Day 31 – Airports and Flags

airport

(NOTE: It looks like I started this project a day early because it’s October 30 and I’m doing Day 31. Guess I was really eager to get started.)

This is the Fredericton airport. It’s not big but it’s still a portal into the world outside this sleepy little place. I’ve passed through the doors of this place into Chicago, Toronto and Miami. There were other places, but these three have something in common: They’re my three favorite cities to run at night.

Running along the Miami Beach boardwalk at night is like running through a vortex of pure energy with the ocean crashing along the beach creating all those bubbly little negative ions that tickle your brain cells into relaxation and creativity. I went swimming there one day, in the daytime. I had the ocean all to myself and wondered why all those people on the beach weren’t in the water. It occurred to me that it was November and maybe for Floridians it was too cold, whereas for me it was a balmy summer day. In November.

After swimming around for a half hour or so I swam back to the beach, dried off and packed my beach stuff into my backpack and headed back to the hotel. I was stopped by a couple of women when I reached the boardwalk and one of them asked me if I’d seen the flags. “What flags?” I said, trying to sound intelligently confused. She explained that the red and blue flags along the beach were warnings of dangerous aquatic life (i.e., sharks) and riptides that would carry me into the ocean a wash me up on a beach somewhere in Portugal.

Drank a lot of beer that night.

I went for a run in downtown Toronto one night shortly after 9/11. I ran a couple of miles from my hotel to the CN Tower so that I could slap it and say, “Don’t you go getting blown up.” Times haven’t changed much, have they?

As I approached the base of the tower, I saw two armed guards at the base of some stairs not too far from where I was. And they saw me. In fact, they were keeping a close eye on me. They were to my right, watching me and I thought, “Screw you two. I’m gonna slap that tower.”

About twenty feet from the tower’s base, I took my metal water container from its pouch on my waist. I glanced over at the guards and noticed that one of them was taking his gun out of its holster. I was having a hard time getting my head around this and wondering if I could run fast enough to dodge bullets. But I kept running, I slapped the tower, stopped an drank some Gatorade. I looked over at the two guards and saw one of them restraining the trigger arm of the one I’d seen drawing his gun.

On my run back, I ran right past them and said, “Thanks,” to the one who stopped the other one from shooting me. Things like that didn’t happen when I was a kid in Toronto.

Of all the cities I’ve ever visited, Chicago is my favorite to run in at night. You never run out of skyscrapers and lights. And there are areas where the buildings don’t block the view of other buildings. It’s like looking into mammoth bowl of light.

The last time I was there I was on a trade mission with businesses and government people from New Brunswick looking to build relationships with businesses in Chicago. Some of the government workers pulled their heads out of their Blackberries long enough tell me that I was crazy to run at night in Chicago.

“You’ll get mugged.”

“You’ll get murdered.”

“You’ll disappear and never be seen again.”

And they buried their heads back into their Blueberries.

That night I went for my longest run ever in Chicago. I even ran into areas that I probably shouldn’t have gone within a mile of.

But I didn’t get murdered. I didn’t get mugged. And I didn’t disappear.

Lesson learned: Always keep an eye out for the flags, but don’t let imaginary flags bring you down.

Day 26 – Leaves and Blank Mind

Leaves

I went for a run this morning. It was overcast with the occasional brush of light rain. Kind of a noir morning, the kind that breeds either introspection or a blank mind. This was a blank mind noir morning, and I ran through three puddles instead of around them, getting my feet thoroughly wet, but I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Even when there’re no puddles around.

And I almost ran over a car. Sorry poor little senior lady with the red hat for scaring the hell out of you. But next time…stop at the pedestrian crossing. There might be people with blank minds out for a run.

Blank mind is like a sky with no definition…the kind of sky hovering over my head. A portal leading into release from thought. And who needs to think on a Saturday morning under a noir sky?

When you’re running, it’s zen in motion. And I was running, puddles and all. And pretty much ignoring everything. Including my route. I usually run down the street I live on, but today I took a different route, not even realizing it until I came to a small barely leafed tree and I stopped dead, seeing something so beautiful that it actually made my heart pound. I walked around slowly under it, seeing it from different angles and marveling at the stark simplicity and vibrant color.

It was as though the leaves and branches were in a state of blank mind and floating in a place of no definition. But not running into puddles or scaring the hell out of old women.

Just being.

And this was my challenge for today. I finished the half block of my run, got my camera and went back to that tree, praying every step of the way that nothing had changed, that the tree would still be there, that it would still be in a state of blank mind, that the sky wouldn’t suddenly turn an un-noirish blue.

I wasn’t going back there to capture a picture, I was going back to capture a beautiful feeling. And I think this time I got it right.