Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The mornings darken, colden. The trees slip slowly out of their summer dresses and their naked limbs crickle and crack in the drying air. Humans walk to secret locations, their chins tucked into deep gray collars. One man in a bright blue coat wanders around a six-corner intersection, negotiating the full circuit of crosswalks, lap after lap, malfunction.

Streetlights go out as the sun turns up.

"Colden" and "crickle" are barely words.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I didn't count on this being so difficult, but committing multiple book titles to memory while juggling the sundry brain functions necessary to ensure a safe and happy daily commute was often more than I could handle, and subsequently several of those book titles were scattered to the dark nether-regions of my mental library, where they will doubtless collect dust in perpetuity. I suppose I could have written them down—the titles—but that would have required the kind of preparation and execution I was simply not prepared to undertake for such a pointless exercise.

I managed to remember a few of the books I saw people reading on the CTA, here and there:

A Passage to India, E. M. Forster

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance , Robert M. Pirsig

Smoke & Mirrors, Neil Gaiman

Last Man Standing, David Baldacci

Fearless Fourteen, Janet Evanovich

The Carbon Age, Eric Roston

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

I said that I would tell you what it all means, but I didn't promise.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I came to work yesterday morning hoping that I would arrive at the office to find I had Columbus Day off. Or Canadian Thanksgiving. I was disappointed to discover that not only did I not have a vacation day, but that the twin forces of velocity and mass had conspired to temporarily expand what physicists refer to as work-time into a seemingly eternal cycle of repetitive events—walking to the water fountain, checking and organizing email folders, adjusting posture.

As a consequence, the fundamental quantity of work-time broke all manner of accepted standards and sent an entire field of experts hurtling into mass confusion (though not literally). Voices were raised, fingers were pointed, and it was decided that the most judicious course of action would be to take an hour-long lunch break and see what happened.

Twenty traditional earth minutes later, the situation had deteriorated significantly, as it was already time to go back to the office and a bill had not yet been split and settled. "Where has the time gone?" asked noted physicist Bertrand Kameltov without irony. "All morning time has been expanding and now, just as I've finished the ultimate bite of my Monte Cristo and moved on to the accompanying waffle fries, it seems time has suddenly contracted." Three tenured professors from Princeton agreed that something extraordinary was afoot and that subsequently timecards and hourly wages as we knew them would cease to have meaning. "I would tip 20 percent," offered Tom Wisenhunt, whose vast scholarship in tip theory did not allow for the automatic gratuity applied to groups of eight or more. (After much gnashing of teeth, Wisenhunt relented and rationalized by claiming the time warp they found themselves in rendered his theories "temporarily inoperable.")

Cosmic affairs did not return to their normal state until afternoon rush hour. But by then the damage was done.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The thumb is a resilient digit. Yesterday, I shut my right one in a steel doorjamb, where the swinging momentum of an office door came to rest on the center of the thumbnail. Youch. I iced the throbbing thumb, sure that I'd splintered a delicate phalange. The pain reminded me of a statistical chart that I saw in a textbook about the safest human ages—a parabola that peaked somewhere near age 10 and then dropped steadily. I grow more vulnerable by the day. My thumbs are in peril.

But within minutes, the pain receded and I was fine. Instead of death I thought of butterflies. The order lepidoptera. Wings, flight. Slow, brilliant beating. The spiral proboscis. The hovering spiracle.

I am currently reading, well, a few books. But the one I'm reading most actively is White Noise. I hope it gets better than it is.

I've also started keeping a list of books that I see people reading on the CTA. I'll post this list at some point. And then I'll explain what it all means.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

It is early in the morning. Or it feels early. The midwestern dawn ebbs, emerging at a later point as winter approaches. The pinkish sky is streaked with high, slow bands of cirrus that will burn off by noon. But for now the air is tight and cool, the winds light out of the west, clouds safe.

The sound of traffic has changed. Thick and rounded in summer, it has become thinner, harsher. It is the white voice of a small seashell.

I can smell burning wood and other byproducts of heat as their fronts co-mingle, the richness of decomposing leaves and wood and grass a consistent backdrop.

It is Tuesday.