11/24/2011

Race Report: The Turkey Trot!

Today I ran the 30th annual Turkey Trot at the Boar's Head.

But, I'll be honest.

I really didn't want to bother. I was so tired this morning when I got up, and I really wanted to sleep in. I'd worked the night before, and then lost my dog for a few hours. My sleep was broken as I worried about him. He eventually came back, and I was looking for an excuse to justify not running the

But, my friend Normajean had transferred her registration to me, and I'd picked up the packet, and I didn't want to let her down. I didn't want to let myself down, either. I've not run a 5K in a very long time, and I wanted to see how I could do.

Part of me didn't want to go because I don't have my children today, and sometimes it's hard to be around other people and their families. I kind of just wanted to be by myself and relax and wasn't sure if I wanted to be around a crowd.

These negative forces were penning me in, and I was wavering and wavering about whether to go. I sat in the car for about two minutes before deciding if I really wanted to start it up. I felt paralyzed.

In the end, I knew I had to go, and just run the race. I had to do my best.

I used to work near the Boar's Head and have a lot of memories from there, and the time I was with my second wife. It is a beautiful complex, with a magnificent pond. I'd never really been back in the Ednam Forest subdivision. My friend Harry had told me it was a steep course, with a particular killer hill halfway through mile 2.

So, I went, and I got there just a few minutes before it started. I jogged half a mile to the start line to warm up. Somehow my GPS watch had gotten on the magic setting that shows my pace rather than my speed. I can never figure out how to make it to do that and can't always translate miles per hour into something that makes sense.

I took this as a good sign, and I was in good spirits at the start line. I was by myself and all around me were families, friends, students, everyone formed in a temporary community to run this race. Hundreds of people had entered the race, and I only recognized a handful of them but didn't go over to say hello because we were so close to the start.

I waited patiently and my mind was calm. I did not have a sense of nervousness at all. I was focused on pushing my body to do something my mind really didn't want it to do but had consented anyway.

And then the starter's gun went off, and suddenly we're off. I was behind a block of slower people for a minute, but I did not get frustrated. We took off due east, straight into the sun. I thought about the power of that magnificent star, giving us everything that we are, the source of so much of our life. The sun shined so powerfully on us and I imagined my cells were being powered by its light. And I ran, ran as fast as I could for that first mile.

If you've never run a race, I have to say you really should. It's a remarkable thing to do. If you follow my postings on Facebook of my runs, you'll see I average about an 8:00 pace. That's the amount of time it takes me to run one mile. Now, that's the average of all sorts of velocities I may be running in at any given point. On flat portions, I'll try to push myself. On the uphills, I'll try to tell myself to slow down. On the downhills, I try to let gravity take over so my heart and lungs don't have to work quite as hard to go fast.

But during a race, I can seemingly run faster. I want to do better than I did previously, and I want to do as well as I can.

That doesn't mean I want to beat other people, but their presence motivates me and pushes me harder. And one of the most interesting things about racing are the fellow racers who end up in your pace group. You begin to wonder if you can push just a little faster than them. You wonder who they are, why they run, what they get out of this. I watch the way they run, the way they breathe, and I'm amazed at how similar we are, as animals who have decided to propel ourselves across asphalt as fast as we can. We're not being chased by anything real. We're running for the sake of running and it is marvelous.

I ran the first mile in 7:05, which surprised me. I thought I was a little slower than that. I felt fine, but up to that point it had mostly been flat. At that point, we were back in the neighborhood, and it was fairly hilly. I seemed to be at the tail end of one pack, with another one about 100 feet behind me. Ahead of me, some of the elite runners were almost halfway through the course.

I try not to think about that.

I ran, and I ran, and as the race went on, I began to fatigue a little. My mind reminded my body to stick to form, and to watch the pacing, and to remember that this is a race. My mind and body worked together to achieve a goal, as opposed to my mind getting in the way of things.

I hit the second mile marker at 15:00 even. The second mile was mostly uphill, so I didn't think this was too bad at all.

I could not run three years ago when my life took a dramatic turn. I was almost 200 pounds and my body was definitely not running the show. So, as I've remarked time and again, I worked hard and learned how to become a system of mind and body. I learned how to cheer my mind up by running hard, by forcing my body to achieve a higher performance. I ran my first Charlottesville Ten Miler in less than 80 minutes (I ran it in exactly 80 the second time around). I can achieve if I work hard.

I've spent the last two months getting back in shape. I'd been in a relationship and I'd let my body go again as I let my mind experiment with emotional attachment. I put someone else before exercise,  and when that ended, I picked up the same habit that had sustained me previously.

And here I was, on Thanksgiving Day, running just as fast as I could, running downhill now, coming closer to the end of the course.

In my peer group was someone who I recognize as a marathon runner. A friend of hers had been further back in the pack but had sprinted up but stopped when she got to the woman, whose name is Leah. The friend perhaps thought Leah was starting to lose steam. We were running at a 7:20 pace at this point, and those hills had taken a lot of energy to get through.

I was pushing myself pretty hard, and I was thinking about being a human, and was thankful that I get to be the sort of creature that gets the choice to do this. To run with reckless abandon on a day in which our culture encourages us to appreciate all that we have. This existence, that golden sun shining and illuminating our every day, our every moment.

What fuels us? What makes us go? What makes us get up when things are completely shattered and broken? How can we find hope in a world that times seems one Sisyphus would recognize?

For some of us, we need multiple sources of fuel. Maybe all of us need that. All of us need to feel connected to this universe in fundamental ways that have meaning and give shape to our improbable existence.

I am glad I found running, because it showed me a way of living my life that I desperately needed when another source of fuel dried up suddenly. I'm glad I have found the hobby of playing music. I know there are other sources of fuel for meaning that I will find if I don't close out the possibility.

Leah was struggling, and her friend was encouraging her.

"Come on, Leah, you can hear the finish line! You're on pace to beat your personal record for a 5K! Come on!"

I heard this, and decided to push myself. I dug in and ran as fast as I could. I wanted to get to the finish  as fast as I could.

Less than half a mile was left to go, and there I was, on a road I'd been on so many times before as an employee. I was running, picking up my pace, enjoying the beat of footfall all around me, all of us careening towards the end trying to do the best we can. Coming so close now, finish line 1000 feet away or so.

However, my body was not so happy with the idea of pushing full out. I have a tendency to throw up if I run too fast for too long. And sure enough, I could feel the backlash welling within. I slowed down, and Leah and her friend crossed just in front of me. Another guy or two had sprinted past me.

But I wasn't mad at myself. As I approached the finish line, I looked at the clock, and I was doing well. My mind was pleased, and both mind and body were pleased I did not go through with the violence of vomiting, and I crossed at 22:46. I went through the chute, handed in the bottom part of my bib, and then went to grab a coffee.

I didn't know anyone there. When the race was over, I felt like an outsider again. I didn't feel like socializing, but I went and watched people crossing the finish line for a while. It's amazing how different people run in different ways. Some people seem to run effortlessly. Others seem to have to huff and puff and swing their arms majestically.

And different kinds of people run. Tall people. Skinny people. Old people. Little kids. People with weight. People with amazingly perfect bodies. Fathers crossing the finish line with their sons.

Everyone of those people had determination to do the best they could.

And I do the best I can.

I did not stick around for the awards ceremony. To be honest, I saw way too families together, and I didn't want to let the emotional pain into my mind. There is nothing I want more than my children at the end of a race. They've never been there for any of that.

But I hold out hope they will be. I hold out hope that someday I'll have them at the end of a race, or I'll get to run with them in a family event like this.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful of so much. I am thankful that I have three beautiful children, all of whom are doing well. I am in all of their lives to some capacity, and I work so hard to move towards the light of positive feeling so that I can build a life that always seeks improvement.

11/22/2011

In praise of Radio Bistro at the C&O

At the end of a marathon City Council meeting the other night, I went to the bar at the C&O to wind down and to check out Radio Bistro. James Ford was there spinning discs. As soon as I shook his hand, Brian Eno's "Needle in a Camel's Eye" blares out as loud as possible and I knew I was in the right place.

I went in alone. I didn’t bring a notebook so I became the nerd at the bar with something to say, but no proper way to say it. I brought out my laptop, and it was a bit rude to insult the wooden bar by placing plastic upon it, but that’s all I had. If I had a paper and pen, I would use that.

The music pulsed and I could feel the pulse flow through me and I could feel the notes oscillating, aware of the magic that my ears perceived vibrations in the air and my brain somehow translated into something that brought me joy.

A new chapter has begun in my life, and I want to stay there. I do not want to slip back into the pages of what has come before and I do not want to dwell in the past. I do not want to upset the past by going back there to reinterpret it as something it was not. Instead, I will have to reach into the future by remaining in the present.

Oh, the jargon, the semantics, the nervous energy calmed by a deep breath blown out through the nose. The feelings of inadequately caring for anything, for caring about the wrong things and for not knowing how to tell the difference until it’s too late.

There are things that I’m aware of, but don’t quite see. Increasingly I can see people just outside my line of sight, and they’re not there. I look straight ahead, and they’re there in the corner again, but when I go to look they’re gone. I’m only certain of a few things at a time, and then my mind flows on to something else. This is not necessarily a good thing by any means. It’s just the way things are.

The music kept flowing, one amazing song after another, and my fingers typed wildly on the key board. I wrote 2,000 words in half an hour. There had been so much energy in City Council.
I watched a sea of people in red explain how they are coming together because of the Occupy Charlottesville movement. I remain neutral, neutrino-like, but I was glad I had witnessed their testimony.

Three years on from the end of my marriage and I have turned out okay, even though I still remain aware of the heartbreak every day. I know it’s all of my own doing. There is no one else to blame but me and everything is going pretty well as I continue to experience my place in this universe.

Earlier in the day, I had run eight miles today, and this made me understand I am qualified to live this life. I am qualified to make it through the day, and I have a right to my own happiness as well. I’ve been in a funk for three months now, more or less, and now I’m ready to put all of that behind me and move on because I feel I’ve had to have paid my dues by now, right?

I feel like a veil has lifted and I’m thinking clearly again. I have to pay careful attention to my mind to remain positive. I put a lot of energy into a relationship that was always doomed, and there are still live nerves that need to be forgotten. I fished and fished even though I had no bait.

And then James started playing a sad song from a Motown singer, one about a relationship that’s ended, and I could feel her soul as if it were there in the C&O with us. I reflected about how
someone who put their heart and soul in a song, or put a heart and soul in a song they wrote, and then it got produced into something human that lasts. An idea that dances, an idea that pulses with thought and emotion and soul. How does one create this sort of thing?

I wish I knew. My own songwriting has hit a dead end because I seem not to be able to get off the improvisation. I need a collaborator, but that person is hard to find. Maybe I should be more open and just open up to more people but time is the main factor.

There are things to say and I’d better hurry up and start to say them. There are things to say and my time on my earth, my time alive, is finite and I’d better take more risks, not less.

Three years gone, and I’ve lived. I’ve lived and loved and made good choices and made bad choices, but generally I know I’m in the right place, doing the right things to get back to normal, to finally find some sort of happiness. I’ve always thought that happiness had to have something to do with the feeling you get when someone loves you, but that’s always been fleeting. So much of the pain of the past thousand days has been related to the fact that I did love someone, and that someone turned out to not be able to love me. Or, broke free of the love because of how I was, and she had no loyalty, and why would she? Second marriages end all the time. We all find ourselves broken as we float higher and higher into the sky, chopped up by the giant blades.

Now I want to try my best to get better about figuring out how to position myself for the future. It’s a future where I have two school age children who need my guidance and encouragement and love.

And then as 2:00 am approached, "Cross the Breeze" by Sonic Youth came on and I knew all is well in the universe, because those particular vibrations fit so well in the geology of my life. Hearing that song, in that place, where I danced to old time music last Christmas with friends I've had to said goodbye to, I was reconnected to the first time I heard the song in 1990 as a kid in high school. Kim Gordon blaring out “Come on down to the store, you can buy some more, more, more” and I remembered that.

I remembered that even on the day I die, hopefully in my nineties, I’ll be able to hear this and I’ll be able to feel alive. I’ll be able to take some meaning from the way this pulse sounds, I’ll be able to know where I was at every single moment I heard this song.

Thirty-eight years of life, and I refuse to believe that this isn’t the way it was supposed to be. This doesn’t have to be second best. I have to remember that I have a choice of how I respond. Do I want this to be a life in which I lament what happened, or do I want to have a life where I get to decide what happens next? Do I want to be scared, or do I want to be excited and passionate and willing to accept new pulses, new ideas, new concepts?

I know the answer. It’s staring me right in the face. It’s all around me in this cloud of sound and fury, signifying everything, signaling chaos and energy and dissonance and distortion, everything I love.

Sadness evaporates.

Towards the end of loss

I am so tired of feeling sad all the time. I'm doing something about it.

I am resolving to think different.

Three years now since my marriage ended and I've moved through so many chapters. If I look within, I can't quite remember exactly what the actual cause is for this feeling in my stomach, this wrenching, and the constant battle to stop fixating.

The memories of loss are so sharp, and echoing so much these days. This happens every fall, when the leaves go down exposing the sharp realities of wooden networks. Everything laid bare, everything so spare.

I do not hate loss and I do not hate sadness. I've been around on Earth now for long enough to know that these things go in cycles. I get dizzy and the sadness fills within me. This is part of being human, and I acknowledge that I am human publicly in the hopes it might actually move me forwards the light.

11/21/2011

Positive things about Court Square Tavern

For the past two months or so, I've been focusing on all of the negative aspects of my second job at Court Square Tavern. What had been a fun place to work has become incredibly stressful. Part of this is structural, and some of this is related to a realignment of my love life.

But here I am by myself behind the bar, ready for another night of working here by myself. I will take care of everything, and I am sure I will leave it somewhat messy when I leave here in eight hours or so. I will try my best to get everything cleaned up, but I'm sure there will be something I don't do right, so I can await a nasty note from the general manager.

I will shrug off that note, because I know that I will make people happier as a result of coming in here. That's the first positive thing I can say about Court Square Tavern. I enjoy the customers who come in. I know so many people, and so many people know me, because I am the guy who runs this place on Saturdays. I will listen to interesting people talk about politics, and I'll jump in. That's the bartender's right, you know.

The second positive thing is that I'm being paid to be here. I'll keep the tips and this will all go directly towards my children. And hopefully, I'll help creating this community, this place in Charlottesville that is just a little different than any other place. It is not perfect by any means.

***

Three hours since the above. The dishwasher is broken and spewing water through a broken pipe. That means I'll have to wash dishes in the back, which throws a wrinkle into working by myself. Earlier, I got through a small rush and cooked a few things, which is always difficult.

I've stayed positive so far tonight, and there are only three and a half more hours until I can clean up.

***

The night ended up being one of the best in a long time. It was very relaxing, enjoyable, and I got to see an old friend who was back in town.

The places we spend the most time in should be places of joy, and not places of stress.

10/24/2011

The power of exercise

I'm always surprised somehow by the power of exercise to give me hope.

I've had a rough couple of days. I've had another stretch of bad nights at Court Square Tavern brought on by a complete lack of support from management. I'm contemplating moving on because it seems like it's time to do so. The situation is more or less untenable and there's no end in sight unless I simply walk away.

And that thought creates so much stress in me that I can barely think straight. I need the money, and I suspect if I do leave the tavern could end up closing for a while. So I've not made up my mind on that yet.

But, I have made up my mind regarding one thing. Exercise is the most positive force in my life. All morning I have had nothing but darkness in my soul and I could not fight off the negativity. But, once I got on the stationary bike to do my warm-up, I could feel it lift. I could feel me becoming myself again.

I went to the gym at 2:30 today, just as a whole group of young school children came in from Buford. I wasn't annoyed at all. I was inspired and worked out even harder, though I had to break my routine a little because it was so crowded. But, I worked out harder, and felt great, and when I left the gym I felt happy again.

I recommend exercise for anyone feeling the pinch of stress and depression. It's hard sometimes to fit workouts into my life, but worth it.

10/10/2011

Evacuating the sadness

The cloud descends on cue.

I know by now what makes me sad. I know the symptoms. And I know not it is best to not blame others and to deal with the storms that hit by myself.

Sometimes the cloud is so thick and so large that I feel like I'm going to buckle. Thankfully I've worked hard to keep my legs in shape so I can stand up straight.

Music helps. Hearing a favorable pattern over and over again reminds me that I can make my own noise and that will make me whole.

Running helps. Knowing my body is conditioned to travel through the world at a fast pace fills me with confidence.

But today, I must continue on with work even though I am currently in the clouds. It's conditional. I know exactly why I'm sad, and I will keep the reason to myself. I feel, though, I have to write something down in order to distract myself from the cloud.

And then it passes, or at least thins out.

10/03/2011

In a hallowed place

I'm alone in City Council chambers, waiting for photographs to be pulled off Charlottesville Tomorrow's camera. I have one image I need to illustrate tonight's story but this isn't my usual computer so I'm having to wait until it pulls all of the images into Photoshop.

It's almost ten. Council ended early tonight. I filed right at the deadline and now I'm waiting to finish up my night. I don't know what I'll do next.

I could go out for a beer and to hear some music, but I did that last night.

I could go to my house, but I really don't want to. My housemates are there, and I suspect they may be in a fight and I don't want to go there. It's not home.

Court Square is closed tonight, so I can't go there. The owner may be there, but I don't really want to hang out with him. Likewise, I don't want to go to my office because I spent the end of my evening there last night once a dinner party concluded and I had to take care of a few things before the work week began.

So, I'm sitting here and I'm not in any particular hurry. Council is in closed session to discuss the cost-share agreement for Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority capital projects.

How many things have been decided in this room? I've been witness to so many milestones in my four and a half years of reporting on local government, too many to name and I'm not too terribly interested in writing about those. How many people have I seen here, waiting for their turn to speak?

My favorite time was on a night I didn't come here at all, but covered it from my house. A woman and her friend got up with a guitar and sang a song to convince the city to adopt a peace resolution. I remember joking with reporters about Flicker the Flame, the mascot designed to raise awareness of how dangerous natural gas can be if it's not used properly.

I'll likely spend a lot more time in here. I enjoy covering council, as I enjoy all of these various things I do in the name of reporting the news. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but for the most part 21-year-old me would be glad I'm doing what I trained to do.

How many more stories, how many more characters, how many more themes? I guess the only way to find out is to keep writing.

10/02/2011

The problem (and bounty) of Sundays

Sundays are the ones in which I basically try to recover from all the other ones, and also I have the most amount of time with my children.

This Sunday, however, I only slept five hours because I worked until quarter til three and then felt the need to watch a television show. I worked that late because a wedding party ascended to the Tavern at 12:45 and I had no other choice but to show them a good time.

Which I did. The pictures will prove this.

But, this post is about Sundays. Sundays are the days that are so out of synch with the others. On the one hand, I should be recovering from the long week. This should be the day in which I clean, organize and strategize for the coming week.

It never works out that way.

Tonight I had in my mind that I would finally paint my room to get rid of the pink walls that my ex-wife placed there when we moved in. It's not fitting for a bachelor to live in such conditions, but I've only recently noticed this. I also only just recently realized that it's possible to purchase paint.

But, Sunday was supposed to be the day I was going to actually apply color to the walls to launch my bachelorhood into a new era.

With half an hour to go, dear reader, did I actually do this chore?

Of course not.

I went to a dinner party.

I went a fantastic dinner party with my ex-girlfriend. That in itself is somewhat problematic because our relationship is an impossibility, but yet we still see each other all the time. Sundays have been the days we've spent together for quite a while.

I wasn't going to go. I had intended instead to paint those walls. I felt that was the only way I was going to be happy. After all, I have destroyed my bedroom in order to prepare for the change and wanted it over. My next guaranteed night off is next Sunday so I thought I would get the painting done.

I even canceled, but reconsidered when I thought instead it would be better to socialize and have a great meal with friends.

So, that's Sunday for me, in a nutshell. Practical things that should be done take a back seat to living life. The details? They'll hopefully take care of themselves somehow. I will go to bed tonight in a disjointed room lined with blue tape.

And, that's okay. I learned a ton about Hawaii, about trees in Albemarle County, about New York, about journalism from someone who left the practice. I lived. I lived. I may not have painted, but I lived.

10/01/2011

An October surmise

The white space beckons and waits to be filled with something that might approach meaning but won't actually touch it. There's a gap that has to be filled and I'm no longer sure I know how to do so. Where would the aggregate come from?

In other words, I no longer know what to write when I open up this conduit to the world. There is so little happening in my life that's worth writing about, at least not to a general audience.

But now it is October and I want to challenge myself to something new in anticipation of another challenge that shall commence 31 days from now. I am going to post to this blog once a day for the next four and a half weeks. This task shall serve as a pacemaker and shall force me to open up my eyes and ears. So many of my synapses have collected dust.

Let's set the scene. I've been prone to negative thinking of late, but have been fighting off the dark forces with as much energy as I can muster. I've carved a new place for fitness amongst the hours I must provide information or provide drinks to people. I'm not quite where I was at the height of my physical training, but I am on the right track and sacrifice a lot of social time in order to take to the streets or walk to the gym.

I'm also plugging away at the guitar, and going through hours and hours of recordings in the hopes of seeing if any of the ideas I've come up with might be worth something. In the near future, I will reach out to others in the hopes of meaningful collaboration.

At the heart of everything right now is this war between the part of me that wants to revel in the negative and that which wants to blossom in the light. Looking back at my life, I can see this tidal pattern has crushed many of my hopes and dreams.

So I am trying to harness it, somehow, and by enforcing 31 deadlines I will see what happens. What will I have written about? Will I have carved a few more pathways?

8/20/2011

At 38, the mopping continues

My birthday was a week ago, and by now the wrapping paper is long thrown away on my 38th year. I'm not quite sure who I will be this year, but I suspect this is going to be a year of personal growth as another ring appends itself to my trunk.

I'm sitting here at Court Square Tavern after a long night of non-stop movement from the moment I walked in until when I clocked in. No breaks. So many people came in, and I believe most of them left happy that they had walked in the door.

I was grumpy for so much of the night, but yet, sitting here now, I'm so pleased I got through it. I feel bad for my co-worker, who bore the brunt of my grumpiness. She's one of my best friends, so I think it worked out okay.

I was grumpy because I'm 38 and I'm at a point where I have to decide if this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, or if I want to move away from it. I love this place, and want so much to be here in some capacity for the rest of my life. I love our history, I love that we're unique in Charlottesville, and I love that people leave here happy.

No matter how grumpy I am during a shift here, I always wind up happy when the people leave and I get my turn to sit at the bar while quaffing a Spaten. No, my life isn't quite what I thought it would be at 38, but it's not bad. I make people happy, and I do my best to make sure my children are taken care of, in the limited way I have in that capacity.

(that last sentence wasn't artful)

And now it's time to go. I have a full day ahead of me tomorrow and I am pleased that one particular thing will happen because it was unexpected.

7/23/2011

On the blistering heat and the visions it may bring

To stand outside at this moment is to stand next to a campfire. As long as we stand here, in this moment in time, we are impossibly warm.

Yet, take a step back and remember that the cold beckons. The heat we feel today shall pass, though it may burn a few things back from the edges. In many parts of the country, it will take a few lives.

We're simply creatures who are somewhat cognizant of our journey through this cosmic soup and today we're all impossibly worried about the heat.

Will our air conditioning units make it through and keep us cool? Will our gardens wilt? Will we manage to survive the walk to our car?

I can remember the cold of six months ago, and I imagine many of us then would have traded that moment for this moment. And many of us now are loudly wishing we could go the other way round.

This summer is perhaps the busiest I have had in my life. There has been no slow-down, no let-up in the information I've had to sift through in order to let people know the status of various road projects that have been raised from the dead. There has been no let-up in the need to stand behind a bar bringing people refreshing beverages, and to make sure the place is clean and well-lighted.

Last summer, it seemed I could relax a little, and I don't remember it being quite this warm. Last summer, I felt that there was still a sense that I was young, that I was foolish, that anything could happen if I just wanted it hard enough.

This summer, I feel impossibly cold despite the temperatures outside. I feel frozen and locked in to my duties and responsibilities. My emotions are secondary to the mission, so I move ahead as best I can.

Soon the heatwave will break, and this crisis will be over. Lollipops will not melt in seconds. Runners will take to the streets once more. The sky will return to a pleasant blue and the yellowish haze will fade into the cupboards of our collective memory.

"This too shall pass" someone important once said, and I don't know the source of the quote. A woman I was infatuated with back in 1996 was the first person to give me that particular thread of wisdom. It took me a long time to remove her from my mind, yet she's still there saying that somewhere in the endless library wrapped up in proteins linked around axons and synapses.

The heat shall pass, and something will take its place. This is the first time in a long while where the heat has seemed to be as much a threat as the cold. The world seems different outside right now, and I'm glad to be sitting here at the bar at Court Square Tavern finally writing, finally putting fingers to keys in order to breathe for a few minutes. I am in the moderate warm here, finally quiet, finally by myself after a long week that still isn't quite over.

Tomorrow is another day, said a heroine in a movie I saw once in high school but never have since, and likely never will again unless my children want to see it and I'll feel compelled to explain to them what it was all about.

On Sunday I will talk to them about the heat, and ask them what they think it means. How does it happen? How do the winds in the high high sky conspire to create these conditions? I do not know, but I want them to know. I want them to imagine that they are the only people on the planet sometimes and that they have to figure out parts of it for themselves. I want them to not complain. I want them not to react. I want them to act and to understand and to themselves explain. I want them to feel a sense of duty to other people, no matter what form their work-life takes.

I am proud I work hard. I am proud I am devoted. I am humbled that there will always be more than can be done, and that I can focus more closely on that which must be accomplished before the electricity that fires the synapses in my brain goes out once and for all.

Now I must go out into the heat, and I will feel it on my skin and I will breathe it in and I will take in the moment as best I can. I will try my best to remember this moment so that in six months I can perform some quantum mechanics mind trick.

And frankly, isn't that what writing is?

7/18/2011

On comics and zombies

Of late, I've become readdicted to comic books.

Recently I discovered you could buy trade paperbacks and hardcovers through Amazon, and so I've spent some cash in that direction. Every day I go to my post office box in the hopes that my latest purchase from Y: The Last Man has come in. I'm disappointed that it has not yet.

The main one, of course, is the The Walking Dead. 

For years, I thought the zombie idea was pretty dumb. Then Shaun of the Dead came into being, and that got me thinking a little more about what it would be like if mostly every human being around me became a threat. What sort of a life would that be like? How would life change?

Yet, most other movies did not really do much of anything for me. The two-hour zombie movie isn't really that interesting, because I'm not nearly as interested in one-off films. I'm much of a fan of watching a serialized filmed narrative.

So, when AMC's The Walking Dead came on, I was blown away. Characters developed over the six episodes, and the cinematography of an abandoned landscape evoked such sadness and loss. Never before had I been so immersed in what it would be like to be in the world of the undead.

Recently I had a dream about surviving the zombie apocalypse. I woke up thinking it was crucially important for me to purchase a copy of the Walking Dead, which began as a black and white comic. And, so I did.

Of course, this came the same week after discovering a web-comic called AMERICUS which depicts an attempt to ban a fantasy novel in a fictional Oklahoma town. One night I came across it when I needed a second stream of information while I processed some audio. I caught up with the entire thing in an evening, and found myself craving the flesh of the comic narrative. And when that ran out, what better comic to turn to than the Walking Dead?

And now I'm less than a third of the way through the saga, which deviates fairly quickly from the television show. I'm always fascinated with the different approaches taken when different media are used for the same story. As an entertainment, I'm riveted by the possibilities.

And, about three times a week, I am having vivid dreams about what it would be like to survive a world in which everyone is out to get me. I should stress, these are not nightmares. These are practical situations where I am trying to avoid threats. I'm finding that I'm much happier when I wake up after these dreams and I'm dreaming better than I've dreamed in years.

And all because I'm devouring an art-form I've generally stayed away from. I'm using my entertainment budget on something that's truly keeping my brain occupied, helping keep me sane in a world where sometimes it really does feel like everyone is out to get me, even though that's just a healthy dose of paranoia.

The other thing I'm reading at the moment is Grant Morrison's All Star Superman, which is such a breath of fresh-air. This 12-issue series isn't set in any particular continuity, but assumes the reader is familiar with the basic concept of the Superman universe. My favorite era is from the Silver Age, when writers concocted ridiculous notions about Superman. Morrison updates all sorts of strange minutiae, such as Superman's one-time predilection towards keeping a museum at his Fortress of Solitude in his own honor. Bizarro makes an appearance, and it am not good. It's been such a treat to read, and I'm savoring every page.

I even spent 30 minutes reading an issue to my kids, who have taken to comics like a politician to soundbites.I think this is a brilliant marvelous thing.

7/17/2011

On working

I just finished a nine-hour shift at Court Square Tavern. There was a party afterwards I could have gone to, but I have to be up early to hang out with my children. I also smell like I've been working.

I have a party to go to tomorrow afternoon, and I'm going to enjoy it, even though I have to write what I would consider to be an important story. I received new information today that I need to put into a narrative. That narrative will be read by thousands of people, possibly more.

But tonight, I'm sitting and enjoying the end of my work week. I try not to do any writing on the weekends so I can have some form of downtime. The tavern is a break from my writing job, but it's still work no matter. I'm paid to be there to bring people what they want.

I'm also paid to think about certain issues so that I can explain them to other people. Hopefully I explain these issues to thousands of people.

These days, I don't seem to do much of anything but work. This summer has been much busier than other ones I've had. I've put all of my personal pursuits behind so that I can do the jobs I need to do.

We're desperately understaffed at Court Square Tavern. There are only three of us who are currently working at night. I've had to pick up more shifts, which isn't so bad because I do my part for the team.

Everything I do, everything all of us do, has a purpose. There's a narrative that undergirds all of it. Working so much without much time for proper relaxation sometimes kicks up so much dust that it is hard to see the bigger picture.

All of us have challenges to overcome. Once we do, another one takes its place. Maybe this is the purpose of being human. Solve what we can so we can get on to the next one.

So, when I sit here late at night when I finally have some time to myself, I have the opportunity to think as the bigger picture resolves itself.

But the best thing about down-time is that I don't have to put my attention on the next challenge at this moment. I can recharge and get ready for more.

7/13/2011

Making sense in a cluttered world

At a government meeting, I can hear bird song behind the chatter of elected official and staff and citizens. I no longer have any official duties here and I'm just listening to people say things in favor or against a particular high-profile project.

I no longer feel the need to write things down. I am hoping this is temporary, but I'm not sure anymore. This tremendous cloud of apathy has settled in, and the winds have stopped blowing.

Perhaps its a form of paralysis. A Medusa has caught me in her gaze and no antidote has yet been found. So, I continue to think thoughts that sail past me into the ether.

I know the reasons why I am stuck, but I can't bring them into the light. I lack the muscles, the neurotransmitters, the chemicals, the animating force.

I also lack the courage. My life has become so leveraged, just like so many people's lives do when satisfying the mortgage becomes more important than living out a dream. The risks are too high to force action.

This is temporary, I feel. Everything I know and believe about myself leads me to think that a new geological era will spring forth. I will hear a melody shortly that will cause the facade to begin to break apart.

Perhaps that melody will sound a bit like birdsong.

6/01/2011

A summer of running?

My mind today was clouded with so many conflicting thoughts about things I should be doing, things I'm not doing, and the thing I definitely had to do in order for work to end for the day.

I don't run nearly as much as I should. I know it's the best of all possible anti-depressants. Nothing overcomes my paralyzing self-doubt than moving as fast as I can for as long as distance as I can stomach.

Time, though, is cruel and I've not been trying hard enough to force myself to get out there. I've come up with excuse after excuse, and I know I am suffering a little bit because of my current lack of motivation.

So, this week I will finally join the gym that's behind my house in order to have an easy treadmill at my disposal. I also want to re-engineer fitness back into my life.

I've given it up in part because I've been seeing someone, and time I was devoting to myself had been transferred into hanging out with her. Now that appears to be over. Or at least, I have to make sure it doesn't happen at the expense of five solid work-outs a week.

I need to set a goal. A half-marathon? A sprint triathlon? A really well-written song? Better outcomes in all of my work-related pursuits? Some sense that things are going to be okay after all if I just work hard?

I don't know. All I know is that I felt fantastic after my run today, the first since last Wednesday. It was fairly hot, a but humid, and I sweat an awful lot. I went four miles or so down to the Pavilion and the bridge.

It still astonishes me that I live in town where it's routine to be able to watch a major music act play from the Belmont Bridge. I watched Z.Z. Top play "Legs" from the back. They didn't even cover it up, so you could see everything.

Running kills my negativity. I ran and I felt awesome because I did something my body needs and craves. I wasn't tired. I wasn't hot. I simply moved through space, kept to my form, and ran without a care. I spent some time in my home.

One of my built-in excuses has been that I don't have the charger for my fancy watch. It's in the back of the car I bought recently, parked behind the dealership. It's still waiting on parts. It has been sitting there for three weeks now and I've been a bus rider and a walker and an occasional bummer of rides.

This has also put a damper on my running, as I've had to spend time negotiating the bus line. That certainly has meant a change in behavior.

So, this summer I want to work towards a goal. I don't know what the details of that goal might be, but I do want to get my miles up, find something to steer towards. Maybe many things to steer towards. Who knows?

I ran tonight, and it was good, and I felt capable.

And that is why I want a summer of running. Who's with me?

5/23/2011

Brief comments on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network

I took a day off today to sit and think about what's going on in my life.

Part of that time meant sitting and actually listening to some of the great podcasts being produced by Michael Bisceglia as part of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. About a year ago, I told him it would be a great idea if someone could help produce podcasts for other people.

And Michael has absolutely hit the ball out of the park again and again. He started with his own podcast, Outside the Box with Mike and Leon. It's a simple podcast of two friends just talking about what they love to talk about.

But, then he started getting serious clients. He snagged Mark Lorenzoni, one of my personal heroes, to record the Runcast. He's helping Chef Craig Hartman plumb the debts of Charlottesville's culinary scene on Chew the Fat with Chef Craig.

He also has podcasts from Jennifer Till, SuzySaid Charlottesville, and Snow's Gardening Center.

My friend Wendy Edwards has a show.

Today, I learned all about doggie diarrhea in a show from the Greenbrier
Emergency Animal Hospital
. Not necessarily pressing today, but now I know more than I did before.

This is the thing. Michael has a way of knowing who will pay to have a podcast produced, and the trick now for all of us is to figure out how to create an ecosystem in which people can find this stuff easily.


For now, dear reader, I implore you to find us on the Facebook.

5/14/2011

Another Saturday in the soil of Court Square Tavern

Sometimes I joke with my customers that I'm in purgatory at Court Square Tavern. I was supposed to have tonight off, but that's just not how it works. And, I can't afford to take Saturday off, except on rare occasions.

So I sit here by myself listening to music while waiting for the first customer to come in. I can't fully give over to the writing because anyone can come in at any second.


I actually hid a few minutes ago because a pair of elderly couples poked their head in the window, and I just didn't have the energy to go out and retrieve them, to turn them into my customers. I'm not ready yet, and they seemed needy and my cook isn't here and I just didn't feel up to it.

This happens a lot. Last night, as I was closing up, a couple came in, and they could see on my face as they walked in that I was displeased to see them. All of the other tables were about to go, as were the folks at the bar.

But, I cheer up knowing someone new has come in the place. I've met so many people here in my time, and gone through so many cycles of life while calling this place my second home. So, they ended up staying for an hour while I slowly closed up, all of us enjoying our time, chilling out and relaxing. And I got paid to do it.

I just wish there were more people in here on a regular basis. The tavern is not the owner's first priority, and my efforts to try to do something new only occasionally work. To truly build business, you need the owner's full support, and I know I'm not going to get it.


Still, the proceeds of working here go almost exclusively to my children, except my cash tips, which I use to spend on whatever I want. This means, though, that I will miss the party I was invited to. And I'll miss a summer's worth of weekend parties while I sit here, making sure I'm providing for my kids.

This current version of me is the sum of a whole set of choices made, as well as the opportunity costs of not making choosing other paths. I've got a pretty full life, and not a lot of free time to wind down.

Thankfully, though, my second job here at Court Square Tavern is the best possible purgatory. My friends come here, and I make new friends almost every week. That's if people come in, of course. I'm happiest when I'm able to provide people with a happy time with their friends.

I never thought this would be a major component of my life, but it is. I won't leave this place, even though I'm constantly frustrated about how poorly it is run. But, I don't blame the owner for his eyes being elsewhere. He listens as much as he can, and I'm grateful for what he's allowed me to do.

We have a great time here. I feel like Sam Malone, minus the good looks and the years as Boston Red Sox relief pitcher. I feel that running this place on weekends is just as equal a service as the work I do for Charlottesville Tomorrow.

And sitting here waiting for customers is equivalent of sitting in long meetings listening to the decisions our elected officials are making, and the reasons for making them. I'm a good listener in both positions.

So, I choose this afternoon to not see this time sitting here alone in an empty bar as a negative. I may miss some great parties, but in choosing to spend my weekends and free time working, I help make sure my children are being taken care of, and that they are in their preschool.

I choose today to be happy, even though much in my life radiates sadness, because I have learned a lot about warding off negativity. As I got off the bus, I saw that the children's group The Imagination Movers were at the Pavilion. I used to watch that with my kids, and I had wanted to take them, but I don't have my children on Saturdays.

I walked up the steps from the transit center, and tried not to listen. But suddenly I couldn't stop thinking my children. I couldn't stop thinking about how disappointed I am that my life didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. Tears came to my eyes, and I could feel myself beginning to fall away, the same way I did when I realized my marriage was over and...

I pulled myself back. I felt for one second the feeling of total mental weightlessness, and decided I didn't want to drift away from self-control.

I kept walking, my back to the Pavilion as my disappointment bubbled up into a full boil. I tried to think about Court Square, and that I was going to go spend a spring night in a place that keeps me whole, keeps me focused, keeps me going.

I'll see them tomorrow. We'll play music together. We'll read books. We'll have a great time together, being a family.

Tonight, some of my friends will come in and we'll laugh and joke and discuss the events of the day, each other's lives. I'll feel safe knowing I'll pay the bills I got to pay on Monday.

This has been a very stressful week, with every crises in seemingly every corner of my life, except this bar. So, sitting here now I'm trying to think how I can make it better, make all of it better.

One of the crises this week involved a tweet I had posted mistakenly on the Charlottesville Tomorrow feed regarding my frustration about hearing a healthy-looking twenty-something brag about having his food stamps renewed. I wasn't mad at the guy, but I told the world that it rankled me a bit because I easily work 60 hours a week every week.

I know I work too hard, and I feel like I'm missing out on things, but then I remember that I am only in charge of my life - no one else. Tomorrow, when I see my children, I will feel whole in the same way I feel whole now listening to Billy Bragg sing about "looking for some relief" and I know that I'm in the right place, no matter where I am.

I am growing towards something, and I'm frustrated at the moment I can temporarily not see the bigger picture, so focused on the day-to-day of local politics and tavern politics and family politics, all of struggling to figure out the best way to allocate our time, our resources, and our minds.

A couple of pairs come into the bar and sit down, and I bring them drinks, and I'm happy. One of the couples had their first date here in October 1989. So many things have happened here, and it's worth noting, and it's worth writing down, and it's worth keeping.

I'm glad to be a bar keeper.

4/30/2011

Calling all Canadians! We need you at CST Monday night!

That may be the worst title of a blog post I have ever composed. But, I think I'm justified. I'm desperate to get people to come to Court Square Tavern on Monday night to watch the Canadian election returns.

I've not had the chance to do a full advertisement for it, which sounds about right given my current life, in which I never seem to find time to fully implement the ideas I come up with. So far, all I've done is create a Facebook event for it, but that's about it.

And, as of this moment, only a handful of people are coming to the event, and I'm a bit concerned that it's going to be a bust. Which is a shame, because I actually have an interesting idea behind wanting to have a public place for people to watch Canada pick a new Parliament.

I lived in Calgary, Alberta, for a year from 1999 to 2000 while my girlfriend at the time was doing a post-doctoral fellowship. We talked an awful lot about parliamentary politics, which was fascinating to me. Jean Chr├ętien was Prime Minister at the time, and everything was very different than it is here.

For one thing, there are no set elections. They can happen at all kinds of intervals, and in this case, there's an election because the House of Commons approved a no-confidence vote against him, forcing a vote.

After I left Canada, I pretty much forgot so many of the details of what it was like to be there. But, every time there's an election, certain memories come back to me.

I listened to the CBC, and an occasional presenter to this brilliant show one was Michael Ignatieff. Now he's the head of the Liberal Party, one of several parties hoping to come out on top Monday. He'll only become prime minister if his party gets at least a plurality of votes. Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader and current PM, is hoping he will as well.

I have no idea what the polls are, but I'm planning on posting a lot about this in the next day or so. I want to be on hand behind the bar to talk about what's going on while people perhaps have conversations about politics.

I love politics, and am blessed to have the honor of being a reporter who will cover the Albemarle County and Charlottesville elections this year. So, before that happens, I'm curious to see what's happening somewhere else, and to hopefully chat with whoever shows up about what the results might mean.

Canada is so close to us, but we cast it away and pretend like it doesn't exist. I remember the day I moved back home. We drove down from Ontario at Thousand Lakes into New York. We stopped off in Syracuse to fuel up the Mazda I was driving at the time. I bought a Sunday newspaper, and the biggest shock was that the weather map didn't include any of Canada, even though we were 100 miles from the border.

So, back to now, and a time when Canada has also disappeared from my mind, even though my heart has insisted that I continue to have the lyrics to O Canada! memorized at all times. And now, I'm hoping to get people to show up to my bar to watch a little bit of Canadian history.  We're open from 6:00 PM on. It's a rare Monday night opening. Come and chat elections with us!

4/20/2011

On being impulsive

In my driveway is a used sport utility vehicle that I just purchased. I am not sure how this came to be, but I feel pretty good about it. And, I want to continue feeling good about it.

Or at least, I want to feel pretty good about it, because I will be spending more money to own this car. This purchase may not have been the most fuel efficient option and perhaps I should have done more due diligence.

I could easily pick this decision apart and find many ways to be mad at myself. I am sure over the coming days I will hear from people that this was not a good thing to do. They will try to make me feel bad.

But, I have made the decision, and I will live with it. In the short term, I solved many problems, and that was my goal. I could afford it and I can afford it.

Now I have a choice.

I could decide to concentrate on the long-term and write out many reasons why this purchase was not advised, and that will make me feel bad. I could try to find ways to prove the naysayers wrong.

Or I could trust myself, and take comfort in this impulsive decision. Having this new vehicle will resonate throughout my life over the next few months. I will enjoy having FM radio again, as well as a working tape deck. I also remove something from my life that reminds me of my second divorce.

This purchase is a reward for a lot of hard work, and an investment in myself. I will have to balance my money more to make sure I have the additional money to cover this, and I welcome the challenge.

I've always been impulsive and resistant to long-term planning. I have long-term goals I've shot for, but have largely lived my life spontaneously. When I was 20, I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. Nearing 38, I am a newspaper reporter, but I'm also so much more. And, it's delicious.

I am here in this contemporary now because an impulsive decision I made back in 1992. I was in my second year at Virginia Tech, There was an activity fair at Cassell Coliseum and I didn't even really want to go. I had enough going on, with a full schedule and 12-hour a week job at the dining hall.

But, I met some folks from the Preston Journal, a weekly tabloid paper that came out every Monday. Some guy asked me if I wanted to work for a newspaper, and of I said yes. I had never previously considered a career in journalism.

I knew as soon as I talked to the staff members there that I was going to work for them. And, I stuck with it, and within a few months I was the paper's managing editor. A year later after that impulsive decision, we went twice-weekly and I had no choice but to work hard to make it work, even with a 12-hour delivery job for Backstreets Pizza. A year after that, I was in the office because the twice-weekly gambit failed and ended up in our collapse. I got a call from Rick Mattioni at WVTF asking if any of us would like an internship, and suddenly I'm an intern radio producer.

Okay, sure, that's all professional, not personal, but don't the two really blend together for each of us in the end? We just live a life, and professional and personal are just labels we use to help compartmentalize. At the end of the day, we're just ourselves.

I tend to have a hard time making decisions, but at key moments in life I have made snap decisions that changed everything. Somehow, I like radical change that alters everything, and it's nice to change things around. Even though sometimes, that radical change is not nice for everyone.

I've been complaining a lot about something needing to change, but I know at 38 that I can't afford too many changes.

It is my hope that altering this one detail about my life will at least make things a little more interesting.

And I don't want to over-analyze this one. I want to simply say to myself that I did it, it's done, now enjoy what's good about it and fix what's bad about it.

This awesome now I am living through is the sum of many impulses that changed the format of my life. I've changed life genres so many times now that it's hard to keep count.

I'm going to give myself a bye here. There are many reasons why this was maybe not the best option, but it's an option I took it and I am sailing down that mountain into glory.

Also, it's really nice to drive a vehicle that doesn't have a decaying paint job, a broken headlight, gets 10 miles a gallon, and has a trunk that doesn't shut. I have at least overcome those annoyances.

Bring on the new ones, I say!

4/05/2011

On non-posting

I seem to have an inability to finish blog posts these days.

My dashboard in Blogger has 5 drafts from the last month or so, ones I've not been able to finish. One was on the tsunami, another was on working all the time, and another was about the United Nations workers murdered last week by an angry mob in Afghanistan who were enraged after people in Florida sentenced a copy of the Koran

Because I did not finish them for the intended audience, they don't seem to have as much resonance. I did not commit them to the public eye because they were not complete thoughts and for whatever reason I decided to stop.

Usually I stop because I write a little too personal and I realize I can't send it to the general public. Perhaps I'm saying something that might get misinterpreted. Most days I feel like there's something grand I should be writing, but I don't get very far with it because something else has to be attended to in a more immediate fashion.

I often dream up gimmicks I could do to train myself to have a public voice here in this little space. For instance, I've thought about trying to get by on only $100 in gas this April. So far I've put $20 in, and I need to fill up again. I'd like to find a way to drive less and to see how else I might get around. This might push me to get a bike, for instance. That would be interesting to write about, right?

Or, I could try to document my attempts to write songs, which seems to be happening even if I don't take it too terribly seriously. But, I'm a bit too timid to put myself out there, and I'm not going to write about my ambivalence.

I'm likely going to write about gardening, which I'm trying again this year. My dining room area has been transformed into an impromptu nursery, as I'm trying to grow vegetables again. Yesterday, I took time off from running to spend an hour digging a second plot. I don't know what I'm doing, but this year I'm going to enlist help from friends to get suggestions and tips. I will open up to what they know because I want to learn new skills.

I'd like to do the same with other musicians, because I'm definitely not growing without other people's input. I would like to find a group I could play with, but that would mean a level of commitment I just don't have at the moment.

And that's okay. I'm content to play improvised stuff, and to fumble along as I learn more and more about song structure. I think I've improved, though I still have problems trying to figure out how to put all the pieces together.

One of the blog posts was about the fragmentation I feel, with all that's going on in my life. I tend to work as much as I can, but every spring I start to feel like that's the worst possible way to live. Yet, there's so much to pay for these days.

I wish I had completed the one about the tsunami, but I don't feel comfortable talking about that sort of thing. I have this idea of what I want to say so vividly in my head that I don't want to muck it up with language.

These days I've been feeling like everything is about to change again. Our system of politics is going to continue to evolve into a much more volatile struggle between two competing visions. I'm not paying enough attention, but I feel it's necessary to begin doing so.

I guess I could also write about the tavern, a place where I've begun to have fascinating discussions with people about the world. I'd like to think we're living up the vision I've had for CST, which is to provide a spot where people can have great beer while having a nice conversation. But, to write about the tavern and its occupants would betray a certain level of confidence I have in them. The last thing I ever want to do is write about people I know in a public forum.

At the bottom of it all, I'd love to write fiction, to figure out how to deal with ideas in stories. I have this vague sadness in me a lot, and it always seems that I can keep that sadness at bay if I just write things down.

So, in the spirit of moving things along, I'm going to hit send, without an edit, so there might be a few things off here and there. But, so what? Who said it had to be perfect?

3/26/2011

One after the other...

Two years in a row I've run the Charlottesville Ten-Miler. Today I ran three minutes slower than I did last year. I've not been able to train. I spend most of time doing some form of work to pay for the various things I must pay for, and I have generally chosen to rest up than lace up my running shoes.

But still, I ran eight minute miles through the streets of my home, along with 2,500 other people. Among that number were my best friend from growing up and his sister. I've not seen them for many years. Both of them took up the sport recently, in part to memorialize their late father, who ran like the Dickens while we were all growing up in Lynchburg.

I've never gone to a race with a friend before, never stood on the line chatting while waiting for the signal to be given. This seemed to make time go faster, and for a moment I was a bit worried that I wasn't going to be able to do my pre-race meditation.

I want to notice everything about everyone else. I want to know who my fellow reporters are, and what has made them decide to spend large amounts of time training so they can run as fast as they can.

Last night, people kept asking me at the Tavern why on earth I would get up so early to run. I generally don't answer them straight. Sometimes they're just expressing that they would never dream of running.

"I only run if I'm being chased," said one person. I smiled, because I might have felt that way three years ago.

I woke up an hour and a half before the race start, and it was cold and dark outside. No regret.

At 7:15, the dark gray sky had slowly given way to hints of a blue and orange morning, fitting as we would run through the University of Virginia. Jeffry and I stood there, chatting about zombie movies. We could barely hear the PA system as we stood in the crowd waiting the chance to move our legs.

I didn't run growing up, and neither did Jeff. I didn't do much of anything physical after a disastrous season playing soccer in 3rd grade. We didn't win a single match, and I lost interest. I got fat as I got older.

And then, somehow in my mid-thirties, I became a runner. I had to, in order to get past a terrible emotional disaster. I ran to stay ahead of my dark thoughts, to get away from the worst in myself.

Two years later, I'm well ahead of those things, and it's become a lot less important for me to get out there.

And then I run a race, and remember that's why it's so important for me to find the time to get the training in.

I want to compete with my running friends, want to do the best that I can possibly can. I want to watch all the strides. I want to hear people's different techniques for breathing. I want to learn how to push myself faster, and to cheer on those who are both better than me and not as capable as me.

The adrenaline of a race is powerful. I always manage to run faster. Unfortunately, that doesn't always work out because I have on occasion caused myself to become sick by going outside my skill level.

I didn't do that today, but I came close. I figured out a pace I was comfortable with, and stuck to it.

So, I was pleasantly pleased when I got to the last mile and I had a ton of gas left in my tank. I picked up the pace for a bit and then hit the Wall of Impending Vomit and slowed it back down.

And then I saw someone I first met ten years ago when I was still working for WVTF Public Radio, and I was getting paid to do this radio diaries project. She was there on the side of road cheering me on. As I passed her, I thanked her, and then thought about her, and all of the other bystanders I knew along the way who cheered me on. At least ten people I know told me I was doing a great job.

So, to honor them, I dug in. With about a quarter of a mile to go, I started sprinting. I had this moment of perfect clarity, this sense that I am this person, this person who has survived to this point. I made a mad dash towards the line, hoping to come in under 80 minutes, and it was the most fantastic feeling in the world to cross, under my power.

I didn't make it in under 80 minutes. I was sixteen seconds over that target, but that doesn't matter. There's another race coming up soon. Want to run it with me?

2/27/2011

Statistical data on my complete and utter disconnect with the Oscars

A Citizen 2,840,201,999 investigation into my movie-viewing history has revealed an astonishing fact:

I have not seen a movie that has won the Academy Award for Best Picture since 2003.

Of the 75 films nominated for the industry's highest award since 1998, I have only seen 23.33% of them.

This isn't about snobbery. It's about recording my absent-mindedness, and trying to figure out if this means anything about my life.

I spent the last half an hour trying to write up a spreadsheet to calculate that information. I had to check my memory against the data, so I used my reporting skills to tally something up about myself.

I have seen none of the movies nominated for Best Picture in the last five years, and I'm not sure why.

The last one I saw was Little Miss Sunshine in 2006. I managed to catch Good Night and Good Luck on video from 2005, Sideways in 2004.

The geologist might question why I saw two nominated movies in 2003, two in 2002.

And they might wonder why I managed to see 4 films from 2001, 3 from 2000, 2.5 from 1999 and back to 1 in 1998. Surely, there must be a reason.

The writer in me has suggestions which might explain why this has happened, but I won't say anything publicly until I've had a chance to make sure my report is accurate and can balance all sides in the hopes of finding some sort of universal truth. Rest assured we're on the case.

Some days I'd love nothing more than to sit with my magnifying glass and inspect the patterns of my life. I've increasingly whatever temporal treasure I can find to invest in writing, or invest in attempts at singing or making music.

I have very little free time, and going out to the movies is something my schedule just doesn't seem to permit. My free time is often spent cleaning or hanging out with friends, but there isn't that much free time.

Yet, it doesn't feel that I'm too busy. Both of my jobs are incredibly interesting, even if they have me playing the role of observer for a lot of the time. I'd guess I worked about 70 hours this week.

But, I feel like I'm swimming in narrative. All around me are stories waiting to be written, songs waiting to be sung. So, when I do have free time, I'd much rather be filling it with my attempts to add a little something to the record that doesn't involve local government or Court Square Tavern's bank account.

Which means I don't see movies. Another weird item is that I've never seen a single screening at the Virginia Film Festival. When would I go? I work pretty much every evening, but that's not a complaint at all. I feel very fortunate and I come in contact with so many interesting people each and every day. I feel fully invested in my community and thankful I've been handed so many opportunities.

So, I'm not bothered at all that I'm not up on movies. It's just not something I do, and I really don't think I've missed too much. I've not seen a movie in the theater for two years now.

And, looking ahead at the constraints of my two-job lifestyle, I'm not sure my Oscar statistics are going to go up any time soon. But, I'm sure I'm going to keep looking back to back up my theories about why Oscar and I have had our falling out.

In the meantime, I'm going to try to see some of these films, but I have this terrible tendency to fall asleep if I'm not doing something or experiencing something.

I am willing to accept that this is just a call for help for my friends with DVD players. I am willing to have an intervention.

2/12/2011

Thoughts from an empty bar

The dishwasher spins its magic and cleans glasses that contained beverages that took people into different versions of themselves. It's the last batch of the night, and comes from the last remaining people from this fairly busy night at Court Square Tavern.

I'm beat. It's been another long day, and I didn't do myself any favors by going to Fellini's the evening before. My friend Nick dragged me up to sing a version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and I believe there's a picture floating around of that. I had hoped to sing "Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young, but my friend wanted to leave before that, so it didn't happen.

Two years on, this is my life. Soon it will be three years on and I won't remember what it was like before. At this point, I don't remember what it was like before.

I think, though, that I've dug myself into a hole of sorts. I tend to be the kind of person who expects the worse all of the time as a defense mechanism. And so I tend to put myself in situations where the worse is going to happen because it's what I expect.

I did not expect that my life at 37 would be quite like this, but you know? That's not the important question anymore. My life is much more interesting and complex and layered and delicious than I ever imagined it would ever would be.

I'm sitting here drinking a Spaten in my favorite place on Earth listening to music I recorded two months ago trying to figure out if any of it is any good. It's blasting over the tavern's stereo system, and then I'm going to go home and play more. All of my friends are out tonight, and I'm not with them, and that's okay, because tomorrow night is the big night of dancing, or so I'm told.

Yet, underneath all of this, is a deep sadness due to things I simply can't control, and certainly can't talk about publicly.

So, tonight I'm alone in my tavern, listening and thinking and writing and existing and remembering that I am alive and I am in charge of my destiny. I want my children to be proud of me, even if I'm not in their daily lives at the moment.

We're all alive. It's all happening. Now. This is it. Pay attention. Now. Do it and be it.

1/26/2011

Seven minutes of fast writing to prove a point, plant a flag

Thoughts before a meeting

More than anything, I'm proudest that I tried to keep my head up, even when I was being torn apart inside. I'm glad that I got on the treadmill and started running, knowing that the best way to kill the pain was to use it as fuel.

More than anything, I'm enamored now of life on every level, even on the days when I drift through clouds of sadness. I know they will always break, and I know how to read my weather patterns now.

More than anything, I'm so happy to be alive, so happy that my best days, our world's best days, are all ahead of me.

More than anything, I am confident that I shall define for myself who I am, and that I will do a better job next time, when I fall in love, of retaining who I am, and what I need.

More than anything, I am glad that I am able to see how my life unfolds like a novel, with a series of characters just like myself, each of us humans just trying to make the best of it, trying to keep our heads up all together, all of us dancing in a life that we may not have expected.

More than anything, I am honored to have had the chance to dance with many people this year, glad that this life of mine has become something I've always wanted it to be.

Adversity makes us who we are. The absolute worst thing happened to me, twice, and I have soldiered on, explored new versions of me, and I've tried to stay true to me. I've challenged myself, accepted that others' views of me are valid, even if I disagree with them.

I am thankful and grateful and confident that I can negotiate conflict with a sense of calm and humility.