Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Five Mile

This was my first race in ten years.It was a good day. Here I am leaving for the race.

And here's a shot (sort of) of the start.

I stood well back from the ten minutes plus per mile sign seeing as how I had been training at fifteen minutes per mile. Surrounding me however were the skinniest bunch of rabbits I have ever seen. It turns out, I learned from listening, that they start back in the back in this race to keep from getting runover by the guys who ONLY do this race. Most of the people I was with were using this little 5 mile as a fun run, getting ready for next Sunday's Marathon. That was good because I paced myself along with some of them for the first mile or so.

My goal was to finish under fifteen minutes per mile. I did 58:40 or just under twelve minute miles. Look ! There's some people slower than me!!

Did I mention that there are 10,000 runners in this race? That's a lot of feet. I treated myself to breakfast and a cafe au lait at an outdoor (heated) cafe. Then I had my photo taken with my medal.

Did I mention I won a medal? Yes. Me. I was so proud. They came up to me as I finished and cut my timing tag off and gave me a medal. Wow.

Oh, and they gave one to every creature great and small that managed to crawl across the finish line, all ten thousand, six hundred and seventy-two runners, walkers, joggers, sloggers and creepers.

I put mine next to my inspirational photo the New Yorker published of me last July.

Oh, and I am down to 210.8.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

And you thought you had a bad day...

Two snippets of other people's lives...

David, regular guy David, on track David, having the good life David, got out of bed Thursday, showered, dressed and headed for the kitchen for a little coffee. He got as far as the bedroom door. It was stuck. He turned the handle and yanked. Stuck. Would not budge. He turned the handle the other way. Still stuck. A combination of new paint and the recent rains had glued the door shut. David took a deep breath. His girlfriend was still asleep. A foot on the door frame and the full leaning back while holding your breath didn't work. Pushing in while lifting up didn't work. Lurching and yanking while muttering threats regarding the painter's closest relatives didn't work. At last, trying to find a way to get the door open and be quiet proved impossible and the girlfriend drowsed awake only to ask embarrassing questions. Ah yes, start your day with the love of your life, or this month anyway, wondering aloud what is so wrong with you that you can't open a door?

She couldn't either. Luckily. That would have really done it.

So they did what modern people do. They called the doorman. Except David's phone was in the living room so they used hers except that she didn't have the number so they had to wait until a decent hour to call her girlfriend who had the number who then would call the doorman. "I'm not calling before eight." Oh, right. I thought we had kind of an emergency.

More futile yanking enthused.

Final act: Doorman called, he arrives, no key, drills out front door lock and puts shoulder to bedroom door to bust it open with only minor structural damage.

David goes to work only three and half hours late.

Fate of relationship still unreported.

Also late, but on Friday morning was Joe , another regular guy filled with dread over the dental appointment he was late for, he stood on the platform and prayed for something to happen or not happen. What happened was a fire in a switching room several miles away, but not until Joe got onto the train. It was between 155th and 145th Streets that the train stopped. In accordance with MTA policy, or at least conduct, no announcement regarding the stoppage was made for approximately five minutes, then there was the official, completely unintelligible, squawking --something about delay, moving smortkedly soon- then nothing for the next ten minutes. Another apology, no news, so that's good news, but no movement.

Joe read the paper. He read the editorials and nodded. He read the Metro section, Bloomberg still crushing Ferrer in the mayor's race. He read the International section, the National Section, he browsed the Arts and Leisure. He wished he had a pen so he could do the crossword. He tried doing it in his head. The Friday NYTimes Crossword is tough to do with a pen and about impossible to do without, but he tried. More minutes passed. He read through the whole front page again, this time reading the article (Part II) about the lack of ice at the North Pole and he read the Religion article about making a life after living through the massacres in all the various places of massacre around the globe. Apparently, someone had done it.

He got out his cellphone, useless deep underground except it would give him the time of day which was more the MTA was doing. One hour and twenty minutes had passed since he got on the train, an hour and ten minutes of that had been spent here looking out at the murk and the bricks in the tunnel.

Without a word, the train moved slowly southward and pulled into the 145th Street Station. The platform was filled of people, faces tight with anger, despair and resignation. Joe got off thinking he would just walk the forty blocks back to the apartment. Announcements were being made. No trains were running North or South, they hoped to be moving soon. The volume of the speakers was set at just below ear-piercing making the message all that more painful. Joe headed for the stairs and the long walk home. He called his dentist's office from the top of the stairs near the booth entrances. One bar on the cellphone, just enough. Sorry, have to cancel, stuck uptown, reschedule, okay, sorry.

A great weight lifted from him and then, like a final gift from the gods, he heard a northbound train coming into the station below. He dashed down the stairs and got on.

And there is more.

On the seat was a pen. He opened his paper and furiously started to fill in the crossword while the train carried him toward home.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Another rainy slogathon

So hurricane Wilma, is that supposed to be Hurricane Wilma?, slogged along the Eastern seaboard and slung pelting rain at us since early Monday evening leaving me no choice but to use the treadmill at the gym. I ran from the train to the gym but that is only about three blocks so I don't count it as anything. Six months ago it would have been a big deal, but now it just another wet slogathon.

At the gym I managed to get one of the machines that don't shake when you bounce 211 pounds on them and set it to Fit-Test because I am a masochist. No, I just wanted to warm up quickly. At any rate I bopped through the five minutes watching CNN and holding on to the heart sensors. At the end of five minutes it beeped, stopped and said I was above average.

Still paunchy but about average. I mean above. Right.

gutt enough.

Monday, October 24, 2005

And now, this musical interlude.....

The notes are not always held as long as they should be so the Girl from Ipanema sounds more crunchy, more bebop than bossa nova. The subway saxman hurries through the verse so he can get to the sweet elongated phrases of the more familiar chorus before the next arriving train drowns out his sound. A big guy in a leather coat and white Ipod buds treads up to the open box the saxman is using as a collection basket, water is dripping from his coat and the tilted brim of his Giant's baseball cap. It's raining (again) so everyone is a little damp, but this guy is oozing, no, spewing fluids. A stream of droplets flys towards the bench as he digs into his pocket, shaking himself like some kind of half-bear half-fleeced monster creature, he draws out something and tosses it into the box, then drifts off dripping. There is a pause in the action as the musician changes his tune.

There doesn't seem to be a subway musician who isn't amplified in some way. I don't know how they do it, batteries? They are, most of them anyway, accompanied by a backtrack. I've listened to a very good violinist playing with what sounded like a quartet from Avery Hall and there is a guy down on the Number 1 platform at 42nd who plays a coronet with one hand and a piano keyboard with the other while a tape with some drifty vocals and a ssh-ssh-sshhhh drum machine fills in the rest. He sings too. A nice, boozey oozie baritone that makes you want to shove a dollar in his jar and go find yourself a drink.

The saxman is back up to speed and he is giving them some breezy Jobim tune they all have heard, could it be?, ten thousand times before on every easy listening FM station from Carmel CA to Miami FL and, of course, no one appears to be listening. No one has to listen to something they already know so well. They stand near the edge of the platform, staring down the tunnel, willing the train to arrive or they sit on the completely and fully occupied bench and think about this Monday and how it has gone.

The good news is our train is rattling into the station, we duck around a couple of wet tourists, crumbling up a dollar as we go, tossing it in a perfect practiced arc toward the saxman's bag as we jog left, around a pillar, reaching the platform edge just as the train doors open.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I can no longer read the New York Times.

It's not what you think. Our neighbors down the hall are letting us catsit for a few days and their big, fat New York Sunday Times was leaning against the wall this morning. "Good." I thought, "I get to read the actual paper today." See, I read the Times every day, but online, not in uh, as a paper, just as an image on my monitor. Clicking through the stories, zooming through the most emailed editorials and punching up the stories I've had fed to my email -Archeology-Stocks-Red Sox-Rove- etc and I've got it wrapped up in about twenty minutes, maybe thirty, which is good because I leave the apartment very early. I plow through Today's Papers on Slate if it has arrived which is rare. Then I usually meet the paper carrier on my way out the front door and I get to the subway before the paperguy down there has his papers stacked up. (He doesn't have a stand. He sells them from stacks. I'll do his story sometime. It's a good one.) On the train I listen to books on my Muvo or actually carry one with me. I just finished 1776 and 1491, two historical books, both excellent.

But today I had the real paper, the whole paper right in my hands. I headed for our apartment, made a bagel and coffee and prepared to settle in for a good read. First, the Sunday New York Times is enormous, today's was just a normal issue but it must have weighed eight pounds, the New York Times Magazine alone was about three of that and there are sections and sections of which I haven't the slightest interest. I'm sure someone in New York looks carefully through the Automobile Section and the big pullout ad for CompUsa. My coffee was cold by the time I got my sections sorted out. Reading the Times used to be a Sunday ritual around here. I would walk up the hill to Greumbaum's and get a paper and some pastries, then my wife and I would peer through the news as the CBS Sunday Morning burbled in the background. Now I go run, she sleeps in, I watch CBS Sunday Morning off the DVcR while I wait for the football game to end and 60 minutes to begin.

I lasted about thirty minutes. I read the editorial page. I looked through the International Section and read through the continuing disassemblage of this miserable administration's conduct before the war. I picked up the Magazine. It felt huge. I tried to find the front page article, couldn't find the first page, it was pressed between two ads for leather coats. I gave up, drank some juice, found my sneakers and went for a run. When I came back I punched up the paper on my monitor. and read through the good parts.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Looking forward

The best seat on the subway is not a seat at all, but the view out the front window. It combines the best of the funhouse railcar rolling experience with the mysterious darkened cavern dread of the unknown.There are green lights and red lights and something bobbing up and down off to the left, the train rushs forward towards what looks like a vicious right turn only to slow suddenly and gracefully click click click through a slight curve before zooming into the bright lights of the next station. Bordered by the safety yellow line, the platform is crowded with people, some leaning out over the tracks, some holding the hands of children, knots of faces waiting for the train. You can try and see some of them but the train is moving at sixty miles per hour and, though you see the colors of some of their clothes, it's impossible to pick out anyone. By the time you start to get a focus on a shape, it's a flash gone by.

All through the tunnels you catch glimpses of the graffiti taggers work. The deeper the tunnel the more likely you are to see the whirls and swirls that are the modern equivalent of "D. Crocket kilt a bar". How they get down to the depths, armed with spray cans and a sense of their own personal history is anybody's guess. I always hope it's more difficult for them now with the greater security but I doubt it.

The window view above is from the A train. I always sit in the first car on the way home.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Goodbye to Bobo's

Bobo's got the news almost two years ago. The building had been sold. Things like this happen. It was a cramped little Thai restaurant with heavy steel chairs that were impossible to scoot and the best noodles in the city. Really. I think it's the cooking. It must be. All the restaurants probably buy the same noodles and it's the way they are cooked that makes some places have tasty, buttery smooth Pad Thai and others who serve a plate of pasty mush with peppers and little bits of chicken.

Oh, I guess I should mention that it wasn't named Bobo's. It was called Ramsit Thai, but the owner never got around to taking the the sign from the previous restaurant down and it was a lot easier to read than the little street level sign that said Ramsit Thai cuisine and everyone, except telephone information operators, were in on the joke. Getting delivery was a problem for those outside the loop because they would call 411 and draw a blank on the name Bobo's. Then they would go get a menu with the phone number and later call the place and the waitress would answer "Hello." The caller would say "Is this Bobo's?" and the waitress would say, "Whatever. You want delivery?"

The big, dirty magazine store next door which was dirty in the could-be-improved-by-hot-soapy-rag sense, didn't really sell anything dirtier than some of those awful so-called Men's Magazines that have a scantily dressed little known actress on the cover and listings for articles titled "Have the Best Abs on the Beach." They sold a lot of Lotto tickets. A lot. But I never saw a notice that they had had a big winner of any kind. The people who lived in the building could have used a big win or two. They were mostly very young or very old. Amongst the young were a scattering of artists and sculptors, some of whom were recent graduates of the School of Visual Arts and who had decided not to stray too far from their mentors. They dispersed quickly upon receiving their notices of eviction, off to the Lower East Side just as it was beginning to gentrify itself, off to Astoria and her lofts, some just moved a block or two, one or two boxes at time over to the corner building on Lexington. The older people just seemed to evaporate one weekend in June or July, some said to a building on the beltway in the Bronx. No one really could say.

They chewed the building down in about a month using nothing but pointed armbars and prying tools, sledge hammers and hooks. It took about a week to take a floor apart, remove the crummy little kitchen cabinets and closet doors, knock down the interior plaster walls and then pull down the exteriors. Hardly a brick fell onto the sidewalk cover, the bridge as it is known, nor did any of the steel from the fire escapes fall the the wrong way. Anybody who was away for a few days came back to see the building melting in the sunshine. There has been much speculation about what was moving into the corner lot, a dorm for SVA or Baruch, which is on the next corner at Lex, or a mammoth condo building what with housing going completely nuts here in the city over the past few years. The owner of the little loan shop at the other end of the block didn't sell and is widely considered to be an idiot because now his little plot of land is too small to build anything on. His tenants will have about a year or so of sunlight before the new building rises. For now there is only this.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bright lights at the Finish Line

This doesn't look like a finish line, but it's mine. That's the thing about running in the city, you make things become what you need. So this newsstand at 59th St and Columbus Circle is it for me, the end. Just to the left are the stairs to the A and the train home.

It's been raining in the city on and off for the past two weeks and looks like we shall have a some showers for the run on Sunday morning. Between the falling water and my back problems, which have gone away for a few days, my whole schedule has been thrown out of whack. Last night I chugged around the resivour and even stayed with some people for a short time before falling back. I have perfected the slog, a kind of running at walking speed not quite double-time shuffle that I can keep up for as long as I have time. It's not quite effortless, I sweat like a boiler room sailor, often soaking through two tee shirts and dampening the sweatshirt on top, but so far it seems I can do it forever.

Or until I come to the newsstand.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

You can't go home again, but you can go back to highschool.

There are people who love going to their high school reunions, I am not one of them. It makes me uneasy to be greeted, hugged and handsqueezed by a person who obviously knows me, but who, while I stare at their bobbing name tag and my brain searches in vain for a connection to a name, is pretty much a blank to me. "Oh hey," I say as the deepest memory synaspe comes up empty, "Good to see you!" But these are nice people, forgiving of failed memories, willing to fill in some details and, if I can get my head around the idea that there is someone else in the world, experiencing the same er-er-uh situation as I am.

Look at these people. How could you not have a good time around these people?

Of course, this is the part where I start to talk about how, no matter how sweet the memory, there is always pain in the recollection, but tonight I don't feel that way. It felt pretty good to talk about trying out for track, or who started the protest over the lock rental policy, or why it took forty years to honor the basketball team for their exploits. It even felt good, in an odd human hearted way, to talk about who had died, who was missing and what had been heard about those who didn't show up last night. It hasn't been like that for me at other reunions that's why my friend Annie has had to guilt me into coming every five years, it's always seemed to me to be an exercise in insincerity mostly because I was so disconnected. I think now that I was in some kind of time~warp, believing that the people I was seeing were the same as they were in 1965, that is to say, not any real friends of mine. What a jerk I am. Was. Whatever.

We were spared any long winded speeches or fakie awards, unless all that happened while I was down at the bar end of the room. We danced pretty good for a bunch of middle-aged fogeys, Annie would have won both Best Dressed and Most Fabulous Dancer with No Morning~After Hip Ache Problem awards if there had been fakie awards and passersby must have thought we were having a comedian's convention based on the amount of laughter bubbling out of the room.

So you can't go home again, but you can go back to high school. You can dance with the head cheerleader and hang around with the really cool kids, you can find yourself planning on having drinks in the city with your newfound friends. Friends you met forty four years ago and are just now getting to know.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A last look (at my shoes.)

If you would rather not receive Window, email me with Remove in the Subject line.

They've had it. They were good ones, but now they have got to go. Their bounce is gone. There are little see-throughs on one of the soles. They feel very broken in but a half-hour after putting them on, you realize that you might as well be barefoot. Shoes in New York City are your tires. Whatever you would be spending on new tires for a car, you spend on shoes in New York. Unless you are foolish enough to have a car, then you have to do both, only not as often for the tires for the car if you were living in say, Pigseye, Oklahoma, because, as the people I know who own a car in the city, you really don't drive it, you just have it, but you would still have to shell out the money for the shoes, because they do wear out.

I used to think it was the walking that wore them down. The schlepping of the groceries, going to the subway, running for the bus, getting down to the Post Office, the left'right zig-zag of pedestrianism. A pedometer I once owned in a semi-fit of some kind of physical fitness mania, showed that I was walking over four miles a day and that was before I started jogging/speed-walking/slogging. Add on those miles and I wore out the little black beast in about three months. I don't think it was made to handle the bouncing. But it's not the walking or running that wears out New York shoes, it's the standing. Shoes are made to be in motion and for a great deal of a New Yorker's day, the New Yorker is standing still and frozen as as an egret on the side of a pond. There's the waiting for the subway to arrive, there's the standing at the stop for the bus that you didn't run fast enough to catch, there's the line at the (Insert list here) deli, laundry, Post Office, hardware store, check out at the grocery, security post at your dentist's office building, the ATM, the restaurant (yes, a booth!), the subway entrance, the subway exit and at each and every street corner you may come to during the day. It's all that standing that compresses the padding, what little there is of it, to the thickness of a sheet of Phylo dough and makes your brain think that you are standing on the cold cement in your socks.
Now I have to go to Harry's or go online to Zappo's and get more shoes. The winter is near. I should get boots. I hate the heaviness, but I remember trying to ford the ten inch deep slush in the gutters last January. There we were, my thin running shoes and I, gathering the courage to make the leap. An egret, still and frozen, by the edge of a pond.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ms Meirs on the Shining Hill

What stuns me is that the right looks at this rock-ribbed, re-born in the blood, evangelical Christian woman and wonders if she is conservative enough!
Besides becoming a rubber stamp for the right to life crowd, (it would interesting to know what part Ms. Miers played in the Terri Schiavo affair), what exactly would the right accept as a proper candidate?


Senator Blah Blah..."So please tell the Committee where in the Bible you find that God the Father is kind and loving and clear up the matter about killing all the men and boys in a conquered city, if you would."

Ms. Miers: "I'd be happy to Senator. The Senator should remember or be advised that unlike civil laws, the kinds they make in buildings such as these, God's Laws are elastic, plastic, stretchable and as discardable as an old pair of panty hose. Take that one you mentioned about the conquered city, now most would see that in conflict with the Commandment 'Thou shalt not kill.' but not a real Christian. A real Christian can stretch that 'not kill' to Kansas and back and find a dozen ways to kill that are okay and sometimes more than okay. Sometimes to kill can be holy."

Senator "er"

Miers: "And don't worry your pretty head about God being nice. We just make that up. We know God is a horrible, powerful thing who is able to snuff us out like a bug, but that's depressing, so we just talk about God's love for us as if it's real. And it is. It's as real as He is."

Senator: "How real is that?"

Miers: "Beats the hell of me. I just joined the evangelicals because they have better music than the Catholics and in Texas, really, the only people who are Catholics are Mexicans anyway, so I made the move and I just love the big choir. But you were asking about picking and choosing which of God's laws we follow. We just do what's right, we don't meddle with that slavery stuff anymore, just like all those silly dietary rules, but we do stick by our guns, literally, I guess, ha ha, when it comes to gays. That's just icky and we won't put up with it. Oh, and I know Christian are supposed to sell all and follow Christ, but who's kidding who about that. Give me a preacher in a two thousand dollar suit, beads of sweat on his brow, choir pumping up the bass line in the background while he tears up about the Blood and being born in it. That's about as real as it gets, right?"

Joe(The Committee thanks the nominee for appearing...)Nation

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Squirrels, men with guns, mare sweat in the air

A reader calls to say that he is concerned that the squirrels in Central Park could, because of their inability, or reluctance, to travel outside of the confines of the park, become in-bred in some way and perhaps begin to show some sign of madness soon. I don't know what brought that thought to him but I have seen some odd behavior on the part of Central Park squirrels, but I had thought it might be the frenzied preparations for winter making them hurry so from tree to ground and then back to tree.

They are a wide variety of colors. Unlike the red squirrels of Texas and Oklahoma, Manhattan squirrels are gray, and there are a great deal of shades of gray. I've seen many of the usual gray flannel suit squirrels and a few of the dark grays, some having a small spot or stripe of black on their backs. Up in Ft. Tryon there are coal black squirrels, ebony ghosts leaping through the branches. There are lighter grays which on leafless winter mornings look almost white against the tree bark and several odd brownish gray cousins some of whom made a huge nest in the Forever Wild section of Central Park last Spring. I surprised them on a Sunday morning while cutting through the territory looking for a good shot of the Gates.

Apparently there is nothing to worry about. I asked a couple of people who should know and they are of the opinion that squirrels, like a variety of creatures including wild turkeys, move about the island as if the ten million human inhabitants were a slight inconvenient at times distraction and nothing more. Squirrels are able to find fresh girlfriends with the approximate success rate as sailors on leave.
Most of the people I have lunch with are carrying guns. Police detectives like the same diner I do. The men are bulldoggish and love to jibe eachother. One fellow's shirt was the subject of much serious discussion and, despite the salient remarks being made about a truly awful article of clothing, he would not back down an inch, insisting that, besides the fact that his fashion savvy wife had picked out said shirt for him, he himself had seen a similar item in the most recent GQ and that they should all Fhug themselves mightily. Pass the salt.
A runner passed me on the left tonight and suddenly my nose was filled with an awful smell. It was a combination of dried sweat and something vaguely outhouseish, kind of a dung and BO special. I realized after the runner was well ahead that it wasn't him and for a second I had the horrible thought that it might be me, but then I caught sight of the horse carriages off to our left up on 59th Street. The damp night air was dragging the horsey-manure and mare/sweat stink over the wall and down through the trees and into our noses. We ran a little faster.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

There's dark and pretty dark and pretty damned dark and dark again. It's dark in the park at 6:30 am, but if you are like these folks, and want to do well in the upcoming marathon, there you are -- running in the darkness, enjoying the silences, the schuff-schuff-schuff sounds of shoes on pavement, the thickness of the morning air.

I am not running in the upcoming marathon. I am running my own marathon, the finish line has yet to be determined, the mile per hour rate remains at just barely above walking speed and I have no competition. This is the long and winding road.

From One Hundred and Tenth Street down the West Side of the Park to 59th takes me about forty five minutes, then, if I am feeling really good, I run down Broadway to 23rd Street, hoping to hit the gym door at 8:00 am when they open. Too fast and I get to stand around in a soaking wet tee-shirt (I once made the mistake of going into the PAX deli next door. They had the A/C set to Sub-Arctic.) Too slow and I have to race through my weighs routine before heading off to work.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005