Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This guy was completely and absolutely, most positively, asleep on the platform. I could just hear his snoring in between the garbled annoucements:

"THank you for ridinsnarzzk Tee A." zzZZzsnORT "The time is blllittqqqq"

I remember thinking 'How does his back hold up?" I guess it better than trying to sleep on the trains, but the cars would be a lot warmer.

Speaking of warmer, it is finally getting up past the freezing mark and last Tuesday I got to trot through the park for the first time in about a month. It was about as cold as this looks with just a slight drizzle falling. I ran up the West Side to the reservoir and then realized that the path would be one solid sheet of ice. It was. I practically walked the third of a mile around the water and then pushed hard to get to the 6 train. 3.33 miles in a little over 36 sumpin minutes. (ice effect) It took a long time for the 6 train to arrive and I got really cold on that platform.

Walking to Starbucks after the gym workout I looked up at some of the windows lighting up. I was a little jealous of the sleepheads still in bed, but the feeling faded quickly.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chilly Hills

Pretty frigid this morning at the 110th Street Entrance to Central Park, the temperature was 25F and the winds were light and Northerly at 7mph.

Some people were moved to stretch themselves further..
I was not.

I pushed my way up the first hill and then the second and then the third and began to wonder again why it is that most people run the Park in the opposite direction. Is it possible that there could be more hills in one direction than in another??

I really don't know. It's just one of those odd thoughts that come upon you in the middle of a run.

By the time I got to the South End after dodging the usual amount of baby carriages, dogs on-leash and off, tourist groups, walkers and runners who had stopped without warning, I was ready to face the North wind.
It wasn't there. I trotted up the West Side to 86th Street and here's something spooky. I had just finished listening to Dashboard Confessional's song Reason to Believe,

Dashboard Confessional
Reason To Believe
Oh sweet lungs don't fail me now

Your burning has turned into fear
It drills me in my every step
But you're always on my heels
Just one more breath, I beg you please

Just one more step, my knees are weak
My heart is sturdy but it needs you to survive
My heart is sturdy but it needs you

Don't you want to breathe
I know that you are strong enough to handle what I need
My capalaries scream
There's nothing left to feed on
My body needs a reason to cross the line
Will you carry me there one more time

Steady lungs dont fail me know
I feel you bursting, but you wont let me die
Fill me up with every step, I'm feeling sick
But I'm leaving it behind

Just one more breath I beg you please
Just one more step my knees are weak
My legs are sturdy but they need you to survive
My heart is sturdy but I need you

Dont you want to breathe
I know that you are strong enough to handle what I need
My capalaries scream
Theres nothing left to feed on
My body needs a reason to cross the line
Will you carry me there once more

I have reason to believe
That I have victories to taste
I can feel them on my teeth
Upon my lips
And in my chest
I can roll them on my tongue
They almost supplement the feat
I feel the tension in my lungs
And every move is filled with my resolve to


Dont you want to breathe
I know that you are strong enough to handle what I need
My capalaries scream
Theres nothing left to feed on
My body needs a reason to cross that line
Will you carry me there one more time?

Is that a great running song, or what? Anyway, I was reminding myself that soon I would need to stop using the music ZEN thingie because they aren't allowed in the marathon.

( Hey---A person talks to himself all the way through a run, there are lectures and laughter and the occasional 'shut up and run' sort of thing.)

Well, I had no sooner said that when in the middle of Coldplay's YELLOW {look at the stars, look how they shine for you...} IT SHUT OFF ON IT"S OWN. Spirits?

I was left with the sound of my own breathing and the tap,rap,tap of my footsteps.

I liked it.
Last week was about on this winter's average of fifteen miles per week.
Got over a hundred miles for the year.
Starting out this week with 4.8 miles through the chilly hills.

Snow supposed to come again tomorrow. Where is Spring?
Joe(shut up and run)Nation

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hole-y Days are here again

When you live in New York City you expect things to be big and fast. Problems are always big, solutions are only sometimes fast. So when they called me and told me that the street had collapsed in front of the building next door, first I said "Again?" Because three years ago we had to have the city put on notice that we were going to file a lawsuit if they didn't fix the drooping pavement (that time it was across the street).

Anyway, I got home and saw this:

The electricity was on at least, that was a good thing. The water was off, but there had been assurances made that it would be back on by midnight. The same kind of assurances that are made by baseball team managers every Spring regarding the prospects for the coming year.
We all shrug at these things. If it happens, it happens. That should be the motto of this city.
So about ten thirty when the hot water heater started making odd chugging sounds and I could get water(with a lot of air) out of the kitchen faucet, I was not surprised, just relieved. Then the water stopped running.
I just went to bed.
And here's what it looked like in the morning:

What a city.

Friday, February 23, 2007

George and the Porch Musicians

I have a character flaw. I enjoy -no- I relish seeing pomposity pierced. I love the sound that pride makes as it thuds to the ground. When some thickheaded righteous figure of authority gets slapped by reality, my heart soars. I know, I know I shouldn't take such pleasure in such events if only so the gods don't pierce, thud and slap me when I find myself in the boss position, but I can't help myself. It just makes me feel good.

This is not something new, I've been like this a long time. I was in the middle of a discussion about this with some friends, we were talking about how the guy running JetBlue handled the recent fiasco and how, because he got out in front and admitted that mistakes had been made, he didn't look like a jerk, but that Bush and Cheney and Rice all look like jerks every time they make a speech and stick to the same old unreality, that's when I remembered the first time I ever saw reality come down hard on blind authority.

It's the story of George and the Porch Musicians and it goes like this:

In 1970, a bunch of us were stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. It's easy enough to find on a map, you look for the X in Texas, San Angelo will be nearby, just East of the edge of the middle of nowhere. Our military duties were mostly about crypto-stuff, radio crackles and practicing for the practice exercises, so some of the bunch of us turned to consuming large pitchers of beer and huge quantities of pepperoni at the Pizza Hut while others began playing music. I was torn for a long time between those two good choices but I finally succumbed to the music. We had a little place called Thee Coffe House behind the First Christian Church where most nights a person could get up behind a couple of microphones and sing something or recite a poem or both. If Bob Dylan had stuck his head in the door for fifteen minutes he would have written "Bob Dylan's Dream" about Thee Coffe House--

I dreamed a dream that made me sad,
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had.

With half-damp eyes I stared to the room
Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon,
Where we together weathered many a storm,
Laughin' and singin' till the early hours of the morn.

So anyway, enough of that, just know that it was a good place to be. Good friends, good music and cold Cokes, there just wasn't any place to practice. Then, Jerry rented a house.

Jerry was a big guy with a big head of black semi-curlie hair and a big laugh and he rented a big house with a big porch. We would all land there to practice or listen or just to pet the dog. The neighborhood was a little run-down with parts of it looking like they had been run over. The house's back and sideyard backed up to a park, I forget the name, near the river. Across the street was the backsides of some warehouses, a grocery chain's loading dock that usually had a semi sitting at it with it's refrigerator humming and, just to their left, a couple of shuttered stores. The building next door to the house had a big RENT ME sign that looked several years old.

The house seemed huge at the time. There were three bedrooms and a large living room and folks flowed in and out at all hours, locals as well as the guys from the base. There were many women, I'm sure they were curious to see what kind of man was grown in the faroff reaches of New England or California. At any one time, something was going on in every room, sometimes it involved the music of the soul, of anti-war, of protest, sometimes it involved the music made by two people in the dark.

Whenever the weather was good, as it often was, or when the music of the dark became a little uncomfortable to listen to, as it often did, we would move some chairs out onto the porch and tune up and play. Everyone had guitars, acoustic guitars, there wasn't ever an electric guitar, and I only remember one guy having a banjo and he got shipped out about as soon he discovered the house. We would sit and listen to someone try to pick out the notes to "Fire and Rain" or do the run behind Cohen's Susanne. Once Jerry got all excited when he discovered that he got to play the harmonic notes in his part of "Find the Cost of Freedom". It was a sweet time.

Then the police car came cruising by. Don't get me wrong, I know if I was a policeman I'd be a little curious about the house with all those cars coming and going and the occasional sleeping person seen on the busted out sofa on the porch. So I know they were doing their job, they were just so, so dumb about it. They could have talked to us. They could have spent some time seeing, instead of being suspicious. What they did do was decide that we were up to no good and that they were going to stop us.

First they just drove by, then they started driving by r-e-a-l slow with the guy in the passenger seat giving us the big stare. We waved. We knew the proper Texas response to persons going by was to wave. That did not satisfy them. One Sunday night, they stopped and got out of the cruiser and walked up the front walk. I forget who else was on the porch with me, Jim and Jerry, I'm pretty sure, maybe Rick, and a couple of the girls. The two cops stopped at the bottom of the stairs. They were middle aged guys, a little paunchy, the shorter one was still struggling to get his nightstick in the holder on his belt when the other said "Ya'll are going to have to keep it down."

Now, just then, right as the word "Ya'll" hit the air, George drove up. Okay, now I have to explain a few things. First of all, George was a woman, she was the mother of Rick, one of the local guys who hung around with us at Thee Coffe House and George was one of those people who knows everybody in a town like San Angelo and everybody knows them. So, as soon as the cops saw her stop, they stopped. George got out of her car and motioned to them.

There are two kinds of women in Texas. There are the fluffy, girlie-girl kind, those that look like they are in some kind of pageant at every hour of the day. They try to look as much like Miss Texas, or at least Miss Wool Capital of the World, even if they are only standing in the softdrink aisle of the IGA FoodMart. They are Southern belles, they smile a lot, sometimes in very surprising circumstances, like when they are completely unsure of what to say. The other kind of Texas woman is not like that at all. I believe this other kind of woman is a direct descendant of the pioneers, the kind who could drive an oxdrawn wagon down from the Ohio, cook on a wood stove, work all day to bring the crops in from the field or butcher up a hog. Think Ann Richards or Molly Ivins. These woman never smile when they are unsure of what to say because they are never unsure of what to say.

George was one of the pioneer types. I liked her the moment I met her over at Thee Coffe House, you could tell she was having a look-see to see just who her kid was hanging out with but, once she decided that we were okay you could also tell that she would not only be watching us but watching out for us. Which bring us back to the two cops and George and the porch musicians.

This was a long time ago but I think I remember it this way: I think I remember George calling the taller cop by name as she leaned back against her car. Earl? maybe. Anyway, they ambled down closer to her car and she asked him what the trouble was and he got kind of puffed up and asked her if she knew the folks at this house. She might have said "Shoot, yes." or "Heck, yes." then I missed a couple of sentences as the shorter cop tried to stick his two cents in,. He was pointing at the porch and making a face. She glared at him and he stopped pointing.

Then this I heard clearly, Earl said,
"I just through telling them that they are going to have to keep it down."
"Keep it down." said George.
"Yeah, they are playing music on the porch and they are going to have to keep it down."
George paused for a second or two.
"How come?" she asked. She wasn't smiling.
"How come?" said Earl, "How come because we are getting complaints."
"You are?" said George. Now she did make a little smile. "From who?"
"Don't have to say from who" the shorter cop jumped in, "Just from the neighbors."
He started pointing again.
"Yeah, the neighbors, "said Earl" and they're going to have to stop."
He looked up at us on the porch, we had not said a thing. He gave us that same glare he had from the passenger side window.

I almost waved.

George waited a little, just for the right timing it seems to me now.

"What neighbors?" she said.

The cops took a step back and looked to the left at the park, they looked to the right at the big empty building. They looked across the street at the vacant warehouse parking lot and down the street at the shuttered stores.

"Good night, fellows." George said, "you don't have to worry about the folks here."

The two cops stomped off across the dead grass, got in the cruiser and drove off.
Up on the porch we were stunned. An adult person had never stood up for any of us before, I felt we had witnessed something and we had.

Now if only someone had asked the other George, George Bush, if he knew the neighborhood before he started pointing his finger we might be in a different world.

We need less men like George of Pennsylvania Avenue and more women like George of San Angelo, Texas.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It's Official: Entry #106357 Has Been Confirmed

4:45 AM
The early morning light is charcoal gray flannel. It must be the snow, the little bit of it that we have finally gotten, that makes it look and almost feel as if you could wrap yourself in the blanket of dense air. Of course, at a quarter to five in the morning, I should be wrapping myself in a bit of sheet and a couple coats of comforter, but instead I am on my way to the Merchant's Gate of Central Park to start my NY York City Marathon training.

Yes, 'tis true. Entry #106357 has been duly filled out, zapped across the Internet and been has been graciously received and approved for a confirmed spot in the 2007 ING NYC Marathon. November 4th at about this same time I will making my way to the New York City Library where about ten thousand of us runners will be loaded onto buses for the hour long trip to Staten Island and the West end of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

It seems like a very long way off, and it seems to be zooming at me like a rocket. When I started running on that week long July Fourth Holiday two years ago, it seemed like there was an immense amount of time to get ready. Now I have to start running in earnest.

Or do I? Running for me now is just fun. I really love doing it. I am still as awful at it as I ever was but I have such a good time chugging along that I can't imagine ever not running.

The cold weather has kept me inside for the past three weeks. I tried jogging on the treadmills at the gym and I can hammer out three miles in thirty minutes or less but I don't have the same feeling for it as I do when I am just trotting along the path at Central Park.

Sunday, I got up early and headed down there determined to run even if it was freezing cold. It was freezing cold but I headed over the hills and down past the Boathouse and up Cat Hill and around the reservoir. I was in heaven except for the part where the dirt road by the police station was all chunky icy, that was tricky. I kept wondering if I was going to fall and break something on my first day out in a month.

Wind chill this morning was minus three F, I got off the train and stood on the street corner for about three minutes before deciding to taxi over to the gym for more treadmill.

I love running. I just am not stupid about it.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

And I Can't Keep My Eyes from Crying

New York Manhattan Upper West Side Midway between the 72nd and 59th Street Stations Front left corner seat of the downtown A train.

It happened again this morning and if I don't make a point of remembering it now, the instance will disappear amongst all the other input, visual, audible and otherwise, that the city force-feeds you. I was on the way to an early morning Sunday run in the park when I saw a woman in tears.

She was sitting next to another woman, a friend, who was nodding seriously as the crying woman talked and wept and wiped her eyes and wept some more. There are few more private moments than those of sorrow. I say it happened again because this is the fourth or fifth instance in the past month where I have come upon someone in grief.

The first was a man. Standing mid-sidewalk, stock still, head down, arms by his sides, the tears dropping from his eyes onto his shoes, he swayed just a little before taking a deep breath and a single step. He shook his head three or more times and stared downward, waiting for the tears to come again. The next was a young woman, well dressed and coiffed, sitting in one of the back booths of the Lyric crying silently as her salad waited for her attention. She had taken some papers out of her briefcase and laid them on the table. She wrote something on one of them and tapped her coffee cup with the pen then wrote something else near the bottom of the page. That's when the salad arrived. That's when the tears started.

I could be wrong about this next one. It's been cold running in the park and those could have been just watery eyes on the jogger's face, something brought about by running towards a North Wind rather than real tears. Or it could have been pain in a knee or a hamstring or some other runner's woe, but it looked like some other kind of grief to me

The morning's woman was heartbroken over something that had happened or hadn't happened. I couldn't hear anything she was saying between her sobs to her friend but the explanation was long and tortured and full of hurt. As she told the story she seemed to remember even more painful details and she wept and sobbed and tried hard to stay calm. Her friend just let her talk it all out handing her a second and then a third Kleenex. The woman crushed them into little bluish balls and dabbed the corners of her eyes with them.

They announced in mid-month that the stationary store down the street was closing. Kantor's was one of those neighborhood fixtures, one of those little places jammed packed with office supplies and paper goods, birthday cards and ink cartridges, pens of every known style and price from $1.00 to holy-cow-how-much? But they couldn't compete with the spread of Office Depots and Staples and Kinkos. They tried to hold on for a long time, but the business shrunk with each passing year. So, in the two weeks following the announcement they sold everything off at next to nothing prices - a fist-full of pens for a buck and half, reams of copy paper for two bucks, the display cabinets yours for a folded fifty. The staff was all brave and bitter at the same time, the losing side of a closely played game. I came in to say goodbye a couple of times. Shook hands with Abe, shook hands with Nathan, bought some more pens. I guess it was last Tuesday morning as I hustled from the gym to get my morning coffee that I noticed how empty the space looked behind the locked gates. There wasn't much of anything left. The counter had been moved a couple of feet from it's normal spot and on top of it there was an incredibly ugly clock, one that apparently they had not even been able to give away let alone sell. I was swept by a feeling of sadness and loss. Just a couple of tears fell, not many, just enough to make someone walking by wonder what the city was force-feeding that man in the blue tights to make him cry.