Monthly Archives: September 2002

Rinse, repeat

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Exhausted. Not running, and I’ve got a race next week I’d like to do well in. But with all the stuff that has to get done at home, I’m not getting to sleep any too early, so I can’t get up in the mornings. Just not pushing myself hard enough to do it. Girls have been sick, so there are the middle of the night coughing spells. Lee needed help with the computer, which kept me up until midnight last night (Suitcase problems, which I didn’t resolve but was able to kluge around). I had wanted to go see Richard Russo at the Writers Institute last night, but of course I couldn’t because Hannah had a Girl Scout meeting and ceremony, and I had this computer problem hanging over my head. So that’s twice I’ve missed him. Oh well. Not important, just something I would have liked to have done.
I want my new bicycle so badly….
Tonight, Hannah’s ballet class. Trying to sneak in a run, either then or earlier in the day. Going to pour tomorrow and probably into Saturday. Must. Train. But it turns out my little bike loop I did on Sunday was a healthy 16 miles, so I felt good about that. Aerobically, I’m in the best shape of my life. That run, even with all the uphills, didn’t leave me winded or even a little bit sore. Not bad.

They say . . .

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“They say these are the good times
But they don’t live around here…”
For reasons that aren’t quite clear to me, I’m actually fairly torn up over the news that Warren Zevon has inoperable lung cancer. I knew when Joey Ramone was sick, and his death was a marker to anyone of my age who grew up with the Ramones. And I LOVE the Ramones, still, so it was a terrible shame. His last album had a cover of the old Louis Armstrong “Wonderful World” that was incredibly poignant and still rocked. But other than that, Joey hadn’t really done much to break ground in a long time. The Ramones were sui generis, and they did what they did, it was always great but it was nearly always the same. That was the point. Loved it.
But Zevon has been giving us more and more interesting songs, starting out cynical. The earliest Zevon song I know of is “Outside Chance,” covered by The Turtles: “You can try to please me / but it won’t come easy / Stone walls surround me / I’m surprised that you even found me / And you don’t stand an outside chance / No you don’t stand an outside chance / But you can try.” They really raved it up, too. And from there he got darker, but his darkness always had a little smirk. Of course, “Werewolves of London” and “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” established him, but then there are some songs of deep, desperate love as well (“you can’t start it like a car / you can’t stop it with a gun”). Ronstadt covers, and her best stuff, too. A little more obscurity and small club gigs all over, and I’ve never been able to catch him. “Splendid Isolation,” one of my all-time favorites, and the very funny “My Shit’s Fucked Up,” which now shows some extra meaning. Maybe he’s known for a long time. I haven’t really dug into the new album yet, the mood hasn’t been right. I can’t really listen to darkness when I’ve got my own darkness going on, that’s just wallowing. But the time will come and I’ll love the new songs, too, I’m sure.
I guess a guy whose logo is a grinning, smoking skull might have seen lung cancer coming. His ride’s here.

Okay, I’m over that

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Ignore that momentary loss of composure. A bad weekend, psychologically, spilled over. The thing is, I wait and wait for the weekends to come, and then there’s that whole glorious rollercoaster — Friday night, when anything’s possible (except that I never leave the house); Saturday, the wide open day when you can just do anything without repercussions or recrimination (except for back-to-back swimming and ballet lessons); and then Sunday, The Day That Cried, when you’re still free but soon you won’t be. Rinse, work like a dog for five days, repeat. I used to see the weekend cycle as a very common, pedestrian, undesirable thing; if I were truly cool, I wouldn’t have to rely on the weekend for my fun. Probably a healthy way to look at it back when I had to work weekends. Now, a weekend is to me what it is to most of the rest of America. I am what I am. This is my Non-Urban Life.
And so, when something emotionally gut-wrenching happens on Friday night, and it’s dragged on through the entire weekend, one arrives at Monday without any of the rest and refreshment one should have. And then one posts a dumb, depressing, mysterious blog.
And then one upbraids oneself for switching between the imperfect references in the second person and the use of the term “one”. And then one quits writing for the day.

9/11

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Lileks had a great observation this morning — he said that today felt more like 9/11 than tomorrow will, at least in part because it was a Tuesday, and Tuesday has a particular rhythm. He’s absolutely right, and I’m afraid if he hadn’t said that, I might not have understood why I just couldn’t get my ass out of bed and run this morning. Other than allergies.
But it was a Tuesday. A bright, sunny, impossibly beautiful Tuesday. (Not unlike today, though today we have a little fog on the river.) I was trying to take the week off, but there was a lot to do and so I had come in to work on Monday, and I was going to work just half the day on Tuesday and take off that afternoon and the rest of the week to do some blading and paddling and whatever else struck me. I was just settling in to some paper work and finishing off my coffee when (my secretary) Stephanie’s husband called and said a plane had struck the World Trade Center. We started making calls and getting people to attention because our agency is often called on to assist in air disasters, and this one might need some hazardous materials information, etc. But my initial thought, like most people’s, was that it was some small plane that had veered off the sightseeing run and this would not be a big deal. We had just moved into our new building a couple of months before and didn’t have TVs hooked up yet, so there was a scramble to get a TV or two set up, and I was trying to get CNN on the web but CNN and most of the other news sites were quickly bogged down in traffic. Then we got a call that another plane had hit, and we knew we were under attack.
The first thing we did was figure out who from Central Office here in Albany was in New York. On any given day, it could be a couple of dozen people. For some reason that day there was very little travel to New York, and in fact we had a number of people from federal agencies at meetings here in Albany. We had a number of people in the DC area, and when we learned of the Pentagon attack, we tried to get hold of them. Cell phones can be next to useless on a normal day in some parts of DC because there’s so much traffic, and that Tuesday they were of course inundated all up and down the coast. So we put in calls to hotels and offices where we thought our people were and tried to get in touch with them. It took a while, but we were able to find them all, tell them the situation, help them get rental cars so they could return home. One of my key people was on a regional visit out on Long Island and couldn’t get home, so I asked him to stay put there until we knew whether we might need him for the response.
The towers fell while all that was happening. It was unthinkable. How could the towers just fall?
But they did.
And they were still burning.
The people here at DEC were phenomenal. As soon as it became clear we’d need people down at the site, we had volunteers. The air staff started figuring out how we could best monitor what was going on in the air, because it was clear this fire would be burning for a while. The solid waste staff immediately started thinking about how the debris would be moved. And once we’d figured out the logistics and established rotations, people went down and did what needed to be done. We were constantly called on for advice and assistance, and we used our relationships with our neighboring states to smooth the process of waste movement. It would be weeks before we had it down to a routine, but our people rose to every challenge.
At some point I called Lee to see what the schools were doing and to get ready to try to explain this to the girls. One of the hardest things for a parent is being called on to explain something you don’t quite understand yourself. Your job is to tell the kids that everything will be all right. That was a very hard thing to say last September 11. It’s still an open question.
The next months were hard, tiring, unrelenting. Lots of interpreting and explaining, lots of testifying. My respect for the press dropped another few dozen notches, fueled in part by my being deliberately and viciously misrepresented by a “Pulitzer-prize-winning” reporter. My respect for the Pulitzer prize dropped considerably, too. We had had a dry run for this with West Nile Virus — everybody who can do a Google search thinks they’ve got the latest, best information, and since it’s not what the government is saying, the government must be lying! Guess what, folks: information does not equal understanding. The experts don’t know everything, but neither does the guy who says the experts are all wrong.
Out of this comes the opportunity to create something very very cool in lower Manhattan, which I can’t wait to see.
So, today does feel like the day, and I’m just a bit weary and sad and tired from the past year. And I don’t think that tomorrow I’ll go to any ceremonies or candlelight vigils or any of that stuff. It’s just not my way. I’m hoping that I’ll just be able to go home from work and get supper and homework out of the way and go for a run around the lake with my daughter and that will be remembrance enough.

Tired

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Life in the land of the broken-armed continues. Caught the younger one riding no-handed on the bike path yesterday and viciously invoked the NO INJURIES!!! policy, which is in full effect for the foreseeable future. She who has been riding a two-wheeler for all of three weeks now. But she IS very good at it.One day she can’t ride a bike, the next day she can, and the day after that she can get started all by herself. Go figure.
Things are easing up a little bit, but I spent at least part of the elementary school welcome back picnic on Friday afternoon negotiating a bill over a cell phone, which makes me officially an asshole. At least for those few minutes. What choice did I have? Hey, I didn’t place the call, pal! Lee had a little less pain and some more mobility this weekend, but wasn’t up for anything involving crowds of people who might bump into her shoulder and cause her to scream, so we skipped the tugboat festival. Yesterday we went out to Niskayuna and hit the bike path, I skated and the girls rode, we probably got in 4 or 5 miles, which isn’t bad. I want to get Hannah up to the Lake George / Glens Falls trail (so that I can go), but she’ll have to be up for about 14 miles if we’re going to do half the stretch. It’s been my favorite skate the last couple of years, but with The Summer Without Days Off, I have been unable to go this year. If I get her her own Camelbak, she’ll do it. Plus, I’ll buy her ice cream once we get to Lake George.
Still recovering my Mac from a deadly hard drive crash. What drudgery. Didn’t lose much, but I did lose my fireworks pics from the opening of the Hudson River Way, which were excellent. May still get them back.

Cue the heart-swelling music, and get the Lifetime channel on the phone!

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My 9-year-old daughter was in our bedroom this morning, brushing her hair. We were listening to an NPR report on how lower Manhattan is faring, nearly one year after the attacks. Its general gist was that small businesses are struggling and haven’t gotten the aid they needed, and it’s still uncertain whether they’ll make it or not, but that the residential market was booming, and that even some of the former office space was being converted to residences and sold out before it was complete.
And Hannah said, “Daddy, you must have done a good job of convincing people it was safe to live in Manhattan again.” I could have cried.

Lazy, tired, or both

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Meaning I didn’t get up for my run this morning, though I couldn’t quite get back to sleep, either. Hoping I’ll get out for a lunchtime run.
Not having my computer for more than a week really really sucks. There are pictures to scan and Photoshop, CDs to burn, etc., etc., and none of it is getting done. In fact, if my plan for recovering my hard drive fails, I’ve lost a lot of recent work because I hadn’t backed it all up. So shame on me. But I had backed most of it up, so good for me. On top of it all, the ice cream stand closed early last night, so when I had finished with the grocery shopping I hadn’t wanted to do and paid overdue fees on the videos from the weekend, there was no peanut-butter-cup Flurry waiting for me.
Jen Sincero’s “Don’t Sleep With Your Drummer” is a total hoot. Now that I’m done with it, I’ve got the new book of Richard Russo stories to read while I wait through swim lessons and ballet class tomorrow. I wish I had an iBook, so I could do some of my work while sitting on my ass on hard floors waiting for my daughters, but I can’t quite justify it. My actual need is for a new bike. A fast bike. A lightweight bike. Perhaps a Bianchi Strada?
Perhaps.

Sticks and stones and broken bones

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Well, okay, only the last part. Got a call at the end of the day Friday, just before Labor Day weekend, just as I was about to leave to go up to retrieve the G4 and its fried hard drive. Hannah calls and says her mother has fallen off her bike at the school and hurt herself and I need to come and get them. I asked if Lee was able to talk, and she was, she said she thought she may have dislocated her shoulder and she needed me to manage the girls. So off I go, half wondering if I shouldn’t just call 911, but it only takes a few minutes to get there. I call again to figure out which entrance to go to, Lee answers and sounds worse to me but I’m almost there. I get there and she’s slumped against the wall, obviously very hurt. The girls are locking up their bikes. We get the last bike into the rack and load the girls into the truck, and I try to help Lee up and she screams from the pain. Get her into the truck, several more screams. She’s not looking good. Start to drive and the bouncing is too much for her, so at that point we decide to get her to the rescue squad, which isn’t far, because I’ll never get her to the hospital myself with the pain she’s in. I’m worried she’s headed toward shock. Get to the rescue squad, and no one is there. A mechanic from across the street is working in one of the bays and gets the dispatcher on the phone, and they send out the call and one of the ambulances arrives. In the meantime, I’m being asked questions that sound like they’re probing as to whether I broke her arm, but maybe I was being sensitive. Anyway, it took a while to get her into a sling and on a backboard, but they managed. They didn’t think it was broken, but they were wrong.
Calls to grandparents while taking the girls for a quick stop at home, they wanted their stuffed animals to comfort them. They had been so brave but once we had her in the hands of the rescue squad they both set to wailing, hugging each other in the back seat and crying their eyes out. Got the animals, some snacky stuff for the emergency room, and the bike rack, picked up the bikes on the way and off to the emergency room. We got to see Lee, more comfortable but still in awful pain, and then I sent the girls off with their grandparents for the night. We got to the emergency room around 4 and were out of there at about 9:30, had to stop at the only 24-hour pharmacy in the area on the way, which took forever, during which Lee slept in the car and I paced with worry that something might happen to her out there.
So all of Labor Day weekend was a blur of painkillers and Raisinets, “The Great Escape” and doing lots and lots of laundry. Her pain is less now but not gone. The break set well and won’t require surgery, thankfully. Two emergency room visits in one summer is enough, thank you.
Said it before, will say it again: I’m freaked out by being The Healthy One. That’s not how it’s supposed to be.
Finally felt safe taking time away for a run on Monday morning. Felt so good, I added twenty minutes. Race coming up. Need to train. Dammit!