Saturday, September 10, 2011
As it happens, as the days, weeks and months unfolded, I started to head to the beach more intermittently. For example, when Irene was recently kicking it up just to the east of Vero, I wanted to check things out - see the sea's personality. It was awesome, (see the pic to the right, below.) Then, perhaps once or twice a week, I've made sure to carve out some time to take a walk - sometimes just stopping the car by the boardwalk, walking up to the edge to observe the waves for a moment, taking in whatever message I need at that time (probably something having to do with abundance, because that's what I feel whenever I look out over the ocean) and then be on my way.
Well, I am now pleased to report that the past few mornings I have reverted back to the daily morning walk routine and I have not been disappointed. A few days ago, for example, I saw the ocean in a way I hadn't seen it since I first arrived. This was the "brochure" setting - the picture-perfect beach scene that local magazine photographers drool over when they're putting together an annual publication. I'm talking virtually no seaweed whatsoever. You could have taken a white glove to the sand and you wouldn't have picked up a speck of dirt, as ridiculous as that sounds considering how the entire beach is covered in a form of dirt - that's how clean everything looked. The photo below might give you a taste of what I'm talking about here, but it's challenging to show you in a blog entry. Add to that, the waves - I can't really explain what was going on. It was a perfect mixture of serenity and incredible power. While the Atlantic looked tranquil and beautiful, at the same time there were these very large rolling type of waves - the kind that started far out at sea and then unfolded with great thuds onto the shoreline. And I'm telling you, these waves were big - the boogie boarders and surfers were out there, grabbing the chance to have a go at them. Several times while I was walking - not wanting to swim - I was careful to walk along the water's edge as the globs of greenish-white foam folded and then melted into the sand at my feet. The sound . . . well . . . it was the kind of sound you hear on those relaxation tapes; the perfect mix of water, breeze, splashing, birds. I know this may sound a bit corny and I can't really translate what it felt, looked or sounded like. But I'm trying over here. :-)
The Old Man and the Sea - I decided to end this particular morning adventure by walking up to a public park where I knew there was a sprinkler/faucet to wash off the sand. As I approached the sprinkler area, there was an older man sitting on a bench - he was putting on his socks and shoes. The man was wearing only a bathing suit which was wet so I quickly cobbled together his story in my head. Oh, yes, I said he was older. My guess? At the risk of insulting this stranger, I'd say he had to be in his 90's . . . at least. My impression: "Here was a man who has lived at the beach for many years now. Perhaps he's retired from work in a city up north, but he's been here for many years at this point. And during these many years, this gentleman has walked the beach and gone swimming - every single day of his life. His body had "routine" written all over it. There's no doubt about it, his body was aged. Duh. That's what happens when you live that many years. But it must be noted here that his body also looked strikingly strong and toned. It was impressive.
As I sat down to put on my sneakers, the man was getting up and we exchanged smiles and "good mornings." That was that.
Then, just as I was about to leave and head in the opposite direction, I glanced down and noticed that the man had left his keys on the wooden bench. I shouted after him and, at first, he didn't hear me. A young woman passing by him, tapped his arm and pointed to where I was sitting. I was holding up his keys.
He turned, smiled and walked back toward me and I could see that he was chuckling to himself.
"I tell myself every day," he said, smiling. "Keep 'em in the pocket. Keep 'em in the pocket," he said. "Thank, you, young man," he added as he reached out, grabbed the keys and tapped me on my shoulder.
And that really was that.
I will add only this: There are some times when something as simple as a quick exchange - a smile and a tap on the shoulder - can serve as the perfect kick-start to another day of life. That was the case the other morning.
In terms of the older gentleman swimmer? There is more work to be done on that front; there is something unfinished about this story, I can feel it. I don't know why I say this, but it's my strong hunch that I will be meeting this man again some day. Then I can substitute my imagined story for the real deal. I give it a 95% chance that you'll be reading about it here some day down the road.
Monday, September 5, 2011
I have a standard answer to this question but to help me here, I'm going to turn to one of the world's foremost life philosophers. Fans of The Jerky Boys may smile at the above title as they may pick up on one of Mr. Sol Rosenberg's most quoted pearls of wisdom - one that seems appropriate for answering the question about my interview sources.
For example: Several years ago, I needed to get to Newark Airport and had decided mix things up a bit by taking a Super Shuttle instead of using a car service or cab. I usually flew out of LaGuardia but, living on the Upper West Side, Newark was often a good option. The shuttle picked me up at my West 87th Street address and when I entered the van, there were already a few other customers seated. Within a few minutes a couple of us started to chat and one woman (that would be Ms. Gayle Johnson) and I connected right away. By the time we had made it through the Lincoln Tunnel, I was already lost in a great conversation with Gayle and then, once we had hit the NJ Turnpike and she had asked about my occupation - I filled her in about the Eldercation project.
It's funny, very often I get a feeling about wanting to interview a particular individual but there is this moment of truth where I find myself hesitating - being careful not to insult someone regarding their age. Gayle was one of those people because, honestly, I couldn't figure out if she was under or over the age 70 threshold. As the van drove up to the Delta terminal, I knew it was time for a decision. The clock was ticking.
Three weeks later . . . I was sitting in Gayle's beautiful Upper West Side brownstone enjoying her company and learning about what prompted her move from Seattle to New York City many years earlier and how she had come to call New York her home.
So, yes, Sol is correct. You never, never know how a special person is going to enter your life. Go figure. A Super Shuttle ride to the airport?