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A yellow chair and two perspectives…

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Just a yellow chair. I didn’t notice it at first, there were so many around me. Some occupied and some not. I was sitting and having coffee in Herald Square today. An afternoon respite. But the reason I noticed this particular chair was because of two men. Well the first one actually. As I was sitting enjoying my coffee outside on an unseasonably warm winter afternoon, a man–an angry man–came rushing through the square. And rather than traverse all of the tables and chairs he quite literally plowed through a few of them, knocking over two chairs. One–the one pictured above–fell in a path. Then, just a minute or so later a man and women came walking by. And before passing the young man stopped, picked up the chair and positioned it back at a table. As he did he said to his companion, “Someone could trip over this lying there,” and then they carried on. My point is this…two men had contact with this chair but had two drastically different attitudes. And attitude–I am finding out–is everything. Life is a mirror…if I view life in a positive manner, generally good and positive things come to me in my life. I’m not saying it is easy, or that I am able to do it always, but when I do I notice a difference. Our thoughts truly do shape our lives. To quote the late Dr. Wayne Dyer (and so many other New Thought teachers), “Change your thoughts and change your life.” I’m jus’ sayin’…

Urban Simplicity.

Five or ten quotes from Thomas Merton…

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Image Found Here.

Thomas Merton, January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968 

A couple days ago it would have been Thomas Merton’s 101st birthday. Thus I briefly read some of his classic, Seeds of Contemplation, and came across some of his quotes, on this blog and elsewhere. The second-to-last quote below has been hanging on my desk on a scrawled piece of scrap paper for at least the past ten years. This said, some of these quotes are a re-post from previous posts on Merton. After reading them last evening I felt inspired to post them again. Here they are, along with a bit of information.

Priest, mystic, monk, activist, writer, poet, and artist, Fr. Merton was a true renaissance man. He was friends with Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama, and a contemporary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Before his untimely death he penned a huge number of books pertaining to spirituality, poems, artwork, and an incredible and moving autobiography. His work continues to touch countless souls…including the one typing these words. I love the opening line to his autobiography, the Seven Story Mountain…“On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in a year of a great war, and down in the shadows of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world.”  Thomas Merton was born 100 years ago this month; to read more about him click here or here. To read the soulful and moving prayer that is attributed to him, and thus is called the Prayer of Thomas Merton, click here. 

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

“Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how.”

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”

“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.” 

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

“I cannot make the universe obey me. I cannot make other people conform to my own whims and fancies. I cannot make even my own body obey me.”

“We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.” 

“The man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a man of faith.” 

“Perhaps I am stronger than I think.”

To read more in the Five Quotes series, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Things that can be carried on a bike (#684), and a reason I ride one…

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On the bike…A gym bag, a book bag, a few groceries, and two bottles of red wine.

So this, of course, is not a lot of stuff to carry on a cargo bike that weighs 65lbs with nothing on it. But it’s the lifestyle that I’d like to say a few words about. Firstly, because I own a few bikes that can carry things, I sometimes forget that not all cyclists do (such as when I see them riding with overflowing backpacks or have bags hanging dangerously from their handlebars). What I like about riding bikes that are built to carry things–and indeed the reason I bought them–is that I can usually carry everything I need. But this isn’t what I was thinking about as I pedaled and coasted home this evening. What I was thinking about was how much physical exercise I work into my daily life, even in the teeny circumference in which I usually live.  Here’s what I’m talking about, and these are just guessing estimates when it comes to actual distances, but this is where I rode today…

Home > Church  1.5 miles

Church > Coffee Shop  2.5 miles

Coffee Shop > Home  1 mile

Home > JCC 1.25 miles

JCC > Grocery Store .75 miles

Grocery Store > Pharmacy .75 miles

Pharmacy > Wine Shop .5 miles

Wine Shop > Home .5 miles

I am fully aware that this is not for everyone. If, for example, you live in a rural or suburban sprawl riding a bike as a means of daily transport would be nearly impossible. But luckily I live in a condensed urban area which has an excellent Walk Score (94% “walkers paradise”). I am in no way trying to be a braggart or say that living in high density is better than the suburbs or rural–everyone makes their own choices and decisions–it’s just that this is what works for me…this is the environment in which I thrive. This said, riding my bike today running errands and other things I rode nearly nine miles, if I would have worked today I would have ridden another four (Two there and two home). It was not drudgery, nor did I dread having to do it. On the contrary, it felt good–really good–to be out in the open air and to be using my own muscles to propel me…I am both the cargo and the engine. I wasn’t tired or exhausted while doing it. I just did. And this is what I was thinking tonight as I coasted down a slow decline in the road with the wind to my back on an unseasonably warm Sunday in January.

Urban Simplicity.

It’s all about the light…

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This evening–after rushing around in a kitchen for nine hours–I rode my bike down to the waterfront. I hadn’t been there in a couple weeks and needed the fresh air…the solitude. In the summer months it is packed with people, but this time of year it is nearly empty. I’ve mentioned many times on this blog that dusk and dawn are my two favorite times of day to take photos, and these photos are reasons why. The light, as it slants away or towards the earth, changes things. As I stood watching the scene in front of me as the sun set and the light changed, I felt truly grateful to see it; to be part of it. These were all taken within a half-hour of each other. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

After all this time, it still bothers me…

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You’d think that after all these years I’d be used to it, that it wouldn’t bother me as much. But it still does. You’ve probably guessed by the above image what I am talking about…getting honked at, beeped at, yelled at, or in the case this evening, screamed at, from a car. But I’m jumping ahead, here’s the brief story that prompted this post.

I was on my way home from work this evening, and waiting in traffic at a stoplight. I was against the curb and there was plenty of room between the cars and my bike. The traffic light turned green and cars began moving. Because of the intersection, and it being evening rush hour, traffic moved slowly. So slowly that I was easily able to keep pace with the cars. But I still stayed to the curb, lest someone wanted to pass. Then I hear just behind me…Beeeep! Beeep! Beep! I immediately stopped, put my foot on the curb, and turned to look because it was such an aggressive sounding beep. The car was just behind me and had plenty of room to pass. Initially I could not see his face because when I turned I was greeted with a middle finger stretched out in front of his face and aimed at me. But I could hear him even through closed windows. F…….k yoooou! He yelled (screamed) a couple times before lowering his hand with the said raised middle finger. I just looked at him. Our faces were likely less that ten feet apart. At one point he actually turned his wheels towards me and pumped the gas a little, pretending he was going to hit me. But then he turned his wheels away from me and hit the gas hard. Squealing his tires, and then screeching around the corner, hitting the curb along the way.

I just sat there for a few seconds. somewhat out of breath, but mostly just flabbergasted. What, I wonder, could I have done to bring so much rage to this guy. I was going with traffic. I had stopped for the traffic light the same as everyone else. There are two rear lights on the bike, and a front headlamp.

On the rest of my ride home this is what I thought about. Firstly, my first reaction to this still brings up an anger in me, but (and here’s the big but), it is only brief. In the old days I would have retaliated with angry words. These days I find myself trying to make eye contact with the screamer, to see who they actually are. And the odd thing is, that when my brief anger dissipates and I do see the person face-to-face, I actually begin to feel sorry for them. That this is their reaction to something that they find frustrating, that this is their response.

But I also wonder how this person operates in the rest of their life. Is this the only place they scream like that? Is it because he feels safe (but frustrated) in the car? If, for example, I had done something to upset him and he were not in a car and we were both face-to-face would he scream like that, or even threaten to hit me (the way he did with his car)?

This also makes me question our society. How did it come to pass that this is how a person in a car reacts to a person on a bike. I personally am not a perfect cyclist, but for the most part I follow the rules of the road. And tonight I most definitely was.

The thing is, that none of this solves anything. The angry guy sped away, thinking I’m a nuisance. And to me he just looked like the cartoon above, a sort of caricature of an angry person.

As a full-time cyclist these incidents are bound to occur from time-to-time. Another happened to me just a few weeks ago (click here to read about that one), and I guess that’s why I’m writing about this one…because they were so close together, and both drivers were so verbally–and nearly physically–violent.

One would think that by now I would be used to it. But I’m not. It still affects me. And I don’t know what the answer is.

Urban Simplicity.

There still are a few feral places (left in the city)…

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So this is what happens when I get to the coffee shop with books to read and realize I left my reading glasses at home…I go for a ride and take photos (this happened a week ago as well).

One of the (many) things I love about Buffalo is that there are still somewhat wild places located within the city proper. And no, I am not talking about scary neighborhoods, but more of, well…urban wilderness. And all of this is within a half-hour bike ride from my front door.

Anyhow, after realizing I forgot my glasses, I thought I’d go seek out the SS Columbia, which arrived here last summer. Here’s the beauty of the times in which we live. I googled it’s location, and found it was docked at Marine A in Silo City (for those not from WNY, this is where most of our remaining grain elevators reside, some of them are in use and some are not). Seeing on the map that Marine A was not accessible (unless I wanted to scale a 10′ fence and risk getting shot at, I thought I’d circumvent it and follow roads that hugged the Buffalo River from the other side, which went through the Old First Ward.

I took a few photos of the elevators from a different vantage point from which I am usually accustomed, and then I rounded a bend in the road and there was the ship…and she certainly is majestic.

I wanted to get a closer look so I continued on down the road and found an open gate. It was pretty creepy because of the uninviting sign (bottom picture). But I went in and knocked on the door to the building (there were trucks outside and smoke coming from a chimney). No answer. After a few more tries I rode past the building to the dock to take photos. I had a great view of the boat across the river, which are the resulting photos here. But the whol while I kept turning thinking the guard dogs would be released at any minute.

On my way back I stopped on the desolate road to tie the lace to my boot (the road is pictured below). A pickup truck passed me and slowed as he did. The only vehicles I encountered were pickup trucks or tractor trailers. The driver in the truck just sort of looked at me…like, “what is this middle-aged guy on a bike doing down here on a cold winter day.”

Anyhow, it was a really great ride, probably 10 or 15 miles in all. And one of the things I enjoy the most are all the city animals. Tons of dear and rabbits, and in the past I’ve seen racoon, fox, skunk, and falcon. But I’ve still yet to see the elusive snowy owl. Maybe next time. As usual, click any photo for a larger view. For other posts on Silo City, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

The view from my handlebars 1.20.16

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This is my neighborhood, Allentown. To me, it feels sort of like a village within the city. I’ve lived here for about 15 years, but I’ve hung out here for many years prior. Anyhow, I was on my way home from work this evening. It was snowing lightly, and there was barely a wind in the air. I could feel the snowflakes on my face and hear my tires as I pedaled and coasted. I felt (feel) gratful; the scene in front of me was beautiful. So I stopped and snapped a couple photos as I straddled my bike. And here’s one of them. If you’d like, click the photo for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

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