Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Was I lost?

So lately my buddy Larry and I have been going to the locations of the open runs. The open runs are the community runs the roadrunners organization organizes but they're not organizing them now but we're going anyway. Sometimes we've been meeting people there we've been doing the same thing. But we're not talking about it. Because we're not allowed to meet anyone anywhere. But we are all wearing masks and we stay 6 feet apart.  Sometimes I run there. Running to Marine Park or Bay Ridge Park or Canarsie Park is easy for me. I know those neighborhoods. It's where I grew up. The other open run in Brooklyn is in Highland Park. I'm not that familiar with that part of Brooklyn. The mapping programs tell me it's only five and a half miles away, but without a map in my hand I can only get close. The last week I ran down Eastern Parkway and when I was about a mile away I turned on my GPS and told it I wanted to go to Highland Park. 
I made the classic mistake.
Highland Park is big.
Google took me to the "other" part of Highland Park.
I'm not going to start disparaging the part of Highland Park that the Road Runners Club uses for its open runs. Well yeah, I am. It's basically a hill with a couple of paths around it.  A lot of the pavement is worn out and there's not much shade. There is also an out-and-back on some busted up pavement. If you look at the whole thing you'd kind of think that is the kind of place at Robert Moses gave to a neighborhood and said "Here, here's a park leave me alone."  That was where I was supposed to go. I didn't think it was so bad because I was kind of used to it and I was meeting nice people there.
 But my GPS took me to the part of the park that used to be a reservoir. 1.18 mile Loop. The reservoir was filled in and fenced in and is now in a growing forest and pond. Here is a link to all the pictures Larry took. Cuz after I ran a loop of the reservoir I went down to the crummy part of the park found Larry and convinced him to come up to the reservoir.
This is what it looks like to run around the reservoir part of the park
You also get views like this


I don't know, the open run has pads that look like this.  Maybe when and if there is a post covid-19 to change the meeting place for the Highland Park open run. Is a parking lot and bathrooms the Reservoir also.  But there might be some inter-governmental political considerations that I am out of the loop of.
anyway, here's a link to my new mapmyrun
When I was  "lost"  up by the reservoir I found  myself running alongside a little group. I introduced myself and  ask them about this part of the park. They wanted me to keep it a secret. But then they told me they were just kidding. I told them I had run from Park Slope by Grand Army Plaza and they were impressed. I asked them how close I was to Queens. They told me I was actually in Queens and I was actually surprised. Who knew? I left Brooklyn without my passport!






Friday, July 31, 2020

You can't make a living finding MetroCards anymore (Updated 7-31-2020)


Actually updated again July 31st 2020


I didn't think I'd be updating this blog again. But here I am. Since I got out of the hospital 6 years ago I have not been on the subway as much as I used to. Also,  the MTA smartened up and started charging a dollar if you need a new Metrocard.  Which means if you refill a MetroCard you can save a dollar. So a lot less people are discarding their empty or almost empty metrocards. Furthermore, many people are picking up MetroCards to save themselves a dollar when they need  to buy a new Metrocard.

That said, that doesn't mean I stopped finding metrocards. The streets full of them. People still drop stuff. Just a few weeks ago I was running a virtual 5K in Prospect Park and there was a MetroCard on the roadway. I asked my buddy to pick it up and he reported to me just now that it had $3.25 on it.  But MetroCards found in the street often take a beating. When I get to the subway they often say "see agent" when I run them through the scanning machine. But "see agent" does not mean garbage. When I get a handful of them I ask the token clerk for an envelope and I mail them back to the MTA. A few months later I get a letter in the mail with some MetroCards in it with random amounts on it. Sometimes $0.25 sometimes $5. Many times the other letter says that the cards were actually void or expired. A few times I got letters like the one I have a scan of here. Someone dropped a monthly card that they bought with their credit card. Because I mailed it back the MTA credited them back $55.

Probably final update, July 21, 2017.

Back in May 2014 I suddenly stopped taking the subway on a regular basis. About the same time the MTA started charging a dollar if you didn't bring them a Metro card when you wanted to put money on it. Now that I'm back taking the subway on a somewhat regular basis I've made an observation that there are a lot less Metro cards laying on the floor in subway stations. This could be because people are keeping their valueless Metro cards for refill purposes, or that people are picking them up to save a dollar and they need a new card, or that the MTA is doing a better job at cleaning the stations. In any case, I'm not finding subway stations with their floors strewn with MetroCards.

However, when I do find cards laying around the subway the ratio of how many have value on them is about the same as it was before 2014. Between 5% and 10% of the cards I find sitting on top of the vending machines have some money or some days of use left on them. Also, I'm still noticing the same amount of cards on the floor in supermarkets, parks or places that are not subway stations. Those cards are still worth bending down and picking up. Every time I do that I remind myself that there was three years where I couldn't bend down and pick them up.


Update, May 24, 2016

It's been a long time but I'm finally updating this.


It's kind of ironic but the MTA gave me a Metro card with my picture on it. I don't have to put money on it and it just comes loaded with eight swipes a day. I guess they'd rather have me on public mass transit then send an Ack-Stress o Ride to go get me. This past Saturday when I was approaching the starting line to the Brooklyn half Marathon there was a Metro car on the ground. I can bend down but it's hard to pick things up off the floor, so I compels my friend Josh to pick it up. He didn't need it so I wound up running the whole race with it in my pocket. I just checked it, and it's going to work till May 31. 



It has been a week since the fare went up and the MTA is collecting an extra buck if you don't refill you existing MetroCard.  The is not less litter.  In fact, I have seen many people pay the extra $1 for a new card when the top of the MVM is strewn with cards.  I also assume that I will start finding many $1.95 cards instead of $1.70 cards. People are just going to put $10 in the machine and get a $9.45 card.  After they ride 3 times for $7.50 they will toss the card with $1.95 on it.  (3-8-13)



The card to the above was found sitting
 on top of the scanner box.  It had $7.25 on it
.
So next week the MTA will start charging $1 if you need a new card.  I really don't think I will find any less.  People leave $45 cards on top of the MVMs because they are careless, not because they don't care about the money.  So instead of finding a lot of  $1.70 card I will find a lot of  50 cent cards.  (3-1-13)

The other day I watched a guy freak out as he was trying to swipe his way onto the subway.  He kept swiping cards and  could not get in.  He slammed a pile of cards on top of a payphone and stored over the the machine and bought a Single Ride.  After he went through the turnstile I check the value on those cards.  They added up to over $20, mostly $1.70 cards and a few larger cards that had recently expired.  People just don't know that they can go over to the booth and get them combined. (12-25-11)

Now the bonus is 7%.   $10 gets you $10.70 and the fare is $2.25.  But, 4 trips is $9.  With $1.70 left our the card there is no extra ride when someone buys a $10.00 card.  Since 2011 started I have been finding cards with $1.70 on them for every one that used to have a nickel on it.


In the sidebar of this Blog I list the sum of the value of the MetroCards that I find. If I find 5 or 10 cents in a given day I don't post it, I wait till it adds up to something worth typing.

I would like to point out that I believe that every MetroCard that I find was lost by somebody. They were not put there for me to find. On more than one occasion I found some valuable cards (Transit Check Gold) and moments after I scanned it at the reader I saw a desperate individual looking at the ground in a subway station. Asking that person if they lost their MetroCard and returning it to them was more satisfying that riding for free for the rest of the month.

I think the design of the MetroCard lends itself to getting drooped. It is the thinnest thing in your picket. If you keep it with your cash or keys it can slide out without being noticed. I would urge everyone who uses a MetroCard to use a MetroCard holder of some sort.

That said; finding value on MetroCards is like winning at gambling without the risk of loosing your own money.

If you are interested in doing this either for sport, competition or to save money or to supplement your income; here is some advice.
  • The further you are from the subway the more likely the card has value on it. The highest value cards that I have found have been in on the Brooklyn Bridge, on the courses of races, in the middle of intersections, in supermarkets, parks, etc. These were not drooped by careless litter bugs. Nobody would walk to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge just to flick their MetroCard onto the sidewalk. It was dropped by somebody pulling their camera out of their pocket. So if you see a MetroCard in a place having nothing to do with the MTA, pick it up.
  • The cards just inside the turn-style are not worth picking up. I have seen countless slobs swipe their MetroCard with one fair left on it and drop it like they drop everything they have no more use for.In a subway station don't just look at the MetroCard Reader. Look on top of the MetroCard Vending machines. Look in the cracks in the vending machine. Look on the little shelf on the front of the "token booth". Especially the stations that do not have anybody working in them; the burgundy stations
  • Most of the cards I find in the subways station have 5 cents on them but many have $1.50 or some other amount under the subway fare. But like the lottery slogan, "Ya never know" sometimes there is $20 or more just sitting there waiting to be pickup. The upcoming increase in fare will obviously improve the quantity of cards with left over fare on them.
  • Many of the cards I find with more then $10 or $20 on them are "expired" I don't think many people know that you can exchange them for a new one
  • Follow the instructions on the card reader. If it says "Please Swipe Again", do it, just 2 or 3 times, then put it in the trash. If it says "See Agent" do that, but first try it again another day. That card probably has some value on it.
  • When it comes to combining MetroCards, don't over burden the "token clerk". It might be their job to combing MetroCards into a usable amount but some evoke unwritten "I can only combine 4 or 5 rule". Some have refused to help me at all because they said they have been on the ground. One clerk even told me her machine did not combine cards. I would not advise arguing with these people. They work in a bulletproof booth and it is an extra felony to "assault" them. They also have a pretty crappy job, there is no point in giving them a hard time.
  • If you look at the rest of my blog, you will see that I am a marathon runner. I run a lot. When I run, I make a point of passing through subway stations (I get some stair training). Also loops around Prospect Park can be a little repetitive. A larger loop can include many subway stations. The F train: Prospect Park and 7th Ave, the Q/B Train Parkside, Prospect Park and 7th Ave and the 2/3 Train Grand Army Plaza and Eastern Pky/Brooklyn Museum.
I once found a Transit Check Gold MetroCard. It worked for 3 and a half months. The original owner did not tell their payroll manager it was lost. But most of the monthly MetroCards I found did not work for as long as they should. The original owner contacted the MTA and reported it lost. They got a prorated refund. I was kinda glad.

Whenever I find a student MetroCard or a Senior/Disabled Card I hand it to the "token clerk". They are issued to specific individuals and it is against the law to use them.


Karma works both ways. If I ever see someone looking for a "swipe" to get them on the train, I always give them one. Also, I befriended a man in my neighborhood of little means (I don't believe he his homeless). We started talking about all the things that can be found. I told him I find lots of MetroCards. He did not even know what they were, he has not ridden mass transit in years he said. Now he picks up MetroCards and keeps them in his picket till he sees me. I do not give him the value on them. I give him 10 times the value on them or $10, whichever is greater.



I asked this question to the MTA:

Customer (******* ****) - 05/06/2009 12:18 PM
I read in the news that a man was sentences to jail time for bending metrocards.

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/bent-metrocard-is-forgery-court-rules/

Are there any regulations against


1. Picking up discarded metrocards from the floor of a subway station or on the top of the metrocard testing machine?
2. Asking the booth attendant to combine them into a usable amount?
3. Using them for personal use?
4. Giving them to a friend or family?

This was the response I got:

Response (Melissa Glasgow) - 05/06/2009 03:21 PM
This is in response to your recent e-mail message to MTA New York City Transit regarding MetroCard.

As you may know, you may have uneven balances of several Pay-Per-Ride cards (that you have previously purchased and hold primary ownership of) moved to 1 card at the service booth of any one of our stations. You may only process 5 cards at a time (four old+ the one that the remaining values are being transferred to). This limitation exists to prevent fraudulent activity. You may also send your MetroCards to MetroCard, 2 Broadway, Room B11.59, New York, NY 10004. Due to fraudulent activity at our MVMs, this transaction/feature was removed from our MVMs, several years ago.

However, under the circumstances you have described, the station agent has the discretion to refuse to perform the transaction and summon NYPD Transit assistance, if he/she suspects fraudulent activity at our booths and/or turnstiles.

http://www.mta.info/mta/news/releases/?en=080625-NYCT85
http://www.mta.info/metrocard/termsunltd.htm

Thank you for having taken the time to contact us.

I asked what law I would be violating. The responded by telling me to submit a Freedom of Information Act request:

This is in response to your recent e-mail to MTA New York City Transit requesting information regarding the MetroCard tariff and the laws surrounding it.

Please be advised that the information you seek may be available under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). You must submit an electronic FOIL request to the appropriate MTA agency via the FOIL request page on the MTA website. If you send an electronic FOIL request in any other way or to the wrong agency, you will not receive the records you are seeking. You may submit an electronic FOIL request at www.mta.info/foil.htm. Be sure to select the appropriate MTA agency. Otherwise you may contact MUNY directly to investigate the feasibility if your request - http://www.mta.info/mta/aft/muny/

We hope this information is helpful and thank you for having taken the time to contact us.

Melissa Glasgow
Associate Staff Analyst

See more information in SubwayBlogger.com ,Yelp and The New York Post has an article about a women who finds cards. The New York times has a story about Single Ride Cards and refills. AM New York says the MTA is budgiting $48 Million in extra money from lost and unused MetroCards.  The Daily News thinks this is news.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Baseball just did it

Baseball started the other day.it's not that important to me. But it seems to make a lot of people happy. I think there's a lot of things we got to figure out that are more important like schools, but that's another subject.
I only really noticed cuz it made the news when players took a knee and Doctor Fauci threw out the first ball. And it was important to some of my friends.  Baseball came back in a much different way. Some different rules and a different way to spectate.
But my sport is running. I participated as an athlete and as a race organizer and official. We have all been thinking about the New York City marathon. This year's  race was canceled and it was supposed to be the golden anniversary of the event that was an extra big deal. I was thinking maybe there could be something. Something different and something wonderful.
Maybe on November 1st there could be a 26.2 mile race entirely in Central Park. It definitely wouldn't be the first time that would happen. 
That's how the first few New York City marathons happened back in the 70s. Until the
Runners in the first New York City Marathon turn onto Park Drive in Central Park, 1970. (Ruth Orkin/Ruth Orkin Photo Archive)
Runners in the first New York City
Marathon turn onto Park Drive in
Central Park, 1970.
(Ruth Orkin/Ruth Orkin Photo Archive)

 bicentennial the race happened entirely in Central Park.  Undoubtedly, running a
 point-to-point 5 boro 26.2 mile race in New York City with literally millions of spectators cheering for you is glorious, (I've finished it 20 times!) But, there is nothing wrong with a marathon that has repeating loops if you want to find out how fast you can run.   My fastest marathon was on a 1-mile loop. I have finished the New York City marathon tune-up race over 20 times, it's three full loops of Central Park. In 2012 I finished five full marathons. My fastest was the course of the Brooklyn Marathon it was eight Loops of Prospect Park. I did it alone when the New York City Marathon should have happened because Sandy canceled it. I honestly don't think the people who win world class marathons are looking at the scenery.  
This reminds me of a true story.  About 25 years ago I was running a summer evening race in Prospect Park. They were probably about 50 participants. I knew most of them. At the finish I said to one of my buddies, " did you see the fog on the lake?" he replied that he was running too hard to notice the fog.  The winner happened to be standing right next to me he looked at me and shrugged ,"There's a lake?

Putting on a marathon in Central Park is definitely still doable. It's one of the last things I helped do before Guillain-Barre Syndrome took my motor nerves away.  I'm really proud of my work with NYCRUNS  I think we did a really good thing. It was a challenging course. A few hundred runners had a really good time running a marathon entirely in Central Park that day. 

So a gigantic 55,000 person, point to point, New York City Marathon cannot happen on November 3rd 2020. We can't have tens of thousands of people converging on New York City. We can't have them I'll pick up that bibs some sort of Expo. We all can't go to the starting line together. We can't run. We can't be given water. We can't celebrate at the finish line. And two million people can't cheer for us. It can't be New York City's greatest day of the year.

Or Can it?

On November 3rd the Road Runners Club could put on a marathon completely in Central Park for elite athletes only. This will not bring tens of thousands of people into New York City.  It will not create a temporary town on the  Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge and millions of people will not line the sidewalks to get to see me run by. It can still be New York City's greatest day. We all might have a socially distanced watch party that could be great.

  • The park can be closed to spectators.
  • Elite athletes provide their own hydration stations anyway.
  • Maybe, maybe have some VIP spectator seating
  • Actually have races all day. The handcycles would start at dawn and each gender could / should have a separate start. One race will not start until the previous one ends. Not a staggered start. Staggered races.
  • This could broadcast live on a sports channel all day long and then in primetime there could be a 2-hour TV show selling it all up on a major Network

Hey, I'm not going to get into the Road Runners Club business but the ad revenue here can be enormous.  The sponsors might still show up. They might still have to show up. 

And I know it's not so simple. There's a billion more logistical issues, but this is what I would love to see happen,

And maybe while The Park is closed anyway, the day before there can be a marathon for some special people. I know some special people. 


Monday, July 20, 2020

Race report: Hope and Possibility virtual 10 miler

Actually been training for this for a while. Years a while. Wanted to see how far I could run, comfortably.  And I was pretty happy that I found out I could run for 10 miles.  It took me 3 hours and 40 minutes. That's 220 minutes or 22 minutes per mile. Not much faster than my old Pace when I used to walk but I was running. And it was 12 Loops of a marine park.  I hit my watch on each lap and very definitely had a negative split. I started at 6:30 in the morning so I finished before it got too hot. I also stopped at the  same water fountain on each lap (except when a bunch of dirtbags softball players were hovering around it without any masks. Then I just went to the next fountain).


My friend Larry met me when I was about halfway through the 10-miler ncluding the one to the right.


After the run Larry and I did what we usually do. We stopped at McDonald's and then he dropped me off at my mother-in-law's house. She's been kind of hunkered down with corona and all but since I was pooped I had no problem channel surfing with her and we wound up watching the original Rocky movie almost from the beginning.
I was really really excited to see that scene where he goes for a run for the second time in the movie. Where he's in better shape and runs all over Philadelphia and then sprints up the stairs of the Art Museum.  It made me realize that you humanatee can be divided into two groups. Those that can appreciate that scene and those that don't. After having a successful 10 mile run in the morning I'm so glad that I got to see that scene again. I'm sure Sylvester Stallone must have had at least one good run in his life before making Rocky because it translated that onto film.  Stallone definitely captured the joy of success and strength and freedom that comes with running and the ability it comes with it being able to run up a flight of stairs. 
I was interviewed a while ago and was asked to describe how it feels to run. Believe it or not I was speechless. I had something to say but I didn't want to say it. " Didn't you see the movie, ROCKY?!"
I am glad to be able to say that I actually did run up those stairs after running a half marathon. And then I literally had to wait on line to stand in that spot to gaze out at Philadelphia. Their Footprints of Keds in the size that Rocky would have been wearing in that very spot right now.



So maybe virtual  races are not all that bad. They don't provide the herd that I've always relied on in a race. But it's great to have a goal. And it's great to have a sense of accomplishment.

 10 miles at a comfortable pace with negative splits ✔

Thinking about it I'm reminded that the Achilles running club is about accomplishments. This virtual race pushed me to accomplish the goal. It got me out there at 6:30 in the morning so I can run 10 miles. I wanted to find out what I was made of and I'm glad I found out.  There are other organizations that help athletes with disabilities, but they are busy  busy helping disabled athletes only compete against each other. I'm so glad there is Achilles to help athletes with disabilities compete against all athletes. I might be slow but my teammates from the Prospect Park Track Club showed up and showed me on knowing that my effort and accomplishment wasn't diminished by my lack of speed. Thanks everybody..

I'm not done checking things off my list yet and I'm glad I'll help help getting there and teams to cheer for me


Sunday, June 28, 2020

ACAB

I didn't take this photo

Graffiti is back. Back in my day this was my tag $♡. I'm sure you never saw it.  But you could have figured out what it meant. I was able to figure out what FTP meant, but I had to Google ACAB. I got a little education and it made me think of my own experience.


I was the night manager of the Student Center at Stony Brook University back in the 80s. A big part of my job was dealing with the fact that there was a bar in the building. Whatever happened in the bar wasn't really my problem but everything that happened in the building was my problem. The bar was up on the second floor and on busy evenings I would make everyone leaving the bar go directly out of the building as opposed to down the stairs and into the lobby of the building.  Not everybody wanted to do that, exiting the building on the second floor took them onto the bridge that went nowhere. (Someone reading this might remember that the bar was called the End of the Bridge, EOB)  Often, the campus police would hang out with me at the top of the stairs to help keep the underage drunks from wandering into  the lobby where people might have been studying or doing other sober activities.  Like in lots of places and times there were "good" cops and "bad" cops and I got used to working with them all.

I remember  one night in particular. I had to  a whole Squad of campus cops helping me.  It was actually a little crowded with "good" ones and "bad" ones. (I am going to stop using quotes it's tough with voice to text)  I also remember that I had been dealing with one particular grad student who was a very belligerent drunk. He had become a regular pain in the ass.  He got in my face and wanted to walk down the stairs. I remember one of the cops hands going right past my nose and he went down the stairs like a sack of potatoes. I didn't even look down. He wasn't my problem anymore.

Early the next week I found out that he was seriously injured at the bottom of the stairs. He was walking around with a neck brace on. I didn't know if he was hospitalized and back then I really didn't care. But I did find out the police was denying he was pushed which meant he had to pay his hospital bills. I saw him in the coffee shop and introduced myself. He remembered me. I told him that I saw the whole thing I knew he was pushed and that if he needed me to say something I was ready to tell people what happened. His reaction was bizarre to say the least. He looked up from his coffee and said "Why would you help me, you're a Jew." I asked him if he had a lawyer and then if he did he should just give my lawyer my business card.  I was happy to never see him again but I did hear that the cops all changed this story so I never had to tell anyone what I saw. And after that the bad cops never really made eye contact with me.

I took this photo in Prospect Park


Those good cops that also watched it happen never said anything. So now I'm thinking, were they really good cops? 

Really, it says on the side of the cop cars to protect and serve. But what if they're not protecting us from bad cops? Are they still good cops?

So I was just about to publish this blog and I remembered that I had shared Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop.  I went back and read it more carefully....

"Equally important to remember: disabled and mentally ill people are frequently killed by police officers not trained to recognize and react to disabilities or mental health crises."  ..... 
 
 "The question is this: did I need a gun and sweeping police powers to help the average person on the average night? The answer is no. When I was doing my best work as a cop, I was doing mediocre work as a therapist or a social worker. My good deeds were listening to people failed by the system and trying to unite them with any crumbs of resources the structure was currently denying them."

So I'm not wondering anymore why people are angry at the police. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

If not now, when?!


 

Last week I posted this as my Facebook status.


"To give my out-of-town friends a sense of scale Grand army plaza is up the block from my house. I can see it from my corner. I can hear the protests and the helicopters.

There's not small part of me that wishes I was out there continually. And I think the old me would have been a big part of all these protests the cause is just and the time is now.

But since GBS I'm really not good at suddenly moving sideways. I can participate in a race but a protest or march is really a place where I can get knocked over. I'm also probably suffering from a little undiagnosed PTSD. I'm not too good in that kind of stressful situation. so I'm just putting it out there that if you don't see me out there it doesn't mean I'm not with you"



So yesterday morning I was planning on going on a long run and heading south, towards my ancestral home in Sheepshead Bay. I was planning to avoid any possible protests. But then I saw this as I was about to leave the house. I run for the Prospect Park Track Club. PPTC.  That abbreviation suddenly became the Peer Pressure Track Club.  I replied that I was on my way and headed towards the Brooklyn Bridge

Changing my course was spontaneous act and along the way I had no regrets. Of course I wasn't worried that this would turn ugly. It was 10 a.m., In a park and it was a bunch of runners. I was slightly worried that the police wouldn't know that but I thought any risk was worth it. This is what I wanted to do.

I started being passed buy runners wearing white shirts up on the Brooklyn Bridge.  Some new me and cheered for me by name. (People, I have the most recognizable stride around but you're all wearing masks, tell me who you are please.)  but  Miriam came running up behind me phone in hand.  

Here's what she said when she shared this "I’m sure this is going to make a lot of people smile brightly... was out on my long run and came up on Michael Ring RUNNING the Brooklyn Bridge this morning as he made his way to the #RunningToProtest run this morning. Such a huge inspiration to see this!!!"  I've been uncomfortable with the label of inspiring. It just reminds me that I'd rather be not inspiring. Believe me, the last thing someone wants to be is inspiring. Unfortunately you don't always get that choice,  But I felt good about it then and there.  If people see me running to protest maybe it will inspire others to do something. Yeah, I'm happy to be inspiring. Not just as a person who crawled out of a big hole and started running again. I'm glad to be seeing running for a cause. 

The gathering and the run were as peaceful as I imagined they would be. Virtually all of the people wearing masks and there was lots of space between us. Maybe not 6 feet.  But no one was screaming in anyone else's face.  None of the speeches even brought up the police. They were probably about five hundred of us and maybe a dozen cops. They all hung out in the shade.


The second person to speak was the New York City Parks Department commissioner. I've met Michael Silver a couple of times.  A couple of years ago he was training for the New York City Marathon and had a goal a visiting all of the NYRR Open Runs. We had the same goals and our paths crossed at Highland Park.  We also met when we were both fully dressed at parks department meetings.

He said he was there for many reasons. He came because he was a runner. He came because we were in one of his parks. But most importantly he said he was there because he was a black man. He talked about how his sons had been racially profiled and how frustrating it was to have to leave his Blackness at home when he went to work. I was far away but I think he was holding back tears.

Others spoke of the challenges of being white. It's just difficult when you think you're doing the right thing but you're not really sure. They compared it to running just show up and do your best. Try. I can do that.

..............

Back in the spring my running club was having elections. I've been on the board of directors since the 90s and lost track of how many years I've actually been vice president. I started the process of running for re-election. I was a popular incumbent, running unopposed,  being being re-elected would have been effortless.  And since I was a vice president running unopposed I got to see who else was running for other positions.  Most of them were younger and didn't look like me. They looked like the rest of my club. It was a no-brainer for me to realize that I didn't want to represent them, I wanted them to represent me. I was able to retract my nomination for re-election and with a little finagling add one more spot for one more qualified person.

Some of my old friends and teammates were a little concerned when they didn't see my name on the ballot. I told them everything was fine and I meant it.  It wasn't until I attended the rally that I realized that when your best qualification for re-election is the fact that yarn incumbent it's time to let other lead. 

And you know what,  when and if  Covid-19  stuff becomes less of an issue our country is in for a great reset. Now is the time to make change

In the scale of all things a running club is kind of small.   But maybe my actions will inspire others.


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Too Late

I have a lot of Google news alerts setup. The last one I set up is there any news article that pops up where covid-19 is mentioned in the same article as Guillain-Barre syndrome. It brings me a lot of information and I'll get to that later. But last week (And sadly all too often) an obituary popped up. It was a link to this article in The New York Post about a couple that died within a couple of days each of other in the same hospital.  The article mentioned that Robert Samuels had GBS back in the early 80s. " In 2011, he published the book “Blue Water, White Water,” about his experiences with paralyzing Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome and the medical system in general."

If there's such a thing as an official obituary,here it is.

So without leaving my chair I downloaded the book.

I've been reading every book I can that is a first-person account of what it's like to go through GPS. When I was in rehab at Rusk I read No Laughing Matter by Joseph Heller. It was a good one to start with because it was written by a writer and one of the sentences in the book started with when I was in rehab at Rusk. My doctor also remember him.

There was also Bed Number Ten. I got through it but I really didn't enjoy it. 99% of it was about This Woman's thoughts while she was locked in her body and missing her religious holidays. I could not relate. I was not that sick and I'm not so into crafting. Looking through all my reading devices I'm reminding that I read Going Full Circle by Philip Taylor. There are other books and they're all so many blogs and vlogs I even kept a list of them here

This book kind of caught me off guard. It shouldn't of but it did. It shouldn't have because I didn't read the subtitle of the book. I only used limited information to assume what the book would be like. The title meant nothing. (even after reading the book it still meant nothing, to me).   I just assumed from Mr. Samuels' nature from his obituary and from his picture  that it was going to be a very gentle book.  I mean, look at the guy. He really looks like a combination of both my  grandfathers.   I was just assuming bet if I were to meet this guy we were just have a bagel together and talk about baseball or something. Assuming is wrong. I also didn't read the subtitle of the book. " A harrowing true story of a man struggle to survive in one of America's top hospitals."

A sweet old 83 year old man did not write this book. He wrote it 30 years ago about a really terrible period In his life.  When he had GBS he was a little younger than I was when I did. His son had just started college. We had that and more in common.  But we also had in common was our anger. Not necessarily at what happened to us but at the process of what we had to go through. The way we were treated.  Physically, he was in much worse shape than I ever was and he was hospitalized 40 years before I was. I had a couple of bad days, but he had a lot of them and they were much worse.  In this book you didn't hold back any four letter words in describing his feelings.  I didn't have to get much into the book to realize that it's kind of the book I would have written but he writes much better than me.

So I've been reading books on my phone . but I just now downloaded the Kindle App and I discovered I can even borrow books from the library and read them on the app. This app is a better lot then OneDrive provided by libraries . I can highlight chunks of words and then share them as emails or really any regular way you share things

He described his first of many EMG tests . I had five . I described mine here
"The zaps begin, slowly and weakly at first, and then they pick up. The jolts are making the muscles in my neck jump and burn. I’m surprised I don’t smell smoldering flesh. The pain is horrible. I’m weeping. If I could, I’d be howling. “Hold on,” the Van Dyke tells me impatiently. Hold on how, you stupid shit. My hands don’t work, nothing works, and my father is dead! He’d kill you if he could see what you’re doing to me."
I tried to pay attention everything the doctors were saying . But sometimes I just couldn't accept that it was going to apply to me. This is how a wordsmyth does it

"He’s rattling off more percentages, but I’m having a hard time following him. It’s like dreaming about odds on horses that might run next week at a track you’re not planning to visit."

Below is how I felt sometimes ..... That this is all temporary. Especially when I was in rehab. I was surrounded there by so many people who are never going home. But it did remind me of something to the opposite . I was hospitalized during the Ebola crisis in Africa . An American Medical worker came back to the United States when I was in rehab. I kept my mouth shut but I was really pissed off when they put her on TV riding a bicycle around her town . I was still in a wheelchair , why did she get to be on TV because she can ride a bicycle ? then she had lunch with Obama . Damn, I was still in a wheelchair, I wished I had Ebola . I was thinking that if I ever get better from this they should let me sleep in the Lincoln bedroom,


"But my condition is temporary, I remind myself. They’re all worse off than I am. The guy with the stroke can’t talk. Enrico and Joe will never be normal. I’ll make a full recovery. I’m like someone temporarily living in a homeless shelter while waiting for his inheritance to come through."

"Then she’s gone. Everyone gets to leave, but I’m here twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. That’s the terrible loneliness of illness. There should be relief patients just as there are relief nurses. When do I resume my normal life? This patient is burned out! Phone down to the bullpen and warm up someone else!"


There were a lot of other parts in the book where I felt I can relate to the author. Especially because he was from a town just north of the Bronx and in the hospital at Columbia University. There were many moments where I thought it would be a good idea to contact him . I could share his book with other people I know that have GBS and then maybe we can go meet him. or he can simply be a guest at one of my meetings . Or maybe I could have just sent him a note telling them how I can relate to his book. Then I remembered meet people for lunch and we can't have meetings and how I found out about it; by reading his obituary . Fucking Covid-19


Thursday, May 21, 2020

My first virtual race

I'm a really cynical person. That said, when someone tells me they're running a virtual race, in my mind they're just going to a trophy store. They're not for me. If you want a medal and a t-shirt you can go shopping.

But because of covid-19 there are no races now and my running club was organizing a virtual race that was free and had no medals. it also replaced the race that I used to direct, it also replaced the race that I had been training for for a year.

So let me review a little. A little over six years ago I found myself in the hospital because I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. My recovery was a little bit of a roller coaster. Here's a picture of me on my birthday on June 7th 2014. I guess I kind of look happy. But it's not because it was my birthday. I was happy because the day before I had the central line removed from my carotid artery on my right side. Plasmapheresis is a very unpleasant process.  Getting the tubes taken out of the side of my neck was the best birthday present I ever had. But in that picture I am literally propped up. My arms and hands are where they are because they were put.  Having tubes surgically installed into the arteries on the side of your neck is really unpleasant.  I guess there's a reason they only do it to paralyzed people.

So I walked into the hospital on May 7th 2014 and on September 17th  I came home from rehab  In a wheelchair.  In 2017 I managed to finish the New York City marathon. I was 5th from last person  and it was glorious. But I walked. Two weeks after that Marathon I began my first a five surgeries to get my hands to work better. The last surgery was in June of 2019 and the last time I saw the surgeon he looked at me and asked "What's next?"  I told him I wanted to run. He surprised me and told me he knew the guy who would get a team together to make that happen. A sports medicine guy. A guy who can get me into sports physical therapy. Sporty orthopedics. Podiatry.  All the Avengers.

So in the fall I left the world of Rusk Rehabilitation rehab and transferred over to the Sports Performance Lab at NYU. The plan was that I was going to get new ankle-foot orthotics in August ( I had to wait five years since getting the old ones so insurance would cover them)  that were made of titanium and have a hinge so I can run in them. I need the orthotics to run because I still have pretty bad foot drop. I use up a lot of energy lifting my knees higher than everyone else because I don't want to trip over my own feet because I can't lift my ankles The long-term goal was is to qualify for the Boston Marathon as a mobility impaired athlete. That would mean means running a 6-hour marathon. As opposed to the 9 hours and 45 minutes it took me to walk New York.
Alter G Sessions - Chicago Recovery Room
Not me

In physical therapy I got to use an alter-g treadmill. It wasn't like the treadmills they got me on when I was in Inpatient Rehab. With those they used straps to connect me to the ceiling that did not really work with my boy parts.  An alter G uses air pressure to hold you up from your waist.  It not only relieves you of weight it makes you unable to fall. So it was easier to run and safer. About the third time I used it I was able to run a mile at my goal marathon pace. I did cry,


I used to say that training for and running a couple of marathons a year prepared me to recover from Guillain-Barre syndrome. Now I feel that  having dealt with Guillain-Barre syndrome is prepared me to qualify for Boston, a goal that is just at the Horizon for me.


In  early March I ran a hilly crowded 5K. It took me an hour and 5 minutes, just five minutes faster then walking back in November. But then covid-19 happened and my physical therapy stopped. The gym closed. I've had nothing to do but run. And I've been running. I've been increasing my speed and my distance. Saturday I did an LSD run. Long Slow Distance.  It was a beautiful day so I avoided both Prospect Park and the East River bridges. I ran down to Brooklyn Bridge Park and under the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge and back.  I ran just over ten miles and it took me almost 4 hours.I rested since Saturday because I really wanted to see how fast I can run a 5k. I really wanted to see if I can break an hour.

This was a virtual race.  Most of my teammates ran anywhere and anywhen they wanted.  They use their GPS devices to make their own course. I don't have a GPS thing and I was not into doing that.  I went to the starting line of the course that I designed at the time the race was supposed to start. (Actually, I started about an hour early because I got there early and I got cold).  I waited there for someone who looked like they cooperate when I asked, "Hey, I'm about to run a race would you mind saying the word "GO"'.  I got the full On Your Mark Get Set Go!


So I was supposed to be running this 5K by myself but I was never really alone. The park was really crowded. So much so that we could never have organized a 5K oh, it would have been too many people in our way. Or we would have been in the way of too many people. And a couple of my friends / teammates did see me along the way and kept me company from a safe social distance. I even finish the race with my friend Josh. Currently we're on the same team. But we used to be on another team together. We were Sharks, but that is another blog post that either of us might right

Below is  my rambling post-race Facebook video. Here's a link to it on Facebook where you can see  or leave a comment https://www.facebook.com/ChickenUnderwear/videos/10158435162492220/

Hey, I had published but I just went back here to edit. I forgot something very important. My finish time! The last November I walked a 5K in an hour and 10 minutes. In March I tried to speed up and run and it took me an hour and 5 minutes. My goal was to break an hour.  56:56 BOOM







Thursday, May 7, 2020

The New Normal

“The New Normal” I really hate that term. Hate. almost as much as “agree to disagree’,, but that's another subject.

6 years ago today I stumbled into my doctor's office. I didn't know then but I was lucky. I was lucky she diagnosed me correctly and immediately with Guillain-Barre syndrome. She sent me off to the hospital where they were waiting for me in the emergency room. yada yada yada I was admitted into intensive care and got worse really fast. 5 days of IVIG, rehab,plasmapheresis treatments some more IVIG and back to rehab.

They thought that would do the trick and stop me from getting worse. But it didn't. I got worse and rehab,. That really wasn't supposed to happen. did everything they were supposed to do to stop me from getting worse.But I got worse. So in the hospital I spent a couple of days laying there doing nothing And dear reader, when I say laying there doing nothing please do not think I'm exaggerating. like today a lot of people can't leave their house so they say they're laying there doing nothing. I was basically a quadriplegic . I was able to wiggle my hips and shoulders a little. My neck and face and head we're okay. I was not a vegetable. that would indicate I was in a vegetative state. I was fully awake and alert. I literally could not move a muscle and had no reflexes. Med students lined up to tap my knee with a little hammer. One of them commented that I was just like his cadaver and my doctor punched him in the chest to remind him my ears worked okay. They gave me a special button so I could call the nursing staff if I needed help. It was really sensitive and I was able to tap it with my head. I didn't know it but there was a tracheotomy kit in the room with me the whole time. They were concerned that the paralysis would pass my shoulders and I would be able to breathe on my own.

I asked one of my doctors if they had a big room upstairs with a giant oval table and lots of windows where they all sat around and talked about me. She said yep, and we got guys on TV screens joining us from London and Tokyo and Paris. So I guess I don't have to get a second opinion from Columbia University. Nope he's in the room too.

The doctors came back to my wife and me with the plan. An off-label non FDA-approved chemotherapy. They shared all their information with us. Like stats on how many people who were more or less like me got better and how long it took. And the likelihood of me getting violently ill from the chemo.

I felt comforted by the fact that a bunch of really smart doctors were talking about me like I was a challenging puzzle. None of them knew me and that didn't matter. Fixing me was there reason for going to work in the morning, I was important
They kind of had to tape the pen to my hand and lift my arm so I can sign all the waivers to allow them to inject the chemotherapy into me. And they kept telling me that my hair might fall out. They kept telling my wife that my hair might fall out. Both of us had pretty much the same reaction. Who the fuck cares if he has hair anymore? Will he walk? Will I feed myself ?

Well, I could walk. damn, I can run oh, it's at half the speed I used to run but I can run. I can hold a fork. I can brush my own teeth. I can get on the subway or an airplane. I'm not so sure about driving, but I live in Brooklyn. I can't lift heavy things but I can't hold a beer. I adjusted. I'm not 100% happy. but I could walk and I'm certainly not dead. When I was in the hospital and they told me I'd be fine in a year, I jokingly replied “ but I'm in a Friday spot, I gotta move my car!” But I never got to move the car or even go back to work. I've adjusted to what I hate to say is The New Normal for me

Kind of gets me thinking about what's going on on our planet right now with covid-19. We got almost every smart doctor and scientist in the world trying to solve the same puzzle. Working together and independently eventually there will be a solution. What things are going to change. there's still a lot of unknowns. so we might have to accept it and I hate to say it is the new normal.

So people! someone who's been through with this shit it's kind of obvious. life's not going to be the same. right now people are dying and we don't want that to keep happening. that can't keep happening. there have to be other sacrifices. Given a choice I'd rather sacrifice 50,000 person road races and baseball games in arenas and luxurious cruises over our elderly.

Today I read the obituary of the first person that I've met who died of covid-19. Not a family member, not a friend at all, just someone who's hand I shook once. In Brooklyn he was kind of a corney celebrity, But a few years ago my running club had its Awards dinner at the Grand Prospect Hall. When people started dancing I figured I'd sneak out and give myself a tour of the rest of the building. I wasn't the only one with that idea and the owner happened to be in his office and gave us a tour. He was really proud of the place. it was only 10 minutes or so but he was a really nice guy. I bet his family and the people who knew him well miss him.




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