12/09/2010

Training update: What training?

This afternoon, I got over the mental block I've had about the cold and got the shoes laced up for a run. Lately, I seem to make excuses for not wanting to get out there. Other times, I genuinely can't make time in my schedule to get out there. I've been in a slump.

Let's flash back to two years ago today. I braved a trip to Gold's Gym and signed up for a two-year contract, on the spot, right there. After years of being sedentary, I committed myself to it.

Today, I wrote a letter to the financial company that handles memberships, asking for my two-year contract to not renew on a month-to-month basis. I sent it certified letter, because otherwise they wouldn't accept my request.

Joining Gold's made sense at the time. I was going to be living about a mile away. I followed my housemate's sleeping patterns, which meant I went to bed and got up at a regular person's hours. I had time to go to the gym before work. I was going six days a week, alternating between the treadmill and the bike thing until I got the doctor's note saying I was okay to use the weight machines.

The first time I exercised, I just walked on the treadmill. Really fast, mind you. I didn't have any gym clothes yet, so I had on a white t-shirt and gray sweat pants.

I was so nervous going in there. I couldn't imagine myself as someone who was in shape. I'd always been fat, I convinced myself. I wasn't that kind of person, I thought.

I realized around this time that I really didn't like the person I'd become. I was looking back at a long life of bad choices, and I knew I had to get myself right. I knew if I just committed to exercise, I would transform myself.

Somewhere along the way, I lost the motivation. Pushing my body reduced my negative energy, my negative emotions, and off I went. For those first three months, I was always at the gym, and it was fantastic.

Then I ran a road race. And another. Suddenly, I only wanted to run outside. I would run and then track my progress by mapping out my routes on Google Earth, tracking how far I went.

For a while, I was good at going to the gym for weight training, but that began to taper off. I also began to get busier at work, and then returned to a job at Court Square Tavern. I began going to the gym less and less.

My marathon training stopped last fall after I injured myself. But, after a ten day rest, I started running again, and picked it up somewhat okay. I kept running, but last winter forced me back to the gym. I was grateful for my membership.

I trained all winter for the Charlottesville Ten Miler, and was pleased with my showing. Completing that in my time made me feel like I could do what I set my mind to, and a chapter of my life ended.

Somewhere along the way, exercise alone wasn't enough. I needed to express myself, so I picked up the guitar and began playing. Usually this has meant playing very late at night when all the work is done, which means I like to sleep in when I can. Athletic training hasn't been totally abandoned, but it's not a priority like it was in the beginning. As we come closer to the spring, I'll definitely be working to get back into shape. I need to buy a pair of shoes before I get serious, and I really can't afford a pair at the moment.

Also, races cost money, and I've not really been able to spare any. So, I'm doing it on the cheap.

I plan to enjoy the last month of membership I have at Gold's, and then I'll switch to the new Smith pool near my house. There's a little fitness center in there, and it has a treadmill, which is all I need for now.

Oh yeah, and a pool. I may take up swimming. Why not?

I'm no longer really training as much as maintaining my shape and trying to stay in fit. I know at any point I can step it up if I need to. I'm training other parts of my life, working hard to get better at playing guitar, studying songs like I've never really done before, trying to pick them apart to see how they work.

12/06/2010

Two years on...

The wind evaporates my heat on these cold nights, but I'm not sure any of it goes anywhere. Maybe it stays within, my energy waiting around for the next time it is needed. Wearing clothes helps at least keep the spark alive.

This is the two year anniversary of the end of my marriage, and likely a time to take stock publicly for a moment about where I am and who I am. Writing here is not always advised, as a writer friend told me early on in the process when I was much more likely to let slip one of the details that painted me in a less than favorable light.

You can't control the way you look in the world, not unless you're really talented and you have a passel of handlers advising you on everything from how to hold your head up to which hand should hold the coffee mug. But you can choose to project a positive image of yourself in order that others may regard you as being confident.

"Fake it til you make it" is the common refrain that makes this possible.

I went to the gym for the first time in two months today. I joined Gold's two years ago this week because I was told it would be a good stress reliever. I weighed a lot more than I do now, and I did not have a mindset for exercise. But, I soon poured my energy into myself and I learned to run.

Lately, I've not been running nearly as much. I haven't needed to. I've more or less come to terms with the end of the marriage, realizing it was necessary for both of us. I've also been blessed with a former partner with whom I share the same essential philosophy of parenting.

You run into people in this town quite often, especially if you spend half of your time in the same downtown area. Eventually everyone comes through, and it's hard to avoid the people you don't want to see. But, of course, you do see them, and you have to figure out a way to respond.

Recently I saw my ex with her new partner, and I was genuinely happy for them. Sure, I was nervous as heck because I've had a hard time coming to terms with that aspect of the process. I didn't want to have a hard time, but I did anyway, and I've had to work very hard to try to understand that process. When I saw them, it was the same day I had a dream in which I had a very pleasant Christmas with them.

***

Those first few months, I was at the gym five or six days a week. I was dedicated to transforming my body. I poured all of my negativity into my body in order to burn it off. I was too tired to think a lot of times.

Even though I've cut back significantly in the past five months or so, I must admit that I definitely have transformed my metabolism. I've learned to seriously enjoy pushing myself, though I've certainly lost a sense of urgency.

Today, I was on the treadmill because it was far too cold and windy outside for my tastes. Also, I realized that I'd not actually used my membership for a while. So I went in and ran.

But the treadmill is so boring. Even though I had music to listen to, and television to watch, I didn't actually go anywhere. Running has become about taking ownership of my space. I've learned so many of the wonderful details of this wonderful place in which I live.

I am so glad to be in Charlottesville, and to be living this life. Two years on, I realize I'm in the middle of this great adventure. I have so much to learn about the world, about myself, about how I fit into the world, and about how I can do more to help others.

I'm kind of sad today about something I will keep private. But I can deal with it. In a way, the situation mirrors the end of my marriage. I don't want something to end, but it's ended, or at least transformed, and you can't go back and make it work again. Time moves in one direction.

It is cold today, and again I face another winter alone. But of course, I'm not alone. I'm a member of this community. I write knowing at least some will read what I have to say. Writing cleanses me, transforms sadness into something that can inform the future.

I believe in some ways I have learned to redirect myself in a positive direction when things are at their worst.

"Sean Tubbs, you're getting all tizzyfied. Stop it," said my friend tonight while we had a quick drink after work. This person has become a great friend to me in the past few months.

She was right to calm me down. Talking to her pushed me towards working myself into a frenzy of sorts, but I knew I didn't want to dwell on the past, so I calmed down. We parted ways, and I came home. I put a Neil Young tape on and began to write. I've begun an obsession with him, in part because of a treasure trove of cassettes I picked up last week.

I don't have my guitar tonight. Along with running, learning to play again has opened up whole doors of possibility. I feel much more confident in my abilities, and I'm working towards learning how to express some of that publicly, if only to meet others who play. Music puts me in touch with myself, makes me feel at home on this planet of ours.

My guitar is being restrung at Heinz Musitronics. A guy I know Court Square Tavern did it for me, but I didn't know he worked there. Another example of this town, and the possibility to build connections with people. That's what we need as people.

We're a country of over 300 million people. All of us are in the middle of this awful recession, and I certainly have no solutions. I'm somewhat disengaged from the political system, as I tend not to talk about things with people.

The direction forward has to lie in positive thinking writ large, expecting the best of people, and being as generous as you can. Things get better, but they only do so if the individual or organization focuses on the big picture.

What is that big picture? Can that even be answered in a way we can all agree on?

I'm afraid we live in a time when the collective us does not has enough training in abstract thinking. It is so easy for people to believe whatever they hear, each of us prone to emotional manipulation. I am worried right now that people of different political beliefs are demonizing each other to the point where society could break down if it goes unchecked.

And here I call private again, and say I can't say anything else beyond that trite statement.

But I can offer this perspective.

In this past year, I've seen music bring people together. I've attended so many live shows, both at the Pavilion, and in little clubs all over town. I've been moved by so many great performances.

My hero, Dan Deacon, appeared before my very eyes for a show at the Southern. I learned about the brilliant LCD Soundsystem, and the music soundtracked my summer, only to see them two months later.

(It's important to me as I wrote this to note that "I'm not in love" was playing just before they took the stage. A little detail serving as an important detail in the historical geology of my life.)

I learned about Gogol Bordello from a good friend when I took her to see the show at the Pavilion. I look forward to seeing them in a few weeks.

***

Two years on, I find myself looking back at two years of a journey to where I am at this moment. I've left trails for myself in the form of music and journal entries, all to document the experience. Some might call this self-absorbed, but I call it living my life, training myself to become an observer in the hopes of capturing these times in which we live.

I don't really know philosophy except what I can learn in five minute explorations, but I've always tried to live my life according to Socrates' directive that "the unexamined life is not worth living."

However, I focus far too much on myself, and the examination can sometimes lead to the tizzyfying dance I do in my head, wrestling over things I can't control. But if I let go, I have learned I can almost always see a bigger picture.

I am much happier when I'm doing something for others, which is why working the tavern on a busy Friday night makes me feel so fulfilled. Making others happy makes me happy.

I don't need to fake it anymore. Life is good, and I am happy to be alive and I wouldn't change very much. I can only change the future by making good decisions along the way there. Looking back, I can see so many places where I have erred. Who among us can't?

***

The wind fuels me on these nights, as I remember that our comfortable existence on
this planet depends on quite a good bit of preparation. I imagine our most ancient ancestors learning to control fire, and I'm comforted by the thought that each of carries that initial spark within.

11/05/2010

Podcasting the Virginia Film Festival

When I started the Charlottesville Podcasting Network in the spring of 2005, it was the original intent to produce all kinds of material that wouldn't make it on to radio. Just wanted to report that I'm getting to do that all weekend by helping my friend Sean McCord produce interviews with filmmakers, actors and producers. Check out the RSS feed for the whole list! I'm having a blast.

10/28/2010

Dan Deacon saved my life

Dan Deacon, a guy from Baltimore, will be playing tonight at the Southern. I'll be there. I'll be dancing. I'm kind of excited about it, but in a way that makes me think it is not really going to be happening.

I discovered Dan Deacon thanks to NPR's All Songs Considered podcast. The song Get Older came on while I was at the gym, trying to build my body out of sadness. My marriage had ended a month or so before, and I was living in Albemarle County with a friend.

During my marriage, I didn't create any music. I experimented very little. I had done so a lot during my first marriage, but somehow the urge to make noise didn't really come to me when I was married the second time. The traumaI had turned inward because we had started a family and I had to work, and I felt so serious all the time. Life was no longer about having fun, and I was married to the wrong person.

Of course, I still mourned the end, because I had thought I was going to live out my days with her. I thought having children with her was going to bind us together, but it was not sustainable. The divorce was necessary for both of us to live our lives the way we deserve.

I'm now living an interesting life that's filled with so much narrative, but I still mourn not having my children in my life on a daily basis. I see them once a week, and they're happy, healthy and well.

Dan Deacon's music has appealed to me because there's so much lunacy, so much irreverence, and it reminds me of the kind of music I wanted to make. Electronic pulses, intricate drum patterns, but also a sense of inevitable disaster, and that it is okay to live in the aftermath of traumatic things.

The night I moved back into my house, I listened to another NPR podcast - a full live concert of Dan Deacon, and I heard for the first time the dances he gets his audiences to participate in. He directs everyone to do fairly silly things, all in the name of having fun and living and moving. It's infectious, and I decided that I wanted to be that kind of person - fun, living and moving.

That summer, I slowly came alive, and mourned less. I picked up a guitar from a friend, and began playing, trying to strum songs out in order to make my own sounds again. Dan Deacon inspired me to do that again, and gave me courage to try to find my own sound.

So, tonight, I'll be down at the Southern, being entertained by someone who saved my life. I'll dance, and I won't care how silly I look, and I will sweat, and I will have a fantastic time, living and moving. It will be grand, and it will close a chapter.

10/27/2010

Name change

Why Citizen 2,840,201,999?

Why the last number? Which I've somehow forgotten, by the way.

I came up with the original name for this blog off the top of my head, thinking it was about where I would stand in the rankings if a global census sorted the human race by birth order. I assumed that given there were about 6.2 billion people at the time, and I was in my early 30's, I was somewhere just after the middle.

Now I've since learned that there are more people alive today who were born after me, so I've moved up in the rankings. I assume now that I am the 2,840,201,999th person who showed up on this planet one day and had to figure out how to get by.

I picked the word 'citizen' because of a sense that we're all here on the same planet, and we may as well recognize each others' common values as much we can. I write mine down part of my journey here on occasion.

I study government and public policy as a reporter, in part because I feel a sense that there's a common space where we can work out issues between us. I believe in civility, and acting in good faith, and trying to be generous to one another.

Of course, it doesn't always work out that way.

History often gets written down because the conflicts are worth remembering. I write my own history down as a way to sort out how I can do better next time. I write down public history so I can hopefully help others do the same thing, especially now that I'm a little older and I've got a lot of responsibility.

I write here as a way of telling the world what I want it to know about me. I don't write publicly nearly as much as I used to, because I find myself picking every word here carefully. I've too often posted a little too much about myself.

Privately, I've been writing up a storm lately, trying to capture what happened this summer and how far I've come since the divorce and how far I still have to go. I'm blessed to have the opportunity to live my life, and to try to document it as I move my way higher up the leader board.

10/09/2010

Something has to give...

I'm standing here on one knee, crouched down behind the beer cooler behind the bar at Court Square Tavern. My last customers left about 10 minutes ago, and I've got nothing to do really but type. One out of every eight Saturdays is busy, and tonight ain't a snake-eye.

I've got a song screaming out over the speakers, D.O.A. and Jello Biafra singing a cover of "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" and it seems appropriate. I can't keep working here, not under these conditions, all by myself. It's too slow to merit putting a second person on, which means I have to cook, clean, dishwash, and serve the customers.



In a perfect world, I would love that challenge. I love when life's a video game with impossible expectations, yet I come through anyway.

But it's not a perfect world. And, this is really getting to me, the stress of being all alone in a place that should be doing better, but isn't. I have no power to get people to walk up the street to get here. All I can do is sit here and get paid while I get older.

It's been almost two years since my marriage ended, and my life has settled a bit, maybe too settled. I want a new adventure, a new quest, something to get me out of this rut of work, work, and play crammed into the tiny corners I have left.

At least I'm getting to write at the moment. I'm giving myself another 11 minutes, and then I'll hit POST and move on to cleaning up this place. This place that I love so much, but yet think it may be time to move on again. I feel like I'm trapped in a bad marriage here, feel like I'm giving a lot. I'm getting something back. I love the fact that we have new regulars, I love the fact that I make people laugh when I'm in charge.

I love making people happy.

Customers came in. Off I go.

9/23/2010

On having a beard, again

For some reason, I've grown a beard again. I've decided to sport the bald head and unkempt face look for a while. I'm a bit puzzled as to why I've done this, but here I am, wooly and furry again.

Of course, it's now at the point where my beard is exploding in a curly manner, a firework of follicles. Red, white, black and brown hairs all shooting out from my face, redefining how I look.

I seem to do this about once a year, change up how I look. I seem to need to transform myself every so often, just to try not to be the same person. I'm not sure why this is.

Meanwhile, little things continue to mark who I am. I never seem to be able to tie my right shoe. I get incredibly animated if I have a lot to do. Nothing in my brain or mind seems to have changed.

Oh, how it's itched to get to this point. I've scratched, and I've scratched and I've scratched. I've almost given up many times, like I did earlier this summer when I tried before to grow a beard.

Soon it will be cold, we hope. And when it is, I shall be prepared. I am hoping I will return to the days when I was disciplined, and I can begin running again in earnest. I seem to run three times a week, but not necessarily every week.

I am aware that I am becoming more boring again, drilling right into the core of what I need to do, which is to figure out how to make a good enough living to support my kids, my ambitions, and my debt.

I now look a little like I did two years ago, when life was incredibly different. I don't remember that time now. I likely won't remember today in two years if I don't write it down, if I don't make an attempt.

My dog is incredibly itchy due to this very dry house, this very dry summer that has given way to hotumn. He's panting despite the air conditioning, and I wonder if he's ever thought about shaving his entire body. I seem to be emulating him again, somewhat.

I look forward to the time when I can shave this beard off. I'm committed to it now, but I do look forward to being having a clean face.

I've had a beard most of my adult life. Shaving it off was an attempt to redefine myself. Now, it seems to have come back organically, like it was never gone. I look a little different this time around, several pounds lighter and with a shaved head. And, I've got glasses again, thanks to the magical work of the Spectacle Shop on the downtown mall, just a few steps down from my office.

It's the fall now, and despite the heat, you can tell the winter is trying to emerge from the summer, the battle set to occur this fall. One day, the trees will like sticks, and everyone will coats, jackets and silly hats. Maybe it will snow a lot this winter.

I still have two glasses of snow from the big snowfall from last December, the one that transformed our little corner of the world in such a dramatic way. That weekend was among the best I've had in my life, and I'm still living in a world created when Charlottesville got covered.

Now my face is covered again, and here I am, still wondering what form life will take in the next few weeks, months, and years. Change can happen in the blink of an "I want to do things differently."

Meanwhile, life ticks along much as it has, as I work hard at two jobs to make ends meet, my labor the engine that fuels my day-to-day existence. I'm fortunate to have two very interesting careers happening at the same time. On the one hand, I'm a journalist reporting about matters I find terribly important. On the other, I am trying to help rebuild a business that's somewhat out of step with these times in which we live.

What are these times in which we live? I'm aware that there is much anger all around me, but yet I seem to have chosen a path where I have decided I don't want to enter into it. I acknowledge the unhappiness and the misfortune, but I want to opt for something different.

So, wooly days are ahead, time for sweaters and crisp October nights.

9/12/2010

On Superman 3

Superman 3 is probably my favorite of all the Superman movies.

Why is this important?

I'm not sure. But, I've been thinking a lot about Superman lately. My kids love Superman. My youngest inherited my oldest's Superman action figure, the one that looks like Brandon Routh from Superman Returns. I recently watched that with a friend and thoroughly enjoyed it. But we'll get to that in another post, perhaps.

Superman was the first comic I ever really read. When I was 9 or so, my mother got this anthology out of the library for me. I learned all about Superman as a cultural entity by watching how the mythology evolved as writers looked to push their universe further and further.

My favorite era is the sixties, when things just got plain wacky. The style was incredibly light-hearted back then, and the plots usually dealt with Superman's power being mutated in crazy and crazier ways. Red kryptonite transformed him into strange creatures. The lost city of Kandor showed up. He had a Super Horse and a Super monkey.

Then, when I became an adult, he died. Some boring creature of brute force killed him, and I didn't really understand why. Because, of course he came back to life, but not without some weird mystery where four different people pretended they were his second coming.

Now my kids like Superman. The other week, I got a book out the library for them, a 2002 fact book all that captures the 21st century Superman, as depicted in the comics. Of course, there's also Smallville, but again, more on that later perhaps.

So, last week we read this book together and they were both captured by Superman and all the colors. I delighted in talking to them about this hero that's been with me my whole life, in one form or another.

Okay, I'll talk a minute about Superman Returns. When I first watched it, I was not that impressed. But, on my second viewing, the theme of a man watching his child being raised by another man hit home for me. Minute's up.

My friend and I enjoyed the film so much we decided to watch more. I picked Superman 3 to start off with, because I hadn't seen it since I first watched it back in the early eighties. I remembered not liking it, or at least hearing from the conventional wisdom that it wasn't very good.

Superman 3 opens with Richard Pryor standing in a welfare line. After being told he can't get any more checks because he can't hold a job, he asks a man for a light. After being handed a matchbook, he has a revelation that he can make money as a computer programmer! Triumphant music then gives way to a whimsical tune that plays while a very odd opening to a Superman movie takes place.

A series of unfortunate events befall the denizens of one street in Metropolis. The credits roll on the bottom half of the screen while the action unfolds above. There's no sight of anything Superman related at all, but the pratfalls are amusing.

Then Clark Kent shows up, and helps out once, but generally there's not much of a connection to Superman. But, somehow that's what makes this film so great.

I'm perfectly willing to accept this being a strange Richard Pryor and Superman hybrid because it's in the same era of the 1960's comics, when anything goes. Pryor advances so quickly so fast and suddenly has a check for $85,000 because he tricked the computer. Suddenly, he can do anything!

And he's put to evil uses by the CEO, and absolutely none of it makes sense. Because, things in Clark's world are moving so slowly. The two timelines are not compatible at all, but it doesn't matter because the whole thing is entertaining. I laughed at the whole thing.

I googled it when I was done, and realized that Richard Lester was the director. He also made the Beatles' Hard Days Night. That seemed to explain it all, and once I knew that, I was hooked.

Of course, Clark's story is also fascinating. He goes to his high school reunion in Smallville, and comes back into contact with Lana Lang. It's unclear if they dated in this version of the mythology, but that doesn't matter. What does matter is that Richard Pryor uses a TRS-80 to make a version of kryptonite that released Superman's selfishness.




We're all divided between our good and our bad. In Superman 3, a silly comedy dared to explore what happens when someone suddenly loses their way. Superman becomes a total jerk, but Lana's son tells him he's just in a slump. Seeing this magnificent icon acting like an ordinary human is fascinating to me. Christoper Reeve seems like a totally different person, and there we are watching what powerful people can do if they want to.

They're talking about making another Superman movie, and as I understand it, Christopher Nolan is now shepherding the process along. I hope that he can update the film version of Superman in some way that really takes the tale's basic elements and turns them on their end in some way. I'd hope this wouldn't be violent, but thoughtful.

In the meantime, we'll be watching the original Superman with Christopher Reeve next. And then, I've convinced my friend that next we'll watch the Richard Donner cut of Superman 2, which is supposed to be a very different film. I'm not entirely sure why I'm back in the Kryptonian fold but I shall embrace it.

One final thought. In the early mornings of September 12, 2001, I sat at a control booth at WVTF Public Radio monitoring things just in case anything else happened in the night. They didn't have a way at the time to automate their process, so I was asked to do an overnight. I felt so incredibly honored.

Of course, there wasn't really that much to do. I watched the footage over and over again and when I got bored I began to write. I wrote about how much I wished there really was a Superman to save us from such horrible things.

Somewhere in all of this is a lesson about why we need heroes, and how that need should perhaps create within us a sense that we should strive for our best to make a better world, even if we don't necessarily know how. We don't know how because we're all divided between what we have to do for ourselves and what we think we should do for society.

So, Superman 3 was a lot of fun and gave me a set of ideas to think about for a while. When our civilization is long gone, will future archaeologists think we worshipped Superman?

9/08/2010

On fear and anger

This is the 500th post I've written for this blog, which I started several years ago to have a public place to type a few words about the events of my life. Looking back, I can see I've written a lot about my children, my jobs, my interests, and my beloved Court Square Tavern.

What I don't believe I've written about are my fears about the world. I've also not used this platform to lash out at items I am angry about. Certainly someone could find a few passages that might say otherwise, but I'm comfortable in stating this is a place where I calmly describe how I see things on a given thing.

I also don't write about politics because as a journalist, I have taken a virtual oath to not have a public opinion. It's very important to me that people not have the idea that I am influencing what people take from a story.

I work hard to strip out what may or may not be my personal biases from what I turn in to my editors. This is what I was taught to do by my teachers and my mentors. Fred Echols of WVTF Public Radio once told me that I should be skeptical of everything, and especially of my own opinions.

My job is to see all sides of an issue and to report a combination of the facts and what I believe to be the arguments put forward by groups and individuals who want or don't want certain things.

What I do not want to do is report people's fear and people's anger. Of course, both emotions have flooded into our public discourse in such a profound way that I can't trace its geological history. I cannot put myself in the shoes of the people I interview, but I do try to write stories that advance their arguments, and not their emotions.

I'm an odd journalist in the sense that I don't want the sensational in my stories. I don't want to be first, I don't want to have a big scoop. I simply want to make sure I've got things as accurate as I can on any given day. I'm always puzzled and saddened somewhat when I hear other reporters saying they only look for the confrontational.

Every fiber of my being aspires to live in a world where we can agree to disagree, and where those who are on the losing side of arguments try again. I don't like to use military metaphors in my stories because to me, a battle is an event in which people get killed. Words matter to me.

So, am I this Pollyanna who simply wants to play kumbaya on my sitar?

I don't think so.

I'm a person who for so long was governed by his fears, and who acted out too frequently in angry moments. That was destructive and counter-productive. Both of my marriages collapsed in part because I'd lost my compass when it came to what actually matters in life. In the second, I was so frightened I was going to be bankrupted by taking on a mortgage that I never allowed myself a moment to take in the positive. Fear guided my life, and I lashed out so many times in response.

I've learned since to think about what my emotional state is before I take any action. This way is so much more conducive to being a member of a society. I've learned to breathe deeply when I'm confronted with fear or sadness. As such, I think I've improved a bit in the last couple of years.

Fear and anger and sadness are not easily brushed away. And, I can only speak to the way I interact with my demons. But, I thought I had to write this in my public space to mark 500.

8/21/2010

A Saturday night for futility!

In 15 minutes I'll have been here for five hours. In that time, three non-employees have walked through the door and stepped into the tavern. Until 20 minutes ago, that number had been one.

One is the loneliest number, I'm told, but it's been fantastic talking to my friend John as he does his work, and I do mine. I've spent the past few hours adding links to the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.

---

I typed the above two paragraphs, and then got a full bar of five people quite quickly. For 20 minutes, there was hilarity as strangers joked around. Customers four and five were a couple around my age. After staring at the beer list for a few minutes, they both ordered a bourbon and ginger. They seemed to want to be left to themselves, so I carried on cleaning things that didn't really need to be cleaned.

Then a bald man with a beard and glasses came in. He was an alternate version of myself, and ordered a medium Fuller's E.S.B. and a cheese pizza. There wasn't much in the way of talking.

Then two fifty-something drunkards with leathery skin stumbled in, a man and a woman who may as well have been Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? They were day-trippers on a motorcycle journey and they'd stopped in Charlottesville after deciding that Waynesboro was not a place to stay. They bickered for show, and provided a nice train wreck for the rest to watch.

They reviewed the beer list, and the man deliberately ordered beers we don't have.

"And you call this a bar?" he would joke after every single failed transaction. On a busy night that might have been somewhat south of amusing, but tonight I chuckled.

The best part of working at a bar like Court Square Tavern is that you never know when there's going to be a random encounter where you meet someone terribly, terribly interesting. I think back to the couple in their seventies last year who didn't seem to be affected by the immense quantity of beer they were purchasing.

Yet, these nights where I spend four or five hours waiting for something to happen tend to wear me down. Two blocks to the south is the downtown mall, and there are likely hundreds of people milling about. Head out to the corner right now and there's likely thousands. Here, however, is not often a destination location.

I am glad I came back, because this place is far too important to me. I have become chipped vinyl on this point, but what else can I say? I take so much joy from when it is busy here, this little alternative spot in Charlottesville. I know the ghosts, I know the people who will one day be ghosts, and it's my hope that I can get better about writing down what I see here, what I hear here, or at least get inspired to fictionalize it a little bit. That seems to be what I have to do to make it interesting.

To others, I mean. I think I'm having a blast.

8/10/2010

At 37

The one line I took away from Monty Python's Holy grail is the phrase "I'm not old. I'm 37," said a character somewhere in the beginning. That line's been a refrain in my head for most of the past year as I've prepared for another birthday.

I like to think that we recreate ourselves from time to time, and birthdays tend to inspire me to break out the measuring sticks to see just how the geology of my life is being laid down.

I feel like I've taken control of my life to the extent that I can. But to do that, I've let go of such much. I wish I could explain, but increasingly I keep this to my private journals. I think the older I get, the less I want to confess to a public audience.

But, I think this is going to be a good year.

7/15/2010

Thoughts on Sudden Change

(Warning: This post contains a major spoiler for the show Lost)

I'm a subscriber to the idea that the chapters of our lives are carried upon the backs of gigantic continental plates. Every now and then something happens that causes these slabs of experience to move forward in an incredibly violent manner. When they do, the entire landscape has changed and cannot be put back to normal. The puzzle pieces of a life scatter.

In the immediate days that follow, we live off the adrenaline of change, fueled by the imagination of what is possible. Fantasy logic kicks in and the mind travels via flights of fancy.

The body, however, begins to feel a pit in the stomach because nothing is quite where it is supposed to be.

On Friday, I suddenly left my job at Court Square Tavern and find myself adrift in a new world. For everyone but my former regulars, nothing has changed. Yet, for me everything now seems slightly less certain.

At times this mystery is invigorating as life unfolds like a novel, a play, a film. At others, the script isn't so clear.

A week ago, I thought my life truly was going to unfold upon the stage in the basement of 500 Court Square. The past year has been an intricate opera of the hopes and dreams of my co-workers and friends and myself. My second stint there began last January, shortly after the disintegration of my marriage, another sudden change that caught be my surprise.

In the fires of that furious time, I created a new vision for myself and regenerated into someone a bit stronger, hopefully a bit wiser. I forged a new body by pouring all of my frustrations and anger into my muscles. I worked hard to sort out right and wrong in my mind.

I am hopeful that a new sudden change will cause a shift in the way my personal geology continues to be deposited upon the greater world.

I would also be preoccupied enough so I stop looking back at the previous one. The old fractures, at least, are now covered by a new film of experience that's solidified into memory.

The last time I stopped working at Court Square Tavern, I cried because the place was damaged and needed to be repaired. But, I was also concerned about how I was going to make up the income. At the time, I was a freelancer, and it made up about a third to a half of my money. Of course, at the time I was in a family with two adults and did not own my house.On the Ides of March 2006, I was in shock and somewhat distraught over the hit to my bottom line.

Four years ago, the same worries. Back then, I just redoubled my efforts to freelance, and I had a pretty good year.

What can I learn from then? What can I learn about all the times when life turned due to a rogue moment, when I come loose from the painting I'm currently drawn within?

This time, I'm in a bit better shape, even though I have a lot more obligations and I'm on my own. For the past five days, I've been living as if nothing has changed. But, as that first night approaches when I don't go to work, the reality is beginning to set in. Payments are becoming due, and I'm going to have to get creative.

So, tonight was the first night I've considered going back to work in a restaurant because that is the quickest way to make money. Part of the reason I left was because I was being handed many more responsibilities and I just didn't have the mental time to deal with it, and handle my primary job.

It may be odd to talk so publicly about one's economic fortunes, but I write this all out, and write all of it out because I form my own thoughts about myself by writing. Writing is the act of chiseling out experience into something that explains who I was at this moment, in this time.

At this time, I'm buoyed by the knowledge that I did this before. Progress continued to be made.

At this time, my story intersects with those of every person on this planet on some level. I believe in progress, and in attempting to better the lives of as many people as possible. But, I can't do that unless my own is functioning in tip-top shape.

Sudden change seems to have opened up a time in my life when things are active again, when the day-to-day choices I make in the next few weeks will determine a good part of how my future occurs. How will I choose to use this extra time? Do I decide to immediately rejoin the food service work force, and if so, how do I make the best decision for me and my children?

I was locked up in that tavern. I told customers it was my purgatory, and joked that I seemed to end up there after every divorce.

And I may have been right.

The television show Lost ends by revealing that part of the narrative in the final season actually took place in a purgatory of sorts, and the characters had to wake up in order to progress to the next stage of their existence.

Taken as a metaphor, that sounds about right.

I don't want to publicly write the details of what happened, as I'm still sorting that out and really don't want to give away the story before it's finished.

I know one thing I want do to in this new epoch is to find a way to take my propensity for memoir and fictionalize it, in any manner. I've never taken any of my creative pursuits seriously. I've never taken myself seriously as an artist.

Now, I have time. But, for how long? How long until I find myself hardening again, joining whatever landscape evolves as the rapid change continues to wreak havoc on what once was? New stages will emerge, new people I otherwise would not have met. Opportunities that I will either decide to take or will shy away from, or will decide are not in my best interest.

This blog contains thoughts a lot about my time there, and I'm glad to read through it. I know I'm not going back, because to do so would go against everything I believe in about how people should treat each other.

It's going to be a very good story, however it comes out.

So, onward, continental drift! What will the world bring me this time?

7/04/2010

July 2010 Tavern report

This August marks six years of my on-again and off-again employment at Court Square Tavern. My long-term plan is to continue to work there at least three nights a week in order to amass my personal fortune.

Of course, this will take us actually increasing our business. I am confident that is happening as we are getting many more regulars. I have a great time there, as I've mentioned.

Tonight was one of the slow ones that are less than thrilling. I only had one party of more than two people, and they only had six beers between four people. I was pleased I managed to persuade one of them to try the Zatec Bright Lager, which had been recommended by one of our regulars, who spent years in Prague.

Of course, I was also pleased that he and his wife came in this evening. They chatted with a couple from New Jersey who are touring the area to view the homes of the presidents. They did Monticello today and are doing Montpelier tomorrow. They had eaten at Siips and walked up to the tavern. When they had arrived, I had a couple of sisters from Arlington who were also touring the area. We had a blast talking about old music, the precarious nature of our country's solvency and what form my novel is going to take.

On Thursday, we had two people who came in to celebrate their birthday. Both parties had a great time and I did as well. Last night was more of the same, me getting paid to be out. I enjoy running a pub, and tonight I was doing it solo again, but at least there were no food orders but a lone turkey pot pie with mashed potatoes.

The party of four who had six hadn't been in since before the fire. In the "smoky time" they said. I can remember when a cloud of smoke filled the place, but have little nostalgia for that sensation. Yet it's important to remember the character. We lost a lot of our die-hard regulars when we did not when smoky time did not resume when we re-opened.

I feel we're finally coming back into our own, and I think we're set to have a very busy fall. I'm working on some sort of a way for patrons to track how many of our 100 beers they've experienced. I'd like to find a way to get more people in to play our board games. I've got to get a handle on the whole foursquare thing.

The other day, a new regular came in and was talking to an older regular about the place of the bartender.

"A good bartender creates community by introducing people to each other," said Todd, who comes in for whatever bottled beer I've put on

He was not referring to me directly, but at the end of the day, I love providing the community with a pub that's not quite like any other place in town. And for me, I feel like I'm part of Charlottesville history. Very much enjoyed sharing this place with people from outside.

7/01/2010

Thoughts on U.S. Soccer in the World Cup

Landon Donovan and Bob Bradley are being interviewed on the Daily Show, and this is the first time I've seen them talk about their World Cup. It was only three days ago I watched as they failed to beat Ghana.

Rather, I didn't watch closely because I had hoped up Court Square Tavern early and I had seven people to serve. It was good, and I was glad to be there getting paid. This is what I do.

But, tonight, after a long day reporting my little corner of the world, I'm watching Jon Stewart talking to these guys as if it's okay, as if it's both a big deal and not a big deal that these two men are on national television. For me, I've followed the U.S. Men's team since 1994. And now Stewart is asking a good question that actually is interesting.

Can the U.S. avoid divas? England has been faulted for having a side that simply did not gel together. We don't seem to have that, and maybe it's a good thing as we go forward.

And we will go forward. And eventually, we will win the World Cup. I know this to be true.

But it's going to take people like me to pay attention, and to keep paying attention to soccer. I follow sports primarily because I'm interested in story lines associated with athletic achievement.

I've grown so disinterested in baseball because the sport has totally lost its way for me. 32 teams operating in a static universe that seldom rises to the level of interest. I used to love this sport, and think I will again, but not until the structure of the sport changes a little. I could care less who wins. Same teams year in year out.

I enjoy the National Football League and college football very much because there's an element of chance in terms of how the championships developer. At the professional level that is due to the parity built into the league through revenue sharing. At the college level it's due to the patchwork bowl system, which I'm confident will one day resolve itself into a true national champion.

But, really, the World Cup is it for me, even if I've not been able to watch this one as much as I had hoped I would. I'm still invested in this, but not willing to take days off to watch. This will be painful on Friday as I have to skip two matches because of work.

I am already looking forward to the future. I anticipate watching a lot of the English Premier League in the coming year, especially if Landon Donovan ends up playing for Manchester City.

For me, a first-generation American born at a time when the world globalized, this is the best possible thing in the world to contemplate. Regardless of what mainstream sportscasters want us to think, we've entered this sport fully now. Tim Howard is one of the world's best goalkeepers, and plays for Everton.

Everton is the club my dad has supported since childhood.

So, you can see why I feel somewhat of a connection.

A friend of mine and I are going to be saving up money to go to Brazil in 2014, regardless of if the U.S qualifies. I'm sure we will given our easy road, but part of me supports this argument expressed in the blog The Yanks are Coming that we may need to find a more difficult road to qualifying if we expect to improve as a team.

For now, though, I must remember that we still have a week or so left of the World Cup, even if we've passed the group stage, which for me is the best. I love that feeling when there are 32 teams and none of them are eliminated. That's when all of the possibilities are open. In hindsight it seems like France was always destined to crash out, but they had the chance to perhaps qualify with a win against South Africa. South Africa ended up beating them, but sadly did not win enough points to get out of the group stage.

Less than four years until it starts again for real, but until then, I am going to try to stay in touch with the U.S. men's team. I want them to succeed. I thought briefly about going to the Meadowlands on August 10 to see them take on Brazil (whom I really hope do NOT win the World Cup).

So, what's a U.S. fan to think post defeat-by-Ghana-due-to-ridiculous-defensive-mistake?

For me, I'm pulling for a team that either has never won or hasn't won for many years to take it all. My first favorite at this point is Uruguay, a place I would love to visit. After that, why not Paraguay?

6/22/2010

Fitness update: Long over-due!

I've slowed down my training dramatically and think it's time to step things up. It's been about 18 months since the end of my marriage, and by what I learned from the movie Sideways, I've still got about six months to go before I can be considered to be fully over it. And, as I seem to share tendencies with that film's main character, I suppose I have to at least see that through.

And the way I did this, as I've explained, has been through exercise. For the first year, I didn't feel bad at all about taking time off from work when I needed. Gold's Gym was the center of that. I ran entirely on the treadmill for three months, building up my strength before that fateful day I ran my first 5K race. I also lifted weights, and saw a change in my body fairly quickly.

Sadly, the weight training has totally dropped out of the routine, and I need to get it back in there.

I've been much busier of late, with much less time. Charlottesville Tomorrow is very demanding, and I've been working up to four nights a week at Court Square Tavern. Because of that, I've only been able to manage around 17 miles a week the last month or so. I'm pretty much a slug on the weekends.

I've taken some of that time to work on other pursuits, like gardening.


In a way, this has been a great thing for me, learning to wait patiently for something to grow, but only with careful nurturing and constant attention. These plants grew from seedlings germinated on my kitchen table. I've begun to cook all kinds of squash, and I look forward to some sort of a squash-tomato pesto feast.


Oh, such power in the simple act of putting a seed of DNA into the right place and creating the right environment so it can grow! Of course, there have also been mistakes which have led to some disasters, such as a total failure of my cilantro, chives, lettuce and cucumber.

Even there a lesson: Don't overextend yourself, but there's another season to learn how.

So, tomorrow or Wednesday I hope to go to the gym for the first time in about two months. I'm not really ashamed, but think it's time now to devote to other fitness efforts.

I've decided I'm not going to train to run a marathon this year. I'm simply not going to have the time. I also need to not have running fully dominate my life, as I have other things I need to attend to as well. I'd like to reclaim some of my exercise time for other pursuits.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a garden to take care of. 

6/18/2010

Thoughts on U.S. v Slovenia

I hugged a stranger, awkwardly. Maurice Edu had just been on the other end of a free kick, and connected with a beautiful shot, but it was called offsides. What do you think?



While the above was transpiring, the packed house at the Shebeen went crazy. We had come back from a 2-0 deficit, and had done so with style and pure offensive force. We fought and fought and fought and did not give up. How refreshing to see this, in any sport. Everything for U.S. soccer was on the line.

They rose to the challenge. They looked good and fought hard today, and if we don't make it through, this is a good result for the program long-term. That's the thing about the World Cup. It has such a long history yet to come, and every match is important. The Guardian called it "the most thrilling match of the World Cup so far" - that means we've arrived on the international stage.

We drew, which means that we're still alive. We have 2 points in the group, and need England to not win today. Then they would get 4 points, and with Slovenia having 4 points, it means they are in a much better position than us. There's a whole series of math questions that are only valid at this moment as I type this, waiting for England and Algeria to kick off.

I am going to root for Algeria today. This is so off from what I've ever expected to do in my life, but I want us to go through so badly because I think we can do so if we stay sharp like we did today. On paper, we lost, but Edu's goal was beautiful, and I'm confident we can go forward if we can defeat Algeria soundly next Wednesday at 10:00. I'll be at the Shebeen, most definitely.

6/11/2010

Reflections on the World Cup and all its brilliance

With less than two hours to go before Mexico and South Africa begin kicking around the Jabulani, I'm more than a bit worried that I'm not going to get nearly enough into this thing. I'll be watching this first match on a computer screen at work, relatively silently as my boss is not a fan of soccer. He's a lacrosse man, and that's just not a sport I can get into at this time.

The World Cup comes along every four years and takes over. There's a lot of gravity that attracts me to the spectacle of it all.

My first exposure came in 1982 when I was a wee lad. I remember my dad being jealous that some friends of ours in North Carolina were able to watch the final. In Lynchburg, soccer may as well not have existed if you had to rely on the pre-cable media. I knew this was something that was very important to my father, but I didn't really know why.

I may have only been paying attention because I'd played soccer the previous fall. That was the only time I played a team sport and the experience was not exactly stellar. I was very good - at kicking own goals.

I sort of skimmed the coverage of the 1990 World Cup. I believe it was on a channel we did not get in Lynchburg, but I was able to watch parts because I went on a business trip with my dad, and the hotel had better cable than we did back home. I'm kind of hazy about how all this went.

1994 changed everything. I worked at Backstreets Restaurant, and all of us got caught up in the fever that came with the finals being held in the United States. In 1998, I worked for a publishing company in Georgetown, and taped a lot of the matches to watch them later, and went to Ireland Four Courts in Arlington  to watch the U.S. matches.

In 2002, I lived in Roanoke and was self-employed. That city was much more affordable to live in, and my friend Jon and I watched most of the matches, even getting up at 2:30 in the morning to watch them. The entire event took over my life. I remember drinking at a bar in Blacksburg when the U.S. played Germany in the quarter-finals, and losing an entire day's worth of productivity. Oh, but what if we had won? What a glorious day that would have been!

In 2006, I was also self-employed, and watched most of the matches and supplemented my coverage by listening to Baddiel and Skinner's World Cup podcast. The United States was highly disappointing, and I don't have very many great stories as I watched most of it by myself. I did go and see a lot of the matches at my parent's house at Smith Mountain Lake.

That was also the summer when I was in exile away from Court Square Tavern. I had all the time in the world, and worked while I watched the matches. My little daughter was asleep at my feet in her bassinet as the kick-off times for the afternoon matches coincided with her nap time.

And now, it's 2010, and my life is at a very different stage. I appreciate these games because they do tend to mark where I am at fixed points in time. I'm not sure how much I will be able to watch these games, but I do hope to follow them through all kinds of media. I'm looking at new blogs such as this amazing one based out of Richmond

I will also be de-twittering and de-Facebooking for a while, as I will likely tape some of the games and watch them later when I can enjoy them as if they are live.

But, I'll also be showing some of them at Court Square Tavern. As I write this, I'm about to go and research the times for all the U.S. matches. I know we play England on Saturday, and I will be opening up the tavern early though I won't be serving food during the play of game. We'll be showing the games in HD, and I invite all of you to come by. I am excited that the United States may actually win, in the sense that we're good enough to compete, given that we beat Spain last summer in the Confederations Cup.

I thought for so long I was going to have a hard time selecting a team to support in that first game. I remember watching the draw with my intern Tarpley Ashworth, and being kind of nervous that the first match played by both teams I support was against each other.

But, in the past week or so, I've come round to the idea that I am an American, and I must support my team. I want to believe that we can win this. In part, I am excited because my English son is also supporting the Americans. He's American, too, and I'm going to use this as an opportunity to bond with him, even though we're so far away.

And, you know? I support both teams and want both to make it the Round of 16. There's a good chance that can happen, but I like our chances of getting past that stage if we can place first in the group stage. That will mean beating or drawing with England. If we come in second in the group, we'll likely face Germany, who I believe will win Group D handily.

This is it. I've followed the U.S. team now for 16 years, and I'm optimistic about our chances. I want to believe, and see how this goes. I also want to enjoy this, and see teams from all around the world compete. I'm hopeful that a team that's never won before can make a fantastic run at total victory. I'd like to see one of the major powers get knocked out in the group stage totally unexpectedly. I want a team from Africa to seriously compete. I'd like to see how Chile's team does, given that country's earthquake and the quirky nature of its coach. I want to know what North Korea's team is going to do.

I want to see South Africa, both in written accounts and in what we end up seeing on display. I'm hopeful it will all go well, and the world will see a place shining in the glow of what it can achieve.

World Cup 2010. A lot of people have been saying I've been particularly happy this week, and I think it's mostly related to the fact that it all begins in less than 2 hours.

6/01/2010

Rules for the summer

I'm getting flabby, dear reader. Flabby and my mind is slowing down a bit. I've been allowing myself a little too much recreation and it's time to smooth things out a bit in the hopes of calming my bank account. So, in the interest of creating a healthier me, I'm going to institute some loose rules to guide me. In no particular order:

No more soda: I rely on this delicious beverage way too much to get me through the day. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the costs, especially when I get so many for free through work. But, I also spend about $10 a week on 16 ounce Cokes, and I can feel the difference around my waist-line. I hereby propose a full three month moratorium on soda consumption to see what happens. In 1995, I quit soda and lost nearly 15 pounds. In 2010, I just want to lose the padding around my waist that I'm fairly certain comes form consuming these absolutely empty calories.

Toning at the gym: I'm paying for gym membership I'm not using, and this is mostly because I run. But, I want to get in there twice a week to tone, and to just generally be in the habit of being there. I've lost a bit of my muscle tone, but want it back.

100 miles in June, 115 in July, 130 in August: This is a rough goal to run each of these amounts in the following months. I'm in a lull in terms of running at the moment, and these goals should more or less track with the marathon training I'd like to do. I'm signing up this week and will run my 2 mile time trial next Wednesday. Time to get serious about running for real. I feel like a pretender sometimes, especially when I take more than two days off in a row.

Better financial management: Money flies out of my wallet way too easily. I work very hard, but yet I don't seem to remember this when it comes time to going out. I may be too hard on myself on this score, but I have to make sure I can meet my obligations (which are hefty) while also putting money for retirement and special trips. The reward will hopefully be a trip to England in November if I can put enough money away.


Waking up early, going to bed early: Someone much wiser than me said that early risers get things done. I would like to be among that number, but yet I have such a hard time removing myself from slumber because my bed is so comfortable. I want to wake up with the sunrise and try to go to bed before midnight every night, and maybe I'll be successful. I'm going to aim for three sunrises a week to see where this goes.

Cooking at home: Oh, how I miss cooking. I cooked a delicious stir-fry for the first time in a while last night. I'd not actually cooked a meal for over a month. Maybe even two months. This isn't right. I enjoy cooking very much, but I haven't bothered much lately because I'm all by myself, and because my schedule is erratic. But, I want to impose order by requiring that I prepare at least three meals a week all summer long. This will most likely take the form of Sunday meals and sandwiches. Soon I'll have stuff from the garden to include.

No beer at home: Of all the commandments, this is the hard one. I like to have a few beers at the end of the night, but they're expensive. I need to drink water instead and maybe this will help with going to bed earlier.

I do not know if I will meet all of this rules, but I do know that by posting them publicly, I am more likely to do so. I want this summer to be one of improvement. The benefits could be extraordinary.

5/31/2010

Happy birthday, dad!

Sixty-nine years ago today, my father was born somewhere in Liverpool, England during the middle of World War II. His father was somewhere in Italy and his mother was left alone. He was an only child, though a sister would be born ten years later.


I wasn't able to go and see him and my mother today. Frankly, I'd sort of blanked out that Memorial Day and his birthday coincided this year. Instead, I took a day to work around the house and basically relax. It had been a long time since I'd had two days off in a row.


But, I was wrong not to try to go and see him. My dad is a very important person and perhaps the biggest influence on who I am today. I grew up idolizing him and wanting to be him. I think I've learned a lot of lessons about self-reliance and self-confidence from him.


He and my mother moved over to the United States when they were in their early 20's. They first moved to Canada, but went south because my dad was lured by the prospect of big roads and unlimited potential.


When I ask him, he tells me he left England because there was no opportunity for him there in the early 1960's. Even though the Beatles were rising to stardom, Liverpool was in the middle of a rapid decay. The shipping industry was changing fast, and my dad didn't think he was going to advance very far. He also thought his Scouse accent would hurt him if he were to move south like so many people were trying to do.


My uncle, for instance, had emigrated to Scotland. My dad wanted to follow suit and examined possibilities in Australia, New Zealand but my mother insisted she would only go as far as North America.


Almost five decades later, he's a confirmed American who has contributed much to society. At one point, he owned a factory that employed nearly two hundred people in Campbell County. I earned a lot of pocket money working for him beginning from the age of 12. On that birthday, he had taken a leap of faith and decided to go into business for himself.

He's a very inspirational man, and I've learned a lot from him. I will make sure I go and see him soon. I guess I sort of know that I'll be seeing a lot of him due to the World Cup in a few short weeks. I wish there was some way I could let him know how much I appreciate him and all he's done for me over the years. I owe so much to him. I wanted to write this to publicly thank him for everything. 

We don't always see eye to eye on everything, but I always respect his opinion even when I believe he's wrong. We debate a lot about politics, though my mother always tries to put a stop to that as soon as it starts.

He's a fantastic grandfather who my three idolize, as have my sister's two kids and my brother's three kids.


I do wish he could retire, though. I'd love for him to get the chance to channel all of his creative energy into something fun for him. He's a funny man, good with song, and always has an interesting story to tell. I'd love to interview him. I'd love to set him up with a blog. I'd love to make music with him. He's my dad and I'm part him and I guess I just wanted to say that, even if I wasn't with him today.

Now I have to make plans to see him as soon as I can. 

5/29/2010

Taking stock at the end of May

Working at a slow pace has its advantages. I'm typing this while making an hourly wage at Court Square Tavern, and I'm tinkering on my website, the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. There are only seven customers in here, and I have a feeling that may be about it. It's a holiday weekend, and the last weekend of the month.

I've not really marked the occasion of my site's fifth anniversary. In good news, this week I did meet with the folks behind Secretly Y'all and am now hosting podcasts of their stories.  That is much more in line with the reasons for creating the site way back in 2005. I wanted to create a community resource.

And, that's what the site has become, even though I've put very little effort into it since joining Charlottesville Tomorrow. That's where my energy goes these days, and I so rarely do anything to maintain the site. Yet, the audio keeps getting posted, and I'm hoping I'll be inspired my new friends to create some things once more.

I feel that I need to make new connections with the world. Everything I do, for instance, seems to begin with C. What would it be like to have an employee that begins with a different consonant. What if I decided to really wanted to live by working for a vowel?

It's been three years now since I've produced anything for the radio. These days, I write print and post work to our blog. And then I go to work and serve people beer. Tonight I'm all by myself here, using the slow time to delete categories from the site. I also created a new image header for the top.

I live such an exciting life.

There are so many projects I want to work on. I want to play guitar with people and see what happens. I want to get back to recording more interviews, and playing with sound. I want to write fiction. I want to create music. I want to plant gardens so I see the infinite beauty within. I want to help things get better.

Now I have to get back to work. There are dishes that have to be cleaned. I have to clean this place up. Tomorrow begins the first real weekend I've had in a while, with two days and two nights off in a row. The other day I heard a woman telling a man parked outside Forest Hills Park explaining that she needed a vacation to get her mind clear. I believe that's almost certainly exactly how I am at this moment as I type these words into a little box in the hopes of making sense at the end of May.

5/12/2010

Finding a focus

I need a plan.

I find myself saying this a lot now, which is odd, because up until this point I've more or less winged it. This was not necessarily the best way to lead my life, and certainly left me prone to being blindsided from time to time, sometimes with disastrous results.

I did not mean to start this whole running thing, and these days there's a war of sorts inside myself as sloth and ambition seem to be campaigning for the time that has gone to running for the past year and a half. I must make sure they don't win.

These days, I pretty much just get there and run when I can. I don't have a particular race lined up for the fall, but I need to select one now and begin seriously training for it. My number one goal this year is to run at least one marathon, preferably under four hours.


Last night, I ran 11 miles in under 90 minutes, so I may be on track for that still. My fitness is pretty high, and I am getting much better about knowing how to regulate my body. I know if I feel exhausted, all I have to do is slow down a bit and my energy level goes back up. I keep trying to push my limits, and when I'm spent, I'm comforted in knowing my body can recover while still in motion.



But these little lessons need a plan, or I may find myself losing interest.

While writing this post, I've decided to run a race this Sunday in Louisa County. That's my plan, and I'm sticking to it. My goal is to hit as many little milestones as I can, do the best I can, and try to be prepared for anything.


5/09/2010

Seedlings bracing for the cold

Tonight, there is a pink sheet and a beige sheet covering the fledgling plants in my garden. I've slowly been transferring the tomato and squash  seedlings to a patch of ground out behind my house. The weather forecast is for frost and I don't want all of my work to go to waste.

My kitchen table is occupied with eggplant seedlings that finally graduated from starter tray to container this afternoon. I have completed the first round of my garden.


The end of that transition was celebrated yesterday afternoon when Katie made me a cappicola and tomato sandwich with my basil from my own garden. I harvested about ten pieces, and none of the plants seem worse for the experience.


Gardening appears to be the running of 2010. Last year, I transformed myself by learning how to run, and I'm still learning what I need to do to get better.


This year, I'm enjoying the challenge of exploring solitude by paying close attention to little creatures that I chose to bring into the world by preparing places for seeds to sprout. For the past six weeks, I've been captivated by the seedlings I first planted on my kitchen table, but have slowly moved outside.

I will confess at the top. I have no idea what I'm doing. So far, most of the peppers I've tried to transplant outside have met with a sad, sad fate. They had looked so healthy in little containers I'd purchased.

And tonight, I am hopeful that I've at least given the tomatoes some chance at survival by creating a little fort for them. In a bit, I have to go figure out what I'm going to do for the four squash plants that are still alive. Of course, one of those is hanging on a thread.

The ones in my living room are perfectly happy, of course.

What I'm finding is a real interest in how plants grow. How do they work? What's going on that makes these delicate creatures thrive if given the right environment? Why am I risking sneezes to delve into the garden with such aplomb, despite the pollen that pervades near everything?

Similar to running, gardening is about preparing for another day. Despite having partaken of the basil, there's a lot of nurturing that has to take place before I can have a meal with the fruit of my labor.

But that's not the point.

The point is to simply enjoy my life. Until now, I have despised yard work. Now I'm looking around wondering how I can make my garden look good, and be somewhat functional.

My second round of seeds shall include lettuce, cilantro, chives and cucumber. I don't know if any of this will come to pass. But, I am truly enjoying the glory of this earth by spending several hours a week trying to transform soil, light and water into green shoots of beauty and majesty. Another hobby that reminds me of how absolutely fantastic it is to be alive.

4/29/2010

Passings, passages, and pastures

I'm likely halfway through my life, if my life were something that were simply measured up against an actuarial table. In reality, I have no idea how much longer I have. None of us do, really.

Is it morbid to think about the end? People often interpret me that way when I write or say comments like the one above. I think it's important to think about death, and the light that this one ninevitable fact shines so strongly upon the rest of our lives.

Who do we want to be? How do we want to be remembered? How can we make the most of whatever time we have on this magnificent yet bewildering world upon which our lives turn?

Death hasn't called upon many people in my life, so it's kind of a shock when two people I know die in the course of a month.

One was Tim Davis, murdered in cold blood when he watching the sunset in the mountains. Those facts still shock me, and his passing makes me regret all I could have learned from him about radio.

The other was Marvin Hilton, a man I knew from the Senior Statesmen of Virginia and from a lecture event I record before every UVA football game. He crossed into my professional life this year when he came on board the Albemarle County Service Authority. This pleased me.

But, yesterday morning I was very sad to learn he'd died suddenly on Sunday. Out of the blue.

Every second, someone dies somewhere in the world. People drop out of the tapestry of the living and become part of something else none of us can know about yet.

This is where knowing the word "ineffable" becomes so incredibly useful.


Marvin lived a long life. I did not know him very well, but I respected him and the contributions he  made to our community. I remember him telling me in an interview he had hoped to be named to the Planning Commission, but was happy to be working for the county's water and sewer infrastructure.

Tim deserved to live longer, but I know he was doing what he loved to do and was making the most of his life.


Leaving aside the pain we may feel from the passage of others, what can we learn about ourselves, and the work we need to do in our lives to make them what we want them to be? Death is such a sobering reality, one best to confront directly instead of fearing it, pretending it won't happen.



At some point in my mid-twenties, I decided to move to Arlington so I could seriously have a go at being in a band with a friend of mine. This decision came after a funeral I'd attended for a high school with whom I'd had a terrible falling out. One day I hope to be able to write about him a bit more.

For now, though, after Brian Mercado died, I committed myself to living my life the way I wanted to. I didn't really know how to go about doing that, and I'm not sure I really know if I ever will. But, I do know that I can always hear the clock ticking.


My mid-thirties are turning out to look a lot like my mid-twenties, when I was still trying to figure out how to live my life. I've found myself in this odd situation where I'm a bachelor who works two jobs and does whatever he can do to pay for an ever-increasing set of bills. Is that my life? Is this who I wanted to be?

Thing is, though, I'm more at peace than I've been in a while. I have a sure-fire way to remind myself I'm alive, striving towards the light much like one of the plants growing on my dining room table. I go for a run and push my body to reach new goals. I deliberately seek out steep hills to climb, and wow, I feel like I'm living a totally different life now.

But yet, the passage of these two men reminds me that perhaps there's more I need to do. In short, what do I want my kids to remember about me? What, dear reader, would I like you to remember about me in the event that I pop my clogs during that next run?

I don't know, and can't know, and that's not really the point here. My point is simply to say that every second we have is precious. For me that translates in trying to do whatever I can to make as many people happy. I want to treat people decently, tell people what I think they want and need to know.



Rest in peace to the fallen.

Work towards peace for the rest of us.

There's so much conflict out there, and I'd venture to say much of stems because people are hard-wired to not get along with each other. We're still animals on the savanna.

But, yet, please remember: We mourn our dead. We celebrate our dead. In that very basic fact, can't we find some way to make things better for the living, and those who will live in the future?

4/18/2010

Splurging on the Flaming Lips

Seven years ago, I began the process of falling in love with someone to the Flaming Lips album "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots." Futuristic themes of fate were presented in songs such as "All We Have Is Now" and "Do You Realize?" and they resonated with me.

I can't fully time travel myself back to a point where my synapses are firing in that same way. But I do recall that at the time I was very unhappy. Listening to the songs over and over in the spring of 2003 filled me with some sense of urgency that I'd better try to seize happiness no matter the cost.


There's a certain danger when you selectively pull things from the collective consciousness to suit your needs, but every now and then you have to take a leap of faith in the hopes that the next continent will be more fruitful.

I can honestly say I don't have any regrets about the damage done as that particular morality play unfolded. The details, however, are not for public consumption at this time.

Flash now to a spring seven years later, this spring, this now we currently have.

It's been a while since a new set of songs has shuffled onto my internal jukebox, providing a new set of coloring to the proceedings. I still seem to listen to most of the same songs over and over again and am not nearly as adventurous as I'd like to be.

My life's changes have mostly involved a reduced on-stage dramatis personae as well as a new fishbowl to play in. I work more than I don't, and it's not often that I take the time to do something for myself. Running is the main way I relax and recharge, but it's a solitary pursuit.

I'm not sure if I'm happy or unhappy. I'm a bit more mature, a bit more scarred by the battles of love. I'm getting through my life by working hard and trying to stay out of trouble. I mostly take my pleasure in the form of running, though I can honestly say I have two of the best jobs in all of Charlottesville.

Yet, sometimes I don't really believe that. There are days and moments where I'm convinced that this isn't where I'm supposed to be. In these George Bailey moments, I begin to dream up schemes of teaching English in Chile, or figuring out a way to work for the private space business somehow.
 

Thankfully, I've learned to stop and listen to the universe. If I do, honestly do, then I'm told that everything is okay, if I could just relax and give over it to from time to time.

There are rewards to hard work. There are rewards to doing the right thing.

This week, I came into a slight windfall thanks to an extra shift working at Tastings, the other restaurant owned by Bill Curtis. I was able to finally buy a new pair of shoes that I'll use to train for my next major race.

But, the more important purchase was a last minute decision to go see the Flaming Lips at the Pavilion. For a long time, I had kept Thursday night free so I could go see it if I wanted to. But, the forty dollar ticket price kept me from being able to commit to it.

All day Thursday I wasn't sure at all if I'd go. After all, I didn't know anyone else who was going. I'm not very good at doing things in public unless I have someone to go with, and I don't make plans easily because I'm usually working, or I have to keep flexible for work.

Went for a run in my new shoes, a 5 miler without a watch. When I got to the mall, I ran into two colleagues from the Daily Progress who were going, and I said I was thinking about it. The opening band was already playing, but I had no interest in going to see them. Seven is too early to start a show.

Somewhere on the run I decided I would definitely go to see the show. I had such a great run, just running to my ability rather than running to the needs to keep the training goals satisfied. I also enjoy running in crowds.

This Belle and Sebastian video comes to mind.



So, I decided to go, and got back home, changed, and hurried back. Paid my $40, and proceeded to enjoy the show with a delicious Longhammer IPA in hand.

In the end, I decided to pay for the experience, and that it would be worth it to be in a crowd of familiar strangers. I will not be able to attend any Friday after Five events because I'll be up at Court Square Tavern. (you should come up and see us!)

At first, I go silent in crowds and begin observing everything I possibly can. I moved around a lot during the show to take in different vantage points.

I'm not a huge Flaming Lips fan, and I don't often listen to their music anymore. That love from seven years ago flared bright but soon leaked all vitality into a sickly pale color. In my seizing of happiness, I created an ideal in my head that couldn't ever quite be realized.

These two things aren't related, but I tend to get a bit wistful when I hear Do You Realize.

However, one of our Pandora stations at work keeps spitting out "Fight Test," a song with lyrics that resonate very strongly at this point in my life. I'll save the details for the memoir, but I had hoped they would play it and I was waiting for it.

I don't think I've seen a rock concert for years, so I just enjoyed taking it all in. The lights, the music, the spectacle, the silliness of balloons dancing up and down above a crowd. I slowly felt myself joining the crowd in cheering, singing and dancing. By the end of the show, I was developing new memories for a new life that I'm still not quite used to. I'm learning sometimes you have to splurge and go for the experiences you need in order to create true and lasting happiness.

The encore was "Do You Realize" and there was something about standing underneath a pavilion where I've spent so much time in the past few years with my family, with myself as a runner cutting underneath the bridge. I shouted along with the lyrics, looking at the bridge, looking up at Carter Mountain, thought of Tim Davis, thought of lost loves, thought of thrown-away loves, thought about how wonderful this world if you can just get some kind of handle on it.



I do realize. And I like the way my synapses fire now.



4/15/2010

To finish a blog post

Lately, I've been unable to finish any of the drafts that I've started here for this little ol' blog.  I'm tried writing about my garden, tried to write about the ten-miler, tried to write about the death of Tim Davis. I sit down and start, but I can't finish.



The chief reason why I don't finish anything is that my leisure time has more or less disappeared, again. For reasons I can't state publicly, it's important for me to work as much as possible and this more or less means taking on additional work at Court Square Tavern. Last night, I worked at Tastings for the second time, this time as a waiter.

Every day of my life these days feels like a trip to the dentist, filled with a mixture of dread, terror and numb. Yet, there are still glimpses of pure joy. I don't feel sad, though I certainly don't feel this life has shaped up the way I thought it might and there are tremendous wells of sadness all around me. I have to constantly be on battle to not fall in.


There's nothing really in this post. This one is an exercise, a place-holder, a marker in time.

3/27/2010

Race Report: Catching up with ketchup

This morning I ran the first repeat 5K of my racing days - the Zeta Tau Alpha Run for Life. Last year, it was my second race of my life. Since then I've ran a few other races. I wanted to run this one as a warm-up for the 10-Miler next week, to remember what the feeling is like of competing with other people so that I don't overdo it from the start.

This morning, I could not find either of my watches. I don't know where my Garmin is, or my cheap Timex. I spent 30 minutes or so frantically searching my house. I even considered not running the face because I was worried I'd have the same issue I've had in all other races I've run so far - puking because I run way too fast without realizing it.

It's easy to get caught up in the adrenaline when someone shouts "go!" and a thousand footfalls drum you on. At the start today, I held back and tried to pretend it was just another run on a sunny Saturday morning in the cold.

I did not fool myself. After a couple of minutes, I became irritated that a man dressed head to toe in green spandex was still in front of me. I was also ticked off that I was being beaten by condiment. A ketchup bottle was running side by side with a guy in a sombrero. This could not stand, thought my body, and so I pushed myself a little harder.

I didn't really feel it, and thought somehow I was going slow. The Garmin would have been keeping track of how far I was going, and I would have used it to make sure I didn't overdo it. After all, I wasn't looking to beat my personal record of 22:01 for a 5K. I just wanted to beat the 23:08 I'd achieved last year.

All was well until I got to Alderman, and we climbed uphill past the Catholic church. I started passing people heading up, because I've deliberately trained on hills, and I liked the sheer thrill of passing people.

At the top, though, my stomach reminded me that I'm not Jesse Owens, and that I needed to keep things in perspective. I thought my puking moment was about to occur, but I managed to slow down, breathe a little deeply, and pass through it.

On the downhill, the ketchup bottle passed me again. This annoyed me.So, I forgot about my digestive issue again. I didn't outright sprint, but continued at what I thought was a somewhat decent pace. After passing the bottle again, I closed my eyes for about two seconds, visualized something else to take my mind off of things, and tried to dial in a nice pace to finish up.

I've run down McCormick so many times now in the past year, that I'm used to it, so when we ran back up the hill past Clark Hall, I thought I was going to be doing well. I didn't think I was going particularly fast. Didn't feel like I was really straining myself. Sure, I was going faster than my usual runs, but I thought all was well.

Just past the Harrison Institute and Chapel, I saw some guy who had stopped to puke. Poor guy, I thought.

Of course, there was the matter of the ketchup bottle. I had to stay ahead of him, so I sped up. I experimented with changing my gait slightly. I shortened my strides, but pumped my legs faster. There wasn't much left to go, and I though I would be alright.

No.

Heading downhill and around the curve, the burps started again. I slowed down, hoping that would take care of it. I just wanted to make my way through to the end. My body had other ideas. Whatever causes this issue for me demanded to be resolved, so I tried to throw up without stopping. After some very unsatisfying attempts at this, I had to pull over for a second.

I leaned against the brick wall at Alderman, next to the book drop, and took 5 seconds to do what I had to do. Embarrasingly, there went the ketchup bottle. I knew I would not catch up, but that was okay.

Those 5 seconds felt like a lifetime. My heart was beating faster than I think it should have been. I took a deep breath, and up the hill I went to the finish line at Newcomb Plaza. I was amazed, as the timer was ticking up from 22:15, and I jogged across right at 22:30.

Not too bad. I've got plenty of training ahead of me, but I was satisfied with the results, and shook off the embarrassment.

I'm pretty sure I won't make this same mistake in the ten-miler next week, mostly because I've been training specifically for long distances. I've not done any speed work, but I've learned how to pace myself so I can go several miles. I'll make sure I have a watch for next week, even if I can't locate the Garmin.

I'm simply amazed to see the number of people who run, and even though I only knew a few people there today, I feel part of Charlottesville's running community. I also really appreciate how races held at the University of Virginia bring everyone together for good causes. I'm glad that I had friends to encourage me to keep doing this in the early days, and I'm looking forward to crossing the finish line with them in less than a week!

3/13/2010

In the right place

The place is maybe a quarter full, and there's good music playing. Bob is sitting at the bar doing whatever it is he does when he's here, drinking his two beers while listening to music on his yellow headphones.

There's a group of four guys who have split three pitchers of beer. The only one wearing glasses decided to try out three different kinds of beer. There's five people sitting at another table who stopped drinking an hour or so ago, but they're still talking about philosophy and religion.

The big group is taking up the forties. They've had maybe 30 pints between them, as well as some shots. They're a lot of fun, and I got to do some dramatic acting with them earlier. Only a second or so, but it was fun to try to make them laugh.

A trio came in about 30 minutes ago and are busy taking pictures of themselves. One of them is drinking a ginger ale while the others nurse a couple of pints.

When I'm here, I don't question if I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. When it gets busy, and I know I'm getting paid to be out, it makes me very happy. I know I'm making money that directly supports my children. Every second I'm here goes to make sure they're being taken care of. I'm pleased that I've found a way to enjoy myself while also being responsible.

Business has been picking up. I'm hoping people know that we're open until whenever on the weekends. We're a comfortable place to be. Music isn't too loud. We're not too rowdy. Just right, I'd say.

I'm going to be posting to the Court Square Tavern Facebook page more often, so become a fan if you're not already. My goal is to try to build up business by carrying on our conversational energy into the online sphere, and hopefully then we can get some good talks going on in here.

People come here because they can talk. My hope is this can be a place where people can come and talk, and then meet people as well. I want things to happen here. Even if they're little things.

Mostly, I want to feel like I'm living a life, and that I'm part of something. I didn't get to go to a concert tonight, but there were many people here who I waited on who did go. So, I feel like I know people who are out there having a good time. They had a good time, and I bet they'll be back. That's my goal.

I like having two very different kinds of jobs. In this job, I get to be more alive and it doesn't really go home with me. The other job is pretty much what I do when I'm not here.

Don't get me wrong. My job at Charlottesville Tomorrow is pretty much my dream job. I'm at the forefront of a new kind of media, and I'm proud of what we've accomplished and am working towards realizing our vision of informing the public on matters about their local government. I'm doing the kind of work I've always wanted to do, even though I may not realize it.

Both of them intersect, grounding me here in this community.

My hope is that I will continue to learn more about where I live, and to become even better at all that I do.