Day 529, December 6, 2021

Getting Ready

Over the weekend I put the snow tires on the car, and today the LBS (local bike shop) called to say the winter bicycle tires I ordered have arrived. I’m almost ready for the snow. Some how, each year, we get used to the cold. I’m not sure how, but it happens. Like swimming in the ocean at Cape Cod, eventually your breathing returns to its natural pace and the burning numbness in your extremities fade into a dull ache. 

It was raining today, so I drove. I’ve been listening to a Chang-Rae Lee novel, My Year Abroad. He is a master of metaphor. These marvelous constructions, finely wrought descriptions, land in rapid fire succession like images flying off a zoetrope and coming to life. He is almost too good where I get distracted by his construction and I lose track of the narrative. I imagine he must be a fantastic MFA teacher somewhere and his students read his novels like how-to manuals.

When I was in grade school, I sent away several dollars for an advertisement in the back of a magazine that claimed to reveal the secret to making millions by selling books. What I received for my heavily wrinkled and sweaty dollar bills was a spiral bound book that described how to write a book about how to do something. It felt like the embodiment of irony. I felt gullible and abused. This was not how a 12 year old was going to make millions using his mother’s old college typewriter. 

My father once introduced me to an insurance executive who lived in New Jersey in a nouveau mansion with topiary evergreens out front shaped into spirals. I think it was a kind of informal interview where the insurance executive was feeling me out. Could I come and work for him? Was it some sort of favor for my father? I’m sure my father thought I would find his lifestyle alluring, but what I was most drawn to was his gayageum, a Korean zither. I had never seen one in person before and I was entranced. I studied how the strings passed over the network of string supports like a suspension bridge. I plucked and changed the pitch as I pressed down on a string. This was something that could capture my attention. Insurance, I felt, was an industry based on exploiting people’s fears of tragedy and loss. In contrast, a gayageum in a mansion in New Jersey, felt like a teleportation device. I was not in the middle of an unstated interview, but instead, I was transported into the smells of my grandfathers house, earthly, the air like tea that had been steeping for decades. One note bent to pitch. A little vibrato. A peacock in the distance.

In college I once met Jack Hitt, an editor for Harper’s Magazine, and after his talk, I had dinner with him and he invited me to come to New York to be an intern at the magazine. I loved Harper’s and even in college had a subscription (I also subscribed to the Village Voice, from which I ordered my first futon from an advertisement in the margins). The prospect was exhilarating. How much would I get paid? I asked. Oh, they don’t pay anything for interns. Where would I live? Jack offered his couch until I could find a place, but warned the apartment was undergoing some repairs and sometimes when you stood in the shower the natural convection sucked the curtain onto your body. 

For a few days I dreamed of living in New York. But I didn’t know how internships worked, I didn’t know how I would have money for rent, food, or anything else. I imagined out lasting my welcome on Jack’s couch and ending up in a stairwell outside of Travis Bickle’s apartment in Taxi Driver

I didn’t go. 

Perhaps in response to my childhood insecurities and lack of fortitude, or bravery, or gumption, or recklessness, I now try to say yes to most things. I used to say, I’m willing to try anything at least once… though I haven’t said those exact words in a long time. But sometimes yes makes my life complicated for a period of time. Some of those yeses come to fruition in marvelous opportunities. Other times, they are like wearing pants too tight and at the end of the day they are immediately placed in the giveaway pile beside the laundry basket. 

Somewhere in New York is a dear friend who has my letter jacket from high school, maroon with white leather sleeves, though I can’t imagine it hasn’t disintegrated by now. That was the closest I ever came to living in New York, smoking cigarettes in her bedroom, slipping into loft parties, pretending to be street smart, trying to work out who was selling marijuana in Central Park. 

We lost touch, not for any reason other than time and distance. 

Later this week, maybe over the weekend I’ll drop off my bike at the LBS and I’ll be ready for those mornings where the temperature drops. Tonight the wind is blowing and it feels like the vinyl siding is buckling like plastic takeout food containers, the windows whistling a various low pitches, the trees threatening to splinter and litter the yard with branches and limbs. 

In a few weeks, I will be able to step outside without a second thought. My winter coat will not feel so heavy. I will not look so longingly at the long draping and fur-lined hoods in advertisements on social media. 

But for now, it is so windy, that in a particular gust, I can feel the air move inside the house. I can hear trash cans moving around outside. 

Tomorrow is Tuesday, one more step further into the week.

Take care and be well,
Leo

The view outside my window as a little parade or protest marched by to a drum beat.


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