NaBloPoMo 2016 – Day 16 (Tired, yet good)

Off and on during parts of the day, I would ask myself, “what do I want to write about when I get home?” In the auditorium after being talked at and shown PowerPoint slides with long blocks of text. When I felt fatigued and my irritation growing with the pain in my feet on the way back from lunch. At 4:30 when I literally had nothing else to say because I’m not an expert like the people I was with in the room.

Afterwards, I got back to Union Station and sat down in my seat, I thought, “when you get off, ask the conductor if they use Kawasaki trainsets on the Camden Line.” Then, I wondered what I’d write about.

I never decided what I felt like saying.

I did, however, pose my question to the conductor. After I climbed down the steps, I stood near him and waited, the other passengers filing around me to cross the tracks towards the parking lot.

The answer, once everyone else had disembarked: only sometimes, he said, readying to command the train towards Camden Station. The Kawasaki trainsets are used almost exclusively on the Penn Line. The Camden and Brunswick lines use the newer MARC IV Bombardier sets. I wish I had more reason to be on the train and ask railfan questions to the conductors. I wonder why I never did it more often in New Jersey.

This morning, I finally got a ride on a Kawasaki 7000-series Metro train. Much cleaner. Video screens showed news, like PATH trains. Digital message signs displayed the next and future stops like newer cars on the NYC Subway. Everything a subway car should be in 2016, even if they’re lacking the charm of 70’s chic, which some folks still like.

I didn’t get home until 8. And I have to be in bed already for tomorrow. But I got to write about trains before I went to sleep. It was a good day.

Tomorrow, I’ll be on the Penn Line. Maybe I’ll get a Kawasaki set. Tomorrow will be a good day, too.

NaBloPoMo 2016 – Day 15 (The Old, the New, the Familiar)

I was back in D.C. For my job. The details of that aren’t of the greatest importance. Conference at a government building. Lots of exuberant participants. Surrounded by them in an auditorium, classroom style meeting space, a meeting space that looks more like a foyer. Somewhere you could stage skits, but not a play. Horrible acoustics. Then again, it wasn’t built like that.

My aunt reminded me, in response to the unexpected amount of fatigue I felt when I got home, that the last time I’d run around, commuting to D.C. and worked a full day there, I was 24. Fifteen years ago. No wonder I was bone tired.

It did all come back to me.

Passing Ivy City Shops, where Amtrak stores and repairs their trains. The station a little up the line at Laurel Race Course, the one place I remembered from my first time on the Camden Line. I was coming home from my first day at work at my very first internship in D.C. One of my high school friends had invited me to an O’s game and I hopped on the train after work. A freight train passed us at high speed and shook the train so much I thought it might tip over onto the platform.

The hard right after you walk down the platform at Union Station. It takes you straight into Metro. It can get clogged with commuters, so you instead make the right at Sbarro and the left at what’s now a clothing store, but used to be a bookstore, and down the escalator. Fewer people take that way. Easier to get down to the mezzanine and buy a Metrocard. Or reload your SmartTrip.

Red Line trains still oppressively crowded. The surprise at being able to get into the first train that comes. Having to usher someone into the train before me because I was only going one stop and I needed to be right near the door.

Masters of the Universe types eating lunch on Pennsylvania Avenue, the wonder at what they might be doing in their offices or in their cars. Maybe they’re like Raymond Reddington, running a worldwide operation, seemingly always from a moving vehicle. Sleeping in their suits or pants suits.

Protests. This time, school kids marching down Pennsylvania Ave, to register their own disdain for its soon-to-become landlord.

Still, there was room for surprise, discovery.

NoMa/Galludet Station really close to Union Station, closer than I thought. It’s almost like you could walk it, just like the short tunnel between Gallery Place and Metro Center. You can stand in one and look down the tunnel into the other. If not for the connections to other lines, they shouldn’t be spaced that way, I figure.

The new parking garage at Savage. It didn’t look like a bus stop this time. Perhaps a bus stop with a large parking garage, but still an improvement.

And yet, the thing that grabs and holds is this: Bombardier multilevel rail cars.

When I climbed aboard, it was like Jersey. I’ve lost track of the number of miles I’ve logged going to New York, Secaucus Junction, the occasional disembarking in Newark for the PATH. That equipment had become as familiar to me in some ways as the seat of my car. And more welcoming as I could sleep in them.

It was like a small reminder of one of the things I’ve missed. An echo from the part of me that feels as home there as the place where I grew up. From that space inside that misses the feeling of connection and awe from going into New York for an acting class, a writing workshop. To the burrito shop in the Village. Watching trains race by Hamilton.

The train back was Bombardier. The Penn Line train on the next track over was made up of the old Kawasaki bilevel cars that were being rolled out when I was commuting daily into the District.

I slept, as I had so many times on New Jersey Transit and MARC before then.

I’ve thought so much about home lately and what and where it is. I haven’t concluded anything yet. And maybe the whole point is to always be learning and creating and growing it. These glimpses of the joy up the line tell me I haven’t lost what I was trying to build there. Those dreams are still alive, waiting for me to get my ticket and come back. That’s comforting.

NaBloPoMo 2016 – Day 2 (Blunt Force Politics)

I get it. The media is selling us an election as much as they’re covering one. It’s not as much that they’re putting time and energy into covering something in the public interest as they’re engaged in a race and a fight themselves for eyeballs and advertisers. That’s the news game and between the uncertainty of print and online, I get the push to make the most money, the quality of the information being disseminated — not always the most important consideration. It’s feed for the growing fetishization of politics in America.

Perhaps if the majority of information I see coming at me were about policy as much as pussy and who’s saying it and who’s grabbing it; if it were as much about ideas as ideology and not the same staid politics and talking points, it might not be as loathsome. It might not feel like I’m being constantly beaten over the head with the same talking points over and over.

My mentor emailed me the other day talking about the election and his thought that Trump might win. I replied because I’ve always enjoyed talking about a wide range of subjects with him, including politics, but a wave of gladness and gratitude washed over me when, after a while, it came to me he probably wasn’t going to reply about it. I’m just tired of it all. I was tired months ago when he’d come to my desk to offer his latest prognostication.

Next Tuesday can’t come soon enough. At least then, the commercials will be gone, even if the fallout from the election will be just starting, whatever form it takes. My mentor and I can get back to mostly discussing ideas, which are far more satisfying.

I’m looking forward to local elections, specifically the mayoral election in Baltimore. Sheila Dixon, still convinced she does or will have a mandate, regardless of the outcome of the Democratic primary, is mounting a write-in campaign against Catherine Pugh (D), Joshua Harris (G), and Alan Walden (R). (I saw a huge setup for her over at Northern Parkway and Park Heights).

The next Mayor will be the first to deal with the long-term ramifications of Freddie Gray, the loss of the Red Line, and the acceptance of the Port Covington TIF, among many other issues facing the City. I know personality will enter into the election, but ultimately, the choices that we have aren’t being tainted and tarred by scandals and soundbites, but solely about which direction the City should move in. But here at the local level, there’s no large scale advertising to be sold, no race to the bottom for TV ratings. It’s truly a relief.

NaBloPoMo 2016 – Day 1 (Hopefully, this will be different)

Doing NaNoWriMo again. Taking the rebel path, writing essays instead of a novel or memoir other long-form narrative. Some folks are writing poems just like the PAD contest over at Writers Digest. I think I even saw some folks planning on writing plays this month. I should do that, but I’m committed to this idea of writing a book. Perhaps next month.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve started, but I’ve completed the novel once. That year, I “blogged” the novel by posting it piece by piece on my then-website. Since I didn’t give much thought about whether I was participating until about 9:30 last night, I haven’t thought about whether I’d post the book-in-progress here.

Doing NaBloPoMo, too, which is why this post is showing up when I also need to be average 1,666 words per day to finish the “main” project. I figured, if anything, that I owed a blog post per day, I’d have to sit down and make sure I wrote enough words to reach 50,000 by the end of the month for the “main” project.

This year, I have a huge advantage that I didn’t have in previous years — I have a desk. An honest-to-God desk where I do nothing but writing. In previous years, I’d fire up my laptop at 12:00 A.M. and get to it. But I’d be sitting at the dining room table or on the sofa with my laptop on my lap desk.

I once read there’s some psychological advantage to having a dedicated writing space. That when you’re in your dining room, your mind goes into the space of it being time to eat. That when you’re sitting on your sofa, your mind gets ready to relax. Maybe it’s true and maybe it’s not, but I do know that for me, it was hard to be productive sitting on the sofa. The dining room table wasn’t comfortable aside from writing my morning pages.

Now that I have a dedicated desk and a comfortable office chair, I don’t have environment as an excuse to not make a go of NaNoWriMo and complete. I want to win this year. And even if I don’t finish a complete, more or less, unified work, I’ll have much material to send out to places. Having fewer and fewer excuses is a good thing. And if there’s anything I want to change from my previous attempts, it’s that. I don’t want excuses and other BS to stop me from making what will hopefully be, some big gains this November.

I did start last night, but not at 12:00. I started around 12:25, when I felt like I’d have enough energy to write at least half of the words I needed for the day. And after I got done watching a bunch of YouTube videos.

I got there by 1:45. I’m going to write the last 800 or so, in an essay I’m liking so far, in the next couple of hours after I write this.

One day almost down.

(Update: 2418 words)

Dispatch from Home

I sit in a plastic chair on the porch.

A sweet scent. Maybe sausage on a grill. Beef. I smell fries and my mind tricks me into believing I can also smell the gravy about to be doused over them. The whole concoction will go into a box, fried wings in the next. There’s now a new carryout where the old banquet hall used to be. The Chinese food store is still there. I have my stories. About the store and gravy fries and cheese fries and wings and chicken boxes. Salt, pepper, and ketchup on my wings and fries.

Ka-joom. Clack-a-lack.

A trailer banging, tripped by the imperfections in the asphalt. The truck’s motor growls, yanking the still reverberating metal box up the road. And then another, probably headed South this time, maybe to Washington or somewhere in Virginia or North Carolina, maybe even to Florida or even somewhere out West. The road jabs and pitches these hulks all day and night. They always have, same as the #36 bus that stops across the street. The cars whose drivers, free of Downtown’s one-way-street grid, take liberty to fly towards the County line, a few corners away.

There’s a soul food store at the gas station, now.

Someone once shot at that gas station from the block, then ran. Altogether both stupid and smart.

Kids run down the block. There’s a fight at the bus stop. I run in, open the back door and it’s spilled all the way across the parking lot. The alley between the shopping center and the apartments keeps the kids in their khakis and powder blue and navy blue uniforms from dribbling over to the #44 stop.

In my day, fights transferred from line to line, line to neighborhood, line to block. I even got myself caught up in one once. But there was never more than that. We didn’t wear uniforms, either.

As soon as it heated up, it died out. When the cheering stopped, I knew.

Any out-of-towners driving by, perhaps hoping for a Wire-esque performance, complete with blood and the wailing of an ambulance and another brown-skinned mother, would have gone home disappointed. The police didn’t even show up. At night, they drive through the parking lot with lights flashing to show they’re there. Perhaps they want to own the night and have ceded the day to the kids.

The two boys at the corner watch excitedly for a moment, then as they probably have more than once, leave.

They’ve replaced me.

The hide and seek places — the bushes and trees I’d try to hide my husky frame behind; the knoll on the side of the apartments around the corner where we played minimally organized football and baseball games, against other neighborhoods and each other, where we coached ourselves and each other, patted ourselves and each other on the back; the blocks in the street where we used to jump and bounce balls and throw water balloons, all belong to these kids now. They own the bus stop and the Chinese store.

This is their time.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever be back here. Not to live. Visit? For sure.

I had finally found some peace with used to being from here, with someone else’s son or daughter taking the story over. I’d gone on to adventures elsewhere. Made some plays. Toured Harlem on foot. Driven the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I’m not settled, yet. I’m still learning the new, like the Qdoba on York Road, the building on 33rd Street that replaced the frat house with the shoe tree in front; remembering the old like the Giant on York Road, how to get to White Marsh. Harry Little’s sub shop became a frozen yogurt store and now it’s about to become a juice bar.

It’s often slow going like when I first went to Jersey, but I learned it. Learned in some ways to love it.

Still, I don’t know if I can ever stake the same claim I had before. How much of this city, this area, can be mine like it was. While I’m figuring it out, I’ll watch the trucks from the porch. Eat a few coddies. This city made me who I was, but being away, letting go, helped make me who I am now.

#30WriteNow – October 5

I need to read more.

Don’t get me wrong, I read every day. I have to read a lot for my day job, but that’s technical stuff, technology news. I read a lot when I get home, but these days, it’s mostly more tech news, other news, and general non-fiction type books. Cultural and social and political criticism, though I do try to limit my intake of the latter these days.

I need to read some essays, good essays. I’m kidding myself I don’t think I should read some good fiction. It’s good for the brain, but I like getting my brain-improvement fix from reading nonfiction, so some good essays it is. Personal essays.

I’m feeling kind of stuck in my own essay practice, so there’s that dual reason for wanting to get into some good essays. I want ideas and to get something from how whichever writer(s) I end up reading constructed their work.

The good thing about being home more is I’ll have less time with the TV, so I’ll have more time to read and hopefully get the creative juices stirred more.

I’ve been looking at places to take myself on artist dates. For one thing, there are more museums at home, so as I find the cash and time to take myself, I’m going to do that. I like that the Reginald Lewis Museum has a reading room on the top floor. I plan to take my Chromebook the next time I go there so I can write about what I see there, what I feel inspired by.

Last time I was there, it was the general exhibit of Black Marylanders, both those of us born in Maryland those who became Marylanders by virtue of things like playing sports in the state. Like Lenny Moore of the Baltimore Colts. I also liked the Black Dandy exhibit and had the thought to dress sometimes like the folks in the exhibit. It hasn’t worked out that way yet, but there’s still time.

I’m also looking forward to spending time in the library.

I am going to miss the libraries in NJ. Mercer County has some fine libraries, especially the ones in Lawrenceville and Ewing and on the campus of Mercer County Community College. Even the central library in Trenton is a good library. Their meeting space is really good. It’s an older, historic building and I like those.

My plan is to get myself into the main Enoch Pratt library on Cathedral Street in Baltimore at some point and a couple of the Howard County library branches. I’ll probably breeze through the Baltimore County Library in Towson one of these days too.

For nostalgia’s sake, I’ll probably check out the Enoch Pratt library Roland Park branch until they kick me out of there or something. I remember it long before the renovation, when I was in elementary school; these days, I see the teachers with the little kids tethered together walking the streets of Trenton and I remember that being us walking down Roland Avenue and crossing Deepdene Road to go to the library.

I’ll probably have to wait until and crash the next City College Alumni Association meeting to get into the library at the school. I am looking forward to that.

I am going to miss being closer to the Schomburg Center in New York. I wish I’d visited there more. I wish I’d taken another walking tour of Harlem. When I get my money up more, I want to go with my auntie and the lady friend and go on a Harlem tour. My aunt probably wouldn’t be up for all the walking, so we’ll have to do the tour on a bus or something, but I do want to do that. I’ll definitely need to get my money way up so we can take the train up to New York and get a cab at Penn Station up to Harlem. Or an Uber. Whatever it is they’re doing up there these days. I’m used to getting the Subway out of Penn Station to wherever I need to go in New York these days.

I wish I’d spent more time in New York. I still haven’t been to Grimaldi’s, either in Brooklyn or Hoboken. Haven’t been to Katz’s or 2nd Avenue Deli. Haven’t been to Yardbird or Red Rooster. Haven’t been to any of the other many soul food and other Black-owned restaurants around the City. The Harlem tour and then a nice dinner at Sylvia’s would be a great day for my auntie. I also want to take my little cousins to a basketball game at Barclay’s Center one of these days. Some deal — take the train, go to the game, come back home.

And for myself, something related to working in a theatre there.

#30WriteNow – October 4

O’s Fall

I waited until the bitter end to write. I wanted to watch. I wanted to write about how the O’s had overcome, gone on to face the Rangers, looking to get back to the ALCS and then the Series.

I was baffled by Buck’s reluctance to bring Britton in, but they lost because they got 4 hits all game and none after like the 7th. Ubaldo’s 5 pitch, 11th inning meltdown facilitated the ending, but as soon as the O’s bats got in the line to get back through customs, the game was done then.

I talked to my boss earlier about all the logistics possibilities in the event that the O’s won the game. ALDS Game 3 will be played Sunday. Had the O’s won, they would have played the same afternoon as the Ravens, a prospect that freaks out Baltimore City government and the MTA. At least they won’t all have to worry about it.

Still, MTA should look into how they can run weekend Camden Line trains. This week’s game is vs. Washington and I can’t think of a better time for weekend Camden Line trains.

Mets still alive

Probably the best thing about having more than one favorite team is when they’re both vying for playoff spots. I’m pretty numb about the O’s, but tomorrow night, I’ll get to see my other team take their own crack at getting to the Division Series. They’ll have to get through Madison Bumgartner, but it’s certainly not an impossible consideration.

My boss and I also talked about the logistics of getting to Citi Field. Last couple of times I’ve gone to Mets games, I’ve either gone via car or taken New Jersey Transit to New York Penn Station, then taken the Subway to Times Square to get the 7. My boss went to a Mets home game a few weeks ago and they took New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road. Next time I get to a Mets game, that’s the way I want to go.

New York Penn Station

Speaking of Penn Station, renderings for the new Farley Amtrak/LIRR station are coming out. New York Times ran an article with a competing vision which would see the Garden move to the Farley annex, with the current building largely gutted and re-faced with glass, creating an open building with lots of natural light.

I’ve been a fan of the Farley idea since it was proposed years ago. I’m glad to see it moving forward. It would also be interesting to reconstruct the Garden building so that the east end of the station is as impressive as the west, especially since it doesn’t look like New Jersey Transit is moving over to the Farley building with Amtrak and the LIRR.

Luke Cage

Haven’t watched it yet. It’s at the top of my list of things to watch. Then I need to finally finish this past season of Daredevil.


According to my job’s COO, who walked around the neighborhood and talked to folks, there was a shooting up the block from the office. Nobody was hit, but apparently, a group of guys took some shots down the street our building is on, from the adjacent street before running.

As he put it, tensions were high around the neighborhood right after it all went down. So folks around the office decided that it was a good time to go home –it was 5:30, which by itself meant it was a good time to go home– so the office pretty much cleared out. I got out of there, too. Wasn’t much point in staying much longer by then.

Google Reveal

Not much of interest. I was hoping they’d announce a successor to the Nexus 7 line of tablets, but nothing doing there. I’ve been looking to replace mine and with nVidia cancelling their X1, I was hoping Google would step up with a new 7 incher. Guess not. At least not yet. I may end up with a 7 or 7 inch Samsung or iPad at this point.