Saturday, October 28, 2006

Friend Shoots Friend then Self

Tabloid headlines are sometimes mis-leading. The misses here didn't miss or if they did, they just reviewed the images and re-shot. And re-shot, and re-shot, and re-shot. They were having the best time trying to get just the right framing of their friendship. There were several made with eyes closed or crossed, a couple just not right and one that was determined to be "hot".

One thing is certain: men would never do this, that is, take pictures of themselves and their best buddy huddled together on a train. Maybe I'm wrong, or old or both.

The cellphone camera has changed so many things. I saw a guy at Yankee Stadium in the upper deck taking a picture of the field to send to godknowswhere. This huge green landscape compressed down into a little two by two square. Tourists everywhere in the city snap, er, click, er, (there really isn't any sound of the cellphone shutter,,,,) they take photos. In St. Patrick's Catheral, in front of Cleopatra's Needle (there is an excellent red-leafed tree there), in Times Square. Billions of pictures are being taken now everyday, who says some of them aren't of some men, one with his left ear pressed against the right ear of his teammate? I just not seen any yet.

But I have seen girls like these before, taking pic after pic after pic, in cafes, at Starbucks, outside of the movies, at the RoadRunner races, in front of some statue or the Shake Shack or around the corner from Bloomingdale's.

It's a very serious attempt to capture some fun.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Seven Million Keystrokes Later

Everything will be alright, but not for a long time. There will be recovery and rememberances of things past. There will be some headslapping, but, hopefully no blood or exploding eardrums.

It was just part of the many things I did last night just before bed. No one should be allowed to do anything just before bed, but I should not be allowed anywhere near a mouse for at least thirty minutes before I think I am going to lay my head down. I do wild and crazy things.

I wanted to download an audio book or two or three. I hadn't downloaded any books for the past two months and I was building up credits into the double digit range. All I have been listening to in the last few months is music, hard driving, make your truck-like body go faster, music. I've listened and I've run, but now I think it's time to get back to feeding my head so I went to and picked out a few: The Earth is Flat -I read the book a number of months back but now it's supposed to have updated and revised, Obama's book The Audacity of Hope, because you can't walk three steps in any direction without somebody talking about either him or the book and a series of speechs on the direction the digital world is going. Yeah, all heady stuff.

But, of course, the software didn't recognize me or my password and -and!- the software, after being convinced that it was, in fact, me, didn't recongize either of my players. Yes, I have two, I only need one but because I have two I would like to use one for books and one for music, is that so bad?

Anyway, it took me over an hour to get the thing to download the books and get them onto to the Concept Muvo.

Do you know what I find weird? This can't-get-the-software-to-work things happens to me all the time. Everyone in the movies goes to their computer, even goes to the computer of the evil spy genius, and, with a few keystrokes, downloads the files, accesses the money file and escapes within minutes, seconds even. I get -email unknown- error OXX12L23-contact the planet ZARGON for assistance.

I know.... in the movies from time immemorial the hero can always find a parking place too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rinsing One Spoon

Sometimes the easiest things turn into disasters, rinsing one spoon, for example, or getting on a crowded train. Both tasks seem straightforward enough, but turn the spoon to the wrong angle, try to swoop through the restraints between the cars and you could be covered in water or crushed between the subway and the tunnel wall. The latter happened at Fourteenth Street on the C line, the former I just remembered as I thought about what happened to the poor guy.

"It was an accident!," a girl was crying (his girlfriend?), "It was an accident!"

C trains are short, only eight cars, sometimes you get on one and have the whole car to yourself (that happens too often at 5:10AM and then you start praying that the next people to get on board will not be in search of someone alone in a subway car at 5:11AM) sometimes, during rush hours, they are packed door to door with commuters trying to make their local stop.

Was he trying to get to some place important? A job, a party, home? or was he showing off for some friends? That girl?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Picture Windows

Up on the roof on a cloudy night
just enough above the city life
to feel free of it, yet see it
dancing in the distant windows.

The LaGuardia jets
in a drapery string of landing lights,
the red belt of braking cars
lurching up the side streets to Broadway
and the single taxi rooftop marquee
make the tiniest of technicolor intrusions
into the darkness,
but the lit up windows mark the places called home.

The overheated kitchen,
the tv-blue hued living room,
the creamy-yellow frosted half-sized bathroom pane where
just a moment ago
a mother rinsed away the smell of the city from her second youngest child's head,
wrapped him in her old terry cloth bathrobe and made him king of this cloudy night.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Running on the Edge

The Staten Island Half Marathon was Sunday morning starting at 9:30AM. The NYRR's website had warned everyone that the last possible ferry to take over would be at 8:30, so I headed out early to catch the 7:30. Good thing, because if there is one thing that New York City does really well, it's screwing up any plans you have for travel on the weekends. I got to 59th Street on the A and ran upstairs to take the 1 train to South Ferry and there was a No 5 train sitting there. Now, the No 5 train does not run on the 1/9 line, but hey, it's a train, it's here and it's headed South, so myself and several other runners got on only to hear an announcement that the No 1 train would not be running to South Ferry that morning and would be stopping at 14th Street blah blah blah take a shuttle bus from Chambers Street from the No 2 ~~~~~~ as if.

I got off at 14Th with everyone else and at my elbow was a tiny woman runner. "I'm going upstairs to catch a cab, "I said, "and you are welcome to join me. I'm Jonathan. " She nodded enthusiastically and introduced herself as Alice in an Australian accent so thick you would have thought it was a Vegamite sandwich. We counted what little cash we had on us as we ascended the stairs. Turning quickly on the sidewalk I raised my arm to hail a cab when a voice from another cab that was sitting nearby shouted, "Are you going to the race?" "Yes, yes" we said and after the cabdriver moved a pile of stuff off the passenger seat, Alice and I joined the two strangers who were imploring the cabdriver to step on it to South Ferry. Our fellow travelers were the very talkative Kevin, an Irishman from Brooklyn who likes to run the 59Th Street Bridge (the bane and horror for many NYC Marathoners) and Brigid, who was on her way to meet a bunch of folks who were going to do seven miles before the 13 mile Half in order to get in their twenty mile training run. The cabdriver drove like a maniac with Sufi music blaring over the voices of the Aussie, the Midlands man and the two Americans.
Bridget found some of her running companions and left us at the terminal. Kevin and Alice and I had a great trip over on the ferry, talking about where to buy and what to buy in running shoes, reviewing races that we've been in and what was the best food ever given out at the end of a race - Popsicles was the favorite.

I said my goodbyes to them after we reached the starting area, I knew I was going to be keyed up a little and wanted to go do a little pre-running myself. What I did do was stretch and then go stand in line to pee, then I jogged a little, then I stood in line to pee some more. I swear I am the most hydrated person on the planet, I had a cup of water, I went to go pack my baggage bag with my sweatshirt and then----- I had to stand in line to pee again and I peed about the same cup of water.

(By the way, runners don't line up in front of each porta-pottie like they do at rock concerts, they form longer lines that have four or five porta-potties under their watch. It's better the runner's way because you don't have to hope that the one you are in front of doesn't contain the guy with the bashful bladder.)
It was pretty chilly, about 45F, but not a lot of wind. I took my sweatshirt early and was toying with the idea of running with my jacket on but open, but at the very last moment, I took it off, went back into the baggage area, found my bag and stuffed it in. As it turns out, that was a very good thing. By the top of the first hill I was plenty warmed up and only twelve and a half miles to go.

The race itself was very fast, pretty hilly and a lot of fun. My splits were a minute faster than in training, I hit 1 mile at 9:49, 2 miles at 18:something and did five miles in 47 minutes, that's six minutes faster than I've ever done that, I hit six miles in one hour and one minute and was very happy being swept along by the crowd. This bunch of runners were all here to tune up for the marathon in three weeks so for me it was like being one of those leaves on the highway as the big truck zooms by, you just get sucked along by the draft. We did a U-turn at the midway point and you got to see just how many sloggers there were behind even the likes of someone like me. It looked like a thousand, maybe more.

At the eight mile mark with five miles to go, I tried picturing in my head where I would be in Central Park, one mile further would be that first water fountain north of 79Th Street, two miles further would be near the crossover etc, thinking that instead of concentrating on where I was in the unfamiliar landscape of Staten Island warehouses, I would be able to imagine just how much farther I had to go. So I started looking for the Nine mile marker, but it never seemed to show, I ran and ran and ran and ran and began to believe that mile was the longest and slowest I had ever run. I kept recalculating my time for the 15K (9.3 miles) and was dismayed as my best time for that distance came and went and still no sign of the sign of Nine.
That's because there wasn't one.
The next sign said 10 miles and my relief was incredible. I felt like I had been given a free mile. Yea!! Only three to go, not four!! And the best part was that those two miles were supposed to have been the hardest of the run, so now they were behind me too. I chugged along chasing after a couple of people with Brazilian flags on their hats and jerseys because they seemed to be going along at about the same speed as me. I passed them on the last sharp downhill and then floated the last half mile to the finish. 2 hours 16 minutes and 23 seconds. Nearly five minutes faster, yes, faster, than the NYC Half Marathon so that is my new PR for 13.1 miles.
I learned a couple of things:
Always take enough money to take a cab both ways if necessary. (The subway took two hours to get me from South Ferry to home. I could have run home in the same time.)
Bring my cellphone.
Pack some Advil to take at the end of the race to help reduce any inflammation.
Also, take the camera.
I would have loved for everyone to see the folks at this race, Kevin, Alice, Bridget, the bunch of folks who were determined to do a stretching routine while heavy rock and roll blared out from the podium. The leader kept having to scream things like "Okay, now relax your right leg, BENDING your knee and keeping your FOOT flat on the ground!!" Everyone was laughing and trying to stretch.

This was not a picturesque race course, but I would have shot a few pics of the runners trying to find just the right apple or bagel at the end. There were no Popsicles but it was too cold for that sort of thing anyway.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Traipsing, slogging, Your call.

Traipsing. Is that faster or slower than slogging? I think it's faster and it has a happier sound to it. So, yesterday, in preparation for the Staten Island Half-Marathon (Motto: This is only halfway of the real thing, you dope.) I went to the Park and traipsed over to the New York Road Runners office to pick up my number (Four Thousand Nine Hundred Ninety Three) and the very understated tee-shirt for the race, then I traipsed around the rest of the five mile loop as if it were nothing more than a walk in the park.

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time it was taking me a hour to get from 59th Street to the subway station at 110th (about three miles) and I was very happy to get there. That's a quickie 30 minute jog for me now. What a difference not lugging around the extra 52 pounds.

But, so as to not bring down the god's wrath upon me, I am still just motivating along. No big theatrics, no sprints, no charging down hills (Although yesterday I did just let it roll out a little on the downhill by the theatre.) I stretch my hamstrings and knees and get warmed up before heading out. I have a headset full of hot songs and I put them on scramble so I never know what's coming next.

I was surprised to see so few people in the park yesterday. It was about the same number I see at five in the morning. The weather was perfect, clear skies and just a little wind now and then, but instead of seeing a lot of folks getting ready for either tomorrow or the Marathon itself (coming up in the first week of November). I took the camera along and tried taking a few while in motion (Uh,,,, no, doesn't work well.) and looked for the first tinges of fall color.

More tomorrow after I ride the ferry home.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Who's out there? Or in there?

I've been thinking about the folks who believe in Intelligent Design. I think I can help them. I think they are trying too hard to find ID in really big things like universes or really complex things like eyes. (They think eyes are way too complex just to have happened on their own.) But real examples of some kind of supernatural being sticking his nose into my life are really a lot easier to find than any of these and a whole lot more complex than just an optical organ.
For example, and this may not be the best example I have, I am just throwing this one out there to see how it floats, last Saturday one of the light fixtures in the kitchen began to flicker and then it went out. I got a new bulb but when I touched the fixture, it came on, it was brought back to life.
Then Sunday, it died again. Touching didn't help. Batting it with the palm of my hand revealed no sign of electrons swimming. So, I went out and got another fixture just like it. I came into the kitchen and laid the bag with the new fixture on the counter and turned on the lights. The dead fixture was still dead. I said aloud, "Okay, time to throw that one away." and I turned to go get the stepstool out of the hall closet. As I reached the door to the hallway, the light fixture came on." It has remained on ever since, it is now Tuesday.
Now what to make of this? Obviously, there is a little god-like Intelligence within the light fixture which is testing my resolve. Probably waiting for my to return the unopened new fixture before disintergrating in a flash of A/C and metal screen, but like a chessmaster of the universe I have seen, or preseen this move and have not returned the fixture. (Mostly, that's because I forgot to bring it to the store today, but that doesn't make it any less prescient on my part. Right?)
I used to think these things were caused by evil spirits, but that is a silly, primitive way of looking at the world. Now I know that the creator of the universe actually has time to spend in my kitchen messing with the light fixtures in order to bring about this revelation.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

And now the news:

The corner is beginning to take on a new shape. If you look back through this blog to the stories about Bobo's you remember that, after all the tenants had been evicted, they shuttered the building and ripped out the wiring and pipes and then tore the place down brick by brick by hand and ripping bar. That's right.
By hand and ripping bar.
And they worked fast, if you went to lunch when they were starting on the east wall of the fourth floor, the whole fourth floor might be gone before you heading back to work. Here: read it again.

The lot sat empty for six months or so before the diggers arrived. First, with backhoes and bulldozers, then with a large shovel run by a fellow with very skilled hand, a hole became a huge opening in the ground, two stories and then three, forty or fifty feet below the sidewalk. And they put up a very blue wall.

I didn't like the wall very much, but I got used to it and I started to listen to all of the guesses about what the new corner was going to be.
Some of the guesses were :
A ten story high-rise.
A twenty story high-rise.
A fifty story high-rise.
A new dorm for the School of Visual Arts. (they just build one.)
A new classroom building for Baruch College. (They had just built one. It looks like a barn.)
A twenty five story of condos or co-ops.
A bank.
The building is starting to creep up over the wall.
Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

At the other end of envy

Twilight always affects me in an odd way. There is a feeling of warmth in the fading light, countered by a twinge of dread as the darkness begins to dominate. It's not just living in the city that does it. I think I have always felt this way at dusk, had this feeling of both peacefulness and anxiety at the same time. When I was a kid, throwing newspapers onto the neighborhood's porches, or when I was older, on my way to a night's music at Thee Coffe House, I had this very same bittersweet emotion, the ending of the day, the long night stretching on out ahead. I've wondered if it wasn't something instinctual, some deeply hidden, long gone from our consciousness, animal feeling, the kind that Cro-Magnon felt as he looked out from his shelter at the disappearing sunlight, or, even earlier, what the sons and daughters of Lucy thought while sitting in the protective lower branches of a tree in Olduvai Gorge.
Is that silly? Thinking that the emotions felt three million years ago are the same as the ones we feel today? Or are they the same. The others- anger,hatred, fear- don't appear to have changed all that much during more recent human history, and thankfully, neither has hope, nor pity, nor love. But did our brains get wired up so early and stay wired the same way ever since? Did the first man-ape to throw a stone at a bird delight in the same way when it fell as I do when, by some wonder combination of luck and windage, a basketball I've thrown actually drops through the hoop? There is another example of colliding emotions, the joy of hitting the basket combined with the complete feeling of surprise that the event has occurred.
It occurs to me as I am writing this that most of our emotions occur in competing doses of opposites. At the other end of envy there is a bit of love, at the distant side of love there is just a bit of disgust and hatred. What an odd brain we all carry around with us.
More on this later, it's all just mush right now.