T-Minus One Day

One more day until I leave, but I'm already on vacation. I'm out of the routine now, as I go through my house cleaning and organizing before it's time to catch the bus downtown so I can run some errands. I already feel like I can relax a bit and truly thing about what's about to happen.

I'll be in England for a full week to see my son. I've not been over in four and a half years, and this is a chance to see what his life is like. I love being in England, and I plan to write a lot about the experience, either on this blog or in one of my notebooks. I did so back on previous trips, and I plan to do so now.

Ever since I left Court Square Tavern, I have been writing a lot more, mostly freehand while sitting at bars. Part of what I write is observation about what's around me. I also write out my journeys on the bus, trying to capture a little bit about the mundane to sharpen my skills a bit.

My son is 8 now, and is only about 5 inches shorter than me. I've not seen him since August, and I am going to see him for the very first time at the Cricket Club, where he'll be at some sort of a camp. I'm staying at a place in the next town over, in a pub on a canal. I've not stayed at a pub since I was 11 or 12 but now I'm about to, and it's going to be fantastic to have all of these experiences back there.

I'm not packed yet. Not even close. I've put a few things in piles and I figure I will get to all of that in the near future, perhaps before tomorrow. I have my passport collected. I have most of my important essentials ready to go, including the power adapter.

I've put the £1 and £2 coins in my pocket and they're mixing nicely with their American cousins. I love the magical moment where currency suddenly starts working. It's such an odd feeling when I'm in England and American money looks odd, smaller next to the British stuff.

For now, the event hasn't happened yet, and I'm still in the somewhat normal, having run the Charlottesville Ten-Miler this morning and running it in a much faster time than I would have thought possible. I ran it only a minute slower than last year. It's nice to surprise yourself.

So, back to living this relatively mundane today before heading for a series of days out of the ordinary. I'm really excited.


The Mockingbird has returned

I did not notice the presence of mockingbirds until the summer of 2010. I remember I heard one singing at Hill and Wood this night as I was walking to Fellini's to take part in live band karaoke.

Last summer, I heard one repeatedly in my backyard, singing everything he could all through the night. Every time he sang, I would stop and listen and marvel at all he knew how to sing. With no-one to compete with, that little guy would sing until the sun came up, playing all the hits.

My friend this week told me that this bird was likely an un-mated male who was singing to find a mate. Nothing now seems more appropriate.

I've spent the last hour playing guitar scales up and down. My friend Jeffry told me I should begin playing scales, and I listened. I'd definitely reached a point in my improvised music where I wasn't going to go any further without learning some serious fundamentals of how other people play the guitar.

Since leaving Court Square, I've not felt the need to improvise as much. Or rather, there didn't seem to be any inspiration to make me believe I deserved to play the guitar. Relationships tend to also make me feel like I have something to say, and I'm currently not in one, and afraid to sing too much about the last one.

I'm sure I will, though. I play music to try to get myself to let go, to allow the notes to propel my stream of consciousness into something that captures a moment.

I have one clip that captures the last time I was in Court Square Tavern by myself, on the last night I was there by myself, at the end of a Saturday night. I was to go out with friends, but I had my guitar, and I needed to play. So I did, while I could, and it's the end of that time.

And when I did, I somehow knew it was the last time, so I needed to capture what was going on in my life. So, I have a four minute clip that documents where I sing about the first time I stepped into my ex-wife's house and seeing a picture of her and her wife-to-be, and then how I'm in a place I don't where to be, and then a general song that takes the passion I felt at that moment about wanting to live, about wanting to experience life, but having all of these memories in that place, and then wanting to move past it.

And now it's been a month, and the mockingbird still sings.


Prepping for the return to England

Leaving Court Square Tavern meant I could actually imagine a trip to England. One less thing to cover, one less item to figure out. Now, I'm working out the details of how to get there. I'm sad as I type this because I'm adding the schedule into Google Calendar, and I'm typing in the details of how I will get back home.

And this makes me sad already because on some level I don't want to come back home. I love Charlottesville and don't think I would want to be anywhere else in the United States. I have a home here, in part because it reminds me a lot of England, and reminds me a lot of what I think is best about the United States, as well as the challenges that face us as a community.

But for the next month, I'll be preparing for this trip. It has been four and a half years since I've been to England. I've not seen my son in his home for nearly four and a half years. So much has happened since then, and going to see him became such an impossible fantasy. How on earth was I supposed to find time to go there in the midst of all the chaos that occurred during the break-up of my second marriage?

That doesn't matter now. What does matter is that my fantasy has become real, and I am going to get to experience a good time while I am in England seeing my son, and seeing where he lives. I don't quite know yet how this is all going to take place. I had a dream last night in which I went, and it was a disaster because I had not planned for it.

Now, though, I'm planning for it. I am going to make this real, and it will be an absolutely fantastic time. Henry is now 8, I am now 38, and we are both so looking forward to seeing each other.

So, yes, I'm sad putting the details of my departure from England down, because I know I'll be incrediby sad saying goodbye to him again. I love my son, the one I barely to get to see, with all of my heart. May this be the beginning of a new era of trips back to my ancestral home.

Wait - I'm first generation American. Can it really be "ancestral?"


A new start on running

I was out with friends at South Street last night, and at around 10:30 I knew it was time to go home.

"I'd love to go to the next whiskey bar, but I want to get up to make sure I can run," I said to them. Off they went, and off I went to my home.

This week I signed up to go on the Sunday Sixer put together by the Charlottesville Area Trail running club. I have been looking for opportunities to run socially for a long time and now that I don't have two jobs, I decided to sign up so I went home to prepare.

I woke up at 7:00 am, and wanted to keep sleeping. So, I did, drifting into a deep sleep with multiple dreams. I have incredibly vivid dreams about my real life all the time, and I remember most of them, at least for a little while.

So, I woke up at 8:40 am again, taking every second I could to dream.

But, I knew I couldn't stay there. I knew I had to get out and live a dream.

I drove there, not sure what was going to happen. Our departure point was The Park behind the law school, past Dsrden. I was so thirsty and did not feel like I was hydrated enough. I thought about stopping for something, but I was late and did not want to hold things up. So I drove there, and got to a parking lot on a beautiful sunny morning.

I got out. Three men dressed in running attire were waiting. One was bald with a beard and short and stocky. The other two were tall, lanky, and looked like they could run rings around me. I turned my watch on, and as soon as it synced, we were off on the trail.

I've not run the Rivanna Trail much lately. The only part I usually do runs east from Fifth Street Extended, but it's been closed as the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority have been doing work.

I love running on a trail. You have to pay so much more attention to each and every footfall. There could be a root, a rock, a patch of mud. Your body moves in different ways. A part of your brain kicks in that doesn't need much work if you're just running down a road.

So, there we were, four people off on a Sunday morning run. Kurt, my fellow stocky guy, was right in front me as we took off. I watched his movements to try to anticipate what I should do. Where would his legs go? How would he move through? We set off fast.

I didn't pay attention at all to where I was for the first two miles. I didn't talk. I just kept my mouth shut and tried to keep up with the pace. I didn't even really look at my watch much. I just wanted to stay in the pack, three out of four.

As a person who writes about transportation and urban planning, I knew a lot about the land we were covering. But, while I was huffing and puffing to keep up, I wasn't thinking at all about that. I was just thinking how much fun it was to be out with people running. Footfall after footfall on a nice morning in late winter.

At one point, I had to tell the guy behind me I needed to slow down to catch my breath. He obliged, and we started talking. Drew runs 100 mile races and I peppered him with questions about what that felt like. How did he train? Did he really run straight through? What was it like crossing the finish line?

That experience seems alien to me, but there we were running on the trail together. We went through two tunnels under roads, which felt incredibly urban to me, even thought the rest of our setting was woods.

And then we got to this impossible hill. I was told that on the other side was the Meadow Creek Parkway. I was amazed at how far up we were into Albemarle County, because we were only two and a half miles or so away from our origin. Up and up and up we went, and then down and down and down we went and suddenly we were on the trail built alongside the parkway. We saw lots of people on it, and ran past them, and it was here where I confessed I was a reporter.

And we just kept running, on the streets we had to run to get back to trails. It was one of the best mornings I've had in a long time. I remember how communal running can feel, something I've not really done since 2009.

Earlier in the run I had told Drew, the guy who runs the 100-milers, that I was concerned about the mud because I didn't want to end up with an injury.

"Just go right through it," he had said.

But I was skeptical. I ended my communal running shortly after getting an injury during a 16-mile run.

But, as we came towards the end of the run, I found myself deliberately attacking the mud, feeling the slippery connection between foot and wet ground, splashing mud all over the place. I felt alive! And in those moments where I felt weak and like I couldn't go on, I conquered that doubt by putting everything in perspective. I was being human, doing what my body is capable of doing. Running through space, pushing myself as fast as I could, to keep up with others. I am not alone. I am part of something. I am part of a system of humanity that's been with us since our forebears ran to hunt, ran to escape, ran for survival.

And sometimes, I think, isn't that why I run too?