inmcqueenLast week, Kate (My girlfriend, who am I seriously considering giving a pseudonym/nick name to use when referencing her in the blog–like how Bill Simmons calls his wife the “Sports Gal.”  Ninja Girl, maybe?) spent the weekend in Brooklyn.  We decided to take her dog, Marshall, to nearby Tompkins Park which supposedly had a dog run that our friends Chris and Ari were going to with their dog, Jack.  Now, Marshall may look like one of the thousands of pampered toy dogs that are practically everywhere in the city (he’s a bichon-poddle mix), but he’s far from it.  He’s got some miles on him at nine-years old (52 in dog years), walks with a limp (a previous owner was abusive and broke his leg which didn’t heal correctly), and has a semi-cantankerous personality much like an old man.  I like this dog.

At some point on the walk over, Kate passed me the leash.  Just as we were arriving at the park, we ran into our friends, who were on their way out.  As we stopped to chat, I noticed a guy walking by with a pit bull.  Marshall perked up and pulled me over so he could greet the large dog with the obligatory canine ass sniffing (I know no better way to describe it).  I glanced away for a second, then heard the unmistakable sound of growling and snarling, and turned back to see the pit bull standing over Marshall—trying to fit his jaw around the head of my girl friend’s dog.

What lasted only a few seconds felt much longer.  While Kate screamed and people stared, I tried to wrestle Marshall (who had started to fight back) from the much bigger dog, while his owner tried to pull him off.  It was obvious that both dogs wanted nothing more to do with each other, but they’re wiggling bodies had become tangled and intertwined—creating more tension, snarling, and biting.  Then, just as quickly as the fight had begun, it was over and Marshall was free. Obviously, Kate was upset and kept yelling “What happened?”  I couldn’t understand if she didn’t fully witness the exchange, or believed that it was caused by me and the other dog’s owner, Roy (he seemed like a nice enough guy), encouraging the dogs to start their own fight club.  Marshall wagged his tail.  He would walk away with only an ear infection from a small cut in his ear and another cut on his cheek.  I was surprised by my reaction, that I didn’t loose my cool and join in the screaming, or just freeze up and watch.

“You’re good in a crisis,” Kate said.  In fact, this is something she’s said before and pointed out when Marshall had a seizure on New Year’s eve (yeah, this dog has problems) that was I the one who rationally found the phone number for an animal hospital, phoned, described the situation, and then got us into a taxi. To be honest, I was never the calm one.  I was always pretty flighty and panicky in a desperate situation, either voicing my frantic feelings or keeping them inside and waiting for the moment to pass (though I usually could never shut my mouth). Sure, I could be counted on to lend a calming hand to a friend in dire straights, but that was because it was from an objective perspective—if it affected me, I’d lose my shit.

Being good in a bad situation was always a value I wished I possessed.  My father’s method for dealing with insane moments is to vent his frustration by loudly cursing and then barking orders (he’s ex-military).  Effective, but it lacks style. I always liked Steve McQueen’s grace under pressure in movies like the Getaway, Bullit, and the Great Escape.  A cool exterior that exudes confidence.  Rescuing my girlfriend’s dog from being mauled may be a bit different from winning a shootout or escaping Nazis via motorcycle, but it’s the closest I’ve come so far.

I think that it has more to with the older I get.  I’ve lamented here before my disappointment that I’ve not had an adventure filled life at this point, but my experiences have not exactly been dull either. I’ve had my fair share of stranded scenarios and close calls that required improvising and quick thinking.  Maybe each one has helped me outgrow my previous condition of panicking and finally become the cool operator in a pinch that I’ve always wanted to be.

Exactly a week after the incident with Marshall and the other dog in the park, Kate and I came home to her place after a full day to find her roommate freaking out. “There’s a pigeon in the apartment!” She yelled. I hate pigeons.  What snakes are to Indiana Jones, that’s what pigeons are to me.  There are not enough words in the English language that can describe my abhorrence of pigeons.  And I felt them all as I watched this rat with wings flutter and perch itself near the ceiling. I shuttered (on the inside) and turned to Kate and her roommate.  “Get me a broom and stay back,” I said.

[Pic via Imdb.com]

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brooklyn-signThis really happened: I was on the B61 bus, on the last leg of my commute home. Halfway down Bedford Avenue, a mocha skinned girl got on. She was fifteen, maybe sixteen, and her crowd of friends made varying cries of protest from the bus stop for her not to go. I looked up at the commotion to see her climbing up the stairs, giggling, with two plastic tiaras stacked one atop another in her hair. She was a pretty girl, not in the dead behind the eyes fashion model sort of way, but with an honest beauty. Her whimsical grin that she shyly covered with her hand added to the effect.

Following the hissing release of the bus’s air breaks and the high-toned hum of its engine, there was a drumbeat of a single pair of sneakers against the sidewalk. I glanced up from my book to see a teenage boy’s face just outside and bobbing slightly above the window’s bottom frame. He was running hard alongside the bus, his backpack twisting and jiggling. “I love you Michelle!” He yelled as he ran. The girl (who I assumed to be Michelle) laughingly tried to bury her face in her hands. The other passengers chuckled and smiled at one another. The boy continued to proclaim his love (“I love you! Hey, Michelle! I love you!”) until the bus out ran him.

A few blocks later, after the kinetic excitement at witnessing such a brazen act began to wear away, the B61 abruptly stopped to let people off—it is after all the nature of buses. And as the doors were closing, I could make out the slapping of rubber sneaker soles. The boy had caught up with us. “Hey Michelle! Michelle! I still love you!” He yelled, keeping with the bus for only a second before it sped off. Eyes rolled and people stared. I think Michelle even muttered an “Oh, my God.”

We cruised along for a while before a red light at the corner of Bedford and Broadway held us up. Sure enough, the kid appeared just outside the windows. He looked out-of-breath, exhausted even, but somehow was able to jump up and down, waving his arms.
“Michelle!” He screamed. “I just wanted to tell you one more time that I love you!” And then the boy ran off in a sprint. I don’t know what impressed me more: the young man’s persistence or his overall physical stamina.

For some reason, I don’t think the love he shouted was the same sort of “I love you” that so many teenage boys whisper into teenage girls ears. It struck me that maybe it was real. And as we turned on Broadway, passing Peter Luger’s, with the Williamsburg bridge stretching out over the East River in front of us, I remembered that just under the cement, with sewer pipes running through it, lies the ground that the used to be the fields and meadows of Walt Whitman’s Brooklyn.

bus1I live pretty far out of the way in Brooklyn (my girlfriend refers to it as ‘Siberia.’). It’s the sort of area where I find myself looking for a dead body every time I go out for a run. Not that my neighborhood is particularly dangerous, it’s s just desolate. There are warehouses everywhere and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway cuts right through it. I imagine that anyone driving around with a body in their car (I mean, come on, who hasn’t been in that situation?) would find my neighborhood the perfect place to dump a corpse. Living in this isolated and possible body dumping ground has given me a unique situation to enjoy the city’s mass transit system, I have to take a bus and two trains to get into work (it’s not as bad as it sounds), and I’ve noticed something.

It seems that people prefer to ride the subway trains over riding the buses. A friend recently went on a rant about how he hates riding the bus claiming that it’s always “crowded” and “stopping all the time,” but this guy takes the L train everyday, and I was riding it this morning—smushed up so close to another man that in any other situation it would of looked like we were going to kiss (for moment, I thought we might) and stopping a few times under the East River because of “train traffic ahead.”

I think people hate riding the bus because there’s a schedule. When you’re waiting for a bus, the sign at a bus stop tells you how much longer you have to wait, along with pointing out just how close you missed the last one. But if you’re waiting for a train, which has no posted schedule, there’s the constant possibility that the next one can come at any minute. Then when the bus is late, everything is out of order, and it feels like it could be hours until the next one (oddly, the next bus can never be about to show up at any minute). In Washington D.C., the Metro has electronic signs that display an exact countdown to when the next train arrives and it feels something like a cross between the two experiences. They’ve tried it on a few subway lines in New York, but if you’ve ever been in the Bedford Avenue Station in Brooklyn, you know they’re always off.

Last week, I watched a guy at the bus stop just about lose his mind because the bus was late. He was pacing and walking out into the road to look for any sign that it was coming, cursing under his breath. I just didn’t get it. What was the logic of trusting the accuracy of a schedule produced by the New York City Metro Transit Authority, an organization that you then can’t expect to keep to the schedule? And getting angry didn’t make any sense either. Rage won’t make the bus get there any sooner; it’ll just put you in a bad mood. I’ve started to ride the bus like the subway, with no expectations of when “the next one” will get there. I just don’t look at the schedule when I get to the stop.

It makes my whole commute feel like I’m hitching a ride on an untamable force, like the current of a river or the flow of wind in the sails. It’ll get you there when it get’s you there. You just have to enjoy the ride.