Morning mix.

I don’t need my iPod when I run. My superhuman will of steel won’t let me quit a run. And the hills I run in my ‘hood are alive with the sound of music. Don’t picture me all frau-like, spinning in a big skirt, extending my arms to the glory that is the early morning.

Picture this: me in neon running clothes (yo, bus and car drivers, all the better to see me with), my kinkies covered with an orange do-rag and my sneakers splattered with dried week-old mud. I run those hills in the heights of Jersey City, with their view of what lies west: train yards and containers, puffing smoke stacks, and really way beyond, green hills.

My breath settles into a rhythm that doesn’t interfere with the music around me: The whoosh of the boulevard bus and the automated female voice that announces in English and Spanish that Manhattan Avenue is approaching. The whirr of the garbage truck and the thuds of the trash containers tossed back onto the curb. A crossing guard blows her whistle at a mother pushing a stroller into oncoming traffic to get who-knows-where in a hurry.

The sounds and activities increase as my run and the morning progress. Drivers honk at reluctant left turners. Tweens and teens yell at friends across the street to “wait up” or “yo, get me a butter roll at the deli.” Squirrels chatter and somewhere — I wish I knew where — I hear the hoot of an owl. Dogs behind fences or at the end of too-long leashes bark at me. Traffic and police helicopters fly overhead. Construction vehicles warn of their reverse movement. Parents pushing strollers or towing trailing kiddies cradle cell phones against their shoulder and talk about what a pain in the ass their spouse or sister or boss or co-worker is.

There’s music and celebration at the end of my run. Not because I broke some world record. It was an accomplishment just to get my ass moving instead of staying in bed or stuffing myself with bagels and jelly beans. The music was in the bodega where I get my morning coffee: Marc Anthony on the radio singing of boricua pride. I pour my coffee and listen to the bochinche about who owes who money and who came into the bodega with whose girlfriend looking real tight together. An older lady asked the price of the bananas that were too ripe so they should be cheaper.

I step back into the street and sip my cafecito on my walk home along Tonnelle Avenue, accompanied by the thump-thump of hip hop too new for me to recognize, and the occasional blare of a throwback rock ballad. As I get closer to home, I’m joined by the Spanish, Polish, Hindi, Italian, Arabic, and English in various accented forms in the post-run quiet of my morning.


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