A few unexpurgated selections from my journal during a family trip to Paris:
”I swore I would never take a vacation with these people again. And here I am.”
”I thought G and V were going to tear each other’s faces off in the car on the way to the airport.”
“Yesterday we were all quite out of sorts with traveling and jet-lag.”
”I have given birth and helped to raise spoiled people and I apologize to the world.”
”Disneyland. Torture. Hell. No one really likes the rides. Pirates was closed and we never went back to see if it had reopened. It was cold. Food was overpriced. And Mickey Mouse is an asshole. At least there’s wine.”
”The museum has a kind of online app that is supposed to help navigate, but if you get into different floors the app picks up different floors and indicates you’re on a different floor. ???”
”Louvre. Lots of whining and grumbling.”
”Invalides. We went with just the younger two kids because S was still feeling sick and S was consumed with ennui.”
”S goes to great lengths to make sure we all know how unpleasant he finds us.”
”As I said, never again.”
”I think were going to impose an ‘under 18’ rule for family vacations. Over 18 they need to start paying for themselves.”
”Sunday. Rainy morning. Even though it has been in the 50s it feels cold because of the dampness.”
”In the meantime, laundry, shopping, dishes, cooking. Trying to remember if anyone said thank you. I don’t think so.”
”S didn’t leave the house.”
”It snapped something inside me and I said I was tired of everyone blaming me for everything. I smashed the rest of the dinner away and went for a walk along the canal. I’ll miss this place. I’m not sure I’d miss my family if they weren’t here. I feel like I’m constantly criticized for over planning, under planning, spending too much, spending too little, doing the wrong things, doing too much. Pretty much everything. Tomorrow I’m going to Sainte Chapelle when it opens and hope there isn’t a line."
Something like a resolution. I'll bold the ones I have been to, and then maybe cross out the ones I get to this year.
Tenement Museum, Lower East Side
New York Transit Museum, Brooklyn
Museum of the Moving Image, NYC
New York City Police Museum, Astoria, Queens
Steinway Factory, Astoria, Queens
Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton
American Labor Museum, Haledon, NJ
Walt Whitman Birthplace, Huntington Station, NY
And then 8.2mi hike on the Walt Whitman trail
New Jersey Pine Barrens, Pinelands National Preserve
Fossil/Dinosaur sites in New Jersey
Insectropolis, Toms River, NJ
Lambert Castle, Paterson (when the museum is open)
Long Pond Ironworks Museum, Hewitt, NJ
Marine Mammal Stranding Center, Brigantine, NJ
Meadowlands Museum, Rutherford
Museum of American Glass, Millville, NJ
Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, Madison
Museum of Russian Art, Jersey City
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton
Old Barracks Museum, Trenton
Rock Discovery Center and Sterling Hill Mining museum in Ogdensburg
Stickley Museum, Morris Plains
Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick
Afro-American Historical Society Museum, Jersey City
Friar Mountain Model Railroad Museum, Sparta
Grammy Museum Experience, Newark
Hamilton House, Clifton (open Sunday for tours)
Hiram Blauvelt Museum, Oradell
InfoAge Science History Learning Center, Wall, NJ
Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum, Rahway
Morven Museum and Gardens, Princeton
Moses D. Heath Farm, Middletown
Navy Lakehurst Heritage Center, Lakehurst, NJ (Hindenburg)
New Jersey Historical Society Museum, Newark
Behnke Museum, Paramus
Paranormal Museum, Asbury Park
Pinball Museum, Asbury Park
Stephen Crane House Museum, Asbury Park
Roebling Museum, Roebling, NJ
Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park and Edison Memorial Tower
Crossroads of the American Revolution, Trenton
Morristown National Historic Park
Paterson Great Falls
Thomas Edison National Historic Park
Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route - National Historic Trail
I've come up with a list of kinds of pets from best to worst, based on firsthand experience:
1. Cats - but only if you're not allergic, they don't need to leave your house, you can leave them overnight, and they every once in a while acknowledge your existence and seem glad you're there
2. Dogs - actually better pals than cats, but they're behind cats because the require so much more care and are much more expensive to maintain
3. Beta fish - cheap, low maintenance and quiet!
4. Birds - they're messy as hell, but they don't stink
5. Triops - ours died in three days, which is fairly amazing considering they've been around for 300 millions years, so I guess triops should just be glad we are getting into "The Berrettini Period" now, but I actually think the short life expectancy was a feature, not a bug
6. Turtles - we babysat one for a week, and it was kind of mesmerizing
7. Frogs - unless one eats the other one overnight, which is what happened and then I really hated the one that ate his friend and I never trusted him after that
8. Chickens - we had them as kids, and, like turtles, they're fairly mesmerizing, not super easy, but not that hard, and bonus! free eggs!
9. Harvester Ants - trust me on this one
10. guinea pigs - they smell so bad, their cage needs to be changed constantly, they poop a million times a day, and pee even more, they have creepy crawly nails that need to be trimmed, they hate being picked up or held, they basically hate people, because they know we eat them, but of course the thought hasn't crossed my mind....
...when the whole house is clean, all the laundry is done, dinner is on the stove, paperwork is done, your kids are getting along with each other and not staring at screens, and you can sit and put up your feet and have a nice hot cup of tea? Yah haha hahaha! Yeah, me neither.
About once a week I go food shopping and the fridge and all the cabinets are STUFFED, things are all over the counters, on top of the fridge, too, and I think, "This is going to last us a long, long while!" There is much feasting and rejoicing. We are like Vikings...if the Vikings ate cold cereal, salad, and apples and peanut butter. Then, about 3-4 days later, we're low on milk and eggs, no bread, no peanut butter, no cereal, and what happened to all the apples? And we're looking at each other like the last holdouts of the Donner party.
I finished up six years of running every day (that's 2,191 days) with a nice three-mile run in the cold rain this morning. My morning routine is streamlined now that I no longer ask myself if I'm going running today, just when and how far. Running every day has caused me to rethink what "good weather for running" means. I planned to do a mile and call it done, but once I got out, and found my Soprano's baseball cap kept most of the rain out of my face, I just kept going.
I just kept going, might be my running motto.
I ran a mile and a half to the track, and then around six times, dodging bloated earthworms who seemed to have crawled out onto the track to offer themselves up as a kind of blood sacrifice to the birds. Then I walked a mile and a half home, no headphones, just me and the sound of the rain, the occasional crow, the electric sound of a starling, and about two hundred Canada Geese (I stopped counting at fifty and just estimated from there).
After I got home and told my husband I just finished six years of running every day. He looked thoughtful for a moment, and said, "That's funny, I thought it was around four years, five at most." I counted on my fingers just to be sure. I began January 1, 2015, so that's 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Yup, six years.
This year especially, with the pandemic, with the isolation, running has been my lifeline. I'm not sure I have ever gotten closer than six feet with another human being, but I keep a gaiter around my neck just in case I am suddenly surrounded by hordes of people. But I'll wager not running is far more hazardous to your health than running is.
But I think the health benefits of running have to do nearly as much (or perhaps more) with being outside and in the sunshine for at least twenty minutes every day.
And then there are my running "friends." The folks I see, some of them nearly every day, we exchange a "morning" or a wave (yes, I'm one of those runners who acknowledges nearly everyone I meet). And this year, in particular, I feel like we've all developed a rapport.
There's Angelo, about eight years old, with his straight back and shoulders held up in a T, who walks with his distinctive sway around the fields. "How ya doin'?" he calls out. "Angelo," I say, "I'm doing GREAT!" "Ah, good to hear that, and so am I...and you have a wonderful day!" "You, too!"
There are the two men who must be brothers, the resemblance is so strong. We exchange, "Morning!" "Morning!" and that's all, but I wonder which of them is older and if he's the one who always tends to walk a few steps ahead.
There's the husband and wife, both probably in their seventies, who give me a wide berth as I run along the path, and I do the same. I think they may be Polish. We say, "Good morning," and one day I saw them at Aldi and couldn't think of where I knew them from until the man pantomimed running, and then I laughed.
Then there's Ian (or is it Tom?). I didn't see him for several weeks, and began to be worried, but we must have just kept missing each other. He's 92, a Korean War veteran, and walks every day with a walker, up one street, down another, then back again. He repeats this two or three times then goes home. He spent eight years caring for his wife who had Alzheimer's, and since she passed (that's the way he says it), what else does he have to do? Well, he went snowboarding with his grandkids over Christmas, so there's that. (Note to self: when I can no longer run, keep walking.) I always stop and talk with Ian (or Tom, I don't use his name because I'm not sure I have the right one).
There's the guy who walks while reading a Bible, or some religious work (how do I know this? I just do). If I didn't say hi, I don't think he would look up.
Another friend is a neighbor of mine, who goes to the fields early in the morning to hit golf balls, and complains about the Bible-reader who apparently has complained about his hitting golf balls in the fields. We have talked about the weather, his kids, the Vietnam War, the Marines, President Trump ("When THAT MAN said what he did about John McCain, well..."), his brother-in-law who died of COVID, and why we both love dogs so much. "Well, I'll let you get back to your running," he'll say, after talking my ear off for fifteen minutes.
Then there's the woman who walks with her sister (again, I don't know this for sure, but the resemblance is too strong for there not to be a family connection) and her daughter. And sometimes I say, "Good morning, ladies!" and I'm impressed by the girl's very mature wave and "good morning."
By and large the folks who are least likely to say "hi" or "good morning" or "howya doin'?" are younger people (and by "younger people" I mean anyone younger than, well, 51). The high school track team almost never acknowledges my existence (and I even know some of these kids!) as though a 51-year-old woman who runs is a portent of things to come, the omen they never want to believe. (But when I see them I do regret not running more, especially longer distances, in my younger years, back when my ligaments were made out of rubber, and soreness was cured by more running or maybe a beer.)
There's one youngish guy, maybe thirty at most (about the age when you can stop trusting people), who strides around the field, looking straight ahead, the gazelle is in his sights and his is going to run that thing down. I do say hi, but he's usually passed by the time it's out of my mouth. And sometimes I feel like tripping him.
Today I did no headphones. Sometimes it's music. Occasionally I'll listen to a podcast an audiobook (most recently was Jane Austen's Persuasion, which I had read before, I could swear it, but seemed brand new to me). I have very little patience for podcasts.
I almost only ever run alone. I hate running with other people. Really hate it. My pace alters, my mind fixates on what they're doing, what they're thinking. And this might be part of the reason I really don't like running races, even though I do, and why I am actually glad all races were canceled this past year. Ultimately, there's only one person I want to race against, and that's me. Running releases my brain, lets my thoughts scatter, then reins them back in. Running helps clarify my goals, work on my projects, come up with ideas. And, yes, when I'm listening to music, running also helps me to star in my own music videos. And they're fantastic.
So there are some thoughts on running every day for six years. I've wondered this year (maybe more than unusual) what I would do, what I will do, when an illness or injury ends my running streak. I just hope that I'll take it in stride (pun absolutely intended).