Friday, November 10, 2017


Today my daughter came home and told me about her basketball game. They lost by only nine points to a team full of rep players. It started late which was why she came home in the dark, by herself. Oh, and this is the jersey, which is huge, and doesn't fit. And the ref made everyone take off their undershirts.


The ref said they have to be the same colour for every girl on the team, or players can't wear them.

My daughter is 12.

And in no public place or sporting even or school environment or unbalanced power relationship is anyone allowed to tell her to take off her clothes. Ever.

But my daughter is 12, so she does not yet know that a misguided ref, and all of the incorrect notions of the unbalanced society that the ref represents, is wrong. My daughter just wants to follow the rules and be a good kid and play hard. But today she came home from a girls basketball game with an experience I have tried to guard her from for 12 years. No one has any rights to my daughter or her body. No one has any right to set technical uniform rules against the athletic dignity of a public school basketball team. No one has the right to ruin girls' athletics in the name of an unaccommodating rule that has no bearing on safety or the nature of the game. And, as the referee, the basic job is to ensure fair play and athletic integrity. There is no athletic integrity in using a (minor) technical uniform rule to force a team of 12-year-old young women to take off their clothes.

Two things happened that were good. The referee's profound mistake has forced us to reinforce our daughter's understanding of her personal rights and freedoms (attacks have this effect). She knows that she can and must refuse anyone's request for her to undress, particularly in a public place of education. Another good thing was that the referee at least had the good sense to not ostracize a Muslim player for her religious beliefs about covering her own body. I told my daughter that if that is ever even started, my daughter shall not play. We do not exclude. And if that means an entire team forfeits so that they can retain their dignity and clothe their own bodies as they see fit, so be it. The rules, new to many of these girls and obviously to their coach, are there to ensure teams can proceed safely and on some level of equality. The rules are not there to disadvantage an entire team, or to strip players of their undershirts or senses of self. How dare a referee hold a position of power and use it to dissolve the very principles upon which she claims to operate. How dare she do it to my daughter and her teammates. And how dare she brazenly risk the discontinuation of so many girls' healthy love for athletic participation. And all this, based on the observation of a rule not known or understood prior to the start of the game.

In an era where young women are told from all sides what to do and not do about all aspects of their bodies; and an era in which whole generations of women abandon athletic movement in shame and ignorance; and in an eara where women are routinely taken advantage of in broad power imbalances often upheld by their own peers, we owe them so much more than a degrading reprimand that leaves them scrambling for court time in bras that their mothers would have burned.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


She was one of the prettiest girls in a high school full of pretty girls. Somehow, per capita, my tiny high school, comprised of 6oo kids from all the small towns around a valley of maple and pine trees, had the most and the prettiest pretty girls around. Thank goodness for the beautiful people of the Ottawa Valley, and all their roughneck romance that made the women that made my high school a torturous dream.

Anyway, she was pretty.

Thankfully, though, this is not about how pretty she was. That would be a boring start to a worse story, and no one really cares anyway. All the women in my life are pretty. You should see my lady, first thing in the morning, at 5am, sleepy and pulling on her kit for another sunrise interval session. Gorgeous. You should see the daughters we made. All big-eyed and freckled and game to try anything. Stunning. But right. This is not about pretty. This is about shorts.

See, my girlfriend in high school was very very pretty. This was not the only thing about her, at all, really. She was extremely athletic, very academically successful, and generally a nice person. And she could suffer. She raced cross country, see, and that's all about suffering. She also was extremely determined, in a subtle (but not resigned) kind of way. I used to watch her stretching in the grass before she began her daily run home from school. It was 7k. I didn't run that much until last year, two decades after she was already immersed in her own trial of miles. But this is not about determination, or guts, or a subtle, never-ending drive to put in work to become better. This is not about miles. This is about shorts.

So when my first girlfriend ever and I were going out, I never saw her body.

We used to lie on a tacky mesa-themed duvet cover on my collapsing double bed in my room in my parents' house, with the light on, with the door slightly ajar, and spend hours kissing. It was amazing. She was 'my first kiss', and I had never been in such delight in my life.

Anyway, it was winter in Ontario, back when that meant snow by October, and snowbanks by December. I had my first kiss in a snowbank. Nevertheless, sub-zero temperatures do very little for the effectiveness of school kid groping. And then we were at my parents' house, and I was a scared little fifteen-year-old, and I lusted for so much more, but could only ever muster a meager hand on a fully-clothed hip. Sometimes my entire sensory system was focused on that hand. And then my leg would fall asleep, and we'd move, and that was that. But this is not about a hip covered in flannel. This is about shorts.

She was a great athlete. While I was learning how to play a sport with some kind of precision, she was already a clutch player on all parts of the court. She came to a game or two and I tried miserably not to screw up in front of her. I went to her games and watched her move with grace and power. We even wore the same shorts. They were navy blue, made out of indestructible Supplex® nylon, and hit magically mid-thigh on everyone's femur. I felt that they were short, but I jumped high and ran fast in them every time. I ran cross-country, and eventually track,  and always wore those shorts for events that would count. I was never a great athlete, no threat to any competitor, but I dressed like the rest of them, and it made me feel fast.

We broke up that year, at school, in a snowstorm. I went home and cried. She went to put in some miles on her skate skis. I wrote bad poetry for years. I never got any better at volleyball.

One day, I walked into the gym, to cheer on a home game of the girls' volleyball team, and my jaw dropped. There were all those pretty, pretty girls, wearing their usual custom jerseys, but now with spandex booty shorts. I don't actually know what they were called, or what they are called now, but they needed no formal introduction as all formal thought process had already ceased. Gulp. I was not actually sure how I felt about the kit, mostly because I had never seen so much of these beautiful women's bodies and now anyone in the bleachers could see everything ever, and I was jealous. But fascinated. But reluctant. And drawn. Now this is about shorts.

The next thing is a difficult thing to admit and to explain, but it's the best I can do, and it's why there is so much backstory.

My first girlfriend did all of the sports. She aced all of her classes. She was kind to all folks, even lowly freaks like myself with bad hair and big pants who still had kind of a crush on her. She owed no one anything, except she retained humility. And as I watched her in the volleyball game, that beautiful, gorgeous human who had held my heart for so many months, as I watched her move to the ball and plant her feet and execute, I forgot that I could see her body. I forgot that she was wearing practically nothing. I forgot that she was a person I desired, moving around in an object I desired. She was an athlete. She moved. She was strong. She did action with purpose.

I remember being at a track meet later that same year. Everyone was wearing whatever would make them go fastest and farthest, which usually meant wearing very little at all, and spikes. Spikes usually get worn without socks, for maximum lightness, and maximum connection to the machine: the body. Spikes are fast, and spikes stink. In a system, the fewest interruptions between force and object result in the maximum received output. Foot to track with only a thin, spiked platform in between means maximum output, which means speed, which is what racing is. So no one wore socks with their spikes, or shirts under their singlets, or underpants under their shorts. Everyone removed as many interruptions as possible, so as to maximize the body's interaction with the environment, and maximize its force output.

See there? 'The body's'. Not 'their'; not 'their body'; definitely not 'them'. The body. Because one of the most beautiful things about sport is that it contextualizes the body in a function without socialized misrepresentation. And in a sport as simple as track, a body is reduced to its essential nature: machine to do work. It is not sexy or beautiful or desirable or ugly because of how it looks; it is amazing or frustrating because of how it works. It is a thing. It is a wonderful thing, and its function is in its form and they are one, so beauty results. But this beauty can only exist as a pearl, a thing from goop on one side and sand grit on the other, neither particularly amazing in and of themselves. Together, though, there is a pearl. That long leg is fine and that high hurdle is fine but watch that long leg ease swiftly over that high hurdle in an eternal second and tell me you've not witnessed something cosmic.

So my former girlfriend was dressed for success. And she was not dressed in very much. And I remember thinking not about her body that I might desire, but about her body that could so gracefully and smoothly round laps of the track, faster than so many others, faster than I. I thought about her machine. I wondered what fuel she gave it. I wondered how she took care of its ligaments and tightening muscles. I thought of the miles she had to put it through to put it through this one so fast. I did not want to hold it. I did want to understand it and bear it witness.

She took off her shoes after the race, and carried them around while she walked barefoot through the grass. She had one pair of webbed toes. Her race flats probably smelled, as race flats do. Her singlet probably was no longer super fresh and delightfully aromatic. She may have had a runny nose and sweat dripping down her temples. Her hair looked like hair in a nondescript ponytail. She offered to go for a warm down run (more running?) with a snaggle-toothed boy still coughing up his effort.

And all this time, she was an athlete, with her own mind, her own race plan, her own outfit, her own choices, her own preferences, her own power, her own questions, her own dreams, her own skin, her own heart. At no time would anyone around presume to tell her what to wear.

The whole point here is that athletic endeavour transcended prejudiced body condemnation. She didn't worry about the appearance of her body. Others didn't worry about the appearance of her body. The body was there to perform movements with strength and grace and grit. And as a witness, as a lusty, hormone-riddled, visually-stimulated adolescent, her endeavour took precedence. Regardless of her outfit, her athleticism outshone and outweighed most other consideration of her or her body or the machine she had made of it and how it looked.

So when the girls toe the line to thrash their legs and fire their lungs and hearts and minds with the heat of striving and competition and teamwork and other-centeredness and all things beautiful about cross-country running, cheer. Do not consider the length or tightness of their garments. Do not judge them for their appearances. Admire their courage. Witness their audacious endeavour. Cheer.

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.