Scotch Plains (N.J.) Public Library: Wed. March 1, 7:30 P.M.

We’re very grateful for re-scheduling of Scotch Plains reading snowed-out last Wednesday evening. If, on the first day of this by-now quite active even exhausting teaching semester a student, in response to my ritual request (I mean it’s still ok to ask a kid where they grew up!) replied, ‘Scotch Plains, New Jersey,’ I’d have followed up by inquiring after the two legendary track stars produced by Scotch Plains/Fanwood High School in the 1970s. In 1972 Vince Cartier ran the fastest indoor-mile in U.S. high school track history (on an eight-lap track at Princeton U.); that record stood for decades. Five years later Renaldo ‘Skeets’ Nehemiah set Jersey marks in the hurdles that still stand; as a collegian he went on to break five world indoor records in five consecutive meets. Skeets was the overwhelming, ‘prohibitive’ favorite to win the gold medal in the 110m high hurdles at the 1980 Olympics prior to the Jimmy Carter-mandated boycott of those Moscow games in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Charlie and I bike-ride often into Scotch Plains; on our longer late-autumn jaunts together we occasionally journeyed even further west, into Plainfield, hometown of Milt Campbell, who won Olympic gold in the decathlon at the 1956 Melbourne games. When winter finally arrived Charlie responded to our unspoken query, now what? by leading us on long walks that replicated precisely his favorite local bicycle route; risky bridge crossing and all. And I mean replicate: on the spots where Charlie the cyclist routinely dismounts and most gracefully pirouettes before climbing back on the seat, Charlie the pedestrian does likewise; faithfully.

Then, suddenly, as snowy late winter descended, Charlie grew into a runner. Dr. Chew and I are runners, but Charlie moves with the rare grace of the truly gifted; Jersey guys and otherwise. (K. doubles as daily runner and blogger; steady-habit attributes unlikely to be ascribed to Mr. Irish waterfront anytime soon for all my ardent and often frenetic mobility). ‘This then is perfect joy:’ that’s what I hear while tracking Charlie’s headlong flights through tunnels of shoveled snow. When his passion derails at times and sudden intervention is demanded, we do the best we can with our very poor human tools (to paraphrase Dorothy Day for the second time in two sentences).

Where are we going with this? We’re going with Charlie; we go with him. His presence in our lives made this book possible in ways I dimly discern yet witness at every turn; now our consuming passion to be for him is balanced by his unspoken hint that letting go is an equally compelling option; from where he runs.

We’re back on the book circuit with gusto, having relinquished a couple readings to the snows. The schedule this winter has been much more fluid than last autumn’s uncharacteristically tidy calendar. In the absence of fixed routes we’ll simply headline posts with the essentials of upcoming events; please contact us directly for more, anytime, at irishwaterfront@gmail.com.

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