Saturday, October 31, 2009

5 miles

Over the summer I started tracking how many miles I biked a week. I was surprised to find out I was biking 60-70 miles a week. As long as it’s not raining when it’s time to head out, I bike to work and back. With 4-5 days a week, once you add up it amounts to that many miles.

In New York City it’s very easy to get distances confused. Neighborhoods that might be a few blocks apart can feel like they’re a continent away, and though Brooklyn is just a hop over the bridge, for some Manhattanites it might as well be New Jersey.

Last night, as I was brushing my teeth, trying to figure out how to fit a run, a trip to Chinatown for costume supplies, and Halloween costume crafting in one day I realized that Canal street is about five miles away.

Five miles is the distance I most often run. Could I do it?

Though the map confirmed it, I kept staring at it wondering how that would work. I understand that if you unfurl the loops I run around the park it gives me the same distance, but the idea of running to the city seemed impossible – at least for me.

I know I can run five miles. I’ve been doing it for almost a year. And yet, every time I lace up my shoes I wonder if I’ll make it. I'm not trying to talk myself into doing something I don’t feel like doing. I'm talking myself into doing something I don’t think I can do.

This morning the sky over Manhattan had ominous looking clouds. Maybe I’d better not try this today. And what would I do without water? I’m used to running in the park where I’m never too far from a water fountain, or help, or home – easy to cut the run short if needed. And I’d be crossing a bridge. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.

After listening to the whining as I was getting ready, I reminded myself I could always stop and buy water if needed. And if something went wrong, I could always cut it short and take the subway or a cab back. This calmed me down somewhat and I headed out.

When I hit mile 2 at Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush, I was feeling strong. I kept going along Flatbush and soon I could see the bridge – all thoughts of turning back forgotten. The bridge was easier than I thought and it seemed less work than on the bike. By the time I got to Canal and Broadway I could not understand what all the fuss was about. The run seemed too short. I could have used an extra mile or two of that happy peace that fills me as I run.

Tomorrow thousands of runners will be battling their own demons to make it to the finish line in Central Park. Maybe even Paula Radcliffe will be struggling with herself wondering how it will go. I’ll be on 4th Ave in Brooklyn, cheering the runners.

But next year, there’s a spot saved for me among them and I hope to be on the other side of the party.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Long Count

BAM glows at night. Leo Villareal’s ongoing exhibit Stars lights up the arched windows in the evening and threatens to kill me: whenever I bike past it on my way home from work I have trouble looking away from it and bringing my eyes back on the road.

Last night, what was going on inside at the Gilman Opera House matched the façade.

Art moves. As far as I’m concerned, if it doesn’t move, it’s not art. And I’m not talking about bikes here.

Whether you understand what is in front of you or not, it is art’s ability to stir deep emotions that makes it art as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure there are those who would be able to take apart The Long Count and analyze its metaphors, explain its use of symbols, and understand the message within.

I’m not one of those. I can’t say I understood what all that was about, but when I left my body was still vibrating with the echoes of what had gone on inside.

The stage was framed by two diamond cut screens set at an angle, joined by an equilateral triangle. When the performance started, images were projected on the screen like a roving kaleidoscope being held against a dreamscape: from wheat fields, to images of vaguely industrial settings, to color splotches that seemed to react to the sound, to ink drawings that reminded me of Van Gogh abstractions.

And the music! Take a twelve-piece orchestra, mix it with a good dose of The National, sprinkle it with great female vocalists and bake it in glowing images in front of a rapt audience for 70 minutes.

String instruments have always gotten to me. It’s not only the sound. When the bow goes across the strings, I can feel it move across my chest, catching and pulling.

About midway through, there was a fast cello solo that was followed by a plucked viola. Its intensity was making it difficult for me to breathe. There was a hand violenty squeezing my heart and I wanted to run, jump, but I was trapped in a polite opera chair. Unable to take it any longer, I pulled my eyes from the musicians and looked up. On the screen above them, yellow exploding shards were speeding out of the stage and washing over us.

When it was all over, the audience burst into a standing ovation.

As we were leaving, I could feel my bag vibrating, but it wasn’t the buzzing of the phone. I asked my friend to hold it for me, but it wasn’t the bag. I stood still outside BAM and I could feel a faint but discernible vibration – and extended hum not only in my arm but through most of my body.

It was the best show I have seen in a long time: I cried, I bobbed in my chair to great music, I gasped, and when it was done I was exhausted by its beauty.

But it wasn’t for everyone: two people in the front row left early into on. There was a mother and son team sitting on my left. He fell asleep. She was covering her ears.


An unexpected side effect of biking almost everywhere is how inconvenient shopping becomes. My bike does have a basket. With the help of bungee cords and a fondness for precarious balance, I’ve carried a range of heavy and bulky items ranging from enough groceries to feed a starving soccer team to lumber.

It is impulse buying that has taken a hit. Once on the bike, I don’t feel like suddenly stopping to check out a nice window display. If the hassle of bike and helmet locking weren’t enough to deter me, walking into a store with rolled up pant legs and a blinking light attached to my ass would be.

When I’m biking, I go from home to work and back home. Since I usually carry my lunch with me and have developed the necessary endurance to withstand office coffee, I can go for days without even taking out my wallet.

So last night’s purchases can be squarely blamed on the rain. On my way to the train, I decided to make a quick stop at Sephora. Thirty minutes later, I walked out with lip stain and a fresh new look for my eyes - all better to snare you, dearie.

And that’s how I celebrated the news of my divorce finally having come through.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Everyone has that moment. Miranda Hobbes had it. Same for Liz Lemon. That brief moment of realization that you’re going to die all alone and it’d be weeks before your neighbors realized something was wrong. Since my downstairs neighbors are on tour, it would take even longer in my case.

The air was dry when I woke up this morning. I had unplugged the humidifier a few days ago and forgotten to plug it back in. I rolled onto my stomach and slid my arm between the gaps in the headboard to reach the plug. When I inserted my head into another gap and pressed my ear against the wall, I could almost see what was behind the bed.

My fingers closed around the plug and got it into the socket. The humidifier clicked on. I relaxed my hand and pulled back, but my shoulder would not budge. In the seconds it had taken me to get this done, my shoulder had managed to weld itself against the frame. I shifted and tried again. No luck. I shook the frame with my cheek flat against the wall with not results. My arm was one with the bed and I could not get it out. I struggled against frame but it was like trying to reason with a beartrap.

Maybe if I pulled hard enough I’d be able to dislocate my shoulder to escape à la Martin Riggs. I’ve separated that shoulder a few times anyway, so it might come off easily. Nope. That didn’t work. I was stuck. In bed. I needed help.

It was early enough that maybe my friend from across the street was still home. She had keys to my place. Did I leave my phone on the nightstand? I reached behind me and flapped around knocking a jar of pens, alarm clock, a book, some tamarind candy. I didn’t even know if the phone was there. As I struggled against the frame I realized my apartment was messier than usual, with discarded wigs (one of them purple), petticoats, baking pans, and shoes everywhere. And there were dishes in the sink! What would whoever found me dead think?

There was a panicky taste on my tongue and I was starting to hyperventilate. This would not do. I took a deep breath and relaxed against the frame. I turned my head and gently slid it back out. Flattening myself against the bed, I pressed mattress under my shoulder with my free hand managed to slide my shoulder back out, and lived to blog about it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


The minute I saw it I knew it had to be mine. It was brand new studio with hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances and a terrace with a water view, but it was the light that did it. Afternoon light spilled onto the floor and bounced in honey colored splashes on the wall, while gold leaves glinted on the river in the distance.

In the morning, a marshmallow white light snuck into the apartment without knocking. The tree that stands by my windows let it in, and it danced to the tune rustling leaves played.

After the nightmare the previous apartment had been, I was happy to keep this décor in this one minimal and saw no need for curtains. The tree’s canopy was large enough to protect me from eyes peering through the front windows and he sliding glass doors that open from the kitchen into the terrace have a more limited view into the apartment, and from a greater distance. I decided I would just do my best to wear clothes while in that part of the apartment and worry about window treatments later.

A few weeks ago it started getting cold. I could feel a draft in the kitchen – one that could be stopped by curtains. Then leaves turned yellow, and I knew I was running out of time.
For the past week I’ve been sneaking around my apartment in the evenings, keeping the lights low, and trying to remember to close the bathroom door.

Last night it rained hard for a few hours and this morning my front windows were completely naked. Not a leaf left. Time to come up with something.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Off trail

When the sun first comes out after days of rain it always takes on a fairy godmother attitude and sprinkles star dust on everything making colors brighter. Last Monday was like that, with the added urgency of warmth after a sudden chill.

Over the weekend I had read the roving runner's post on Prospect Park and was inspired to get off trail in the park.

Though I usually stick to the main roads, instead of running on them I prefer to run on the ribbon of pounded grass, sand, or gravel next to it. It's kinder on the joints and avoiding tree roots and puddles adds excitement. But there are plenty of areas on the loops that don't have that extra shoulder and I'm back to running on asphalt.

Going off trail appealed to me, but I had never dared to. I was afraid. A twisted ankle, and I'd be stuck in the wilds of Prospect Park, unable to get back to civilization. I was also scared there might be evil men lurking, waiting for poor defenseless runners, ready to pounce on them.

But if the roving runner could do it, so could I. So last Monday I decided to leave my fears at home, run to the park, follow the loop down to the lake and get off the trail from there while trying to reach Grand Army Plaza.

The weather was perfect for a run: cold enough to need gloves, with no wind and plenty of sun. After a few days of not biking to work because of the rain, my body felt well rested and craved exertion. My ankles felt strong and my knees were not complaining.

The run might have been somewhere between 5-6 miles, but I couldn't tell. The park does something weird once you get off the main paths. The time/space continuum breaks and expands - making the lake larger, the hills higher, and the forest was actually somewhere in the Catskills. The stillness around me so complete I had to turn off my music and listen. All there was: my breathing and my footsteps. I really could not hear anything else, even when I stopped.

When came out of the woods I was back in Prospect Park, running across the meadow, ready to get back on the loop and run towards the 15th Street exit.

The only dangerous moment was once I left the park. As I ran across the intersection towards the Pavillion, I caught a cute bicyclist's attention as he passed me. He looked back to continue staring at me and forgot to turn his head back to see where he was going. I smiled at him as he veered around the corner and he almost crashed into the curb. Almost.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pirates of the Park

That our star goalie was in town this weekend was enough of a reason for The A.C. Pirates to plan a game. He lives in Atlanta now, but since his wife lives in NYC he pops by for visits and we schedule games.

The Pirates is a co-ed soccer team that rose to stardom out of the McCarren Park dustbowl and over the course of a nine month-plus first season in 2007, the Pirates, like the F.C. Barcelona, became more than a club. The last official game the Pirates played was at the end of the season on February 28th, 2009, when the Waterfront Champion’s League season ended and the Pirates disbanded - off to sail in different parks.

I miss the glory of those days. Though today is threatening rain and has a wind chill in the thirties, I was ready to play. The Pirates have been on my mind lately. By the end of that 2007 season, even as exhaustion set in, the Pirates bravely pushed forward.

Unfortunately, some of my descriptions of those days don’t do them justice. In order to recapture the joy of those moments, I need to get back on the field.

This year, soccer has taken a back seat to running as I attempted to qualify for the 2010 New York City marathon. Now that I have run enough NYRR races to fulfill the guaranteed entry requirement, I am ready to go back to my team sports.

Starting today.

Or so I thought until I found out – as I was heading out the door, running late, wearing shinguards and all – that Star Goalie's wife had gotten sick and the game was cancelled.

In the haste of searching for long forgotten sports gear while getting ready for a wet bike ride and a chilly game, I had ransacked two trunks and the bottom of closet, leaving my apartment looking like a men’s locker room gone wrong.

My options were limited. I could stay at home and tidy up, or not. It was gray and horrible out. It was an easy choice: I took off my shinguards but kept the rest, grabbed the laptop, and headed to Southside to write, proudly wearing the Pirates uniform shirt.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Untitled post #1

The pressure had been mounting for some time. The idea of writing a blog is not an original one, but at some point it became a necessary one. Though I don’t have any trouble coming up with things to write about, I don’t write because I have important things to say, or for any sort of artistic literary ambitions. I write because I can’t help it.

Blogs now seem must-haves for writers, including prospective authors. At first I was worried about how having a blog might affect me. I was concerned both about the time spent blogging and how blogging might affect my non-writing time.

As someone who needs a day job in order to support the writing habit, I already have difficulties scratching out writing time from busy days. The additional demands that blogging could place on me seemed like too much.

And then there was the idea of having blogging take over my life. I don’t want to be constantly thinking about the blog, have my choice of activities affected by their blogability, or worse, become so blog-conscious that I would become incapable of enjoying my day-to-day activities without immediately start thinking about how to write about them.

I might not be able to escape that fate, but maybe it won’t be all bad. There’s a chance that fully embracing this modern world might turn out something like this. (Thanks to Moonrat for sharing that video sometime last July.)