Day Two: Sweat

I was standing on the platform of the Mets – Willets Point subway station yesterday – dripping sweat.  It was 11:30 pm.  What an adventure to be bathed all day.  The players were shining in the sun, and so were my 50,000 viewing companions.  At home, I’ve mostly lived in my air conditioning bubble, but not so in New York.  I have a fan in my Airbnb room and I have it on full blast all night.

My day started with a woman, and ended with another one.  Rohina and I met in the Airbnb kitchen.  She works for Unicef and will soon be off to Africa for a short-term posting.  There’s a gentle smile and a love for New York City.  “It doesn’t matter that I’m brown and a woman.  It’s New York!”  I felt the instant connection. 

Since Rohina leaves in a few days, and I get home around midnight each day, it’s likely we’ll never see each other again.  Ah … the moments.  I told her about one of the passwords I use: “lasttime”.  You never know.

At the end of the day, I got off the subway at the 52 Street station.  I was face-to-face with a old woman wearing a head scarf.  She was crying.  “I missed my stop!”  I know all about being frazzled for a reason that other people might find frivolous.  Such as me getting back on the bicycle.  Compassion is needed.  The woman told me the stop that was hers and I walked down the stairs with her and then back up to the other platform.  “Get on the next train and then get off at the first stop: ‘Woodside – 61 Street’.”  She asked me to wait with her on the platform, and I did.  As the train inched away, we waved and smiled through the pane of glass.

At the US Open, the crowds were ginormous.  I loved it!  As we filed out of the tennis center in the late evening, at one point we were funneled towards a narrow stairway.  We advanced slowly to the stairs.  No one pushed.  A woman to my left paused and let me go first.  Lovely.

See?  I wrote an entire post without mentioning tennis matches!

Day One: To New York City

The blog posts I’ve most enjoyed writing have been part of a trip.  And here I go again.  I’m heading to the US Open tennis tournament.  Adventures will abound over the next sixteen days.  And I’ll try not to write about tennis all the time!

Toronto Airport is where I sit.  I hadn’t driven the two hours from Belmont, Ontario to Toronto for eighteen months.  This morning I welcomed the 401 highway as an old friend.

The airport is quiet.  Only passengers and employees are allowed onsite.  I wait happily in the departure lounge. 

As I walked the long halls to Gate F98, the moving walkway hummed beside me … empty.  Until two little girls on their scooters came rambling along – going the wrong way on a one-way street.  And here came a young couple entering the walkway, masked up like all of us.  They noticed the sliding kids at the last second, and I think their faces tightened.  It definitely looked different than when folks smile under their masks.  I wanted them to celebrate the exuberance of childhood.  I guess they had other ideas.

And now the plane. I was thrilled to have a window seat. Minutes after sitting down, however, everything shifted. I started talking to the young woman who had joined me. She mentioned her husband, who was sitting two rows ahead. Bam! Window seat out the window and I heard myself offering to switch so they could sit together. No thought … just a flooding of words. I marvelled how something so important could shift to meaningless.

My new seatmate was another woman, maybe ten years older than the first. We talked briefly about visiting New York. I told her about two of my local favourites: the Circle Line cruises around Manhattan and McSorley’s Pub. I was super duper enthusiastic, and she went quiet. Memories of “You’re too much, Bruce” came for a visit. I decided to be silent and see if she’d initiate more conversation. She didn’t. So we just said goodbye on landing. Should I tone it down? Am I scaring some people? No and yes. Marianne Williamson appeared in my brain:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?”  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us.  It’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

And that’s enough for tonight.

The Little Girl and the Doll

Christmas morning 1952.  Light drizzle was falling as my sister Jill and I ran out of the Methodist church, eager to get home and play with the presents Santa had left for us and our baby sister Sharon. 

Across the street from the church was a Pan-American gas station where the Greyhound bus stopped.  It was closed for Christmas but I noticed a family standing outside the locked door, huddled under the narrow overhang in an attempt to keep dry.  I wondered briefly why they were there, then forgot about it as I raced to keep up with Jill. 

Once we got home, there was barely time to enjoy our presents.  We had to go off to our grandparents’ house for Christmas dinner.  As we drove down through town, I noticed the family was still there, standing outside the closed gas station.  My father was driving very slowly down the highway.  The closer we got to the turnoff for my grandparents’ house, the slower the car went. 

Suddenly my father u-turned in the middle of the road and said “I can’t stand it.”  “What?” asked my mother.  “It’s those people back there at the Pan-Am, standing in the rain.  They’ve got children.  It’s Christmas!  I can’t stand it.”

When my father pulled in to the service station, I saw there were five of them: the parents and three children – two girls and a small boy.  My father rolled down his window.  “Merry Christmas,” he said.  “Howdy,” the man replied.  He was tall – had to stoop slightly to peer in the car. 

Jill, Sharon and I stared at the other three children and they stared back at us.  “You waitin’ on the bus?” my father asked.  The man said they were.  They were going to Birmingham, where he had a brother and prospects of a job.

“Well, that bus isn’t goin’ to come along for several hours and you’re getting’ wet standing here.  Winborne’s just a couple of miles up the road.  They’ve got a shed with a cover there, some benches,” my father said.  “Why don’t you all get in the car and I’ll run you up there?”

The man thought about it for a moment, then he beckoned to his family.  They climbed into the car.  They had no luggage, only the clothes they were wearing. 

Once they were settled in, my father looked back over his shoulder and asked the children if Santa had found them yet.  Three glum faces mutely gave him his answer.  “Well, I didn’t think so,” my father said, winking at my mother, “because when I saw Santa this morning, he told me he was having trouble finding y’all, and he asked me if he could leave your toys at my house.  We’ll just go get them before I take you to the bus stop.”  And all at once, the three children’s face lit up, and they began to bounce around in the backseat, laughing and chattering. 

When we got out of the car at our house, the three children ran through the front door, straight to the toys that were spread out under our Christmas tree.  One of the girls spied Jill’s doll and immediately hugged it to her breast.  I remember that the little boy grabbed Sharon’s ball, and the other girl picked up something of mine.

All this happened a long time ago but the memory of it remains clear.  That was the Christmas when my sisters and I learned the joy of making others happy.

My mother noticed the middle child was wearing a short-sleeved dress so she gave the girl Jill’s only sweater to wear.  My father invited them to join us at our grandparents’ for Christmas dinner but the parents refused.

Back in the car on the way to Winborne, my father asked the man if he had money for bus fare.  His brother had sent tickets, the man said.  My father reached into his pocket and pulled out five dollars, which was all he had left till the next payday, and pressed the money into the man’s hand.  The man tried to give it back but my father insisted.  “It’ll be late when you get to Birmingham, and those children will be hungry before then.  Take it.  I’ve been broke before and I know what it’s like when you can’t feed your own family.”

We left them at the bus stop in Winborne.  And as we drove away, I watched out the window as long as I could, looking back at the little girl hugging her new doll.



Sex Toy

I bought it about a year ago.  I could go into detail about function and performance but I don’t see the purpose in doing that.  I was expecting marvelous experiences.  I used it once and knew right away that the object lived far away from my true sexuality.

You may have read on here about me giving away virtually all of my books, DVDs and CDs over the last two months.  It feels clean to have let them go.  I told someone that I considered the move as my own personal weight loss program.  Weeks later, that still rings true.

Yesterday I looked at my naked TV stand and saw the Sony Blu-Ray player.  With no disks anymore, why was I holding on to that?  So the divestment process began again.  Next on the menu – clothes.  I’ve held on to ancient t-shirts as a badge of honour.  Old messages on the chest had become friends.  I found fifteen or so that had faded to acquaintances.  Goodbye.  Same with many dress shirts (ones I never really liked) and a smattering of pants.

And then … the sex toy.  I found a box and packed it up, nestled against the Sony player.  Off to Value Village with my big garbage bag and small box.  Done!  I went to a movie, which turned out to be utterly forgettable.

This morning, while sitting with my coffee in the living room, I glanced to my right.  There, perched innocently on the end table, was the Sony remote.  (Sigh)  That’s when it happened … dread and history.  I wanted to be complete with the delivery I’d made yesterday but the fear came that the same fellow would be serving me today as I handed him the remote.  He’d have found the sex toy and would be laughing at my reappearance.

I looked back – way back – to messages that sexuality was bad, and should be kept under wraps or even completely avoided.  I remember my mother offering “You’ll go blind if you masturbate.”  How did she know I was?  Actually I’m surprised that she could even utter the word.  What is it about Bruce and Western society that I cringe when contemplating a 20-year-old thrift store employee again?  Sex is good, not bad … as long as no one is hurt by it.

Returneth I did.  And the same young man, fully masked, accepted the offered remote.  His eyes were twinkling (so I imagined) and it easily followed that he was laughing at me in a hidden way.

Too bad!
On I go, living life with my head held high