Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Gord is dead. Long live Gord.

we were crowded around the coffee table on a windy night in august. the wind was pushing in off of georgian bay, and with no rocks and few pine trees to hold it back, it got in our eyes and pulled at our tears. gord was singing. gord was dying.

we had every device we could muster, moving back and forth between inadequate technological platforms in reckless attempts to witness one last tragically hip concert. we were just remote enough to get just enough snippets to form our last impression of gord and the band. the songs were mostly complete, like his remembrances of the lyrics, and we choked up as we watched him, now dancing, now struggling, now screaming, now soothing us through every second we could stand or not.

it is a rare thing to witness a legend.

before youtube, there was a requisite trip to someone's parents' storage something, whereupon someone had the foresight to document and then archive something that would become legendary, and then, there would be the journey to find a technology platform capable of re-rendering the display so that it may be taken in, decades later, by a human that has, by and large, not evolved. i used to get lost in old film negatives of my aunts and uncles as babies and toddlers, my dad as a gangly teenager. now it's an ordeal just to find a wet darkroom to print negatives like that, and everyone looks at screens instead of anything they can hold, just one thing at a time, in their hands. i think gord was holding one thing at a time, in his hands. i think he was always good at that.

my brother saw the tragically hip live at bluesfest one year in ottawa. he said that gord was crazy on stage, and that he wanted whatever gord had before he went in front of thousands of people to perform. i don't know whatever gord had before a performance, but i know that during his performance, he probably gained so much more. people often talk about all of the things a performer is keeping track of while s/he does something beautiful. how many harmonies are being played at once. how many keys are being struck or notes being reached or different rhythms being kept. it is as if maximum multitasking is the ultimate goal, the sign of genius. i would say that the compartmentalization may be a disservice to what is really going on, one or two real, good things, from the artist, to us, the audience, in time.

it's the difference between a magic trick and a hug.

and just like when a hug ends, my chest feels a little colder now that gord has left. there was warmth and humanity and artistry and importance in the bold truth of everyday about that guy. and just like when a good hug ends, my cheeks are a little flush, and i'm all aflutter, because i'm different now than i was before, better, even, and lucky for it.

thank you, gord.

Friday, March 24, 2017

these mornings.

these mornings begin with darkness and reluctance, reluctance to get out of bed, reluctance to leave a state of dreams, reluctance to begin confronting..everything. these mornings evolve, though, because, the night before, preparations were made. and, just before bed, somebody put out his own damn running shoes and running jacket and running hat and heart rate monitor strap and all that other synthetic stuff, and somebody took away, sock by running sock, every excuse to not start confronting things. these mornings change into glimpses of running clothes pulled on over physio tape residue clinging gainly to white white skin stretched over once-young bones now holding up the wiry remains of an athlete’s form. these mornings hear creaking steps rather than creaking joints and then, with a pull, the door closes. these mornings evolve into steps first peaceful and then steps not hurried, but steady now, through the darkness, through the quiet, through the rumbling, waking city. these mornings dogs amble and lights drone and just before dawn and just after the turnaround point, wane into steady rain. these mornings begin to drip and droop under the clean, quiet blackness making the whole world shiny before seeping through seams onto steaming shoulders where her fingers used to linger. these mornings the gutters course with the detritus of a winter of longing, and steps splash insolent on the return dash home. these mornings the quiet yawns into bleak grey that looks like his eyes but is too cold for his heart. these mornings, his heart burns.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, it occurred.

if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, it did not happen.

it did not happen because in order for something to happen, someone or something must be the object of the verb happen; something must be happened to or upon, and if no one was there, no one was happened to, and thus, nothing happened.

this is, of course, the meaning of life.

no, i do not mean to say that the meaning of life is a simplistic sum of semantics. i say that the meaning of life has everything to do with context, with community, with consequence, with understanding that we, in all our bodies and hopes and hurts, are suspended in a pool of community and time. we do not know that we are moving unless we turn. we do not know that we exist unless we touch. we do not know that we hurt unless we heal.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


i broke my streak yesterday.

it was the first day of a new month that, in other countries, marks the beginning of spring and promise and planting for harvest and, in a word, hope. instead, i let the red marker lie in its magenta leather change box next to a box of strike anywhere matches and a pocket knife. and i did not put an 'x' on my calendar. it felt like a sin.

unlike other sins, however, it was not even slightly enjoyable in any guilty way. it was just straight up bad. and wrong. and all of the things that denote those things we are not supposed to do and then for no reason at all i did not do a thing and that was the undoing of it all. try running that around in your head all day while you debate whether or not to run around anything anyway.

truth of the matter was, and is, it was time. and i will soon figure out how to put some lessons that i learned into a good log about positive truths i came to know, but in the meantime, i just felt kinda rotten and then faded away into a deep sleep. then i woke up this morning and felt even just a little bit hungrier for a few steps on cold pavement. toying with quitting was like a drug itself. just the concept of breaking some unwritten promise secreted a little bit of possibility pleasure in my brain.

when the routine is broken, of course, all hell breaks loose and it's never like it is in the movies. we stayed in from the group run the other night because the big kid was too tired to run. we didn't know what to do with ourselves. we ate too early, too much. we had hours of daylight and itchy bodies twitching with too much energy. it was a pileup and the evening, our casualty, staggered about aimlessly. we will not skip that plan again.

so tonight, my big kid is another year older. a decade and a bit ago she changed the world forever. tonight i will reflect on her and that change and when i grew up overnight. and i will do this in one of the only two places things make sense to me: on a run.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

all for you.

the private school parking lot drooped with cars ticking in the midday heat.

each automobile boasted steel rims and faded paint, some highlighted by rust spots and scratches from forgotten fun days. inside the painted concrete hallways and scrubbed baseboard classrooms, children were growing. their maseratis were at home in the garage. their porsches were getting fitted for new, asymmetrical tire configurations, their parents were getting their nails done and hedge funds topped up. their teachers were believing in them, and worrying about the oil dripping underneath that red honda civic not quite in the shade by the episcopalian church.


private school parents used to pay good money to send their children to poor teachers so that both could give the best of themselves and the children would grow to be great. this really happened. for thirty-four thousand dollars a year, the children got to play and learn and mature and, at the end of june, leave with a certificate of completion for senior kindergarten. resident doctors pay less and leave with more. but for all of their money and hours, resident doctors do not get to spend more than eight hours a week with adults who are paid to teach them but end up loving and believing and supporting them. that was my job. and it was worth a million dollars a year.

i told the youth this very thing the other day. i told them that they were getting a million dollar a year session with me for free, and that the least they could do was show up on time for it. with coffee. black. and it occurred to me, in the saying of it all, that it was entirely true, came across as entirely arrogant, and that, as a fact, it was utterly useless. these are not the the facts that change lives. these are not the facts that shock and appall. these are the facts that inform my ability to get out of bed every day, my focus on the point of it all, my work, and, ultimately, me. so no one else has to give a damn, and no one does. but it was helpful to realize: i am worth a million dollars a year.


allan ran towards me with his trademark small steps and non-shoes. we were the only ones running on bathurst street, so i would have recognized him if for nothing other than movement more purposeful than a deliberate slog on sidewalk concrete. nevertheless, the sight of him threw my heart into sunshine, and i sped up and hugged him in spite of myself. allan and i don't hug.

we ran off of the sidewalk and onto the ice, a stalled glacier coating well-run backyard paths of the one percent. allan was alright. i was alright. we ran. i had asked him how he was, and received a non-committal, 'okay'. allan and i share things like i used to share things in high school: all me talk and no info in return. (i imagine i spent most of my formative youth like brian from the gaslight anthem, "bleeding" from an overemotional heart onto any innocent bystander, passerby, good friend, or beautiful girl. ugh, what an idiot!) we made our slippery way down the ice, peppering our (my) talk with the occasional near-fall or acknowledgement of better traction. i talked a lot. allan listened a lot. and the run began to work its magic.

somewhere out of the woods and back onto concrete, i told allan about what my running had become. it was the same thing i sought in the lips of women and the approval of parents and the eyes of people who know me. i searched and yearned for this throughout so many long bike rides and torturous interval sessions and gallons and gallons of needless sweat. running is the space wherein i contextualize myself with the world. that is all. and it is perfectly rendered in the final race of The Other Kingdom, where our protagonist comes to realize the point of life: I made myself the best I could possibly be so that I may offer you, my fellows, something of worth.

i think that's it. at least, i told allan that that was it. as soon as i read that, something clicked in my head, and i have been running about it ever since. some days are worse and harder than others, and some days it rings true in every breath. whatever the case, this is the point of it all. i am trying to make myself the best that i can be, so that i can offer you something worthy. this takes a lot of time. the best way to true a wheel is an eighth of a turn at a time. the best way to build endurance is over years, not weeks. the best way to become a master is to show up, every time. and so, as my marking stares me down and my people are off at their jobs and the rain entices me to a few miles in its grace, i must go. there is much to build so that there is more to offer. you, all of you, have always been worth it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


that hollow feeling after a night of communion took over my insides.

the sky was greyed-out, monotonous and threatening in all its cloud. sometimes there was snow. mostly, just on the inside, i felt cold, like the wind would howl through my guts while whipping my ribs with paper and plastic bags and old brittle weeds left next to the salty curb. and last night had been so warm!

but today was different. it was a morning-after of sorts, a day to come to terms with too many glasses of wine and too much revelling in the friendship of others, and the idea of theirs that i was a somebody worth loving. today was different. i woke up not entirely satisfied, and the bed next to me was empty, and my daughter was all grown up, and i was very, very behind on my list of things to do. in fact, i had lost the list and needed to find a new pen to re-write it. some days just feel like that, and today was a lost list.

i hate being listless.