Monday, October 09, 2006

ready to ride.

I haven’t dispatched any thoughts from the train in some time.

But today [Saturday] I took one out of town just to take a break. I’m heading into the hills of Connecticut. I intend to visit the gift shop at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, where I hope to take some weekend retreats to rest and volunteer in the future. The anti-New York. I would have taken this entire weekend there, but they don’t take guests in October.

Per usual, I’ll just record a few observations, and hopefully the result will be something entertaining and useful.

Grand Central was jammed at 11 am this morning. Lots of college students and the usual clueless European tourists with their slouching spines and their mealy mouths, and their local counterparts. A couple of progressive looking women stood around in their blue-jeans and their J Crew T shirts, with someone’s child sitting on the floor a few feet from them. Mind you, that’s on the floor of the Grand Concourse of Grand Central Station, New York, New York, on the Saturday morning of Columbus Day weekend. Is that a good time to have your child on the floor of any train station? Is any time a good time? Perhaps in Europe.

So anyway, it’s nice to be around all the people, despite their rudeness, inconsideration, hostility, stupidity, and who knows what else. It is usually the course of things for me that as I’m getting my iced coffee at Zarro’s downstairs, I have mixed emotions. I’m glad for the coffee, but I’m dreading the lonely walk down the platform...

I’m a people person. Being surrounded by stares and glares that are by turns icy, indifferent, suspicious, and hostile is like punishment to me. I like to look people in the eye and smile and be smiled back at. I don’t like it when it’s bad manners to be polite; when it’s rude to be friendly, when it’s an offense to be courteous, when it’s a perversion to find someone attractive. But such are the times we live in, and such is the nature of man, and such are the effects of the urban environment. And sometimes I’m just oversensitive. I think all the women in my life have said something to that effect at one time or another.

Incidentally, the conductor reminds us that if you purchase your tickets on-board, they will be substantially higher. And no feet on the seats. My feet are on my computer bag. Is that OK? This puts me in a dilemma. Do I claim my legal right to have my feet upon my bag, which happens to be on the seat? Well, he took my ticket without giving me a dirty look, so I’m sure it’s all good. I sit this way because it’s too cramped to face forward and operate a laptop. It forces one put his spine, knees, thighs, elbows, wrists and other appendages into unnatural and uncomfortable positions. There is an abundance of empty seats. So I’m OK with stretching out.

This is the 11:37 to Stamford. It stops at every crossing between there and here. My iPod battery is dead. I have a book about options pricing and volatility, and a legal pad with a few problems to solve. Problems I’ve been wrestling with all summer. I’m not used to having it take me this long to figure something out.

My schedule is such that I have almost no downtime, which is a pity, because I’m used to having lots of time to contemplate things, solve problems, chase ideas, and rest. I haven’t had any downtime since…spring of last year. It has literally been a rat race since then. That’s why I really would like a retreat, if I can’t manage to build some regular downtime into my life.

Noise, noise, noise. Noise at work. Noise on the street. People everywhere. Even Mass is rushed. People in the elevator at the apartment. Roommates. Nowhere to just flop and be at peace. I want to be busy. But I realize – once again – the absolute necessity of downtime. The weekend. The Day of Rest. The Vacation. Time spent on the concerns of others.

Out of the tunnel…I’m reminded of that line,

“…sing like a heart found in a dream
on an outbound train picking up steam…”

That used excite me, that line. But as I never really GO anywhere, I’m not really outbound. I’m more on the end of a big bungee cord. And it’s an overcast day, as we stop at 125th St. It’s cool and fall. The train is filling up with Harlemites. Noisy New Yorkers who don’t give a shit about you.

If there’s one word I would use to describe New York, it’s “bitch.” Nothing like what I would have expected. But the city is a bitch. People are rude, they go out of their way to aggravate others, just like a bitch does. The complain about everything. They demand attention. They seem to think they are queens of the universe. Queens have remade the place in their image.

Everyone north of 125th who speaks Spanish surely knows what the conversation’s about between the lady in the seat immediately in front of me and whoever she's talking to on her cellphone.

I will confess a bit of a fantasy. Do you recall the scene in the movie “When Harry met Sally,” where Billy Crystal was on a double date, and they were all strolling down the street, and Billy’s date is talking with Billy’s friend – they are starting to hit it off – and she’s going on about something she read and Billy’s friend says, “I wrote that.” And Billy’s date drops her jaw and says, “You WROTE that?” And their connection is sealed. I secretly hope I will somehow cross paths with the woman of my dreams who says, “I was reading this and I thought it was so cool…” and I get to say, “that’s on my blog. I wrote that.”

It’s just a dream. Reality beckons.

OK, sitting in this position is making my back sore, and I’m out of thoughts, so that’s all for now. And no amount of contemplative commuting would prepare me for the escalation of hostilities that occurred at the Hertz counter. But no matter. I returned from my sabbatical a changed man.


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