Tag Archives: mind

“‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly: Fa-La-La-La-La, La-La, La-La!”

“Could we get more cashiers behind this register?!”

It was a woman’s voice, quite strained.

Sucked into the 400-page vortex of my soon-to-be purchased new book, I hadn’t payed any attention to the proceedings at my local Barnes and Noble, while I waited for my turn, in line.  But it’s not like I harbored any high expectations from this impulsive detour I’ve taken on my way home, at the height of the holiday shopping season.

First, I had to get through the parking lot of the main boulevard leading to this shopping mall.  Not a problem, I thought.  I could call the damn store — and put my item on hold; then trip out on my packing list, while sitting in traffic.

Then, there was the Korean owner of a dry cleaners who appeared on the brink of going postal from the absence of a Merchant Teller at my Chase.  I tried to save the day:

“Would you like to go ahead of me?” I sheepishly offered.  (“That’s some holiday magic for you, woman!” I thought while staring at the corrugated surface of her forehead.  She wasn’t sure about me.)

She took my offer.  Didn’t say thank you.

“You’re welcome,” I shrugged.

Instead of leaving the parking lot and joining the caravan of smoggy vehicles and their annoyed drivers, I left my ride at Chase and walked over to the Barnes and Noble.  Nothing like getting towed for the holidays, but my current grasp on sanity was a lot more important.

And normally, I would have to shoot down some sarcastic commentary in my my own head, in order to enjoy the experience of having way too many choices and holiday inspired displays — at any store.  But when it came to bookstores, I wouldn’t care if the sales people were promoting their merchandise in the nude.

(Come to think of it, I would actually prefer it that way:

Written on the Body — in hardback edition!”

The Breast — at 15% percent off!  30% — for members only!”

I could live with that, I think.)

Now, there would be a disheartening moment I could already foresee through the window, from outside:  A display of Valentine’s Day themed gadgets, Nook covers and writing supplies.

“Nope!  Not at all weird!” I talked myself out of succumbing to my traditionally sarcastic mindset.

(At least, in New York, I could walk away from it all.  Take a different route.  Go to a different branch.  Get off a packed subway car — and wait for the next train.  In this city, avoiding crowds also entailed avoiding their vehicles:  And those usually took up much more space!)

But look at how rad I was being:  Smiling at other pedestrians, communicating with the parking attendants and security guards!  Keeping my cool while riding the escalator behind a woman who blocked my — and everyone else’s — way with her shopping bags!

“She’s just being generous!” I talked my head out of a looming fit.

The three-level store opened in front of me in all of its giant-windowed glory.  Despite the chilly temperatures, the sunshine lit up the dust bunnies suspended in the columns of light.  They were sparkling.

“Did someone butcher Tinker Bell, on the third floor?” that one got away from me.  I wasn’t even being flippant.  Just funny, in my dark Russian way.  I smiled.  Tinker Bell:  Butchered.  Funny.

The end tail of the check-out line reached me as soon as I passed through those security towers that shortened my lifespan every single time they went off.

“Is this the line…?” I asked a lanky young man reading, by the look of it, some poetry.

“For the check-out?” he finished my sentence.  “Yes.”

No worries.  I could do that.  That’s all good.  Armed with a discounted copy of the Steve Jobs’ biography, I determinedly began losing track of time.

“Could we get more cashiers behind this register?!” was the first thing that brought me back from my trip.

It was a woman’s voice.  I turned around.

She was of a dignified age, with short hair bleached to the shade of being invisible.  What ever was exposed of her chest and arms was covered with age spots.  Her hands were manicured and clasping a Louis Vuitton wallet.  The woman was bejeweled so heavily, I could study her for the duration of my remaining time in that line:  A gold and diamond wedding ring, three other diamond rings on the other hand.  The Love Cartier bracelet (a.k.a. the Chastity Belt for America’s feminists).  A few tangled diamond tennis bracelets.  And all this — before I had a chance to study to her neck.

But it’s her face that deserved a double take.  Her lips, actually.  She was pressing them together after uttering her customer complaint and viciously staring at the skinny child manning the Nook counter, baffled by her request.  I briefly entertained a thought about the origins of her smile:  Was that the smile that earned her the family jewels now weighing down her slightly trembling hands?  Or were they a consequence of it?

Sensing my mind venturing out into its jaded ideas on this woman’s marriage, I immediately reined it in, and focused on the smirking face on the cover of my book.

There is a split, you see, in the mind of an immigrant:  ME — in US; then ME — outside of THEM (who are US, some of the time).  Or, is it a head trip of an artist straining her empathy against the people she means to portray well?

“And Just Like The River, I Been A Runnin’ — Ever Since!”

[Continued from July 31, 2011]

But who knows just how long we’ve all been running.  I haven’t been watching the mile markers:  They’ll only make me psych myself out.

It’s all in mind, you see.  The game — is all in the mind.  The race, the run, the marathon.  So, I rein mine in:  I don’t judge other humans — and I don’t compete.

This sport — is in the very doing of it:  You against you.  And if you do it for the love of you — you’ll go farther, and longer.

This City — THE City — has taught me that.

Speaking of THE City:  We have now been unleashed into Her.  After warming up and hydrating us quite plenty in the park, the masterful, gracious hosts of my first half-marathon have opened the gates — and straight onto Haight we go.  I have been watching my breath until now, while running through the park:  It’s a resilience thing.  But here is where it skips, I must say.  I’m breathless:  This City — is a vision!

The locals have spilled out onto the streets once designed by someone with unreasonable imagination:  Families, youngsters, couples — of all shades, shapes, ages and sexes; teenagers in want of inspiration or curiosity; children with dreamy eyes, and dogs — with confused ones.  Funky descendants of hippies that have long ago migrated here:  They’re beautiful boys with long hair and girls with compassionate faces.

“…V to the izz-A!” Sean Carter starts hollering into my ear, from my running playlist.  “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 8th Wonder of the World!”  Yep.  This City — THE City — deserves no less!

Lovers in various relationships have been watching us from each other’s embraces or from the opposite windows of their half of a hexagon rotundas.  A lonesome woman timidly smiles at me, from her second floor balcony; and in the midst of her sadness, I think:

“When was the last time she was found beautiful?”

“Beautiful!” I holler up to her, simultaneously with “H to the izz-O!”.

At every intersection, every traffic light, the San Francisco policemen and women remind me of volunteering Hells Angels; and they do one of two stances:  Either they root themselves through their black-leather-bound legs (they’ve got this!). Or they pace while swooshing their gloved hands through the air in the direction of the finish line.

But who knows just how long we’ve been running, and how much longer we’ve got left!  Who knows — and who the hell cares?!

A glorious family of six has taken over an island in the middle of a street — all blonde, tall, and boho-chic — and they have been extending their hands into the avalanche of runners crashing down the hill.  I haven’t greeted that gesture yet, from anyone:  It’s a resilience thing.  But the youngest of the family, standing at the very end of the island, like the broody teenager he is supposed to be, shakes his tousled surfer curls out of his face and studies me with his blue-gray eyes.

“Looks like Joseph — my future son,” flashes across my mind.

Joseph extends his hand, right in front of my womb — and I tap it.  His hand feels dry and callused, belonging to the young man that he is supposed to become.

A symphonic tune begins winding up and Bono comes in, screeching:  “At the moment of surrender, I folded to my knees.”  I tear up.

Soon, my baby-boy.  I shall see you very soon, back in this City:  THE City.

An older couple is jogging slowly.  I wait for a reasonable gap in between them and I pass:

“I’m right behind you,” I hear her say to her man.

“I’m not going anywhere!” he responds.

Who knows just how long we’ve all been running.  I haven’t been watching the mile markers:  It’s a resilience thing.

At every water station, I soak up the faces of the volunteers.  I lap ‘em up, actually, drink them all in; and regardless that “resilience thing” of mine, I make sure to thank them.  The very specific, very studious boy with dreadlocks who is sweeping the plastic cups from under our feet, the crunch of which has become my own mile marker:  He extends his free arm to salute us with a victory sign and doesn’t crack a smile.  This is no laughing matter here!  This is THE City:  United!

The Asian boy that has handed me water:  While I find my mouth busy with the sensation of it, I thank him with a kind tap over his heart.  He grins.  He’s wearing braces.

A brown girl gives me both of her cups, then pumps the air with her fist:  Power!

Here comes in Nina Simone, right on time and perfectly poignant, as always:  “Yeah!  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,”  My steps are liking her rhythm.  Take it away, you goddess!  And, oh, how she does! Alright ye!”  

I pick up the pace.

An aging small man is jogging calmly with an aging small dog trailing right behind.  They aren’t in any rush.  They’re just doing their thing.

A woman with some handicap affecting the evenness of her stride:  You do your thing, love!  You do your thing!  And don’t EVER let anyone treat you inconsequentially!

The two young men in nerdy knit hats are in the midst of a chill conversation:  Awesome!  I pass ‘em.

The two poster boys for what health looks like up in the Bay are strutting their surfer bodies along the Embarcadero:  Breathless!  I pass them too.

“It’s just the way the game is played!  It’s best — if you just wait your turn,” RiRi is right on top of me.  I think of my brother.  He calls me RaRa.

The gossip spreads:  The finish line is ever so close.  Very close, somewhere past the bridge.  My calves are feeling like they’ve taken over half of my body weight, in blood.

Still:  I pick up the pace.

Past the cowboy offering swings of vodka on the sideline.  Past the flamboyantly dancing chicken suit.  Past the gentleman jogging in a pink tutu.  Past the girl running with a pair of fairy wings on her back.

Past, past, past!

Past the wide-eyed boy looking up at his mother with complete worship.  (Joseph?)  Past the little girl running like a girl along her mother’s thigh.  Both are wearing matching t-shirts that say, “RUN LIKE A GIRL!”

And who knows just how long I’ve been running; but suddenly, there is some sort of a tilt — a bump on the road, a hill — and:  I see the blue banner of the finish line.  No longer do I feel half of my body weight in my calves, in blood.  Neither am I any longer aware of my playlist.

Here.  We.  Go.

I leap.  I fly.  I zip, in between.  I zoom.

Faces!  Faces!  Faces!  Screaming the name of their beloveds — or just screaming.  Beautiful faces!  Breathless City!  THE City.

Past!  Past!  Past the lingering jogger to my left!  Past the ambitious, athletic honey to my right.  This is it!  I am here!  In.  THE.  City.

I cross the line.

And although I haven’t been watching the mile markers (and I have yet to see my end time), all of this has been for the very doing of it and for the very love of this City — THE City!  My gratitude floods in.  Or rather, it has never really left me, 13.1 miles ago.

In the name of the sport, we’ve all been running for a very long time and committing our personal feats of courage:  It’s a human resilience thing.  And, yes!  It has been completely worth it!  And so has this City.

THE City.