Friday, October 30, 2009

In the Belly of the Beast

Hey, where is the sky?

After a brutal day of travel, we made it to our midtown hotel. The photo above is the view from our window. In a mad attempt to adjust to the three-hour timezone shift, we'll eat early and crash. L already crashed. He was coughing through most of the night in Phoenix. And again coughing on the entire five-hour-plus flight, causing passengers around us to say, how cute, while ducking their faces beneath their sweaters. Poor tyke. He did pretty well though.

M is trying to follow Greg McMillan's running tips for preparing for a marathon. So far, we are failing miserably. You are supposed to accrue sleep on the days leading up to the race and not worry about the night before. Failed. We were up half the night. Also, you are not supposed to let yourself get hungry. Failed. We rushed to the airport and had no food for the flight. Oops.

We just got some Italian food from around the corner. And filled our bellies with pasta. And let the carbo-loading begin. It was nice to walk the streets of Manhattan, even though it was only a few blocks. I've only been in the city for a few hours, but like usual, I can unequivocally say, I love New York. It's a beast. But a beautiful one. The energy. The in-your-face people. The hidden places. As we slurped our pasta, M and I had our which-city is-better-New-York-or-San-Francisco-conversation for the one billionth time. As always, she argues for SF. I for NYC. And then we drop it. It doesn't really matter. In the end, we both prefer the peaks.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snow and Crayons

Spent much of the past two days with a sick L at home. He is doing better this morning, but still has a cough. We'll see if they let him back in school. Notice the photo above, taken through a window, some of L's creative work. I call it Crayon on Glass with Snow.

We got a dusting of snow last night. Neither M nor I ran this morning. Too cold. And we only need a couple miles because we are in hardcore tapering. Not a big deal. We'll just do some stretching. Start packing. Put the house in order. Tonight we drive to Phoenix. Our flight for NYC leaves tomorrow early. I will tote the computer and try to post a couple things from the big city. Three more days until the race!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Running with the Dead: Final Mix

Okay, here's my final running-with-the-dead mix for the NYC Marathon. I went a little nuts with the amount of detail. Can't help it. M freaked me out the other day when she told me, the NYC Marathon does not allow players. She was messing with me. Headphones are allowed, but frowned upon. NYC is also having a bunch of live bands along the way. So, I'll keep the volume low. And be aware of my fellow runners. And yeah, enjoy the live bands. Still, I need my tunes:
  • 27:05 - Scarlet > Fire (1978/12/31 - Closing at Winterland): M bought me this cd a while back. It is clean and everybody is "on" (even Donna). It's a good starter for setting my pace.

  • 11:47 (38:52) - Birdsong (1972/09/27 Dick's Picks 11): This song keeps me calm and helps me get through my initial breathing issues. I especially like when they sing, "don't cry."

  • 4:43 (43:35) - Cassidy (1976/09/26-28 Dick's Picks 20): A reminder to run by my own design.

  • 9:40 (53:25) - U.S. Blues (1974/06/26-28 Dick's Picks 12): A very bluesy, heavy stepping version.

  • 10:42 (1h4:07) - Franklin's Tower (1991/09/25 Dick's Picks 17):Roll away one hour.

  • 6:18 (1h10:25)- Hard to Handle (from D's collection): Pigpen time.

  • 7:22 (1h17:47)- Bertha (1977/12/29 Dick's Picks 10): Should be seeing the Statue of Liberty to my left.

  • 4:06 (1h21:53)- Friend of the Devil (1972/09/27 Dick's Picks 11)

  • 14:02 (1h35:55)- The Eleven (1969/11/08 Dick's Picks 16): I thought about trying to put this song at mile eleven, but that is silly (unless I'm running way too fast). It started out here and I like it here.

  • 5:41 (1h41:36)- Me and Bobbie McGee (from D's collection): Great cover song. Especially the line, "a marathon's just another word for nothing left to lose."

  • 11:06 (1h52:42)- China > Rider (1977/12/29 Dick's Picks 10): Nice and clean. Short transition. This should push me past the first third, unless I'm dreadfully slow.

  • 6:33 (1h59:15)- Sugar Magnolia (1970/10/31 Dick's Picks 2): An early hopping beep-dah-beep version.

  • 5:16 (2h4:31)- Big River (1975/9/28 Audience recording): Another great cover. Johnny Cash. Likely hitting my first bonk. Cry cry cry.

  • 30:05 (2h34:36)- Scarlet > Touch > Fire (1984/7/13 Audience Recording): This one is speedy and I love the transition. The band seems to be heading into Fire on the Mountain, but going way too fast. Mickey starts thumping. Fire riffs fly out everywhere. And then out of nowhere, the band flips into Touch of Grey. It's unreal. This should push me well over the halfway point.

  • 4:25 (2h39:01)- Greatest Story Ever Told (1981/05/06 Dick's Picks 13): Time for a laugh. Should be in Manhattan.

  • 4:51 (2h44:52)- Deal (1972/09/27 Dick's Picks 11): Another great Dead song that I never talked about. . . Oh well. There's too many.

  • 13:17 (2h58:09)- Eyes of the World (1977/09/03 Dick's Picks 15): Wake up to find that I'm in the middle of New York City.

  • 17:09 (3h15:18)- Lovelight (from D's collection): Pigpen Part Deux.

  • 5:33 (3h20:51)- Goin Down the Road Feelin Bad (1981/05/06 Dick's Picks 13): And this is where I should really start feeling bad. Near the twenty mile mark. I haven't run over this distance in training.

  • 8:03 (3h28:54)- Mississippi Half Step (1973/11/30 Dick's Picks 14): Over the final bridge. Across that lazy river. . .

  • 5:13 (3h34:07)- Playing in the Band (1971/8/6 - Audience): an early no-jam version. I really dig this song, but I've never been a fan of Playin jams.

  • 19:14 (3h53:28)- China > Mind Body Jam > Rider (1974/06/26-28 Dick's Picks 12): Hoping to be in Central Park.

  • 11:05 (4h4:33)- Truckin (1974/06/26-28 Dick's Picks 12): Running in a typical city involved in a typical daydream. . .

  • 4:30 (4h9:03)- Ripple (D's collection): If my cup be empty, do some final hydrating.

  • 10:05 (4h19:08)- Not Fade Away (1977/12/29 Dick's Picks 10): A cover of the Buddy Holly song. If I'm doing awesome, I should finish here. . .

  • 4:51 (4h23:59)- Casey Jones (1969/11/08 Dick's Picks 16): Another song I never talked about. Nice running tune. . .

  • 11:44 (4h35:43)- Terrapin Station (1988/3/24 - Soundboard): If I'm doing okay, I should finish in Terrapin.

  • 5:23 (4h41:06)- The Wheel (1984/5/23 - Audience): Another fast one from 1984. They must have changed their drug cocktail this year.

  • 14:11 (4h56:17)- Franklin's Tower (1990/9/19 - Soundboard): If I'm doing crappy, I hope this song brings me in. Otherwise, no more Dead. My player will switch to the Dandy Warhols (and maybe I will hallucinate that I'm in Portland). This version of Franklin's is from a Madison Square Garden show. . . Come on NYC. Keep me under five hours. Show me some love!

That's it. I can make copies for anyone who is interested. Lemme know. Although, you may want to wait to see how I do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Head

I picked up L from montessori yesterday and he was a total pook. The kid was dazed and moving in slow-mo and running a temperature. Seems low grade. And not swinish. At least so far. Fingers crossed. The last time we went to NYC, he was sick as a little dog. And I had to carry him on my back for most of the trip. Hoping he gets over this by Thursday.

Of course, now M and I are in complete paranoia mode. Swallowing handfuls of vitamin C. Mixing up antioxidant cocktails. Washing our hands every other minute. M is worried that she will get the bug on the day before the race (like last time). I feel like it is a certainty. Also my sinus infection is creeping back and I'll likely hit the antibiotics again. Tis the season.

Anyway, we carved pumpkins the other night. L and I made a skeleton-pirate-monster thing (see photo). Because of the marathon we will miss Halloween in Flagstaff. M spent some time looking for a kid's party in the NYC. Of course, there are tons. Hope the kid feels better. The marathon itself is on November first, the day after Halloween. Serendipitously, that day is also a holiday, celebrated with great zeal throughout Latin America (and in parts of the US). And what is the name of that holiday? The Day of Dead. Cosmic, eh? I couldn't have planned it better.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Trees through the Forest

A week until the marathon. I'm feeling better, but how will I do? Shrug. No idea. It's not like I have a fuel gauge on my forehead. My mind-body connection is not that refined.

And what about M? If she does poorly in NYC (or is forced to drop out), the long-term consequences will be dire. M will get angry. She will visit more p.t.'s and doctors. She will train even harder. And look for another marathon. Chicago? L.A.? Cleveland? Who knows. And the worst part. . . I will likely get roped in.

If M kicks butt in NYC, I don't fair much better. Her madness will envelope everything. She will glow. Sparkle. Bounce. Beam. She will ponder the possibility of better times. And imagine beating the local Flag runners. And, alas, look for another marathon.

Basically, for me, it's a lose-lose! That said. . . I want her to do well.

Yesterday we did one final big run. Since we are tapering, we lowered our mileage to a half (thirteen plus miles). We ran in shifts, like usual. M set out first, taking Mundo with her. I left an hour later. The weather was placid.

The woods were full of runners, so I didn't expect to see any wildlife. I ran Soldier's Loop, adding on a few miles from M's path to Woody Mountain. Mostly, I kept my eyes on the trail.

Even though it was warm, the sky held hints of winter. A large ufo-shaped cloud hovered over the peaks. Snow was on its way. Soon it would be near-impossible to run this trail. And while I was running it, I started actually missing it. Especially the trees. A few of the large pines had become familiar to me. They were elders. Great and silent advisers. Highly evolved life-forms, well versed in the art of standing still.

I've said it a zillion times. I'm not a runner. But just maybe, I could be a trail runner. Man, I love these pines. Tiger-striped. Towering. And touchable. Not that I'm planning on it (because I'm not). But if I die. Bury me here.

Anyway, my run went fairly well. I did 10:30's. And zoned out for most of it. Of course, I have no idea how to double it for NYC. This is the great mystery of marathon training. You cannot know how the body will do. Even in the micro-second before the race begins. It's impossible to see four-plus-hours in the future. There are too many unknowns. All I can do is listen to the my tunes, maintain my pace, and see what I see. The world of a marathon runner is very small. It is a short distance. Existing mainly between the body and the road.

As I ran the urban trail, I saw a number of squirrels. They hopped around the trees. They inspected various items in the tall grass. These are Albert's squirrels, native to the Rocky Mountains (and the Colorado Plateau). They are distinctive for their tall fuzzy ears, gray coats, and dancing white tails.

I stopped to watch a pair of them. And managed a quick photo of one. The pair seemed to be circling each other. Maintaining a perimeter. A small, secluded space. They both kept up a serious pursuit of pine cones. Seemingly unaware of each other. Until I got too close. And stepped on a twig. Crick! They scampered up the same tree.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Running with the Dead: Box of Rain

Running with the Dead: Box of Rain
Result: Negative
Best Line: What do you want me to do, to do for you to see you through?
Link: '72 version with some actual vocal harmony

The more I listen to the Dead, the more I appreciate Phil Lesh. The bass player was trained in both classical and jazz. His rhythms were surprising. And not only does he stick with Jerry, at times he runs circles around him. Also, I'm beginning to think that Phil was more of a menace than the rest of the band. He would often divert into a new jam, merely on a whim.

Box of Rain was Phil's most famous tune. It was one of the few numbers that he sang while touring with the Dead. I like the song (especially Hunter's lyrics), but it doesn't work well for running. Phil's voice was spare, earnest and without tone. That's fine for this song (which happened to be about Phil's dad dying from cancer), but it fails to uplift during a run (duh!). By the way, according to Hunter, a box of rain is a symbol for the earth. He considered using ball of rain, but it didn't sound right.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hand-me-downs: Bloks

M, who has been running well lately (maybe too well. . . she has been trying to go fast again), has been obsessing about the weather next week in NYC. She checks her iphone every ten minutes. So far, it looks like the weather will be fine. A little cool perhaps, in the 40's or 50's, but definitely tolerable.

Also, she bought us a bunch of Clif Bloks for the race. It may or may not be smart to ingest some of these sugar-packed carbs in the middle of a marathon. They won't stop the bonk, but they may take the edge off. Many people don't bother. Others use jelly beans, hard candy or pralines. The sports bar companies like to market their own special goos. They spike their recipes with electrolytes or caffeine or some other supposedly useful chemical. I enjoy the names of these carb packets: power gel, gu, relode, pocket rocket, bloks, shots, blasts. . . All of them sounding as if they will turn you into a liquid-fueled missile. I'm not sure how seriously to take these goos. I'm more concerned about the reentry, than the launch.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Omni: 3/24/88 - Atlanta, GA

So yeah, in college, during the Touch of Grey craze, I did manage to go to one Dead show. The ticket stub is above. I was attending college in New Orleans when a friend of mine, E, who had been magically transforming into a tie-dye-wearing, incense-burning, born-again-hippie, right before my eyes, invited me on a road trip to Atlanta. Sure. Why not? Of course I would never do this sort of thing on my own. Given my sedentary nature, the idea of hitting the road to see the Dead was unfathomable. Impossible. Loony. It would be like signing up for a marathon.

Now, I could tell you the gonzo version of this story. This would involve DEA agents, a red corvette, a bag full of pharmaceuticals, the Georgia Highway Patrol, a number of coeds from Emory University, and a box full of grapefruit. . . but, um, that's not what this blog is about. And trust me, it's not that interesting. And besides, my friend E, who I haven't spoken to in months, would certainly say, as your attorney, I advise you to keep your mouth shut. So, um, I'll just talk about the show. . . (Okay, maybe I'll mention one silly thing that happened).

Anyway, here was the set list:
Set 1: Touch of Grey, Walkin' Blues, Candyman, Queen Jane Approximately, Loser, It's All Over Now, Far From Me, Cassidy, Don't Ease Me In
Set 2: Mississippi Half-Step, Looks Like Rain, Terrapin Station, drums, Truckin', I Need a Miracle, Wharf Rat, Turn on Your Love Light
Encore: Black Muddy River

It was a typical show for the late '80's. Nothing stellar like a Ripple or a Dark Star. Still, I was happy. They played Wharf Rat, which was one of my all-time favorite Dead songs. And the second set blew me away. I had never heard Mississippi Half-Step, Looks Like Rain, or Terrapin. All three stuck with me, the melodies reverberating in my memory for some time after. But enough about the music. The most interesting thing about that Dead show was the crowd.

Okay, I'm no idiot. I realize that much of the zaniness of the Dead could be attributed to drugs. But I promise, something else was at work here. This crowd was way beyond zany. They were fanatical. Possessed. This show was like a mega church service. And this wasn't your mom-n-dad's religion (or maybe it was?). The two-set format, with its drums and space, its slow numbers and fast numbers, its rising and sitting. The concert was abundant with reverence. Ritual. And rebirth. Somehow these good-old rock-n-rollers had taken the hippie culture, born in San Francisco in the late 60's, and dragged it kicking and screaming, all the way to the 80's. Here met a giant party of the holdouts. And their thousands of new recruits. A feast for the no-strings-attached. A final training ground for the armies of the dead. Sure, the culture was a pathetic shell of what it had been. For decades the hippies were mocked and marginalized. Commercialized and bastardized. And it's leaders were now on life support. But onward they marched. Sang and danced. Smoked and drank. Wagged their fingers at authority. And formed a buffer from the norms. It was a safe-haven for the wasted and a bubble of non-conformity. And every night the band played, the Grateful Dead resurrected it.

Something amusing happened to a few college friends after their first Dead show. They changed their majors. They altered their style of dress. A few stopped going to classes. One guy, I did not see for three months. He dropped out of school and hit the road with the Dead. Using his parents money, he followed the band for the rest of the tour. Smart decision? Er, who's to say? But this was the effect of the Dead. Obviously, I was too practical for this sort of thing.

So anyway, here is my one funny story from that concert. After the show was over, my friend, E, and I needed to meet back with our party and find our car (this, by the way, is how most funny stories about dead shows begin. . . compare to, once upon a time, or it was a dark and stormy night). So there we were, wandering around the bowels of the Omni, a big enclosed stadium with multiple levels of parking garages tucked beneath it. And needless to say, we were not, all there. I won't describe how wasted we were. But I will say that it was a wise decision to not make either one of us the designated driver. The parking garages under the Omni were endless. Or so they seemed. And after the concert let out, it was a circus. Hundreds of dead heads were meandering around in a similar predicament. We kept running into the same lost people. Hey. It was horrible. Find your car? Torture. Nope. After what seemed like an hour (five minutes?), E had a vision. One of the voices in his head told him that our car was one level below. And who was I to argue? So we made our way to the nearest escalator. And we stepped on. And we waited. . . And waited. . . And waited. . . This large snaking steel escalator seemed to be descending over ten thousand feet. Wow, this is taking a long time, I said. E nodded. Maybe we are going all the way to hell? E nodded again. He did not seem too concerned. After an eternity, I looked down at my feet. They did not seem to be moving. I turned around and noticed we were still on the top step. The escalator was not turned on. We had made zero progress. And neither one of us had noticed. . . Gah! I poked E in the side. Hey, this thing isn't moving. We need to walk down. E looked at his feet, shook his head, adjusted his eyes, and laughed. Holy crap. You're right! We both laughed and hurried down the steps.

Okay, that was it. Not too funny eh? One of those, you had to be there's? Sorry. It was funny at the time. And hey, I just thought of something. That was a story about me being stuck. About my less-than-satisfactory mental state. And about my perception of moving much faster to an end state than I really was. Could this be an analogy? Nah. . . Not consciously. I aint that clever.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marathons and Death and Marathons

Yesterday I told a woman at work that I was training for the NYC Marathon. Be careful, she said. You don't want to die. I nodded my head sincerely. I know!

Finally, people are beginning to understand. I started seeing stories pop up everywhere. M heard one on the radio. Somebody else at work warned me about my impending doom. Hey, people. What do think I've been writing about? Or maybe, just possibly, my message has finally gotten out? Am I the source of all this concern? Is my blog doing some good for man and woman-kind? Am I the voice in the wilderness? A prophet? A sage?

Er. . . No. First of all, nobody looks at this stinking blog. And second, some other events caused this wondrous rise in consciousness. Last week three people dropped dead while running a Detroit half-marathon. And according to reports, the cause of death was a sudden realization of their home values. Joke! That was funny, wasn't it? Oh, come on. . . I love Detroit. And Detroit runners. I swear. Don't kill me. Hello? Are you listening, marathon gods?

Anyway, on the plus side, my friend, S just finished the Denver Marathon. He kicked butt. And he is now aiming for the Iron Man. Nice job, S. You are a warrior.

As for me and my pathetic nature, my cold is (knock on wood) slowly going away, and my snot is ebbing. But all this illness has set me back. I've been running less than I should. I hope the downtime didn't zap all my glycogen. I will likely try a half this weekend to see if I have any juice. After that, it's twenty-six-point-two or die. . . Kidding. I'm not going to die. Instead, I'm going to quit. Or cheat. But not die. Please?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Running with the Dead: Terrapin Station

Running with the Dead: Terrapin Station
Result: Positive
Best Line: Some rise, some fall, some climb, to get to Terrapin
Link: A husky Jerry from '88. Make sure you click on Space... not Terrapin. The song list is screwed up.

Since I typically move at the velocity of a turtle, this is a perfect running song for me. For a long time I refused to put it on my player. I assumed it was a lolly-gagger. Also, Terrapin Station contains a big tempo change in the middle (which divides the song into two parts). But, eh, I like the lyrics and this uncharacteristically precise song has a steady, rolling rhythm. The ending is also a lot of fun. It has a heralding guitar that ever-so-slowly dampens and eventually fades off.

Terrapin didn't change much throughout the years. A '78 sounds a lot like an '88. Even Jerry's guitar solo stays obedient (although I'm sure there are exceptions). It is a many-layered tune with each musician's part carefully mapped out. It almost reminds me of a Yes song. Or even early Rush. And the lyrics are some of Hunter's best. If you are a poetry fan, I think I hear references to the romantics. Coleridge and Shelley.

You may wonder why I picked this version? It is an obscure show from Atlanta, March 24, 1988. One of the Dead's few side-trips into the deep south. Well, if you listen close, especially to the audience version, you may be able to pick out my voice. Yep, I was there. It was my one and only Dead show. And one show does not make a dead head. As Hunter says, the storyteller makes no choice, soon you will not hear his voice. His job is to shed light, and not to master.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sun Lit Path

I was sick for the past two days. Not the swine flu, you media freak. . . but something strong enough to keep me dizzy and constantly honking my nose. I didn't change clothes, nor shave nor shower. Just wore a dirty stocking cap and a sweater with holes in the armpits. Looked like a beast that had emerged from a coal mine. At night I hallucinated about man-eating worms and being buried alive in a milk carton. Weird. I know. A song kept playing in my head. The Dead? Nope. Some goth crybaby crap that I must have heard on Sunset Rubdown. Or Peter Murphy. Who knows. What's the sum up? Three days without running. And two weeks until I need twenty-six. Shoot. I'm so screwed.

So it's dawn. M is rosy-cheeked. Dressed like Wonder Woman. Bright. Red, white and blue. She is tapering, but who can tell? She plans thirteen at marathon pace. I'm supposed to do eleven. Huh? Maybe I'll walk to the end of the driveway and hitch a ride back. What does the calendar say? asks M. Dammit. I had crumpled the calendar over a month ago. But M somehow resurrected it. And she is back on schedule. I shrug and wave as she goes out the door. See you on the trail! Yeah, sure.

After guzzling my coffee, I get dressed in all black. Hey, I may as well play it up? I decide to try four miles. The plan: hit the urban trial, head for the first rock, turn around, come home, die. I haven't done a run this short for two months. When I walk out the door the sun blinds me. Bright light! Ouch! Stop it! You stupid ball of fire! Quit! I cower until my eyes adjust. The sky is a bubbling blue. All the trees have their limbs outstretched. The pine cones seem to be singing. Squirrels are holding hands. Birds are making garlands in the air. A neighbor wanders down his driveway to get the newspaper. He gives a big smile. Morning! I pretend not to hear. All I can think about is wanting to kill the guy. If only I had the strength.

When I hit the urban trail, I pass a half-dozen runners, some with dogs. They all wave and give a cheery hello. A parade of yellow and white spandex. Why is everyone so happy to see me? I do my best to mumble something. My speed is close to thirteen-minute miles. My head is pounding. After a mile or two, I see a blue jay. It starts following me. The stupid thing hops from tree to tree. And then it starts singing. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. What am I Cinderella or something? I start to laugh. The world is being absolutely ridiculous. I pull out my camera to try and capture the jay, but the sun is at the wrong angle. I don't feel like climbing through the woods. So, I only manage to get a silhouette.

I make it to the rock without much difficulty. Actually, I'm feeling okay. This over-exposed, optimistic, everything's-okay world is starting to wear on me, though. In the glow, I consider doing five miles. Maybe I'll just go to the second rock? But once I hit Fort Tuthill, the place is like a zoo of happy-go-lucky runners. They all want to say hi. Ugh. I have two choices. Either turn around. Or go up Soldier's Loop, which means doing at least six miles. The blue jay jumps in front of me and blurts something. And then the sun inches up in the sky and hits a perfect angle so that the entire trial is lit up (see photo above). Oh my god. This is preposterous. Is the sun himself (or herself), telling me to take Soldier's Loop? I stop running and shake my head. Fine, I say out loud. I'll do it.

So, I head up Soldier's and add on a few miles, doing a modified loop, or what I like to call Cub-scout's Loop. It is madly beautiful, with the sun lighting the entire trail. Truckin comes on my player. Yeah, you know the song. Go ahead. Sing along, dead freaks. Sometime the light's all shining on me. Other times, I can barely see. Lately, it occurs to me. What a long strange trip it's been. Yeah, yeah. Wonderful. Today, I'm special. I guess that makes me the anointed one.

But now, here is my question. Why today? On the lowest of my low points. On the day when I feel the crappiest. Why now light my trail? Why stitch everything in the cosmos together? Why have the gears of the universe work in sync? Why make everything merry with the magical mystery machine? It's obviously a joke. And not even a clever one. I'm totally being messed with. . .

Anyway, the six miles went slow and easy. When I got home. M and L were getting ready to go see a movie (Where the Wild Things Are). I gobbled down a bagel and told them to wait up. Let me at least shave and shower!.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Running with the Dead: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo

Running with the Dead: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo
Result: Positive
Best Line: If all you got to live for is what you left behind, get yourself a powder charge and seal that silver mine
Link: Mellow '77 version

Even though this song is about leaving the south and heading west, Mississippi Half-Step is sort of the Dead's I did it my way. The song is punctuated with humor and peppered with the line, I'm on my way. Also the lyrics refer to a car accident that Jerry Garcia survived in 1960. He had been thrown from the wreck but his shoes stayed in the car. The accident had a profound effect on Garcia. His motto became, either go whole hog or not at all. I think he succeeded. Anyway, this song is excellent for running. I imagine myself running (not walking) across the Queensboro Bridge whenever I hear the line, across that lazy river. We'll see. . .

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hand-me-downs: Computer

This is the desk where I sit every morning, drinking coffee, waiting for the sun to rise, and occasionally typing something into this blog. My brother bought me this computer. For many years, he has either given me a laptop or handed one down. And I'm thankful. Mainly because I hate computers, gadgets, and all things technological. For those who know me, the irony is obvious.

Also notice on the desk, a bunch of cd's and dvd's. This is the source of most of my Dead tunes. One of those dvd's has three or four Dick's Picks, which makes up the majority of my running mix. If you are keen, you will pick out a few of my hobbies. All of which have been put on hold until I finish this damn marathon (and this blog).

I hear M downstairs, rooting around and pouring a bowl of cereal. I'm pretty sure she is going to run. I'm not sure if I will. My sinus infection has turned into a nasty cold. I have a sore throat and a blazing headache. Doubt I can get even three miles this morning. Blah. . .

Thursday, October 15, 2009


M and I have been discussing this article. My sinus infection went away for two days, but after the twenty miler, it came right back. It's churning in my skull now, making cauldrons of snot. Double, double toil and trouble. Not sure what to do. Maybe I will go back to the doc and ask for another round of antibiotics? Or maybe do a CT Scan, like he suggested last time? Or maybe just keep pouring salt water up my nostrils and hope for the best.

M is feeling dandy. Her runs are going well. She has started forward-thinking, planning our 3-4 days in NYC. She found an Italian restaurant where we can carbo load. Also, we have a nanny-for-hire to watch L while we run. We are both a little worried about leaving him with a stranger for five-to-six hours while we transport to the marathon, run, and hobble back to the hotel. What are you gonna do? Hope he doesn't get sold to the circus?

A friend of mine, S, who is training for the Iron Man, will be running his first marathon on Sunday. The Denver. I spoke to him last night. Good luck, S! Don't die at Wash Park (like I did)! Put vaseline on your nipples! And not just for fun.

My Dead mix is done! No more tweaking. I will post a few more song selections and then the final list. Yay!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Running with the Dead: Quinn the Eskimo

Running with the Dead: Quinn the Eskimo
Result: Negative
Best Line: Come all without, come all within, you'll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn.
Link: '86 soundboard

Mornings are getting frigid in Flagstaff. The other day the peaks got dusted in snow. Soon it will be too icy to run. But, don't worry. Flag is a mountain oasis, surrounded on all sides by desert. In the winter, you simply drive downhill. Go a half hour south to Sedona. It's sixty degrees. It has dozens of incredible red-rock and riparian trails. I'll be able to run all year! Oh boy.

Anyway, Quinn the Eskimo is a Dylan song. The Dead loved to perform his songs. Some concerts seemed to be fifty-percent Dylan. Here are a few that they regularly performed: Maggie's Farm, Queen Jane Approximately, Baby Blue, When I Paint My Masterpiece (my favorite). Now I'm a huge Dylan fan, but running to his music? Sorry. It aint me, babe. One problem is his songs tend to be slow. Another, is his lyrics. They cause me to ask deep and ponderous questions like, why the hell am I running? Which I don't need right now.

Quinn the Eskimo was the last Dylan survivor on my player. The song is quicker than most and has a rousing chorus. But this messiah-of-the-north does things to my brain. It challenges my purpose in life. And with two weeks to go until the marathon, I'm not turning around, to see the frowns, on the jugglers and the clowns. Quinn, you just got nixed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Target Practice

I wandered around the house like a condemned man. My body felt lousy. My head hurt. The antibiotics had messed with my G.I. tract, causing frequent visits to the bathroom. My long runs had becomes disasters. Every run now seemed like a death march.

Whenever the topic of the marathon came up, I could only lower my head and mumble, I don't know how I'm going to do this thing. M started feeling sorry for me. She tried to pep me up. You only need one more long run! We'll both do twenty miles. And then we're done. Get four hours. Who cares how slow you are. And only go on flat trails and forest service roads (no more heading down in the canyons). Have fun! Yeah, yeah. . . Thanks, coach.

So we had a plan. I would do M's run. Go through Fort Tuthill, turn up Soldier's Loop, run past the archery range, and head toward Woody Mountain. She mapped it out for me. She also promised to leave little markers. M left at 6:30, taking Mundo with her. It was still dark and a mist escaped from her mouth as she waved goodbye. I ate breakfast with L and put the final touches on my Dead mix. Two hours later, when her pops showed up, I started my run. The sky was clear and heavy. I expected to pass M somewhere on the trail.

As I ran, I became convinced that my sole purpose was to boost M. To run well, she needed to beat somebody. And that somebody was me. I was her target dummy. Her punching bag. Her straw man. My chest was painted with a big red circle. My head was full of saw dust. And my legs were splintered wood. We had a reverse correlation. The more I suffered, the better she performed.

Once on the trail, I hit strong headwinds. My legs ached at mile six. I didn't see M at the Fort and became worried. I felt helpless and bitter. At one point, I thought I saw the ghost of Mundo, a black dog in the trees, but then it was gone. M must have taken a different trail? And then crud, I missed the road to the archery range. I circled back three times, but could not find the turn off. So yep, like usual, I went off trail. And yep, climbed some rocks. And yep, doomed my run.

Eventually I got to the archery range. There were stuffed targets propped against the trees, some of them in the shape of animals. A deer. An elk. A man. I kept waiting for the sound of an arrow to whiz by. How would it feel? To be struck in the arm. Or the stomach. Or the chest. I couldn't see any archers but I had a crazy urge to jump over the barbed wire.

After the archery range, the road split in three directions. I was pretty sure I would go the wrong way, but then I saw it. A cairn. M had built a little rock pile to show me the way. I loved her for it. Even her cairns were cute.

My attitude improved. As I progressed I saw little rock piles every few miles. I followed her path through the forest and onto a forest service road until I got close to ten miles. Then I turned around. If I could make it back without walking, I would get twenty.

At mile thirteen, as if by design, I bonked. My speed slowed to twelve-minute miles. I began to trudge. Crap. I tried to motivate myself, but my mind was a wasteland. Nothing grew from it. I kept noticing dead trees, fallen all around me. And then I could see in the past. I could see them falling. I saw one tree get struck by lightening. And then another. A few of the dead logs stood up and started walking around. Shaking their limbs. I ignored them. Keep going! M's words echoed in my head. Get four hours. Who cares how slow you are. On my player, the Dead played louder and louder. They jumped into something called Mind Left Body Jam. I passed M's final cairn and headed back to the Fort. I was not quit there. A golem among the golems.

When I hit mile seventeen, I got a second wind. Somehow, I had pushed through the bonk. Also I realized I would get twenty. My time was nearing four hours and I felt an odd sense of accomplishment. My pace was horrible, but so what. I had done what M wanted. And hey, maybe I wasn't just her practice dummy. Maybe we were actual running partners. When she was down, I helped her. When I was down, she helped me. How wonderful, eh?

I made a slow loop around the neighborhood and got my twenty. When I hit our driveway, my body felt like dead wood. I had no clue how I'd add another six, but whatever. I trained as best as I could. The tapering could begin. When I reached the front door, M was waiting for me. She asked how I did and I told her. And I thanked her for the cairns. Then I asked how she did. Pretty well, she said with a smile. I got twenty-two. Huh? I raised my eyebrows. I dropped my water bottle. You bitch!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hand-me-downs: Yoga

Yoga is a spiritual, philosophical, physical and meditative practice that originated in India over two thousand years ago. . . Or as I like to refer to it, stretching.

M introduced me to yoga while we were living in Tucson. She of course is an expert and once taught classes. Yoga is similar to Tai Chi and I find it useful for staying loose before long runs. It also forces me to concentrate on my breathing, which is good, since I have so many lung issues.

A couple of bad things about yoga? All the mumbo-jumbo and pseude-science. It's important to find an instructor who is not bamboozled by everything eastern and mystical. Some ideas should remain two-thousand years in the past where they belong. Another thing that bugs me about yoga is the marketing to middle-aged women who are obsessed with weight loss. . . Try to avoid classes that are full of overweight fifty-year-old women wearing spandex who want to spend the whole class listening to 80's music and doing hip openers. Will you be my partner, sweetie?

I try to attend one class a week at the Athletic Club. It's casual and I can drop L off at Kid's Club. The rest of the week, I stretch my hamstrings, quads, and calves on the floor next to our bed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Running with the Dead: U.S. Blues

Running with the Dead: U.S. Blues
Result: Positive
Best Line: Gimme five, I'm still alive
Link: heavy beat '75 version

The Grateful Dead were not a political group. In the eighties they got into some save-the-rain-forest thing, but that was it. During the sixties, they were asked about Vietnam and the protest movement. But the band refused to bite. Both Garcia and Hunter were ex-military. They thought both sides were full of hot air. Garcia believed that by adding to the conversation, they perpetuated it. And by not engaging, the band fostered an underground community. They unified a group of peaceful, non-materialistic, on-the-road, hedonistic go-nowhere's. Yeah, you know, them hippies.

U.S. Blues is likely the Dead's most political song. And that's simply because it mentions the U.S. The song is charming and sarcastic. With lines like, Wave that flag, wave it wide and high; We're all confused, what's to lose? and I'll drink your health, share your wealth, they opted out of any serious debate. Which I think is fine. If the rest of society is acting ridiculous, why play along? Anyway, I really like this song; both the lyrics and the heavy beat are excellent for running. It is a smart song that deftly shows what great showmen the Dead were:

I'm Uncle Sam /that's who I am
Been hidin' out/in a rock and roll band
Shake the hand that shook the hand
Of P.T. Barnum/and Charlie Chan

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Duck Logic

I just read a really crappy biography of Jerry Garcia (Captain Trips). It managed to contain two-hundred-plus pages of shallow twaddle. The book was painfully-sympathetic, easily forgiving photos of Jerry rolling and smoking joints in front of his two-year old. His infidelity, oh well, Jerry was just unconventional. His drug abuse, oh well, Jerry was just unconventional. The thesis of the book, Oh well, Jerry was unconventional; isn't that cool! I'm not saying Jerry was a bad guy. . . and the hippy movement was all selfish and evil, but this book desperately needed some analysis. It really pissed me off. Luckily, I only paid a few dollars at a used book store.

Speaking of unconventional, I have a new plan for the NYC Marathon (plan B). See the blurry map above? See the red dotted line? If I can just make it to mile 17, I'm golden. Around 70th street, I'll pretend that I need to puke and meander to the side of the road. Then I will sneak a few blocks over to Central Park and rejoin the race at mile 24. I'll skip a whooping seven miles! Brilliant, eh? I'll probably miss a timing station in the Bronx, but so what. By the time I come in, a ton of runners will be milling about. Nobody will notice me. Nobody will care, right?

Hey, I'm not a cheater! Plan B isn't official. Not yet, anyway. Yesterday I got some antibiotics which I hope knocks out my sinus infection. Also M helped me generate a number of theories why I've been sucking lately. She is trying to get me psyched up for one more long run. We'll see.

Here is a funny photo I took in the rain the other day. A pair of ducks swimming in a little pond. M is the one in front of course. I'm the one in back, looking around without a clue.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bolder Boulder

The first time that I tried running was six months after a car whacked me. It was pre-M. I had a pin in my leg and the physical therapist ordered me to run. Crap. So every morning I got dressed in my sweats, ball cap and basketball shoes and hobbled across the street to a quarter-mile track in east Boulder. My goal was to finish three miles, no matter how slow. It took me an eternity. I would listen to books on tape. Ulysses. Moby-Dick. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Around this time, I first met M. She was living in Texas and had come to Colorado to visit Y, an old friend of hers from college. I knew Y because she had dated my ex-roommate, K (we had two degrees of separation). Anyway, I happened to meet M when she came to Boulder. And I liked her right off. She was slight, energetic and attractive. Her eyes shut when she smiled. And she couldn't sit still. M created a new path every time she stepped. Walking over the sidewalk. Going down an aisle in a grocery store. Getting out of a hot tub. It didn't matter where. I had a hard time keeping my eyes off of her. And then she was gone.

Boulder isn't a mystical place. It's not even close. The city is an elevated yuppie enclave. Overpriced. Phony. And self-obsessed. But damn, it's pretty. It sits in a misty green valley. It's overlooked by the Flat Irons. And it's separated by a sleepy creek. The valley also comes with a curse. When the first settlers came in the 1850's, Chief Niwot declared that, People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.

After a month of limping around that track in East Boulder, I had this awful notion. Maybe I should train for the Bolder Boulder? This was an annual 10k race and a huge event for the city. It took place on Memorial Day and attracted over 50,000 people, making it the biggest race in the U.S. I'm not sure where this notion came from. I never had desires like this before.

M visited Boulder again, a few months after her first visit. I met her and Y at the ski slopes. And then at night, we went to the bars on Pearl Street. Usually I'm socially inept. And if a beautiful woman is involved, forget it. Yet I felt comfortable with M. We had fun, but her visit was short. She had to get back to Texas. And I was planning a trip to China. Now that we are married, we sometimes try to reconstruct those moments in Boulder. They seem both cosmic and mundane. A handful of uneventful hours, that somehow got recorded, paused and replayed.

Running is an odd sport. It never allows you to stop. Keep your pace! In soccer, you can slow down and hold your position. In basketball, you can stop, pivot and pass the ball. Even in cycling, you can coast here and there. But not in running. Go. Go. Go. Keep on chugging. When I first tried running, I constantly wanted to quit. My mind hated it. It begged me to walk. I could not hold even the simplest thought. And it bugged me. I had always been an over-analyzer. When running, my brain got kicked to the side.

People often refer to Boulder as the People's Republic of Boulder. The city is fiercely liberal and residents scowl at all signs of god and country. I do too, but wow. In Boulder, it gets a little one-sided. Once we drove through town in a borrowed car that was covered in American Flag decals. Big mistake. This was at the height of the 9/11-flag-waving bullcrap. Some yuppie at Whole Foods saw the flags and wanted to spit on our car. He stood over the hood, blabbing and trying to make some point. I rolled up the windows. Gee. Lighten up, Clyde. . . But, hey, this guy was an anomaly. Most people in Boulder are incredibly cool. Maybe that's why Memorial Day is so fun? It's a patriotic holiday, but so what. The city lets its guard down. The Bolder Boulder is a big party. Everybody is welcome. University professors, venture capitalists, ex-marines, weekend warriors, elite athletes, hippy dippies. . . they all come together to run this race. It somehow works.

Either I don't care about my relationships. Or I care too much. Yet when I met M, there was no pressure. We were headed in different directions. Crossing at high speed. We enjoyed a few scattered moments. And then let go. Yeah, there was some chemistry. But so what. What were we going to do? Completely change our paths? It was a lucky surprise when we both ended up in Tucson.

After I finished the physical therapy for my leg, I quit running. It was an easy call. I never got above three miles. I never signed up for the Bolder Boulder. My times sucked. And running on that track had been torture. Also, a bunch of elite athletes were also training on that track. One team was Japanese triathletes. Another was a university club. And another was a bunch of pros from Ethiopia. I would be trudging along with my headphones and they'd encroach from behind, angry and yelling in other languages. And then a coach would cross the field and scream, Outside Lane! Slow poke! Outside Lane! Man, they would get pissed. After pretending not to hear for a minute or two, I would edge to the outside lane, merging like an eighty-year-old in a '73 Cadillac. Idiots.

I didn't see M again for over two years. Shortly after returning to Texas, she had been running on a country road with a friend when she got whacked by a pick-up truck. It was an old guy. He was half-blind. His license had been revoked. M had skull fractures and ended up in a coma. I won't give all the details, but she was lucky to survive. Damn lucky. She had one of those miraculous recoveries that you only see in television dramas. For a while, the doctors doubted she would ever run again.

One of the cool things about the Bolder Boulder is the music. They have bands every quarter mile. The first time I ran this race (when M finally signed me up), I noticed my pace improved every time I passed a band. I loved watching and hearing the jams. It took my mind off the run. Garage bands, old timers playing fifties music, goofy kids with their stereo systems in the front yard. It didn't matter. I dug it all. The fake Jake and Elwood Blues were my favorite. I gave them a high-five every time I passed.

During those two years when I didn't see M, I would get reports from Y. I heard about the accident on the country road. I also got updates on M's stay in the hospital. After a few weeks in the hospital, she left without permission, hitchhiking home. This was typical M. Her stories didn't seem real. At the time, I barely knew her. She was a distant memory. An outline. A blur. I never imagined that we would meet again. Still, I was curious. M's life had been thrown completely off course. She had an incredible comeback. She had jumped right back into school and got her doctorate. Within months, she was running again. Typical M.

The Bolder Boulder takes off in waves every thirty seconds. A couple hundred people in each wave. The elites go early in the morning. The walkers a few hours later. So the race becomes an all-morning parade. The run ends at Folsom Field on the university campus. The stadium opens up the grandstands, so that people can cheer the finishers, even the slowpokes. It's a nice feeling to run into a stadium full of cheering people and then take the final lap. Are they cheering for me? Why yes, they are! I'm great! I accomplished something! Oh boy! I'm an all-star athlete!! Okay, the race is only 10k. But it's nice to pretend.

When M and I were living together in Tucson, we took a road trip to Colorado. It was near Memorial Day and she wanted to sign up for the Bolder Boulder. She had just started prodding me to run. A few miles at a time. Some mornings, I would join her for a junk run to Reid Park in Tucson. We would do the three mile loop around the golf course. So yeah, I was up to three miles. And even more. It was awful and I complained incessantly. But she dealt with me. And I dealt with her. Running simply became something we did together. Often when we ran, M would stop and wait for me to catch up. Even though I was angry and miserable, I would give her the thumbs up. And then she would start again. It became a ritual. So when we took that road trip to Boulder and M wanted to sign up for the race, I said, Okay, fine. What the hell. I gave her the thumbs up.

M only listens to music while she's training. During a race, she leaves her player at home. It's extra weight. In fact, most elite athletes do this. They nix the player. Not me though! I need my tunes. Especially during a race. It helps me think. Or not think. Which begs the question, what do elite athletes think about when they race? I asked this to M. Their form, she said. Oh boy. That sounds fun.

After my leg healed, I decided it was time to leave Boulder. The city felt too small. Too sheltered. And too expensive. I was ready to try something new. I applied to a graduate program at the University of Arizona. And I was accepted. I packed up everything I owned in my truck. And headed for the desert. As I was driving out of the valley though, I knew I'd be back. I was cursed.

We haven't missed a Bolder Boulder since 2005. M signs me up every year and we make the trip back to Colorado. We ran it after she got injured at the Boston. We ran it while she was pregnant. And we ran it while she was breast-feeding L. And yeah so. . . I run it with her. I always suck. And I keep sucking. But I enjoy myself. So, sure. It's possible. Racing can be fun.

What's the best thing about running with M? Easy. It's when we are doing a long training run and she stops to wait for me. There's nothing better than seeing M. It doesn't matter where. I love seeing M. Waiting on the top of a hill. Stretching near a fence. Standing under a tree. Always impatient and checking her watch. But so what. My attitude jumps. I give her the thumbs up.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Running with the Dead: Turn on Your Love Light

Running with the Dead: Turn on Your Love Light
Result: Positive
Best Line: Without a warning you broke my heart
Link: twenty-four minute '71 version

Whenever I see early photos of Pigpen, I can't help laughing. A funny little fat man, who dressed somewhere between a Hells Angel and a sixties hippie chick. Yet he could sing and play the blues as though he was born in the belly of Alabama. The Grateful Dead were a different band when he was at the helm. Pigpen was perhaps born at the wrong time. He was an alcoholic among acid freaks. And he drank himself to death in 1973.

Currently, I am running with three Pigpen songs on my player: Love Light, Hard to Handle and Alligator (thanks to my cousin, D). I'm not sure which ones will make the final cut. Love Light is the best. Whether you choose a Pigpen or Weir version, it doesn't matter. The song zips along. Be careful with the early versions though. They are similar to Jimi Hendrix's Gloria or The Doors' The End, where they can become long drawn-out monologues. And then Pigpen may start talking about some woman he slept with the night before, which not only puts the brakes on the song but also starts me laughing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blind Man's Bluff

I'm done. My body doesn't want to run anymore. I tried a twenty miler again and my legs stopped dead at fifteen. No pain. No breathing issues. No nothing. Physically, I felt fine. But I had zero energy. I was bonked to the core.

Maybe I haven't been eating right? Or sleeping right? Or my sinus infection is eating the motivation centers in my brain? Also, I ran out of recover drink last week and used M's. Maybe that's the problem? Blah. There are too many variables. More likely, my body just sucks. This whole thing has put me in a foul mood.

As for M. . . take a wild guess. Yeah. Eighteen miles. No problem. Using her quick & dirty training method, she maneuvered around me. And accelerated away. After her run, she was shining. Giddy. And excited about planning her twenty miler for next week. Oh, and she saw a herd of elk. Not one or two elk. A herd!

Okay. . . here's a rehash of my crappy run. Why? I don't know. First, it was raining nearly the entire time. Ghoulish gray clouds moved overhead. The wind clicked them into fast-forward. At mile four, I was soaked to the bone. My shoes squished. I kept having to wipe off my glasses. Finally, I gave up and shoved them in my pocket. Screw it. I'm near-sighted so what little remained of my depth perception, I used to watch the trail for rocks. I gave up on seeing any wildlife.

At mile eight the sun peaked out (see photo). I was feeling okay and even wondered if I could do twenty. But then I climbed out of Sandy Canyon and the drizzle turned into pellets. As I stumbled over the rocks, I thought about my running philosophy, the one I wrote up yesterday. How stupid. How cocky. Commit to running? Me? Yeah, right. Every chance I get, I make fun of the sport. And I absolutely refuse to call myself a runner. I also said it doesn't matter if I finish? Huh? Of course, it matters. It's not the journey, it's the destination. Screw all that character-building crap. As my friend S says, I don't need anymore character. I've spent all this fricken time and energy. If I don't finish, I'm a big freaking failure. Duh. That philosophy was retarded.

When I climbed out of the canyon and onto the bluff, I ran to Lake Mary Road. It was raining so hard, I nearly ran into the middle of the street. The pavement was slick. Each passing car sprayed me with water. When I hit twelve miles, I bonked. My head was water-logged. And my attitude sunk. I was tempted to hitchhike home, but I looked so scary, I knew nobody would pick me up. It was here, that I saw the tarantula. A big orange and silver, hairy-backed creepy thing, trying to cross the blacktop. It had like ten eyes, but it couldn't see it was headed straight into traffic. I directed it over to the side of the road with my shoe and took a blurry photo of it.

Yeah, that's right. M sees a heard of elk. I see a nasty little spider. Makes sense, eh? So, on I went. After running down Lake Mary, I needed six more miles to get to twenty. It looked bleak. I had only been running for three hours. If I was going for time (which M thinks I should do), I needed to be up around four hours. But that wasn't going to happen. As I said before, my body was done. I only managed one more stinking mile and started to walk.

On my walk home, the wind was frigid. Eyes of the World came on my player and I scowled. I started hating the song. And then hating the Dead. I was getting pretty sick of them. Truth be told, I am more of a shoe-gazer than a rock-n-roller. If I had a time machine and could see one show from the sixties, well, I'd have to choose the Velvet Underground. My favorite album for five years straight? Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. And my favorite concert? It's not much of a contest. Jesus and Mary Chain, Curve and Spiritualized at the Gothic in '92. I got destroyed in the mosh pit.

Anyway, I'm trying to stay positive. Hoping for sunnier skies. And sure, I still like the Dead. . . I skipped Eyes and went straight to Lovelight. Sing it Pigpen! You funny little man. And okay, fine. I haven't completely given up on NYC. But I can't see how I'm going to do this damn thing.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hand-me-downs: Philosophy

This is just a rambling bambling bumbling attempt at summing up my running-with-the-dead philosophy. Sorry if it is hokey, smokey. First, here is what it isn't. . .
  • Running with the Dead isn't about time. Or mileage. Or your killer training schedule. Or some stupid medal. Or even finishing the race. It's never about something you can brag about. It's a humbling, ego-bashing, embarrassing slog.

  • Running with the Dead isn't about pain. Or masochism. Or some group-concocted survival game. Even though I seem to revel in this aspect of running. Nope. That's not it either.

  • Running with the Dead isn't about proving something. Hell, I already ran a stupid marathon. This isn't about being a man. Or manning up. Or a test of manhood. Or some manly man-like man crud. That was all tossed out the window after M showed me up for the ten-thousandth time.

Okay. Here is what it is. . .
  • Running with the Dead is about committing yourself. Even if you think it is completely ridiculous. Even if somebody else dragged you into it (and it's not your fault!) Even if the prospect of doing so raises a constant and irrational fear of death.

  • Running with the Dead is about finding depth in your miserable life. Even if what you are doing is even more miserable. Whether it's running, crappy work, slave labor, mundane day-to-day bullshit. Whatever. Find something. Anything. Listen to the Dead. Find lost treasure. Dive in. Suck it in your lungs. Don't let go until you find something.

  • Running with the Dead is about doing something by yourself. Alone and by your own design. Even if you end up off trail. For this one, I'll let the Dead speak (from Ripple):

    There is a road, no simple highway
    Between the dawn and the dark of night
    And if you go no one may follow
    That path is for your steps alone

    You who choose to lead must follow
    But if you fall you fall alone
    If you should stand then who's to guide you?
    If I knew the way I would take you home

  • Running with the Dead is about M. Yeah, I can't really generalize this one. It is blatantly personal. But it's true. There is something about our dynamic. And I haven't figured out exactly what. Maybe I will by the end of this marathon.

So there you go... Nothing too pithy. Okay... now back to the fun!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Running with the Dead: Dark Star

Running with the Dead: Dark Star
Result: Negative
Best Line: Shall we go, you and I, while we can?
Link: Cool sixties version

The Dead never played the same show twice. They liked to roulette-wheel through their catalog. Every show was a gamble. Thus, anticipating the next song was a big joy for dead heads. And no song was anticipated more than Dark Star. The song's length, exuberance, and lack of structure had become legendary (check out what this old Dead Head said). The band shelved the song in the early 70's but its disappearance caused great mourning. Dark Star would make a handful of reappearances, bursting out every five years or so, and then it returned for good in '89, a much better behaved song.

Run to Dark Star? Are you kidding? First off, the song behaves more like improvisational jazz than good old Grateful Dead (which may explain why it prompts Charlie-Parker-like fervor). It starts off with a warning riff that seems to say, watch out, or abandon all hope, or buckle in. And then it wanders straight off a cliff. For Jerry worshipers, following his guitar here can be like visiting a holy shrine. When the lyrics finally arrive, if they ever do, they sound like bad college poetry: a mix of haiku, Prufrock and sixties scifi.

So what's the deal? Why all the hub-bub over Dark Star? Hell, I don't know. In the early days, Jerry used this song as a portal. Like a City on the Edge of Forever. Or a Clifford D. Simack novel. The song would warp fans through the entire Dead landscape. Where it stopped, who knew? Eventually it grew into a monster, some versions going on for close to an hour. Which is probably why they had to cut it off. Considering the direction of the band's music. . . more steady rock-n-roll, tinged with country and blue grass, where did Dark Star fit in? Between Me and My Uncle and El Paso?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

End Game

One month away and boy are we excited!

Yeah, right. . . M and I are hobbling around the cold house like a pair of tragic Shakespeare characters. Or maybe the king and queen from the Lion in Winter. Or worse, a pair of nobs from a Beckett play.

M's hamstring felt well after her sixteen, but then did she a small run and carried L up the stairs. Now both of her legs hurt. Yesterday she went to the p.t. and got some more bruising treatment.

My hamstring is tight. I did four slow miles yesterday. My big concern is that I am now two weeks behind. I wanted to do at least twenty-two before the marathon. I fear that if I don't get my mileage up to 22-24, then I won't be able to complete the marathon. M disagrees. She thinks I should do one more long run and then cut it off. Start to taper. Otherwise my body will not have time to recover. I'm not sure what to do.

Here is my conversation with M this morning (thanks Mr. Beckett):

Me: How are your legs?
M: Bad.
Me: But you can walk.
M: I come... and go.
Me: In my house. (Pause. With prophetic relish.) One day you'll be blind like me. You'll be sitting here, a speck in the void, in the dark, forever, like me. (Pause.) One day you'll say to yourself, I'm tired, I'll sit down, and you'll go and sit down. Then you'll say, I'm hungry, I'll get up and get something to eat. But you won't get up. You'll say, I shouldn't have sat down, but since I have I'll sit on a little longer, then I'll get up and get something to eat. But you won't get up and you won't get anything to eat. (Pause.) You'll look at the wall a while, then you'll say, I'll close my eyes, perhaps have a little sleep, after that I'll feel better, and you'll close them. And when you open them again there'll be no wall any more. (Pause.) Infinite emptiness will be all around you, all the resurrected dead of all the ages wouldn't fill it, and there you'll be like a little bit of grit in the middle of the steppe. (Pause.) Yes, one day you'll know what it is, you'll be like me, except that you won't have anyone with you, because you won't have had pity on anyone and because there won't be anyone left to have pity on you.

Wow.... The similarities between running and absurdism.... it boggles the mind.