Tag Archives: runner

Who Will We Be When this is All Over?

25 Mar

The other day during a press conference, New York Mayor Andrew Cuomo said, “if you want to go for a run, God bless you.” So, I went. I ran in the middle of the empty streets and, when cars turned up, I headed to the sidewalks and gave others a wide berth. I dashed back and forth from one side of the road to the other in an attempt to have the sidewalk to myself, to give the appropriate and responsible social distance. I felt a certain amount of guilt through the entire process, wondering whether the people in the occasional passing cars were looking at me thinking I was selfish, careless, putting others at risk. I got nervous when rounding corners, afraid of being face to face with another person, trepidatious in a way I haven’t been since walking home through the French Quarter of New Orleans late at night, my restaurant-issued suspenders dangling down my legs. There were a lot of robberies in the Quarter at the time, not so much of local workers as tourists, but still, you had to have your wits about you. I have felt safe in New York City for a very long time now, this dense city where I feel most comfortable around throngs of people. Now though, I feel safest alone, when keeping a reasonable distance from everyone else.

It’s strange, to walk along empty streets, surrounded only by shuttered businesses and empty-looking apartments. Stranger still to pull close to a building when another person approaches, giving them plenty of space to pass, making eye-contact in a sad, weary way. We all have a common enemy but we don’t know who among us carries that enemy inside, who among us leaves it behind on door knobs and grocery store shelves. We are fighting an invisible executioner, one who lies dormant in some while it ravages others. We are left asking these huge questions: who do we know that we will not see again? How will we let people know we love them? When will we be able to mourn those deaths? Will we ever be the same?

There is something about going through a collective trauma, it seems. A population, a place, is never quite the same after. New York City – no, the world – post September 11th was a wildly different place. New oversight, new expressions of racism, new fears, a new mayor who shuffled in businesses and legislative changes that altered the face of the city forever. New Orleans was vastly different post-Katrina. A city was drowned, and terrorized and those in charge largely looked the other way or celebrated the effects wrought by the changed population. So many people who had made their homes there, who had lived there for generations, fled and never returned – whether they hoped to or not. And many of those who did return came back to destroyed houses, changed neighborhoods, and a bureaucratic nightmare.

So I am left to wonder: what will become of us after we “flatten the curve,” after we make it through the heat of the summer months and assess the losses? The lost friends, family members, favorite businesses, people who left to ride it out elsewhere and decided against coming back? What replaces all of that? How do we move past this experience?

Trauma changes you, we all know that. It alters the fabric of your being. New York, despite what people say, is a friendly place. Blunt perhaps, but friendly. A smile and nod on the street is almost always returned in kind. Streets are neighborhoods, people working at local businesses are friends, sometimes even akin to family. We love hard and we love deeply because, when you’re surrounded by so many strangers day in and day out, finding a familiar face in the crowd feels like magic. The longer you live here, and the more people you meet, the more magic you experience. And let me tell you: it never gets old.

So again, who will we be? After months of staying home, crossing streets, taking precaution after precaution, fearing the enemy that might dwell within, and whether it will be your undoing, will we go back to normal? Will we crowd bars and restaurants, congregate in parks, walk close to strangers on the street and exchange a handshake, a high five or a hug with people we know? Or will this fear embed itself inside of us and turn the friendly, helpful, community-oriented New Yorkers that we know we are into the rude, avoidant New Yorkers people have always claimed us to be?

I don’t have any answers, of course. None of us know how long this will last, what sort of wreckage will remain when we emerge from the safety of our homes on the other side. But I really hope that, after this is all over, I don’t cross the street to avoid someone heading my way, that I proceed without fear to my local bar and grocery store, that I am not afraid to leave my home. I hope we learn from this, that we love harder, that we lean on one another and we proceed with our crowded, overwhelming, busy existence, staking out a place in the grass on a sunny day to enjoy a moment of solitude in the company of thousands of people we haven’t yet met.

If you are enjoying my writing, and since a lot of the cafes are currently closed, consider buying me a coffee on ko-fi! It only costs $3 (or a multiple of 3 if you’re feeling frisky!) and would make my house-bound, under-socialized heart sing.

Harassment via Loud Speaker! A Novel Experience!

19 Nov

What follows is a rant.  So, consider yourself warned.*

As I have mentioned before, I enjoy running.  I love that it allows me to move my body. I love that I get to clear my mind.  I love that, as a four-season runner, I get outdoors on days when I normally would cower inside, wrapped tightly in my house sweater.  (Yes, I am aware that the fact that I have a “house sweater” makes me sound old.)  Perhaps most of all, I love that when I go out for a run I leave all technology behind.  Well, okay, that is not entirely true.  Sometimes I bring a podcast with me but that is only on days when I run over 13 miles.  Aching hips and the monotony of repeated running routes can spell the premature end of a specific workout and can, if repeated weekly, make the race I am training for terribly uncomfortable.  Believe me, I know.  And so, on those high mileage days, I allow myself a slight distraction.  Normally, though, I find the freedom from technology and the ability to take in the sights and the sounds of my neighborhood a perk to my running habit.

Today was no different.  I am just starting the process of training for the Manhattan Half Marathon at the end of January.  Yes, January.  In Central Park.  Sadly, this will not be my first time being stupid enough to run this race.  I am actually embarrassed to say that a few years ago when I ran it the temperature at the start was something like 13 degrees with a real feel of like, 5.  For the entire first loop of the park my feet were so cold they had gone numb and I literally felt like I was running on planks of wood.  It was absolutely terrible.  And yet I registered for it again.  Like a moron.  So I headed out of my house for an 8-9 mile training run, abandoning my phone on my bed.  I made my way up and around the cemetery and then, on Fort Hamilton Avenue, I experienced what was perhaps the worst case of street harassment directed at me ever in my life.  Well, it’s tied with that time the food delivery guy grabbed my ass like three houses up from my front door.  So there I was, minding my own business, enjoying the fall colors and the weird car-repair place that looks like an old-school drive-in restaurant with those girls that deliver the food on roller skates, when I heard, from what sounded like an intercom,

“Can I eat you down there, honey?”

Wait, what?  I stopped running.  I honestly could not believe that what I thought I heard was actually what I heard.  I looked around, saw an out of service MTA bus, the driver staring at me.  And then, just as I began to run again, thinking my ears must have deceived me it happened again.

“Can I eat you down there, honey?”

I turned around.  Through the haze of my anger the only thing I thought was that it must have been coming from the bus.  I took note of the time, the bus number, the cross streets.  I thought about whether or not I could give a description of the driver.  I hyperventilated.  Running when you are insanely angry and feeling violated and kind of afraid is no easy task.  I rehashed what happened again and again in my mind for the next mile until I convinced myself to let it go and think about something else.  Without a phone I couldn’t report it right then and I couldn’t snap a photograph.  I did, however, check my memory of the bus number every 5 minutes or so to make sure that when I made the report, which I was most definitely going to do, I would have all the details correct.  So I enjoyed the rest of my run as best I could, which was actually made easier by the fact that the park is one of my safe spaces.  I am always, always happy in the park.  If there comes a day when I am unhappy in the park, I will move away and not look back.

I arrived home and immediately went online to find the number to report complaints about MTA subways and buses.  511, in case you were curious.  I called and, after going through a whole lot of different menu options, I was connected with an extremely unhelpful lady.  The conversation went as follows:

Me: Hi. So I would like to file a complaint but I first am wondering whether or not it is possible for MTA bus drivers to make announcements on some sort of outside speaker.
Lady, snottily:  Well, why would you want the inside announcements to be heard outside?
Me:  Well, I wouldn’t, which is actually part of why I am calling. I just don’t want to make a complaint against someone and have them get in trouble for something that it is not possible for them to have done.
Lady:  So tell me the complaint and I will let you know.

I relayed my story to her.  She laughed.  Asshole.

Lady:  Well, I just can’t imagine anyone would say something like that.
Me: Yea, I couldn’t either until someone said it to me. So you can imagine why I would want to report this person.
Lady: Hold on.

I was then on hold for like 5 minutes while she did some combination of the following things: continued laughing, told all her friends about what I had told her, pretended she was doing something when actually she was just sitting there playing Candy Crush on her phone, or sought out a supervisor or bus-knowledge-haver to find out whether it was possible to make outside announcements.  She came back.

Lady:  It’s not possible.  Anything else?
Me:  No.  Thanks for your compassion.

It occurred to me that maybe the lady on the phone was lying.  I don’t know why she would do it but I thought it possible.  I hung up the phone and immediately posted on Facebook the following message which some of you may have seen:

Does anyone know whether MTA drivers have the ability to make announcements that can be heard outside the bus?

I received the following message from my friend Kevin which was so funny that it almost made the whole experience  worth having:

Does anyone know whether MTA drivers have the ability to make announcements that can be heard outside their heads?

Anyway, the whole experience sucked.  And it sucked even more because I was so convinced that it was the MTA bus that I didn’t look around for vehicles like cop cars and tow trucks that would be more likely to have outdoor speakers.  But also, it’s like, fuck you.  Who does that?!  Who makes sexually explicit comments to someone running over their fucking intercom?!  It’s like, let me broadcast that I am completely devoid of a moral compass.  Let me express my manhood by publicly making this woman feel entirely disempowered.  I hope someone sticks a nail in all his tires, breaks his speakers, and kicks him in the nuts.  Not necessarily in that order.

*That was really for you, Dad, since I know how much you love the rants. 🙂

To Boston from a Runner

16 Apr

I am a runner.

It has taken me a really long time to say that.  I always thought that runners were the people faster than me, who ran more than me.  I thought they were people who made a living off of it or who at least won an award here and there.  But yesterday, after coming back from a run, I spent two hours in my sweaty clothes, glued to a livestream on my computer and reaching out to everyone I know who lives in Boston or has family there.  I fielded text messages from people asking if I knew, hoping I wasn’t in the race.  This is not to say that I have more of a right to be devastated about what happened at the finish line of one of the most celebrated marathons in the world.  It is just to say that for a second I thought, god, what if I was there.

My first thought when looking at the video was about the time on the finishing clock.  It read 4:09 when the first bomb went off.  Anyone who has run a marathon knows that around the 4 hour mark, plus and minus about 15-20 minutes, is when most people finish.  It is when the road is especially crowded; when runners are especially focused and fading; when spectators are especially excited, scanning the thousands of finishers for their friends and loved ones.  It was, in that way, a perfect attack.  It hit when emotions were at their peak, when the potential for casualties was highest.

So now I am reminded once again that we live in what some call a “post-9/11 world” and the marathon is the latest casualty.  Security will be tighter, I would imagine.  Will they monitor our bags more closely?  Will we have to take off our shoes when we enter the corrals lest we smuggle in an explosive?  Will spectators have to go through metal detectors?  The magic, I am afraid, will be gone.

Marathon Day in New York City is like a holiday for me.  I wake up early, I rush to my corner, I jump up and down to keep warm while I wait to be amazed by the elite runners and the tens of thousands that come after them.  I stand there for hours and I cheer until my hands hurt from clapping and my voice hurts from screaming.  It’s a day when people achieve a seemingly impossible distance.  When camaraderie is built between people who have never before met and who will likely never meet again.  It is a day when everyone gets to prove to themselves that all the work they did — those early mornings, those painful miles, those track workouts and hill repeats — was all worth it.  Now the beauty of it, the innocence of it, the simplicity of it, will forever be tainted.

We now live in a world where it seems unreasonable to not have escape roots for possible bombings at all major events.  To not have armed guards at entrances to schools and stadiums.  Maybe some of you think the way we act internationally made this inevitable.  Maybe you think our grief over Boston, over all the people maimed, scarred and killed, is hypocritical because we don’t pay that much attention to the scores of innocent people killed by the United States every year.  And you know what, you are partially right.  Our country is in the wrong a lot.  But the thing is, it is unreasonable to expect people not to be devastated and scared by this.  The point is, I think, that all lives are of equal value.  That does not mean we should feel less compassion for people killed for no reason in Boston because our government regularly and needlessly kills people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria.  It means we should feel more compassion for those killed abroad because we know what senseless violence feels like now.  Again.  We know what it is to be confused and petrified and angry.

So, I am a runner.  And I will run again tomorrow.  And I will be out there cheering the marathoners on come November here in New York and I will qualify, and run, the Boston Marathon.  Because that’s what runners do, we keep right on running.  And that’s what people do, we keep going on.

So all my love to Boston.  To the runners, the spectators, the families, friends, loved ones of all those impacted.  You are in my thoughts.  You will be on my mind through all the many miles I will run this spring.  And hopefully I will be there cheering or running sometime soon.