Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So sorry!

Earlier this week I sent this message to my running buddy Bex, who decamped for California a few years back. For three straight years I have run in the DeCelle Memorial Lake Tahoe Relay on her team each June while staying at her and her husband's house at the lake, Tahoebliss, working my way around the 72-mile lake leg by leg.

Hi Bex,

Since I was injured in October (Posterior Tibial Tendonitis or Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction) at the ATM, I have basically been unable to run. The good news is that as I try to come back, today I was able to run three miles at a 10:20 pace with custom orthotic inserts while wearing a boot-type high-lace ankle brace, which I wear every waking moment now. The bad news is that the run just about defeated me, constant low-level ankle pain aside, as without the frequent stops caused by busy traffic at intersections on the Mall while thousands of tourists on Spring Break streamed by enjoying the Cherry Blossom Festival, I doubt if I could have finished the “run” without stopping to walk. I am so out of condition that I could barely talk to my companion as we ran along.

This was my litmus test for the grueling relay run in a little more than two months. Unfortunately, because of my debilitating injury, woeful shape, lack of ability to train even minimally in the time left and given my current condition, I cannot participate in the relay this year. I never before thought I would be so brought down by an injury.

I am so sorry! I did after all lay claim to Leg Seven for this year. I hope to be a valued member of the team in coming years, but only if I can compete without foreseeable embarrassment to my self or having a predictable disastrous effect upon the team (I realize that blow-ups during runs do occur sometimes, especially given the strenuous circumstances attending this high-altitude race).

(Right: The 2009 team. Bex is seond from the left. On the far right is my former running buddy Ashley, who also cannot participate this year. To the left of her is John, our teammate who passed on a few months ago. The team's 2010 run will be in his memory.) I hope this gives you time to replace me, Bex, and that the Band of Outsiders participates in the race this year and does as well as it is capable of doing. The last three DeCelle Lake Tahoe Relays have a cherished place in my memory, and I hope to be back in the future to tackle the four legs that I haven’t run.


Monday, March 29, 2010

I'm not there yet...

I ran four times last week as I try to come back from injury, short runs that totaled slightly over ten miles. Although all the runs were slow and rendered me shockingly out of breath, it was a start.

I kicked off the week on Sunday with my familiar mile-run around my neighborhood in 8:52. I don't think I could have gone any faster than that.

I ran twice during the week at work with co-workers, each time running to the Washington Monument from near Union Station and back again at a twelve-minute pace. During one of those runs, tourists hurrying to be on time for their scheduled entrance into the monument jogged by us and outdistanced us as we dawdled along.

My best run was two and a half miles around my home town on Friday, a slow, meandering journey up the hill to the school and around some of the cul-de-sacs I used to traverse on my early-morning runs back when I ran five times a week. On Saturday I got a workout of a different sort when I took a pickup truck load of furniture from Not Born to Run's old place in Maryland to her cool new digs directly across the street from the National Cathedral.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Behind the Eight Ball

I have this theory that the perfect blog post is eight sentences long. That's what I usually unsuccessfully aspire to when I start to write a post; four paragraphs, two sentences each, to cater to the diminished attention span of persons weaned on our modern communication age of texting, the Internet and Twitter.

It calls for a killer lede sentence. If by the third paragraph (fifth sentence) you're still setting up the story, go back and cut, cut cut.

I almost always fail. My interesting musings are usually still well underway when I arrive at the eight-sentence mark.

If you want to read killer first sentences in literature (aside from Moby Dick), read J.M. Coetzee. His Booker-Prize winning (1983) Life and Times of Michael K is a good place to start, a classic one-sentence table-setting.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Dreams have been bothering me lately, waking me up out of a sound sleep and leaving me in a fitful state aching with sadness. What does it mean?

This morning my mother was in my house saying how in the present bad economic circumstances, no federal workers have left their jobs (I am a federal employee). My sister closest in age to me was expressing her disgust at this as she walked across my living room, when she accidentally stepped on my black lab retriever who was lying on the floor.

As was his wont when he found himself underfoot, Bert immediately jumped up seeking assurance. He found me and attached himself to me, wriggling his body furiously.

I noticed for the first time how this good ol' boy's black shiny coat was streaked with grey. The poor old fellow was finally showing his age.

It saddened me to see the physical manifestation of Bert's impending date with mortality. But my mom died before the millennium, my sister last visited me eight years ago, and Bert was a family member before my oldest son, who is in his twenties, was born.

Dogs don't live that long, do they? Yet my loving four-legged friend was pressing against my legs, moaning in his need for me to pet him.

Even in my nocturnal state I knew that dogs don't live to be twenty. In my befuddled state I remembered that Bert passed on before I left Colorado to attend law school in 1987.

This jarring dissonance caused me to wake up. I was not happy as I lay awake under my covers in my empty house, eyes pressed closed.

I wish these memories wouldn't come around anymore.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And now, a word from the North

I have a family member whom I respect and admire who left the US to live in Canada. Here is this relative's report on Obamacare, with some non-substantive editing.

I think what was passed is a great start, but I am shocked that the vote was that close. I think it's disgusting those Tea Baggers think health care does not rank alongside the rights they take for granted--like the ability to spew racial epithets and express their hateful beliefs. The view that people without health care are lazy and just need to work harder is ridiculous. Nothing is black and white.

Canadians are mystified why people in the US consider this bill a victory. I have to explain how compared to what Americans have now, it's quite an improvement. But when you compare it to the system here, it still looks rather barbaric. People are also shocked at the level of lobbying that goes on. Here lobbyists are on a shorter leash and no one thinks of the MPs as being in the pocket of some corporation. Until the US elects representatives of the people and not corporations, real change is unlikely, and with the recent Supreme Court decision, things will get worse not better.

I love how the Tea Baggers call health care Socialism but forget about all the other socialized services that make their lives better. They don't listen when you talk to them but just spew talking points prepared by the propagandists at Fox News. When disputed, they just raise their voice and try to drown you out. Or they become silly and say, "Move to Canada," which is easy to say but hard to do (I know!).

Anyway, I hope this means real change for you all and that it hasn't doomed Obama's presidency.

You go, relative! The viewpoint from the Northlands. Who doesn't think that Canadians aren't great? Elsewhere, the industrialized world apparently thinks the US has finally been dragged into the 20th century (not the 21st century yet). I can't wait for November to see the Americans reveal their true selves.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thank you!

Americans achieved an historic milestone last night as the House Democrats passed a bill creating near-universal health-care coverage, extending a more hopeful future to the tens of millions of Americans hitherto unable to obtain health insurance, and ending the worst of many egregious abuses by the health-care industry. It's a good start. As my Daddy taught me, Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Party On

What a busy weekend for DC. Yesterday the running of the fifth National Marathon took over many city streets, the Tea Party was out in force around the Capitol in trying to intimidate wavering Democrats on the historic health care vote later today and the seventh anniversary of the Iraq invasion prompted an antiwar protest near the White House.

Saturday morning from my course marshal post on the race course at the bottom of Capitol Hill, I saw many friends go by. I also watched Tea Party members stream across the race route all morning enroute to the Capitol. When I gazed intently at their signs to try to read their scrawled messages (sample: Obama: B.O, B.S, Kill the Bill) I encountered hard stares back as if I was offering an affront by attempting to read their hand-lettered signs with my 57-year old eyes.

Local runner Michael Wardian won his fourth National Marathon (he was runner-up last year) in 21:58, and it was a thrill to see him go by my post at MP 16.5 almost five minutes ahead of the eventual runner-up (the man who beat him last year). Then as I threaded Tea Partiers through the marathoners on the race course so the partiers, exulting in their First Amendment rights, could exercise their views at the Capitol, a running club and coaching friend of mine ran by whom I hadn't seen since I resigned my position as DCRRC's president five months ago. Perhaps slightly befuddled by being on his seventeenth mile, he paused in his marathon and clasped me in a bear hug (I had offered him a high five), exclaiming, "Good to see you! Don't be a stranger!"

As his perspiration seeped through my dry clothes, I said, "Yeah, well times and things change." He ran off looking a little wounded (my bad) while I envied my friend being in the midst of running a marathon. I was worried that my Posterior Tibial Tendinitis (my aching ankle) would prevent me from ever running long again.

And meanwhile, Tea Partiers were hurling the N-word at an African-American Democrat Representative and the F-word at an openly-gay Democrat Representative who apparently are going to vote yes on today's historic health-care bill. Ugly ugly!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Once every 57 years

The doors rolled shut and I couldn't believe it. I was thunderstruck.

I had run down the escalator in the Metro station to the waiting subway car and then waited beside the door as my friend "hurried" down the escalator stairs herself. "Go on, get aboard, don't wait for me," she called out to me as she approached at what I charitably call "Washington DC speed" (as opposed to New York City speed).

The next train wasn't for 18 minutes. I waited on the platform's edge by the door while she came up to the still-open doorway. When she was right beside me, I stepped inside the car first.

The door immediately closed. She was outside and I was inside. This was an astonishing, immutable fact.

I had never before been shut off from any traveling companion by a closing train car door, not in 57 years of close calls on rail transport systems encompassing New York City, Long Island, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami and Washington. It was an unbelievable feeling of helplessness.

Although I was only going to ride three stops with her before I transferred, I had been looking forward to spending that time with her. This had never happened to me before.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Back on the trail again.

Yesterday I started the week out with a 5K run on the W&OD Trail in 28:51. I wore my "boot" brace and my brand new orthotics and it seemed to go well, although my sore ankle never bothers me when I run, only afterwards. Although both my ankle and my legs are sore now, I plan to run twice more this week, short distances slowly, and see how it goes.

It was good to be out running on the trail again, although after a mere 7 minutes, still far short of a mile, I was sucking wind. Still, that was better than last week when I thought I was going to die on a run after only 5 minutes.

The trail is clear now. Here's what it looked like a month ago, the last time I was on it.

How snowy has it been this winter? Here's one of the four snow piles I created around the head of my driveway from snow shoveling last month.

A mile and a half down the trail I saw Trevor at his usual spot on the corner and went over to talk with him. It gave me a welcome break midway through my run.

I've spoken about Trevor before. He is homeless and our priest commanded us one Sunday to go out and speak with a homeless person and let him or her influence our life in some little way. I settled on Trevor.

Trevor was suspicious of me at first but now he calls out a greeting whenever I approach, as he knows me, and my car, by sight now. He actually knows a lot of motorists who drive by his corner. He claims he loved my Christmas card, which I delivered to him personally with an address of Trevor, I-66 at Route 29, Falls Church VA.

Trevor is a veteran who was with the 82nd Airborne with an MOS of tank inspector. He saw combat in Afghanistan, if I have heard him correctly. We talk military stuff. Yesterday we talked about the HBO Special Miniseries which started last night, The Pacific War. He was going to watch it at the shelter and I told him it would feature horrific fighting in 1944 on Peleliu, and that that was where my Dad fought.

Pickings were slim for him today as no one stopped to give him any money while I was there, except for one lady. For a dollar, she could have gotten a lot of people hurt. Some people have no sense.

Trevor is obviously hobbled, as he uses a cane. This lady was driving by on the far side of the raised median on the highway (Lee Highway) that cuts across the terminus of the exit ramp from I-66 which is where Trevor stands. She stopped in traffic, backed up, and called out to him to cross four lanes of exit-ramp traffic and two more highway lanes to accept a handout from her.

Trevor muttered, "This is a first, stopping way over there. She's going to get me killed."

Instead I warily jogged through the traffic (there's a light there, which helps) to fetch her offering for Trevor, a single dollar bill. Much as it was appreciated by him, there was great potential for lethality present in her gesture. Some people just don't think.

My good deed done, I jogged home. On the return I marked a mile on the trail in 9:20, which left me breathless. Yikes! I've got a lot of work to do.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stand up, Leon!

I don't get out much but when Leon Russell comes to town, well, that's a gimmie. He was the musical driving force behind Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour in the 70s, and he went on to have his own illustrious career after that in that twilight zone between rock, country and folk, including having a featured role in George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. The title of this post, of course, comes from George's admonition to Leon during the concert while he introduced him to the Madison Square Garden crowd.

He came to the State Theatre in Falls Church on Friday night, and I was there along with a bunch of other old rockers who don't know the 70s are long gone. After the backup band played, Leon came out with a cane and sat down at the keyboards.

He played many of his old standbys, including his rollicking rendition of Jumpin' Jack Flash and the haunting ballad Humming Bird. His band members left the stage while he sang The Island Song alone in his raspy Oklahoma twang, then returned for a rousing finish to Wild Horses.

I last saw him at the State Theatre in March, 2006. Back then he had a classic encore routine. He sat at the piano, told the crowd to imagine he'd just gotten up and left and was now back and so, this was going to be the encore as he launched into Delta Lady. This time he actually stood up and then sat back down for an encore, Prince of Peace Returning.

Leon, ten feet away onstage with his face totally obscured by his gigantic white beard, cowboy hat and aviator style dark glasses, kept the crowd on the dance floor swaying and moving with his rocking performance. Watch out now, take care, beware of soft shoe shufflers, dancing down the sidewalks...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reversing course

When I want to run a hard, quick two miles downtown during the lunch hour, I run down NJ Avenue from Georgetown Law School to the bottom of Capitol Hill, turn left and run up the hill on Constitution Avenue to Maryland Avenue, down Maryland to and around Stanton Park, and then return to my starting point via Mass Avenue. As I finally try to come back to running after my ankle injury, yesterday I decided to reverse this course to make it easier by reducing the severity of the hill climb.

Of course elevation gain is the same on a circular course no matter which direction you run it. By reversing course I was trading the severe third of a mile climb on Constitution a mile into the run for a more gradual but longer and immediate climb on Mass Avenue.

I set off at an easy lope and passed by Union Station, where it became clear to me that something was terribly wrong. Only five minutes into the run, I was totally fagged and wanting to stop and walk.

I obviously have no conditioning left. But I persevered and finished the run in 19:30, a leisurely pace indeed (9:45), a satisfactory start to my return.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Dreamcatcher

This morning I was in the side yard with my three young boys, teaching them how to play catch.

The sober, industrious one was the most attentive and trying the hardest, as usual. He threw the ball to the impulsive one, who wasn't paying attention and never even moved as the ball whizzed by his head.

"No, no," I said, retrieving the ball. "You've got to make sure that your brother knows the ball is coming before you throw it. Hold it up, ask if he's ready, and then toss it to him."

The third child, the indolent one, was milling about on the edge of the game, obviously bored and ready to be off to new pursuits far from this instruction session with his father. It was unfortunate that he was not engaged, since he was the best athlete.

I showed the ball to the earnest boy. "Ready?" I asked.

He nodded and held up his glove. I tossed it to him underhand.

The ball ticked off his glove and smacked him in the mouth. He appeared stunned, trying to fight off tears but being unsuccessful at this as his face slowly scrunched up in pain and he started to cry.

I immediately moved upon him and clasped him to me. Since he was a child, he only came up to my waist. I pressed his face into my stomach and held him close, trying to soothe him. I couldn't take his pain away from him, but I hoped my close immediacy would quell the pain within him.

As I hugged my softly crying child to me, I looked at the other two. They were totally unengaged, not even looking at us. The child I was holding close had always cared the most about others, the other two, not so much, although they also could be solicitous at times.

How could this scene of intimacy around me be real? My three children were all adults now and I hadn't seen any of them in years, yet I was holding one and the other two were close by.

I recognized this natural, flowing experience for what it was, a dream. I didn't want to have thoughts of my children anymore. The youngest one had recently turned 21, which had brought to the forefront my overwhelming sadness over them being stripped out of my life as adolescents by the bitter divorce.

I opened my eyes and wrenched myself awake despite my deep sleep, dispelling all but the lingering, haunting memory of them.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ruby Tuesday

How's this for a rockin' 13?

Tomorrow Never Knows (Beatles 1966).

This song reminds me of floating down the Colorado River for half an hour at the conclusion of my eight-day rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. One of the most memorable 30 minutes of my life. Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream. It is not dying. It is not dying.

Satisfaction (Stones 1965).

At least Mick did this in his halftime show.

I Can See For Miles (The Who 1967).

They didn't include this in their Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin 1971).

And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

White Room (Cream 1968).

You said no strings could secure you at the station.

Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix 1967).

Oh yeah.

Sloop John B (Beach Boys 1966).

Ah, adolescence.

Somebody to Love (Jefferson Airplane 1966).

Don't you need somebody to love?

Bette Davis Eyes (Kim Carnes 1981).

Back Door Man (Doors 1967).

I eat more chicken than any man ever seen.

My Hometown (Bruce Springstein 1984).

He'd tousle my hair and say, "Son, take a good look around, this is your home town."

I love that image.

Anything off Korn's Life is Peachy album (1996).

This one's for Johnny.

With or Without You (U2 1987).

I can't live with or without you.

That one's for Danny. And there you have it. This was hard.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Caught On Camera

I went running with a workmate at lunchtime in the District. Since she is pregnant and I am returning from an injury, we were the perfect match as we did a leisurely 2.1 mile crawl up and around Capitol Hill in a little under 29 minutes, including stops.

The interesting thing was we got waylaid by a TV crew around the Japanese-American Internment Park near the Capitol. Recently there was a spate of hit-and-runs in the metro area which caused two pedestrian deaths, including a runner struck and killed near the White House. (Right: A crane struggles to be free at the memorial park on Louisiana Avenue.)

Newscaster: "Sir, as a runner, do you always obey all the traffic laws whenever you jog in the District?"

Me: "[Extended laughter.] I always run with full awareness of my surroundings, including auditory, no headphones see, and am always constantly looking around and exercising all due care with regard to the traffic around me."

Newscaster: "I'll take your laugh to indicate, 'No.'"

Me: "I didn't say, 'No.' I said that as most runners do, I am always fully cognizant of my surroundings as I run. I appreciate the fact that all vehicles are potentially lethal to runners and exercise appropriate caution, especially at intersections."

As we ran away, my companion complimented me on not blatantly admitting to any law violations on camera. Laughing, she described my running style. "Because you're a darter."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Sunday

What to do on a lazy Sunday? Update my profile!

Betcha don't read other bloggers' profile pages. Well, I do.

I've previously updated every of my profile category for this year except for Favorite Music. Operating on the Baker's Dozen scale, these have been my past choices:

2007 (Singles) A Day in the Life (Beatles); Sympathy for the Devil (Stones); When the Music's Over (Doors); Badge (Cream); Time Has Come Today (Chambers Brothers); Purple Haze (Jimi); California Dreamin' (Mamas & Papas); Get Together (Youngbloods); Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf); Thriller (MJ); Father Figure (George Michael); Kokomo (Beach Boys).

2008 (Albums) Sgt. Pepper (Beatles); Let It Bleed (Stones); Who's Next; The Doors: Man With Sticks (Led Zeppelin); Layla (Derrick & the Dominos); Are You Experienced (Jimi); Mamas & Papas First; Surrealistic Pillow (Jefferson Airplane); A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harum); Concert for Bangladesh; Life Is Peachy (Korn); Parachutes (Coldplay).

2009 (back to singles) A Horse with No Name (America); Dance to the Music (Sly); Heroin (Lou Reed); Hey Joe (Love); House of the Rising Sun (Animals); Light My Fire (Doors); Sad & Deep As You (Traffic); To Sir With Love (1967!); While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Beatles); Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin); You Can't Always Get What You Want (Stones); Twist (Hey Johnny!); Where the Streets Have No Name (live long & prosper Danny).

This year's Baker's Dozen, soon. You try listing your 12 favorite songs ever, and see how extended your page becomes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Running again?

My mysterious ankle injury started hurting worse and worse each run last fall, until I stopped running shortly before the race I was training for, the Army Ten-Miler, and saved myself to run in the race. I was the leader for the 9:00/mile (1:30:00) pace group, and I brought it home in 1:29:46 (8:58).

I couldn't walk the next day and basically I haven't run since, for five months. My left ankle still hurts.

Blah blah blah. It sucks, just like life does sometimes. (Happier times last October. Post-race with a friend who ran with my pace group during the ATM.)

But I have a set of orthotics waiting for me to pick up at the podiatrist's, I "ran" (ran/walked) a mile this week in 15:24, I plan to run twice next week, three times the week after that and so on. We'll see.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rock of Ages Cleft for Me Let Me Hide Myself in Thee

Up until last month when my youngest child turned 21, I always tried to bestow upon my three sons the manly virtues that my father bestowed upon me. I failed because their Mother loosed upon my children an emasculating band of "professionals" when she launched the divorce, who stripped every bit of paternal influence from them. (Right: Vainly waiting in a restaurant on President's Day for Danny to join me for lunch.)

The ultimate victims are these young men, who have disdained all communication with their father for years. But for a man dealing with the loss of his children, it's never "all better," although eventually it does "get better."

Healing only starts through forgiveness. This is a notion I started examining a couple of years ago, and in this season of Lent, I recently contemplated the following from Paul, who wrote in 1 Corinthians about the what, if not the why, of when incredibly bad things happen to people.

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

So it goes...

Imagine having three lovely children, ages 12, 13 & 15, and they get into a car driven by your spouse to go away for a short holiday while you smile and wave goodbye from the porch of your household, and they never come back. This is the nightmare world of parental alienation syndrome (PAS), which some people deny exists and others claim is a form of child abuse.

In my case, my wife drove our three boys to her parents' house in another city, ostensibly for Spring Break, while I remained at home to work. She never brought them back to our household again, filing for divorce instead while clutching them to her bosom in her enlistment of them as front-line soldiers in the nuclear warfare of Western divorce.

Involving children in drafting pleadings, being an enabler for them to ignore visitation orders, getting them their very own divorce lawyer so they can sue a parent over a "fiduciary" matter, removing them from school in the hopes they can come to court to testify, surreptitiously taking them to charlatan psychologists so those paid whores can testify instead, this is how an alienating parent brainwashes the children into loathing the alienated parent. My kids, who until recently lived two miles away, haven't spoken to nor seen me in seven years, or communicated with anyone in my family during that time.

The youngest one turned 21 last month, after which I finally ceased my efforts to reconnect by futilely inviting them every holiday or birthday to a meal at some restaurant. As I ate my last hey-let's-meet restaurant meal in solitude, I looked at the thumbnail photo of one of them that I'd discovered on facebook and sadly reflected that I wouldn't recognize any of my sons if I passed right by them on the sidewalk.

Now sir, the time that tells what hour it is
Are clamorous groans, which strike upon my heart.

Fare you well JJ&D. Love you!