Break for freedom – Day 21 (Three weeks)

Day 21 – Thursday, August 31, 2017  (Three weeks)

Today marks three weeks since I started morning solo walks, walks without my dog, without a walking stick, without music, without pepper spray, without sunglasses, without anything that served to make me feel safer in a world known to be dangerous. Victims of criminal violence (and that includes rape, for those of you who haven’t fully digested that reality) have their It-can’t-happen-to-me-syndrome destroyed. Not damaged, not hurt, not hobbled – destroyed, permanently. So, in some cases, taking part in life again can be a steep climb, like climbing Everest without a supplemental oxygen supply.

I can’t tell someone facing a personal Mount Everest what to do, or how to do it. I can tell them the weaponry I use in my fight. First, I believe the following observations are facts. Because it feels impossible does not mean it is impossible, it means that’s how it feels, two different things. Both valid, easy to blend. Same thing with hope. Feeling hopeless does not mean there is no hope.  And then there is a sentence I call the fear tool, It’s okay to be afraid, don’t let it scare you. In other words, go through the fear, allow the experience. It feels lethal, but it’s not.

My emotional experience is not the definition of the experience itself, it is the definition of my response to it. Most of the time I keep this reality in view.

7:27 a.m. – Back from the walk. I am learning daily walks are like daily runs. Each has its own personality. Back when I ran marathons slowly (I thought it was neighborly of me to let so many thousands finish ahead of me.) I’d run six days a week – five days in the mid teens, and then one push to 20, 21 miles.

I don’t know if it was because I knew today marks three weeks since they began, or because it is August 31 and I’ve made it through another August alive, who knows. Whatever the reason, I pushed the pace straight through this morning’s walk, without let up. I have one of those pedometers that tells you the number of strides per minute. I’m normally around 100.8 strides a minute, and today I was at 104.7 strides.

Remember to live.

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For my father, Sanford Kahrmann.

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Break for freedom – Day 16 (A writing pause)

Day 16  – Saturday August 26, 2017 (A writing pause)

9:26 a.m. – I home from my walk about two hours ago. It was a peaceful affair, sweatshirt weather, it was 45 degrees this morning early. I completed the entire walk in comfort. I am going to, for now, pause the daily briefs about the walks. No doubt I will be back reporting on how they are going, or how a specific one stands out, and why.

I will, you have my word, report if I take a single day off from walking, and what led me to do so. No doubt I will at some point, but all of me knows, now is not the time.

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For Charley

Break for freedom – Day 12 (Adding distance and hills)

Day 12 – Tuesday, August 22, 2017 (Adding distance & hills)

6:08 a.m. – Years ago, not long after the shooting, me and my close friend Dane Arnold belonged to the 23rd Street YMCA in New York City.

We used to play paddle ball as a pair against these two old guys who were so good they barely had to move to, well, basically wipe the floor with us. That’s not quite true, we did win some, lost more, and were always in the game, but they were far more skilled with their placement of shots, and the English they could put on their shots would impress Houdini. As always, I played with all I had which meant diving for a ball, crashing into walls in order to fire off a shot, and so on. On one occasion, after I dove for a shot and crashed into a wall, one of the older guys, smiling from ear to ear and laughing, asked Dane, “Does he always play like this?”

Dane said: “Are you kidding me?! He does everything like this. You should see him wash the dishes; it’s like he’s trying to get the pattern out of the plate.”

Now, my gentle reader, I know this may sound silly, maybe even a stretch, but I believe the same part of my character that plays that hard, or, to put things in sharper focus, the part of me that doesn’t like giving up, is the same part of my character that helped me stand up after I got shot.

Right or wrong, it sure as hell is the same part of me that’s decided to double the hills and the length this morning’s walk.

7:54 a.m. – Back home.  A shade over one mile: 1.1 to be exact. I am smiling. A long way to go, but this morning felt good. Still does!

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For Dane Arnold

Loyalty in the cross hairs

Nothing unique in saying the beginning of a year is a time of reflection, planning, gauging possibilities, setting a goal or two, among other things. For reasons I’m not inclined to study closely, I found myself thinking about a conversation  I once had with a close friend of mine. Obviously the following is not verbatim, but it certainly captures the essence of things.

Close friend: Why do you stay loyal to people that are not in your life and have in one way or another wounded you?

Me: Well, I don’t stay loyal to everyone who has been in my life but the ones you are talking about are people who, if one knew their history, have been badly wounded in life. Parents dying way too soon, spouse dying, a victims of violent crime, abuse, and so on. It’s not lost on me how desperate one can become when all hell breaks loose so I let them know, if that happens, I’ll be there.

CF: But some of these folks have been pretty nasty to you. Callous, flat out mean at times.

Me: That doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely care about them. Also, the fact I’d help someone in no way means I’ll let them back into my personal life. Only if they own their wounding treatment of me and apologize would I consider that.

CF: But still, why the loyalty?

Me: Because few if any are all one thing. And the few people I retain this loyalty for have qualities to their character that in my mind make them rather extraordinary. I care about them. Having said that, they’d be foolish – anyone would be, actually – to mistake my niceness or my compassion for weakness. I won’t put up with nastiness or dishonesty aimed at me. Doesn’t matter who’s doing the aiming.

CF: But wouldn’t you feel taken advantage of?

Me: The thing is, it’s not about me, it’s about someone getting through a patch of hell in their life. I’ve been on my own, completely on my own, since I was 15. Facing the trauma life dishes out alone is brutal. If one of these people were in crisis and reached out to me, I’d find turning my back on them far more unbearable to live with than helping them.

DO YOU WANT A BLOW JOB?

The following is an excerpt from the memoir



I am 12 years old walking across Lincoln Center Plaza on my way to catch a cross-town bus to go to the Harkness School of Ballet. I just got out of my classes at Professional Children’s School, a private school for children in the arts: dancers, actors, painters, models, musicians, composers and so forth.



My weeks are packed. I take dance classes six days a week, go to school five days a week, and work off the books for a couple of hours one day a week washing dishes at a local restaurant near my home. My Dad has instilled in me the importance of always having a job, no matter how few the hours, so I can always have a couple of dollars in your pocket.



I am passing the fountain in the plaza’s center when a middle-aged man with red hair begins to walk next to me. He is on my left. I am in a hurry.



He says, “How are you today, young man?”



“Fine,” I say.



He says, “Where you off too?”



“Dance class.”



“Dance class, really…that sounds nice.”



He continues at my side as we reach the end of the plaza. He says, “Can I ask you something?”



“I gotta catch a bus.”



Would you like a blow job?”



“I already have a job.”



He looks bewildered. “No no. I wanted to know if you want a blow job.”



I am not the most patient 12 year old on the planet. “I just told you, I already have a job.”



We have reached the bus stop. The bus is arriving. He looks at me. “I’m asking you if you’d like a blow job, kid.”



I’ve had it. “What are you, stupid or something? I just told you I have a job.” I glare at him before getting on the bus.



The middle-aged man with the red hair stands outside the bus giving me a strange look. As the bus pulls out, I give him the only reasonable response I can think of, the finger.



My Dad and I are driving home that evening on the Palisades Parkway when I tell him some guy kept offering me a job today.



He sounds surprised. “Somebody offered you a job?”



“Told him I already had a job.”



“Where did this take place?”



“Lincoln Center.”



“Really. What kind of job?”



“He asked me if I wanted a blow job.”



Had I known at that moment what a blow job actually was I would have been immediately as impressed with my father’s ability to keep the car on the road as I am today.



“Oh, Pete,” he said, looking worried. “We need to talk.”



“You okay, Dad?”



“Your okay, that’s what matters. And yes, I’m okay.”



My father then explained what kind of, well, job, I’d been offered. And although I didn’t realize it then, I know now that while ignorance may not always be bliss, it can protect you from trauma.

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