Duppy Run in Leiden

It was a cold, dark morning sometime in my track running days.  I was a teacher and had to get to work by 7:30 am.  I usually ran during the afterschool hours but for some reason I decided to run before work on that day.  I probably had  big track meet coming up and had something do that evening.  Anyway, I put on my cotton running bra (Jogbra), a cotton-poly turtle neck that I got cheap from Models, thick cotton champion sweatshirt, royal blue running tights and cotton tube socks on my fists in the place of gloves.  This was before the “cotton kills” mantra and I don’t recall anyone I know dying from cotton.

I left the house before sunrise, and ran.  After about 3 or so miles, I returned home to find my mother at the top of the stairs, “where were you?”

“I was running.”

“At this ungodly hour of the morning?”

She proceeded to tell me that my grand Aunt Nell came to her in a dream and told her something to the effect of, “tell Jennifer that I will meet her at the bus stop.” She admonished me, “Aunt Nell came to warn me about you being outside!” And, as Jamaican mothers do, at about 6 am on that winter morning, she gave me a verbal beating for running with the duppies and summoning Aunt Nell’s spirit.

“Aunt Nell was with you that night.” To this day she still recounts this story when she cautions me when I travel, “Be careful.  I know you like to take risks.  I remember when…dark…running…Aunt Nell…”

Many years later I am in Leiden and decided to go for a morning run.  I was visiting for an academic workshop and I wanted to get a few miles (or minutes) in before breakfast and the start of the day.  At this time of year the sun rises at around 8:45.  It was around 6:30 when I headed out for my run.  It was dark.

The neat thing about the Netherlands is that it is a very bike-friendly place.  There are all of these “highways” paved specially for bicycles, many of them running alongside major streets and automobile highways.  They are paved in this reddish “asphalt,” that reminded me of running tracks, except they are not spongey.  Runners seem to use these “bikeways” too as a way of avoiding running in traffic.  In the dark I followed one of these bikeways towards Valkenburgse Meer. In my running in the daylight mind I thought running around a lake would be divine, but in the reality of darkness I could not see the lake and therefore abandoned that option and stayed on the bikeway.

Being the New Yorker that I am and always having my mother’s warnings echoing in my head, I was running with caution.  Every canal, bush and shadowy figure in the fog became a trigger for my fight or flight response.  I felt like the Kung-Fu fighting brothers back-in-the-day; the ones who always wore martial arts gees everywhere who were always ready to block a punch or do some flying kick punctuated by a karate kata.  I encountered a few other runners and bicycles, including scooters and electric bikes, all rather comfortable in the dark; relaxed as if it were a sun-up morning stroll.

As it was dark, I did not get to fully appreciate the canals, fields, hothouses and residential streets that I passed.  I just knew that my run went slightly below sea level at times and that the Dutch are geniuses at keeping the water under control, hence the windmills and carefully constructed canals.

IMG_4208Running below sea level

I went out for about a mile and a half and then turned around to return to the hotel; a nice out and back in the dark.  My colleagues (from the Netherlands) were not as incredulous as my mother would have been about my running in the dark.  “It is completely safe here,” they mentioned.  “There are no jails.”

I went out for dark running a couple more times during my week stay.  I did not go as long or as fast as usual since I was fighting a cold.  It was an adventure trying to figure out what kind of cough medicine to get.  I got the one that read “Alles Hoest” or all cough.  It seemed to work but tasted horrible, like the salted licorice that people in this part of the world love.

Obligatory windmill pictures:

IMG_4245IMG_4251The canals that I missed in the dark:

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Duck Rave

I thought this blog would be about surviving winter runs until this winter when my Brooklyn running club (PPTC) has numerous threads about cold-weather running.  It is colder in Brooklyn than it is now in Calgary. On this morning’s run I didn’t even wear my fave Target’s fleece top; I wore a long sleeve under a short sleeve (both race shirts) under my jacket.  Fleece hat, gloves, tights, wool socks and snowtrax on my sneakers (yup, I am from Brooklyn were we say sneakers).

Breaking from usual patterns, I brought my cell phone so that I could share pictures of the river, which makes for a beautiful winter morning run.

IMG_4153The river was frozen over a couple of days ago, but it seems like the swift part has melted (or eroded) through.

IMG_4155View of the downtown area with the Bow River, which apparently is world renowned for fishing.

IMG_4158Ice on the river

IMG_4160Patterns in the ice on the river

I continued on my run until I reached Eau Claire and took in the remnants of a holiday that went by too fast…

IMG_4161IMG_4163IMG_4162He has been there since summer (or at least since I’ve been in Calgary).

I crossed the bridge and saw a bunch of waterfowl (Anseriformes) awakening from their slumber.  IMG_4166See the frost on their backs

IMG_4167See the spots where they spent the night; two are obviously not morning geese.

IMG_4170Awakening

IMG_4175Breakfast buffet (I am amazed at how wild animals find food in the dead of winter). As I was admiring the birds and hearing their calls, I kept thinking that it sounded like a lot more than what I was seeing.  I kept along the path and was getting chilled so headed towards the bridge towards home.  However a little trail to right caught my attention:

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I turned the corner and lo and behold, this was the party that I was missing.  This is where the nightly duck rave happens and I am now seeing the ones who are leaving (or attempting to leave) The Club.  This is when the DJ plays odd tunes and the overhead lights come on and you are compelled to leave the safety of the dance floor to enter the harsh reality of work/home/school/whatever.  This. Is. The. Duck. Club.  (tune deep house music).

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IMG_4181IMG_4180This is the best of urban wildlife; a microcosm of our lives–we gather, share experiences, go on our individual adventures (sometimes with others) only to reconvene again.  This was the meeting place.  This was the Prospect Park lake for Calgary waterfowl on an off-the-chain scale.

The frost was settling on my back and in order to avoid becoming like one of the frosty ducks, I finished up my three mile loop and headed home.

 

Bald Eagle Run

The moment when your 2018 Calgary run is warmer than your 2018 Brooklyn run two days earlier.

January 1st (Brooklyn); January 3rd (Calgary)

I am back in Calgary after spending my holiday season in Brooklyn.  Landing in YYC is a very different visual aesthetic.  It is very flat, and at this time of year, very white.

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I was sitting on the side of the plane with an eastern view so all I saw was an expanse of flat lands.  Orderly, unlike the chaos and geographic textures one experiences when landing in large urban space.  Even the geology, was not until the plane did the southern approach did I finally see the Rockies. These are the prairies, baby!

Those are the Rockies at the horizon

So, after resettling into my Calgary apartment and a decent nights sleep (I am dealing with upper respiratory stuff so I had a dream of buying tissues in bulk from a big box store) I got up and went for my morning run.

Although the temperature read 24F, it felt warm upon leaving the apartment; relative heatwave in comparison to the frigid Northeast.  I donned my snowtrax because of ice and snow (I was lucky to miss the minus double digits and snow during the romjul week).  I decided to go slow because of the snow and because of my cold, easy 3 mile loop.

The sky was clear above, the river full of ice, it was a peaceful winter morning run.  I ran down to the 14th street bridge, went over and continued on the south side of the river.  After I passed the 10th street bridge I noticed a raptor in the sky.  Outstretched wings, owning the space like only a raptor can.  As it soared closer overhead, I gasped, it was a BALD EAGLE!!!! I have never seen one in the wild before and this one did not disappoint.  A beautiful bird, clean white head that matched the snow, striking yellow beak, even the piercing eyes could be seen from my place on the ground below.  I stopped and unconsciously positioned my hands in gratitude for this gift of nature on my first 2018 run in Calgary.

Lobby Party and Holiday Reflections

This holiday season I arrived back in Brooklyn just in time for the annual building lobby party. Landing in NY always reminds me of why I love my home city.  It is surrounded by water and the buildings and street grid display the organized chaos that makes living in the city exciting and frustrating at once–the constant and ongoing contradictions that feeds an urban denizen’s soul.  The song Native New Yorker by Odyssey  embodies this feeling for me.

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I have been living in my rent stabilized apartment since 2002.  For some of us having a rent stabilized apartment is like having real estate in NY, you don’t give it up so easily.  While there has been much turnover in the building over the decades, there has been a core of people who have been long-time residents (10 years or more).

It is a pre-war brick building with about 97 units, this means A LOT of neighbors.  There are some neighbors I see on a regular basis and others who have been in the building for more than a couple of decades and I never see unless they show up at the Lobby Party.

The Lobby Party is our holiday festival.  While the lobby is decorated for the holiday season (usually from a little after US Thanksgiving until around Three Kings Day), the hallmark event of the season is this party.  And over the years, this party has contributed to many of my fond memories of friends and neighbors in the building.  For example, one year a neighbor wore his “Santa Pimp costume” (and I my red dress and hooker heels) to give out gifts to the kids and another year my cat Mitza, who was a street rescue at the time, gave birth to four kittens–one about every thirty minutes–under my desk while this party was going on (each time I came in to check on her there was another kitten).

This year’s party did not disappoint with the new holiday tree, great spread of food (with four different versions of Haitian black rice) and, of course, music and dancing.  Lots of music and dancing.  The music spanned the continent and included American traditional holiday music, pop music (including hip hop, trip hop etc.), house music, soca, salsa, reggae, and bachata.  All generations danced–a great thing about our building is that it is diverse across multiple spectrums of age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomics, education, gender-identity, etc.  And while we do not always exist in perfect harmony, basically neighbors look out for neighbors.  For example, there was a fire in the building just that morning that left three families homeless.  The Lobby Party provided a perfect space for us to first discuss the safety implications of the fire (the fact that no fire alarms went off) and to collect funds to support the families that were directly affected by the fire.  The Lobby Party continued with the collection and the music, food and community that brings neighbors together to herald the 2017 solstice-Hannukah-Christmas-Kwanzaa-New Years holiday season.

Ginger bread house making, a tradition that has been done my my dear friend Captain Kat, my niece Ariel and my self for a number of years (lost count).   I think she (niece) was in middle school when she started joining us and now she is out of college.  We used to make themed houses based on a trip we took during the year (Thai temples one year after a sailing trip in Thailand for examples) but in recent years have kept it simple with more traditionally shaped houses.  However our decorations are far from traditional–while has traditional elements–are more avant garde and inspired by available sprinkles, candies and food coloring.  Here are this year’s products (my niece’s friend Jazz joined us this year and made the awesome green and yellow brick house.  My niece added a wine cork chimney.

 

During the Romjul week the temperatures dipped.  Romjul, an concept I found posted on a friends Facebook wall, click for the definition.  It is a perfect aspiration. My poor chihuahua ain’t about the windchill life and despite having a Canadian purchased winter coat IMG_4068She chose to stay in a down comforter bunker

IMG_4094Even the pigeons sought refuge in the sun

IMG_4082Temperatures did not rise for New Years Eve, one of the coldest on record.  I had to abandon my plans to join the Polar Bear Club swim.  I will revisit the option next year.

I ended my holiday season with a morning loop in Prospect Park.  It was cold and I had a cold, but I wanted to start my 2018 active.  Now I am actively doing laundry and preparing for my return to YYC and embarking on my 2018 adventures which also includes a significant birthday!!! IMG_4128Here are last year’s fireworks that I missed this year…