Browse Category: Social Commentary

Between Storms

The next storm is rolling in
The next storm is rolling in

It was a crazy day with storms rolling through one after another. They started mid-morning. I had thrown up my hands by then and said, “There go my running plans! They’re calling for storms all day and night now!” It rained HARD at that point. Streams of muddy water were rushing down the shoulders of our road. My plans were washed away.

However, the sun came out a few hours later. It was warm and windy, enough to dry the roads and sidewalks. I looked at the sky and thought, Maybe I can get a 30 minute run in before the next storm. There was no hope of going off to the trails for a few hours. Running in rain is fine. But getting caught out in a thunderstorm isn’t cool. So I drove over to a nearby park. There’s a lake with a paved walkway that’s 1.2 miles long. There’s shelter there if needed. I would be satisfied with three laps around that lake.

While out there I thought, There’s got to be a metaphor for life in this attempt to run between storms. It’s kind of like “make hay while the sun shines.” Or “God only gives us what we’re strong enough to handle.” Well, maybe not that one. Storms happen regardless of whether we’re strong enough or even prepared to survive them. A storm can be devastatingly destructive. But do we make the best of the times between the storms, the lulls, the calms? Do we get our miles in while the sun shines? Sometimes storms come fast and furious. There may not be much time to even catch our breath in between.

Here are some things to do in between the storms of life:

  • Learn from the storms. What did we learn about our strengths and weaknesses during a storm? What did we learn about those around us? What did we learn about life itself?
  • Prepare for the next storm. We might not know what the next storm will be or when it will arrive. But we can be prepared. We can listen for the sound of distant thunder. We can seek shelter: we can pray, we can think, we can be proactive. We can have stores of provisions in waiting to sustain us through the next storm.
  • Avoid the next storm. Sometimes we come to realize that we put ourselves in harm’s way too often. As we get wiser we can avoid some storms by simply making better choices, living a more honest life, being kinder to others, or being more aware of the harm others intend us. It’s foolish to go out into the woods for a run when we hear the thunder coming. We can avoid that storm.
  • Put in your miles while you can! It’s hard to make progress when the urgency of a storm is occupying all our resources. Get stuff done in between storms! Use your strengths! Be creative! Be constructive! Gain ground while the ground is dry! Make the gosh dang hay while the sun shines!
  • Enjoy the calm. Be at peace. Get some rest. Think. Meditate. Contemplate. Have some fun. Feel good. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes.

Morons in Love

Morons in Love
Morons in Love

At some point early on Sunday morning while I was running my Tammany Loops (See my post: “Early Morning Tammany Loops”.), during my second loop to be exact, some knucklehead spray painted the above endearment along the red dot trail. Some time between 7:15 and 8:30 AM the deed was done.

I remember what it was like being young and crazy about a girl, “in love,” as they say. I remember writing a girl’s name all over my desk in 6th grade. Come to think of it, I wrote a different girl’s name all over a desk a few years later.

Then I remember an act of vandalism I inflicted upon the unused factory across the street from our house when I was 15. I spray painted letters on one of the doors. They were letters of true love. They were not for a girl. They were for a band.

LED
ZEP

My old neighbor, Mr. Bennett, thought for sure it was someone with the initials “LED” in love with someone else with the initials “ZEP.” He was about 500 years-old, drove a big old station wagon, had a wife who was OCD about washing her hands constantly, and he had a plot of land a few miles down Route 31 where he grew an abundance of vegetables. He was kind enough to give our family plenty of tomatoes and zucchini. I’ll never forget the day he pointed over toward the factory and said to me, “Look at that, Sammy. Must be somebody in love.” I thought, You moron, it’s a band! The best band in the world! Thinking about it now, he probably wasn’t as senile as I took him to be and probably saw me painting the damn door the day before, like a knucklehead.

My family had a Ford Torino in those days. When my stepfather was at work and my mom was occupied with my baby sister, I would take the keys and drive that car, a pukey tan colored boat, up our gravel driveway onto the street, down the Bennett’s driveway and around their house, over and over like it was the Indy 500. Mr. Bennett got a kick out of it. He also seemed to think I was as innocent as a Boy Scout. He never knew that I cut a corner too close and took a chunk of cement off his house with that Torino. (My stepfather took a chunk out of my hide that day though!) Mr. Bennett also did not know how I and my best friend, who turned me on to “LED ZEP” in the first place, used to throw the rocks from the gravel driveway to bust out the windows of that old factory. Sometimes we used our Wrist Rocket slingshots.

But I digress in telling you about what a moron I was as a teenager. All I intended to do with this post was say that there is really no excuse for graffiti in the woods. What is the point?? Or is “MB 03 05 A…(What is that? A backward D?)” a new band I don’t know about? Either way, you got the first letter right: M. For moron. Because if you think the hikers and runners will pause to appreciate your sign of deep and true love, you, my friend, are a moron.

Here is New York

Near the end of E. B. White’s essay, “Here is New York,” published in 1949, there are these prophetic paragraphs:

The subtlest change in New York is something people don’t speak much about but is in everyone’s mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.

All dwellers of cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold steady, irresistible charm.

It used to be the Statue of Liberty was the signpost that proclaimed New York and translated it for all the world. Today Liberty shares the role with Death. Along the East River, from the razed slaughterhouses of Turtle Bay, as though in a race with the spectral flight of planes, men are carving out the permanent headquarters of the United Nations – the greatest housing project of them all. In it’s stride, New York takes on one more interior city, to shelter, this time, all governments, and to clear the slum called war. New York is not a capital city – it is not a national capital or a state capital. But it is by way of becoming the capital of the world. The buildings, as conceived by architects, will be cigar boxes set on end. Traffic will flow in a new tunnel under First Avenue. Forty-seventh Street will be widened (and if my guess is any good, trucks will appear late at night to plant tall trees surreptitiously, their roots to mingle with the intestines of the town). Once again the city will absorb, almost without showing any sign of it, a congress of visitors. It has already shown itself capable of stashing away the United Nations – a great many of the delegates have been around town during the past couple of years, and the citizenry has hardly caught a glimpse of their coattails or their black Homburgs.

This race – this race between the destroying planes and the struggling Parliament of Man – it sticks in all our heads. The city at last perfectly illustrates both the universal dilemma and the general solution, this riddle in steel and stone is at once the perfect target and the perfect demonstration of nonviolence, of racial brotherhood, this lofty target scraping the skies and meeting the destroying planes halfway, home of all people an all nations, capital of everything, housing the deliberations by which the planes are to be stayed and their errand forestalled.

A block or two west of the new City of Man in Turtle Bay there is an old willow tree that presides over an interior garden. It is a battered tree, long suffering and much climbed, held together by strands of wire but beloved of those who know it. In a way it symbolizes the city: life under difficulties, growth against the odds, sap-rise in the midst of concrete, and the steady reaching for the sun. Whenever I look at it nowadays, and feel the cold shadow of the planes, I think: “This must be saved, this particular thing, this very tree.” If it were to go, all would go – this city, this mischievous and marvelous monument which not to look upon would be like death

Dear E. B., just over 50 years later, the “perverted dreamers” with just two planes appeared to be winning the race of which you wrote. The “struggling Parliament of Man,” to many of us, has not lived up to the expectations which you and others held for it at the time its home was being planted in Turtle Bay. The “spectral flight of planes” has taken on corpreal horror for New Yorkers, for those of us who love New York, for Americans, and for civilized people the world over. There does not appear to be a way by which to “clear the slum called war.”

Photo by Masatomo Kuriya/Corbis Sygma
Photo by Masatomo Kuriya/Corbis Sygma

Also, Mr. White, sadly, they cut down the old willow tree in 2009.

Happily, New York still stands.

(My own thoughts shortly after 9/11 can be found in my post “I Love New York”.)