Air Cruelty

I am writing this on my flight home from a business trip. The man who boarded ahead of me has a thick, hacking cough. He insisted, “I don’t have what everyone thinks I have. It’s just a cold.” I didn’t ask how he could be certain.

I sat in an exit row seat—the one with extra legroom. He sat a row ahead of me on the other side of the aisle. No one sat in his row, nor did anyone else sit in mine. No one needed to—it’s a Southwest flight, and it is only 2/3 full, so there is plenty of space.

As people filed by, many gave him dirty looks. Others mocked him, some criticized him. One man complained to the flight attendant, “Now my exit row seat is ruined.” I heard someone mutter, “Irresponsible.”

Maybe it is. I know I’ve flown while sick before. “I have to get home,” I thought, and considered it a necessity. I never really thought about whether that was a responsible thing to do. If I were sick right now, would I have declined to fly, or would I have decided that my need to be home outweighed the risk to others? I have to admit that I likely would have done the latter.

I do think it was irresponsible of him to take an exit row seat, no matter how willing he may be to assist in an emergency. But his choice doesn’t justify the way people treated him. Fear is understandable. Cruelty is indefensible.

Happy Holidays

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When I was in New York last week, I heard the phrase “Happy Holidays” from every store clerk, every waiter, every cab driver I interacted with. It was charming. It felt like they meant it. Enjoy your holidays! Whatever holidays you celebrate, have happy ones!

Imagine that. People in a multi-cultural, polyglot city having the courtesy to extend general holiday wishes to each other rather than narrowing it down to a specific one, because they can’t be certain who celebrates what. In a city that gets an unfair rep for rudeness, a little bit of consideration and civility.

How shitty a human being do you have to be to consider that a threat to your way of life?

Fate, Fortune, and Friendship

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It happened that my friend Don and I discovered that we were in New York City at the same time. I was staying near the World Trade Center, and he was in Harlem, but that distance paled in comparison to the 1,200 miles or so that usually separates us. We arranged to meet in Midtown. When I spotted him as I crossed 8th Avenue toward the restaurant we’d agreed on, I felt a deep sense of joy and gratitude for the gift of time together.

Don and I met over twenty years ago in graduate school, when we were assigned an office together. We discovered mutual loves not only of literature, language, and drama, but also of less highbrow interests like superheroes and Star Trek. Our similar outlook and senses of humor meant we were sympatico in other ways as well.

It sometimes feels like it was fate, rather than mere good fortune, that we found each other as friends. Last night, it felt like it was fate, rather than mere good fortune, that placed us at the same time in a city where neither of us live, with time enough to get together. Whether it was fate or good fortune, I am profoundly grateful for it.

Go Zen

My plan last night was to check into my hotel, then go directly to Red Bamboo for dinner. I’d eaten there in 2013 on the recommendation of the manager of Meze 119 in Saint Petersburg and loved it. Alas, it was not to be. I got there easily enough, but all tables were taken and there was a one-hour wait.

I put my name on the list and gave them my phone number. Rather than sit and wait, I decided to walk around and see what I could find. When I left, I mentally flipped a coin. It came up tails, so I turned left. Only a few doors down, I spotted Go Zen, a vegan place with a pan-Asian menu. A few tables available, and I could eat right away. I was ravenous, and everything on the menu looked so good. Honestly at that point, I was ready to start gnawing on my own arm.

That would not be appropriate, because I happen to be made of meat.

It was very hard to choose an entree. Even ruling out the dishes that featured mushrooms didn’t help. (Mushrooms and I are not on speaking terms.) There was still so much to choose from. Finally, I opted for the Soy Cashew Salute and a cup of Cream of Broccoli soup.

It was delicious. I’m so glad I chose to explore instead of waiting. I highly recommend this place and will return the next time I’m in the city.

Feeding Sam in the Big Apple

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I’m heading to Manhattan next week on business and I am super excited about it. It’s been four years since I last spent time in New York, not counting the quick visit to the Cloisters last year. I’ve never been to Manhattan in winter, so when my client engagement wraps up, I’m planning to visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, and maybe strap on a pair of skates.

I’ve also got to eat! I know a few places from past visits (dinner one night at Red Bamboo is a strong possibility) but I’d love to hear recommendations for great vegetarian cuisine around the World Trade Center or Lower Manhattan areas. What do you say? Help me get my feed on!

Photograph by Omer Meral.

Noise

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I flew home today from visiting my family in Colorado. Unlike Friday’s flight out, when I had extra legroom and an empty seat next to me, I couldn’t write. Wedged into a cramped airline seat next to a guy as big as I am, I couldn’t get to my computer to get it out. Even if I could have extracted it from my bag, I couldn’t have used it. The woman in front of my tilted her seat back as soon as we got off the ground, and the keyboard would have been crammed into my stomach.

Instead of writing, I read. I had brought Salman Rushdie’s latest novel, The Golden House, which I had started reading a couple of weeks or so ago before I got distracted. Other than discomfort, there were no distractions in the sky, so I finished the book. One line jumped out at me:

I need to think and the city is full of noise.

It occurred to me that my life is full of noise, and that noise makes it hard for me to think. Social media. Television. Even work. Noise, noise, noise. If, as journalist William Wheeler said, “Good writing is clear thinking made visible,” then I’m going to continue to struggle to write well as long as I am too distracted to think clearly.

I need to find space and time in which to think so that I can write well. Maybe a repeat of last year’s social media sabbatical is in order. Maybe I should cut back on television. I definitely need to set aside more time for meditation and reflection.

Because I said I would

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I am late with today’s blog post. Normally, I write them the night before, and schedule them to post early in the morning, but Sunday was too hectic to allow it.

We drove to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, after a stop at Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, to visit the Mai-Kai Restaurant and see the show. The trip was Carolyn’s reward to herself for landing her new job earlier this year, and this was the first weekend that we could get away.

We’ve been to the Mai-Kai before, but I’ve always driven, so I couldn’t enjoy any of their signature cocktails. This time, we decided to take a Lyft so that I could imbibe. This was a good decision. Even if I’d been sober, dealing with traffic on Federal Highway would have been trying at best. And I got to try the Shark Bite, the Mara-Amu (of course I got the souvenir mug, too), and after dinner, the Kona Coffee Grog. Didn’t like the latter, but it was cool to watch the waiter set it on fire.

The show was fabulous, of course, and everyone who hasn’t been to see it should go, and anyone who has seen it should go again.

Sunday, I worked on my novel in the morning, and that was all the time I had for writing that day. We visited the Fruit & Spice Park, another of Carolyn’s favorite places, then met a friend for fruit shakes and smoothies at Robert is Here in Homestead. After that, we went to Crate, a vegan restaurant in downtown Miami, for lunch.­ That left us just enough time to head to FIU for the NASL playoff match between the New York Cosmos and Miami FC. I don’t like either team, but former Rowdies players Lucky Mkosana and Juan Guerra are on the former side, so we cheered for them. It was an exciting match that went to extra time and then penalty kicks, and ultimately a Cosmos victory.

The bonus soccer, and waiting afterward to congratulate Lucky and Juan, meant that we didn’t get home until after 1:00 AM this morning, and so here I am, writing the most boring blog post ever, because I promised myself I’d write something every day, and this is all I had brainpower for.