Pine cones in lieu of flowers. In October we celebrate decay. All things drying out and brittle — colors far different from when the thing was alive. We celebrate spooky. We create bouquets of whatever we find in nature that is emaciated. This goes on straight into November — until Thanksgiving, when we gorge and are OK again with plumpness, the vitality of food consumption and digestion.
Yesterday I passed a pageant walker. This was on a nearby street during my morning jog.
Wearing workout clothes and gloves, he waved to me in solidarity as I passed in the opposite direction. He was walking down the center of the road, keeping a temperate pace as I briskly made my way down the sidewalk.
A thirty-something of petite stature with a relaxed and confident smile, his wave was slow and theatrical, not quick and to the point. It embodied stateliness and grandeur, as if he had been among other notables in the Macy’s Day Parade along 6th Avenue en route to Herald Square for some step and repeat to please the crowds.
He wore a white shirt — a rather loud adornment at such an early hour. The sun had not yet even risen.
I walk through my complex to start my jog several times a week. It’s still dark out, and I begin my run near the big tree across from the leasing office.
In the morning the sky is pretty because I can still see the stars, and I usually spot a constellation or two.
Today, the man was not yet outside smoking. I see him when I go by his home, on the corner where I turn to head down the block to the park. This morning his paper was still in his driveway.
The other day I saw him, having apparently returned from 7-Eleven across the street. He held his bag of groceries, and he flicked on a small flashlight and began reading headlines near his garage door while his paper was still in its wrapper, which I thought was peculiar. He was squinting and trying to make out the words through the plastic.
Most times the man nods when he sees me pass.
He is tall and older and wears a ball cap when he comes out to smoke. With that hat on and his demeanor and style of dress, he looks like he should live in the country and be on a John Deere.
The other morning, when it was chilly, he said, “Beautiful out.” I was running by with my hood on. “I wish it would stay like this,” I replied.
He then stared across the street at the horizon over the buildings, like he often does, as the sky reddened with dawn.
The door where patrons waited for their box mail was like that of a prison — thick and made of steel. It was painted dark green, like a dumpster.
The three of us waited there, held captive until the clerk got around to us, periodically peering from the door’s top portion, which swung open inwardly, as if she would serve us a last meal.
The mail rooms at our respective apartment complexes had been broken into, and now delivery was suspended. So we each had to travel off-site to retrieve our mail. And so there we were, on line for box mail at this filthy, institutional-looking post office branch.
The clerk, wearing a blue rubber glove, examined our IDs before handing over our various letters and bills and unsolicited garbage in the form of catalogs and circulars and what-have-you. This wad of paper we each received was our ticket to freedom, allowing each of us to leave and continue on with our day as we so pleased.
— First version of this anecdote is here.
The three of us stood on line for box mail at a filthy, run-down post office branch this morning, and to our surprise, after 10 minutes or so of mutual silence, we discovered we had something in common: A security breach had occurred in the mail rooms at our respective apartment complexes, and delivery was suspended until further notice.
Upon arrival I stood there seething because my breach had taken place more than a month prior. The clerk then asked what my address was and wanted to see my ID. The guy behind me then shared that he lived at my complex, which was about 3 miles west of the post office. And the old lady behind him said she lived a few blocks from us.
We bitched for some minutes about having to travel off-site to retrieve our mail. “At my complex, all we were told was that there was a security concern in the mail room that needed to be addressed,” I stated. We theorized on what our breaches may have entailed as none of us was privy to details of whatever incidents took place.
After I exited the post office, I sat in my car and posted a snarky comment on the community wall on the online portal for residents at my complex. That was at about 9:30 a.m. It is now 4:30 p.m. and the comment has not yet been approved.
The poem was written flawlessly in my head, but I just sat there and listened as my inner voice recited it.
The recommendation of 8 hours of sleep
Doing stuff in the daytime and going to bed at night
The regimen of 3 square meals a day
Conventional interior design, such as coffee tables belonging in the living room
The binary in all its incarnations
Standard breakfast items, eg. bagels, bacon, cereal, pancakes — it’s all fat, grease and sugar
Getting married and having kids
Looking before you leap
Avoiding conversation with strangers
I fancied that the large sign mounted on high along Jones Boulevard advertised for a cosmic dentist. A streetlight had obstructed the “et” in the word cosmetic.
The doc himself was pictured alongside the enormous text, laughing, seemingly at me, as if I had purple skin and multiple heads, maybe six eyes.
I sat at the red light and imagined that the doc provided magic mushrooms or peyote to his patients in lieu of laughing gas or procaine.