

Directly across the street: new Neighbors. Young and DINK.  First things first. No curtains up, yet bright, white lights were carefully hand strung and evenly distributed across their bushes. The evergreens throw shadows on the front door. I pause. What was that? That softening, that load lightening ever so slightly. ‘Tis the season.

I board train. No open seats. At 5:01 a.m.?  Conductor announces that the train is one car short and apologizes. $15.25 for a one-way Peak ticket to Grand Central (Yes, Peak at 5:01 am.)  $15.25 and you get the privilege of standing. And standing for 55 minutes. Sigh.

I stand in the aisle, as the vestibule overflows with commuters. I set my bag down between my legs, grab the seat support, being careful not to brush against the passenger sitting in the seat.  I hover over him. He feels it. Nobody likes this.

We’re five minutes into the commute. I’m restless. I’m tired. I’m anxious. I’m not going to make it. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. With Kramer.

It was Thursday night, the ride home from the office.  The gauge was reading less than a quarter full, 40 miles remaining in the tank.

It would take no more than 5 minutes. My body gently leans right to encourage the mind to turn onto the exit ramp on I-95. But I’m hungry. I’m tired. I could stop. I should stop. I don’t stop. I’ll get up a few minutes earlier and fill-up in the morning. I see the towering Mobil sign in the rear view mirror. I take another glance at the gas gauge: 39.5 miles  I will regret this.

Yesterday morning, I’m in the shower preparing for work. I’m running the mileage tally in my head. 36 miles in the tank. 15 miles to the office. 15 miles back. No gas stations in the vicinity near work. A 6 mile cushion. Tight.

Oh, I have been here, right here, and oh, so many times. I call up other memorable events:

  • Montana: Slash in red zone. Two-lane highway. No sign of anything. 5:30 a.m.
  • Florida Everglades: Slash approaching red zone. Thunderstorm, rain pounding on hood. Late afternoon.
  • Green Bay. February. Twelve miles from next Service Stop. Wind gusts push drifts onto freeway.
  • Northern Michigan: January. Snowstorm flurries. Slash approaching red zone. 8 pm in darkness.

Each was preventable.

All were avoidable.

All were not.

[Read more…]

Flying Over I-40 N. With Fitbit Step Challenge.

3:45 a.m. Alarm. Whoa. Laying flat on my back in darkness. Where am I? Not in my house. Not in my bed. Not on my pillows. Get a grip.

3:50 a.m. Grab iPhone. Check my position in the Fitbit Work-Week Step Challenge. On top at bedtime, slipping to 6,250 steps behind overnight. Irritating. Damn it.

4:45 a.m. Arrive at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Check in. TSA line. Security check. All uneventful. Check boarding pass: Gate C-14. Boarding, 6:15 a.m.

5:05 a.m. I walk. I step. American Airlines Admirals Club 100 feet ahead…soft seats, coffee, a Continental breakfast and 20 minutes of shut-eye. Stupid Challenge. Getting dragged into this stupid step contest by Rachel (daughter) a month ago, and I just can’t seem to Release. Three millennials and me, the Middle Aged Man who’s forgotten that he’s lost most of it. Release, Dummy. Eject. Three of the most difficult words for an Addict: Just let it go. I pass the Admirals Club, stepping heavily down the concourse, dragging my bloody luggage, wheels turning and with every fifth turn an irritating squeal. Gotta get my steps in.

In Week 1 (Oct 23-27), I fell behind the three young ladies, way behind – a whopping 42,228 steps behind on the final day – @ 2,000 steps per mile, do the Math. At 11:50 pm on Friday night, 10 minutes before the expiry of the last day of Week 1, I took my 42,228th step of the day to become the Week 1 Winner of the Fitbit Workweek Challenge – leaving the Millennials in silence, and me on the couch the entire weekend. But the message was sent, don’t be messing with Goomba, the Step-King.

(As to Week 2 and 3, we’re not talking about that. Let’s move on to Week 4.) [Read more…]

Flying over I-40 N. With Cotton.

  • 2:38 a.m.  Alarm set for 3:30, Body set to go, Now.
  • 2:40 a.m.  Check Sleep App: 4 hr. 30 min. Could be worse.
  • 3:50 a.m.  “Good morning Mr. Kanigan. You’re off early.” No sh*t.
  • 4:00 a.m.  No car. Check calendar. I’m 30 minutes early. Wow. Nicely done.
  • 4:15 a.m.  I Shazam R&B tune coming thru hotel pipes. Leela James. Swept away.
  • 4:50 a.m.  DFW airport doors open. Insomniacs, airport workers and DK stream in.
  • 5:50 a.m.  Walk concourses. (Yes, Plural.) Fitbit Counter: 4,033.
  • 6:05 a.m.  Board AA# 1150 to NY LGA.
  • 6:25 a.m.  “We’ll be cruising at 31,000 ft.  Flight time: 3 hours. Expect a smooth flight.”
  • 6:37 a.m.  Eye lids heavy. Leela on loop crooning thru the earbuds.
  • 6:40 a.m.  Drifting to Bradbury‘s “country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist.”

I’m flicking thru Netflix and spot him. Ray Liotta (Fields of Dreams / Goodfellas) in a 2016 movie titled Sticky Notes.  Papa Bear writes this on a Sticky Note to his daughter:

Whoever feels it deepest wins.”

I look out the window, and here we are…31,000 ft up and floating on fluffy, mountainous sized cotton balls.

Cotton balls. White. Cotton. Balls.

  • New cotton briefs. Stretch fabric. Contoured to snuggle it/them
  • New, cotton socks. Toes wiggle, happy.
  • Soft cotton twill Chinos, hugging the legs and thighs.
  • A velvety cotton, v-neck t-shirt wraps the chest and back.
  • A cotton button down shirt, hundreds of stitches, fitting just so…smooth.

“Whoever feels it deepest wins.”

Feels it deepest.

Wins.


Notes: Image: Perception is reality, Andrey Kasay

Flying Over I-40 S. With Pema & Lav Doors.

3:25 a.m.  Alarm. Whoa.
4:00 a.m.  In the car to LaGuardia.
5:30 a.m.  Boarding AA #0125 to DFW.
8:12 a.m.  Sitting and thinkin’.

I look up from my e-reader, and there’s the lavatory, one seat over and across the aisle.  Its folding door is open, its spring faulty and not permitting the door to auto-close.

Passenger traffic.  In, out, in, out, in, out, in, out…door stays open. Disinfectant mix leaks out, both nostrils instinctively fire a gag reflex to block.

In, out, in, out, in, out, in, out…door open.

You get the idea.

Should we discuss toilet-door etiquette here? Have a training session perhaps?  Or does it fall in the common human decency category?  You go, do your business, you leave, you shut the bloody door. Could it be clearer?

But I’m trying here. Pema (my inspiration in the notes below) tells me that I need to be liberated from my suffering. This flying off the handle and going mental over things I can’t and will never, ever control isn’t healthy.  She tells me to pause. To breathe. To slow down.

So I do that. For a moment. But now I find that I can’t break my engagement.  I monitor the foot traffic in/out. I watch the body language of those that close the door (Human) vs. those that don’t (Savage).

[Read more…]

Flying Over I-40 N. Apple-Pie-In-A-Jar and Ordinary Moments of Kindness.

It worked.

For four consecutive nights, two baby blue Advil PM pills worked their magic.  7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours of deep, dreamy sleep. Wake fresh, and refreshed.

And then, it didn’t.

Last night.

6:00 p.m.

Early dinner at Hotel restaurant. Delicious pan seared halibut, its light, ivory flesh falling away from the buttery crusted filet with the touch of my fork. Creamy Mac & Cheese as a side. Two cocktails to chase it down. And, a deconstructed “apple-pie-in-a-jar” for a night cap. Spoon to jar to mouth, a pendulum, without pause, a sugar addict’s fix. God, I love dessert.  Delectable in the moment. Regrettable the moment I set the spoon down, scraping the last of the thick sugary cream from the jar. And I thought of grabbing this jar in a vice grip with two hands, lifting it to my face and licking it clean with my tongue. Oh, yes I did.

I sat, restless, waiting for the check – – and tucked my thumb down the front of my pants to let some air in.

8:45 p.m.

Cued up Michael Barbaro’s Podcast The Daily.

And it was lights out.

12:30 a.m.

Overheated. Turning, and turning, and turning. I jerk the covers off. 

[Read more…]

A Journey Around My Room

In Lin Yutang’s view, you must possess the capacity to open yourself to seeing what’s in front of and around you all the time, not just when you are on a special trip. He gives us a sizable translation from a Chinese philosopher who expands on this, explaining that seeing the beauty and grace in the most majestic mountains means nothing if you can’t see beauty and grace in “a little patch of water, a village, a bridge, a tree, a hedge, or a dog….”

A travel book that takes this philosophy as far as it can go and then further is that remarkable little book: A Journey Around My Room. This is book was written in 1790 by a young French officer named Xavier de Maistre. […]

With nothing else to do, he wrote a guidebook to his room, visiting over the course of those weeks various bits of furniture, paintings, his bookshelf, letters he’d kept, and his own memory of a charming and slightly rakish life … De Maistre makes a case for traveling around his room as the truest kind of travel … “The pleasure you find in traveling around your room is safe from the restless jealousy of men; it is independent of the fickleness of fortune. After all, is there any person so unhappy, so abandoned, that he doesn’t have a little den into which he can withdraw and hide away from everyone? Nothing more elaborate is needed for the journey.”

Like all good travel writers, de Maistre begins his book by giving us the lay of the land and the route he intends to take:

My room is situated on the forty-fifth degree of latitude, according to the measurement of Father Beccaria; it stretches from east to west; it forms a long rectangle, thirty-six paces in circumference, if you hug the wall. My journey will, however, measure much more than this, as I will be crossing it frequently lengthwise, or else diagonally, without any rule or method. I will even follow a zigzag path, and I will trace out every possible geometrical trajectory if need be. I don’t like people who have their itineraries and ideas so clearly sorted out that they say, “Today I’ll make three visits, I’ll write four letters, and I’ll finish that book I started.” My soul is so open to every kind of idea, taste and sentiment; it so avidly receives everything that presents itself!…And why would it turn down the pleasures that are scattered along life’s difficult path? …

But when he wants to be awakened to what is going on in the world far from his window, and learn more about the human condition, there is another destination in his room that he can visit—his bookshelf, which is filled mostly with novels and a few books of poetry. These take him out of his room while allowing him to stay in it, and expand his experiences a thousandfold. He writes, “As if my own troubles weren’t enough, I also voluntarily share those of a thousand imaginary characters, and I feel them as vividly as my own.” …

After reading A Journey Around My Room, I vowed that I would take a trip to my room every few months, and these have been some of the happiest days I’ve spent. It’s an incredible luxury to be home and not sick, to wake up with no agenda other than to wander around the apartment all day. I can lie on the sofa and look at the light as it plays across a glass table. Or see the way it catches on a cracked ceramic vase. I can play with the shells I’ve brought back from the beach. I can admire our hearty little African violet. And I can visit my books, flipping through this one and then that to light on a passage.

This only works if I remain totally unplugged. The rules for such a day are simple—no electronics at all (except for music).

~ Will Schwalbe, from “A Journey Around My Room. Traveling.” In Books for a Living.


Notes:

Let’s Go

…“Let’s go” is on the minds of many people in these last days of summer, especially the getting-out-of-here, going-away, going-home mood of Labor Day weekend. And it is much simpler by car…The long improvisational trip by car is quintessentially American, just as the road book is a peculiarly American form. […]

Yet it is perhaps truer today to say that the road trip has kept alive the romance of travel. Consider the misery of air travel, in what constitutes an average journey by plane. Much has been written about the stress, intimidation, limited space, germ-laden air and the intrusion of other people—the oaf in the seat in front of you who lowers his chair back into your lap, the child behind kicking your spine, the agony of the middle seat. Then there is the sludge that passes for in-flight meals, or the option to pay $7 for a “meal box” of chips, pretzels, cookies, candy, three crackers and a rectangle of industrial cheese that resembles a yellow piece of Lego but isn’t as tasty, and it’s five hours to LAX. After Sept. 11, 2001, casually showing up at the airport—often at the last minute, in my case—and easy boarding became distant memories, and since then air travel has degenerated further, so that the simplest flight is a secular version of hell. […]

This is why—for reasons of dignity and personal freedom—more and more Americans are rethinking the air journey and seeking the pleasures of the open road. […]

Not much on Earth can beat the American road trip in travel for a sense of freedom—no pat-down, no passport, no airport muddle, just revving an engine and leaving at will. Though the driverless cars that await us might have their uses in dense city traffic or on tedious L.A. freeways, they will certainly diminish the exuberance of a driver gripping the wheel, flooring it and rejoicing, “Eat my dust.”[…]

The American road trip rekindled my interest in travel and, most of all, reminded me how lucky we are in our country’s spaciousness and modernity. […]

So over the course of 2012-14, in four seasons, I drove tens of thousands of miles, meandering through the back roads of the deep South, listening to the blues on the radio, visiting churches and gun shows and family farms, and writing down people’s stories—of hardship and striving, raising families, struggling in adversity and remembering the past. […]

Nowhere else in the world (though Canada is a contender) is it possible to drive 3,000 miles—the distance from Boston to Los Angeles—and be certain that you will encounter no roadblocks or obstructions; that you will always find a place to stay and somewhere to eat. […]

Though I’ve been driving in the U.S. since I got my license 60 years ago, there is an immense amount of landscape I have yet to see. Driving through the deep South was a wish fulfilled, and so was my trip along the entire 1,900 miles of the Mexican border.

But I still have plans. My Road Trip Wish List includes: driving from Cape Cod to Seattle with many detours. Heading north from Cape Cod and keeping on, past the villages of my ancestors, until I run out of road around Lac Albanel in northern Quebec. Or heading south, as I mean to do soon, crossing La Frontera and taking an extended road trip in Mexico. […]

What made the experience a continuing pleasure was that, in my car, I never knew the finality of a flight, or the ordeal of being wrangled and ordered about at an airport, the stomach-turning gulp of liftoff or the jolt of a train, but only the hum of tires, of telephone poles or trees whipping past, the easy escape, the gradual release of the long road unrolling like a river through America. It is in many respects a Zen experience, scattered with road candy, unavailable to motorists in any other country on Earth.

~ Paul Theroux, excerpts from The Romance of the American Road Trip (WSJ, September 1, 2017). No other travel experience, especially today, can beat the sense of freedom it brings


Photo: Guy Le Querrec (via Mennyfox55)

Flying Over I-40 N. With Manners. With None.

Friday morning, 7:30 a.m.
DFW to Laguardia
American Flight 1140
Aisle Seat 12D.
All events real (not enacted) and on same flight.

The Good:

  • One row back and across to my left.
    • Three children ages 5-12 quietly eating pancakes with plastic forks and knives. Napkins draped on laps.
  • One row back and across to my right.
    • Single Mother breast feeds infant while occupying another toddler with crayons and coloring book. 3 hour flight, both children occupied and quiet.
  • To my right.
    • 6’3″ seat mate, draws unlucky middle seat, respects shared armrest for entire flight.

The Bad:

  • At gate waiting to board.
    • Man (~30) pulls roller board over my shoe, oblivious to infraction, and then stands directly in front of me waiting for his Zone to be called.
  • Boarding Plane.
    • Man in aisle jams his oversized roller board into the overhead. It won’t fit, no chance, no how. He keeps jamming. Long line builds behind him. “Sir, you’ll need to check that bag, please.
  • One row up, in middle seat.
    • A Pilot (in uniform) is catching this flight home for the weekend. He presses the recline button on his seat, leans back heavily, slamming his seat into the knees of the tall, young lady. She grimaces, rubs her knee, adjusts her skirt and simmers in silence.

[Read more…]

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