DEC !2/2013 CRAWL # 6
I’m crawling for me I’m crawling for you
I’m crawling for animals stuck in the zoo
I’m crawling for peace crawling for war
Crawling cuz I’m not sure what I stand for
I’m crawling for laughs, crawling for love
I’m crawling to show how I look from above.
I’m crawling for justice, crawling for fear
Crawling for whales, blue sky and beer
I’m crawling for children, crawling for rain
Crawling so I
Can get home again.
I was actually going to hand out copies of that poem as I crawled. This was back before I started. How could I have known what it would be like down here? I thought a poem would help people understand.
Seems like such a quaint, innocent idea to me now. The poem answers too many questions. It feels flip. It lets people off the hook and allows them to write me off as just another thoughtful sensitive rhyming poet on his hands and knees. Just because people don’t understand what you’re doing does not mean they want to understand.
I thought it would be cool to hand out a poem. I got excited about it. For a while I thought I’d write a new poem for every crawl.
I imagined people could take my poems home and share them with their family or room-mates or whatever.
“Hey, honey, I saw this guy crawling and he handed me a poem, check it out.”
I can’t believe that ever seemed like a good idea. Who was I then? It was only 8 weeks ago. That’s it? Have I changed so much?
How close are we to being unrecognizable to ourselves?
So, anyway, the poem never made it to Broadway. But last week I had business cards made up. My name and icrawlhome.com. I’m wearing a business suit. My “business” is crawling. The poetry of this project, if there is any poetry to be had here, is the act of crawling.
After the last crawl Guillermo the dashing Spanish Photographer seemed very enthused when I finally stood up.
“I love this, “ he said in his thick Madrid English. “This is really good.”
After a while he added,
“I have been many places and seen many things and as a photographer all I want to find is the faces of the people when they are seeing something they have never seen before. I saw that many times today.”
I almost never see the faces. I don’t see my audience.
Different today. I wasn’t sad or conflicted on the way here. I was ready, keyed up, leg bouncing on the train..
The train rides south are getting shorter as I crawl further north.
Twenty dry cold degrees. Minimal wind. Thick coats and faces are bundled up, sun hard bright, sky banging blue.
New gear, power lifter gloves with wrist support and some stretchy knee support to go under my knee-pads. Whoever made these gloves could never imagine the use I have found for them.
As I am about to start I notice I am fragmented in my mind. I am not present. I catch myself like an adult catching a child, making eye contact, getting him to slow down and focus.
This morning I hugged my son goodbye at the door to his 4th grade classroom. Other parents were there with their kids. The teacher too, smiling, greeting.
“Have a great crawl, Dad.” Mason said, looking up into my eyes after the hug. I don’t know who heard him. He meant it and he was unaware of how it might sound to the rest of the world.
Now here on the sunny side of the street I take a moment to remind myself where I am and what I am doing.
I don’t want to become cavalier. I want to be loose but not careless. Something tells me if I am not present I might get hurt. If I don’t respect this situation something might happen. Like swimming out away from shore in the ocean alone. No big deal but still…I should remember where I am and what I am doing.
I mean, it’s not sky diving or anything but still…it requires its own brand of focus.
Larry has a crazy Mohawk hat on which looks warm and slightly menacing. It’s enough hat for two men. I leave my head bare.
When I start to crawl the kneepads are louder than I remember and the steel toes too. Maybe the cold alters the acoustics. Maybe it’s the texture of the sidewalk between 18th and 19th street.
Two kneepads and two steel toes, a four note percussive chord, separately moving parts of larger piece. It sounds like I’m dragging something.
I’m dragging myself, making a racket as I follow my shadow up Broadway.
My mid-day crawling shadow is just ahead of me, attached to my hands, a clean black shadow, the curve of my head, the sway of my motion, an elephantine eclipse.
Mason is safe at school. My wife is hard at work making her TV show. I am here.
“Okay. Here we are. ” I say so only I can hear. I’ve locked in on the facts. Now I can relax.
Two Springer Spaniels alarmed at the sight of me, barking scared, a woman holds them back on their fearful leashes.
“”Who is this for!?” I hear her ask irritated to Larry as she holds her dogs back.
“It’s for the dogs.” I call out and the dogs start snarling.
My shadow leads me on.
My shadow knows the way.
I stop for a second to adjust a pad and I make my shadow wave. Or is my shadow calling the shots? We are in this together.
My heart beats heat through my system. No pain. The cold is ecstatic in my nostrils. People move fast to get to their warm destinations.
I shut my eyes for half a block. This is new. Blind crawling. When I open my eyes I see my shadow.
Maybe I am maturing as a crawler. Seasoning. Who knew that 25 degrees is the perfect crawling temperature? No wind helps.
My spirits are high. I belong here on this day doing this thing. I’m warming up after a couple blocks. I’m a man oven on the move. I give out a hoot of pleasure and my shadow punches the air above me.
North of the Flatiron a man named Jess joins me on foot. He is handing out flyers for Rick’s strip club up in Herald Square ten blocks north. He’s soft spoken, from Bed Stuy in Brooklyn. He wants to talk about the muscle groups I’m working as I crawl.
“Watch out, I got Rocky here. He’s got a fight tonite!!” he calls out to people as we go. I’m not sure what he means, but he’s latched on to this idea that I’m doing some unorthodox training for something, like when Rocky pounded the frozen beef carcasses in the slaughterhouse.
It occurs to me that I am training for something, but it’s not a boxing match. What am I training for? Some sort of karmic showdown, a main event in my future.
This sounds true. Crawling is getting my mind and body in shape, getting me ready….for what?
“Damn, man. Why you gotta walk like that!?” A guy walking south says to me in an exasperated voice.
To him this just looks like a dumb way to walk. And maybe walking is just a stupid way to run. And talking is bad singing.
Some British lady tourists flirt with me at a complicated crossing just north of the Flatiron building. Their cheeks and the tips of their noses are red.
“Great day, right?” I say as we wait for the light to change. We exchange a few more pleasantries. They’re waiting for me to comment on my position but I’ve grown out of that. I’ll let them be the first to bring it up. It’s better that way.
“You’re crawling.” one of them finally says.
“ Yes. I am crawling.” I say. “Crawling home.”
They giggle, take pictures, and hurry off to get warm.
I hear African men as I get up towards 28th street. West African, maybe. They are working and hanging out in and around shops. Many wear thick leather coats over multiple layers.
I stop on my knees and an African man is filming me with his phone.
“You crazy, you know that right?” His smile is warm and vast. He is not from a cold part of the world.
One of his friends says,
“I get it! You’re a millionaire!”
“Why do you say that?” I ask
“Hah! I knew it!!!” he says.
What does this mean? Do I look rich? Do I look like an eccentric millionaire? Do I look like I’m being punished for being rich? Only a rich man would do this?
A giant hard hat wearing, bow legged construction worker walks by,
“Somebody lost a bet!” He announces loudly as a way to explain this to us all.
Maybe I did lose a bet. Maybe I bet myself I could get to the end of my life without crawling up Broadway. Can you lose a bet you make with yourself?
I’ve broken promises I made to myself. But that’s different. I never promised not to do this.
I’m trying to blow my mind without blowing up my life. I remember saying that to a friend who asked why I was crawling. That’s part of it. But what am I trying to prove? This is proof of something… but I’m not sure what.
On I go alone, a block or two with no human interactions. I crawl over a manhole cover and the writing on it says Made In India. Why is America importing manhole covers from India?
And then an Indian Man is walking along next to me.
“I know what you are doing. You are teaching…teaching the people,” he says in a soft intense voice. His English is minimal, his accent deep.
“What am I teaching them?” I ask.
I am hoping he is about to lay out some ultimate Indian wisdom but he does not have the words.
“It is good,” he manages to say and he moves on.
I stop and rise up on my knees.
Suddenly to my left is another African man. I nod at him. He nods back. He stares at me. He is not smiling. He’s not much taller than I am on my knees. Wary eyes study me for a second.
“What is this?” he says.
“I’m crawling home.”
He nods slowly, looking at my eyes, sussing me out to the core.
“You ever see a man in a suit crawling up Broadway before?” I ask.
“No. So I had to stop. And I don’t stop for anything,” he says.
I nod and smile and he does the same and we bump fists.
A block or two later I stop outside a nice hotel. The doormen look like actors, amused, jaded, cold in their black coats.
People gather around me with smiles and cameras and questions. The cold is creating compassion? People seem so curious today, so friendly and open.
“Please go to www.icrawlhome.com for more information,” I say after answering a few questions.
I hear myself offering the website.
I watch people from different parts of the planet type the information into their phones.
“What are you selling?” A woman asks me and then she turns to her friend. “He’s got to be selling something.”
I know I should have a clever response to her, but I stay quiet, hoping I might hear someone else’s response to her question.
“He’s not selling anything. He says he’s crawling home,” someone explains.
I’ve learned over the past few crawls that if I answer too fast I might not hear what other people think.
A block later some guys close in and move slow along with me.
“Yo! What do you eat after a crawl?”
“I don’t know… depends, what should I eat?” I ask.
“Protein!” one dude blurts out. “Meat!”
“Bannanas!” Another guy offers.
“No no, not bananans. Fuck that. A chicken. A whole motherfuckin’ chicken!”
They seem to respect the physical effort and possible fitness benefits of the crawl. I rise up onto my knees and flex my biceps. Not much to show. They laugh and get down next to me and flex with me and Larry swoops in out of nowhere and takes a picture of us.
I crawl on and call out to the sky. “Lotta love down here today! I’m never getting up!”
Today I feel lucky to be crawling. I feel like I won the right to do this. And I’ve earned the right to stand up.
When I actually do stand up after fifteen blocks I feel two feet taller. My heart feels like it is the size of my head. I am an anonymous king. My place on this planet, in this life, is entirely earned, entirely right and deserved. I am omni potent, benevolent. I am my highness.
And then, slowly but surely, I drift back down to earth.