Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sitting Down for a Coffee with my Younger Self

I can't seem to get my
right heel to stop tapping
a rhythm to the jazz
that's playing in the
old madrilena cafe.  Coltrane,
maybe.  Heavy on tenor

Looking across this
big room, I'm trying 
to guess which one is
him.  Coltrane is playing,
and the flying notes 
are making a crazed 
prelude to this crazy

There he is, there I am.
Oh my God how young am
I? 19 or 20? My
skin looks different.
I catch myself waving
to myself, and pull my
hand down.

There he is.  He just
waved.  Or I just
waved.  Weird.  Oh 
my God, I'm so bald.
I look like Dad.

"Can I buy you a coffee?"
I ask.  "It seems only

"Sure.  Thanks."  I'm
patting my pockets,
aware I have no
money and will need 
to swing by the AmEx 
office by Plaza 
de las Cortes across
the street.

"Cafe con leche?"


We both look around the
room, in lieu of speaking
for a few minutes.  No
one seems to pay any mind
to us, or to this grand
experiment.  For all they
know, I am the father,
and my younger self is
the son.

"So," I say to 
break the uncomfortable
silence.  "I go bald."

"Sad to say, but
yes.  Enjoy that
hair while you

I run my fingers
through my long,
feathered hair
absently.  My older 
self lets out a

"There's so much advice I
could give you.  About how
to avoid heartache and all
that."  I stop, because my
younger self doesn't
appear to be listening.
He's checking out a girl who
looks to be about his
age, maybe a little
younger, with Audrey Hepburn
bangs and a snaggle-tooth

My older self is saying 
something that seems
to be making him
emotional, like he's
about to cry.  I missed
it, however, because I
have locked eyes with an
incredibly sexy woman I've
seen here before.  I think 
she works next door as a docent in 
the Circulo de Bellas Artes.
I'm shy about it, but
definitely want to hold
her gaze.

"Be happy," I say, my
voice breaking.  "Just.
Be.  Happy."

"It's okay," I tell myself,
because I seem so down.
Then I become afraid.
"Why are you so -- why am 
I so -- why are we so sad?"

"No, no, not sad," I
answer quickly, because
I can see I've frightened
him.  I'm wiping tears
away.  "Just full.  My
heart, our heart, is so
full.  Please enjoy this.
Enjoy every second of
it.  It goes by so
fast."  Trying to sound
wise, but feeling only
desperate and old.

My older self is 
giving me advice about 
enjoying my life.  Not
sure what he knows, what 
I've been through by then.
Not sure I want to know.

"She's leaving," I say,
pointing to the snaggle-
tooth docent.
"Why don't you go talk to her? Find
out her name."

I get up -- too quickly,
probably -- patting my
pockets again, as though looking
to throw in some
money for the bill.

"Don't worry," I say.
"I've got this."

"Thank you," I say.
"For the coffee."

"Sure thing," I say,
watching as I
move cautiously over
to the girl.

"Hola.  Como te llamas?"
I ask.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

"Hill-Seeking" on a Saturday Morning in Austin

It's still dark at 6 a.m. on a Saturday and there's no real traffic to speak of.  As I pull into a space on Blanco Street, just north of West 6th, I can make out the forms of about ten people, standing or stretching under the light of a street lamp.  Their water bottles are lined up on the curb at their feet like soldiers, and I take a deep breath, then let it out and join them.

Our guide is A.T. Turner, educator and Crossfit guru, who I've known since we worked as Austin ISD School Improvement Facilitators back in 2008-2009.  She greets me warmly with, I think, way too much energy for this time of day.  To my right, I can sense 7th street, as it makes its way east of where I'm walking.  This is the hill we will climb, either walking or running, or some combination of the two, and I just let it sit there in my peripheral vision; I'm not quite ready to look at it directly just yet.

During my warm-up jog I feel my heart and respiration rates begin to rise.  The others in the group nod tired greetings, which I return as we pass one another.  Circling back, someone yells, "Car!" and I turn to acknowledge that I've heard them.  The car's headlights reveal the shadowy shapes of houses, cars, trees and the occasional cat.  Other runners, not of our group, go loping by periodically.

When I get back to the base of the hill, I'm ready.  The younger, fitter folks sprint up the grade, but I've set a different goal for myself.  I've decided I'm going to set a weekly personal "threshold" in the face of this task.  Last week was my first time, and I told myself I would walk up and down the hill five times.  It got painful, and vaguely nauseating, but I did it, feeling a great sense of accomplishment when I did.

Today I set the intention of fast-walking the entire loop, a block around including the hill, five times.  I am pleased I've made this choice -- not only due to the above-mentioned good feeling of having done something difficult, but because of what is revealed during this hour of daybreak.  Not only is there a postcard-worthy view of downtown Austin, bursting up in front of me at the crest of the hill, but each time I make the loop I see more details taking shape in the increasing luminescence.  Homes stand sturdy, looking out over the view, their lawns clean and well manicured.

The chirping of crickets has now given way to birds who titter at each other from across huge pecan and oak trees that stand like ancient sentries before these solid houses.  A calico cat eyes me with some hesitant curiosity and stands tall when I make kissing noises at her.  I take a quick break to give her a scratch behind the ear.  She mews loudly, and I apologetically inform her that I have no food to give her.

(When I return on subsequent laps, she is nowhere to be seen.)

Presently, I'm sitting in my favorite local coffee shop, basking in my pride.  Next week, I'll set a new goal for myself, and as the confidence comes, the fast walk will get faster, eventually becoming a run.

And I'll take it from there.

Stalwart "Hillseekers" after a good morning run in Austin