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running along the river is one of the privileges of this city in the almost-summer, summer, and still-barely-summertime. it seems that a full quarter of the city laces up the sneaks and hits the trail — i wonder why they do it? each person has a different reason for being there… are they fitness nuts? reluctant joggers? trying to impress the girl/guy with whom they’re running/biking/blading? hmmm… most of us run with little wires coming out of our ears — are we grooving to smooth jazz? rocking out to metal? (smooth jazz?? i wonder who could possibly run to smooth jazz… it seems you’d just sloow d o o w w n u n t i l . . .

(so far, my favorite band to run to is semisonic… i love this band!! loved them since i lived in the state right below theirs, since “closing time” was the thing to sing at every graduation. if you’ve never tried their tunes, hop over to www.danwilsonmusic.com or www.semisonic.com to give a listen… it’s good stuff, maynard.)

i’m always encouraged (is this mean?) to see that i’m not the slowest person out there. i’m nowhere near the fastest (ha!) but i can usually pass at least one person on the course of my two or three miles. when i’m passing them, though, i’m always thinking that they’re probably at the end of some terrific eight-miler, and my wee little moral victory of passing them a mile out is pretty pathetic… oh well.

i ran in high school… suffice to say, cross-country and i were not friends. i never quite licked the mental challenge of pushing my body to do those races, and the seasons were pretty dismal. (really dismal). i laid off running for years, aside from the occasional string of three jogs here, another there — but an overwhelming desire to know that i could — if i wanted to — propelled me into the running store this month to pick up a pair of shoes before i could change my mind. i walked in, told the lean, mean running machine by the door what sort of running i wanted to do, and walked out with the second pair he brought out: Saucony Grid Omnis. Grey.

i like my running shoes. very much.

tying them on my feet is like a new little victory each time. i am making the decision to go out, again, and once i go out, i will run, and i will come back having run. i just got back a little while ago from a three-miler (i think — must get accurate measure of trail) and my legs have that vaguely achey feeling that is nearly euphoric to me. discipline! endurance! perseverance! that is what my achey-ness means right now. if i can push my body to finish something on a trail, i can push the rest of me to stick out other patience-requiring situations currently in play… and i end each run relieved to know just that.

one of the greatest pleasures of living in a city is the twinning of neighborhood and food. for a summer, i lived in new york, and i joke with philadelphia friends that if i take them to manhattan, they will be given a summary tour of hole-in-the-wall finger food places up and down the island. in my mind, sense of place is intricately bound up with the gastronomic as well as the aesthetic, and this morning was a lovely example.

friend c. picked me up at my apartment and we drove over to the italian market section of the city, which is a sheer delight for anyone who loves the pleasures of interesting food. within a few-block span, there are three excellent places for brunch (or, anyway, three that he and i have collectively discovered — there are probably many, many more). as you stroll from one to the other, searching for the shortest line, you see others in the neighborhood doing the same thing, or nearly the same — but the point is, there are PEOPLE in the STREETS — native city dwellers will not realize the impact this has on an ex-suburbanite. it’s actually quite revolutionary! uniquely in the city (in my mid-Atlantic city, anyway), there are spaces, and people move through them in an un-insulated (read: not sealed in a car) fashion. they are open to hearing the sounds and smelling the smells and seeing the textures of the people and structures in the space. i love this! there is community… in the very best sense described by Jane Jacobs (see favorite book section for more of her layman’s observations of urban design — i’m a fan). There are eyes on the street, and they’re not afraid to look around.

little places, like the butcher’s cafe, where we ate today, seem to me to be touchstones for this sort of community — they are destinations for the strolls through the streetscape, places where the neighborhood pauses to interact with its own or to allow outsiders to slip inside. we were outsiders today, but even outsiders can appreciate that kind of food! wow… conversation kept either of us from finishing our dishes (frittata primavera with turkey bacon (him) and challah french toast stuffed with summer fruit (me)), and i, lucky girl that i am, got to bring home leftovers. sooo… when i am done updating the internet on the pleasures of interesting neighborhood food enjoyed in situ, i will go remind my palate of same.

whole books could be written, as well, on the wonder of a thickly potted, grey-white glazed stoneware mug filled, always and as though by magic, with diner coffee. to me, it is the single greatest catalyst for conversation. sit two people down at a table across from one another and feed them — they will first have to wait for their food, and after they finish the food, they will wait for the check. the waiting time before and after will be without props — and two people forced to converse without props have no little bit of anything to hide behind. — there’s no warm-up: it’s just you and him, and you have either to dive into each other’s expressions or to remain silent.

IF, however, you have a warm mug of coffee, conversation can ramp up gradually: coffee arrives, along with small bowl of creamer… open creamer, pour in — add sugar if you must — and stir… words begin, but eye contact can be spotty….(clank, clink — find a place to lay your dripping spoon — ah, the napkin — and now…) the stirring finished, you wrap your hands around the mug (assume position) and sip slowly, peering over the rim at your dining partner… sentences can flow, punctuated by measured sips when pause is needed. lest even this early stage ramp up too quickly, one of the incredibly attentive wait staff apparates at your elbow, and though you have a strict two-cup limit on per-meal caffeine, you welcome about a half-dozen half-fresh cups that she will pour for you between now and when your food arrives (followed by a symmetrical portion after the plates are cleared). by the time forks and knives are picked up to begin the entree, conversant rhythms are hitting their strides, nursed from infancy by the screen of the grey-white stoneware filled with — as friend n lovingly coined — the golden nectar.

hmmm.. saturday mornings were made for such things.

After de-lurking on yet another blog, i’ve realized that turnabout is, in fact, fair play… so here goes.

i’m not even sure who will know about this little project, but it seems a good way to refine a few thoughts and to dialogue with friends, old and new. by way of introduction (and explanation), i am a gracefull klutz… i am a christian (of the presbyterian variety), increasingly and keenly aware of my stumbling need for God’s abundant grace. i love learning about theology and its applications to all facets of life, so reading of that variety often spawns lengthy conversations — and perhaps, now, lengthy posts? my non-bloggy friends will be relieved if some of the pressure is taken off them to listen to my “oh-my-word-i-have-to-tell-you-about-the-great-book-i-just-picked-up-about-the-church-and-the-arts” rants!

in everyday physical reality, i am simultaneously a decent dancer and an accident waiting to happen. narrating my encounters with new cities usually includes an obligatory “and-this-is-how-i-tore-my-favorite-trousers-and-spilled-coffee-on-the-person-who-would-have-been-my-first-friend-there” stories…

i am a midwestern transplant to the east coast and am thoroughly fascinated by american regionalism. i don’t care how homogenized our television accents are, there are most definitely cultural differences between sections of this country, and i am having a ball observing them. i come from a serious ag state but love, love, love living in the city — public transit has become one of my dearest friends! other things that make me happy are meeting people at farmer’s markets, cooking big meals for friends (who tell me good stories that make me laugh while we eat), reading books that poke my mind into wakefulness, running to know that i can, and making art for the sheer possibility of beauty.

i dearly love my friends and my family. ice cream and coffee make me irrationally excited. my master’s thesis focused on the material culture of migration, and all stories/artifacts of travel and transition fascinate me.

i s’pose that’s about enough for a first pass…

The city is a discourse,
and this discourse is truly a language:
the city speaks to its inhabitants;
we speak our city,
the city where we are,
simply by living in it,
by wandering through it,
by looking at it.

- R o l a n d B a r t h e s

::listening::

The Decemberists - Picaresque Over the Rhine - Trumpet Child NPR - Morning Edition

::feasting::

Target tortilla chips (surprisingly, addictingly good) Espresso

::reading::

Jane Austen - Mansfield Park Mark