Waiting. At The Star Market. Trying to Bend the Image.

7:05 am. Stamford station.

I’m waiting for the 2151 Acela to Baltimore. Overhead board flashes On Time, Track 2.

There are two empty seats adjacent to a scruffy, long bearded old man. He’s wearing a heavy jacket, way too heavy for August. A rollerboard stands to his right. His head bowed, sleeping. You’re asking for trouble. Find another seat. I look around, and can’t find another seat. I catch others watching me, judging, ‘The Suit won’t come near That.’

And Mind, ever so efficient, calls up a Marie Howe poem, The Star Market:

“The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday. An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps. Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them: shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay..Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself…stumbling among the people who would have been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands and knees begging for mercy. If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought, could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?”

He lifts his head, turns towards me and stares.  I freeze.  The Others are now watching. I pause, and make my move.

I take the seat next to Him.

Others watch for a moment, eyebrows raised, and then go back to their smartphones. Did you do it because you wanted a seat? Or because others would think less of You, or that you didn’t want this Suit to meet their expectations? Or because you didn’t want Him to think you thought any less of Him?

There’s one empty seat between us. But there’s tension in the gap. He turns to look at me, I can feel his eyes on me. Here it comes, Can you help me out with a few bucks, Sir?”  

He sits silently. [Read more…]

Flying AA1011 N.W. With Miracles?

6 a.m. this morning.

7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. WTH is that?

Dallas, TX. Hotel check-out.

This Hotel, a fine property.

Receptionist punches my room number into the system and then quickly lifts her head, and makes eye contact.

She pauses. And looks back down, reading. And that ain’t no coincidence.

The hotel record has to be Red Flagged with an Alert. Has to be.

“Be damn careful here. That gnarly look is squarely aligned with his disposition. Man has been a patron here for 3 years. Many (MANY) nights. We’ve had a string of 5 straight stays of really bad luck.

  • #1 & #2: A/C out 2 nights.
  • #3: Party next door and in hallway from 1:30 am to 3:30 am. (He typically wakes at 4am. He doesn’t Party.)
  • #4: Room Service delivered meal to the wrong room, and he had to wait another hour.
  • #5: The pièce de résistance. Room Service barreled through his locked door (the wrong door) at 2 a.m. Yes, he was sleeping. But not any longer.

He’s advised the Hotel Manager that he’s a Simple Man. He’s not interested in fresh towels (he reuses his), he’s not interested in turn down service, or mint chocolate squares on his pillow, or a Shoe Shine. He’s not interested in a coupon for a free dessert, and not interested in you walking around the counter to hand him his key. He wants his key (fast), he wants a Quiet room, he wants working AC and he would like his order for room service to be delivered within the hour. [Read more…]

Flying S.S.W. This ain’t Disney.

August 7th. This morning. 6 a.m. LaGuardia Airport. New York City.

Peak summer vacation season.

Young Parents. Families. Children. Babies. Backpacks. Teddy Bears. Duffel bags. Baby bottles.

Mothers, carrying delicate cargo, children nuzzled in necks, arms straining, heavy eyelids – – and it’s only 6:15 am. It’s going to be a long day.

ID’s. Passports. Longer. Everything’s longer. Wait times at check-in. At security. At X-Ray machines. But today, it’s ok. Families, together, excited, it’s summer vacation. There’s a sense of community in the terminal this morning. It’s buzzing. A good buzz.

Air conditioning blows in the waiting area, children huddle, gathering warmth around knees of their parents.

CNN blaring from TVs overhead. White Nationalists. Hate. More dead. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Right Place. Right Time.

Tuesday morning. 5:33 a.m. Second morning train to Grand Central.

I pause in front of the empty aisle seat. The occupant, feigning sleep, awakens immediately after my “excuse me.” He looks up the train car wondering why I hadn’t found another seat. He slides over roughly signalling displeasure. Bullsh*t.

I set my bag down onto the floor, reach down to grab my iPad, and in doing so, I clip his arm which extends into my air space. Ladies, no worries. I size up opponents carefully before jostling them. He tucks his elbow in.  I settle in, with territorial boundaries established, and all parties now in their rightful places.

I catch a whiff, it lingers for a minute, it’s foul, and then it disappears. I go back to reading. 

The train makes its first stop at Stamford. Doors hiss, open, passengers pass by, and there it is again. B.O. Heavy, thick B.O. This time it hangs. It can’t be me. Has to be Him. It vaporizes.  It can’t be Him, otherwise it would persist. I go back to reading.

Passenger passes by, and there it is again. I glance around to locate the source and then look up, and there resting (rotting?) on the overhead rack is a large, canvas backpack. Directly over top of Him. Cigarette smoke penetrates my suit jacket, does B.O.?

Train arrives at Grand Central. I get up quickly, woosy, with vertigo, looking up after 30 minutes with head in the morning papers. I exit into the underground tunnels.  Head spinning, ears ringing from the roar of the train engines, the heat, the crowds spilling down the tunnels, all swallow me whole. I step to the side out of traffic, slow my pace, take a few deep breaths and inhale a trace of urine and rancid food from garbage cans marinating overnight. 

I enter Grand Central terminal, look for the Lexington Avenue exit and punch my destination into the UBER app. 

I step on Lexington and cross the street to catch my ride.  We take FDR Drive South, and the morning sunrise pours through the window.  21 minutes to the office.

“Would you mind if I opened the window?”

“No Sir, not at all.”

I roll the window down.  I can smell, and taste the East River. The water shimmers and sparkles.  The Sun warms my face. The morning breeze is refreshing, and clears the head. The world is silent but for the wheels spinning on FDR Drive.  Buechner’s passage from the day before comes to mind: “we hear a whisper from the wings…you’ve turned up in the right place at the right time.

I will remember this.


Notes: Photo via poppins-me.

Driving Down MacArthur Blvd. Full of Pride.

He arrived on time. At the end of a 14-hour day. I’m bushed.

This day, which was preceded by five hours sleep on an alien mattress, which was preceded by a late night dinner, which included one oversized slice of home made peach pie (à la mode of course), and this was chased with a s’more. Yes, a S’more, you read right. With a home made golden graham cracker at its base, topped with a thin slice of Swiss chocolate, and a giant, home made marshmallow, with the waiter cautiously holding the blow torch as the sugar crackled and blackened into a light char.  Three bites, and it disappeared. A sugar addict with his fix, floating lightly above the table, abstaining from my dinner guests’ chatter, floating higher, higher, up and up in his delirium.

I slide into the back seat.

“How was your day Sir?”

I’m not in the mood for banter. Please, please, get me to the hotel. A long hot shower. Room service (sans S’mores). And early to bed.

“Great, thank you.” A.K. Benjamin’s passages dripping in and out of consciousness: “Studies have shown that your generation, our generation, lies on average two or three times every ten minutes, men to make themselves look better, women to feel good.” And he’s right.

I did not counter to ask him about his day. A direct signal that this door was not open for chatter.

“Would you like a bottle of water?”

“No, but thank you for asking.”

I pull out my smartphone, drop my head, emitting another direct signal of non-engagement. I glance up and see his eyes in the rear view mirror.  Tension rises in the cabin. He picks up on the body language: This guy is shut down.

He has a teddy bear on the console. Rainbow colored.  Odd. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 N. Above the World.

Step out of the office. 15 hours and counting…

A slow walk down an empty hallway,

and a slower walk to an empty garage.

Ride home.

8:15 pm, cruising up I-95 North.

Traffic, frictionless.

Waze est. of travel time: 23 minutes.

David Crosby, “Carry Me” is on repeat.

Carry me, carry me
Carry me above the world
Carry me, carry me, carry me.

Waze: 10 minutes to Home.

Body races ahead

and eases into bed

slides under the covers

sheets, fresh, cool

seconds drip, unhurried

in ether, adrift, rising

above the world

Home, Home at last.


Notes:

Driving I-95 N. With Nepo.

Wednesday 6:30 pm.

12 1/2 hours after I stepped in my office, I get into car. I need to get home. Dinner. Digestif –  spoon and half-pint of Talenti Mint Chocolate Chip Gelato. (Tongue slides over sweetness on lips.) Then Bed. Then do it all over again.

I flip open Waze, which signals 45 minutes to get home. Just shy of 2x the normal commute. Painful.

I can save 10 mins (per Waze) bypassing fives miles of I-95 by taking the backstreets, before spilling back onto 95.  Construction? Accident? WTH knows? And yet, it’s a coin toss. Get stuck on back streets in traffic, and good luck finding your way out of that labyrinth.

But 10 minutes is 10 minutes.

I take the back streets.

And so apparently do hundreds of my closest friends following Waze.  It’s stop and go. Narrow 2-lane roads. 4-way stops. Near standstill. Damn, and you knew better. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. A Voyeur.

6:25 pm train home. Tuesday. It’s been a very long day.

I’m 8 minutes early. I find my aisle seat, set my bag down, remove my coat and place it on the luggage rack overhead. I close my eyes, and pause. My right hand clutches my iPhone – activity is frantic inside the device. News. iMessages. Emails. Work. All churning forward. Just let it be for a moment. Rest. Let it be.

My eyes remain closed. Thoughts flicker, and latch onto Jack Kornfield’s “Your Mind: Friend or Foe” as he passes a cautionary road sign, “Your own tedious thoughts the next 200 miles.

I hear footsteps. She settles one seat up and to my left. She slouches in her seat, knees up against the seat in front of her.

She scratches items on a yellow note pad with a 2H pencil, her to-do list for tomorrow.
List fills, too far away for me to see details. Neat, on the lines. Cursive.

She then grabs her smartphone. Pans through a long list of emails. Then text messages. Then back to emails. Then back to her yellow note pad, to jot down another to-do.

She puts down her phone, and stares out the window. Hair, shoulder length, rests on a light, Patagonia windbreaker.  Clean, white sneakers, must have a long walk from the office to the train. Her heels tucked in her bag.

She lifts her phone, and scans more emails. Sends a few more text messages. Flicks through a few web sites. For some reason, you can’t take your eyes off this woman, her show, her frenetic activity in her private space. A peeping voyeur. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Romanticizing myself.

Thursday morning.

5:23 a.m.

Short on sleep, by several hours.

Short on time, rushing to catch the second morning train.

I’m on the platform, train cars pass, the train slows. I peer into one passing car, then the next, and the next. Options are limited: standing or middle seat.

Aisle seat occupants have their heads down, sending the commuter signal of not here, you aren’t welcome to the middle seat. Keep moving down the aisle.

I tap him on the shoulder. The Suit is irritated that I’ll be crowding him by taking the middle seat. I set my bag on the floor. Grab my smartphone. Tuck my elbows in, avoiding all possible contact.

Mind flips through the day’s appointments. Unfinished projects. And then the previous day, and things I shouldn’t have said, things I should have done, things I shouldn’t have done. I shift in my seat, nudging the occupant at the window, who shifts nervously.

Morning code: No contact. Absolutely no talking.

I can’t get comfortable. I adjust myself in place, careful to avoid contact. I’m tired. I’m edging to claustrophobia, and assessing whether I want, whether I need to exit and stand in vestibule. Not yet DK. Not yet. Settle. Just settle.

I set my smartphone down. I close my eyes.

It’s Make Believe Boutique in her post Kaleidoscope Shift that lands with a share from Chelsea D.G. Bartlett. “We may not always have that perfect mindset that we all chase…it can be difficult…especially when you’re constantly driving yourself forward…so lately I’ve been tricking myself myself into it.  I call this ‘romanticizing my life.’ I use this technique when I’m struggling to see the beauty in a situation, to add a little romance to the everyday frustrations and low moments that sometimes come up in life. It’s a perspective shift, more than anything else, paired with words that will take something that is often just a concept and true it into something more solid. Something actionable. It’s less effective to simply say, ‘I need to slow down and re-frame what I’m experiencing,’ than it is to force yourself to notice actual details and commit them to written words. Instead of, ‘I’m stuck on the bus, too exhausted after work even to concentrate on my creative goals, and all I want is to be at home,’ romanticize your life.’ “The bus rocks me gently through the city lights. Glimmers of ideas for stories and projects spark and sputter in my mind. I know I’ll be home soon, and it will be warm.[Read more…]

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

  • Photograph: “Bob (aka Caleb) The Easter Camel” via Transglobalist
  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again
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