The Last Day of Summer

I know the last day of Summer is technically September 22nd but I think we all know what we feel on Labor Day Weekend. Tuesday will bring a flush of all those kids on the subway and suddenly the guys at work will start wearing ties again. The weather has already turned a little crisper lately and here in New York we had some choppy weather so the whole weekend felt abbreviated and rushed. Except for yesterday that felt like one final reprieve. It was perfect outside. especially for a running. That combination of warm summer air with a gentle breeze blowing through the air is exactly the kind of weather a runner wants, especially when it feels like the last four months of the year are going to be a slog.

I woke up this morning, and my leg was still tight, so I procrastinated. After a combined 21 miles on Saturday and Sunday, my body was telling me to slow down. So I waited well beyond the time I would usually go out, even for a holiday weekend. The privacy of my morning runs wouldn’t happen on this last day of summer. Finally at 7:00 pm, when my leg felt better I pulled on a pair of shorts and a singlet and headed out the door. The sun was still out but fighting its way down, turning the sky kind of pink. I started out on my regular route, half a block away from Steinway Street here in Queens. I bring up Steinway Street because there aren’t many things that rank above it when describing Queens because it runs for a little over two miles through neighborhoods of Greeks, Italians, Egyptians, and Latinos.

I spent the day reading more headlines and articles about the bizarre bigoted and ignorant decisions made by people who were born in Queens but never really understood what it is to be from Queens. Of course this weekend it was the decision to rescind DACA. This one bothered me to my core. I am a born and bred New Yorker, specifically from Queens, but I am also a first generation Greek American. My parents both came here in the sixties, and they built a world for my siblings and myself. They taught me to value my culture and heritage from Greece. But at the same time, they taught us to love the Country we were born in for the very reason that it allowed us to value those traditions so proudly. That is probably why of all the hateful things we have endured since January 20th, the anti-immigrant/Muslim rhetoric might hurt the most. Oddly enough, the guy who holds the highest office now was born in Queens, which makes this even more frustrating. Queens stands out as the cultural preserve of the coolness of New York because through the gentrification we maintained our diversity.

Back to my run on the way down 20th Avenue, I passed by a garage that looked like a scene out of the Fast and the Furious. Crowded in front of the opened metal gate were picnic tables covered in food and bunch of guys listening to Latin music blaring from the drop downed, chrome rimmed cars that sat in front of them. Eventually, I turned towards the familiar paths of the park on Shore Blvd and I was greeted by the smell of charcoal. In between the running lanes were swatches of grass that had been taken over by people. And when I say people, I mean it in the broadest general terms. There was an Asian woman with a nose piercing sitting quietly on a bench staring out at the River and behind her were two Muslim women having an animated conversation. I can go on like this for a while. The park was brimming with people, and there were sounds of children and adults laughing and speaking different languages. And all of these people stuck around, together, as the sunset on the day and the summer. On the way home after two loops, a pretty girl smiled at me about half a mile from my apartment and so of course grinned and pushed faster, trying to make the lights as the red hand would flash at me at each intersection.

My typical morning runs help ease my stress for the coming day. The quiet of those streets help me balance all the noise and artificial light I will endure for the rest of the day. But an evening run like last night, filled with people, sounds, and smiles, can bring some hope that better times are ahead because it is a reminder that the fear of diversity usually comes from the people that haven’t had the courage to experience it.