My evolution of running (aka jogging)

I was talking with a good friend who is going through a rough patch on Friday night and he had just gone running and I launched into a helpful little monologue about how important exercise is to his emotional well-being – healthy body/healthy mind – and all that good stuff and it didn’t occur to me at the time that I had not done any exercise myself for months.

I’ve been a runner, which is a serious misnomer, since I was about twelve or thirteen. It’s a misnomer because what I do is not running, but jogging mostly, sometimes just glorified walking. Unless bears are chasing me, or cops (“the fuzz” as they were known then), I really don’t ever actually run. So yesterday and today I did run (jog), inspired by my own words of encouragement or embarrassment for having talked so glowingly about it while not actually practicing what I was preaching.

On my run today I was thinking about the early days and remembered the first time I set out to run for running’s sake, but it wasn’t exactly that even. You see, I had the great fortune of growing up on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, which is a lake smack dab in the middle of the city, part of a string of lakes actually that include Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles and the other one, the name of which escapes me and always has for some odd reason.

Back in those days, and this would have been around 1975, very few people ran for the sake of running. Kids who ran track or cross-country in high school ran and other athletes ran but mostly on or around the field. You could sit on a Saturday in summertime and see few if any runners circling the lakes. There were certainly some, but nothing like the throngs that now pack the paths like some circuitous mass journey to Mecca.

I remember my buddy Ben Johnson, two doors down, and I deciding to “run around the lake.” I put that in quotes because we would never have said, “Let’s go running,” and then run around the lake. In the same manner, no one would have said, “Let’s go painting,” when in fact they wanted to “paint the shed.” To “go running” came about later, I don’t know when, at least within my worldview. We weren’t running for running’s sake. We were running to run around the lake.

So we put on our crappy flat-footed Converse All Stars, which at the time had not yet been inducted as the quintessential icon of alt-rock coolness by our neighbors (who lived closer to Isles than Calhoun), The Replacements. They were simply all we had. Pumas, Adidas and Nike were just about to explode onto the scene, but at this point it was the Converse, or a shoe we called Bumpers, or P.F. Flyers to choose from, as far as I can remember. And they all came in only black, white or blue. Mine were blue.

And then we ran around the lake, which set into motion a lifetime of running (jogging, glorified walking) for me. It’s cool to distinctly remember a day almost 40 years ago that was only unique at the time in that we ran around the lake, and yet profoundly changed my life.

I’m still a little old school (although I definitely wear better shoes) in that I tend to be in sweats – real sweats, gray or blue or whatever, the same style as I would have in 75, rather than any sort of tight, bright, modern, expensive running gear. I honestly cannot imagine my butt in those “pants” if that’s what you call what looks like spray-on nylon. Nor do I think anyone else should have to imagine it, let alone actually witness in real-time bouncing down the street.

I often wonder standing at a red light who looks more ridiculous: Me in my baggy sweats looking like a Rocky wanna-be on his way to sprint up a long flight of stairs punching at the air, or the tall, skinny, rainbow-ed Oompa-Loompa next to me running in place, apparently unable to stop moving lest his legs turn to ice beneath that thin veneer of elastic something or other. It’s probably a wash.

Speaking of ridiculous, I spent a month in a smaller city in Serbia, Jagodina, back in the 90’s. For some stupid reason I got it in my head to go running. Now at the time, this was a place where personal health and exercise had evolved to mostly smoking, drinking and fighting. I took off in purple shorts and a t-shirt (I had not at that time seen a single human being in shorts throughout Serbia despite the fact that it was in the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit) and ran by some guys who said something in Serbian, which I did not speak and no longer remember. When I got back I told the people who I was staying with what the guys had said and they laughed. “Fucking purple underwear.” I didn’t run anymore in Jagodina.

Vladimir Hitler (okay, that’s over the top)

Kudos to the Russians for the Olympic intro. God bless ‘em, yes, it was an extravaganza, as it always is. Beautiful and poignant and then, ultimately, please make it stop, super bowl halftime style. But I think they made some recognition of their own not so perfect history, which was good. I’m not sure even we juggernaut Americans would have done so. Some recognition of a not so Pollyanna past which they’ve been prone to as Soviets and now new Russians. Something tells me we would have draped a flag over all of our own ugly past. But there’s still the 50 billion dollar price tag (what happened to that?!), which the Chinese would have parlayed into an Olympic games and then maybe Disney Beijing. Putin’s a megalomaniac, no doubt. And this is his moment. But is it enough? I don’t think so.

But let’s watch the games!

Sadly in the end, Putin will do what Putin wants to do. Shit, Hitler had the Olympic games at his peak and look how that turned out, how history sees it, Vladimir.

But let’s just watch the games!

I Resolve to Tweet More?

I struggle with the social media landscape only because it moves much faster – quicker – than I do. My mind is old school. I prefer a conversation or an article and find a tweet or a post lacking. I know that’s the point – the whole 140 character limit and all that with Twitter, particularly – but sometimes it feels like someone walking by the house, opening the door, shouting “Check out this great article on winter bicycling!” slamming it and leaving. “What? Who? Where?!”

But I’ve made it a resolution to embrace it as best I can. Hashtag that, my friend, and wish me luck.

I dig resolutions. I dig New Years entirely. It’s an opportunity to do a time-check. Feels a bit like flipping that Etch-A-Sketch over and giving it a good shake. (RIP Etch-A-Sketch inventor, Andre Cassagnes, who passed in 2013.) I can make grand statements about what I plan to do better, more, less and so on. And sometimes, though not often, they stick, a little.

Every year I resolve to be more focused, follow through, drink less, run more, yell around the house less, hug the kids more (impossible, they’d be smothered), eat out less, eat in more, drink less (that deserves a second nod), pay more real attention to my lovely wife, fix up the house, fix up the yard, …

And I feel hopeful, like it might happen – or some of it. And why not? It’s a brand new year! The perfect opportunity make today the first day of the rest of my life! (That’s from an old commercial, I think. God bless the marketers.)

I told my kids this morning that 2014 is “The Year of Daddy.” They said, “No, it’s not.” “The year of listening more to mom and dad!” “Nope.” “The year of being nice to one another!”

How about that? That’s a good one for us all – politicians, priests, family, strangers, friends and foes. Let’s resolve to be nice, accept differing opinions – we can disagree without demonizing, tearing one another a new one, lying, cheating, bitching, complaining, or even blowing up a teeming marketplace.

Less horrifically in the particular instance, but plenty rotten in the aggregate: What inspires someone, say, BlueBlood42, to feel the need to rip into, say, LadyFirst63, in the comments section of some article? BlueBlood42 hides behind a pseudonym and attacks another pseudonym. The result is simply, well, there is no result. Resolve that crap out of your life.

I lift my beer (struggling with the drinking one) while burping up a little Taco Bell (ditto eating better and eating in more) and say to one and all, Happy New Year.

Stay tuned for my next tweet. It will be momentous! Although frustratingly short, at least, for me.

Let’s first look and then think

Let us all stop.
pay the attention that the rest of the world deserves. travel.
puts our own life into some sort of matrix with the rest of the world.
We have our one percent, god bless em,
and then there’s the true reality of our
one world.
I once read that one in seven people on our planet is a Chinese peasant.
Think
create some semblance of equality, fairness and decency
in the most basic of all human needs – the care of ourselves,
our loved ones
and our families’
health.

Perspective from the Mini Van

I was driving the other day with my daughter in the back seat when she asked, “Papa, are we rich?

I looked around me at the cracked and worn interior of our ten-year-old rusted Mazda Protégé, glanced at the 126,000 miles on the odometer and noticed the always-on engine light. My mind wandered to our other 10-year-old mini-van, our 1,100 square foot house in need of windows, siding, and roof among other repairs and thought about the piles of debt our family had, laughed a little sarcastically, and said, “No, Olivia, we are not rich.”

Then it dawned on me and I added, “Actually, we are rich.”

“We have our own home with a roof over our heads, that we can keep 70 degrees when it’s 30 below and 68 degrees when it’s 100. We have more than a thousand square feet in there – plus the basement! We have two cars that run – with just two drivers in the house. We have a pantry, refrigerator and freezer that are bursting with food – there’s no room to put anything more! We get new clothes constantly. We have so much stuff that we get to go to the Goodwill twice a year and give a box or two away to people who are not as rich as us! We have computers, an iPad, smartphones, internet access, and cable tv.”

I was just getting started.

“We have a brand new street in front of our house, and roads to take us anywhere we want to go that are lit at night. We have free parks, schools, and libraries all around us. We have wonderful family and great friends who love us and we love back. We have amazing neighbors. We have our own business that provides six darn good jobs. We are surrounded by great little Vietnamese, Thai, East African and good old American restaurants that we have enough money to enjoy!”

“Yeah, there are a lot of people with much more than us and many with much, much more, but there are a hell of a lot more people on this planet with much, much less! We are blessed! So, hell yes, Olivia, we are rich!!

I half expected some applause to accompany my goose bumps, but when I looked in my rear-view mirror, my little girl was just gazing out the window of the van at the world passing by.

“Pretty sweet, huh?” I asked, and she turned, met my eyes in the mirror and smiled.

“Yeah.”

Joe Six Pack is Dead – in Praise of a Nine-Pack

Joe Six Pack was something other than a real man.

The kind of guy who would flinch. Step aside. Protect himself

when the damsel’s distress got ugly.

Sure, he was buzzed, but also cognizant of his own mortality and I think a drink should conjure immortality.

Save that girl.

Step in front of the bullet.

Or you’re just Joe,

just plain Joe.

And a twelve pack is a bit much, ain’t it? A six pack gets you up the chair lift,

but a twelve pack will lead you                    astray,

a ski stuckinarut,
and off the peripheral cliff,
crashing
onto the rocks
below,
the end of Joe.

Much too much.

A nine-pack would give you the gumption to get up the hill and then

drop

down

over the lip,

through the moguls and flats, over the jump into a Steamin’ Streamin’

(daffy, tip-drop, daffy, if I recall),

then back into moguls, dips, flats, and whatever the mountain had to present.

Represent, mountain, it’s our challenge now.

So let us all call unto the brewers, the big boys and the small taps. Give us a nine pack, we ask,

or give us death – or trepidation. We need neither, but the sweet spot in between, the middle, the fiddle-de-diddle.

Let us fight the tyranny of the six and the twelve together.

Plenty of Time for Kale

I bought some Pizza Rolls for a cabin outing that did not get eaten so we brought them home. Tonight the kids had already had dinner but were still hungry so I heated them up and put them on plates and gave them to them. I went upstairs for something and came down and my eight-year-old daughter was actually facing away from the television and had just one left on her plate. I sat down next to her and she was biting into a roll and said earnestly, “Oh, my god, these things are amazing.”

Look, I know, I know that from a modern michaelpollanated parent, this was sacrilegious and in fact probably evil. The end of society. Child abuse, damn it! However, I am sorry, but she’s absolutely right! And don’t think the Pizza Roll people didn’t employ the best science in the modern world to figure that out. Fuck kale. Pizza Rolls rock.

We all have to learn to eat better, or most of us, some of us already do, and really, who likes them? But the rest of us do have to eat more veggies and fruit, control our portions, exercise more and all that. But, man, Pizza Rolls? You can bring the greatest chef known to man, who nowadays probably has a show and a line of food things to sell you, and let him or her do their absolute best – give me the tastiest, most delicious, dish you can muster, and really, Pizza Rolls will kick your ass.

I know yours is BETTER with the capital B, but Pizza Rolls are just plain amazing. And shouldn’t life be amazing – at least, occasionally?

There’s plenty of time for kale.

the republicans have been robbed!

Part of me wants to say “Hip Hip Hooray for Rob Portman!” The republican senator from Ohio came out yesterday in support of same-sex marriage – which is gutsy in a party that generally thinks homosexuals are deviants, the earth is seven thousand years old, and all you need are bootstraps to be as fat and happy as Wall Street CEOs.

It seems Rob’s son came out to him and that is what changed his mind. This is all still laudable, but when you are unable to have empathy for any sort of person until there is one of those sorts of people in your own family you might be lacking a sufficient amount of empathy. I’m not even sure empathy is what we feel for our own children considering the absolute closeness we feel with them. The sadness and joy we feel when our own children feel sadness and joy seems closer to some sort of Vulcan mind meld than something called empathy.

Either way, I’ll go with “Hip Hip Hooray!” And add, “Welcome to the enlightenment, the 21st century, and common human decency!”

We’re just buggin’ the shit out of each other

It started out with stopping by, droppin’ in and poppin’ over. Cave to cave. Cabin to cabin.

Then we learned to write with letters and along came letters written to drop in the box and on to whomever.

The telegraph turned letters into tweets – instantaneous and terse.

The telephone turned everything else upside down, inside everywhere – voices over lines of metal – spoken in Spokane heard in Japan. Conversations across the universe. There was nothing more to say. And when they got into homes, there was nowhere to hide. They had you in your house. The perfect crime.

Then phones divided into cellphones and proliferated. Popping up everywhere, public spaces, intimate places. Joined at the hip. Cool shit. The crime perfected.

Emails hail down upon your desktop, your laptop, iPad and cellphone. Damage occurs.

But that was not enough – we’ve rebuilt the telegraph from man to man, phone to phone. Tweeting everything. Leaving out nothing.

We’re dropping by all the time.

We’re just buggin’ the shit out of each other.