Archive for the ‘anecdote’ Category
before she died my mother bought me a winter coat with a lot of velcro on it. it’s really warm but the velcro is a pain. i wear it anyway.
sitting on the subway reading a book a young woman sat down next to me. within a minute or so she asked me what i thought of the book i was reading. it’s by Dan Gilbert, a Harvard Psychologist and researcher into Hedonics – the study of pleasure. the book is called Stumbling on Happiness and while is sounds like something from the self-help section (actually, i think barnes and noble stocks it in the self-help section) it is rich with all sorts of very interesting studies on, among other things, cognitive biases and, in general, thinking about the process of thinking – and how our penchant for thought errors and flawed heuristics dooms us to be persistently UN-happy. i’ve learned a lot from that book, and the research he cites has opened up all sorts of things for me. so, i told this woman what i’m telling you – i like it a lot.
she smiled, we exchanged a few pleasantries and that was that. while hurtling through the tunnel i thought about rekindling the conversation. before i could do anything we were pulling into a station. she tugged on my sleeve, said, loudly, “C’mon, let’s go!” and stood up.
i jumped up and followed her onto the platform. there were a lot of people getting off the train and we were separated – i kept my eye on her and moved through the crowd to catch up with her. as i got closer i saw her talking to someone else – who i realized was sitting across from us on the train, and then it all dawned on me….
on the downtown A a large man was shuffling around. he started to sit down and began talking – which lead me to believe he had found someone he knew.
he had a clear, resonant voice that cut through the rattle and noise of the train. i went back to reading a book.
a few minutes later, pulling out of 125th with many more people on board he stood up, and began talking again – this time it was clear he was alone. i half-listened while i continued to read, but soon lost interest in my book in favor of checking out what was happening on the train.
while looking out a window i noticed green light in the tunnel and just at that moment heard the man say, “green light in the tunnel.” i started listening without looking at him and realized he was verbalizing whatever he became aware of – ads on the train, people, thoughts, whatever crossed his conscious mind. sometimes he swore – but nothing he said, if understood as an inner monologue was odd at all. i know that my inner monologue, with some adjustments at least, is very similar to his. what made him sound strange is that he was voicing his inner thoughts while slowly shuffling around one section of the train.
it occurred to me that our raw, inner monologue is raw because it’s divorced from the normalizing influence of the shared, external world. for most of us, when we act on our inner monologue, when we introduce our thoughts in the form of actions within shared space, that process is one of adaption – or, perhaps, translation – and, at least for me, those domains – the inner, and the shared each have their own dialects, vocabularies, and prosodies. the fellow on the train obviously had some issue about making the translation from inner to outer – and it made an impression on me as i don’t recall ever experiencing something like that before.
Late this afternoon I went to see a new film called ‘Starting out in the Evening’ starring Frank Langella and Lili Taylor. It’s about a writer in NYC and I liked the story, the acting, and even the homesickness it induced.
When I left the theater it had turned dark and I realized that, like the film’s title, I too was starting out in the evening.
Feeling hungry I decided to see if a nearby pizza place I like would be open, and headed south, on foot down Charles St. Baltimore looked particularly empty as I approached W. Mt. Royal, and I noticed another person across the street – a young man dressed in dark jeans, a black down jacket, and a dark ski hat pulled just over his eyebrows. Both his hands were in his jacket pockets and he was looking around before we both began to cross the wide street towards each other.
We met at the median and as we passed he said something like “Happy Holidays”. I turned to say “Happy Holidays” back and found him pointing a gun at my leg while demanding whatever I had.
I’ve encountered would be muggers before in this area and my technique, which I don’t recommend, is to run like hell in the direction of a busy street. This has worked for me thus far. I don’t recommend it because it startles the mugger and that is dangerous. I find the adrenaline boost fuels my flight and it seems like I’m moving at warp speed.
As we were already in the middle of a six lane, well-lit (albeit deserted) street I figured I already had an advantage. I bolted and within about two strides realized the laces on my left shoe were loose. Four strong strides later the shoe flew off in an awkward tangent and I faced a decision: stop and get my shoe or sacrifice it for the three dollars I had in my pocket… then I factored in my cell phone with all of its’ photos, etc., and I opted to sacrifice the shoe. I continued to run in one sock. I should also mention that a few months ago I sprained my right ankle while doing an art project in NY State (more on that in a future post) – so running in this configuration was doubly complicated and uncomfortable – but I needed to run. Fast!
At first I wasn’t sure if I was even being followed, but I quickly sensed that I was, then, to my dismay, a few steps later I heard someone behind me yelling for me to stop. Hell no! I ran down Charles street to W. Preston, then made a hard right, thinking, hoping that I would run into a crowd headed to either the church I knew was on a corner of the next block, or, perhaps, entering the Meyerhoff theater where the BSO plays – perhaps they were giving a Christmas Eve concert, hopefully?
I didn’t see anything, or anyone and my pursuer was still yelling at me to stop. Near the corner where the church was I saw one little, elderly woman in a red wool coat with a rain bonnet on and a small, gold purse walking south, slowly. We were all on a collision course. I realized that I was leading the mugger right to her, and when I got to the corner I stopped and wheeled around, ready for something awful.
In an instant the guy was in front of me, walking in the middle of the street, holding a large, black gun. As he drew closer I saw he was smiling, I also noticed that he was about twelve, and wearing white pants. I then observed the gun suddenly morph into my left sneaker.
“This your shoe?”
“Yeah… thanks, I’m sorry, I heard you shouting while I was running and I thought you were the guy trying to rob me – that’s why I didnâ€™t stop, I’m really sorry.”
“Yeah, I was across the street when you started running and your shoe bounced right in front of me.”
“Oh, well, thanks a lot!” I said, reaching for the shoe.
“You have any money?” He said, seriously, while cradling the shoe in his arms and twisting his body away from me.
“Give me the shoe. Now.” Said the woman in the red wool coat, who had reached us at the corner.
“I presume this is yours…” She said, looking at my sock while handing me the shoe.
Before I could say anything she continued:
“I don’t know what you two are doing out here, but in case you havenâ€™t heard it’s Christmas Eve. Can’t you both go home to your families and have at least one blessed night this year? Really, this is just…. Merry Christmas, now please just go home!”
We all went our separate ways. She continued south, I continued west, and the kid walked east. Not wanting to linger, I waited to put my shoe on until I’d turned a corner and was sure I wasn’t being followed. I also double knotted both laces, then continued home.