News headlines consisted of a single sentence before 2020. Then "Then this happened" happened.
A review of the year, ours* and mine alike, reveals that the half-maddening, half-slapstick cannibalization of running by misguided progressives didn't start in a vacuum
Since the 2020 Presidential Election is practically over, it’s time to review a year filled with truly unprecedented levels of societal disruption, clamor, and nonsense, all of which have interacted in predictably unpredictable ways on all of our individual psyches.
There is nothing magical about the transition to a new four-digit background number, even if this may entail practical considerations for some people, but it never hurts to have an excuse to do what people like me already do on the other 364+ days of the year and take stock of one’s overall direction and how well this fits into that part of the greater world one inhabits or aspires to. The difference now is that I will use the occasion to spin matters in a more positive direction than I might were I offering the same monologue to my giddy and overcaffeinated assembly of inner hecklers, emotional voyeurs, and anti-heroes, who routinely shout down my drafts, only to cackle “Post it all anyway!” after what I assume is a sizable dose of DMT.
Late February, primed for a normal year of being antisocial by choice and unaware this would soon be enforced.
First, I’m grateful (a word I don’t use lightly) to be starting 2021 healthy, safe, and sufficiently agitated and intrigued by possibilities to continue with this and other projects. (Life is chiefly about avoiding boredom and inconvenience between orgasms in ways that don’t infringe unnecessarily on the lives of others, and if you’re not using this as a philosophical linchpin, you’ve adopted an adversarial outlook.) As you know, how I choose to describe this blog’s purpose varies according to exactly who wants to know and why, and whether we were involved together in frantic dry-humping — or worse — in the of a cab of a tractor-trailer hundreds of miles north of here at any time in the most recently completed summer.
In any case, I assure you I remain dedicated to (choose one) forestalling very troubling trends in the running world through the sheer power of grousing and justifiable insults; amusing myself and a small coterie of wealthy, influential microdonors by remarking on same, with this droll output the goal in itself; or diabolically attempting to deny anti-speech flamethrowers and and caustic, lying gadabouts the social status, control of the sport, and meanings of scientific terms that the equally diabolical patriarchy has claimed solely for itself since the onset of citizen running.
I did few of the “big” things I hoped and planned to do in 2020. It’s little consolation that I can’t blame my own shifting commitment levels or lack of resources for this, as I often can when I get sidetracked, since I wasn’t intending to chase goals so much as experiences last year; because my plans involved both transnational and international travel, in the end I and the others involved had no say in these things being wiped from the slate. I’m obviously not the only human who was thusly inconvenienced, or far worse, by the pandemic. But my 2020 was to include, in order, my mother’s first-ever visit to Colorado (April), my whole family — including my sister, her husband and her two boys — meeting in D.C. and getting together for the first time in ages (June), and my own first trip to Europe (September or October). These were much-anticipated events for me and the main reason I worked my ass of for the first quarter of the year, not that I regret doing that now as I’ve been mostly coasting since.
It’s typical for me to approach this “How was the year?” task with the tacit aim of proving that I’ve wasted yet another trip around the sun, doing little besides shoving materials containing mostly carbon atoms into the stinking, noisy hole at one end of myself so I can blow them out the one at the other end in an even less presentable form than they entered me. I conceive of myself now as an undersized cow on two legs, except that cows offer milk and beef to the world amid and after their otherwise dull and shitabolic lives, whereas I present mostly relentless, monotonous lowing noises of dissatisfaction, with the meat well-concealed. But 2020 would have been more depressing for me had I not gotten the proper urge to become involved with the running of some very solid up-and-comers who remind me — by dint of existing and sharing a resolute outlook about something I still love very much — what the sport and its underpinnings are really all about, and how the latter, fortunately, remain strictly off limits to anyone who would try to meddle with them.
There now appear to be two distance-running universes: The one I participate in every day, usually twice, and the one I learn about online, usually at random and increasingly as a result of reader suggestions. I include the few people I can run with these days, a handful of coaches, and the aforementioned younger runners — unaware of or at least unconcerned with the sport’s growing assortment of bitter garnishes — as part of the universe in which I participate. The online one is being intentionally contorted into an unwieldy hive of agitation wherein many of the sport’s loudest ostensible proponents alternate between presenting stories of legitimate triumph by individual athletes and insisting that nothing matters less in running than individuality because we* must constantly acknowledge our place in the collective. If you want to, say, operate your own Facebook virtual race page with basic, easy-to-follow rules, and even go out of your way to empathize with a simpering fool who can’t follow them, you may well be dragged and lied about and lied about some more, almost entirely for the crime of being an old white dude with a beard in Tennessee with the temerity to host running events.
On the matter of helplessly watching dreams evaporate thanks to immutable cosmic forces, Chris Chavez, who has appeared in my crosshairs and may again, shows that his undistracted self really gets it with a deep profile of quasi-retiring mid-distance guy Kyle Merber. Merber is one of an unknown number of athletes whose last shot at an international-team berth never even had the chance to be a dud or a misfire. Just one more dry click in a year of implacable table-flippings and plan-shreddings.
At one point, I was sane enough to be seeing a therapist, and may reach that state again; this one’s practice includes a lot of pro runners and triathletes and no shortage of hopefuls on the next tier. “I can’t think of any runners I see – or from conversations with other therapists, anyone they see – who isn’t concerned about making a return to ‘normal’ safely and effectively,” she told me back in May. She described the anguish of higher-level performers, usually in the range of about 34 to 40 years old, who came into 2020 primed for their last shot at an Olympic trials race and had begun contemplating the reality of being, in effect, retired without their own consent. A sea of others who have spent years trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon have no idea if their bodies will cooperate whenever the next chance arises.
I lost a number of friends “prematurely” this year, the oldest of them 57, none to COVID-19 directly but all under circumstances that are difficult to want to imagine in any lasting way. At least two men I knew from my last couple of trips to the local drunk tank died on ventilators in Boulder Community Hospital in 2020, reduced to alcohol-soaked cirrhotic meat stuck to machines while whoever was left in their lives, if anyone, shared in this inconceivably dehumanizing-at-both-ends spectacle via Zoom. I wish there were a way for Michael and Richie and others who fell in 2020 to know that, like as not, people are still very much talking about them like they are still alive, and laughing at the same things we remember them having done to make us their friends.
If I had to guess at how much distance I logged for the year, and now I do, I would put it at around 2,000 miles of the most uneventful (in terms of effort) yet irritating (because of mask-related silliness) but still joyful (because of Rosie, who ran almost all of those miles with me) running imaginable. I have a pulse rate of 40-42, as usual, and probably couldn’t outrun fuck-all if my life depended on it. Occasionally, I will be chased by a lacrosse-bro type on the Boulder Creek Path who is out for his thrice-weekly, balls-to-the-wall three-miler, and as I and my dog merge into his view, this guy is thinking, I need to roll that old guy. I don’t blame him, because I would have been thinking the same thing at 20, except that it never works out since almost no one besides an actual runner can run under six-minute pace at altitude for more than a couple of minutes without experiencing real difficulties. I may not be able to hold 5:40 pace for more than 10 minutes myself, but experience along with a natural shuffling form allows me to pretend to glide away from these spirited pursuers without appearing to try. I have entered into this hilariously petty shit because it’s all I have to keep my frontal lobe engaged out there, although I have come to appreciate the phenomenon of brightly colored roving cyclist cleavage as well. I don’t mean I seek it out, I just mean it’s not among the sights I ever expected to become incorporated into my everyday experience.
By this time last year, I had finally accepted that I was not interested in seriously pursuing any serious goals around running, creative writing, or forming meaningful new personal bonds, because whatever urges I had needling me to keep banging my head against walls in those areas had finally subsided. I had gotten to a point where I believed it was fine to be a yutz who was lucky to working steadily in his area of interest and expertise and whose lazy daydreams of striving to achieve things could, along with countless other people’s schemes, be discarded in favor of surrendering to an acceptably mundane life of watching stuff on a screen in the dark by myself for the last few hours of most nights. But when Sciencing.com folded in April, what started as pleasant coasting turned into more of a controlled slide, and while at the moment I have both plenty of leeway and lots of options, I have not been a model of go-getterism in any directed way. On the other hand, I often require reminders when I have actually done nice things for people. I find this fairly easy to do since I seem to closely interact with fewer and fewer people as time passes, independent, maybe, of health-code restrictions.
I run and write mainly because these things pass the time, sometimes establish pleasing connections, and usually make me feel as if I have accomplished something even when all I’ve really done is send some bolts of electrochemical energy to my legs or fingers and engaged in some spastic activity. I have also been spending a lot of time in front of the Kurzweil PC361 I picked up a year ago September (see below). I technically hold an officer position in what passes for a social group, but as soon as this group meets in person again I am going to genially resign amid a lot of cheerful throwing of folding chairs, because my reasons for volunteering for that had nothing to do with the group’s arguably banal, if well-meaning, purpose.
I will pause here to pad the following comments with the observation that a lot of content providers were bored in 2020 for obvious reasons, and focused more strongly on contentious claptrap as a result. But the SJW train, has been in motion and gathering increasing momentum, for years. If you like to read, especially if you consider yourself a classical liberal but have wearied of the quasi-religious noises from the left, and are wondering if you may have lost your mind along with everyone else. you might want to read this book.
There is only so deep I like to go with the usual plaints in any one post, yet it never makes sense to ignore the hijinks of the more impaired social reformers out there, because they’re such unpretentious, misguided, shit-stirring assholes. One end of a leaky social-media pipeline has been aimed my way recently, and this great series of ideas was posted in a sizable closed Facebook group.
So the thesis here is that because the NAZ Elite team just added a white male athlete, to go with the two other white runners they signed in the past six-plus months, Ben Rosario can be considered a hypocrite, and we* can trust that this white female observer’s summary of Rosario’s response to a surely diplomatic complaint really was as Archie Bunker-esque as her use of quotation marks implies.
We* need to ask ourselves at this point: Is there a flood of unsigned, sub-28:00-male/sub-32:00-female BIPOC athletes banging on the door to live and train specifically in Flagstaff, Arizona? Who or what, exactly, is being excluded, unfairly or otherwise, by this traumatic development?
Sorry, but anyone who says these things, anywhere, is a fucking nimrod. Anyway, just needed a safe space to vent. And about that: When you find yourself retreating to increasingly private or rogue spaces (Parler, anyone?) to express your ideas, there’s a good chance you’re knowingly promoting destructive ideas, and that you also know that most people think you’re off-base even if you believe the majority to be in error.
For all of the yammering about the whiteness and white-maleness of running, what little day-to-day and regular coverage of the sport exists is either controlled by the harpies or continually under their direct, if haphazard, fire. Scan the editorial staffs of Runner’s World, Women’s Running (that one is sort of a given), Podium Runner and Outside, and have a look at what mainstream outlets like The New York Times have produced lately, and what 2020 brought from these sources was an interminable farrago of social-justice stories. Some of these engaging in earnest, while others craned their necks up at “inane.” A great deal of it was patently insincere. The upshot is that those involved are intent on being permanently unhappy even if they have to twist reality into something unrecognizable to do it, with no capacity to reflect on the needlessness of it all.
I have noted that I’m not welcome to write for PR anymore and having no quarrel with this. Even without the bullshit, I was running short of 800-word ideas after just a few months of a COVID-19-induced mini-renaissance — one of the reasons I started devoting more running-mental-time to blogging in the first place. And even if I had found an appropriate muse, no alleged full-time writer can endlessly keep submitting chum to running publications simply because of the economics involved, to say nothing of the narrowness of topics and associated banality. But the fact remains that some cowardly, unnamed person who also submits chum to or operates one of these outlets, certainly no “colleague,” anonymously whined about my blog’s content, and that was that. I take small solace in knowing this person’s awareness of their own lack of balls, which you can take exactly as written.
Anyone convinced that the election, which will be over any day now, was stolen is deluded. But when any delusion becomes sufficiently widespread, the crazies it includes get promoted to cultists, and there is rabid, gleeful reinforcement of the reality-denying, bullshit-emanating bubble. Such delusions include the notion that every runner belongs to either an oppressed group (or one of its virtue-signaling advocates) on one side, or the army of oppressors on the other side whose old-white-male creation must be ruined at any cost and using any tactics necessary. If you believe this, you in effect belong to a cult and your ideas should be shitcanned from serious discussion. Again, there is a reason these assholes keep hiding and making noises at the same time.
Back to personal stuff. I have something to look forward to in 2021 — a June trip by at least one and hopefully a few more of my relatives from back in New England. Maybe, of course. In the meantime, I have taken on a few projects that will deflect both penury and excess ennui in the short term.
Rosie is really my rock, and I make no pretense about it or apologies for it. But if there is one habit I have that is holding me back from becoming serious about the hour or so a day I devote to running, it’s not nutritional, pharmacological or circadian; it’s that I almost always refuse to leave my dog at home when I run, one consequence (not entirely unintended) is the inability to do a hard, focused workout. This is an easy enough albatross to shake off if I decide I care.
Concerning the PC361, I have fooled around for decades with different electric pianos and took music theory in college, but until I got my life settled I never got past being able to bang out the melodies to a disturbingly large selection of ‘80s songs. Then this summer I decided for some reason to tackle what for me what be an almost-impossible classic, knowing it would take me at least six months to be able to play a proper skeleton version. I was like a guy who had reliably run 19:00 5Ks for years suddenly deciding to hammer himself into sub-16:00 shape.
Although I was only six when Boston’s eponymous first album came out, I had even more exposure to classic rock at a young age than most seventies tykes, coming into a badly abused set of eighth-hand drums by the time I was five or six. My dad was in a pretty serious local band — he still has his cherry-red Gibson SG, and added a Les Paul as a retirement present of sorts to himself — from a couple of years before I was born until I was eight or nine, playing stuff like high-school proms and apocalyptic booze-cruises on Lake Winnipesaukee. Anyway, it struck me as a sound that had never been played on the radio before, and that was pretty much a fact.
I have never been strongly attracted to hard rock in high doses, but the composing and songwriting on Boston is so sublime that it might be the best rock album ever released in terms of overall production, and has to be up there with Jagged Little Pill in terms of its overall impact as a debut collection. Like the stuff or not, there is not a wasted verse, lick or drumbeat on the entire album. Bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses and Bon Jovi arguably owe their existence and prosperity to Boston.
Anyway, one of the tracks is “Foreplay/Long Time,” with the first part consisting of about two extremely busy minutes. It is properly played on a Hammond B3 organ from half a century ago, the type that has to warm up for 30 seconds. The part here starts at the beginning of the second walk-down, where the bass changes from an organ to a clavinet.
Notice (from the original!) that the song is arranged in triplets — there are three notes for every bass note. AT a cadence of 180, that works out to nine notes per second, roughly twice as fast as we* can blink our eyes. That makes it sound classical to me (Tom Scholz is kind of the Mozart of the late twentieth century) and it was unheard of for any rock song or band to feature such an exotic blend of instruments and sounds together. In the main "Long Time" song, which has nothing to do with “Foreplay” musically but really doesn't sound right by itself, throws clapping (real hand claps, not a machine) in along with an acoustic guitar right in the middle. Because my dad was in a band, even as a little kid I had some sense of how different it was. Sweet Leaf (that was the band’s name; think on it) couldn't play anything by Boston even though they were hard rock all the way because they didn't have a keyboardist.
Whenever Boston plays live now, Tom Scholz, who wrote all of the songs and played every instrument but some of the drums on the original album, an includes an extra part he must have added out of boredom over the years. He was 66 for this performance after marathon bombings in 2013.
The main reason I have committed to learning to play this song isn’t because I love it. It’s to dislodge the idea from my head that I am easily discouraged, because this task will require a good deal of contributed commitment and the tolerance of a lot of mundane frustration, the worst kind. The idea that I am a quitter in the big picture of life engagement is both easy to defend with a combination facts and bullshit and founded on no real evidence. I didn’t stick with racing very long after I came back two it three-plus years ago, but when you go from being able to hang with the best American women to huffing along behind high-school girls with the rest of the six-oh-who-the-fuck-cares-pace laggards. then you should stop and redirect your resources into something less sloppy, at least if you consider yourself to be “racing,” because that’s no longer what you’re really doing.
But as much as I refuse to commit myself to once-pleasant-but-now-excoriating goals and can look at all of the the things I feel as if I have left unfinished, I can’t think of a single thing I have surrendered owing to incompetence or lassitude that’s not still out there for me to grab if I want to. I hope the same is true of everyone reading this. And it probably is: If you have the dark luxury of being a regular consumer of my writing, you probably have the time and energy to do whatever it is you’ve been putting off thanks to age, despair or garden-variety doubt. Otherwise, don’t go too long between orgasms, or you’re bound to cause someone, mainly yourself, some avoidable trouble.