On running in August // 20 August 2011

If it doesn’t exist in New York City, it doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. Fact.

Stamping the grubby, oily pavements in my proper, gleaming, one-size-too-big trainers, I dodged giant Chinese melons, crates of live crabs, hawking, toothless ladies and the hole-in-the-wall family restaurant where I ate a bowl of steaming pho at half past 11 last night.

Ducking under snapping lenses, past baseball caps, glistening plastic trinkets and blueberry-like, round female cops on Canal, I slowly make my way to the open air of the Hudson.

The West Side running track ribbons along next to the smooth, urban brown of the flowing water, the fresh tarmac pulsates with August heat. Prams, dogs, rollerbladers, bobbing kayaks.

If running and writing are so very similar, Mr Murakami, by now, my feet are only just making contact with the paper – getting out of Mulberry Street was a shuffling of books on the desk, uncapping a leaking ink pen and adjusting my weight on the faux-leather seat.

Heading south, the route dips onto pristine, landscaped promontories that float over the river. Tanned muscles bounce and shine in a caged sandpit – volleyball an excuse for flexing and spectatorship. I’ve fallen into a rhthym now, the kind of plod that suits the delicious opening bars of Kylie Minogue’s Slow.

Which reminds me how much I need to sort out some music to keep me company on my earnest new habit of meanderings across town. My sunglasses keep slipping down my glisttening nose – how do I sort that out? – and my leggings are too hot. I could be naked and I’d still be overheating. The plot is taking shape now, gaining pace in a certain messy, amateur style.

My face is puce. I’m stuck in a plus 16 tunnel somewhere over the World Trace Centre site. Orange tops lean against immovably solid marble walls  as they take a break from the push for a ship-shape Ground Zero memorial. A decade ago is only t minus 22 days. More visitors with more cameras and more policemen with more beaten up Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect cars.

The sun’s high. Are these new, massive, foamy sneaks really worth $105? I should have got up earlier. Wall Street has no shade – nowhere to hide. Bank upon bank of greyness, shining glass, man’s stamp on the earth. I crunch across a handkerchief of beach-coloured gravel. There’s even a young tree, slowly pushing its way up between moneyed skyscrapers.

Sweaty crowds cluster towards the East River. Worth avoiding. A Chinese symbol gives the game away – I’m running home. The root of the Brooklyn Bridge is like an energetic synapse and the warm, relieving familiarity of Bowery comes into focus. I am soaking.

The story needs an ending. I’m trying to finish the sentence now and the words are slow, hard to pick from the onslaught of potential finishing flourishes. Weaving through the Asian markets, the banh mi stalls and the foot massage parlours, my feet take me to the coded door.

The garlic from a bowl of seafood pasta follows me inside, into the air conditioned Little Italy lobby. The beeping door slams behind me and the run, the verse, ends. A full-stop will have to do.


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