By Dean Steinberg
So here I am doing my thrice weekly early morning run in the park with my dogs. Prior to this past weekend (daylight savings) it was staying dark pretty late into the early morning so I often saw the sun rise 2 to 3 times a week. Quite the visual if you have not experienced it lately, and quite different than the mornings I used to see the sun rise because I was just getting to bed, rather than just waking up. FYI, the latter is more conducive to getting shit done during the day.
The last several weeks, a large (at least 6' 5''), black man has been crashing in the park, camping out at one of the picnic tables my dogs and I use to lace up our running shoes, stretch, love each other to the suns early rays, etc... Ordinarily I would have no problem sharing the tables with another, even engaging in an early morning chat of appreciation for the quiet, blissful tranquility that accompanies the early am hour, however, the park's latest guest, we'll call him big, angry, man, really does not seem to like me or my canine companions. This was realized by me immediately, when upon my first notice of his presence I offered a "good morning," and was offered in return by big, angry, man, "fuck you, you’re the white devil." Now I'm no expert on people, but I was fairly certain that the next line out of his mouth was NOT going to be, "after your run would you like to hit Sweetbutter with me for breakfast?" After the initial shock that anyone would feel from such a volatile response to such an innocuous one, I put on my hubris cap, motioned for the dogs to follow, and bid large, angry man a goodbye nod along with a "love you brother"; to which he replied, "I know you fuck your dogs." Wow, again, this guy really has the power of shock. See I was kind of expecting a fuck you, but large angry man went one step further. Clearly, he's played this game before. But, when it comes to people, I'm a quick study, so I was not too worried.
The game grew intense, each lap I finished, rounding the area of the park where my once peaceful picnic tables were located, brought new levels of vitriolic hate, spewed at me by large, angry man. The white devil was a recurring theme, as was his ability to somehow visually (hatefully) diagnose me with AIDS, oh and the sexual nature of my relationship with my dogs had been upped in the hate scale to now include my mother. My diagnosis of him certainly included Schizophrenia, Paranoid type, but unlike large, angry man, my clinical skills were far more professional, as I would never presume to shout my diagnosis in public at him, the way he did me, instead offering salutations in the morning, hoping for some change within (never came) him. It did, however become increasingly difficult for me to keep up with the friendly words, choosing to ignore his never ending stream of nasty, hateful, vile, words which seemed to increase in repulsiveness, as well as volume.
Ok, so fast-forward to today. The game has evolved; I had reached my breaking point and began to fight back with my nasty words (can't beat em, join em, type of thing). But I found that spewing hate back at him did not make me feel any better. So now, each morning I run into large, angry man, I tell myself "you will not succumb to his level, you will refrain from shouting back nasty stuff, (I never did reach his level of profane, just not within me, but I did achieve a level that got him going) and choose the high road." Sometimes I am successful, sometimes not, but what I have realized is that large, angry man is a metaphor for the world, myself, and my relationship to it. It's got some nasty stuff that it is spewing at me, how will I respond?