Slow night at the Tavern

Boxing Day at Court Square Tavern. My horoscope told me today I needed to watch my accounts and watch any habits that may be forming, so I'm likely going to head home after closing up in about 30 minutes from now. Everything's been done, so I'm just waiting out the two tables I have left. One is a group of guys, and the other is a trio. I'm assuming these are folks getting together in a quiet space so they can chat while listening to some music and enjoying a cold beverage.

Just the service I like to provide.

This last month has been a whirlwind of activity. I'm definitely not who I was a year ago when I was despondent and mourning the end of my marriage. I wasn't sure what would happen with the children, what would happen with me, and wondering if I was going to make it.

I made it, most definitely. But, now I'm wondering how I can improve a little more. And, of course, I'm wondering where I'll be a year from now.

My "therapy" has mostly consisted of not asking that sort of question of myself. Or rather, being okay if I couldn't quite see the answer. I took things one day at a time. I reordered my sense of self, and allowed myself to have a little breathing space.

Never underestimate the power of breathing. My running has taught me that. My new-found ability to cope with stress has been the primary beneficiary. By extension, those I come into contact with have also been much happier.

Our job as humans should be to reduce stress, first for ourselves, and then for those around us. I am hopeful that as 2010 draws near, I can extend outward and look a little less inward. Our species is filled with paradoxes and contradictions.

The Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" comes on, flooding me with memories of being a child at Hilton Head, hearing this song for the first time and being infatuated with it. I take a deep breath and think of all the songs that have filled me with joy, filled me with a sense that I'm connected to this place and time, and to all the other places and times that have occurred. I can imagine pubs filled with people singing this song at the top of their lungs, everyone temporarily united.

Music has reduced my stress level, as I have renewed my attempt at realizing the notes in my head. I've learned to take confidence in the nascent ability I have to put words to music. I am not sure if I will ever manage to fully materialize these dreams into reality, but the journey is what matters.


A milestone that must be documented

365 days ago at this exact moment, I got on a treadmill at Gold's Gym. I was 190 pounds and I'd signed up three days before as a way of coping with the separation from my wife. I had to do something to burn off stress, so I overcame my fear of going to a public place to exercise.

This milestone should be 366 days ago, because I had driven into the parking lot but turned around because I was too scared to go in.

But, a year ago today, I had my free personal training session, which basically consisted of taking measurements and then doing a little cardio. That meant I got my chubby sweat-pants wearing self onto a treadmill and walked for 30 minutes, messing around with the controls.

Over the next week, I went to the gym five days out of seven, switching between the exercise bike and the treadmill. I gradually started jogging on these, and spent as much time as I could.

Work begins in 31 minutes, but I'll just say I just got back from a 3.5 mile run I ran in 29 minutes, and this was a recovery run in which the object was to go at a pace at which I did not surpass my aerobic heart rate. A nice easy run. In the freezing cold. Miles 13 through 16.5 this week.

Anyone who is in a dark hole should seriously consider exercise as the way out. I look back at myself a year ago and I look at myself now, and I don't recognize who I was. I was angry. I was lost. I blamed other people for everything. I was so scared and worried everything was going to fall apart.

I'm not going to say I never feel those things now. But, I do know that I don't want to feel those things, and I've got something to strive for. I have a tremendous coping mechanism that fills me with so much energy, has given me a much healthier body, and has introduced me to so many people.

Now that I'm training again for an actual race, I know that I have a short-term purpose that will help me get through everything else. I do regret not running the Richmond marathon, but that's okay. Sometimes we change our plans, but when we've made the decision to do so, we must move on. Sometimes that's hard.

And that's why I run. I used to think running was hard. Now, I know it's something I can do. I have a platform in which I can practice pacing, form, technique. Now I want to improve every aspect of my life, even though at times I might stumble.

Now, 26 minutes until work and I must run.

(see what I did there?)


Rules for this December

I hereby resolve this December will be awesome.

I will not think about what may have happened a year ago.

Any previous December that may have occurred did most certainly occur to a different version of myself. I will not pay attention to anniversaries which only mean something to that version of myself who still wants to hold on to the comfort of pain. I will forgive and I will love.

I shall look upon myself as an ever-changing work in progress who has demonstrated resilience, humility, and humanity.

I shall not look for the black lining in everything. I will not procrastinate. I will not give in to negativity. I will not be my own worst enemy. I will not blow up every mistake into the sinking of the Titanic. Molehills shall stay molehills. I will not think about my impending demise, my nails being too long, or the pain in all the diodes down my left side.

I will look upon the bright smiling faces of my children on Christmas Day. I will not worry about the money I spent on their presents, which will hopefully give them the same kind of memories I had as a child. I will sing songs with them. I will find reindeer antlers for my dog. I will live. I will laugh. I will make positive memories of Yuletide joy. I will bring tidings, whatever those actually are.

I will prepare for 2010 by finding new ways to improve myself. I will continue learning to live in the moment while keeping perspective of the entire journey I am on. I will work hard.


Resetting my running habit

Thanksgiving is not known for gift-giving, but I got all I wanted for Christmas on Thursday night. My brother-in-law Scott Craig gave me his Garmin Forerunner 205, because he upgraded to a new model. I had not expected to have something so useful.

And now, I may just run a marathon on March 21, 2010.

Since not running the Richmond marathon, I've not really been formally training for anything. I've not crossed 10 miles since time in late September and have gotten into a rut of doing the same 7 miles again and again. The training program got me in the habit of wanting to know my pace, and wanting to know how fast I ran each mile. I've been too scatter-brained to map out each course so I can manually keep track of my pace on my bumblebee Timex.

One of the first lessons I learned from Mark Lorenzoni of Ragged Mountain Running Shop is to buy a watch. Without a watch, there's no point in considering becoming a competitive runner. And, if you're running, you may as well try to improve yourself and the best way to do that is through knowing how fast you go.

With no real racing goal in mind, I've managed to shave about 6 minutes off of the 7 mile loop I run from my house to Belmont and back. On Tuesday night, I ran it in 58 minutes. I can't do the math to figure out what pace that translates into, but I know I ran the first two miles at just over 7:30 each before needing to slow down. Pacing. I still need to learn pacing.

Enter the Garmin.

To the non-runners who may read this, the Garmin uses GPS to track your position in real-time, measuring how far and how fast you are running. Every mile it beeps to give you an update and tells you your pace.

This has the effect of liberating me, because now I can run wherever I want without having to keep track of anything. I have so many mile-to-mile points marked in town, and the two I checked today were pretty much spot on. I ran the first of my 7-mile in 8:30, mostly because the watch kept telling me I was on that pace.

Just like a treadmill.

A year ago, I began this journey on a treadmill, gradually building up my miles and my speed. By March, I was hitting the road, a process which sped up dramatically as soon as I ran the Camp Holiday Trails 5k, my first race, at 25:08. A week later, I ran a second one on the same course and ran at about 23:30 or so. I didn't run again until July, when I ran a 6:23 mile in the Kiwanis Fourth of July 5K race. Of course, I had to stop for 30 seconds to throw up, but I'm confident I'll get the hang of pacing with time.

I had not learned that lesson in October, when I ran the Blue Ridge Burn 10K at Walnut Creek Park in Albemarle County. In that case, I had not looked at the map before hand, and mistook a road crossing where the course went past the the finish line to begin one last mile loop. But enough of that. I was okay with how I did.

Today, I ran the first two miles right where I wanted to and then sped up and gradually brought up my pace. I made some stops on the way (and hit stop on the watch) and worked my way up a trail leading up Observatory Hill, but at one point ran a 7:45 mile without really feeling too fatigued. I really enjoyed running and knowing exactly how far I had gone. It gave me confidence I could go as far as I wanted, much like knowing there was a white chalk mark every mile to help me keep track of the data.

So, today feels like the beginning in a new chapter in my running habit. I can imagine myself running more often, and becoming motivated to become better so I can set a real target for the Shamrock Marathon. I want to reach out to others who are training to run it, and met one woman last week who is thinking about it.

Today, I went running for pleasure. Sure, I was training, too, but I was just reminded of how much joy it brings me. I ran past the stadium as Virginia and Virginia Tech fans were slowly making their way to the game. Running past people in a crowd is a great way to people watch, because no one is paying any attention to you at all.

The last day of college football is like the end of fall for me. Winter is here, along with a need to get more gear to run in the cold. But, for now, I've got the most important piece of equipment I need for a while. I think training with the Garmin is going to really help me steer myself towards becoming a much better runner. And, to that I extend a very huge thank you to Scott.


Hurling messages of appreciation into the universe

Since last Thanksgiving, my life has completely and utterly transformed in some ways. Mostly for the better, though I am most definitely not entirely over the break-up of my marriage. It happens, you know?

I'd like to first be somewhat grateful I didn't use this blog to air all of my dirty laundry. I did, however, use it to reach out to people, and I'm thankful for all of the people who did help me out throughout the course of the year.

I am doing incredibly interesting work for Charlottesville Tomorrow. This has been our busiest year to date, with the Daily Progress partnership, the launch of cvillepedia, and so many other things we've done. I am thankful to work with Brian Wheeler, who has been a good mentor for me and has made me into a much better journalist.

I am back at Court Square Tavern, a place that grounds me in Charlottesville and serves as a nice counterpart to the other work I do. Working with Katie Fox has been a blessing, because I've had to learn how to work efficiently and to high standards. I also really like trying to build up a business, and think this is going to be a pretty good winter.

My recovery would not have been possible without the help of my friend Becca Feild, who gave me a place to stay and encouraged me to go on a trip to Pensacola in March. That trip gave me a glimpse into the future. A year ago, both of us began break-ups at the same time and now we're recovered.

I am thankful to the mother of my kids for being a great co-parent and working with me to raise them. We've got a long haul ahead of us together to make sure our children have a good life. I'm proud of her for all that she has achieved this year and am thankful that everything is going to turn out okay.

I am grateful for my parents for being incredibly understanding of me this year, and being patient with me while I worked through this transition year. They've been absolutely fantastic and generous with their support.

I am thankful I got to become friends with Harry Landers, who encouraged me to run and to join the marathon training program. I ended up not running a marathon this year, but that's okay. I've obtained a lifelong habit that's going to introduce me to a lot of people over the rest of my lifetime.

I really appreciate living in this magnificent town. I spent some time walking around on the downtown mall today, and just soaked in the humanity of it all. The musicians. The stranded foreign students who were touring around. The homeless men. The mall vendors. My favorite place to run is up the mall. I'm also thankful to have the University of Virginia here.

I'm thankful for Gold's Gym, which is the first place I've felt comfortable exercising around others. I am looking forward to really taking advantage of the gym in the coming year as I work on improving my fitness routine.

I'm glad I've reconnected with my friend in Minnesota, Tori Zengel. She's a fellow single parent who is even busier than I am. Her phone calls have been a real pick-me-up.

Many people have helped me keep the Charlottesville Podcasting Network going, including Coy Barefoot, Leon Oliver, Elizabeth McCullough, Sean McCord, Rick Moore, Jacob Canon, Brevy Cannon, Brad Savage, Dan Daniels, and many others that I am likely forgetting.

Special thanks are due to Nick Laiacona for lending me a guitar on which I have played hours and hours and hours now. Making music is what I do when I know I'm relaxed, and it's something that's just as important as exercise in terms of keeping a well well-being.

I've met so many great people this year, and become friends with people who have really helped me change my life and outlook.

How about you? What do you have to give thanks for on this day?


Before the day begins

My house is not in tip-top shape, but it's not in rotten bottom condition either. My ears are being assaulted by a recording of guitar and vocals I did back in October. I record about an hour of raw material a week. In some ways, creating music has taken over from running as the thing that fuels my expanding view of myself. Greater than running a marathon is the idea of becoming a very good musician. Both take practice, a willingness to train, patience and concentration.

Last night after I got off work at 1:00 AM, I went down to Miller's like I do every Friday that I can to catch the last set of the Rogan Brothers. Last night I met up with some friends, hung out with them until last call and then went home. At ten to three I started playing music, risking waking up my housemate. I played for 23 minutes, using the energy from the Rogan Brothers, as well as the experience of serving at least a hundred people last night at the tavern. New regulars, familiar faces as well as strangers I met for the first time.

I want to stand on a stage and sing and play guitar and entertain, but I'm not there yet. At the moment, I make music in order to create a soundtrack for my life. To capture the energy that I feel vibrating all around me when I'm around other people. Creating a pulse with instruments, shaping them with effects, crafting lyrics from a deep part of myself that I don't fully understand.

Yet, it seems so fragile. I've never been able to share any of it with anyone except for people who I play with, and develop some sort of bond. In my life I've mostly been playing with one person, my childhood friend Jeffry Cudlin. We've played off and on for so many years, but these days we're both so busy that it's proven impossible to find the time to get together.

None of it is smoothed out. For whatever reason, I've found it hard to write songs and instead choose to rely on improvisation to capture whatever it is I'm doing at the moment. I consider the material I create to be akin to a journal, where I open up my mind and sing. In the early days, Jeff used to try to write up whatever I had said, but for whatever reason that never caught on so our work together was always off the cuff.

And now for the first time in my life I've been taking it seriously enough to the point where I spend a lot of time trying to craft songs. I've been trying to write several, both the lyrics and the music. I'm not sure if any of it is accessible to anyone at all, but I figure I have time to train.

Right now it's all kind of sloppy and intertwined, but when I listen back, I'm listening back with the ear of someone who is trying to try to figure out just what a song is for. Why do we make them? Why do we love them so much? Why do so few of us make our own songs?

I'm not sure, but I know I'm enjoying this period of my life because I feel like this is my chance to devote to creating things. And now, the day is set to begin once more, and I'll be wishing for the end of the night to come so I can get right back to the guitar.


Stream of consciousness

I'm standing behind the bar at the tavern. Nirvana's "Lake of Fire" is playing. There are not many customers. I recognize everyone in here. A party of 9 is sprawled out at 10 having sampled at least eleven different kinds of beers by now. The bar is filled with a mix of people who work here and people who know we work here. I've got maybe 45 minutes or so until I can cash out the drawer and get on with my own evening.

Now the music switches to a song by the Kooks that I've never actually heard in its entirety. I've only heard in snippets from a podcast I used to listen to from Virgin Radio, now known as Absolute Radio. The song is called "She moves in her own way" the title of which couldn't be more appropriate, especially on a day when the process of my divorce has begun.

I know you're not supposed to talk about such things in polite company, but this little box is my chance to tell the world what's going in my life, and what I'm thinking about, who I am.

"Once when I was in Munich, I drank two and a half gallons of Paulaner, and I even walked all the way back to my hotel, an hour and a half away," says a drunk guy at the bar. I've just served him what will be his last beer. Now he's trying to impress me by telling me about some girl. Shuold I be impressed? Wait, he said he got ditched. How surprising? Of course, I've just high-fived him because he will likely tip me a buck or two.

Now he's telling me about Amsterdam, and his experiences getting absolutely blitzed there, and how cool if he is for being able to do such things.

"This thing fucking works, man!" says the guy, tapping his head as he walks out to smoke a cigarette.

"He's got that special crazy spark in his eye," says Garrett the Parrot. And yes, he does. Both of them go out for a cigarette as a tenth joins 10. There are enough people for me to stay open another half an hour. Then I will go out and have a good time.


Still here. Cleaning up the regulars. Then the Rogan Brothers. This is my life in my mid-30's, trying to balance work and work and work and family. It ain't so bad.


Scary situation on Old Lynchburg Road

Last night I drove down to a house on Old Lynchburg Road to pick up a stereo system through freecycle. It was pitch black at 6:00 PM, and as the road went from four lanes to two to barely two, I began to get really nervous driving.

I no longer like driving at night on rural roads. When I was younger and gasoline was free, I would roam Campbell County just to see how my hometown was put together. My friends and I explored every road, and I got to know the whole place.

As I got older, I found more things to do with my time, I stopped driving as much. When I was at Virginia Tech, I did a little of this but that was mostly in conjunction with time spent delivering pizza for Backstreets. When I lived in New Hampshire, I drove around a lot, too.

Then I got older, and my night vision decreased a bit. Gasoline got more expensive, and it didn't seem like a fun leisurely activity. And then my life became saturated with responsibility.

I don't really need a new stereo system, but I figured I should pick this up as a back-up just in case my current one died. So, it was worth taking a break from work. So, off I went. And, as soon as I got to the narrow stretch of road, someone who is more familiar with the road, and likely better eyesight, immediately came within tailgating range. I was not a fan of this mood, and began to panic. I didn't know where I was going, adding to the general sense of peril.

However, thankfully I made it to the place, picked up my stuff, and got back in the car to come back. I was calmer because there was no one behind me. However, the car in front of me began to slow down. Something was up.

A silver SUV was flipped over on its side. It had just happened. I couldn't tell if anyone was in it at all. Some sort of liquid had leaked from the car. Was it blood? Was someone dead, hurt? Was the car going to blow up? Was I the kind of person who could jump in and help? What to do?

The car in front of me just drove around. Another car coming towards me also passed by. Should I do the same? Would I have the guts to help out?

I took a deep breath, inched the car ahead, and got out of the car. As I did, I could see someone moving around inside. I shouted if he was okay, and he said he was fine, that everyone was alright. I didn't believe him so I asked again, also asking what had happened?

"Deer jumped out at us," he said.

Sudden intrusion into his life changed his night and week forever. He was looking through the car, looking for something. I asked if he needed me to call 911, but he said he'd already done it. I asked him if he needed anything, and he said he was fine.

So, I got back in my car, and slowly passed him. I saw his girlfriend standing next to it. It was very strange seeing the SUV upside down.

I drove very slowly on my way back into town, reflecting on what the experience might teach me. I've been going way too fast lately. I don't take the time to slow down, yet I have learned how to breathe. I don't want my life to suddenly turn upside-down because something happens.

Yet, in the days to come I'll forget what it felt like to be in a potentially dangerous moment. I may not learn the lesson that came from this unfortunate experience (for the drivers, not really for me).

One takeaway, though, is that I'm not driving in the dark on rural roads any more.


Update on the rant

I took the bus in, and it was fine. I love the bus, and wish I could ride it every day. As I've said many times before, doing so makes me feel like I live in a city.

Let's have a little rant, shall we?

Most of us do not use public transportation. I do not use it on a regular basis, even though the Route 4 comes past my house twice an hour during peak periods. I work downtown, so it should be a no-brainer, right?

Unfortunately, like most of us, I do not have a set schedule. I have something different to do pretty much every day, whether it be drive to a meeting, or pick up my kids at their daycare near Albemarle High School. I also can afford a car, and there's been no compelling reason for me to give it up, or to switch my choice.

But, this morning, I am steaming, absolutely steaming, about a bus driver's performance. I left my keys at a meeting in a government building, being somewhat distracted by a friend of mine that I was chatting to. I realized this seconds after walking out the door. So, I had another friend of mine come pick me up. No matter, I thought. I have the bus as a reliable means of transportation.

So, I woke up this morning, got ready, loaded up the Charlottesville Transit Service's bus stop search page, and walked out my door when it told me the #4 would be at the stop in 2 minutes. It's about a 2 minute walk to my bus. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeazy, right?

I'm half way to the stop, when suddenly, the bus comes roaring past, driving way over the 25 mile an hour speed limit on my residential street. I'm about three houses away from the stop. Surely, if I indicate I want to be picked up, the bus will stop, right? So, I start waving my hands wildly in the air.

He's not slowing down. He's continuing to hurtle down a very narrow road at full-speed like he's running a race. As he gets closer and closer to passing me, I start jumping up and down like a wild man, because I have an errand I really need to accomplish that requires the use of my car.

(ironically, I have to take my car to Edgecomb's Imported Auto for service!)

But, no, the driver fails to notice me, and if anything, he speeds up because he's just made a left-hand turn onto Forest Ridge Road and he's got a straightaway down to Rock Creek Road.

I'll admit, I shouted some things I couldn't say on the radio.

So, what's my takeaway here? I've written on this blog in the past about my dissatisfaction with service, but yet I keep trying the bus. I pay property taxes, and I feel it's partially my service. I want it to work, and I want it to be useful to more people so that more of us can get out of our cars. The system is wonderful when it works, but it requires drivers who are constantly paying attention to potential riders. It needs drivers who don't fancy themselves as being in the Grand Prix.

Sure, I could have walked out the door a little earlier, but the system told me I had two minutes left. It seems that maybe the driver's speed confused the system, or he was looking to pick up time to meet a quota, or something. I don't know.

I'll try again in a few minutes, and I'll make sure I get there in plenty of time. But, what's the point of having a GPS system if it's inaccurate?

Bah. As I said in the title, it's a rant, not a political statement.


Towards equilibrium

One of my new life goals shall be equilibrium, where I try to balance my work life with my need to be alive and human. This is a tricky objective, akin to a very complicated move in billiards. If I stop and think about the juggling required to keep everything in order, balls tend to fall to the ground. Unfortunately, some of them roll away.

But, it's a new month, a new day and the sun is shining in the sky. The construction of the new Smith Pool has now shot steel pillars into the ground. We're entering the final days of autumn, and the brilliance of chlorophyll depletion is fading. Cold days ahead, with dark nights, and I'm looking forward to making it through.

I will do by seeking this balance, seeking a little pepper to go along with the salt I produce from my time in the mines.


Simple moments to keep up the pace

Sometimes my electric kettle won't turn off, and the steam pours out, coating my kitchen in layers of moisture. Sometimes the valve on my toilet warps and the water keeps feeling up until I come and fix it. Things break, but they can always be fixed if you stay attentive.

Other times, there is so much information pouring into my brain and I can't stop it. I'm pulled in so many different directions and seem to always need to be somewhere other than in my own space. Thankfully, my friends keep reminding me to breathe.

There are also the mornings when a good cup of tea sorts the mind to the point where some of it begins to make sense. One good deep breath and the slight push of a handle, and life begins anew, as it does every moment. We're a string of frames being put through the projector one shot after another.

On this rainy November morning, my mind is awash with thoughts of this whirlwind Halloween week, and with thoughts of how to prepare for the end of the year. I keep adding new things to my plate, new obstacles to spin on the ends of broomsticks, and so far I've not crashed with a cacophonic tinkle. I'm now longer going to worry about that moment coming. Instead, I'm going to run down this hill as fast as I can, remembering to breathe. If I stumble, I shall roll until I can bounce back up to continue this marathon we're all running in.

Sam's mother taught him a very useful trick that seems to work out pretty well. Sometimes he gets so frustrated that he can't have whatever he wants, and he doesn't have the language to express himself. So, when he gets into that state of total panic, all you have to say to him is:

"Sam, say help."

And, he does. He immediately stops crying, calms down, and says in his precious little voice, "Help!" and then we're calm, we cuddle, and we get on with our day.


Reflections under crisp October skies

Someone last night made a comment to me that I lacked passion. I feel passion every day. I just don't entirely know how to express it. I'm so much in my own head that I sometimes forget to experience the moment, and then it passes. Somehow I became overly cautious.

The death of spring explodes so much beauty. These warm days we've been having are so cruel, and make sitting in the office seem like such a poor substitute for breathing in the crisp October air. I am grateful I can see a corner of this brilliant blue sky from my window. It will have to be enough for today, though I wonder how much longer until my own leaves begin to fade and fall.

Is it possible to capture this beauty through some form of art? Photographs come closest, but can't fully capture how it feels to my soul to gaze upon the bright yellow tree which was still green and fresh when I cut myself trying to impress a woman with my climbing skills. What seemed like a tiny cut has become a lasting reminder of that moment. Will it ever fade?

If I was a sports team, this would be called a rebuilding year. I'm still trying to sort out just who I am, and what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I have some of the answers, but not all of them. I think, in general, I'm doing better than the Washington Redskins.

If I was their coach, I'd likely tell them to enjoy the game for the rest of the season, and don't worry so much about the results. What does it mean to play football? Having never played anything but flag football, I don't know the answer.

I'd have to take the same advice for myself. This has been a year in which I haven't always known what I've been doing. I'm still there, wondering how to be a single man after being in relationships for a full decade non-stop. I feel like I'm in high school, and my writing reflects that. So do my nascent efforts at song-writing.

You know what? So what. I'm still learning how to be human. Still learning what it means to be capable of so much perception, still learning how to interact with others, still learning how to control the torrents of emotions inside of me. It's not every year that you're faced with so many upheavals.

My goal is to feel alive. To experience this life to the fullest extent that I can without hurting anyone. At least, that's my takeaway when the world is exploding with vibrance all around me.


Mister Blue Sky

Signs from the universe continue to tell me that generally everything is okay, even though I feel dread on Monday, just like everyone else. Even though I wake up with my children, I feel this tremendous lack of inertia and perhaps a sense that my life is going in the wrong direction. Happens almost every Monday. Not so much on the other days, mostly on Monday.

Yet, the dread fades if I can just take simple steps to remind myself that the universe has plenty of positive energy to tap into, if you just know it's there. Even if you can't feel it, even if you feel this need to be a skeptic.

On Saturday, I strolled my son about a mile in the double-stroller to pick up a box of LP's that I found on Freecycle. In the past month, I've picked up a utility cart, four boxes of video-tapes, some desperately needed knick-knacks, and some toys for the kids. But, I think in the grand scheme of things, there's one thing that will stand out as the most important thing I could have found.

A copy of "Out of the Blue" by the Electric Light Orchestra.

I am not an expert on ELO, by any means. My annoying punk-rock self dismissed anything from the 70's as not worthy of listening to, and plenty worthy of disdain. But, I first fell in love with this song when it was used in a brilliant episode of Doctor Who. I'd all but forgotten about it, but then the song was handed to me again by the universe.

If you watch the clip, or listen to it, check out the bit of dialogue included from the episode. Sort of fits my life right now, which hasn't turned out the way I expected, but turned out the way it was always going to. But, you know, there's always the hope of a blue sky, always the hope that the next day will be just a little bit better than the one that came before. There are always sonic ladders from which we can climb the depths of Monday dread.


Recommending a daycare

I've never really used my blog to do this, but I'd like to highly recommend Cora Houghton's Nature's Bloom daycare. Cora has looked after my daughter on two long stints, and currently is looking after her and my son. The kids' mother and I have decided to move them both to a preschool closer to downtown Charlottesville, and that's opened up two vacancies for her that I'm hoping we can help fill. If you or anyone you know are looking for a nice in-home daycare, consider Nature's Bloom. Here's some information from Cora:

Nature’s Bloom is a friendly, safe, fun, hands-on learning environment. Everyday is a combination of free play, arts, music, dance and movement, games, circle and story time. Age appropriate learning themes, yoga, Spanish, Italian and sign language lesson integrated into daily activities

I have worked in childcare since1990 and have operated Nature’s Bloom since 1998. My goals are to encourage imagination, creativity, and self-confidence while providing a comfortable place to learn and play. I strive to provide each child with love, attention and stimulating activities. I offer a planned but flexible curriculum.

Space for infants, under 18 months is still very limited-part time or occassional care but there are several spots for children 2yrs+, full or part time. I also offer temporary care for families visiting, between childcare arrangements or when school is closed. I have offered before and after care in the Greer school district. Evening and weekend care also available on occassions.

Contact me via e mail mamasmagic1@yahoo.com or telephone 434-979-4796.


Idea check: Is this creepy?

Today I took the kids to the Fall Fiber Festival up in Orange County at Montpelier. Increasingly I want to take them to agricultural events in the area, prompted by a recent story I wrote for Charlottesville Tomorrow and the Daily Progress on ways to promote local farming. I was amazed at all the different things you could do with well.

Tonight I was talking with someone about all the different types of products that can be made with animal hair, and she told me about this woman on the downtown mall that spins dog hair, which got us to wondering - would there be a market for people who wanted to create things using the hair of their pets so they would always have a useful keepsake.

But is that idea just too creepy? Right now, my dog is covered in fur. On Monday, he will be taken to Creatures Great and Small on Berkmar to get his twice-yearly shavedown. The transformation will create a totally different version of Billy. He will see squirrels again, making walks with both him and the two kids much more challenging.

I love my dog. I've toyed with the idea of finding him a new home so I could have one less stressor, but friends always remind me that he's family, and it would devastate him to be somewhere else. So, I definitely will be with him for the rest of his life.

But, would I want a quilt made from his hair? Would you want from your dog, especially if you have a breed that produces long hair? And, if so, could someone make a living doing that sort of work?


Creating motivation

I just got back from my first ten-mile run since the injury. Since I took the Richmond marathon off my list of things to do this year, I've lacked motivation. It's nice to think it might be back.

I started this whole exercise thing ten months ago in order to get my head straight. My marriage had crumbled and it didn't look like all the King's horses wanted anything to do with the salvage project. To distract myself, I went to Gold's and signed up with no idea of what I wanted to do, or how I was going to do it. Somehow, I fell into a pattern where I was running and working out five or six times a day.

That pattern more or less continued unabated until my injury in late August, where I sat out for ten days out of fear of doing serious damage to my knee. Admittedly, I've had a hard time sticking with lifting weights at the gym, only because it's been hard to get organized enough to fit into my schedule, which seems to operate according to some sort of video-game logic, getting increasingly more difficult with each passing level. Two weeks ago I went three times, but last week I wasn't available to sneak away from work.

Why is the motivation fading? I don't seem to be as focused on exercise as I was, and that could just be because I've been distracted by work, which is pretty exciting now that some of my stories are ending up in the Daily Progress. I've also been playing guitar and singing for about two or three hours a week, and I'm at a point where I want to begin taking it seriously.

But, the most important reason is that the pain of my marriage breaking up is beginning to fade. In December, that particular nuclear explosion somehow got poured into my body, giving me this intense desire to push myself past the blast.

The radiation's faded quite a bit, and the sun shines again. But, what does that mean for exercise?

I skipped Thursday so I could go see a show. Okay, listen to a show. I took my kids to the downtown mall so we could stand outside the Pavilion so I could hear the Decemberists. Friday was just molten-lava-rock crazy busy with work at Charlottesville Tomorrow and then at Court Square Tavern. Well, the tavern was slow, but it's hard to run on the days when I'm there.

Yesterday, however, I just wanted to be lazy and have a day off. I had to go in to work to finish up a story. I was supposed to go to Blacksburg to see the Tech game, but I decided to save money and avoid pneumonia. I could have gone to the gym or ran, but... I didn't. It was raining, and I was lazy. I admit this.

Because I felt fine. Well-adjusted. More or less happy. No emotional pain to mitigate.

This morning, I felt the same way. Content. Happy that things seem to be okay. With no major running goal on the horizon, it's a little easier to slack off.

I got up at 9:00, and had the same feeling of sluggishness I've since Thursday. I didn't really know if it was worth while to go for a run. I didn't feel like doing it. Couldn't get motivated. 9:00 AM became 9:30 AM, 9:30 became 10:00 AM. I tidied the house to prepare for my kids to arrive. I procrastinated by listening to some of the songlets I wrote two nights ago. Finally, I realized I just had to get out there.

So, I went out. No real destination or length in mind, but I decided to go out on my 7-mile course which takes me from my house to Belmont via the UVA hospital and the downtown Mall. Blissful beautiful Sunday morning in early fall. The smells of the earth are not the smells of the earth when I first left the confines of the treadmill at Gold's Gym. The landscape is winding down after a long summer's day, about to slumber through the winter.

I felt the same way after mile two. Once again, I'd run my first two miles way too fast at an 8:30 pace. I didn't know how far I wanted to go, but I knew I needed to go slow if I wanted to cross ten miles. Of course, I didn't slow down. I picked up the pace, and when I got to West Main Street, I was conditioned and able to run at a comfortably pace for a long run.

There's so much I don't know about running. Another reason I slowed down the training is because I need the money that comes from working at Court Square Tavern on Friday nights, which meant I had to move my long run to Sunday.

I just know that I love it. As I ran up Old Preston onto the Mall, I realized that I've found something that will become increasingly important to me over time, and I can do it on my terms. For my own motivation. These days, I have to motivate myself to run because of the feeling that I'm fully living my life by not neglecting my body. I think back to when I was 200 pounds and I didn't exercise, and how sluggish I felt. How polluted my body would feel. I'm not ashamed of who I was, but I don't want to be like that again.

Is that enough motivation? I'm not sure. I want to be able to call myself an athlete. I think that might be motivation enough.

I want to be athlete because I want the stamina to do other things I really want to do. I want to one day act in a play. I want to front a band again. I want to meet other runners. I want to be able to eat as much as I want and not worry about getting fat. I want to be happy. I want to feel like I can accomplish a goal.

So, on that note, I feel like a runner again after the injury. And, I have a plan of sorts. My goal now is to run the Richmond half-marathon on November 14, as well as two other races. I'm going to volunteer to be a captain for the Men's 4-miler and Charlottesville 10-miler training programs. I'm going to run either the Shamrock at Virginia Beach next March or the next Charlottesville marathon. I'm going to learn how to get faster, how to stay injury-free.

So, this week's exercise schedule, written publicly to hopefully hold myself to it:

Monday: Gym
Tuesday: 4 mile run
Wednesday: Gym AM, 4 mile run in the PM
Thursday: 4 mile run in the AM
Friday: Gym AM
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Long run

Wish me luck!


Training update: Thoughts after the injury

I've decided not to run the full Richmond marathon. Instead, I will shoot to run a full marathon next year, next spring or fall. I have not fully decided yet. I may run the half marathon instead, and will shoot to run it in under than two hours. I think I can meet that goal through building on the training I've learned to date.

Since my injury, I have been adding to how much I've run each week. I usually have a couple of short pangs of pain in my right knee within the first minute of running, but it generally goes away if I slow down and breathe through it. I don't have any pain when I finish.

The injury was a wake-up call that there are limits to my body, especially when you factor in everything else going on in my life. We are in the midst of covering an election for Charlottesville Tomorrow. I'm a single father who has his children half the week. I serve people at Court Square Tavern on Fridays. Somewhere in there, I'm trying to figure out how Charlottesville's dating scene works. That last part is fairly tricky.

In the week-long break I took from running, I realized there are other aspects of my life where I have to train, too.

I have to become a better homeowner, for instance. I've lived here for well over a year now, and I've not put any work into it. There are so many things to organize. Many questions to answer, such as, can I possibly afford a dishwasher? Should I go ahead and get the windows properly fitted for winter?

My primary goal to exercise is to stay healthy, and to get in the best shape I can. I am looking forward to racing again, and learning more about how to run injury free. Good shoes, certainly help. I spent at least half an hour exercising in the past week, including two stints lifting weights.

I even ran on a treadmill this past Thursday. The experience is sub-par compared to running on the road, but I went in with a specific goal to do 30 minutes of cardio. I pushed myself as hard as I could in that half-hour, and it conveniently fit within my schedule.

Today, however, I was thankful to be back on the road. I will likely run once a week at the gym, which offers affordable child-care. It's also a place where I want to feel more comfortable. I was there six days a week when I first started exercising last December. Now, I don't go, because running sort of took over so I could run a marathon in November. And, that's okay. If I had not hurt myself, I'd still be on that path.

Lives change in the blink of an eye. I am certainly not where I thought I would be at 36. It's important to stay flexible about life goals, I'd say. You never know when they will have to change. We pick up new skills, learn from rough experiences, and generally improve ourselves so we can navigate the many twists and turns of our lives.


RIP Charles Lewis Stokes

Charles Lewis Stokes died today. I knew him as Lew. He was a blind man who came into Court Square Tavern almost every night I worked there the first time around. Lew was awesome. He had nothing to say except what he thought. And that was a tremendously refreshing thing. He would come in, have his three pints of Spaten, and then Ali of Yellow Cab would come in and pick him up and take him home.

I've not seen him in over a year. Maybe two years. Last time I saw him was at Fellini's. The fact that I will never again have a beer with him makes me very sad. Lew was a guy who you could have a conversation with about everything from politics to metaphysics. I had heard that we was a really gruff man before he went blind, but then loosened up a bit afterwards. Lew had a very rich wife who he wasn't tremendously close to, but both were blind, so they got along in some sense.

Lew encouraged me to do the work I do. He said to me frequently that I needed to be heard by as many people as possible. As a blind man, he really appreciated the work I did for WVTF. He said I needed to be bold, and I can definitely say his advice helped me create the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. I regret I was not able to make the service more friendly to the blind.

He and Milton Branham used to get into these amazing fights, with Milton threatening him to knock him onto the terrazo, as Milton would call the floor at Court Square Tavern. Yet, Milton loved him so very much, as did we all, for Lew was an institution. After the fire, he spent his out time at Fellini's, where I think I only drank with him twice. I had lost touch with him over the years.

So, I leave you all with this. A recording of Lew in 2005 that anyone who knew him must listen to. It captures a time in my life, his life, Doug's life, Mike's life.

The Daily Bringdown.

I regret I don't have more recordings from Lew. He was someone all of us should have talked to.


The other training

I've been playing music all my life, but never really took it seriously. I played around with sound with my friend Jeffry Cudlin since I was 7 or so, an experience that lead me to seek a career in radio. But, I also played music with Jeff in high school and again in my mid-twenties. Our fake band was called the Hodads, named after a fake superhero group in some silly Marvel comic.

Jeff has gone on to play in many real bands. He was much better at writing songs and crafting things that sounded good. All I wanted was the visceral feeling of creating things, and that's where the concept of improv punk came from for me. I didn't have time or the patience to practice.

Flash forward to now. I've become a runner. Why not become a musician? Why shouldn't I take this seriously? I generally play music when I'm done with my work day, and I'm beginning to record it and take it seriously.

Is any of it good?

Why is that a relevant question?

I'm not the faster runner, and I can't run the furthest. Those are not valid questions to ask, because that defeats the point of racing.

So, tonight dear reader, I publicly announce the tumblr account where I am beginning to upload things I've made in the past as well as things I will make in the future. I don't know what people will think, but I have to put it out there so you can be prepared when I start treating making music the same way I treat running.


Training resumes

Richmond isn't going to run itself, so I'm shooting to run 26.2 miles on November 14, 2009.

Damn, it feels good to say that.

Today I got back on the road to try to meet that goal. I do so with a renewed spirit and a sense that patience can pay dividends.

As you know, I hurt my right knee on the last mile of my scheduled 16 mile run ten days ago. That forced me to take a break, during which I did not make any decisions. I didn't even really lament the loss of exercise. I just wanted to listen to my body and heal.

On Sunday, the pain in my joints and tendons had more or less faded, but would shoot through me if I put too much weight on my right leg. By Monday I felt fine, but still didn't know what to do. On Tuesday, I followed the advice of many people and went in to talk with Mark Lorenzoni, the owner of Ragged Mountain Running Shop and my coach in the Charlottesville Track Club's marathon training program. As per his instructions, I took in my program and my shoes.

Mark Lorenzoni is a very busy man, and I don't like to bother busy men. He was there chatting with his staff when I got there at about 5:00 on Tuesday afternoon. A clerk said he was really tired and wanted to go home, but asked if she could help. I started to tell the story.

Turns out, she's his daughter and she's dealt with injuries her whole running career. She started flexing my shoes, and told me they were shot. I'd only purchased them in late June, and I reckon I'd put about 280 miles on them. She had me do the routine of watching me jog in my shoes, then in my bare feet. Instantly, she knew what the problem was.

My right leg over-pronantes quite a bit. Pronating is a concept I've not yet quite figured out, but I know it needs to be corrected through arch support. This is why I'm happy to pay the big bucks for shoes. I trust the Lorenzonis with my feet. I'll eventually learn the details.

Mark came over. He looked shattered, exhausted. In the past week, he had helped run both the Ragged Mountain Cup and the Women's Four-Miler. He's really someone who gives a lot to his community, and I didn't want to take up too much of his time. But once he started talking to me, I knew he was really concerned with my training. He immediately took a pen to my program and set me up for the next two weeks. He said it was not too late to make Richmond, even with the week off. He assigned me three miles for today, three miles for tomorrow, and to shoot for 12 on Saturday.

Daunting, especially when I could barely walk the week before.

But, I immediately felt this feeling of well-being and happiness and joy. On my test runs for his daughter, I seemed fine, with no pain at all. With new shoes, I knew I'd get a little more protection. Expensive, yes, but well worth it given the power that running has had to help me this year. He also gave me a pair of inserts to try in my old shoes. I walked out feeling very good about myself and my choice. But more importantly:

I was going to run again.

So, this morning, I took a long lunch and headed home. I put my shoes on. I put my running shorts on. I stretched a little more than I had before. I warmed up by taking my dog for a quick walk. My body was tingling all over in anticipation. I fiddled with my watch. And then...

Off I went, very gently. One foot after the other. I aimed to have each foot fall land right in the middle of my foot. I just went at a nice little trot to test out that knee, to see if there was any pain. There was none, but I remained vigilant. I made it to the end of first tenth of a mile about 10 seconds slower than usual.

The day was warm, but not too hot. Slightly humid. I trotted along to the end of the downtown mall and back home, alert to the possibility of knee pain. Things felt a little stiff, but it wasn't too bad. I saw a lot of people I know, and felt like I had myself back again. I wish I could explain more clearly how positive I feel about myself because of exercise.

I really resisted going fast. I know I could have gone much faster, but I'm hoping I've learned a little more about pacing now. The next two weeks are not about speed. They're about recovery, and relearning form and discipline. The run was absolute bliss, and I was reminded of all the runs I've taken. How I've used the adrenaline to get me through dark times.

On my way out of the shop Tuesday afternoon, Mark Lorenzoni called me an athlete, and said that he really respected what I was doing. I've never been called that before, and didn't resist it. He told me that the race wasn't important, and to focus on the journey.

I've come such a long way in the past nine months since I began this chapter of my life, and there are so many more footfalls to come.


Training is on pause

I was doing so well. Last Sunday, I did my long run in town, and made two circuits of an eight mile loop. The weather was gorgeous. I was well-rested. I had enough liquid. The run was absolutely beautiful and fantastic.

And now, I'm going to have to hold on to that memory for a little while, because I don't know when I'll be strong enough to run again. On my last mile, I screwed up trying to negotiate a curb, and slammed my right leg down with far too much power, sending a spike of pain through my knee. It went away a second or two later, so I kept going and finished up, and felt fine. Got home, drank my Gatorade, ate my protein bar, stretched out, and then went to walk my dog.

I didn't get even a house away before my calves hardened like concrete. Had I been glared at by Medusa? No. I'd just ran 16 miles. I hobbled back to the house, and sat down for 20 minutes. When I got up, I felt okay. And then went to lunch at the Bluegrass Grill with my ex and our kids. While waiting for our table, I played race cars with my son. And, suddenly, began to feel twinges of pain in my leg. Nothing excruciating. That would come later. But, I realized something was up. Something serious was up.

That afternoon, I had plans to take the kids to the pool. I couldn't disappoint them, even though my knee was slowly becoming an issue if I put any pressure on it. My son is too young to swim by himself, so I had to stay within arm's reach of him for the entire two hours we were at Washington Park Pool. There was also a lot of up and down, and a lot of grimacing as I tried my best to get through our day out.

When I got home, I put ice on it. I stopped off at Seven Day Junior for a huge pack, and filled two freezer bags. Somehow, though, I got it into my head to have an impromptu dinner party, which meant a lot more getting up. I should have rested, but I'm a single dad building friendships with people. I can't just stop these things to take care of myself.

Maybe I should have, but my training has always had to be fit into my emerging life as I try to sort out what the rest of it is going to be like. Running has been the engine that's allowed me to transform my image of myself, as well as my physical body. As I type this, I can remember that feeling of power of my body moving through the universe. I know I'll get back to it again. But I don't know when.

I did not go to the doctor on Monday, but I should have. My insurance shifted recently, and I've not yet figured out how to fill out the new paperwork. It's also more expensive to me directly. I don't have the cash flow to go to a physical therapist, and like many people, I'll put off care if I can't afford it, or it seems like a luxury.

I more or less took Monday off, though. My ex came to get the kids early, and I just sat on the couch for a while, alternating between ice and heat, taking generic acetaminophen to try to keep the swelling down. Of course, I was later told I really needed Advil. I never seem to get the right things in life.

Things felt much better on Tuesday. I could walk up the stairs at work without pain, but there was still some pain. On Wednesday, the pain wasn't constant. I even tried a quick jog of about 100 steps, and felt okay, with no pain immediately after. Soreness about an hour later, though. Thursday was okay, but a new sensation of soreness began to occur on the underside of my knee. A tendon seems like it's not being stretched properly.

Tonight, I'm waiting tables, and I'm a bit worried I'm going to over-tax myself. But, waiting tables is not a luxury. I need that money to help me get through the month. I hope we're busy, but I also dread getting injured while at work.

I don't know when I'll run. I don't know if I'll be ready for the marathon. I can't think about that right now. I am beginning to find alternatives to running, because I want to stay in shape. I am also convinced that if I want to make a lifelong habit of running, I have to respect this injury and not trivialize it. Tonight, I'll wear a brace while waiting tables and I'll move slowly. In time, I'll be healed and I'll be back on the road. But for today, my training is on pause.


Quick post: American vs. British radio

A friend of mine sent me this article from the Wall Street Journal that discusses how radio lost out so quickly to television. Here's one paragraph:

Americans of all ages ­embraced TV unhesitatingly. They felt no loyalty to network radio, the medium that had entertained and informed them for a quarter-century. When something came along that they deemed superior, they switched off their radios without a second thought. That's the biggest lesson taught by the new-media crisis of 1949. Nostalgia, like guilt, is a rope that wears thin.

An hour after I read that, I got my weekly e-mail from BBC Radio 4. Here are the highlights from their schedule for next week:

Friday 28 August

David Attenborough’s Life Stories, 8.50-9.00pm, repeated Sunday 8.50-9.00am
David Attenborough talks about the Coelacanth, an ancestor to all back-boned animals.

Saturday 29 August

Bryn Terfel Masters Wine 10.30-11.00am
Bryn Terfel takes a break from the operatic stage to meet some of the world’s best wine experts and finds out about what a sommelier does – from tasting to service to food matching.

Lockerbie on Trial, 2.30-4.00pm
Another chance to hear Peter Goodchild's dramatised reconstruction of the extraordinary story of one of the longest, costliest and most complicated trials in legal history. Presented by Sheena MacDonald. With Ian McDiarmid, Denis Lawson and Hugh Fraser.

Loose Ends, 6.15-7.00pm
Clive Anderson’s guests are Kate Humble, Simon Hoggart, and Alexei Sayle. Jo Bunting talks to Gareth Malone. Music from Eric Roberson and from Soulsavers, featuring Mark Lanegan.

Profile, 7.00-7.15, repeated Sunday 5.40-6.00pm
Mary Ann Sieghart profiles Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sunday 30 August

Radio 4 Appeal, Sunday 7.55-8.00am, repeated Sun 9.25-9.30pm, Thurs 3.28pm
Gary O'Donoghue appeals on behalf of ClearVision.
The Reunion, 11.15am-noon, repeated Friday 9.00-9.45am
Sue MacGregor reunites key players in the relief effort mounted in response to the famine in Ethiopia in 1984. With Michael Buerk, nurse Claire Bertschinger, former head of Oxfam Hugh Goyder, Major Dawit Wolde Giorgis of the Ethiopian relief effort and Sir Brian Barder, ambassador to Ethiopia.

Americana, 7.15-7.45pm
Kevin Connolly presents. Items include: the political influence of Irish Americans; the continuing relationship between the US and Sir Winston Churchill; the Iraqi Student Project; disaster buddies.

Monday 31 August

Jeopardising Justice, 9.30-9.45am
New series. Helena Kennedy QC explores how the best intentions in legal reform can sometimes produce outcomes that were quite unexpected, even to the reformers themselves. In this first programme she traces the rise of the victims’ movement.

Newton and the Counterfeiter, 9.45-10.00am, repeated 12.30-12.45
Crawford Logan reads from Thomas Levenson's biography of Isaac Newton and his rivalry with William Chaloner, one of 17th-century London's most accomplished and daring criminals.

Woman's Hour, 10.00-10.45am
A celebration of 100 years of Girl Guides, with Kate Silverton; Denise King, CEO, Girlguiding UK; and Liz Burnley, Chief Guide.

Writing the Century, 10.45-11.00am, repeated 7.45-8.00pm, daily
Vanessa Rosenthal explores the 20th century by dramatising the diaries and correspondence of real people. July 1964. Tom and Stella. Drama student Stella Kaufman travels to Israel on a quest to “find herself”.

Merry Widows, 11.00-11.30am
Women who have been widowed after years of happy marriage describe their sense of shock, the difficulties of starting over and the surprise of finding happiness.

You and Yours, 12.00-1.00pm
Fake UGG boots; Liverpool’s musical heritage; hotel ratings; food scares: BSE; staycations.

What Might Have Been, 2.15-3.00pm
By Joseph O Connor, inspired by Irish immigrants Joseph and Bridget Moore as they struggle to cope in a New York tenement on the Lower East Side in 1869. Performed by Stephen Rea.

Tracing Your Roots, 4.30-5.00pm
New series. Sally Magnusson explores family history with listener Stella Collis, who discovers her father's military records.

Front Row, 7.15-7.45pm
Mark Lawson interviews William Trevor, who celebrated his 81st birthday earlier this year, and whose most recent book is on the long-list for this year's Booker Prize for fiction.

Where Did It All Go Right? 8.00-8.30pm
Philip Cowley re-examines policies once thought highly controversial. In this programme he looks back at the early debates about the national minimum wage. Contributors include Boris Johnson, Michael Portillo, and Jack Dromey.

Costing the Earth, 9.00-9.30pm, repeated 1.30-2.00pm
New series. Turbines or Tearooms? Tom Heap asks how campaigners for Green energy can overcome the Nimbys.

Love and Summer, 10.45-11.00pm
By William Trevor, read by Dermot Crowley. Ellie Dillahan finds a whole new world in the arrival of a dark-haired young photographer.

Tuesday 1 September

The House I Grew Up In, 9.00-9.30am, repeated 9.30-10.00pm
New series. Wendy Robbins accompanies disability campaigner Baroness Jane Campbell back to her childhood home in New Malden, Surrey.

Woman's Hour, 10.00-10.45am
Interview with Jo Whiley about who cares for a disabled sibling after the death of parents; Children’s Trust Fund update; discussion about Operation Pied Piper, the evacuation of Jewish children from mainland Europe, which happened on September 1 1939.

Twice Ken is Plenty: the Lost Script of Kenneth Williams, 11.30am-noon
A recently unearthed, never before performed script written for Kenneth Horne and Kenneth Williams is brought to life by Robin Sebastian and Jonathan Rigby. Includes vintage sound effects.

Call You and Yours, 12.00-1.00pm
Staycations – spending your holiday at home.

Front Row, 7.15-7.45pm
Mark Lawson talks to Margaret Atwood, and reviews two competing TV programmes featuring young men with a mission - chef Jamie Oliver visits America, and conductor Gareth Malone tries to get a Hertfordshire town to sing in his series The Choir.

Wednesday 2 September

Woman's Hour, 10.00-10.45am
Women and policing at large public demos; the TUC debates whether high-heeled shoes are demeaning or liberating; interview with Sadie Jones, author of Small Wars; interview with Bananarama.

Random Edition: Outbreak of War Special, 11.00-11.30am
Peter Snow turns the pages of the Manchester Guardian for September 4 1939, which describes the previous day's declaration of war by Neville Chamberlain's government.

You and Yours, 12.00-1.00pm
UK colleges putting overseas students to work instead of the qualification/training they paid for; Alnwick High Street; café bans mobile phones; Liz Barclay’s consumer complaints panel: rail season tickets; XL airlines’ compensation promises; regional newspapers.

Chain Reaction, 6.30-7.00pm
New series. Robert Llewellyn interviews Dave Gorman.

Front Row, 7.15-7.45pm
Mark Lawson meets Julia McKenzie, who takes on the role of Agatha Christie's renowned sleuth Miss Marple on TV; plus the verdict on the alien invasion film District 9; and an interview with Joanna Lumley.

Thursday 3 September

Woman's Hour, 10.00-10.45am
Lives led by WWII widows; interview with Brooke Kinsella, author of Why Ben?; the role of parents have in pre-school education; “Brigitte Bardot and the Original Paparazzi” exhibition.

Biggles: Adventures through Time, 11.30am-noon
Alexander Armstrong explores the lasting appeal of “Biggles”. Created by Captain WE Johns, Captain James Bigglesworth first took to the skies in 1916 in his FE 2 Pusher and made his final descent 50 years later in a Hawker Hunter.

You and Yours, 12.00-1.00pm
Empty fire control centres; mobile phone roaming charges; alternative ways to detect the green shoots of economic recovery; wi-fi cities, where are they?

Fireflies, 2.15-3.00pm
By Tena Štivièiæ. Chance encounters and strange revelations abound as six people wait in a weather-stricken airport.

Front Row, 7.15-7.45pm
Kirsty Lang interviews Ian Rankin, as he introduces his new detective Malcolm Fox; plus a reassessment of Spike Lee's film Do The Right Thing, 20 years after its first release; and can the recent banking crisis be turned into gripping TV drama?

Friday 4 September

Woman's Hour, 10.00-10.45am
Western feminists not vocally supporting Lubna Hussein (in court in Sudan for wearing trousers); Yorkshire’s industrial women; rheumatoid arthritis; moustaches (on men) and image.

Journey of a Lifetime, 11.00-11.30am
Dan Box, winner in the BBC/Royal Geographical Society’s annual competition, explores the remote and low-lying Carteret Islands, Papua New Guinea.

You and Yours, 12.00-1.00pm
The consequences of CRB checks on sports clubs; travel discounts for people with disabilities; row about a National Trust tearoom; the Government’s art collection; Scotland’s Homecoming campaign; iconic recording studios in London close.

Front Row, 7.15-7.45pm
Kirsty Lang reviews Andrea Arnold's film Fish Tank, which won the Jury Prize at this year's Cannes film festival.


Dan Deacon's new video

My infatuation with Dan Deacon has not yet stopped. Last week I let myself download more of his albums for free, ones that are available on his site. Those songs are earlier, and have allowed me a glimpse into how he's evolved as an artist, from a guy futzing around with the same kinds of computer programs I was futzing around with ten years ago into a full-fledged musical guy who appears at Lollapalooza.

This is not the post where I actually write that out, as I'm still working on a story I'm about to publish for my job, but I felt the need to get this video out there. This is "Paddling Ghost" from the album Bromst, and it's something that really makes me smile on so many levels. (Facebook readers: You have to click through to the original post to see this)

Training update for late August

There are only eight more weekends left until the Richmond Marathon. I'm not too worried about the tightness in my left ankle. I can stretch it out, and today is not a running day. I ran too fast last night because I'd been in a terrible mood all day and I needed to burn off the frustration. So, I went my the five miles prescribed to me by Coach Lorenzoni, and came home, had my protein in the form of a Morningstar riblet and fell asleep by 10:30.

Am I ready for the marathon? Not sure. I'll know at the end, won't I? This weekend I'm looking at a 16 mile long run, and it will be the first time I've run with the group in a month. For logistical reasons, I've been running the same lengths here in town which is not nearly as much fun but as long as I put in the miles, I should be fine.

And, I'm putting in the miles. I occasionally have to pay a babysitter on Thursday nights to make sure I can get my four or five miles in. In September, I'll have to find a way to cover my Sunday runs when I add my fifth day. By the end of September, I will have run 20 miles in one day, adding up to 42 for one week.

Today is a non-running day. I've not been very good about getting to the gym, but I'll go later on tonight for a quick work-out. I don't get the same rush of confidence at the gym, because my work-out is kind of boring, and I'm not doing it three days a week anymore. I know this will change in December, when I begin weight-training in a serious fashion.

To be honest, though, I've not been doing as well of late. For whatever reason, the reality of my separation has put me in a dark hole for much of the last two weeks. Running helps me climb out and makes me feel like I have some self-worth. It is very important I cross that finish line.


Long run switcheroo

This week has been a lighter week in the marathon training program for me. This morning I was only to do 11 miles, so I decided to do them in town rather than drive out to Keene where the group was meeting. Of course, that means I have to calculate my miles in Google Earth, and wasn't really able to figure out my pace while en route. But, oh well. Sometimes you have to make accommodations.

The reason for this switcheroo is that I had my kids last night, my Super Awesomes as I seem to call them. In my head, we're part of a superhero team. I don't know what their powers are, but I'm sure they are to materialize. Their mother was nice enough to help me by coming over this morning to watch them while I hit the pavement. I'm amazed at how cooperative our relationship is at this point, and I'm very pleased.

I'm also happy at the relationship between my mind, which decided to run the marathon, and my body, which actually has to run those 26.2 miles in just under 100 days time. Today, my body was not entirely happy for the first 4 miles. I was sluggish, tired, coughing, feeling sorry for myself for having a slight cold. I had some moments today when I didn't think I was going to make it, but I managed to run my way through them. Running is a good test of the hypochondriac in me.

What's weird, though, is how the pains and pessimism cleared up as soon as I took a power-gel shot outside the Ultimate Bliss store. Strawberry-Banana flavored. I'd never taken one before, but, wow. I'm going to need to get more of those. Within about 20 seconds, I felt this sense that my body had what it needed to go the rest of the way. My legs felt like well-oiled pistons, and I shot over across U.S. 29 as fast as I could.

I must cut this short, because me and the Super Awesomes have to go fight some crime, but I did want to tack on this picture from last year's birthday. Me and my friend Jeffry at Court Square Tavern.
For some reason, I don't look terribly overweight in that picture. Maybe it's the fact that there's a delicious beverage in my hand. I know I'm the same person as I was this time last year, but my life has gone through a radical change or two. I'm pushing myself harder than I ever have, physically. I'm not working as hard as I want to, and I have a lot of organizational work that I need to do. But, I'm learning to pace myself. Learning how to go the distance.


August thoughts; birthday invitation

August is a month many people would like to ban. I've seen this meme thrown around in Facebook status updates, blog posts and in the occasional e-mail poll. It's too hot, people say. It's too slow, people say.

However, I say August is okay in my book. After all, I'll turn 36 on Sunday. I seem to be a bit more introspective with the approach of that somewhat august milestone. My clock is about to reset, and I can finally feel myself beginning to move on from can only be described as a year of intense transition.

I spent my 35th birthday at Court Square Tavern. My ex had prepared a fantastic surprise party for me, and I really had one of those "It's a Wonderful Life" moments where I felt home and welcome. I'm so thankful to her for setting that up for me, and for giving me two fantastic children.

And here I am, about to celebrate my 36th birthday in the same place. This is an invitation to anyone who reads this to come to the Tavern tomorrow night beginning at around 8:00 to wish me a happy birthday. And see the place. Why not, I say? I'm going to be there until 10:00 no matter what.


Busy night at Court Square Tavern

Court Square Tavern was packed last night for a Friday in July. This comes in part because a group of us have decided to reclaim it, to make it into what it needs to be - Charlottesville's most awesome bar. Or at least, an antidote to every other place in town.

For the record, I don't know what every other place in town is like. I only know that the Tavern is a place where I feel at home. Last night, the woman who first introduced me to the place was in there, which felt like serendipity because that means the service might be back up to their standard.

Why do I love the place so much? Maybe because it's always there for me. It's a place I can go and feel at home pretty much no matter what. Sometimes I feel like this existence is nothing more than a series of stages on which we play our lives. If we're not on those stages, we don't quite feel alive. The point of life is to make sure that we're playing an interesting part, on whatever stage we end upon.

I don't really work there anymore. I may work once a month, and maybe more in the fall when things get a little busier. These days I'm playing the role of patron and booster. I want the place to be a success.

Even when the Tavern wasn't there for me, it was there for me. After the fire, I plowed myself into my business, and did pretty well. I kept hoping it would come back, but because it did not, I had to make up a third of my income.

And now, it's there for me again in different ways, helping to meet people, having fun in what I would consider to the most overlooked spot in Charlottesville. When they come in, so many people are amazed that the place even exists. Two blocks away from the Downtown Mall. But, downtown Charlottesville is more than the Mall. No other restaurant exists north of Market Street. We are a valuable institution.

Are we excellent? Are we going the best culinary experience you've ever had? Likely not.
We're a tavern! You come to the bar to meet people and to talk to them and to learn something you didn't know before. Or, you come and you talk to people and find out you have common interests. We don't have loud music. We're not in a cavern. We're practically a living room, only with tables and chairs and someone who brings you drinks.

And, we seem to be back to the way things used to be, except without the smoking.


Lunch run report

My bus will be here in 10 minutes to take me back to work. I left my office in Court Square at 1:00 PM for a quick run. It was nice to go to work in my running clothes. Now I'm showered and waiting for the bus, eating a black bean burger with two slices of cheese. I sort of mistimed my run. I had hoped to run for about an hour and ten minutes, but I left the house without my watch today. Instead, I ran for about 55 minutes through the neighborhoods north of the Downtown Mall.

Turns out, I don't like to run without the watch. It's an incredibly useful device. I've never really worn a watch as an adult. My parents gave me a Mickey Mouse watch when I was a teenager, but I stopped wearing it because I was allergic to something on it. Now, I'm allergic to not knowing what time it is when I'm running.

I've more or less ditched the iPod, though. It's too much hassle to run with it, and I like to be able to take in what I'm listening to. I enjoy hearing birds, listening for cars, eavesdropping on snippets of conversation, and in general being in tune with my environment.

Now there are 7 minutes left. I've drank 32 ounces of Gatorade and I need to go prepare another 32 for the bus ride. I also have to find a shirt. One consequence of all the training is that I have four shirts that actually fit me in. I have a closet filled with clothes that are ridiculously over-sized. Eight months ago, I wore XL. Now I'm an M. I'm still not really used to that.

It was hot and humid outside, and I enjoy running in the heat. I generally like running in everything except the rain. Of course, now I'm really picky about what I wear. I would like to have more technical shirts and socks, but I've not been able to get many yet. With time, right?

And, with that, I'm out of time and off to the bus. I hope the online thing is correct.


Seeking a balance in training

I'm sort of at a crossroads with the training, in that I am not entirely committed to going to bed every Friday by 10:00 AM so I can run my long run. Don't get me wrong. I would love more than anything to run several miles every Saturday morning, but Friday is the only night I get to go out. And, going out is a vital ingredient in my quest to build a social life.

Yet, so is running. I have enjoyed meeting people so far in the marathon training program, and I am definitely not going to drop out of it. I still plan on running in the Richmond marathon in November. I'm going to continue to boost my mileage each week, but I do have to seriously weigh what my goals are, and achieve some sort of a balance. Do I want to run as fast as I can, or do I simply want to finish?

That is not a decision I have to make today! This entry is mostly a place to organize my thoughts on the subject. I also promised I'd update folks, so here we go.

I do need to figure out a way to keep better records. My life is still somewhat in an organizational crisis, to put it mildly. I'm working a full full-time job, still trying to run a business, co-parenting two awesome kids, and I'm trying to train to run a marathon. Thanks to the donation of a car from my friend Nick, I'm also re-learning the guitar and actually gearing up to write songs.

Let's go back through the past two weeks of training in reverse chronological order. Today I went to the gym for the first time in 15 days. Since I moved back into my house in Charlottesville, it's much more difficult to get to Gold's Gym. I'm still trying to find the time to go three days a week, but I'm also not hard on myself if I don't go. My plan is to seriously work on weight-training after the marathon, but to continue getting acquainted with the equipment until then.

Yesterday, I went on an amazing run through the City, about 6 or 7 miles or so. I didn't map it out, but I felt pretty good at the end. The rain cleared up for exactly the time I needed. I ran with no pain except on a couple of downhills where my right knee kept telling me my form was incorrect. I made some adjustments, and things got better.

I took Sunday off. But, that's okay. I had a fantastic day for reasons that have nothing to do with exercise.

On Saturday, I overslept past my alarm and woke up at 6:08 AM. The training program began at 6:00 AM. My back-up plan was to go run the Fairview 5K, but I failed to get the correct directions and so I drove around looking for the pool to no avail. Got home by 8:00 AM to start a long-run, and aimed to simply run for two hours. Off I went, and everything went swimmingly. Went from my house up to the University of Virginia, to the track, down to Barracks Road shopping center, up the huge hill on Barracks Road, to the downtown mall. Here I had a sip of water. Ran down to Riverview Park, ran the loop, but on Chesapeake Street at about an hour and a half into the run, my body just stopped. I wasn't in pain. Didn't feel particularly tired. I was just out of energy. I didn't bring anything with me, and so, I just accepted it and walked for a while.

Do you know how when a cell phone's battery dies and you keep turning it on anyway, hoping that there's more juice? That's kind of how I was. I'd run for a bit, then stop.

And you know? I accepted it. I knew that I needed nutrition to keep going, but I didn't have it, so I didn't feel bad about it. A previous version of me would have been upset the rest of the day. But, I just took it in stride, and made my way home as best I could.

Quickly on the previous week. Ran 5 miles Thursday night to test out a knee problem that cropped up on Tuesday afternoon when I tried running. The night before I'd run 8 miles, 3 more than I should have. I had miscalculated the cumulative amount I had run in the past 7 days. And, my knees definitely let me know that I needed rest and wasn't actually ready to run 40 miles in a one-week period!

The reason I'm training is to learn how to train. I've always been the kind of person who just does things quickly, always resisting other people's advice. I can't be like that anymore. That kept out a lot of good ideas. But, again, that was the past. Everything now is about the future, and about learning to accept my limitations. Learning how to ask for help. Learning that while the world can be a scary place, there is certainly something fantastic about being human in the 21st century.

And, that future includes a marathon. This fall will see me training as best I can, despite the many demands on my time. I know this Saturday I'll be out at White Hall at 6:15 AM, aiming to run 14 miles. My training to date has me on schedule for that, and I am so looking forward to it. I aim to run about 7 miles tomorrow morning, and to run a very easy 3 on Thursday night.

Of course, to do that, I'll have to find a babysitter! Anyone want to look after two awesome kids for an hour? I'll barter audio production services or in-kind babysitting. Heck, I'll even write a song for you in exchange.


Racing Forest Lakes, adding the miles, stopping the bleeding toe

My middle toe on my right foot is bleeding. I have no idea why, exactly. It must have chafed against my sock while I was on my run tonight. Two friends of mine who are expecting their first child have been looking after the kids an hour at a time so I can get another hour of running in.

This week I've got my miles up to about 27, which is right about where I wanted to be. I skipped a long run on Saturday in favor of running a 5K for the Kiwanis Club. Someone had asked me if I was planning on running it, and I decided to put that over the long run. The start time was later, and I wanted to try my feet at another run.

I got there at 7:00 AM, amazed at the commitment I seem to have to running. I jogged from my car to the registration table, filled out my card, and then ran the first part of the course and back to warm-up. For the first time, I had a watch on me so I would have some sense of how much time had passed. On my first long-run, I ran way too fast, according to running friends. This time, I would start off slow and try to run at a steady pace for the whole three and a bit miles.

Unlike in March, the weather was warm at the start, and you could tell the sun was going to get hot. The race was set to start at 7:30, and sure enough, we were lined up at 7:32. I got up about maybe three rows from the start and got into position. When the flag dropped, I sprinted out as fast as I could to get some space between me and other folks. And, I settled into what I thought was a pretty good pace. No one really passed me for a bit, though a long line of people went sailing off into the distance.

The first half mile was more or less downhill, before heading back up a hill. I was trying to go as slow as I could, or so I thought. When we got to the first mile, I looked at my watch. 6:24! I've not run that fast since high school! But, I immediately knew I'd gone way too fast and that I needed to slow down. I slowed the pace as best I can, but still wanted to move as fast as I could.

I want to do well. I want to learn how to do well. To go as fast as I can without hurting myself. I want to train so that I can learn how to do this well. Even though I suspected I was going to crash out, I kept on running as fast as I could. Suddenly the course dropped down onto a footpath, and something about those narrow spaces make me want to run as fast as I can. The first section was a steep drop, and someone behind me started flailing behind me. Somewhere on this footpath was the next marker, and I saw that I had run the second mile at 6:56, and we'd begun a steady incline up. I thought I was doing fantastic, but knew somewhere that I was going to start slowing down.

And, sure enough, coming up a steep hill, though back on the road, I started feeling my stomach acting up. I hadn't had anything to eat, but did have a cup of tea. Something started coming back up, and I quickly knew I was going to need to stop and just let nature have its way with me. So, I pulled over, convulsed a bit, and then started running.

Convulsed is a little strong, but I didn't want to just come right out and say I puked.

But, then, I started running again. I felt fine. This happened to me on my first race as well, and I know from practice that I do tend to get nauseous if I burn out too long and let adrenaline get the best of me. On my training runs, I love the mad sprints I make myself do to get through traffic lights (especially at the corner of Ridge-McIntire-West Main), but I know that I need to slow down for a few seconds when I get to that point.

So, up I went, and still crossed the finish line at 22:03, according to the official results. Within site of the finish line, I saw my result and tried to push myself a little to get just under 22:00, but I could tell I didn't have it in me. So, even though I'd beaten my best time by more than a minute, I was disappointed that I haven't yet learned how to really respect pacing. The 5K is a great race to train on, though, and I'm going to try to work in at least one a month in order to get used to that feeling of competing.

Five days later, my toe is bleeding a bit. In total, I've managed to run 27 miles in the past six days. Tomorrow is a rest day and then I hope to shoot for 12 or 13 miles on Saturday morning. I'm eager to start getting the miles up, and it will be nice to do so with other people training for the marathon.

I'm really enjoying this.