We only come out at night

6 04 2020

The walking has become a thing.

I started the night-walks as a distraction from myself, thought I’d go out every once and awhile, but it’s been every night since that first night—with the exception of this past Saturday, when I day-walked.

Mistake.

It was sunny, and while I only hate the sun in July and most of August, it was all wrong. Too bright, too hard: everything was too distinct.

I was restless at home, and thought, what the hell, get my walk in now, maybe venture down some of the alleys I had spotted in Crown Heights.

Aside: Yes, alleys! I love alleys, but Brooklyn is not known for them, and I pretty much assumed you could only find them in a few, tv-famous areas of Manhattan, but one night-walk through CH and I spotted alley after alley after alley.

First thought: Am I going to go down there? Hell, yeah!

Second thought: It’s dark, and this is still New York.

So I waited until Saturday, and as I was making my way back through CH, I glimpsed down those alleys and thought: No.

We’re all mostly confined to our own patches, and for me to have strolled through that back patch would have felt like trespassing, like I was impinging upon what little private space those people had.

I don’t know if that makes sense, but that is the sense I had. We’re mostly tethered to those private spaces, but to have walked—in a public lane, to be sure—in the back of that space would have seemed a violation.

Anyway. Back to the main drag: Not only was everything too set apart in the day, it was also much more obvious that the city was shut down. Empty playgrounds on a sunny day are not normal, and all of the shops which should have been open were instead gated, some with signs saying Sorry. . . COVID-19. . . .

Those signs are still there at night, of course, but pulled-down gates at night are the norm.

Is that it? That night-walking allows some normalcy that the light strips away?

Eh, I don’t think so. My area of Brooklyn is a social place, and were it not for this virus people would be out on the corners or stoops just hanging out wherever; now, there are few of us out.

More likely is that that initial night-walk awakened the memory that this is something I can do; whatever else happens, this I can do.





And the beat goes on

30 03 2020

I am slowly going mad.

I like being alone. I like choosing to be alone. To be alone because I can be nothing else is. . . too much, not enough. Not nearly enough.

How are you?

~~~

I used to walk at night, when I was younger. I walked around Falls some, but this really took off when I lived in Madison. Over to Lake Mendota, out to Picnic Point, or back behind Breese Terrace, looping around the chancellor’s house, sitting on swings in dark parks in neighborhoods built for kid-kids, not college kids.

This continued in grad school, Minneapolis. Walks through Loring Park and the sculpture garden and down Nicollet and to the river, bridges over the river.

I wasn’t well, then, but I can’t fault the nighttime roaming. And my sorrows got some airing-out.

I still walk, of course, but in New York, the walking is always to and fro, from here to there. And almost always during the day.

~~~

But I am, as I said, slowly going mad. I have work—teaching at a distance and still the second job (also at a distance)—and we are not literally locked down. I go across the street for milk and yogurt, over to Flatbush for bagels.

We can still run. I still run.

Here to there, here to there, and home again.

~~~

So, tonight, a night stroll, just around, just to see.

I live near central Brooklyn’s hospital complex. I’m used to ambulances, so I can’t say if there are more; there are plenty, regardless.

East down my street. There were few of us out, some of us masked, some not. The closer to the hospital, the more scrubs, the more masks. Across the street from an ER, in one fast-food place, everyone, workers, customers, wore masks; in the other, none did.

Further east. It’s so quiet. Usually in a damp night sound carries, but tonight, the silence carried.

Turn north, past black women in blue scrubs, bonnets, masks; past the psychiatric buildings, high fences all around, light in every window.

There’s a school, half-lit and empty, classrooms above in a long slow curve around the side, like a weary spaceship waiting for its crew.

Down past the handball court, I notice the one-story railroad apartments. This is low Brooklyn, hidden behind the height of the hospitals and the arch new buildings for the nursing students and medical residents.

I pass a couple of men, one offering the other gloves. Nah, man, he says, holding up a roll of paper towels, I got this. I lose that thread as I notice a building that looks abandoned, but there’s a red blip for keyless entry.

Crabwise, west now. A man stepping off his stoop smiles and says “Make it home safe, mama.” I half-say “You, too,” before realizing he’s leaving his home. “Have a safe night,” I call instead.

Down Nostrand, the noise picks up. The usual ambulances, and the one alarm, a block away? that sounds like a whole building yelling out a London OO-EE! OO-EE!

The women waiting at the bus stop wear masks. I check the driver; he’s wearing a mask.

My laundromat, usually open, is closed, gates where windows would be. Gates up and down the street.

I forget to look up to the sky before heading in.

~~~

I have to remember, there is more than just me, more than the texts and the emails and the voices in the radio. We are not abstractions.

Brooklyn is right here, it’s all around me, a real place.

It’s easy to miss this, during the day, when it all seems like a backdrop, mere scenery on my way to somewhere else.

I forgot that I can see so much better at night.





One foot in front of the other

23 01 2010

I’ve become such a lard ass.

It’s not (just) that my diet has gone to hell, but that I’ve basically stopped moving.

Oh, I get up to get my coffee and I walk to the train and I take the stairs, but beyond that and some basic weight-lifting, nada.

I’ve been physically active my entire life. The 1970s were a time of mothers shoving their kids out the door and saying ‘Go play!’, as in, Get out my hair for awhile.

The adults did what they had to do, and we did what we had to do—which involved a combination of innocent exploring and things best not revealed to the adults.

Both sides preferred it that way.

So we went off roaming around backyards and alleys and streets, racing our bikes and clambering up trees and over fences, and trying to scrape off any excess mud and blood before making our ways through the back doors at dinner- or bed-time.

We didn’t call it exercise, of course. We called it play.

I did start ‘exercising’, I guess, in high school, where I ran cross-country and track and played basketball, but even then, it more about ‘going out for sports.’

College was running and biking and ‘staying in shape.’

Only in grad school did I really start ‘exercising,’ as in, joining a gym, lifting weights, swimming laps, and running or biking in place.

It  was fine, really, especially once I fell into a routine: hit the gym in the late morning, then head over to the poli sci department for the rest of my day.

There was, of course, down time in grad school and after, but it was rare that exercise lapsed for more than half a year.

Until I moved to New York. I biked a lot my first summer here, but after that, not so much. There was also some running, but I never managed to keep at it long enough to stick. My job at the bookstore at least required that I move around a fair bit, and when working three jobs there was lots of veryfastwalking to and from the trains.

But it’s been awhile since I worked at the bookstore, and I spend a laaaaahhhhht of time online.

Hence: lard ass.

I’m not fat, although I have gained weight, but I don’t feel right. I’m used to feeling fit, that I can take care of myself, and lately I’ve just felt bogged down. I’ve also had a few issues with my gut, which was well-behaved before I, well, stopped moving.

As mentioned in early January, I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but it did occur to me that if I were dissatisfied with my degeneration into an indigestion-ridden blob, I might just consider doing something about it.

So many excuses not to: I can’t afford a gym. I need to find a job. I don’t have time. Later, I promise.

Well, I did find another job, and while I still can’t afford a gym, it’s not truly necessary. [*Update: There’s a gym in DT Brooklyn which is mighty cheap, so perhaps. . . .] Furthermore, instead of thinking I need to give 90 minutes every day over to sweating, maybe I could start small, by, say, walking. Briskly.

I do prefer to run, but starting a running routine from too far in out-of-shape-land is a recipe for failure. Nope, I need to trim myself up a bit, remind myself of what it’s like to propel myself along, and then, once it’s light enough long enough after work, I can start running or biking again. Hell, I’m less than a 15-minute walk to the southern end of Prospect Park, which is a lovely place in which to breathe deeply.

So, I’ve begun taking those walks. I’ll be working an office job M-F and teaching Th & F nights, but I figure I can simply get off the train at my usual transfer point and walk the remaining leg at least the nights I’m not teaching and, depending upon my mood, the trains, and the weather, perhaps even those nights as well. And then on the weekends, longer walks in the park.

If I manage to keep to the highly-manageable schedule of 5 days of walking a week, I figure I can graduate to running and biking by the time the light lasts into the night.

That’s the plan, at least.

I miss those days in which I didn’t even have to think about my body, when I could simply jump off the back stoop and tear off to the nearest trouble.

C’est la vie. My jumping and tearing off days may be over, but I can still move.

Oh yeah, for an old broad, I can still get around.