Category Archives: New York

Two Roads Diverge

During this wait for my scheduled Firefighter’s Physical Fitness Exam, numerous training programs have reached out to offer strength and aerobic preparation. I met one such program at Prospect Park during one of my routine laps: I’m an athlete; then I passed them: I’m a competitor. And during the weekend that just passed, gratefully filled with humid 60 degree days, I biked from Brooklyn College to 138th Street, and took multiple back and forth journeys in between, which amounted to some 40 pedaled miles. I was accompanied on one such ride by a friend, who submitted my quote of the week:

You don’t just bounce off of cars and continue living.

False. I have. Crossing Flatbush Avenue on Bergen Avenue (pictured above), a car attempted to park through my bike lane, while I tried to round a routine corner. I instructed that driver on proper driving etiquette, hopefully enough to save another biker from a similar experience. My point though, is that my idea of living is not “not dying.” I have seen fear turn “try or quit” choices into “life or death” scenarios. Things happen; stay aware, don’t over react, and respond appropriately. Maybe my assessment isn’t fair, considering my next chosen professional endeavor is designed to face death.

Don’t be misled, I’m a responsible adult who doesn’t play real life Road Rage. I brake at red lights and stop signs then go through them if there isn’t traffic. I pay attention to my surroundings, which way upcoming streets are directed, car indicators, and last minute wheel turns. I should probably wear a helmet more often. At the same time, I will ride twenty miles exhausted, fueled by no more than a Starbucks bagel and Chipotle burrito. It’s in my nature to jump off of my bike and play intense basketball games wearing a pair of khaki shorts and polo shirt; because that sedentary life isn’t for me. A while back, a friend asked why I quit smoking and drinking alcohol, I told him that I wanted to experience my prime in its prime; this same dude got ripped on P90X months later and I couldn’t be prouder. In lieu of wishing for an easier life, I work for greater resolve; so go ahead and chase the path most traveled, I will not be joining you. For everyone else, let’s do this.

Some pertinent tweets from this weekend:

First 5k of 2013

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Yesterday I ran my first 5k of 2013, and recorded a personally respectable 3.5 miles in 28:01; so a little over a 5k. The day before, a friend presented their 29:38 to me. I was very proud and congratulatory of their accomplishment, having crossed the 30 minute barrier for the first time. Their progress then put my aerobic condition in perspective, and led to my taking advantage of a sunny day with a high of fifty degrees.

I started near the Fort Hamilton circle where the road was flat. My pace felt run of the mill, until halfway through the first mile, when I caught sight of some high school students. They seemed to maintain a lead around every bend, so I used our distance to pace me; which generally means I make an effort to pass, or not fall behind at least. There were six of them, I passed half of the group three quarters through the first mile; then the fourth runner wouldn’t relent.

Our back and forth routine coincided with the hill, where the burning sensation was immediate. I can usually chug passed soccer moms and recreational runners, especially on the incline. Sometimes a NYRR club member will zoom by, and I’ll give chase for however long I can before tapering off; those guys are unbelievable! On this day, the young man overtook me for good once we ascended the hill, and maintained a distance of five strides at most; I couldn’t muster the energy to challenge him. It bothered me for a while, I watched myself linger behind him for another mile and a half. Remember there were six, two of them just took off and left us to battle for third; a young man and woman, kudos to them!

My chest burned afterwards, prompting internal bleeding and premature death jokes. Took a seat to watch swans, drink a protein shake, and let my kneecaps throb. Harking back to running in the rain, it’s all about resolve. Feel free to link me on RunKeeper, life is better fit, and best with a challenge.

Jorene Rene vs Cigarettes

Here’s the problem: smoking is awesome! Fact: smoking is awesome! Disclaimer: I will smoke again before I die. You don’t know me; you don’t know what I’ve been through. However, I didn’t want to waste the prime of my life, or setup a slow and painful death down the road; so I resolved to quit smoking, and *it finally happened* some three years ago now.

Ashley Williams wrote a creative post about smoking before the New Year, which jogged my memory and provoked me to share my method in writing for once. Ashley’s analysis determined that smoking is the perfect game, she goes on to discuss why and how to counter-game the perfect game. My thought process was much simpler, smoking is a habit. I won’t go so far as to call it a bad habit… Well, smoking is an addiction really… Whatever, what I will say is, we subconsciously smoke in response to some sort of trigger: basic withdrawal, stress, etc. Like getting over a girl, the key should easily be replacement, except that doesn’t work. Not with the terrible taste and texture of Nicorette gum, not with Nicotine patches, despite their boastful claims about increased quitting rates, real statistics show those rates are in the single percentages after six months!

If you can quit for a week, then nicotine has completely left your system, the fight should be over; that’s as far as a replacement will take you. What will close the door behind you is identifying the external trigger: the crutch. I replaced cigarettes with water, started drinking more water than I ever had before, which sadly equates to drinking ANY amount of water. I still can’t swim… Anyways, one night I’m out with friends for drinks and caught wind of a craving in the making – therein lay my premonition: alcohol was my crutch! I couldn’t, and still can’t imagine drinking alcohol without smoking a cigarette. I suspect that your crutch is similarly not as addictive, and easier to quit than cigarettes.

Maybe you’re a social smoker who can manage a single cigarette on off-nights, during the occasional drink with friends, after sex, or generally rarely, all of which greatly differed from my situation. I smoked a pack per day for a minimum of seven years. The concept of cigarette conservation didn’t come into effect, until New York introduced budget-busting cigarette tax hikes. I never would have quit if I lived in a state with five dollar packs. On days that I couldn’t afford my addiction, I learned that smokers are some of the most charitable people you’ll ever meet. Try asking a perfect stranger for a stick of gum, smokers are twice as amenable for twice the cost. We’re a good community restricted to the fringes of public parks and college campuses. I probably wouldn’t date a smoker, because of my increased chances of remission, but I will own that you still smell damn good to me ladies.

Somehow, I put all of my warm fuzzy feelings towards smokers and smoking aside, made a conscious decision to quit, and did so with a healthy replacement and an easily identifiable crutch in mind. That’s how I quit smoking. Be warned: my life is boring! I spend Friday nights editing blog posts for goodness sake…

French in America

Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire; his droning interpretative speeches are a devastating testament to acquiring a second language in America. I was born in Montreal, Quebec, which is the last remaining French region of Canada. Although French was taught in my Canadian elementary school, our remaining classes were taught in English. My family moved to Brooklyn, New York when I was nine years old. In America, the public schools I attended solely offered Spanish language classes. Without native French speakers at home, my lack of re-enforced practice and regularity upheld a language barrier. Any desire to independently learn was also thwarted by the social stigma; despite the French colonial assistance during the American Revolution, and congratulatory Statue of Liberty, French unfairly gets a bad rap in America.

Being bilingual is decidedly awesome, benefits include increased intelligence and delayed onset of dementia; then there’s automatic membership into an exclusive club. Imagine having conversations about sensitive topics, without relinquishing a clue of subject matter to anyone not involved. It’s especially wonderful when the person thinks they know what’s being said: No madam, he actually asked how you taste; watching you giggle at his accent is high comedy. There’s also the opposite effect of playing a fool, and overhearing conversations you weren’t thought to be privy to; which Americans would be smart to admit happens far more often than they’re aware of.

As an adult, in pursuit of every noted advantage that learning French has to offer, I have tried using the interactive Rosetta Stone, listening to Pimsleur audio lessons, and signing up for online DuoLingo courses. Each language program was started from the basic level. Difficulty was incrementally increased on schedule. Programs were repeated from scratch on numerous occasions. Every opportunity, though proven to instill and recall bits and pieces of information, has essentially gone to waste. The problem could be me; an undiagnosed brain tumor inhibiting my language receptors sounds better than a lack of discipline. My next course of action is pure overload: to concurrently try every option, while listening to French radio throughout the day. I expect to read, write, speak, and understand French within a month. A constant bombardment of language learning tools versus unreal expectations. See this space again in February for updates.

Because I believe the socially impaired have truly unique perspectives, sign is also on my short list of languages to learn. If there is another person out there who would like to partner with me for this learning experience, then please contact me through any channel on jorenerene.com.

Creative Memory Fiction

Jo-Ann and I went to the Brooklyn Museum for Target First Saturday. There we met staff members issuing cards to random museum goers for the artistic purpose of exchanging memories. Each card asked for a cardholder’s name, title of a memory, its date, and details of the memory to relay to a perfect stranger. We decided to make sure someone left with a deeply disturbing memory. For the name we quickly agreed to be ambiguous, and use the overlapping characters of our first name: Jo. Then we started brainstorming ideas. The first few ideas all sounded too contrived. Jo-Ann was all about someone being naked or embarrassed. She mentioned a retainer in one of her ideas. I wanted to describe an experience worthy of a Post Secret entry, something that makes you wonder if people like this truly exist. Like a post that virally re-blogs on Tumblr because it sounds cool, and reminds young people of the depressing life they’d like to live despite their middle upper class upbringing.

We agreed Jo would do something terrible on their seventeenth birthday. A party was supposed to be involved, and the notion of drugs became a driving plotline. Trying to include most of those themes muddied our final product. Neither of us was as happy with the card we turned in, as the story we’d hoped to deliver.

The following is, in essence, the story we agreed upon:

My upper plastic retainer dislodged one evening. I meant to wash and re-apply it in the restroom. Upon opening the cabinet to retrieve the disinfectant, I found my twin sister’s retainer already soaking. Already lazy, I switched them in my curious state. To my initial disgust, my senses revealed her retainers had actually been soaking in water, grossly swimming in a Petri dish of her saliva. To my immediate surprise, I enjoyed her taste so much that I have intermittently switched our retainers ever since. Hopefully neither of our overbites ever recovers and I can continue drinking her.

We received and traded two stories in return, both of which were terribly bland. One was an interpretation of a painting at the museum, the other was nonsensically happy.

Bike Dick

Please excuse the title; it’s my crude cry for attention in the blogosphere. I have no idea why bicycle seat noses exist. You would think it’s a bicycle’s “seat belt” of sorts, to prevent you from jutting forward under strenuous pedaling or braking. I ordered a bicycle seat from Amazon to alleviate the effects of what I call Bike Dick. Bike Dick should be defined as an aching dick felt after, and directly attributed to, long rides. A 40 minute ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back is typical for me. Now I don’t know why all bicycles don’t come standard with nose-less bicycle seats.

Bike dick is a real thing, researchers have found that prolonged bicycle seat exposure can have adverse effects on your libido, and I can’t have that! I don’t need a nose rubbing against my genitals, unless it’s a soft warm female nose.

I attached the seat earlier in the day, then abruptly decided to ride my bicycle at one in the morning. Took this bad boy out, and rode up and down an immaculately desolate Utica Avenue. I enjoyed myself, smiling the whole time thinking, “this is great! I’m not going to have bike dick anymore!” The new seating arrangement does take some getting used to. It does sort of feel like you’re missing a brace, especially when holding a phone with one hand, and desperately trying to brake on a downward slope with the other hand.

I haven’t been writing lately, which I attribute to extreme productivity elsewhere; still figuring out how to make up for my absence, whether I will be writing multiple posts, soliciting readers for suggestions, or a combination of the two. If anybody wants to ride in Brooklyn or Manhattan, contact me through any channel on jorenerene.com and I’ll try to let you know if I can make it!

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath Coverage

Most native New Yorkers quickly tired of the Hurricane Irene comparisons leading up to Hurricane Sandy, we thought them unfair scare tactics until topographical images revealed them to be understatements.

Any person of island descent who experienced Hurricane Sandy will tell you its real difference from a catastrophic storm was that we were spared from torrential rain. What we experienced were significant floods and high speed wind gusts. The internet and Photoshop quickly deluded the gullible with exaggerated images of the tattered Coney Island Cyclone, people scuba diving in subway stations, etc. I live on relatively highland in East Flatbush, which is far from any large body of water, and like most people from my area, wasn’t sure of the damage until I ventured out.

Day One / Brooklyn

Toured my immediate neighborhood some of that first night during the storm, and early the next morning. Documented some fallen branches, trees, and electric poles. We had a brief blackout that lasted for five hours in the early evening, which saved quite a few stores from property damage having closed by that time.

Day Two and Three / Manhattan

Rode my bicycle to the Lower East Side of Manhattan where the power had still not been restored. Crossing the bridge was eerie, half of the bridge shone operating lights; the dark portion of Manhattan, including Chinatown and Tribeca, engulfed you halfway across. Battery Park City miraculously kept power due to their connection to the Brooklyn Energy Grid. Generators were positioned on various intersections, between which it was very dark; although not third world country dark, because I could still see my hand in front of my face. On my second night there I left around three in the morning, weaving between desolate blocks, dodging flashing lights, and avoiding spot lights – felt very espionage Metal Gear Solid. Never went during the day.

Day Four / Red Hook

Left for Red Hook after a few disturbing images popped into my newsfeed. Red Hook was fairly clean by the time I arrived, didn’t encounter any significant remanants of a major flood besides tarnished possessions lining the curbs for trash collection. Some people were still flushing their basements, and Fairway, a major marketplace in the area from what I’m told, was forced to empty their entire inventory. People were in high spirits though, the area was being restored fairly quickly.

Day Five / Rockaway

Made my first ever ride to Rockaway after Breezy Point became a repeat talking point on NPR. Breezy Point turns out to be a private community, and officials were only allowing residents in at the time of my arrival. Diverted my trip towards the opposite end of the island through Riis Beach / Park; it was my first time there, and it was a ghost town. The Riis parking lot was turned into a rapidly growing garbage collection area. The Riis Boardwalk was a concrete skeleton with shattered wooden sections driven inland. Sand heavily accumulated as far as three blocks deep into the mainland. Custodial stands along the boardwalk were gutted, houses were burned down further into the residential areas, exotic cars were charred; from what I was told, the fires resulted from the flooding and downed electrical poles.

Went so far as the fifties before turning around, was still encountering excessive debris and a constant flow of garbage trucks. The recovery efforts were well organized, I noted assistance was being provided by Verizon, Dunkin Donuts, the National Coast Guard, and uniformed independent recovery teams. The plight of Rockaway is most evident in my timing, this was five days after the storm and cleanup was still the primary task at hand. Far Rockaway is not expected to receive electricity for another week from this publication date.

Day Six / Coney Island

Didn’t hear much about Coney Island, really expected something along the lines of Rockaway due to its proximity to the ocean. I was gladly disappointed, Coney Island is sandy and doesn’t have electricity; however, tourists still occupied the boardwalk, and infrastructure wasn’t a problem, it will promptly return to normal once the electricity resumes. Seaview was also a private community, which prevented me access, much like Breezy Point.

New York City Prevails

New York has excellent building regulations, although the transportation system and electrical grid experienced some difficulties, no major or irrepairable damage was caused. Most importantly, our volunteer efforts continue citywide to ensure personal recoveries.

Postscript: Bloombito needs to stop speaking spanish, you sound ridiculous, and we’ve never heard you speak patois or polish, stop it you statistically driven Monarch.