Monday, April 30

Just to get up that hill

Regular blog readers know that as I run, sometimes songs are wont to get stuck in my head. Make that snippets of songs.

And often jumbled, gargled snippets.

That was the case today on a route I like to call Trafficway hills.

Today's hill route brought on thoughts of food. And where do beans burn and fish fry? Or is it beans frying and fish burning? In the kitchen? On the grill? Which one where?

I had to get home and actually look up the lyrics to find out for sure.

No matter. This song may pop into my head again sometime and I'll probably mix them up then too.

One thing will stay certain though.

It took a whole lotta tryin', just to get up that hill.

Saturday, April 28

I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier

I was at an event here locally the other day and saw this video. I thought I'd share it with you.

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Vajra tagged me, and because she's so nice I've decided to do it as well:

Here are the rules:

Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves.
People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their
seven things, as well as these rules. At the end of your blog, you need
to choose 7 people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to
leave them a comment telling them that they have been tagged and to
read your blog!
Well, those are the rules, but I don't know that I have 7 friends who would do this. I'm a bit surprised myself that I'm doing it.

1. I'm extremely competitive at everything I do, especially Scrabble. I don't play enough other people to know how good I really am, but I'm good with words.
I can't do anything for long without wanting to excel.

2. I've thought it might be cool to work as a bouncer at a bar. But I'm really too skinny for that.

3. People think I'm creative, but I think I'm a bit of a pretender. I'm in awe of true artists and creative people. Pretenders though should at least know that they're not that hot.

4. I have a collection of African masks. I'd like to branch out into Native American masks. But I'm also running out of wall space at the moment.

5. I like beautiful buildings.

6. I wish my math teachers hadn't made the subject so boring when I was younger. And I always wanted more word problems in math instead of the plain equations.

7. My favorite president is Theodore Roosevelt. IFunny thing, I don't even know much about TR.I did just start reading a book though.

Friday, April 27

Good run

I slept and I ate and I got in a good run. A bit exciting too.

My nap went longer than I expected and I rolled out of bed just as the sun was setting. No problem though, plenty of lights in downtown here.

Shortly after I started running though, it started to rain. Again, no problem. I enjoy running in the rain. But then I saw lightning. Sigh. I'm not one for running in a lightning storm.

This was one of those runs that started with a mile loop that ended at the Y. So I picked up the pace and got to the Y soaking wet. I hopped on the treadmill so at least I'd get in three miles. But it was a bit distracting because I can't remember the last time my shirt was that cold and wet. Still, it was a good hard two miles on the treadmill to top off the workout.

I'm happy with it and I feel myself getting stronger. I almost didn't feel like running at all with the way this week has gone, but all things considered, it's been a good week and I've put in some really quality miles running.

Sleating and eaping

How has my week gone?

I just told a co-worker that I haven't done a good job the past few days of sleating and eaping.

It's the sort of thing I might say on purpose, except I didn't. After it got out of my mouth I had to say, "Huh? What did I just say?"

I need a nap.

Wednesday, April 25

Completing the foundation

I'm reading this book, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu again .

And again, a paragraph just stops me and makes me want to share it with you:

Suddenly I saw myself twenty years in the future saying the same thing over and over to students who stayed the same age, and I couldn't believe that was what I had planned on. It's hard sometimes to remember why we do anything in the first place. It's nice to think there's a purpose, or even a real decision that turns everything in one direction, but that's not always true, is it? We just fall into our lives. How did you get to own a grocery store?

And well, I must respond also. I'm not going to tell you how I got to own a grocery store. I don't own a grocery store. But it's not an accident that I do the work I do and not really an accident that I do what I do where I do it. I don't believe we just happen to fall into our lives. We make decisions everyday. We make choices. And we can change our minds. Things around us can change.

The character in the book here is talking about why she stopped being a professor and her reasons are right for her, I suppose. I'm only 55 pages in and she's not the most sympathetic character at the moment. But we can't go around saying, "we just fall into our lives." You don't have to read the Purpose-Driven Life to know that you need some type of purpose or goals in your life.

Otherwise, how do you know when you're drifting off course. Because, at least in my life, things don't just happen "suddenly." As that quote says. There's either the straw that breaks the camel's back or the brick that completes the foundation. And then the broken camel's back or the completed foundation is not the end. It's just the point where you move on from where you're at.

Maybe the straw that breaks the camel's back is also the brick that completes the foundation. It is the stone that the builder rejected. It becomes the head cornerstone. Perhaps this is all part of the creative process too.

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Thinking about a poetry slam

I've been thinking about the poetry slam last week, how I didn't win. Not just thinking about winning, of course, but thinking about what I'll do in the next win.
I'm starting to feel I have some poems to write, some things to say.
But I've also been thinking about this Steve Prefontaine quote that's on the back of one of my race t-shirts that I got: A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts.
I was thinking about playing with the words a bit. Something like - A lot of people compete in a slam to see who gets the most points. I compete to see who has the most guts.
Something like that. Who knows?
But searching for that quote today, I found some interesting variations and elaborations.

A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.

I'm going to work so that it's a pure guts race at the end, and if it is, I am the only one who can win it.

I run to see who has the most guts.

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Tuesday, April 24

Today's workout

A quick note on today's workout.

I got to the Y late because it was a hectic day. I might have run outside but it was pouring and thundering and lightninging (well I guess that's not a verb or a gerund after all).

So anyhow, I got to the Y but it was about 9:05 and they closed at 10. My first thought was to ramp up the treadmill and do a tough hill workout. But once on the treadmill I decided to do three good hard miles. Not much of a workout really, but I pushed it.

After a warm-up mile, I ran at a 6-minute mile pace for one-minute three times. Initially I wanted to go for two minutes, but that didn't see like a good idea. So it was a good quick interval workout and I covered three miles faster than ever before. It wasn't really that hard so now I've just got to start doing it more and getting better at improving my speed. I also need to ultimately increase my mileage again to more than 30 miles a week so I'll feel like I'm in shape again.

But after almost not running at all today, it was a good workout.

Quote of the day

"Fear is faith in reverse." - Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker.

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Why am I here?

The most recent issue of Notre Dame Magazine just came.

More than 20 people answer the question: What am I doing here?

As far as I can tell, none of them are stock brokers or salespeople or anything like that. Several are writers. A friend who is a comedian wrote one of the pieces. And of course there are professors.

Still, it's a good question. Why am I here? Why do I want to go there?

I remember a job interview I once had where the wine columnist asked my, "Why are you here?" When I said I was there to interview for the job that had been advertised, he repeated the question: "No, but why are you here?"

Then I mentioned how his city was much more diverse than the city where I lived and worked at the time. And with that his eyes lit up and he started talking about how it definitely was a wonderful place to live. But I moved away. And now I'm here.

Why am I here? Why do I want to go there?

Perhaps that's the makings of another slam poem also.


Saturday, April 21

21 minutes here I come

This morning before the race, my friend Ryan Slight asked me about my goal. He said something like - You're looking for 25 minutes, right?
Yeah, 25 minutes. I told him I'd been looking for 25 minutes for a long time but I hadn't quite seen it. My 5K pr was 25:45 and that came from way back in September. And that was 9 seconds off being three minutes faster than my previous pr.
What I didn't say, didn't really think about until just a few minutes ago, is that it felt like I'd beaten that 5K pr a long time ago, I just hadn't done it in a race. It's an old goal. My new goal is to get a 21-minute pr.
First things first though. Today's race. The 1st annual Mother Road Route 66 5k.
And a new pr. 24:37. That's two seconds off being a whole minute faster.
The only depressing thing about today's race is I know I could have run faster. I just didn't do it.
My friend and sometime training partner Jim Evans passed me near the half-mile mark in the race. Later, he said I was barely breathing hard at that point. Of course, when he passed me, I had negative self-talk going crazy and I thought that perhaps I'd started way too fast. I thought he would already be far ahead.
But I did have some positive self-talk going for much of the race. I remembered lines from my most recent slam poem. I talked to myself about how much I love hills. And I got a bit offended when I saw shadows closing in or heard footsteps a little too close to me.
I was able to separate from some people but since I can't look back too much when I'm running, I'm not exactly sure how many. The second half of the race was hilly and I love the hills. It's much more fun though to pass people than it is to hold them off.
One girl, a freelance writer who I recently met at the office, passed me in the last mile of the race. What she didn't realize is that I've got a good kick. At the very end I was definitely sprinting, more so to make sure I got under 25 minutes than to pass her. But passing her was nice.
Still, I must get faster.
Now, I've got to work on increasing my weekly mileage and getting up the intensity in my speed work, hill work and tempo runs.
21 minutes, here I come.

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Thursday, April 19

Slam report

Well, the slam is over. I feel a bit like Kevin Smith after the critics panned his movie Mallrats.

Were my poems really that bad.

I did two poems. The poem for Liviu Librescu, poem for Yossi Librescu and The Back to Africa poem, perhaps a bad idea in this 90 percent white city.

It wasn't that the scores were that bad. They just weren't as high as I expected.

But the bottom line is I had fun and I shared my poems as a gift with the audience. I can't really do much more than that.

A poem for Liviu Librescu, a poem for Yossi Librescu

I remember
as a child
I worshiped my father
and now he's dead.
He loved life, was passionate about it.
And he knew death, knew the stench of it.
But never did he fear it.
He knew it too well.
He knew that fear was worse than death.
He never forgot
Ha Shoah.
Gas ovens, firing squads, mass graves.
And it never ends.
What was a 23-year-old punk with a gun
to him?
He stood in the door,
he took five shots.
And he told his students to live.
Jump out the windows and live.
He died so they might live.

I never thought of my father
as a religious man.
I thought of him as a Jew.
I thought of him as my father.
And now my mind flashes back
to scenes from the movie Gladiator.
A general who became a slave,
slave who became a gladiator.
We, a people enslaved,
we've become a mighty nation,
And I,
I am the son of a murdered father,
cousin to a murdered nation.
It never ends.
They want us dead again.
Iran, Iraq, the Palestinians.
They want to kill my brothers,
my sisters, my children, my wife.
What did the warrior say?
My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius,
Commander of the Armies of the North,
loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius.
Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife.
And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

Father to a murdered son. Son to a murdered father.
Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife.
And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
Except, except I will not.
I will not have my vengeance.
I've had enough death.
I will be vulnerable.
I knew a man once who said,
Death smiles at us all.
All a man can do is smile back.

And so I smile.
I remember everything.
I remember lines
from that movie.
What we do in life,
echoes in eternity.

And so I will do something with my life.
And I will remember.
I will make my father proud.
I will savor every moment.
I am because of him.
I live because of him.
And so do they.
He told his students to live.
Jump out the windows and live.
And I know
they will live and
they will remember.

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Quote of the day

An open letter to Wallace Stevens

An open letter to Wallace Stevens

What, sir, did you mean?
I'm referring to the time
when you said,
"Money is a kind of poetry."
But also, and
pardon me for saying this,
for perhaps being rude,
but your very existence
troubles me just a bit,
Mr. Stevens.
What do you mean by being
who it is you think you are?
Insurance salesman and poet.
Or do I have the title wrong?
Insurance executive and avant garde literary artist.
Don't you know artists are supposed to suffer?
Isn't that what life is about?
Finding the beauty in pain.
And then I learn that you said,
"Money is a kind of poetry."
And I take it you speak
from the experience
of having money,
not wanting it.
A poet speaks of writing poems,
not the battle with writers block.
How does a poet reconcile
a life meant helping people
be secure with money?
Insurance salesman.
Securities broker.
Financial advisor.
"Money is a kind of poetry."
I'm writing you sir,
in hope that you have
answers to my questions.
Questions like:
Did I go to college for this?
Should I be a starving artist?
Is there anything worse than
a disenchanted writer?
Is it OK to enjoy
the finer things in life?
I want to know must I write
to be a writer.
I just want to communicate
that some things are good.
Some things must not be corrupted.
Beauty, truth, avocados.
I've always felt that
avocados are a kind of poetry,
my favorite fruit.
But you, sir, said, that
"Money is a kind of poetry."
The more I think about it,
the more I'm inclined to agree.
Money can't buy happines
can't buy love.
You can be broke and happy,
homeless and in love.
But that's poetry and I know
poetry is a kind of money.
Money adds up and
the numbers are true.
The Bible says that the love
of money is the root of all evil.
Yet, the proper respect of money,
the perfect balance,
why yes I see it, sir.
Money has rhythms of its own.
Doesn't it?
I suppose
Am I on the right path?
Tell me,
What did you mean,
"Money is a kind of poetry?"

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Wednesday, April 18

Poetry slam Thursday

So, this time tomorrow the poetry slam will be over. Will I win? I don't know. But I hope to have fun. And I hope to do my best, present my poems as well as I can.

That's got me thinking about excellence. Thought I'd share some Michael Johnson quotes I found on the internet:

"I have been described as confident or cocky or arrogant. I'll take the first one. My confidence is knowing that I have probably trained harder than anyone I am going to run against. And that is because of self-discipline."

"Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best."

"You must understand, I am not by nature a day dreamer. I try to control, those parts of my life that can be controlled, to plan everything that I want to happen down to the most insignificant detail. I traffic in a world in which fractions of a second separate success and failure, so I'd visualized the 1996 Olympics down to the millisecond. I'd crafted a decade of dreams into ambitions, ambitions into goals, and finally hammered goals into plans."

Brezsny baby

So, I checked out my horoscope on Rob Brezsny's Freewill Astrology. For entertainment purposes only, of course, I found this interesting:

"The important thing," said Belgian naturalist Charles DuBois, "is to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become." Did he really mean at any moment? Like while we're in a convenience store buying beer? While we're lying in bed ready for sleep and reviewing the events of the day? While we're adrift in apathetic melancholy, watching too much TV and neglecting our friends? At any moment?! I say yes. At all times and in all places, Virgo—especially this week—be ready to sacrifice what you are for what you could become.

Tuesday, April 17

Fat and sexy poem

In the last slam, I prepared two new poems.

Then in the final round, I dug deep into my notebook to find something I'd thought about doing but had never performed in a competitive setting before. I don't think I've posted it on the blog before so here goes:

Yes, my dear.
The answer is always yes.
Every time I see you,
I say yes.
Yes I love you.
Yes you look beautiful.
And yes that dress makes you look fat.
Maybe I shouldn't say that, but it's the way I feel.
And you do look fat in the sexiest possible way.
You look fat like a mature woman
who has never had an eating disorder,
a woman who no longer gets carded
when she orders wine in a restaurant.
Every time I see your body,
I say yes.
And, darling, you remember that
old soul song where the singer
breaks into a rap and tells his woman
that if the years should take her figure
and leave her disfigured,
his love would still be there.
Baby, that's the way I feel.
But in no way am I saying
your figure is disfigured,
nor will it ever be
'cause in my eyes,
your body is amazing.
You are like grade A
top of the line,
choice beef.
Not that I think of you
like a piece of meat
because I don't.
Baby, you know I want to be a vegan.
The only animal I want to eat
is you my dear.
And I don't care what you eat,
whether you diet,
whether you fast, or
whether you splurge.
It does not matter.
Wait a minute.
This may be the wrong thing to say.
This may not be seductive at all.
But do you question my love
and or my devotion.
I'm not trying to cause a commotion,
But my darling,
quietly, strongly,
Does it make you look fat?
Does it make you look sexy?
Am I totally devoted to you?
Yes, my dear.
The answer is always yes.

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Back to Africa poem

Here's another piece I'm going to do in the Poetry Slam on Thursday:

I will go back.
I will go back to Africa.
I will swim across the ocean.
I will walk across the desert.
I will be baptized in a river of tears.
I will dance with my ancestors
and I will kiss this ground.
I will go back to Africa
Return down to Egypt.
I know God will call his people
To return to Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya.
Go deeper, yes, I will go deeper.
I will go back to Africa.
I will get darker and darker and darker
until you start to recognize
I become Pan-African
stretching from Baghdad to Benin,
from Senegal to Somalia,
Morocco to Mozambique.
I will reclaim paradise,
that garden of Eden,
nestled between the Congo and the Nile.
I will go back to purity,
commune with the spirituality
of rocks and trees and animals.
I will follow Mansa Musa on his hajj to Mecca.
I will ride elephants through the Alps with Hannibal.
I will walk with Joseph, Mary and Jesus back to Nazareth.
I will go back to Africa
and when I open my mouth
a lion will stick its head in
but I won't bite.
I'll just keep breathing
in and out, in and out,
again and again and again,
over and over and over
like the spirit of the drums
beating repeatedly deep in the heart BOOM
of this African land BOOM
like a stick turning into a snake BOOM
snake, stick, snake, stick BOOM
I will go back to Africa
back to the drums of passion,
back to the tongues of power,
back to the incantations of energy,
filling me with a desire
to fill you up with African strength and rhythms
until you scream out
I would go back to Africa,
if I could,
but I can't.
Because I never left.
I never forgot my God and my people.
No matter where they took me,
how often they whipped me,
whatever lies they told me.
My spirit never left.
I would go back to Africa,
except I never left.

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Quote of the day

I was at a baseball game tonight and I saw a girl in the stands wearing a shirt with the following saying on the back:

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.
-Vince Lombardi


32 at Virginia Tech today
8 Karrada district of Baghdad
11 by a minivan
Karrada district
2 British north of Baghdad
18 southwest Baghdad
6 on a small bus
northwest Baghdad
1 American near a mosque
also in the capital
1 American
on foot Saturday
southern Baghdad
1 American
west of Baghdad Saturday
44 by a car bomb in Karbala
near Badhdad
4 north of Baghdad
by a car
4 border police
in Salaheddin province

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights,
Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends,
it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,
and to institute new Government,
laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form,
as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prayers to all tonight.

Monday, April 16

Poetry slam Thursday

Ok, there's a poetry slam Thursday. I haven't been able to write
anything new lately. Not necessarily writers block. I don't believe in
that. Just apathy a bit. And then there's that Rilke quote.

But I love the competition. So what I'm going to do
is present two poems that I haven't done before in the slam. And if I
make it to the final round, I'll do the math poem.

Anyhow, these poems aren't on the blog either so I'll type them up here.

Let's call the first one "Let a woman be a woman."

He thought to himself,
"what's wrong with
a woman being a woman?
Isn't that actually
as right as life could be?"
But at the same time, he wasn't sure
what it meant.
Oh, it was by far his favorite part
of that old Prince song:
Let a woman be a woman,
let a man be a ma - han.

If he has a daughter,
he will tell her
she can do anything a boy can do.
She can be a mathematician,
an engineer, an astronaut, a warrior.
She can be president, pope even,
if she wants to.
But he thinks to himself
and more than thinking,
he feels those statements
are true
and at the same time
not true.
At the same time
not true in a deep, deep
sense that he can't really articulate,
but can only, really grunt.
Let a woman be a woman
let a man, be a ma - han.

But the politically correct thing to say,
he knows, will be that
there is no difference
between a man and a woman.
And while that may be pc
every man he knew was
too much of a man
to overanalyze that.
Still he smiled and remembered
what the old monk told him
while he was hiking through India:
I don't want to be the mango,
I want to taste the mango.

And he reasoned that mangos
don't want to be men.
They want to be eaten.
Lately though, he wasn't so sure
about anything in the natural world.
Up was down, down was up,
tops were bottoms and bottoms were tops.
And he wasn't sure anymore
if women were women
and men were men.
He was turning these thoughts
around in his head when one day
in the middle of a casual, boozy conversation
he said,
"If that's what she wants,
then what's wrong with a woman
being barefoot and pregnant.
I mean, if that's what she wants.
Staying home with the kids"
He said that, but
he just felt so confused.
He wondered, am I really a neanderthal?
Why, then, can't I grow more chest hair?
Why isn't my voice deeper?
Why won't someone sing the song with me?
You know the song:
Let a woman be a woman,
let a man, be a ma- han.

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I love the hill

I love hills. But to really love hills, it helps to train regularly on hills. That's something I've been trying to do more and more regularly. Tonight I headed out to the Sac River Trails where there's a mini-monster of a hill that I'm developing a relationship with.

A little over a week ago I sprinted up this hill and halfway up I saw a tree with a yellow ribbon on it. I looked at my watch and it took a little over 60 seconds to get that far. So I sprinted to that point and back down. Well, maybe that's not the truest use of the word sprinted.

Anyhow, today I started off at that hill by running all the way to the top. OK. Maybe jogging all the way to the top. That took around two minutes. I decided the yellow ribbon mark was the point where I'd end most of the sprints up the hill today. I did a total of 11, with three all the way to the top and 8 to the yellow ribbon spot.

On the next to the last run I looked at my watch and saw that it took 67 seconds. No. Not 67 seconds. I was working too hard for that. That's crazy. I was going faster than that.

So I walked/jogged back down the hill and made up my mind that the last one was going to be in a minute or less. And I exploded up the hill. (Well, maybe not exploded, but you know.) Anyhow, when I got up to the top, I looked at my watch and saw that it took me 55 seconds. I was out of breath and bent over, but I was happy. 55 seconds. A whole 12 seconds faster than the last one.

A small victory.

And also, a good bench mark for my next trip out to that hill.

Girl Scout cookies

I know I've blogged about this before but did you know that two Girl Scout cookies equals one serving? Craziness.

Anyhow, I need some calories. I'm heading out for a tough hill workout. I've got two hours of sunlight and I'm going to use as much as I can.

Cheruiyot wins Boston

Robert Cheruiyot repeats today as champion of the Boston Marathon. And he stayed upright.
Cheruiyot, as you recall, slipped and hit his head while winning the Chicago Marathon.
It's good to see that he's OK.

Sunday, April 15

The weather in Boston

As far as I can tell, this blog has regular readers in four locales.
1. Sunny Southern California, where it never rains, snows or anything. Although I hear the surf gets rough sometimes. Check out the April 13 post - too bad I don't know how to post those photos.
2. Beautiful Northern California, where I guess the weather is nice, but not as nice as southern California.
3. Hot and humid Georgia, where anything can and probably does happen.
4. Tornado alley, the type of weather that might cause a race director to reconsider running a marathon. Except most races start early in the morning and tornadoes tend to come late at night.

This brings me, of course, to Boston, where they've had some really crazy weather lately. And a really big race tomorrow. I just did a quick google news search on "Boston Marathon and weather" and found some interesting stories I thought I'd share with you.

One, from the New York Times is about Deena Kastor who will make her Boston Marathon debut. She says her training has gone really well in the last four months and that's nice.
But here's the quote I particularly liked: "I love running in adverse cold; I can run through puddles."

I can also identify a bit with Kastor because she said, "I don’t feel pressure. I don’t feel a burden. I’m not carrying any weight of my country on my back."
It's funny. When I run, I also don't feel like I have the weight of my country on my back. However, that's a bit depressing when you think about it because with such a light load I should be able to go faster.

I also came across what looked like anAssociated Press story on the Boston Marathon weather.

It was a bit of a fun story with Kenyans joking around with reporters. An excerpt:

Although Kenyans certainly have run in the cold at high altitudes back home -- and in all kinds of weather when they train abroad -- several said that they are not used to fighting against strong winds. "I don't like that," Stanley Leleito said playfully, burying his head in his hands when told of the forecast.

"The problem is that wind," he said. "But only rainy is OK."

Four-time champ Bill Rodgers said that bad weather tends to lead to upsets and a more tactical race.

Which prompts this idle speculation - could this be a year for the first woman to finish before the first man? Probably not. But if it happens, you read it here first.

Poem of the Day

Poetry slam on Thursday and I haven't written anything new. Maybe I'll just pull out some old stuff. I have an important interview at 8 a.m. the next day so it's a little bit hard for me to get too excited about something on Thursday night. But we'll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get a better grasp of this poem. It's been on my mind lately because a friend mentioned it as an early work by Derek Walcott.

City's Death by Fire by Derek Walcott

After that hot gospeller has levelled all but the churched sky,
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city's death by fire;
Under a candle's eye, that smoked in tears, I
Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire.
All day I walked abroad among the rubbled tales,
Shocked at each wall that stood on the street like a liar;
Loud was the bird-rocked sky, and all the clouds were bales
Torn open by looting, and white, in spite of the fire.
By the smoking sea, where Christ walked, I asked, why
Should a man wax tears, when his wooden world fails?
In town, leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths;
To a boy who walked all day, each leaf was a green breath
Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,
Blessing the death and the baptism by fire.

Becoming the Buddha

Kenneth looks Kenyan. His skin is dark, his nose is long and thin, and yet his features are soft, almost delicate, like a child's. He's six feet tall, but it's only in the past two years, since he got his job, that he's ever weighed more than a hundred and fifty pounds. When he's drunk he lifts up his shirt, blows out his stomach, and pats his protruding belly proudly. "God bless America," he says with each pat. "Only here can someone become the Buddha."

That's from page three of a book I just started reading, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu. Already I'm captivated by the writing and the motivating storyline: the desire for a better life in America fleeing the turmoil and instability of home in Africa, despite a great love for your home continent.

Of course, becoming the Buddha, is that even a good thing. Is it just a source of amusement. I suppose it's got a bit to do with becoming the fatted calf. Becoming quite comfortable in the land of plenty.


Jackie Robinson Day

Today Major League Baseball is celebrating Jackie Robinson day. It's the anniversary of when Jackie Robinson integrated Major League baseball.
This has inspired all sorts of unusual suspects to comment on racism. At least to the extent that it relates to baseball.
In George Will's column that I linked to he writes: "Robinson changed sensibilities, which led to changed laws, which in turn accelerated changes in sensibilities."
Gotta love our changed sensibilities. However, as the Don Imus episode shows, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I wonder if any pundits out there connected the Jackie Robinson story with the Rutgers women's basketball team story. But then, I don't really want to know.
A co-worker told me she heard someone somewhere this past week say that most black people deep down inside think whites really don't like them - and the Imus episode helps prove it.
How to respond to something like that?
I also read a piece in the New York Times today by someone who had his book talked up on the Imus show. Sam Tanenhaus wrote, in part:
It had become part of my routine: waking up each morning to WFAN and the frisson of hearing my name broadcast on the radio. Of course, I was hearing other things, too, and they were disturbing at times: slurs against black athletes, an “impersonation” of Clarence Thomas that didn’t sound like him at all (unlike the impersonations of white figures), but instead drew on the stalest of the “here come de judge” grotesqueries of a previous era; the almost continual soundtrack of leering sexual comments.
Today, in the harsh light of Mr. Imus’s disgrace, it is hard to explain why none of this bothered me very much. But the truth is I tuned it out.

On the other side of the page from Tanenhaus' column, there was a column about what makes humor funny. It got me thinking because I do find Sarah Silverman funny and she's much more offensive than Imus. Of course, maybe it's just that she's a better comedian. Or maybe it's that she's more attractive than Don Imus.

I don't know. I don't like thinking or writing about racism very much. Racism is too much with us. Most people don't care. Those that do care don't know what to do. Those that do know what to do are insufferable know-it-alls.

I've got to go running. In fact, that brings me back to the point of this post. It's a small world after all.

Turns out Jackie Robinson's brother Mack finished second to Jesse Owens in the Berlin Olympics.
Another quote from the George Will column.

Robinson's brother Mack had finished second to Jesse Owens in the 200-meter dash at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Whites who won medals found careers opened for them. Mack, writes Jonathan Eig in "Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season," wore his Olympic jacket as a Pasadena, Calif., street sweeper, while Owens found himself racing against horses at county fairs, "one small step removed from a circus act."

I love America. I love the legacy of racism that we live with that doesn't matter and at the same time matters most.

Saturday, April 14

April Snow Run

Yesterday as I left work, I saw lightning in the distant sky.
It was raining and you know I love to run in the rain. But it had been a cold rain all day and so I was debating running outside or running on the treadmill. But the lightning sealed it. Inside, on the treadmill.
I remembered this post from last December where I went to the Sac River Trails and had fun running in the rain and mud. Why had my experience of the weather changed so much?
Then this morning, the strangest thing happened. I walked downstairs to get my newspaper and saw snow falling hard from the sky. I opened the door and it was a warm snow. A warm snow? Yeah the snow was warm compared to the rain from the last couple of days.
And so I went back upstairs, skimmed the newspaper and headed out for a run. Four fun miles through the mid-April snow. These are things runners get to do that the folks who stay up late in smoky bars never experience.
It's been a great day.

Thursday, April 12

Meditations on Fat Charlie the archangel

Fat charlie the archangel
Sliped into the room
He said i have no opinion about this
And i have no opinion about that...
I don't want no part of this crazy love
I don't want no part of your love
I don't want no part of this crazy love
I don't want no part of your love...
Fat charlie the archangel
Files for divorce
He says well this will eat up a year of my life
And then there's all that weight to be lost

I was walking out of the Y when I heard this song. Treadmill workouts are always hard because I can't let the treadmill go slow. Typically they're not long runs and I push it so hard I can't run as far as I'd really like to go. Initially planned for 6 miles, this became a 4.5 mile run. And it was frustrating because I switched treadmills into the workout because the first one I didn't trust. It didn't feel steady under my feet.

And then there's all that weight to be lost. Something about that line just lingers in my head. It's because of the religious echo.

All that wait to be lost. Exactly the opposite of all those who wait to be saved. Salvation becomes a prickly subject. That's especially the case in an increasingly secular and combatively atheistic culture. I don't believe in your hell. I can't be damned to some place I don't believe in. I don't need your salvation. And who are you calling lost anyway. I know exactly where I am.

All that weight to be lost. All that baggage to be dropped. To be outrun. To leave behind. Don't take it personal. Just keep moving. Move on to the next prospect, eh? It's something like that, right?

But my way of looking at faith is that what happens after we die is important. But I need salvation right now.

Also on that cd I listened to today, The fear of loss is greater than the desire for gain. And a loss can be a humiliation. A loss can be losing you. A loss can be losing yourself.

How do you sell yourself on salvation. How do you find salvation? I don't want to wait to be saved. But I had to be patient. I had to wait for you.

I had to wait to get found. Even though I thought I knew where I was going in the first place. In the beginning, I felt good about myself.

I was lost but now I'm found. Grace set me free. All that weight I had to lose. And now I feel like myself again.

I guess I could file this under creative process also.


What do you want?

I was driving in my car today, something I do rarely. Almost once a week.

But I got a new audiobook from the library featuring Zig Ziglar and I heard an interesting phrase that stuck in my head.

"Most people don't know what they want, because they don't know what's available."

I know a lot of times that's been true for me when looking for apartments, clothes and whatever else I buy. Although I'm generally not a big fan of spending money. But maybe that's just because I don't know what my money could buy.

Wednesday, April 11

Quote of the day

"No matter our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born." - Dr. Dale Turner

Tuesday, April 10

The creative process

There's a poetry slam coming up. April 19. I probably ought to write some new stuff.

We'll see how it goes. Here are some scribbles of a new draft I put together last night. I'm not sure what I think except that I feel less and less creative all the time. That's why I ask for your thoughts.

pretty ugly.
ugly beauty.
beautiful skank.
stinky goddess.
Goddess ho.
Ho what?
Who you calling a ho?
the ecstatic O,
oracle of Delphi,
sweet potato pie,
the woman in the temple,
priestess of she.
Get on your knees,
head down
kiss the ground
kiss the earth
kiss your mama,
earth momma.
Momma Jean,
Mean wilhemina green
and old girl Mary.
I know why
your kinky garden grows.
Nappy hos.
She said,
"Who you calling a ho?"
She said,
"I'm not the kind of girl
who does what she did.
But if I want to I will.
Look mister,
she ain't heavy,
she's my sister.
She ain't a bitch,
she's my sister.
And she damn sure
ain't a ho.


Running detective and talking deodorant

I read a book called Red Cat recently. It's been advertised a lot in teh New York Times book review. Has about as much redeeming value as an episode of "CSI or Law and Order: Special Victims Unit or NCIS or any of those types of mystery/cops tv shows. Follow this link and the book cover tells you a lot. But it's been advertised in the New York Times book review, as I said, so I figured it must be OK. And it was a good read if still, just like any mystery novel or show.

Except for one thing. The main character, a private investigator, is a runner. Yesterday morning I started reading the book because I didn't think I had enough time to go running before a meeting I had at 8:30. I got to a point in the book where the character said he was going to squeeze in a run and I decided I could do the same.

Interestingly enough, when I got back and got out of the shower, I noticed something else fitting for the blog. My deodorant was talking to me. It was a new thing of deodorant manufactured in such a way that the words "Take the risk" were imprinted on the top of the stick. I'd bought this brand of deodorant (Degree) before, but never noticed that. The other day it was on sale, 2 for $4 and I had another unopened cannister of deodorant. I opened it up and it said, "Go all in."

That brought a smile to my face.

Monday, April 9

Thinking about Boston and Jesus

My friend Mark qualifying for next year's Boston Marathon has reminded me of one of the funniest stories I've linked to since starting this blog. Way back before I'd run my first marathon, I found this story from a Boston College newspaper about Jesus announcing that he would run Boston.

It's still one of the funniest things I've read in a long time. Here's an excerpt:

Though experts believe this will be the first marathon the 6-3, 180 pound Nazarene has run, few question his readiness. The King of the Jews completed arduous long distance training during his many trips through the Mediterranean region, using miracles and spreading the Word as a cover for what has now been exposed as 2006 years of marathon training.

"He's ready for this. I've never seen him so motivated for something since that time when he tried to walk on water, and we all know how well that turned out," said Peter, former apostle and the Holy One's current training partner.....

Some also fear that Emmanuel may attempt to sabotage other runners by turning the roadside coolers of water into wine, but their fears have been assuaged due to the fact that Jesus has never done a mean thing. Ever.

Though I think biblical scholars might dispute whether Jesus was actually 6-3 and 180 pounds. That's practically my height and 25 or so pounds lighter.

This year's marathon is a week from today.

Saturday, April 7

Happy Easter

I hope you have a Happy Easter! My plans are simple.

Go to church at 7 a.m. Run 10 miles at 10:30.

Relax and enjoy the rest of the day.

I hope you have a similarly fulfilling holiday.

Boston bound or

Mark likes Ike

That Bowerman quote was my mantra this morning. First, I overslept last night. Or I slept too much last night. I went to bed to take a nap around 6:45. I woke up around 8 a.m. When I went downstairs to get the paper, I was surprised by the power of the cold air and the wind outside. I mean, it's not winter anymore.
I'd thought about going running before the sun came up and now those plans were shot. Still, as I read through the paper, the Bowerman quote kept going through my head. "No such thing as cold weather, just soft people. No such thing as cold weather, just soft people." And a little over an hour after I woke up, I was driving to the Sac River Trails.
It's definitely different running outside in the cold than it is running on a treadmill in a warm gym. I don't know how far I went or how fast I was going on the twisting trails out there but I was pushing myself pretty hard. At least, that's what my heart rate was telling me even though I thought I should have been running faster.
As I was running, I remembered that my friend Mark was supposed to be running his second marathon today - the Eisenhower Marathon in Abilene. We were probably running at the same time, hundreds of miles apart.
When I got home, just before I could step into the shower, the phone rang. It was my good friend Didi, Mark's wife. He'd just finished. I asked if he won. He won his age division ... and he qualified for Boston.
I guess it goes without saying that a marathon in Kansas is flat and fast.
Congratulations Mark!
Now, however, I'm thinking more than ever about how fast I could go if I pushed myself to train as hard as I can. Could I qualify for Boston? Only one way to find out. Train harder.

Friday, April 6

The dude abides

Since we're close to Easter, I thought I'd share a link with you to one of my favorite religion blogs. It's maintained by Chicago Sun-Times religion reporter/columnist Cathleen Falsani and is called The Dude Abides.
She writes a column at least once a week and always keeps her keen eye focused on interesting and quirky goings on in the world of religion news.

Today she comments on a video about creme-filled eggs and writes a column about Big Sky country.

Good Friday

It's snowing today, the Friday before Easter. Which again prompts the question, "What's so good about Good Friday?" I'm not getting into theology today. I'm just saying.
Anyhow, snow. I'm tempted to write that in a perfect world, snow wouldn't stop me from running. But not even in a perfect world. I'm just taking today off. Letting my body rest.
I plan to run six miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday. I truly believe in that Bill Bowerman quote I posted not too long ago:
There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people.

I've just got to get focused and motivated on training for upcoming races. I'll make that Saturday six mile run a fartlek workout to push myself a bit harder.

Thursday, April 5

Why am I working out?

I got in four miles on the treadmill tonight including three at darn close to an 8-minute pace. It was great, pretty much what I need to run that upcoming 5K in under 25 minutes.

Why am I trying to get in better shape? Because I'm either getting better or getting worse.

But then I read an article in the Onion that put my fitness pursuits in perspective, I guess.

Spring weather

If it's spring, why is it so cold? 44 degrees according to my computer. I feel like I'm getting pretty lazy judging by the amount of running and working out I'm doing lately.

So to get a little more motivated, I'm going to register for a local 5K a half-mile from my home. That half-mile should be a good warmup. And I'll have a simple goal - Hopefully I'll finally be able to dip under that 25 minute mark.

Thoughts on leadership again

Today I was thumbing through a book by Donald Trump when I came across the following fascinating remark: "Don't intimidate people. If you do, you'll never get a straight answer from anyone, and you'll be defeating your own purpose."
Now that's not the sort of quote I'd expect from the Donald. But, regardless of who said it, it makes a lot of sense.

Wednesday, April 4

Quote of the day

"Money is a kind of poetry." - Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens was a poet and insurance salesman who has been on my mind a bit lately.

Here are some other quotes from him that resonated:

"Most modern reproducers of life, even including the camera, really repudiate it. We gulp down evil, choke at good."

"The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists. The poet merely enjoys existence."

"The poet is the priest of the invisible."

"A poet looks at the world as a man looks at a woman."

But "money is a kind of poetry." Interesting thing for the insurance salesman/poet to say. I wonder what he meant by that.

What do you think?


The next India

Obviously I think it's cool and unique that if there's a Kenyan running a marathon, you pretty much expect the Kenyan to win. If there are lots of Kenyans running, you wonder which Kenyan will win. But athletics is just sport.

Today in the New York Times, there's a fascinating
column by Thomas Friedman about a small economic boom in Kenya. I know the Times jealously guards things behind their Times Select barrier but I'll share a small excerpt.
...Kenya’s economy grew 6 percent last year. Yes, Kenya still has all the ills of other African states — from AIDS to abject poverty. But Kenya also now has a democratically elected government that is learning to get out of the way of Kenya’s entrepreneurs and to get them the bandwidth they need to compete globally. It’s way too early to declare Kenya an economic “African Tiger,” but something is stirring here that bears watching — and KenCall is emblematic of it.

Tuesday, April 3

Thoughts on travel

I wonder how people travel. It amazes me in part because I've typically been bad about taking vacations.
Last week I was in New York City just seeing the city. I went sightseeing and saw tons in Manhattan. I can mark things off my list that I've looked up at. But I don't know how much that really matters to me. Some people disagree with me but you can see a skyline or a building in a book or on the internet.
What I think is most special about travel is meeting people you wouldn't meet otherwise, tasting foods you wouldn't taste otherwise or smelling smells. I guess the beach is one thing that's different everywhere. The beach can be relaxing.
Heck, I suppose part of my problem is I sometimes have trouble relaxing.
But New York was good. As I wrote earlier, I had Jamaican food and Ethiopian food. I went to Gray's Papaya. I saw old friends and new relatives.
I ran around Central Park. I ran to the tip of Manhattan.
I performed some open mic poetry. And that really gets to the heart of my feeling about sightseeing. Tall buildings catch the eyes but sometimes what you're looking for may be a small room in a medium-sized building.
Ah, what do I know? I just need to travel more and take more vacations. That's the solution.

On a mission

One great thing about air travel is the chance to read. While flying to Newark, N.J. I finished a book called First Marathons. One of the people telling their stories was Bill Rodgers, a four-time winner of both the New York City and Boston Marathons.

The final paragraph of his story really stood out to me. I'll type it in here to share it with you:

Anyone who runs a marathon is on a mission, whether it is to win or to finish. It's a hard race and I respect anyone who runs it. It is a neat achievement, very satisfying. The medal, the T-shirt, the tropy will stay with you always. Every runner is an athlete. It's a great thrill, a way to turn your life around. Use it to achieve something positive in your life, like quitting smoking. Whatever it takes, it is worth it. It will be with you the rest of your life.

Well, I don't know that I needed to turn my life around by running, but maybe I did. Maybe I did. Maybe I needed to know I could accomplish something big. I don't know. Right now I'm thinking of pouring myself into trying to qualify for Boston. I think that would be fun and doable.

But regardless, this really resonated with me. Being on a mission, focused on a goal. Too many people aren't and it's sad. And it has changed the way I view myself somewhat.

I'm a marathoner, you know.

Must I write?

I haven't updated the blog in almost a week it seems. Readership is falling off. What readership there is. Ha.

Well, I think I'll recap some things and post some things here to let you inside my head a little bit. Just a little bit though. This blog is primarily for friends and phones exist for a reason. Give me a call.

Anyway, here's something I've been thinking about a lot lately from Rilke:

You ask whether your poems are good. You send them to publishers; you compare them with other poems; you are disturbed when certain publishers reject your attempts. Well now, since you have given me permission to advise you, I suggest that you give all that up....
Ask yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, "I must," then build your life upon it.

Franz Kappus was the young poet Rilke was writing to. Have you read much by Kappus? I haven't. Anyhow, I don't want to comment on this too much. Except to say that I edited Rilke down a bit. And I could have edited him more. And I think he may have went a bit too easy on the young poet. But then that's me. It's my nature to be a critical editor and remove excess words.