Running for Your Life: Irony Watch – Beyond Coincidence

[Context: Back in street telephone days, the phrase grammar school was synonymous with elementary school.]

While gym running on the treadmill in Park Slope, Brooklyn, on Monday (Jan. 16), I saw through the window a young woman carrying a protest placard. The vibe was similar to a pissed-off looking fella in a beard I’d noticed on the same block a day earlier. He was wearing a “NOT MY PRESIDENT” ball cap.

The NMP protester’s placard-message denounced those who would on Friday (Inauguration Day) proclaim any kind of legitimate hold to “THIER AMERICA.”

Resist, yes. But not in ignorance.

Or maybe I’m missing the point. That the illiterate message is meant to convey the crisis in the country’s single greatest government potential: “grammar” schools.

Next: Running for Your Life: Wanted: New Ideas

Running for Your Life: Rituals

“The Path,” a book of introduction to Chinese philosophy, has an interesting approach to how we can subtly alter our relationship to happiness.

Consider the observation: “I’m sorry, but that’s not the way I am, I can’t [do, feel good about] that.”

Normally we think of this aspect of our personality in a clear-cut way, ie, a moral regard for those less fortunate than us, say, or more trivially, favoring dogs over cats, not taking sugar in your coffee.

Change, though, as “The Path” asserts infects from the small cuts.

A man barges ahead of you at the open doorway of a subway car from which you are preparing to leave. Courtesy has it that those quitting a public space should be afforded the room to exit before the person accepts the privilege of riding.

What is your response? Judgment and anger at the social code breaker? Or a smile and a shrug? How does this ritual play out within you? An added stressor to your workday commute? Or as something that you concede as simply beyond your control?

When it comes to wee rituals, that moment of judgment is key. “The Path” would have us be aware of the judgment and where it takes you. Maybe the next time your judgment is equally harsh, but you stop short of anger. In that way, your daily rituals alter. Bit by bit.

I am on a four-mile run [on Jan. 12] when I overhear a woman say, and “those other apartments, they will be geared to lower incomes.”

I admit my first response to hearing that was to reflect on my superiority to those with “lower incomes.” Instead, of just neutrally absorbing the information. Change happens in the smallest cuts. 

Teachers, as I wrote about last post, in New York City are those of lower incomes, as are beloved nannies, retired people on fixed incomes.

Mental spaces are places of daily ritual – it is not a phrase restricted to teeth-brushing, and dog-walking, etc. Or so says, “The Path.” That the way you are is, believe it or not, subject to change.

Next: Running for Your Life: Wanted: New Ideas

Running for Your Life: Irony Watch – Beyond Coincidence

Seen on bus panel advertising:

Handsome, well-dressed man in the New York City subway.

Message: One-Year MBA for, uh, MERCY College

Slogan: For Those With a Passion to Get Ahead

Context: Life can be most richly lived in the briefest of moments.

One of my most gratifying conversations over the holidays occurred in my daughter’s bar and grill in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

As M and I were leaving on New Year’s Eve, I met K, a teacher. I proceeded to tell K how back in my hometown of Owen Sound, Ontario, the people who were the pillars of the community if not the local heroes were invariably teachers. I had not talked to many public school teachers during the holidays – so I took the opportunity of telling her how much I valued her profession. She smiled, thanked me and wished me a Happy New Year.

Happiness, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.

Next: Running for Your Life: Rituals!

Running for Your Life: 2017 Theme

So it’s so long 2016 and hello 2017.

Lucky seven follows bizarre six.

May you live in interesting times.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Three more years and it’s 2019.

Days later it's Jan. 1, 2020, marking my sixth decade as an ink-stained wretch

First feature: an article, Summer 1979, for the Prescott Journal about the value – medical and spiritual – of a daily run.

Countless stories, written and edited, in three full decades, and seven-tenths of the fourth. Never looked back in anger. (Well, maybe once or twice.)

Lucky seven goes to Trump.

Obama had eight years but never a seven. A hopeful sign? We’re pushed so far right that we have to reach for something. Better it not be an arm of the swastika . (With a nod to honor the late great cartoonist Mickey Siporin.)

Here’s to a happy and prosperous new year.

We can do a lot worse than Confucius to keep us on our psychic toes. 

When asked how he would describe himself, he said, and I paraphrase:

As a man who was so impassioned that he forgot to eat, so engaged that he forgot to worry and so unaware of the time passing he didn’t notice his old age.

Next: Running for Your Life: Rituals!

Running for Your Life: Little Look Back at 2016

When it comes to year-end reviews, I’ve seen a few. After all, I’ve been in the news business for five decades. And each publication I’ve worked for has had some version of a year-end review.

This time a little story. Call it Chicken Tikka Christmas.

I’ve been dining at an NYC Midtown food cart – primarily on Sundays when the crowds are thin – for years. But this year, 2016, I’ve finally begun a friendship with my once-a-week chef. He is from Bangladesh, and speaks only a little English. But, by and by, he has ventured into more and more conversation with me: primarily about the weather, once about his daughters and my daughter. We have yet to exchange names, but it hardly seems to matter to either of us.

Last Sunday (Dec. 18), the Chicken Tikka chef went all out. We talked more than usual: I let him know that as a long-distance runner I had huge appetite. So he gave me a meal for two, at a price for one. I told him that I would be taking some of it home to my grateful wife as leftovers. That made him beam from ear to ear.

Later that night, after a long shift at The Post, I was standing on the near-empty subway platform with my briefcase containing my prize – the leftover Chicken Tikka for M. I was in a post-work daze when a man – dressed like Peary en route to the North Pole – came up behind me. He said hello – and within the winter hoodie I saw my friend, the Chicken Tikka chef.

We talked some more, on the platform and in the subway car that wasn’t long in coming. We were both Brooklyn-bound. I told him that I had the meal for my wife tucked away in the briefcase.

His smile vanished. “You didn’t like it?”

“Oh, no, no, no. It was fabulous, as always. Just too much this time. Even for me.”

His smile returning, he nodded in understanding. I told him he had much to teach me. That I would love to be able to cook as he does. That he could teach. I said there were many people I knew who would love to learn the finer points of South Asian cooking.

There was a lot said. But mostly what was said was in body language. The respect and joy that comes from lives crossed in a busy city. A simple lesson for those who feel too often like a stranger on a train.

Next: Running for Your Life: Running in 2017