Came off the exit ramp and around the corner yesterday, and what was standing on the corner but a woman in colonial garb and a tri-corner hat speaking to a bunch of kids wearing yarmulkes. Absolutely surreal.
And for once I’m well-situated. I finally found a copy of Marshall Crenshaw’s “Sock it to Me Santa (Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag)” at the end of the last Christmas season — I would swear I had a copy of it somewhere, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Not on any tape, not on any CD, and yet I knew the song perfectly, so I MUST have owned it. Finally found a copy on a lame compilation disc with some Boyz II Men and Whitney Houston type stuff, but by then I was desperate and I got it used through Amazon, so w.t.f. And, drum roll please . . . I actually ordered my Christmas cards last night. I did NOT have Snapfish mail them for me, though there’s that option, too. Full fold photo cards so that I can write something (I usually do, which is why Christmas cards get out every other year). Should have them in a couple of weeks, maybe even start addressing and writing them this month.
THIS IS THE YEAR! I WILL SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS!
and, the blood pressure of a teenage girl
Mainly, when I’m actually thinking of something worth writing down and putting out into the ether is NOT when I’m sitting at a computer. It’s in the shower, or doing dishes, great thoughts that I fail to put on a post-it and therefore never find their way into any of my various communications with the world and myself. Then I sit down at the blog and have nothing interesting to say.
Well, I turned 42, which surprised me. Well, I guess I’m not surprised anymore, but there certainly was a time when I didn’t expect to get here, figuring health or drinking or something like that would cut it short and sweet. But here I am, dry and happy, lo these many years, and healthier than I have ever been.
But I had a couple of spells of lightheadedness last week. I was absolutely certain it had something to do with some phenomenally hot habanero sauce I was sampling, but as the only reliably healthy person in the household, I had to make sure, so I went to the doc. My blood pressure is low, my resting pulse is low (55 at waking), and he watched my blood pressure fall twenty points as I stood up (that’s down into double digits on the topside), so he thought the extra dilation of the habaneros was indeed probably the cause. He said he mostly sees this in teenage girls, and that I essentially have the blood pressure of a teenage girl. Last year when I was having heel problems, he did an x-ray and told me I had the ankles of a 20-year-old. I wonder if he’s hitting on me?
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 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.
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.
That’s from a Townes Van Zandt song. “Everything is not enough / Nothing is too much to bear / Where you been is good and gone / All you keep is the gettin’ there.”
Trying to remind myself that nothing is too much to bear. Sometimes I wonder.
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.
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.
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.