Definition of a New York Neighborhood: 2 block radius

New Yorkers won’t walk three blocks to go to a grocery store. My friend reported his conversation with a client:

Friend – Where did you get that amazing salad?

Client – at a restaurant three blocks away.

Friend – that’s too far. I’ll never go there.

Too far?!

People who will tolerate, cope with, wrangle and accommodate myriad and extreme challenges just won’t endeavor to hoof it farther than a two block radius. The demand for and delivery of convenience is the counterbalancing force in the City. It’s what makes it all worth while.

Here’s what we have in my world (two city blocks square):

2 very large supermarkets

2 big grocers/vegetable markets

2 medium-sized fruit and sundry stores

2 health food stores

2 dry cleaners

Just to flesh out your sense of things, here’s what else there is within that same physical space:

2 subway lines

3 buses going north and south on the avenues and a crosstown bus, too

4 banks

Too many ATM’s to count

4 pharmacies

2 pizzeria’s

2 Japanese restaurants

1 steakhouse (which is also a kosher restaurant)

1 Mexican restaurant

3 deli’s

2 health food restaurants

1 Indian restaurant

1 Peruvian restaurant

2 Bakeries

1 Turkish restaurant

2 bars/taverns

2 diners

I could keep going, but I’m exhausted

Oh, yes, there are also a couple of hair/nail salons, a barber, a fish store, several schools (public and private), a synagogue, a church, two—no—three   gyms, two hardware stores, three parking garages…

I’ve left out so much – doctors, dentists, you-name-it’s. Everything is at our fingertips and, if it’s not, we are outraged.

If a bus stop is moved because of construction, you should hear the bitching and moaning.

The hot water was off for a couple of hours in my building. You would have thought we were having a third-world experience.

Are New Yorkers demanding? Entitled? Suffering from delusions of royalty? But, of course, we are. That’s what we’re paying the big bucks for.

 

 

THE WASTING DEATH OF A NEIGBORHOOD

Here’s a subject I hope to be completely wrong about.

It all began during the great “downturn,” the euphemistically named recession-depression the country experienced beginning in 2007. Now, seven years later, the husks of stores that never opened again give the supposedly thriving neighborhood of the Upper West Side a zombie wash. Those big slices of nothingness which intersperse the action on the streets from the W.70’s through the low W.100’s – it’s the ghost of Christmas past. But it’s not really past.

As I walk along, there’s an unpleasant cold wind rising from the scattered corpses of commerce.

I recall being a fairly frequent visitor to the West Nineties – back in the late 1970’s, before the Upper West Side became chic. In those days, crossing through the park from the East Side meant not just loosening up, but facing the quiet zones where nothing much was happening. It felt strange then, but it feels frightening now. Because I understand that it – namely the bad economy – isn’t really over.

If you don’t look directly at the persistently shuttered store fronts, you can pretend, along with the word on the street, that the comeback is full-on, everything’s hunky-dory again. Oh, no, it isn’t. Nothing’s really crowded. That’s fine for me as an individual, but I know there’s not much profit in it. Rents are really high, I’m not sure why. Both residential and commercial. It’s a bit of whistling in the dark.

Like having a near relative whose life span has been pre-ordained by a slowly fatal disease, I’d rather not know what shape the inevitable might take. But I’ve been paying attention and I have to wonder if there will be sage brush rolling along a desolate Columbus Avenue in ten years’ time.

Like we were asked to do for Tinker Bell in Peter Pan, I exhort my fellow UWSiders to clap if you believe in…well, not fairies exactly. Let’s do something. First, let’s look reality in the eye. And then, just maybe, there could be an encouraging easement emanating from the greedy landlords who don’t realize they are contributing to their own demise.

This is not the time for one hand clapping, put your back into it!

SINGING ON THE STREET

Sometimes it’s charming, sometimes it’s scary. Sometimes I want to get very close to the person who thinks that Broadway is his shower and YELL really loud in his ear: Shut up!

All kinds of things happen on the street: things which ought to happen and things which you hope would never happen. And then there’s singing.

If it’s a bunch of young teenage girls just having a great old time, good. But the countless opera singers that Manhattan both spawns and maintains should zip it. I do NOT want to be blasted by the unfettered lung power of some would-be mezzo-soprano. A sudden infusion of off-key shrill is enough to unsettle me for hours.

Not that I can’t identify with the urge to belt it out on the boulevard. A song gets into my head or a warm breeze on a sunny day engages some primal desire to harmonize, and I feel very much like singing. But I understand that all my impulses are not license.

If you’re living in a small town, or something more rural, you can’t really appreciate what the city streets are like. There’s A LOT going on: many people rushing hither and yon, cars driving loud, trucks double and triple parked – unloading, or just waiting, bicycles – delivering Chinese food or speeding along just for the hell of it, kids crying, power walkers, the dainty dithering elderly, the disabled, the strollers (both kinds), roller-skaters, skateboarders, you name it. And the noise produced is not for the faint of heart. But, singing? It adds something not needed, a penetrating band of irritating sound that you can’t avoid. And, need I say, no one who sings on the street has a good voice. There’s an underlying genetic truth here. Only people with a bit of a tin ear assume it is their God-given right to trill at will. So, it’s an assault of the toneless kind.

There are officers of the law who police the public, making sure we are dis-incentivized from acting badly; but here’s a bad deed that is currently going unpunished. It happens in passing and in close quarters. The street singers don’t discriminate between spacious spaces and narrow ones. I’ve been on elevators with the nasal “mi-mi-mi” for the whole twelve floors. Subway platforms, with all their intrusive volume aren’t off-limits; just add a basso profundo to the screech of the trains entering the station for a soul-clenching shock to the system. Ear plugs. I wear them but they never quite eliminate the unwanted sounds.

Don’t sing on the street! I mean it. Don’t sing. Not next to me, not when you’ve just passed me, not while you are approaching or turning the corner. Keep the streets safe…for the regular mind-numbing cacophony.

GOING POSTAL

You must have been wondering when I’d write about it. It was inevitable.

The post office. Before I really begin, I want to issue a disclaimer: the people who work at the post office, those tireless public servants, deserve nothing but respect—and compassion. It’s the institution that I have a problem with. I really don’t want any trouble. Don’t lose my packages, don’t forward my mail to Podunk.

It’s around the corner. A small, neighborhood branch. Convenient, no? Like having a relative with the bubonic plague is convenient. I go there when I must. It’s never anything less than annoying. But sometimes it rises to the level of maddening. And then there’s the palpable sense that I’ve crossed over into a bad other dimension, where everyone is at their worst and crazy gets the preferred table in the corner.

Two recent incidents come to mind. There are so many to choose from…but I digress. Last week, I had brought all my considerable patience with me, prepared to stand on line to have a package sent. It was media mail—it was a book I was sending to my cousin. The self-service machine doesn’t have a “media mail” option. As if there is no such thing. It’s radically less expensive than overnight mail or priority mail or even first class mail. And it gets to the destination just fine. But it’s a bit of a postal secret, and it does require waiting for one of the long-suffering women at the desk to make it happen.

I stepped to the end of the line, which was—by my best reckoning—a good thirty to forty minutes long. After about thirty seconds, a woman stepped in front of me. I had seen her off to the side sitting on a chair adjacent to the line. She was writing an address on a label.

“Excuse me, but I was standing here!” I never know exactly what to say in these situations, but it always starts with “Excuse me.”

“I was over there,” she replied, gesturing to the very chair she had been sitting in.

Knowing full well that we really didn’t have a comprehension issue, I nevertheless informed her that “You can’t wait on the line from the chair!”

“Oh, yes, I can.” She was unfazed.

From in front of her the voice of another woman was heard. “You can if you’re disabled. But I don’t see any disability.” She said this continuing to look straight ahead. I appreciated her words of solidarity, but now my nemesis was getting heated. I had the distinct feeling that she might be looking for a larger fight; perhaps she wanted to generate some disability.

I shut my mouth. Not easy for me. I stood behind her for the duration, knowing that when her turn came, there would be more drama.

If there is any satisfaction in being right, I would have been comforted.

When she got to the counter, she was—as they used to say in school when a student hadn’t done their homework—unprepared. She required the postal worker to fill out her label for her. (What was she writing an address on whilst on her disability chair?) And she had many questions. The woman helping her all but rolled her eyes. That’s what I mean: these people deserve compassion. And, finally, the line-jumper needed a larger or smaller or differently shaped box for her package. But she wasn’t about to leave and come back. No. Her needs had to be ministered to while we all cooled our heels. Well, not much was cool.

What might be surprising to those of you who haven’t been graced by this type of experience, was how quietly the line behind me (now at least another thirty minutes long) took the delay of game.  A good part of the external tolerance which is displayed is a consequence of fear. We’ve all heard the not-really-apocryphal stories of madness and mayhem which happen when insanity meets the slow burn of post office frustration. Ergo: going postal. Each of my fellow line-standers was aware of that possibility. They did not want to set anyone off.

Nor did I.

A different kind of situation prevailed today. I arrived with package in hand, ready to do it myself using the automated system. There were two young women at the machine when I arrived. They were clearly together, so I thought: not bad, I’m next. It became apparent, after a few minutes, that they were translating from another language, which was slowing them down considerably. I peered over shoulders and saw that one of the women was inputting “RUSSIA” as a response to one of the prompts. Ahhh. Russia. Will this be glacial?

Yes.

Many, many minutes later, I started to release my body language to convey my impatience. It’s a strategy. No one noticed. Muttering would be next. I waited a few more minutes and, lo, girl number one was done. But girl number two stepped up. She was not as quick-witted or fluent as the first one, and she poured over each step in the computerized process. Then, in response to whatever she was asked, she left the machine and started sifting through a stand of priority mail boxes and envelopes. I couldn’t help myself. I muttered. …supposed to do that before you use the machine…

She heard me! And reacted! She closed out her process and, with an international gesture (no, not that one) she offered me her place. I was a little ashamed, but mostly happy.

I would show her how we efficient Americans do things. My fingers flew over the buttons, moving through the prompts with ease. What was the zip code? I input it cleanly. There is no record of that zip code. This was a surprise. I reentered the digits. Same result. Grabbing my package off the scale I quickly slunk away. Embarrassed and angry…but at whom?

As I walked away, confused, I glanced down at my packages. Those five unknown digits that I had entered as the zip code—they were the street address.

Can I blame this on the bad energy of the post office? Can I blame it on the bossa nova? Or is this just some cosmic comeuppance? What do you think?

SUNDAY ON THE STREET

RIDERS ON THE WIND

On Sunday, as we walked uptown, there was a staggered band of at least twenty bicycle riders coming up Amsterdam Avenue. All young black men moving at top speed. Some not holding onto handlebars…winging it. But one was perched atop the bicycle seat. Feet gripping the small seat,  he was standing tall and effortlessly, like a daredevil circus performer on the flying trapeze. The bike moved as if by magic; he was perfectly balanced. The eerie, full-face, white plastic mask he wore made him look like he was a photographic negative of the Lone Ranger. We stopped and stared. It was quite a show. There were cars on the road, but the boys cut through them like a hot knife through butter. The street was theirs and they were invincible.

PUPPY LOVE

Wherever I go in the city, I take notice of dogs. They are, for me, full citizens of New York, adding dimensions of purity and compassion (along with the poop and pee). There are particular interactive issues which I find to be good for my soul.

There are the dogs who are sitting, their owner standing near – attached by leash. The dog is looking up into their master’s face, limpid, expressive eyes (usually brown, sometimes blue or green) gazing with intensity, communicating a need – although I think only the two know what that is. These sweet-faced dogs with imploring eyes stop me in my tracks. They are not multi-tasking; all their energy is devoted to bridging the species gap and getting their need across. Sometimes I am graced by seeing the responsive exchange coming back from the human; sometimes the dog just holds the pose, no reaction or apparent awareness forthcoming. Either way, it takes me out of the abruptly kaleidoscoping New York moments, to another plane of existence.

Whenever I pass a dog duo walking toward me, I always say hi to the dog. They almost always look me in the eye. And, when I can, I lightly graze their body with the tips of my fingers. We make contact and it calms me. I hope it also contributes to the dog’s good feelings.

JOGGING WITH JEFFREY

I had to stop at Jeffrey’s ( see post: JEFFREY’S EYELAND EXTRAORDINAIRE). A new prescription was being filled and my glasses were ready. I didn’t call, knowing there would be a bit of a crap-shoot as to whether anyone would be in the store when my husband and I got there – regardless of whether someone answered the phone. The store was locked, no indication of when it would be open. (It was already well within “regular” business hours.) I wasn’t concerned. I knew someone would show up soon. I have faith in Jeffrey and company. For good reasons.

I began to walk to a grocery store. Why not fill the time with some shopping which needed to be done? I got a block away when I saw a fast-moving flash of humanity. It was Jeffrey. He was running, so I joined him. We ran the distance to his store and, both of us slightly out of breath, we went inside.  Eye-business was conducted rapidly. And then we jogged around some more – metaphorically: from family tales to AMEX woes and insider suggestions. It was the free-range chicken: a little more costly but well worth it; jogging with Jeffrey is healthful. Leaving there I always feel much improved – on many levels.

THE CERTAIN UNKNOWN

When you leave your house (read apartment) in Manhattan, there is no way to know what kind of day it will be energetically. You can have a clear bead on the weather; you can be informed about street fairs, construction, all manner of objective issues. What you can’t know is how the gods have rolled the dice on this day. Sometimes it’s a mixed bag: yin (that would be benevolent people, peace and friendship) or yang (hostile craziness, obstacles at every turn, danger thrown in just for good measure). You don’t have to wait long to find out; the street reveals itself rapidly.

This day, unpredictability was the hallmark, with just a soupçon of radical disappointment thrown in. A visit to the out-of-neighborhood butcher, Citarella, was in order. I’ve been a customer for decades. A little extra cost for great quality and service has always been the equation that brought me the extravagant distance of TWENTY city blocks for poultry and the occasional daring piece of red meat. I approached the counter and a surprisingly surly man asked who’s next? In response to my request for four pounds of ground turkey, we entered a protracted Abbot and Costello routine. Except it wasn’t funny. He kept saying, no poultry parts. And gesturing toward a refrigerated section off to the side of the store. I repeated my request, alternately feeling a little stupid and a little irritated. I wasn’t getting it.

Finally, the light dawned. They no longer offered chicken or turkey to your order: skin on or off, the exact amount you wanted. There were just some prepackaged items – take it or leave it, like in the supermarket. And the very special and perfectly balanced, freshly ground turkey, wasn’t available. Not at all. My dear friend, the surly butcher, grudgingly agreed to inquire – out of the side of his mouth to the guy standing next to him. Nah, we don’t have it, he kindly reassured me. I huffed out. I’m done with you, I announced to my partner in crime (read husband). I was quite affronted. Service and options had evaporated. How dare they?

Unpredictability continued in my less-than-favorite realm of public transportation. The simple act of waiting for a bus (you already know that’s never simple for me) became infuriating. No bus. No bus. No bus. Minutes passed. Could it be twenty? Yes. Okay. We give. Take a cab. No taxi. No taxi. Walking wasn’t an option. We had visited a new butcher and my husband was schlepping many pounds of poultry. As irritated as I was, it didn’t compare to the young couple on the corner with toddler and full sized folded stroller in tow. They were sweaty and disheveled. They’d been trying to hail a cab for a very long time. Taxis passed with their roof light on, signifying vacancy. But there were always people inside. What? We ceded the next taxi (whenever that might arrive) to this much more deserving family.

Returning to the bus stop, irritability flared once more. (You know how it goes, once that light is on, it doesn’t go off for a while.) A woman was talking on her cell, saying over and over, “That’s dope. That’s dope.” You’re a dope, I thought. Vernacular is fine with me but, if you’re over the age of 35, don’t talk like a rapper…unless you are one. My inner rant was interrupted by a sweet-voiced woman asking if I knew whether the number 11 bus stopped here. I checked the listing on the pole near me and assured her that it did. A few moments later, she spoke over my shoulder to the “that’s dope” woman, then told to someone nearby that she was her daughter. I assessed the nice woman’s age at no more than mid-forties. So the “that’s dope” person was much younger than I thought – probably in her twenties. It was her deep voice that threw me. But it seems as if I was, in fact, the dope, overreacting to my poultry disappointment and spreading grouch around.

 

 

A Day’s Grist for the Blogging Mill

Close encounter of the tourist kind

While waiting impatiently for the crosstown bus at 86th Street (on my way to meet a friend, how dare it keep me waiting?), a rather hale and robust looking man, with coloring which spoke to a level of non-pollution that isn’t possible in the Apple, asked if I was a New Yorker.

Okay. My weirdar was raised a tad, but his demeanor told me it was okay to engage.

Why, yes. Feeling a bit like one of the chosen people (which, in fact, I am), I acknowledged that I was…a New Yorker, that is.

If I just got off the subway (there was an entrance a few feet from where we were standing) and I want to go to the Met (I understood museum not opera), is this where I get the bus?

He was indeed in the right place and I reassured him, adding that he would get off after going through the park. Giving him the benefit of my infinite wisdom.

He already knew that, he said, his own ego not in hiding.

I returned to my thoughts and then took out my little notebook to write this for a new post.

Excuse me, just one last question, he interjected.

I smiled. It doesn’t have to be your last question. I am nothing if not magnanimous.

(Note to self: write this so YOU can read it at another time. Handwriting deteriorates with age. Remember how it is to try to interpret those random chicken scratches?)

We then entered into what is inevitably an esoteric conversation about the vicissitudes of public transportation.

(Another digression: Had anyone ever heard the word “vicissitudes” before Freud used it? I hadn’t. Yes, this is a bit of inside baseball.)

I let him know that he would have a free transfer from the subway to the bus. He knew that it would expire in an hour. (News to me!) He wondered if the metrocard itself expired. I assured him it wouldn’t. (Now, I have to look into that. I think I know everything and I certainly wasn’t going to admit that this New Yorker was less than well-informed. But I’d better find out.)

Yet another ride from Hell

Bus driver stops short. People almost go flying. New Yorkers are land surfers. Amazing that no one fell. My cell phone hit me in the nose, however. So, I’m pissed.

Now we’re in some kind of holding pattern. Choppy driving continues. I’d like to give the driver a parting smack on the head. Only in fantasy. Repeat: Only in fantasy. The “I could have walked there faster” level of irritation has set in. Sandwiched between what the fuck?s.

Balls of NY

Crossing the street, even a busy Avenue, with the light or against it, I will direct traffic. No, I command. Don’t run me over. Don’t go there. Stop. Wait. Okay, go. All New Yorkers do this. It’s our birthright.

The boy at the next table

I met that dear friend for lunch at an Upper East Side venue. It had been a long time, so we had to catch up on EVERYTHING. Topics ranged across the spectrum, from work to family to relationships and so on.

As is inevitable, some of what we shared was either pretty dark or somewhat racy in nature.  It wasn’t until an hour into our meeting that I notice a boy at the adjacent table. He was sitting with his parents. He was about ten years old and avidly listening to our conversation. The parents were shedding bands of annoyance in our direction.

As my friend said, when I mentioned how unhappy these people were with their boy being privy to discussions of shall we call them romantic peccadillos, and of bad relatives and their shortcomings whom we each reviled with long-winded glee, parents have to think about where they choose to take their children. And, I added, speaking the mantra which provides an explanation for anything, anytime: this is New York!

 

PAS DE DEUX: MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS, UPPER WEST SIDE VARIATION

I’m thinking ballet. It’s coming to town. But isn’t there always a balletic presence in the City?

There is a special dance, done for two. And a very special way the dancers move…in my neighborhood. It’s a hybrid: some classical elements and some jazzy ones. But the modern overlay causes the mothers and daughters of the Upper West Side to make those strange, seemingly dislocated shapes that Twyla Tharp brought to the public awareness. Of course, with quite a bit less panache than Twyla.

When they’re young, the daughters are often the Mini-Me’s of the older-than-average mothers of the UWS. They start late – maybe they got married a little later, maybe they had to do a fair amount of in vitro to get pregnant. The baby girl is a miracle – to be adored and attended to as if she were the perfect little fairy princess of the mother’s imaginings.

The mother may continue to work, but she hires the best in child care (and watches her obsessively on the Nanny-cams installed at strategic locations throughout the apartment). Or she may have worked it out (read: married money) so that she can be an at-home mother. Mommy and Me classes – swimming, music, yoga, you name it. The days are filled to bursting with activities. This is a theme that will not end. Play dates are made with the same level of vetting that goes on at White House dinners. Bedrooms and playrooms are designed to reflect any need or desire a little girl might ever have. No costume change is missing: from butterfly wings to the ability to transform into the latest Disney character. Educational toys (non-sexist to be sure – yes, I realize the inconsistency) abound. And Mommy is in the room as often as possible, playing with the daughter.

Eventually, there’s school. At the earliest possible age, because you can’t start soon enough to maximize potential. Agonizing over the choice of pre-school, prepping the little one for interviews, this is a necessity if her little angel is going to be on the right track for college and beyond. Of course, we’re talking private schools for most.

All this is done with an ear to the orchestration – from the community which hums along, providing an immediate clicking of tongues or a shocked intake of breath if there is a false note or a missed step. God forbid.

Just as all ballerinas are beautiful – at least from a distance – the little girl is seen as a great beauty. Perfect. Ideal. Mother tells her at every opportunity: you are special, you are the best, you are just like me.

Somewhere during the girl’s 5th, 6th or 7th year, she becomes a monster. Selfish, narcissistic, demanding, always wanting her own way. (Am I being redundant? It’s needed to make the point.) Does the mother notice this awful change? No. And, therefore, there is no much-needed intervention. Rather, the mother, who had been whirling and leaping in unison with the daughter, now has to struggle to keep up. The daughter begins to lose interest in the steps the mother has choreographed. She is the prima, the mother is a corps de ballet of one.

And so it goes. Years go by. The mother takes great pride in the daughter’s accomplishments. She is continually en pointe, but with jarring movements which might be dangerous or self-destructive. Not my daughter, says the mom. She’s perfect. She’s actually a mean girl, a self-involved girl, a girl who doesn’t care that much about her mother, except as a resource. Does the mother see this, as her role in the ballet becomes more and more limited and relegated to the background? No. She will not see it.

The last act of the pas de deux will usually take place during middle to late adolescence. The mother has aged. She can no longer see her own beauty in the mirror. The girl, who has had whatever plastic surgery and braces she might have “needed,” looks pretty damn good. And she’s a little slutty (oh, not a PC term – let’s call her sexually adventurous). She’s not interested in any of the weakly offered boundaries the mother tries to enforce. The mother has stopped dancing. She is the dying swan, but without the spotlight. The daughter is dancing to the edge of the stage. She leaps. Where she lands cannot be seen by the mother. But the mother’s final words, before the curtain comes down, are: She’s so beautiful. Perfect.

THE FLASH

Much good literature employs the technique of foreshadowing. Here it is:

As I walked at my typical, leisurely high-speed trot, doing errands around the neighborhood, I approached the corner of W. 96th and Amsterdam from the South. Arriving at virtually the same moment from the East, was a youngish woman. We passed each other with barely a centimeter to spare. No one slowed down. We just continued on. But I took note.

My last stop was the fabled supermarket, the store from hell.  I had to navigate the usual craziness, including – this time – a man in an electric wheel chair who didn’t give a fuck about anyone else, and was moving down the aisles at high speed. When I finished shopping, encumbered by only a small package (mercifully my groceries would be delivered), I entered what might have been one of those reality TV physical prowess trials – you know, where you have to balance across something impossibly narrow and swing from a great height. Like that. Only different. I was just walking. Paying attention, to be sure. To fail to do so is suicidal.

I had to first traverse a short block, past a nursery school. A small child got loose who, wild-eyed and overflowing with the rush of freedom, threatened to crash into me. It would have been bad for both of us. I sidestepped. Then a gaggle (too kind, really a gang) of teenaged boys and girls occupied the entire width of the street, moving in unforeseeable ways as they screeched and smacked each other, genetically incapable of taking into account anyone else on the teeming sidewalk. I saw the implacable wall approach and, like the good running back that I am, made a lateral move, briefly into the gutter, in between a couple of moving cars. Safe.

As I approached that same fateful corner as in the foreshadowing – from the North this time, the light was turning green. Coming from the East (the direction of danger?) was a landscaping/construction vehicle, the kind with the giant scoop-like shovel on the front. It wasn’t stopping in any obvious fashion. I was unsure that it was going to stop at all. So, I paused, ignoring that I had the right of way, in order to make sure I was not about to be deconstructed.

Safe again on the other side of the crosswalk, I encountered The Building Under Construction. Capital letters denote the semi-permanent nature of this, whenever it occurs in Manhattan. I slowed my step to be ready for the unexpected. And there it was. One of the workers was pushing a mammoth and empty metal refuse container on wheels – it was about the size of, well, a mammoth. (I exaggerate, perhaps, out of retroactive fear.) We were far enough apart for me to easily pass. Until he lost momentary control of the thing. See, that’s the wild card. No one really has control over what they think they do. So it careened threateningly in my direction. I stopped short, giving him and it the widest berth.

Very little was left of my trek, but I started to realize what it takes to make the journey. High-intensity reflexes, flexibility, ice water in the veins, and a willingness to be continually at risk. Of course, there’s an alternative. The older people (read: very old) that I see with increasing frequency, seem not to have any awareness of the danger at all. They maintain their own pace, trusting that others will work around them. Most often, that’s what happens. That choice is not for me, not now, not in fifteen years. I intend to hang on to my reflexes, until I draw my last breath. I am The Flash.

 

MUST BLOG

Everything is fun at first. A lark. A joyride. A whimsical experience. No pressure.

And then it all changes.

Is it my hard-ass inner voice? Is it the nature of the beast? Do things just migrate from choice to responsibility?

First I wasn’t a writer. Then I wrote something. A book. Really! I did that? Then I wanted to write more. Then I got stuck and felt bad about not writing. So I wrote more. Then I started to think of myself as a writer. (Maybe others did too.) And – you know – a writer writes.

Now, if I don’t write, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do. I feel like I’m failing myself. So, you see, here I am writing about that. Because I’d better write something.

Okay. Then I had some thoughts that turned into a blog. How cool! Me. With a blog. I loved it. Others seemed to enjoy the random thoughts I was putting on the page. But, if you have a blog, you have to keep making new posts. Don’t you? If not, there’s no more blog.

Have I just cleared the dirt away from a central, buried truth about the nature of things?

It’s sort of like life. You start out as a child. No worries. Just play. Then it gets serious. And then more serious. You almost never play. And your shoulders are a bit stooped from the weight of obligation.

I would like to straighten out those shoulders, throw caution (and duty) to the wind. Write if I want to. Blog when the muse strikes me.

But I wouldn’t have just written this. True. Perhaps the value of that sense of “should” outweighs the negative elements.

I’m just asking.

Posts are getting shorter. Is that a problem? Should I make them longer? Who makes the rules?

I do. I forgot for a moment. It’s hard to remember that we all make up the story of our lives. Now, now, don’t argue. We do have personal choice. We’re not lemmings. (Well, not usually.) It’s easy to fall into the feeling and belief that someone else is in charge.

I’ll try to remember. Help me, would you?

 

drip, Drip, DRIP

What now?

Those were not exactly the first words which came to mind at 1 AM. Out of a deep sleep, I sat upright, reacting with protozoan fear to the staccato sounds which were, at first, unidentifiable. Water. Dripping water. From a great enough height to be extremely loud. Onto the metal hull of my bedroom air conditioner. Thirty seconds, then it stopped. My body took much longer to return to a state of restfulness.

One hour later, jerked from sweet unconsciousness by THE SAME NOISE. And, every hour…or so…throughout the night until, at 6:30 AM, I finally gave up.

We have the horn player over our heads; he’s the neighbor I exhort myself not to kill. There are myriad other irritations: weird smells that come and go for no apparent reason, people who ring our bell just because they want to screw around, the inevitable Con-Ed and cable TV breakdowns. ENOUGH. No dripping!

Will a remedy be found? Oh, yes. This is not something to be accommodated. My wonderful and compassionate superintendent is on the case. He got the sense of urgency and will—undoubtedly—search and destroy the source of our new nightly pain.

But, I ask myself, part of me cowering like a sheep about to be slaughtered, what’s next?