Monday, September 1, 2014

silence of the chairs

Points of reference over dates are my indicators.  Sample sized sunscreen becomes more appealing at checkout.

Worn down to acceptance, the flip flops are removed from the wiffle ball locker.  An end to sports camp pick-ups appears in sight.

Peace needs to be made with bananas again and so the affair with blueberries and peaches fizzles out.

Polo shirts are intermittently donned when confronted by a draw full of faded tees.

TV’s allure overtakes citronella candles on the patio. And baseball is eclipsed by football.

Grilled chicken becomes tasteless and a temporary inability to ingest iced tea ensues.

The running trail to the schoolyard is rediscovered and the road to the beach seems distant.

Writing in the basement may top reading by sunset and pouring over a schedule may keep a wine glass empty.

Unraveling the hose seems like a chore.

And the stage is set when four X’d out tennis balls have crossed my path on the workbench.

© 2014 Christopher’s Views

Monday, May 26, 2014

summer reading*

Given that a passion for writing is often linked with a zeal for reading I need to put up an asterisk.  I am not an avid reader of books and never have been. 
That’s not to say that when I do read, however, that I don’t read with passion.   

But for a long time, and for no specific reason other than time management, most of the books I’ve read have come off the shelves designated for sports or comedy. And nearly all the rest of my reading has revolved around essays and self help.
This past Christmas, I received a New York Times Bestseller as a gift.  No sports, no comedy and well…everything that’s good is self help I suppose…right? 

So there it was before me: ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed.  An inspiring memoir unfolded amid a solo long distance hike up the Pacific Crest Trail.  Ironically put in my lap by my fully citified daughter.   
Following the pattern that change often happens so slowly over time that it can’t be discerned, the sports and humor genres were safe in their thrones.  Weeks went by and I didn’t even crack the cover. 

Then on one of those bitter and snowy nights of this thankfully elapsed winter I picked up WILD and found a warm and quiet spot in my basement seated at the end of my futon and nearby a portable heater.  I read the first five chapters and was completely engaged in the style and substance of her writing.
Unfortunately none of the other snowstorms helped me with my time management and WILD sat tranquil on top of a nesting table at the other end of the futon, dog-eared at page seventy five until this weekend.

No mini vacation was in the plans for this Memorial Day.  And I was annoyed with myself that I didn’t go back to finish a book that I didn’t want to put down in the first place.
Once I finally picked it up again, resting it was difficult.  In between washing my car, playing wiffle ball with fav bud and a trip to the Bronx Zoo I obsessively read through the remaining 240 pages of this transformative human adventure. 

Almost always as I my mind was taken along this journey pulsating with fear, pain, grief, hunger, and loneliness I was feeling the faith, strength, happiness, contentment and love that Cheryl Strayed so perfectly sewed together.  Most enjoyable is that her forceful hike through the wilderness and her experiences on and off the trail avoid and go far beyond common catch phrases of change and inspiration and instead are hard, honest, simple and real recognitions.
I cannot imagine anyone reading this story while not rooting for Cheryl and amidst the heartache not also rooting for life well lived.

If you are searching for pages that are compelling, pivotal and moving while you place your toes in the sand this summer I would highly recommend picking up a copy of WILD, by Cheryl Strayed.
…And if any of you have summer reading recommendations…please don’t be shy.

© 2014 Christopher’s Views

Thursday, April 3, 2014

green, grey and approaching Earth Day

Plastic bags, bags, bags: they are everywhere.

Last Friday, on my way home from work, a rogue bag kite flew out from the wooded area along the Cross Island Pkwy and got caught in my front grille.  The bristling noise interrupted an attention grabbing-War of the Roses bit-on KTU. (sorry to those unfamiliar and from distant places)

Once untangled from the nose of my CRV the circulating winds may well have carried the fugitive bag toward Little Neck Bay and caused distress for a swan or an egret.

Weekend getaway frustration involves more than just dodging potholes.  I wondered if the event was triggered by the negligent disposal of another driver, or the untidy garbage collection of a nearby resident.

I grumbled above the radio, “Damn bags!”  Then I thought, “Damn dilemma”.

I tried to speculate if I could go Costco style on everything I purchase and lug each item, for all eternity, back home by transferring one or two at a time from cart to car and car to house. “Doubtful”, I muttered. “I’d snap, surely”, is the confirmed reply I issued to self.
Then my brain cramped a little more as I realized that I needed that flying bag kite back so I could clean the cat litter box later that night.  And my neighbor needs two to clean up after her dog.

I began thinking about Mayor de Blasio and the recently proposed NYC plan to subject plastic and paper bags to 10 cent penalties. 
As I approached the LIE merge, it dawned on me that I’ve also been missing out on the 5 cent per bag credit for packing with reusable’s that’s offered at my supermarket.

“Am I crazy?” I wondered aloud.  I really fell down on that one.  It’s better than coupons.  I can by a bushel of reusable bags, pack just a couple of items in each at checkout and walk away with about three bucks each time I shop.
But then between my ears I heard a voice say “maybe that’s the wrong spirit”.  We need to help the environment.  That’s the plan.  Yes, help the environment. 

Still driving along, and feeling fuzzy about the details, I had to put on hold any attempt at figuring out the dog poop with the bare hands quandary.  It’s just too complicated even with hands free technology.  But with a determination for openness I tried to presume that the research is done.  Right?  All this must have been carefully figured out to address the major culprit-those damn flimsy, omnipresent, flying high over ball fields and City and Town Halls everywhere-bag kites. 
Now with the sharp turn of my exit near I wanted to make a decision and so I declared “What the heck, I’ll try it, first thing in the morning I will go out and buy a bunch of those reusable bags”.

I guess there will be varieties and choices to make. 
Do I choose cotton, canvass or polypropylene bags?  Do I look for bags made in the USA?  Or maybe since I’m new to this I should just stick with the cheapest products.  Yes, that makes sense; browse the section made in China or elsewhere around the globe.  The bags smartly produced on much more raw material and energy.  The well traveled bags demanding enormous fossil fuel consumption on their trek back from Asia.  The colorful, stylish bags made without any trepidation of lead blends in the paints and dyes.

The bags that I will vow never to leave at home, or in the other car, or with my son at his Little League practice.  The magical bags that will avoid contamination by spills and bacteria and muck and mud and that will live on in the trunk of my car for perpetuity. 
The liberating reusable’s that I promise to monitor and cherish with honor and full disclosure.  The esteemed bags upon which I solemnly swear to not accept credit for when hauling home cardboard and hard plastic packaged vitamin supplements or thick plastic detergent bottles.  And conversely, I pledge to speak up when the gentlemen next to me buying pineapples in his kite bag at the express line is penalized.

Finally now, I reached home.  Radio off.  No more thinking or research.  Just action. 
But then, with keys in hand, as I tripped on my winter weary and organic lawn a different vision and vow came to mind.

An environmental vow that is void of vagueness.  A vow that has clarity and that doesn’t involve a lot of math, variables and time charts in order to pick the slightly lesser of two evils.
It goes like this. I will care about our aquifers and waterways.  I will care about our wildlife and cancer risks and will not use even one ounce of chemicals and pesticides between my picket fences as we move headlong into landscaping season.

It is a simple vow that requires no substitutes.  Grass already knows how to grow without chemicals.  It’s been happening for millions of years.
I closed the door behind me and thought, bags, bags, bags: we need to conserve and contain them. 

Water, water, water: we need to love and respect it. 
© 2014 Christopher’s Views

Sunday, February 23, 2014

clicking on preview

When we close out this day in New York we will still have a few more weeks of cold and stormy weather to work through.  But the tantalizing glimpse of the future offered through sunny skies and temps well into the fifties this weekend felt as pleasurable as a first step in the sand at a favorite beach.
Like a lesson in antonyms, crocuses peeked through the soil across the street from giant mounds of mold laden and debris peppered snow.  And skaters, cyclists and joggers moved freely on trails and paths leading away from parking lots featuring still stranded cars.
The heavy weight of three, four, five or maybe even six wintry mix events has been lifted off of us.   ‘Ice dams’ will soon be a phrase I can forget I ever heard.
My shoulder is feeling better from the break in shoveling and I believe I won’t have to see the orthopedist after all.
Bystanders and traffic can coexist with tall buildings while no longer fearing large falling chunks of ice.  Streets are suddenly wider again and if I forget to fold over my side view mirror it’s no longer synonymous with a scheduled trip to the auto body shop.   
The tilting patios are beginning to level. 
Maybe….just maybe…I will consider driving on the Bronx River Potholeway again. 
I can think of a time when I will open my heating bill without first shuttering.  As a good sign, I have forgotten about the portable heater that helped keep the plumbing at the rear end of the house from freezing. 
And the self diagnosed frostbite on my cheek was just redness.
So too as I feel the seasons hardships slip away I will miss the snow forts and snowball fights with fav bud.  I’m glad as well for the sleigh riding trips.  And thankful, yes I’m even grateful, for occasionally being outside and in harmony with the quiet peacefulness of fresh fallen snow.

© 2014 Christopher’s Views

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

greetings from the basement

It is the wallpaper on my phone.
I check on it before I leave for work in the morning and before I go to sleep at night.
I make sure it always has enough water, though I help guard against bloating.
I give it plenty of exercise but avoid overworking it.
I provide for regular check-ups.
I listen to it carefully.  I am grateful to have it. 
I touch it, talk to it, admire it, cherish it and rely on it.
At 43 years old I may soon have to assist it into retirement.
Until then, I am one with it.  As I fend off winter’s austerity to enjoy the beauty.

Everyone—please meet my boiler.

© 2014 Christopher’s Views

Sunday, December 22, 2013

hoping to God

After a stretch of time, when commitments in my business and personal life keep me away from posting I sometimes feel like catching up by integrating various topics into one piece.

A few days ago I was pondering how I might be able to roll Duck Dynasty, winter weather anxiety and Christmas into one viewpoint.

Then on Friday morning I walked upon a scene that eerily resembled a sad memory from thirty five years ago involving a lunch hour tragedy, a diesel truck and a young woman.

On this day it was mid-morning.  I had just dropped off my son, a ten year old fifth grader, at his school and I was driving on my way to a business appointment in Queens.  The destination was Northern Blvd in Woodside, to be exact, for those of you who are familiar with NYC.  As I exited the ramp from the Brooklyn-Queens Expwy several police cars and caution cones were in place and traffic was being re-directed.  There was no obvious sign of trouble and at first I thought that this might be part of a systematic shut down of ramps and roadways by the NYPD, which is routinely done when a dignitary is escorted through the city. 

I was directed to the right when I actually needed to go straight and so I chose to keep going right for a few avenues so I could get clear of all the snarled traffic.  Then I looped left and back across Northern Blvd to a metered parking spot on a side street within a couple of blocks of my meeting place.

As I gathered my materials and headed for the office building I was immediately struck by the vast silence.  I turned the corner onto the Boulevard and tip-toed along a city block that was entirely squared off by a police line except for a small path of sidewalk.  A large tractor-trailer truck sat dormant on the asphalt pavement.  There were a few dozen police officers, some crossing guards, many local residents, business owners and a news crew present.  But most notably there was stillness. 

Remembering back to college and a similar scene in lower Manhattan during a coffee break when I worked at Barnes & Noble I did not need to ask anyone what happened. 

But before being admitted into my meeting on the second floor of the company two blocks away I asked the receptionist if she knew exactly what had happened.  A young boy, a third grader, was run over and killed as he was heading to school.  “I feel bad for everyone”, she said.  Speechless and knowing this was the last day of school before the Christmas break I nodded and thought how sometimes I wish we could just turn back time.

After the appointment I had to walk back past the same route.  It looked as if everyone had been stopped in time for the entire hour and no one had moved. Few words were being spoken.  On the periphery, by a 7 Eleven, I could see some folks using hand gestures to explain where the vehicle came from and how the dreadful accident occurred.  The truck’s bulky engine, cab and container were shrouded in yellow tape and it loomed ghostly and mummified in the center of the street.

I was thinking about how it is typically challenging enough to sense and feel the wonder and beauty of the world amid all the dangers and heartache that abound.  Gut wrenching events like these would seem to move the challenging to the impossible for the families involved.

This is the season of joy and merriment.  But it’s a man-made season.  The seasons of life and nature work beyond our control and don’t always allow for concurrence. 

In times of despair some people turn closer toward faith.  Others turn full steam away from conviction.

The longing for a higher power is clearly understandable, especially in the face of the incomprehensible.  And the dismissal of any possibility of a Godly being is equally understood. 

In my speechlessness, as I looked around, I can only reflect upon the two thoughts in my head.  Eight year old boys go directly to heaven and I hope to God that it exists.

© 2013 Christopher’s Views

Sunday, November 24, 2013

hitting my stride instead

Before the sanitation collectors toss the lids off my garbage pails in the early morning and ahead of the New York Times delivery person’s schedule for hurling all the news that’s fit to print midway beneath the rear axle of my car I am usually fast afoot and running a route towards the high school track a mile and a half away.  A few loops around and several on the weekends helps me to clear my head and provide prep for the day to come.
It’s therapeutic for me and is akin to being in a special place.  But lately I have encountered a high frequency of negative interference during these runs. 

For as dangerous as using handheld phones or texting while driving may be, the crack of dawn hours are full of the worst drivers known to man.  Perhaps they assume that no one else is on the road as they blow through STOP signs as I approach the intersections.  Evidently their spouses, friends and children run chronically late for the morning trains, in that I have nearly been run over on two occasions recently while driver and passenger alike focus only on the station 500 yards forward as they vie for the shortcut to the platform and seemingly pretend to miss me by feet instead of inches.

My grandmother used to have an apt expression.  Racing to their graves, she would say, racing to their graves.  And wise as that was, the flip side that focuses on me, is what instinctively and gladly took over causing me to comply with a simple hands held wide apart gesture and mouthing, “Are you kidding me”, instead of punching the rear window of the latest car to screech around a FULL STOP sign and ignore my existence. 
Confirmed to me instantaneously is why I am out there in the first place.  I’m out there for pleasure, for peace and a little bit of paradise each day.

Just like many of us I’m fighting the stress of a long day, traffic snarls, building back up my 401k, emotional scars, grief, finding the right babysitter, weaning off sugar and carbs, caretaking, and societal group depression as I marvel at the incompetence of government.  (PS…why couldn’t the NSA just take a few extra minutes and set up  We probably could have signed up for health insurance faster if we accessed it through Angela Merkel’s cell phone.
So yes…I understand the world is a stressful environment.

But as miles and minutes gave way to seconds my frosty nose met the warm air of freshly brewing coffee as I habitually entered the luncheonette at the end of my run so I could chug down a water and pick up my customary lottery ticket.
And so, as the scents flowed, I sneezed.  And four regulars harmoniously rang out…”God Bless”. 

Politeness and awareness aren’t totally withered away I thought. 
Maybe the Thanksgiving and holiday season will polish it up and dust it off a bit…well…perhaps. 

In either case I will keep on attending to my daily morning paradise, regardless of the obstacles.  And if my lottery ticket ever scores I will stick to the same route.  But I will be temporarily relocated to Nirvana.
© 2013 Christopher’s Views