blog, poem

XXVI

I ran around for a couple hours on Sunday; the sun was spilling yellow all over the place, and the city kids had it stuck on their clothes. When I finished, when my legs fell out from underneath, I tore open an orange and took in that nectar, that orange juice.

Two hours before, I watched a video of a man yelling into the desert sky, hollering about the urgency of being on the planet. The man cares and you can hear it in his voice. He’s out there yelling “your lungs are temporary” and “this dirt is so special” and “ah!” all loud, all over the desert. Listen to this man.

Listen to him!

Makes me want to shout it out. This earth is so goddam special. Being alive is jazz hands. I am so stoked about this.

Met a chick a couple nights ago who asked if I thought she was a “tit” and it made me laugh out loud. A real good chuckle, as I waddled back to my subaru, hobbling on my achey knee (on account of all the sun-running). That laugh echoed into the chilly night.

Dipped this mint tea bag into the hot water and took it in.

Stop listening to the shitty irony. The type of nonchalance that spews from the mouths of folk who grew up thinking it’s cool to not care about anything. I am so sick of this. I am so vehemently sick of this. Instead, you must rip out your heart and staple it to your sleeve.

I’m calling you out. Give it up.

The only two resolutions I’ve given myself this year are to give more gifts and meet more people. I think about my uncles who would walk around town shaking hands with everyone, holding doors open, making the chat. People love that shit. I love it, too, when the chat is nice and easy. I want to say hey to more strangers.

I’ll run a marathon in february. I’m not ready, but you’re never ready. That goes for it all.

Sometimes you have a dream that you’re waking up next to your old lover, and you don’t think twice about it. You just roll over onto them and fall back asleep in their hair. There’s no doubt that you can love someone your whole life, regardless. I wish we could be more honest about that.

Fuck, shit, and goddam are three words that academia is lacking.

Dallas Clayton is teaching us how to love again.

Wherever you go, leave flowers in your wake.  Leave flowers in your wake, burn pastel memories into the gray.

I’d like the girl I love to be there, at that race. I’d like her to be holding up a sign that says something good, something that gets my toes to the very end. I haven’t been too good about keeping love around, but I’ll work on it. One day, she’ll be there, and she’ll love me, and I’ll love her right back.

You gotta tell people exactly what you want, because traffic is loud and everyone is on their phones. Say it slow and well, and do 80%. Only then will you find your help.

I don’t think we need coffee scented candles, really. You just gotta put a pot of coffee on.

Certain words just grab the eye right, like “occult” and “pestilence”. The best part about writing is juggling around the alphabet and bending up all the rules. Lots of folks tell me I write nice, and I always tell them to read Kurt Vonnegut.

I read more Vonnegut this december. He has a way of springing up from the page and flopping right into your tomato soup:

he was watching the clouds. they were lovely things, and the sky they drifted in was, to the color-starved space wanderer, a thrilling blue.” – The Sirens of Titan

“A thrilling blue.”

That’s a good juggle.

I don’t preach it a lot, but eating vegetables is the truth. Everything else is poison.

Bowling is also the truth. Don’t chill with anyone who doesn’t want to bowl. They’re probably the same kids tweeting about wanting to die (ironically), forgetting that they will (unironically).

When your birthday comes around, take a minute to read all the comments. Chances are, you’ll be taken back to a real happy time with everyone that scribbles on your wall. Chances are, most of these people won’t know each other. But they all know you.

Weed is worth smoking once, but it’s not worth smoking once a day.

I want to give more gifts because it taps into the real warmth. Better if the gift isn’t something you can buy. For some odd reason, I think about the line Bradley sang back in ’95, about giving all your money to charity. The Chili Peppers sang about the same thing. A lot of us teeter on the edge of giving it all away.

I think we give it all away when we run marathons. When we conceive. When we teach a class, when we jump off a bridge somewhere tethered only by our ankles. When we hold up signs in the bitter wind at the end of the race.

I ran around for a couple hours on Sunday; the sun was spilling yellow all over the place, and the city kids had it stuck on their clothes. When I finished, when my legs fell out from underneath, I tore open an orange and took in that nectar, that sweet orange marmalade.

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blog, editorial

Bugs & Features

I’ve been thinking about bugs and features for four straight months.

Software devs have hated the metaphor since the birth of the internet. It’s too extreme; often bug reports are mislabeled as feature requests that need tweaking, or vice versa, and engineers don’t like prioritizing one over the other when needing to fix a program. I want to play with the concept regardless.

The simplest way to describe the difference is this: a bug is when a program is not working as intended, and a feature is when a user wants something from the program that does not exist within it.

In other words, a bug is ordering a beer and getting coffee. A feature request is ordering a beer at Starbucks.

“We don’t serve beer, sir. This is Starbucks.”

The customer understands he is in a coffee shop, but wants the coffee shop to also serve beer.

Another example: you upload a color photograph to Instagram, but it renders in black and white on your profile. That’s a bug. Wanting to upload a photograph to Instagram from your computer, however, is a feature that does not exist: the program is designed to only work through your phone.

For some of us, this is frustrating. We see features as bugs: we want to order coffee at the bar, like the Italians, because a place designed to serve beverages should also serve coffee. Coffee is a beverage, for Pete’s sake!  We want to upload to Instagram straight from our computers instead of emailing ourselves the image, saving it on our phone, then going through the app. To some of us, the features we want out of our programs (digital or not) seem like bugs.

I think this mentality extends into our personal lives and blockades our happiness.

This year was tough on everyone. We lost a lot of beloved artists. We lost a lot of political momentum. Apart from the Cubbies taking the Series and the Queen turning 90, this year was a tough pill to swallow. But I’m here to tell you that, although it feels like a bug, all of this is just a feature.

It’s how it goes. History tells us that. Art tells us that even better.

Ants (literal bugs) at a picnic is part of the picnic experience: it’s a feature of picnics. It comes with the brie and baguette, wicker-basket package.

I hear a lot of complaining. I’ve said many times that it brings me down. I don’t think that we have any room to bicker, even when it feels like we do. Even when your roommate eats all of your cracker jacks. Even when your bus blows a flat tire. I see a lot of my friends succumbing to cyclical nervous breakdowns and self-destructive routines because they are convinced the world’s dominos are stacked against them. I don’t think this is true.

I think it’s a matter of recognizing bugs versus features.

Athletes are very good at this.  Your three-hundred pound nose tackle, “The Fridge”, knows how to manage bugs and features.  The Fridge doesn’t go back to the huddle every down yelling about #53’s fingers in his eyeballs.  The Fridge just wants to eat the quarterback’s knees. He knows that it’s the center’s job to keep him hungry, that the offensive line is a feature, that, in his own words, “it’s just football, coach.”

Similarly, marathoners don’t quit running because of the hills after mile 15. Even if they didn’t look at the course map, they knew it was going to get tough. You won’t hear marathoners complaining about the hills, calling them bugs.

It’s a simple principal when it comes to the physical stuff, but I think we could all be a little better by keeping the perspective in tact with the intangible things. Fights with your lover aren’t bugs in your relationship. Working late hours during midterms aren’t bugs of your career. Going to your grandfather’s funeral isn’t a detour in the trajectory of your life: it’s as much a feature as dying itself. Your professors, your parents, your higher-ups, this year: these things aren’t out to get you. These are features of existing in this world.

Maybe the most charming post I read about bugs and features from a software developer concludes with the idea that it’s all a matter of little details. That the issues, be them bugs or features, are still just issues. It’s hardly worth distinguishing between them because you have to fix them anyway.

I like this idea, but it’s only useful once you understand the difference. The past four months have been a lesson in working with bugs and features, and in either case, I’ve had a problem to solve: How do I manage this challenge? I’ve learned this: bugs don’t deserve any of your energy, while feature requests demand all of it.

In other words, if you want to eat better, do not complain that ice cream exists, because Klondikes are bugs! If you want to eat better, you must spend every waking minute fantasizing about baby carrots. You must build your castle around the beet. You must salivate at the thought of a pea.

If you want to be a better lover, a better friend, an air pilot, a librarian, an early bird, a night owl, a city slicker, or a new resident in the next state over: squash the bugs. Put your shoes on and jump on the crunchy cockroaches.

Heading into the new year, consider your resolutions through the lens of the software developers, through the yin yang of bugs and features. Go forth and eat peas and eat hills and eat knees.

The Fridge believes in you!

 

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blog, editorial

Twenty-Six and Two

I run because of Key Lime yogurt.

I run because the world is loud.

I run because I can’t always be honest.

I like the way that running breaks the calloused mind. I like talking with the truth: the little voice hiding underneath the fluff of the everyday static. I like digging for the clarity. I’ve gone to running when stuck between the most difficult choices of my life. I like the way running always makes the harder choice.

I think running is preparing me, in some way, for the death of my mother.

I run because I’m a terribly average runner, with all due respect.

I run because its glamour is measured in streaks of salt across flushed cheeks and sore knees.

I like the way running is not an escape. I like the way running makes everything else feel like an escape.

I run because it’s sexy and raw and unkempt and in a mess.

I like that everywhere is somewhere to run. I like that I don’t have to pay anyone to go outside. I like running over crosswalks and under bridges and through the city wind.

I run because race bibs make me look stupid. I always think my bib is ten times bigger than everyone else’s, and that it’s slightly crooked, and that the safety pins will make permanent runs in the polyester.  I’m never right.

I like feeling light. I like the way a skeleton can stretch. I like gliding around downtown and putting music on. I like sweaty socks and bitter breath and watching it all pass by.

I run because running is a parasite. I run because it bites back. I think we all need something to shove. We crave the fight. I like running because it picks on me. I like the way a bad race can ruin a week. I like the motivation that haunts defeat.

I like that running is never enough: that it keeps me thirsty.

I like the way running makes water taste so goddam good.

I like running because I’m clumsy and lanky and have always been the ‘kid in glasses.’ I like that it’s real hard to run in glasses.

I run because we sit down too much. Because we eat poison. Because it fills the lungs with air, clearing the smoke. I like the way the body glows, afterwards, like heroin, or making love. I like when I finally catch my breath.

I run because of short shorts and tanned thighs and naked collarbones. I run because it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself for ten miles. I like running because runners are happy (because it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself for ten miles). I like runners because they’re happy (and they’re the kind of people you want to be). I like runners because they’re happy (and happiness is hot).

I run because it’s hard and good and relentless.

I like collapsing into bed. I like earning it. I like studying my splits and searching for hills and chipping off the seconds. I like the way running makes the seconds matter. I like eating bananas. I like pushing around the thick in my calves. I like thinking about running all day. I like being obsessed.

I like closing my eyes to the sting of sweat. I like opening my eyes and seeing purple flowers. I like the hellish infinity of a long, straight road. I like exhaling it out.

I like the way they look at all of us when we run together. I like the high fives from the dog-walkers. I like the couples holding hands. I like the city folk. I like their rubber necks.

I run because I can feel it all over.

I like the way it feels all over.

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Uncategorized

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

There are no pessimistic runners.

Yes, there are angry runners. There are sad runners, too. There are gleeful and voracious and brooding and quiet runners. There are runners who fly in planes just to run somewhere else, just to stay up all night running. These runners just run and run and run.

They’re out there scooting their rubber soles across dirt paths and looking up into the trees at the squirrels, thinking about what the little critters do come December. They are thinking “well, if that little creature can fight off hawks and buzzards and the gripping midnight winter, then I can finish this mile.”

That’s what a runner thinks about. Here’s a list of seven other things that runners think about:

1) Toenails painted with someone’s birthday in mind
2) Gandhi sitting down enjoying a glass of water
3) Their first crush Veronica whose last name reminds them of a large fish
4) And, subsequently, the day they learned what the word “crush” meant
5) The people who program traffic lights
6) The gentle scratch of a fifth grader’s violin bow
7) Just how odd it is that odd numbers make for more even lists

But never, ever will you find a runner who thinks:

1) Why bother?

Because the moment a runner entertains the poison thoughts like “why bother?” and “my feet hurt” and “I wish I had a lover” and “ten miles is impossible” and “I hate _____” and “you don’t deserve _____”, a runner becomes a walker.

And eventually a sitter.

But this isn’t about running. This is about living with intention.

In looking at the past ten years of my life, I see heaviness I’ve suffered brought on by living passively, by living without intention. Some of these events are as trivial as letting a friend decide dinner. Others: sharing my emotional wealth with girls who fumble in managing it. Even wearing clothing that a lover buys has subtle ramifications in becoming a person that hands the reins of their future over to anyone itching to steer.

All of these pivotal moments share one thing in common: a justification born out of embarrassment.

I wasn’t craving anything in particular, so I just told David to pick up a pizza.”

I’m needy. I don’t blame her for not giving me the attention.”

I love the color! You really know my style, don’t you?”

Paradoxically, we are swift to defend our lethargic choices. Our indifference. We are passive until we are challenged, and then we actively fortify the reasons for which we choose to sit.

Linguistically, the active voice is always stronger in writing. The passive is weak, accidental, weightless. Reflected grammatically in its form, the original subject of the verb becomes replaced by its direct object:

“Newton discovered calculus.” vs
“Calculus was discovered by Newton.”

Calculus wasn’t just found lying in a meadow offhand by a dude on an afternoon stroll. Einstein isn’t guessing, picking values from a hat until E has its sexy, balanced counterpart. Miyazaki doesn’t haphazardly make Totoro fly, a cute afterthought added just for kicks, right before post-production. Nobody accidentally runs a marathon (except the poor bastard who ran the first one).

Meanwhile, everyone is telling you shit like:

“You have to go with the flow, Sam  // Whatever happens is meant to happen // Come what may // Who knows?” etcetera.

These are lazy philosophies. Too often have I told myself to “snap out of it!” because I find myself floating along in a daze, without any trajectory, like a buoy in the deep. I start begrudging the success of everyone else out there running marathons and kissing the women of their wildest dreams and reinventing the wheel. I’m caught defending my dishonest choices and folding up the pair of jeans I thought I’d “try out” just to “see if I like them.” I sit around.

Stop it.

You know what you like. I promise. You know exactly who you want to be. You know who you want to wake up next to on a chilly Sunday morning. You know her name, the funny way she laughs too hard all at once, the color of her toenails at your surprise party. You know what you want to wear, even if its too androgynous or shows too much leg. You know all of these things. Stop sitting around at parties pretending to enjoy yourself. Be intentional: even when you’re ready to try something new. Be spontaneous on purpose. Don’t let it all just happen to you. Stop sitting around.

Stand up. Run.

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