Doing Stand Up

A thought just occurred to me. What am I supposed to do about biking when winter comes?

Also, my bike is making a noise dammit. Might need to be oiled somewhere. I should have kept up the maintenance, but you can’t get in to see anyone anymore. Also thinking about ordering new tires, just in case. And new brakes. They work, but they make a noise. I think it’s normal, but I haven’t replaced them in the 13 years I’ve had the bike. Thirteen years sounds like a lot, but in use, it’s much fewer years. What is the average that a person uses a bike in a year? I’m sure I’ve been below it, especially if you exclude people who don’t use their bikes at all and therefore effectively don’t have bikes. “A person who doesn’t read, holds no advantage over one who can’t,” as Mark Twain said.

They maintain airplanes based on miles flown, so how many miles have I flown? That’s what matters. My new app will tell me, at least going forward. My total miles 43.1. My longest single day ride was 10, since measurements began in the 2020s.  And that happened yesterday.

My new stem makes a difference. I still think the crank is too big, but I am able to raise the seat a little. My knees feel a little less strained, though it still feels like that’s where the muscles are that I’m using most. And that doesn’t make sense to me.

Is this really a blog post? Interesting thoughts in it? More like a journal. I don’t want to post things that are boring. On the other hand, I’m not a good judge of that, and I don’t want to give up writing, and no one reads this anyway, so why do I care if it’s good, or how sure I am of it.

Yes, another biking post, three in a row now, that could get old. On the other hand, reasons. I could come up with dozens of reasons to give up writing. Dozens.

Weird way to measure isn’t it? I could give up for multiples of 12 reasons. Is that so many more than multiples of 10? Depends on how many multiples.

Scores of reasons. Are scores more than multiples of 10? Or Dozens? Well, if you know that a score is 20, then you might say yes, but I would argue that they are the same. Infinity plus one is still infinity. Multiples of any amount, if you don’t define the multiple can be anything, and two anythings are always equal. That could have been the thesis for my senior project if I had stayed at Bard College, and stayed in mathematics. It would have been hilarious, if not right. Maybe I would have failed and then gone on to use the story in a lucrative career doing stand up.

I Rode in the Rain

It may be the reason I have struggled with depression much of my life. Could it be that simple? That I didn’t ride my bike enough?

It might be a little bit too early to come to that conclusion, I only just recommitted myself to riding, but I’m going with it.

I hated myself early, too early to know exactly when, but I remember saying it into the mirror. “I hate myself.” Probably 4th or 5th grade. Jr High School had it’s ups and downs, the last year of it, 9th grade, was my favorite year of school. I made friends I still have (or again, thanks Facebook). I played drums. I smoked pot. High school was tough though, which I often attributed to my own choice of schools, In NYC we had some choices. I chose Music over Drama (Music and Art over Performing Arts – two schools which later merged into one. The latter was the subject of the movie Fame). I chose distance over proximity to home, so, sometimes I’ve blamed the commute, 45 minutes each way by subway. Sometimes I’ve just blamed myself, and my own insecurities.

But in the summers when I was dragged to Connecticut by my parents, someplace I didn’t want to go, my brothers and I rode our bikes all day every day. We would start with 6 miles to a park and rec program in the town, where we would play softball and soccer and other games until noon, then we would ride back, more often than not taking the “scenic” route. We explored, we discovered.  We knew our way around better than our parents, every road. We would re-appear to take a dip in the Long Island sound when we got hot, and then back on our bikes. One year we decided to ride to an annual family weekend trip to Shelter Island. The rest of the family drove, but my brothers and I rode to New London, took a ferry, crossed long island, and took another ferry to Shelter Island. On the way back we averaged 20 mph for 20 miles  to catch the ferry back to New London which left only once an hour. My older brother led the way, I was next as our younger brother disappeared from view. I tried to catch up to tell our older brother we needed to wait, but I couldn’t. So we arrived on time, and as the ferry was about to leave without us, here comes our younger brother around the curve. He rode right onto the boat, as we walked on to the applause from other passengers. I’m remembering it accurately.  We were famous. And we were in really good shape.

I’d end those summers excited to return to school, a feeling which would last a week until I fell back into my more typical funk. I sometimes attributed my happiness during those summers to pot smoking, wondering if I would have been happy if I had smoked more consistently throughout my life, but now I see it was a combination of the two, with much more credit due to the exercise than I have typically ascribed.

I dreampt, back then, of biking across Europe or the US. I wanted to bike everywhere. I didn’t think that through, never made a plan, how I would climb the Rockies, or carry supplies, like a tent, a change of clothes, for example. But I believed. In those days I believed in possibilities.

So now I’m back, easing into a daily routine. I biked 10 miles today, not like the old days, but hell, that’s ok. I am also content to get through one Spanish lesson on duolingo and one on Mango each day and it’s doable. It will take me 2 years to get through them all, but what’s two years when I’ve spent decades in failure?

Even just that feels great. And I’m beginning to lose weight. Well, muscle weighs more than fat, but my stomach is shrinking. I even feel overmedicated for my thyroid, so I cut my dose. Regular exercise of one hour per day significantly improves thyroid function according to a study in India.

Was this all I needed to do to be my best self? All this time? Crazy right?

I don’t want to obsess about lost opportunities. Yes, it might have been nice to be happy for most of my life, but whatever. What else would have been different that I don’t want to be changed at this point? More importantly, it’s not too late. Does this mean I can actually be happy? Have I finally figured it all out?

I knew it would seem simple once it came to me.

So I checked the weather last night and it didn’t look like rain but you can’t believe weather people. I check every night, but I sometimes feel that when I start into a good routine, God throws obstacles in my way. It’s as if I’m not supposed to be happy, or maybe I’m supposed to learn to persevere, I don’t know. But I keep waking up, stretching, getting my water bottle ready, dressing up in my t shirt and shorts (I don’t wear “the uniform”) and socks and sneakers. I tie my shoes (I’m just trying to make this sound like a lot). And then I step outside to discover it’s raining. Today was one of those days. Once before I ran instead of biking, because I was scared to bike in the rain, but I hate running. I need to bike.

So, I did some internet research. Turns, out, you can ride in the rain. The skinny tires of road bikes actually don’t hydroplane. You just have to a little careful to brake slowly and not take turns too fast. So I went anyway!

It’s a little bit of an exaggeration to say it was raining. When I first stepped outside it was drizzling. Once I hit the road, it was wet, but it didn’t rain anymore. When I rode beneath trees, they dropped a little bit of rain they had been saving just for me, to reward me for my efforts (thank you, that was sweet), but other than that it’s not raining on me anymore.

Ride My Bike

Hello, I’m back.

Here’s what’s been going on in my life since the pandemic started.  I’m working from home, and loving it. Well, to be honest, I don’t love work, I’d prefer not to work, as you probably know about me,. But if I have to work, I like doing it from home.

I have also been put on a reduced schedule, accompanied by reduced pay. I accept this cause I know my company is suffering, and anyway I am saving some money by not traveling, by not commuting, by not eating out as much and because the colleges my kids go to have refunded some room and board since they aren’t using it anymore.

And while the “reduced schedule” is a little bit disingenuous for a salaried worker like me who is paid to get the job done, it has allowed me a little flexibility for goofing off without feeling guilty. So why has it taken so long to start blogging again, you might ask? Low energy. Depression? Why depressed if you like working from home so much? It’s like this. After a couple of months I realized I’m getting even less exercise than ever, and feeling worse than ever. It used to be I’d get some steps in just to go to the bathroom. The more water I drank the more exercise I got (for most people it’s the other way around). But now the bathroom is only steps from my desk, and I don’t even have to walk to my car of from my car to the office building. My efforts to feel good by eating less? Exposed as misguided. It’s not my eating that is to blame for feeling bad, it’s the lack of exercise. It always was.

What a wonderful realization. You know why? Because it means that if I start working out, maybe I don’t have to watch what I eat either, and can even enjoy eating again. That’s why most people I know work out, so that they can eat donuts without feeling guilty. It took me this long to realize it, cause I’m stupid. Don’t hate. I admit it.

I remember now that when I was young, when exercise was a game not a chore, I declared to myself that as an adult, I would never go to the gym just to stay in shape, but would continue to do things that were fun to stay in shape. And then I got a desk job. Maybe that’s why I hated working.

You can’t always find 18 people for a softball game, and I never did like running, but I did love biking. When I was a kid my brothers and I would ride all over all day. And recently, that is, 13 years ago (omg why does time go by so fast), I bought myself a road bike, not unlike the “10 speed” Peugeot I enjoyed then and up into my 20s. This one is a Specialized model and has 27 speeds.  It wasn’t cheap, but it was good value, compared to what some of the other models costs. And much improved over the standard of the 1970s.

But I didn’t ride it as much as I anticipated. Maybe because I didn’t buy the outfit.

Actually, I was suckered into buying padded gloves that I don’t use, and bicycle glasses that cost more than I was ever willing to pay for sunglasses that weren’t for bicycle riding.

I don’t use the glasses much either because I have a helmet that has a built in visor now, held on by magnets. Makes me look a little like a storm trooper.

Biking, however, has been more of an effort than it was in the past, and the bike never felt as stable and comfortable as I remember of my Peugeot. There was something awkward about it. Maybe cause I’m older, I thought.

But then came the pandemic. And we all got outside more. I started walking. I realized I needed to exercise more and concluded from internet research that there is nothing wrong with riding every single day. So I resolved to do so. I’m not the only one. Good Morning America just reported that bikes are selling out. If you want to start biking two months into the pandemic, you’re late! You should have started earlier. Guys are even buying pink and purple bikes, cause that’s all that’s left.

So when I started thinking maybe this bike wasn’t the right size, I wasn’t going to have many options. I was hoping it would be the last bike I ever bought, because, quite frankly, I kept my Peugeot a long time, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And if it is broke, fix it. But before I decided to sell it and buy the right size, I did some more internet research. I adjusted the saddle, and ordered a new stem to put the steering column a little further away, which hasn’t come yet, and I’m not sure that was a good move, and then I realized something else. The crank is too long for my short ass legs. Bikes are almost universally fitted with the same size crank, whether you’re six feet, or whether you’re five-six. And when I peddle, my knees bend to under 90 degrees and my knees sometimes start to hurt, and I need to get up off the saddle early in my climbs.

That’s not an adjustment you can just make. It’s an expensive thing to experiment with, cause you have to buy new cranks.  And most bike stores are either on limited hours or overwhelmed with business, or both. So, I can’t go anywhere to try things out, or get bad advice. Nor do I want them to give me Covid.

But I’m thinking of just buying a new crank and guessing about the size and putting it on myself. Maybe I’ll err on the side of too short. I don’t mind spending the money, but I don’t want to spend it twice. I don’t want to go shorter and discover I didn’t go short enough, like the opposite of women who decide to get bigger tits, and then go too big, But that’s a topic for another blog.

What is Happiness?

I had a discussion recently with a neighbor of mine who just happens to be a tenured professor of Philosophy at a college nearby.  He is taking an interest in defining and measuring happiness.  He says that there was a point, in the 1800’s sometime, when psychology and philosophy split, and happiness became the domain of psychology, even though, he feels, and philosophers in general feel, he said, that they have been getting it wrong.

To make it worse, it’s not just psychology that gets it wrong, because the guidance out there comes often from those wanting to make it a business, hacks, if you will, who write for the self help hashtag in the virtual bookstore.

The problem is, he told me, that our measures of happiness are subjective. “How happy are you, in a range of 1 to 5,” we ask, and people say. Then we study these people to determine what it takes for people to self describe as happy. We know only how happy they think they are. But how do we know that they even know what happiness is, or have ever been happy, or whether they equate happiness with what they have been told should make them happy? They may even be motivated to lie, if necessary, to avoid feeling guilty or ungrateful, because their families aren’t enough, or because they have a privilege that is denied to others. 

The philosophy professor wants to devise a better way to measure and define happiness. What if there were certain things that we could identify that make people happy? And then we could measure how happy they should be based on whether they have those things, and at least have some way to test what they think against reality.

This resonates with me. I don’t feel like I’ve really been happy since I was a toddler. Now I’ve had my moments, sometimes I think I can imagine what it’s like to be happy, or understand another person’s happiness, or believe I’m on the way, and that’s enough to share in it, to feel it, enough to know what it is. So I’m not unhappy 100% of the time, just more often than not. And I’ve always considered my unhappiness to be situational. In other words, I don’t believe, for the most part, that it is physiological, something that pills could solve, or diet, or even exercise. I believe that there is something about my life that I wish were different, that disappoints me.

That said, when I stop taking my thyroid medication, I can become convinced that my life actually sucks even worse than I previously thought, like I have uncloaked another layer of denial, and that things would have to be different, to change how I feel. And then I take my meds again, and suddenly I’m back to my normal level of unhappiness. So maybe it can be both.

But this idea that there can be certain things that make us happy, that if we want to have happiness, we should strive for those, whatever they are, is an idea that makes sense to me. Is it freedom? That misunderstood abstract idea that people so often confuse with power or safety, and so few of us have it, even, yes, in the US of A, slaves as we are to debt, or expectations, or discrimination or worse.   

Or do we derive happiness from understanding, knowledge, achievement. Is it from a sense of pride in ourselves? Is it because we do good?

Does it require us to be good people? My neighbor posits, a recent change in his thinking, he tells me, that you do not need to be good, and he is somewhat convincing, though people who devote their lives to service, like Jimmy Carter, and MLK, Jr. have argued that service is its own reward, and the key to happiness. Even George Washington had a quote equating service to happiness (happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected). The list of great people that make this claim is endless. I had started to believe in this, and regret, even, that I hadn’t seen it earlier. When I was young, and following the instincts typical of one to whom it was all new, I concluded, in my first run at the issue, that the purpose of life was to have fun. And I believed fervently in Thomas Jefferson’s right to “pursue happiness.” What I thought was ironic, however, and what I believed at the time, was that to devote myself to that cause, I would have to abdicate my own pursuit of happiness. I could be a musician, for example, which I thought would make me happy, or I could be an activist for the rights of others, but then I could not be a musician (or whatever) and I would not be as happy.

According to George Washington, the two were not mutually exclusive.

My neighbor, however, points out that some people are very happy, and not at all good people. Maybe they are proud of themselves for things they have achieved that do none any good but themselves or the few. They may believe that it’s fair, because that’s the game, and whoever wins has earned it.  They may even believe that they are doing good for the world, but be wrong. They could be happy in the knowledge of their own achievement, and greatness, and measure their worth in their own way.  

Examples:  

A Christian missionary believes he is helping a savage by converting him to be a believer in Christ.

A rich man believes he is making the world a better place by providing a product that advances the human race, even though he may take advantage of the poor to do it.

White supremacists who would rid the world of an inferior infestation that threatens those of us, that they believe, matter more. They can be happy in their sense of righteousness.

Is it certainty that makes us happy?  And how happy? I like to think that there a limit to how happy someone can be depending on how the happiness is achieved? Is there a greater happiness that comes from inclusion than can ever come from exclusion?

I don’t know!

But these are important questions. Because I think that happiness is the only thing any of us really want. Those of us who have empathy who care about the world, who want it to be a better place are unhappy to the extent it isn’t. They are made happy to see a small promise of Utopia in their lives and in the lives of others. But the bottom line is, it is ultimately their desire above all else to find happiness that motivates them. And it is failure in this regard that discourages them. And hopelessness, when they believe that what they want is too hard, which makes them give in to despair.

I personally believe that the way we find our calling, is to do what makes us feel good, ultimately, and in the long run, even if we don’t understand why it makes us feel good. I think this will lead us to our way of contributing to the hive, to what is, if there can be such a thing, our purpose. And it will make us happy. Sounds easy, but if it were, everyone would be doing it. Doing what will make you feel good, isn’t easy. 

That’s what I believe, but the professor’s question is, “is what makes people happy  different for everyone, or can we find some common thread, and measure, or ascertain how happy people are based on what their lives are like?”

I want to know the answer. I want to know and I am interested in taking this knowledge to the team I manage at work, to see it can help to fully engage and inspire them achieve their potential, in and outside of work. The professor is interested in that, and it is why he first engaged me in this topic to enlist my aid with an experiment, but first, I must admit, I want to be happy. I want to learn more about it. 

Because I have not done what I say we should. I have spent my life making decisions that were not based on what will make me feel good, and at this point, I feel like I have constructed walls, rules, habits, whatever you want to call them, that limit me. I don’t have the choices I had when I was young. And yet, I am writing this. I could be anywhere right now. I could do anything. I can still choose to spend time doing what I want, even despite the fact that I have obligations. I waste a lot of time.

I’ll tell you, I think I do know what will make me happy. I think the main reason I am not is that I’ve been inhibited and unmotivated. I lack faith, and I lack will. I have not believed in my heart, what I’m telling you today. 

I want knowledge and understanding, but I’ve never particularly liked to read. I’ve been shy about talking to people. There are things that make me feel a sense of achievement, a sense of pride. But I don’t do them. I wanted it to be easy, I expected talent to lead the way. I don’t even want to exercise on a regular basis, though I feel good after I do it. I don’t want to read, though I feel good having absorbed the contents of a book. I don’t want to pay attention to horrible things that are happening in the world, because it’s depressing, but how can I understand people, or change anyone’s mind, if I don’t know them.

I want to change someone’s mind. That would make me so happy.

I know more than a few who believe that it is unrealistic to think you can change anyone’s mind. And true, change is so slow that it’s not surprising that people give up on each other. But if we can’t change minds, then we are simply doomed. 

But people can change, it happens all the time. Great leaders inspire others to do their part. They don’t do it all themselves. Anyone who believes anything at all, good or bad, has gotten there in part by learning something. People can be taught. To believe otherwise seems reasonable, but it’s wrong.

I start with me.

The Brutal Truth

It is an effort to write these days, and I am not good with effort.

I have never been good with effort. It’s why I didn’t become an actor or a drummer or a writer (in that order). It’s why I couldn’t effectively do all three. It’s why I switched my major from lit to math. It’s why I left Bard College.  It’s why I quit the band I was in because I was overwhelmed with the prospect of doing more than one thing at a time.

It’s why I still don’t speak Spanish, or any other language. 

It’s why I settled for a career in accounting (quitting math too). Accounting takes an effort, but not more than I can muster as long as I’m getting paid for it, and when it’s the only thing I do well.

But this is what I need to remember.  “The nuts always win.”

This is when you’re playing cards and you tell yourself that in order to win, you have to have the best possible hand.

Now, maybe sometimes you decide to take a chance on the 2nd or 3rd best possible hand, or maybe less if you feel like bullshitting your way through a situation, but the goal, the path to success, is to expect the best.

Our goal should always be to have everything we want. We don’t have to figure out what our limit is, it is our limit. We can’t go beyond it.

But we should pursue everything we want to have. The more we try, the more we achieve.

We should do it because we are happy when we have achieved something, even if we are not happy when we are working towards it. We are not happy when we don’t try, so we might as well try. We’d just be doing something, instead of nothing, while we are unhappy. Something, at least, can lead to that miracle of all miracles.  

Happiness.

Do you ever find that you say to yourself, “how wonderful life is?”

“I’m glad to be alive.”

“Never in my wildest dreams….”

I don’t.

Sometimes I avoid bread to be happy. I could eat right, exercise, lose weight, compensate in many ways for the fact that I am not proud of myself, and it may work to some degree, I may have moments where I feel good. But when I achieve things, if I were to achieve anything, I can eat bread, and I still feel good about myself, even if I feel physically sick. There is no substitute for doing

I don’t believe that I’m the only one who has accepted that being “so happy” is just an unrealistic fairy tale. But why? Because it’s impossible? 

It takes effort. It takes effort whether you’ve eaten bread or not (or whatever is your habitual nemesis). 

To be happy, we have to achieve our potential. Except we think of potential as something we don’t have to achieve, never guaranteed, a long shot. We give ourselves excuses, let ourselves off the hook. Kids are loaded with it, of course, and we know how few realize theirs as adults. We have no reasonable expectation, I tell myself now, that we achieve our dreams.

Bullshit.

Our potential is what we can do, it is, by definition, what is within our abilities. We have an obligation to ourselves, and to society and to God, if you believe in God (I don’t, really), to fulfill it. What we shouldn’t hold ourselves accountable to do, is that which is beyond our abilities. But if we don’t do what we can, that’s a sin, if there ever was sin, a crime, at least, maybe the birth parent of all crime. 

If you do everything you can do, that you dream of doing, that should be done, you will be proud of yourself and you will be happy.

I haven’t proven this theory, mind you.

I have a family. I work and make decent money. I have friends. I meet the standard for success. If I tell people that I consider myself a failure, they argue with me. Most people pretend at least to be happy with as much. If we aren’t satisfied, and say so, then oftentimes people feign as if they do not understand why you are so ungrateful, or at least you fear that this will be their reaction. At best, they don’t know how to help you, so you keep it to yourself. But there is nothing wrong with expecting to be the best you can be. And those of us who enjoy the luxury of being able to complain about not being happy, we have an obligation to challenge ourselves and lead. It is not ungrateful to want more. We owe it to society to expect more from life, and to give what we can give, because we are in the position to do so.

It is failure to settle. There’s no shame in it. No one wants to fail. It’s not about judgement. But that’s just the brutal truth.

Keep In Touch

We always said that. We wrote it in our Jr high school yearbooks in 1979, and in our high school yearbooks in 1982. Sometimes there was a phone number beside it that I never called. Maybe we believed we would, but we soon came to know that we just did that to avoid the big goodbye. We would never see these people again.

That’s not the way it is anymore. Because social media. This generation keeps in touch. It’s easier than it used to be. Only the Luddites lose touch. And the privacy hawks, who like to live off the grid, or at least pretend they are, by shunning facebook. I have nothing against those people. I respect them. I miss them.  Because most of us are back in touch with each other again, even those of us who had accepted that we were never going to be keeping in touch. Social media has allowed us to find each other. If you ask me whatever happened to Dan Cherubin, for example, I can tell you that he died. I know, because though I hadn’t seen him in 33 years, ever since I left Bard College, I heard from him as recently as last week. He was going back into the hospital for a post op infection and now this vibrant, friendly, loving, funny, influential friend of everyone he ever met (well, maybe not those neo-fascists) is gone. It was only a year ago he made the dramatic decision to leave NYC, gave up his rent controlled apartment (that’s not easy), and learned to drive (he’s not the only native New Yorker I know who never got a driver’s license) so he could take a job in Connecticut.  I know these things about him. Then he got cancer, but “the little fucker,” he called it, was removed, and the prognosis sounded good. Thank God for health insurance. That’s what Dan said.

I know a handful of people who have died, who I grew up with. Dennis, Veronica, Adam… Dan. Every time it happens, I think about weather I liked them, and how I wish I had made an effort to know them better, to see them more (or at all). Except for facebook, I can only think of them in my mind as the young children I last saw, last heard their voices, their laughs. It seems even more tragic to me, as if they never got the chance to grow up. But they lived. There were a couple who went earlier, but Dan did have a much fuller life than I know. There is comfort in that, for me, that he had a chance after I knew him, when we were mostly potential, and that he became something, and by all accounts grew into a good man.  And yet, I know that may not be enough for those who were still in his life and knew better how much more he had to offer.

We’re in our 50s. Old enough to have had a full life. As old as the age at which our great grandparents regularly died. Lucky to have gotten even this far, I suppose.

Did he do what he was supposed to do? Was he supposed to do anything? Did he influence people enough? He had an effect on me, a small influence, which I will remember. I knew him once. I can hear his laugh. I feel his warmth of spirit. And all I can say now is, Dan…  keep in touch. 

Going Home

Going home, to the apartment my parents still live in which I grew up, in New York City, in Chelsea, always feels like worlds colliding for me. The person I was vs the person I am vs the person I thought I’d be.

The New York that isn’t like New York anymore, just like I’m not like I was anymore.

My parents were out of town so I took six of my friends there. I did this a couple of years ago with two friends. Both times I learned to appreciate something new about the city.

It’s not easy hosting six other people, when they consider you the tour guide, and of course I haven’t lived there in twenty-five years. Then they don’t want to do what I suggest because they have their own ideas, and they all have different ideas, then we do what they want and they ask me all kinds of questions.

“I don’t know, this was your idea.”

It wasn’t like I was getting paid. So at times I thought it might have been more fun if we had been on neutral ground.

Some of the things they wanted to do, I didn’t want to do. Some of the things I wanted to do, they didn’t. I pushed them into something that turned out great. They did things I wanted that weren’t as good as I expected. They pushed me into things that I didn’t want to do that also turned out great.

Like citibikes.

When I was growing up, there were no bike lanes in the city. I used to ride my bike in the streets, like bike messengers, right in the middle of the road, to avoid double parked cars, and pretty much matched the speed of traffic. It was hairy, and I wouldn’t have taken a bunch of tourists on such a ride.

My family was not for Mayor Bloomberg’s push to take away car lanes and create bike lanes. We said, “this isn’t Europe, we can’t retrofit NYC, there already isn’t enough room for cars,” etc.

But my friends had done the bike thing in other cities, and they wanted to do it here, so, ok, whatever.

It turned out pretty damned easy and pretty damned good. I’m converted. And as far as cars are concerned, you really shouldn’t drive in New York anyway. So, as we say in New York, “fuck ’em.” 

One of my guests did get yelled at. “Watch out, citibike.” Part of the experience.

Also, I grew up in Manhattan. People who grow up in Brooklyn know Manhattan. People who grew up in Manhattan don’t know Brooklyn.  Goes for the other boroughs too.

Brooklyn, like Manhattan, isn’t what it used to be, but I don’t really know what it used to be, so we went to Brooklyn.  Walked the Brooklyn Bridge, found a good pub, picked up some more citibikes and even rode to Adam Yauch Park to pay my respects to the late founder of the Beastie boys, who I knew, and jammed with, even though I never particularly liked the Beastie Boys.

I love Brooklyn. 

Gotta move forward, I guess.

But still, lots of memories. It’s almost as if I didn’t want to be myself then, I wanted to move away, pretend I was someone else. And when I go back I’m sometimes mad that things have changed, and I wonder what happened to New York. I wonder what happened to me.

You know what I discovered? The best way to find out is to show others where you came from.

Let’s write about something important today.

I left Atlanta to visit my daughter in Pittsburgh last weekend. Actually we went there together to move her into her new house for her last year, and then I came home. I left from work and met her at the airport. We checked her three heavy bags, just under the limit, and ate at the sky club. I had jambalaya and a Sweetwater IPA with pineapple. The jambalaya was good. She had some mac and cheese and a little salad.

Our Lyft driver in Pittsburgh was less than a year younger than me. I know because he graduated high school in ‘83, and I was always one of the youngest in my class. He also told us that Pittsburgh was as upset when the Falcon’s lost the superbowl as if it had been the Steelers. They hate Tom Brady that much.

The new house had personality, and a great location. I got to meet one of her best friends who had already moved in. She made her room choice which was up another flight of narrow switchbacking stairs. Then we walked up “the hill” to her old place where we stayed the night. Her old place was nice, I had never been. It was well kept and clean, it had multiple bathrooms and a nice well stocked kitchen (there were many containers of gum in the drawer underneath the microwave). She showed me the bed and the chest of drawers that had to be moved, and the desk and the containers in the basement, and I decided to explore what it cost to get help. I found Big James through the U-haul website that I had rented our truck from, and decided to go for it. Best decision I ever made in my life.

We went out to dinner that night, took Lyft downtown to a thai restaurant she really liked, had dumplings and soup and shared a shrimp curry dish. Then we went to Hemingway’s, a bar back near the university where she once tried to get in with a fake ID which they pocketed telling her to, get out.  “Ok” she had said, and then called her friends who were already in there. This time they examined her out of state license for a long time before finally giving it back and letting us in. Despite being named after Hemingway it wasn’t at all like the Twains, or Steinbeck’s or James Joyce bars we have in her home town. We looked for homage to the writer but the closest thing we found was a picture of the guy that does the commercials for Dos Equis. The most interesting man in the world. They had a DJ and it was loud, but I wasn’t the oldest person in the place.  We had two Bell’s two hearted IPA’s which were on special, and yelled at each other for awhile. Then we walked up the hill to her old place. It was 1:30AM. We weren’t sure if anyone else was there (there wasn’t) so we were quiet. I slept on the floor on her sleeping bag. In the middle of the night I realized I needed a pillow and grabbed one from nearby that wasn’t hers (she was just storing it for a friend).

The sun woke us early, though we lied around for a bit. Our plan was to pick up the U haul at 12:30 run around and pick up a desk chair, end table and air conditioner that were for sale, and then meet Big James at 2. We took the bed apart and packed any loose items and were ready for the next step around 10:30. So we called the U-haul, moved our pick up time to 11, got there and waited in line for half an hour, took the truck, bought the used items made it back to the old place, backed ourselves perpendicular to the street into a spot that wasn’t big enough for the van and drove it up onto the sidewalk, and figured we still had time to make a first run, if we hurried and only took the easy stuff.

We loaded quickly, drove to the new place, and moved the stuff only to the first floor living room. We still hadn’t eaten lunch, but we were going to be late, when Big James called to say they were running late, we grabbed a couple of tacos from the stand across the street from her new place. Then headed back to the old place.

I was having trouble parking the van. I had to move a cinderblock while I was struggling to get the van up on the sidewalk. The owner of the house came out to ask me what I was doing.

“I don’t want to get a flat. I can put it back where it was when I’m done, if you want.”

“I’d appreciate it if you put it back when  you’re done.”

“So it’s there for a reason?”

“Yeah, so people don’t do what you’re doing.”

“Ah.”

Then we collided with a car that tried to scoot around me while I was trying to park. I told him it was his fault, he asked me about insurance and whether I had any damage, muttered something about Maaco and seemed relieved that I didn’t want to go to insurance, and left.

That’s when James appeared outside the window. It was a good thing we made a trip because the rest of my daughter’s stuff barely fit.

Within two hours we had loaded everything into the new place, even arranged the room a bit and most importantly, got the air conditioner in the window. Then I built the bed while she put things away. Then we went to eat again. We ate at a place I had been before that had perogies and $5 Mules, my 21 year old had the dark and stormy, and I had a long island mule.  Had soup, again, and shared a french dip sandwich.

Then we took the bus downtown and walked across a bridge to the incline, which we took up to the top of Mount Washington for a couple of selfies.

In the morning we ate at a local diner, had some “hotcakes,” that one reviewer gave only one star because they were, in his view, crepes, not hotcakes. But they were good, so who cares what you call them? We also had eggs, and toast and coffee and potatoes. All good.

Had some keys made, and I just had enough time to make it to the airport for my flight.

Everything was going my way. I was the last one on the flight, it was first in line to take off and I even got my pretzels and a club soda before things went south.

So now a flight attendant started looking out the window one row in front of me and across the aisle. Another flight attendant came and they all seemed like they were trying to look out the window. Then they pulled the cart back. I asked the guy sitting there what he saw. He said he didn’t see anything. Then the pilot comes on and says that they have some indication of a mechanical problem with the plane and will be diverting to Knoxville, and the next thing you know we are descending fast. We landed hard and there were fire trucks outside. They told us to stay put while the fire personnel did a once around, found nothing and we pulled up to the gate. A mechanic came on board and this is when we found out that the flight attendants weren’t looking out the window but they were leaning in because they thought they smelled smoke.

The woman in the row blamed it on her husband’s new french cologne. He asked her to stop saying that.

We deplaned and were told they would check out the plane and either we’d leave on the same plane, or they’d send us a “rescue” plane.

After a couple of  hours we got on the same plane and headed home. The couple that had been sitting in that row had apparently rented a car and finished their trip that way. Meanwhile I found out that they had examined the plane top to bottom, had removed all of the panels for multiple rows, found nothing, but had talked to the couple that sat in the only row where anyone thought they smelled anything and the couple admitted that they had been to a bonfire the night before, and had “changed their clothes,” (I guess that implies that they had not showered), but that everything they had still smelled like smoke.

How about that?

So, good weekend, and an exciting finish.

An Optimist

I’m an optimist, though my wife thinks she’s the optimist. Now, it’s true that I often seem dissatisfied, with my career, my accomplishments, even who I am. I’ve wished I was someone else for most of my life, honestly, except when I was pretending to be someone else as an actor. When I was playing a role, I was someone else and I liked that. She accepts her lot, says she is happy, has much of what she wants and can live without the rest. It is what it is, to her, at least she says so, and I have no reason to disbelieve her. So she may be happy. But happiness and optimism are not the same thing. I may be unhappy, but I believe things will get better, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, despite years of trying, despite regrets and failures. That’s optimism. I’ve been learning Spanish for 40 years! A pessimist would have given up by now. 

I’m also a romantic. My wife would probably laugh at that, I’m guessing, but she doesn’t know me as well as she thinks she does. I don’t think we have the kind of relationship where it feels safe to be romantic, to tell you the truth. It’s my fault (of course). In seriousness, I don’t know who’s fault it is. Blame it on the cow. But neither one of us is particularly romantic with the other, at least not the way that I define it. She may think that a nice dinner out is romantic, or a trip. She may think that the time she packed a bag for me, and surprised me at work and swept me away to a bed and breakfast for my 30th birthday was romantic. Most people would probably agree with her. In fact, writing it down, it does sound like that.

But the kind of romance I wish I had isn’t defined by anything she’s done or I’ve done or even think to do. I consider myself a romantic because I want that fantasy kind of love that people who don’t have it say doesn’t exist, that honeymoon that lasts forever. I want to feel like I can’t live without her, that she makes me happy, all by herself, and that I want to be like her. And I want her to feel the same about me. I want to love her so much that I believe in her when she doesn’t even believe in herself, that I can convince her how great she is, and help her to be her best. And I want it back. I’m not saying I’m a romantic just because I want to do romantic things. I want to feel it.

Now, maybe they’re right, maybe this doesn’t exist. Being romantic may be like having faith in something that has no scientific support. I’m not saying that it’s rational. I’m just saying it’s what I am.

I don’t think that she has that kind of faith. But I could be wrong, Maybe she’s just given up. Maybe we just haven’t found that niche with each other.

We have good times. We laugh together. We have, over many years grown towards each other, become a bit more like each other, whether we originally wanted to or not. But after all these years I still feel like she doesn’t really know who I am, or doesn’t appreciate who I want to be, or doesn’t believe in me. She shouldn’t have to. I don’t want her to lie. I should believe in myself. Maybe I convince her. Or maybe I test her love by being who she doesn’t think I am, who she may think that she doesn’t want me to be, and give her the opportunity to love that… or not.

Now there’s an interesting standard, a way to measure love? Why not? Not all love is the same. Maybe the gold standard of love, the highest level, so to speak, is when you want to be the other person. If you really appreciate what it would feel like to be her, then when you’re with her, you would take it on, empathetically, like it’s contagious. Or him. And if you like how it feels, who you have become in that moment, then you want to spend more time together. And the other side of that is when she does that to you, you get to appreciate yourself through the eyes of another. She, or he, helps you to appreciate your own self. But you need to get each other right too. You don’t want someone appreciating you for something you aren’t, and don’t want to be. That’s expectation to be something you’re not and pressure to change. He needs to appreciate her for what she wants to be, and vice versa. She needs to show him who she really is, and vice versa. That’s our part. Two people who feel like that about each other will grow stronger individually and as a team. They would learn from each other’s strengths, and leave the weaknesses to stagnate. Oh, and they would love each other. A lot.