Wonderful Central Park

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It’s 6.2 miles around the Central Park loop. On a good running day I’ll run to the entrance to the Park Drive at 90th Street, jog around the park and run back, an 8-mile run. That doesn’t happen too often. I’m more apt to do a three-mile run to the park, around the reservoir or around the bridal path surrounding the reservoir, then back home again. I like that run. There are beautiful views of the city, some people watching, and the ground is soft.

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But, for now, as I train for a half-marathon, which I may or may not run, I am working on longer runs, making the loop a better choice. As I cross Fifth Avenue to join the other joggers, always on the drive, I pass a bevvy of tourists. They have come from the museums with selfies-on-the-reservoir as their next objective. I can get frustrated as they block the path, oblivious of native New Yorkers trying to get by.

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When I finally pass the tourists I go down a small slope and move towards 96th Street with a playground on my right and lush trees on my left. I veer to my left passing a field to my right and distant tennis courts to my left. Soon I pass the 103rd Street by-pass, which is a short cut to the west side, eradicating the two hills to come. I fuel myself with positive thinking since I feel good that I’m going the tougher route.

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Once I pass 103rd Street, the road zigzags past the Lasker Pool & Rink, the North Woods, and the Meer. By that time I am approaching the hill. Lesser cyclists stop or mimic the Engine that Could. When I ride my bike, I use self-talk of encouragement to get up that hill. “You can do it, Janet.” You’ve got it.” Just one foot in front of the other.” The pro cyclists speed righteously up the hill, indicating their athletic prowess. And, just when I think I’ve made it, there’s another slope towards the top. This last time, I went up another hill where there’s a 1/5 mile track. I did that just to prove to myself I conquered the hills. From there I go down hill. It’s a gentle decline, nothing too steep. I pass a pretty pond with a bridge and a scenic willow tree.

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Then I run for ½ mile at which point I’m at the 90th Street entrance on Central park West. It’s not quite half way, but it feels like it to me. To my left is the reservoir. Once I pass that there’s the great lawn. These days there’s a long line of theatergoers staking their claim to see Cymbeline at the Delacorte Theater. As I continue I can see the New York Historical Society peeking through the trees to the west. Next is the lake where you can rent canoes and row boats. But within a blink I’ve already passed Strawberry Fields and the crowds of tourists with their umbrella carrying leaders.

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Unknown-4Sheep’s Meadow with the picnickers, and frisbee players is next on the left with the reopened Tavern on the Green to my right. From there I can smell Horse Manure as I pass the Handsome Cabs and their passengers. I don’t hate the odor, but it’s distinctive. By the time that ends, I’ve passed the carousel followed by the Boat House. I now have less than a mile in the park, yet by now I am hungry for milestones for the end of this run. There’s a hill, actually not quite a hill, but an ascent of some degree. But as I run through that I treasure the sight of the Still Hunt, the cougar sculpture on a cliff.   And then there’s Cleopatra’s Needle just as The Metropolitan Museum rises on the east. I am simply relieved. I have a quarter mile to go in the park and that makes me giddy.

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I fall in love with the city and Central Park even while I push myself at West 72nd Street and East 68th Street.   I get tired there. I want to quit. I think about walking away from this. I need to think of walking away. Having an exit clause helps me to finish. I don’t do as well when I feel like I have no choice. Knowing I can walk away gives me the freedom to choose to keep running. That is a freedom I so need, and so appreciate.

I end where I began, East 90th Street, across from The Cooper Hewitt Museum. I turn south to 88th Street to run straight to the East River, jogging in place when I’m stuck at a light. On my steps I stretch. Breathing heavily, I think, “I did it!”

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Audiobook Activity

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I love audiobooks. Mostly I listen to them when walking or jogging. Though I’m happy to listen when in a car, but that doesn’t happen much living in Manhattan. Right now I’m enjoying The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman, which I’m enjoying immensely. The first time I read Alice Hoffman was in the early ‘90’s with Turtle Moon. As an author she has a great knack for weaving a story while allowing us to develop a relationship with the characters. And she does that by creating a strong sense of place. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is wonderful because it gives us an historical perspective on New York City. And, much to my pleasant surprise Judith Light is one of the narrators.

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I was soap addict in high school. Four years after Dark Shadows, I started watching One Life to Live. I came home from school shirking my homework until after the precious 45 minutes had ended. But it wasn’t until my senior year when Judith Light lit the screen. There was a depth to her acting that swept me away. I was an unhappy, mix-up teen and her acting was the therapy I needed to get through my days. When Karen Wolek, her character, didn’t appear I felt a deep loss, hopeful that the following day would contain a riveting scene. Judith Light’s acting work kept me going through my tumultuous college years, too. After moving to New York City in 1981, I was hopeful I’d run into her. That never happened.

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And when Ms. Light left the show in 1984, they lost this viewer. Life went on. I went to therapy and 14 years later I became a therapist myself. I continued to walk the city. I listened to books. I went to the theater. Sometimes I saw a show just because Judith Light was in it. It’s been a pleasure to listen to The Museum of Ordinary Things. Thanks Alice Hoffman for another good book. I’m looking forward to your upcoming The Marriage of Opposites. And, thank you, Judith Light. I’m grateful to hear your voice, reminded of how you helped me through difficult times years ago.

Walking on

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If I’m not aware what I’m feeling, I become acutely aware when I start walking the city. Walking through beautiful Central Park on my way to a morning appointment a runner came towards me. As far as I was concerned she was going against the clearly marked directions on the pavement. I held my ground, and when I kept walking towards her, righteously indignant about following the markers, she barely moved to get around me, whispering, “Fuck you.” I wasn’t sure I heard her right. But she was a fast runner and she was well past me when I started to think of replies. My first thought, was, “Have a nice day.” Like I said, I was feeling righteous, and I thought my fake kindness served my feelings well. Sometimes I can just stew over a simple incident like that. But it was a beautiful morning, and I had gotten a rare early start.

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Then I was crossing 72nd Street, it was my light, but a cyclist tore down the road. He waved at me, indicating that he’d go around me, and I smiled back. A lovely New York moment. I forgot my self-righteousness after that. I find it amazing that a mis-matched moment can embroil me, but an act of kindness lifts me to a better place.

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This happens a lot as I walk or jog public areas. Sometimes someone takes up the whole sidewalk. He or she unconsciously walks in the middle so no one can get by. More often than not, I get irate, as if it’s my private sidewalk and I take it personally, silently cursing them out.

I went for a short jog this afternoon, but school was letting out, and, again, I got angry at the parents and caregivers who straddled the sidewalk.  Funny how I love to walk, yet I can get worked up over minor inconveniences. Perhaps my walks give me a chance to move through my emotional repertoire. An inner drama played out on the streets of New York.

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Memorial Day, 2015

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Traditionally today is the day you can safely wear white. The unofficial beginning of summer. Staying in Manhattan is a treat when so many go away. It’s such a simple pleasure. This afternoon I went for a jog on the East River and enjoyed the array of characters I encountered. The row of men fishing. Most had rods and used fish meat as bait. But some had traps and used chicken gizzards. I got thumbs up as I slowly ran by. Appreciating the encouragement I smiled back with my thumbs up for their potential catches. It was a New York moment. I passed a family ready to barbecue, a plastic checkered tablecloth on top of which were a rainbow assortment of 64 ounce sodas, yellow for pineapple, bright orange for Sunkist soda, purple for Fanta grape, and deep red for cherry. The children were playing on the grass while the moms chatted over a card game.

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There were families riding bikes together, and other joggers, all passing me by. I didn’t care, there was a light breeze, and I was enjoying the river on one side and the thin crowds from East Harlem, upper Manhattan and the upper eastside on the promenade. I didn’t see a lot of white, but I did see people of all ages wearing vibrant colors, as if they were manufactured from the same color lots as the sodas. One guy was schlepping a cart filled with picnic booty from Cosco. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt . That’s something I don’t see often anymore. My pale blush t-shirt was wet from sweat, like a sugary pink lemonade powder as it moistens to become a beverage.

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My struggle to write a piece for this week belies the pleasure I enjoyed while out. So I’ll end this here, high on the memory, low on creativity. Sometimes the limits of expression confound me. But I’m laughing about it, thanks to the day.

Slowing Down

I walk quickly, city savvy, righteously scorning the oblivious loiterers congregating in the middle of the sidewalk. When I’m not internally criticizing those I pass, I delight in the city around me. Happily I walk along, noticing building details, unexpected spring flowers, and public sculptures. These last few days, though, I had to slow down. Somehow, unbeknownst to me I got tendonitis behind my knee and walking became painful.  

            I like being on the go.   I don’t rest much. I more or less collapse when I become exhausted. But pain stopped me. I slowed down, walked less and enjoyed time off. I saw a movie on HBO, read a bit, cooked very little, and listened to a lot of music. It was a good break.

            Today I ventured out walking through two parks, uncertain how far I could go before pain slowed me down. I was able to get to my destination. It was a beautiful day, and I was happy to be out and about. Even so, I missed my short break. I don’t like being in pain, but slowing down every once in awhile is a lovely treat. I may just give that gift to myself every once in awhile.Image