Gowanus speaks

5E992C7E-78BF-4DEB-BB32-F6ED93413FA7The street artist who pastes cryptic sayings on walls around the city is back at it. And how better to dip my toe back into the world of blogging than to post these two additions to this blog’s coverage of his/her work? (You can see previous examples here and here.)

The photo at the top of this post is from the “build it green” re-use center on 9th St between Second Av and the Gowanus Canal. The one below is from the exterior of the defunct Morbid Anatomy Museum at Third Av and 7th St.

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And yes – the fact that I’m once again posting snapshots of things seen on the run around Brooklyn means I’m, well, back to running around Brooklyn. It’s been a long and tedious recovery from my elbow fracture, but I now have more-or-less full use of both arms, which means: more running! more birding! more two-fisted eating!

And more blogging, too.

(In the meantime – if you see more examples of these posters, please: pass ’em along.)

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Frailty

23A035C3-DD79-499E-A1E7-4C3C15253C7FTwo days after running the Brooklyn Half, I was on my way to Jamaica Bay to look at migrating shorebirds when I tripped and fell on an uneven patch of sidewalk in Broad Channel, Queens, and shattered my left elbow. It was my second fracture in 12 months.

At the beginning of the year, I had a plan. It had been 10 years since my breast cancer diagnosis. Why not use this blog to look back, while also celebrating survival? Yes, it was tough, I’d acknowledge, but it was doable, even funny at times, and look at me now: running half marathons, tromping through salt marshes in search of new birds, seeking out the best Uzbek food in South Brooklyn?

If that concept veered perilously close to what my sister survivor and political-intellectual heroine Barbara Ehrenreich has called “bright-siding,” well, I’d rely on self-deprecating humor and relentless honesty to keep it real.

Instead, I find myself in direct confrontation with breast cancer’s lasting impact on my body and mind. In particular, I’ve been thinking a lot about the shame that accompanies physical frailty.

Continue reading

Race report: 2018 Popular Brooklyn Half (May 19, 2018)

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Defending my home turf (photo credit: Luke Redmond)

Let’s begin by contemplating the marketing genius who connected this race, which routinely sells out in less than an hour, to its new title sponsor, Banco Popular. Was it the result of a caffeine, doughnut and Gatorade-fueled spitballing session in a New York Road Runners conference room? Did someone at Banco Popular, possibly a runner themselves, come up with the idea? Or was it – as my friend Michael, who has some tenuous family connection to the world of marketing consultants, tells me is most likely – the handiwork of a professional branding matchmaker?

However it happened, this popular race is now officially Popular.  Continue reading

Early May birds, and a cancer look back

Today was a banner day for me in Prospect Park: six hours spent outside, six miles run, and 67 (count ’em!) species of birds seen. That total includes a gorgeous bay-breasted warbler (which should really be called the “red velvet bird,” because that’s what its head and throat appear to be fashioned from), rare cerulean and Kentucky warblers, a roosting nighthawk, and a cutie-pie Lincoln’s sparrow.

Ten years ago, in contrast, I was wondering when my hair would start falling out. Continue reading

Race report: the NYC Gaza 5(ish)K (March 24, 2018)

gaza 5k 2018

Photo credit: Murray Rosenblith

How can you not love an event that bills itself as a combination 5K and dabke party? I ran this race two years ago, missed it last year, and was thrilled to be running it again. It’s less a race than a community celebration . . . for Brooklyn’s Palestinian-American community, primarily, but also the larger Arab community, the Muslim community, Jewish peace activists and various and sundry other folks. While I was shamefully lax in my fundraising this year (by which I mean, I didn’t fundraise at all), other participants raised thousands of dollars for mental health services for kids in Gaza.

The first indication that this race is going to be a little different is the fact that a “light breakfast” (I’m quoting from the official schedule of events) is served beforehand. The starting time is approximate – hey, it starts when it starts – and so is the distance. Two years ago, we ran a smidgen over 3 miles; this year, we ran a full 3.3 mile loop of the part. There are more walkers than runners, and even among the runners, it was evident from the starting area chatter – “I hope I can finish . . . how will we know how far we’ve gone?” – that many were running their first 5K. (Or better – given the vagueness of the course measurement – their first 5ishK.) Continue reading

Losses

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Donald James Ewing, Jr. – January 7, 1931 – March 9, 2018

My father slipped away two weeks ago today, while I held one of his hands and my mother held the other. I detest euphemisms generally, and I especially detest those that pretend to soften death’s bluntness. But in this case, “slipped away” seems about right. One moment he was breathing – a bit of a rattle in his throat, nothing loud or harsh – and then he wasn’t.

How do you recognize the last of something: winter’s last snowfall, summer’s last swallow, your father’s last breath?  Lasts don’t trumpet their significance, the way firsts do. They can only be known after the fact, negatively, through the slow accretion of absence.

In other words: they slip away. Continue reading

Race report: Prospect Park Track Club Cherry Tree 10 Miler (February 18, 2018)

710BB4E2-3CA6-46E2-81A2-DA2A35CA7295This race, sponsored by the best running club ever, is a President’s Day weekend tradition. Its official name alludes to the legendary honesty of Brooklyn battler (and father of our country) George Washington. Its unofficial name – “the race for the hardcore” – alludes to the fact that mid-February can be a pretty miserable time of year for three full loops of Prospect Park.

Not yesterday, though. The snow that had fallen overnight was already melting in the bright sun and 40-something temperatures, and the park roads were mostly – but not entirely – clear of slick spots by the race’s 10 am start. Conditions, in other words, were perfect: comfortable, but just sloppy and slick enough to justify taking it easy.

More races should come with built-in excuses. Continue reading