The Exorcist Stairs – Day Two

Today’s venture into Exorcist territory was better than yesterday. Trotting up the stairs, I felt stronger than yesterday. There was time for only one photo from the top:

At the top there is some graffiti on the walls of the gate of the Exorcist house, which I snapped:

Since I watched the Exorcist for the first time last night, I then wanted to see the Exorcist house. It is literally right next door to the stairs. I snapped a picture or two. Notice how friendly it looks with the Bug in front.

This was the side of the house by the stairs:

Next door (on the other side of the stairs) is this:

And directly across from the Exorcist house is the Tombs, another filming location in the movie:

I found my new favorite running route. That part of Georgetown is just magnificent. And I get a charge out of seeing the Exorcist stuff since I have now seen the movie.

Good times.

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The Exorcist

Today’s run was the most brutal of the year so far. It has left me dazed. The heat – about 90 degrees – was only part of the story. I took off for Iwo Jima, paused for pix, then cruised through Rossyln to Key Bridge. From there, I crossed to Georgetown and decided to look for the Exorcist stairs.

When I saw them, I was stunned. They are gorgeous in person, all gothic and shaded and narrow. And steep.

Who would ever design such stairs? What purpose could there possibly be for steps like this? While I was pondering that question, I saw two really buff guys were getting ready to run them.

I knew that I couldn’t run them. I began to walk away. I had my pictures – that was all I really wanted. But something pulled me back. A force. My own pride, certainly, but something else.

I stared at them again. Even if I couldn’t bust them, I could certainly trot up them, right? Just a nice jog?

Oh my God.

They are so much steeper and longer than they look! About halfway up, I felt like something in my body had gone wrong. I was dizzy. I had to grab the railing. I slowed down and walked the rest of the way up. At the top, I took a single picture.

I was dizzy and felt like I was going to vomit. I walked up Prospect Street, looking for a place to get some water. My mouth was totally dry. My legs, which felt so springy just moments before, were suddenly spent. As I limped home, I felt physically ragged but also invigorated. I had just discovered my new goal. To speed up those stairs like they ain’t no thang.

I love this town! And I love those horrible stairs.

My Week With NikeFuel

I hit 100,000 NikeFuel!

NikeFuel Band Review

I’m measuring things with increasing granularity. I want to know not only how many hours per week I exercised, but what I did, and what my heart rate was for each, and what routes I’ve run. This data has enabled me to see patterns that aren’t obvious. For instance, I’ve noticed that I am fastest not on the way out as I was when I was younger, but actually on the way back. I have finally made a habit of the negative split.

My NikeFuel band has enabled me to study this data, and has improved my performance as a result. I can see with my own four eyes when I am not putting in the effort I should. Contrarywise, I can also see when I’m kicking butt – and it enables me to notice why I’m doing well. I keep track of my diet too – is there some combination of carbs/protein/fat that makes me perform better? I’m still experimenting with all the factors, but having the FuelBand has actually given me the ability to know myself better.

Right now I’m on Day 19 of a streak of achieving my goals. However, I can see that I am slacking a bit – last week I only put in about half the miles I put in the week before. I still achieved my goals but I’m not quite as aggressive as I have been. Maybe I need to adjust something in my diet, or maybe I need to moderate my goals because I’m simply tired. I’m not sure yet. But I do know that before I had the NikeFuel band, I would not have known that had achieved 19 straight days of goal-hitting, or that I was doing less work than the week before. The value comes in knowing.

I’m average with the Nike community as a whole, but I have done really well with achieving new goals.

I think the NikeFuel band is required for anyone who really wants to analyze their workouts, and wants to add a sense of play to them. Having my band has been revolutionary.

What’s On My iPad

At Any Cost

I have placed my new novel, At Any Cost, on Amazon for $3.99. This is what I’ve referred to a few times as “the Secret Service book.”

Here’s the summary:

Fallon Hughes is like any young attorney suffering through her first year in a white-shoe Washington, D.C. firm: overworked, exhausted, and lacking a social life.

She’s also the daughter of the President-Elect of the United States.

Tom Bishop is the Secret Service agent assigned to protect her. After losing his wife on 9/11, he is not prepared to find himself attracted to the sexy, smart protectee. The ethics questions alone are explosive and despite the red-hot tension between them, he will not risk his career or Fallon’s reputation on a tryst that he is sure they will both regret.

When Fallon receives a phone call from a frantic young man who tells her he has information regarding a grave national security threat she agrees to meet him at a public coffee shop. He never arrives. The next morning, she hears on the news that he jumped off the roof of a building and killed himself.

Fallon suspects Antoine Campbell did not commit suicide and launches an investigation. Despite a growing sense of paranoia, Fallon is determined to prove Campbell was murdered.

At first, Agent Bishop tries to dissuade Fallon from becoming involved. He has reasons for wanting to keep her out of it, only one of which is professional. As the threats mount against the woman he loves, who also happens to be his protectee, he struggles to stay loyal to the Secret Service code, Worthy of Trust and Confidence.

When it becomes obvious that Campbell was murdered, Tom and Fallon must expose the conspiracy in her father’s administration before Fallon meets the same fate.

Set against the backdrop of Washington, DC, At Any Cost takes readers into the super-secret world of the Secret Service, the NSA, and ultimately the most private reaches of the White House.

More Englishness – Out Of Control

In my dining room:

On my couch:

Entryway art:

Hidden in a cupboard, brought out for picture:

Thornton’s Fruit Cremes, literally the finest candy I’ve ever eaten in my life. Flat out amazing:

A bunch of British junk food.

Marks & Spencer bag on a closet door:

Marks & Spencer knickers (lots of these): (Note the UK size 12 – I’m American size 8):

Buckingham Palace bag on another closet door.

Keep Calm and Carry On

For reasons that I don’t want to discuss just yet, I’ve become batty over all things English. Earlier this spring I bought a Keep Calm and Carry On shirt for a birthday gift for someone, and since then I’ve sort of gone on a bender. I confess:

The first Keep Calm and Carry On item I bought for myself, an iPhone cover:

Keep Calm and Carry On teapot (in front of my Queen Victoria china pattern in the background):

Keep Calm and Carry On box. It’s placed on the same shelf as the teapot but I might move it when I figure out where it really goes.

Keep Calm and Carry On notebook.

Keep Calm and Carry On keychain. It was a gift to me from someone who knows about my obsession.

Keep Calm and Carry On in wristlet form. It is actually very useful; I carry my phone and a few other essentials in this when a big full-size handbag is too much.

Keep Calm and Carry On iPad cover. Had to have it.

Keep Calm and Have A Cupcake note paper. The cupcake was just so cute, it didn’t bother me that the phrase was bastardized.

Bookstack

Since I bought my Kindle Fire, I nearly stopped buying physical books. But this week, I found a few that either weren’t available on Kindle or that I wanted to read in physical book form.

Pigeons (Or What I Wanted To Say)

I.

The pigeons that lived on my balcony those years ago were perfect – small, solid shapes like napkin holders on the railing, gray as puritans. I woke to their cooing, then, in spring, their fucking, noisy as Italian porn stars.

Eggs would appear soon after, in nests fashioned from leaves and twigs from the giant tree that grew nearby and cast the long sepia shadows over my plain white walls in the evening. The eggs were brave and dreamy as hyacinth. These small ovals, seeming pulled from the pigeons’ very souls. Remember how I rescued one, that one time? The egg had somehow rolled from the warm nest to the cold concrete. I was determined to pick it up and return it to safety, beside its sleeping twin. You fretted that the mother would reject the baby if I touched the egg. I had heard that folktale too, so we consulted Google. Opinion was divided. We waited until the father returned in the evening, when the mother finally got off the remaining egg. I stepped outside, trying to be as unobtrusive as a shadow, and gently picked up the egg and returned it the nest. Days later, I woke to find two gray hatchlings in the nest. They were tufted with soft yellow down. Their eyes were sealed shut. Their helplessness touched something in me. I think it was the first time I recognize honest helplessness and the role it played in the animal world. In my own world.

“You saved them,” you said to me when I showed you. You said it with a little bit of pride – you trusted my instinct to return the egg to the nest. You would never doubt my pigeon mojo again.

Generations of pigeons were born and fledged on my balcony. I loved them as pets. I would recognize them in the plaza with other pigeons. I knew my pigeons. I could pick them out in crowds of hundreds. Though I cannot explain it, the pigeons seemed to trust me. They would allow me to hand-feed them, to pick up their young when I wanted to handle something fragile and precious, to help. Where once there had been one kind of infinity, now there were two.

When I left, I missed the pigeons. I’d think of them, and myself, slowly learning the pigeon’s nature. Of the weird connection to them – possibly the only connection to another living creature that did not rely on praise to sustain goodwill. Even to a dog, one must say, “Good boy.” But to the pigeons? Anything I had to say to them was insignificant. My affection was based only on mutual joy. They liked my balcony; it seemed a good place to breed. I liked them.

I know it is irrational but even two thousand miles away, I would wonder if I’d ever see them. I’d open my curtains and hope to find them on the railing.

II.

Remember when we used to play Crazy Lady Who Wants To Meet The President? We were in Manassas, wandering the battlefields, and I’d run at you, screaming “I wanna see the president!” and you’d grab me, somehow get me onto the ground while I laughed hysterically. You managed to never hurt me as we were playing. I would say, “No, really show me how strong you are,” wanting to really see how you’d handle some crazy lady charging the president but you would still somehow get me gently on the ground, immobile, neutralized, but unharmed. It was only later I realized you were showing me how strong you were. That restraint – I didn’t bless it then, but I do now.

Yesterday, when I ran into you for the first time in five years, I felt that same restraint from you. I felt the weird dream-like knowledge that of course this was going to happen. Of course. I live only across the street from you. We were going to bump into each other; it was practically destiny. An accident that had to happen. But when it happened, it was still a shock – it is always a shock when fate slaps you, when you get what you deserve. I burst into tears, and could say nothing.

“Hi Cara,” you said with a little smile, as sweetly and calmly as if I had never gone away. You held out your arms and I fell into them, crying, shaking, trying to regain myself. You felt just like you always had – strong and solid as a wall. I always thought of you as a wall, a division between me and the rest of the world. You were protective, and you didn’t let any of the riffraff through. For ten years, you didn’t.

We talked for an hour, standing there in the rush hour pedestrian traffic. You made me cry once more when you talked about Bo, but aside from that small outburst of emotion, everything about our meeting was perfectly normal. I kept thinking you look tan, and your eyes look very blue, and you look cute in your white shirt and olive pants. I was used to seeing you in those dark pinstripe suits. The new look suits you. I was thinking I wanted to suspend time and talk forever. Talk about the past, and the present, the good and bad times.

“It was all worth it,” you said suddenly. “All the bad times. Because you’re here now.”

I felt it then. The pang of unworthiness that is built into Time’s name.

III.

The first day back, it was snowing. I went to the mall and bought a gorgeous Calvin Klein coat and some warm boots and tried to ignore the fact you were so near to me. I marveled at myself in that moment. How could I care so much about someone who was only a friend? The attempt to be lovers had been a disaster. Not in a bad way, because nothing between us could stain permanently, but in just a very flat way. I guess this what people mean when they say they love you, they’re just not in love with you. In any case, I loved you. I just wasn’t in love with you. And it was mutual. And that was awesome.

You reminded me yesterday as we stood there and caught up how we used to go into DC and pretend we were clearing federal buildings – museums and such. You’d show me how to hold my fake gun, remind me not to point it at you, and then we’d play like four year olds. Remember prison cake? Remember meeting the president? Remember the US Mint police? Remember when my computer died and I lost my book? Remember you used to make those chicken wraps and you found a way to “hide the taste of vegetables”? Remember.

You quoted some of my own lines back at me, lines I’d written for books that I wrote on your living room sofa. “What was it?” you asked, squinting your eyes. “Something about a museum…”

I thought back, trying to remember. Oddly, the memory of writing them was stronger. Me on your sofa, slaving away, asking for your input.

“Something like, I am a museum…” you prompted.

I knew what you were talking about but couldn’t remember it verbatim. I’ve just looked it up. Here it the paragraph you were thinking of:

Later, in his bed, it took him a long time to fall asleep. He was reluctant to abandon the keen awareness of Julia Anderson, who was somewhere in the world, maybe thinking of him, but probably not. When sleep finally came, he dreamed that he was at home in Chicago and that he was talking to Julia on the back deck of his parent’s two-story Colonial. “What do you know of me?” Julia questioned. She held both hands over her heart, as if she were pleading with him.

“I am a museum filled with the art and science of you,” Jon replied.

I see the weaknesses in it now. I see that the “two story Colonial” says nothing about how he is feeling. It evokes nothing but bland upper-classness. And the character – Jon – was anything bland. He would have been more accurate in his thoughts. He would have said something about the emotional character of the place. Secondly, the fact that I put in a dream sequence is rather weak. I know better now not to hide what you really want to say in fugue states. Just say it, and live with the consequences.

All this was present even the first snowy day back; the air was familiar. I plodded through the powder to get a salad at Cosi and wondered if you were home too, and what would you think if you were trekking out for lunch too, and saw me? Would I look the same? Would you?

When I returned to my place, it was filled with pale pearl winter light; I’d left the curtains open to watch the snow. And there, on the railing, stood two pigeons.

They were not the same old pigeons. They were new to me. But driven by some instinct, they had come to show me themselves. I took their puffed-up, cold figures as a good omen. I knew then that you would be around again.

IV.

Friendship is not retroactive. There is no sense in wishing that we could be exactly as we were or in fact that we will ever be anything again. Yet I have one solitary plea. You owe me nothing, of course. You gave me more than any person has the right to expect in this lifetime. And yet I am asking for one more thing. Just one more.

I am asking that your accidents become promiscuous as roses.

V.

Whether we choose it or not, we entered Infinite Mode a long time ago. Somewhere along the way you – like the character Jon – will wake from a telling dream, and know the faithless memories declare allegiance not to you or to me, but only to the truth.

The mistakes I made could fill the Library of Congress. I learned only after I met you that love is a verb. It isn’t just a feeling – it’s the actions that support the feelings. I see now that you understood that all along. But as you know, I’m a slow developer. And a social creature.

I would do it better now, though I am not asking for that opportunity. I understand the reasons for the frozen gulf between us. I respect that calm space. I imagine I can wave from the battered banks, and you might wave back, and it will be enough. Some people, you know, create marriages and lives together. This is what we created, and we should bestow it with respect. It might not be flashy or very satisfying, but it is perfect because it is ours.

You said there was nobody you got along better with, nobody who got you like I do. Well, my darling, the same is true for me. That is our punishment for our stupidity, I suppose.

Though I hardly recognize these streets without you, I do not want my life to become a living past. Frame after frame of “remember when…”

There is a repeated vacancy, of begging for your jokes and your sweetness. But it is no longer unbearable. There is silence and quiet in that longing; I feel no reason to give voice to it. Light mixed with snow. Sun on glass. What magnificent disorder.

If you change your mind, you know where to find me. For as long as we occupy these same streets, there will always be tension between us, like the distance between a sparrow and a cat – though that sounds predatory and I don’t mean it that way. I just mean there is a lifetime of potential in that space. Atoms crashing.

Find me in June, okay? With A.

And I do believe – oh God I know – that Bo is real.

With love, as ever –

C.

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