Thursday, November 19, 2015


a while ago, I was toying with the idea of doing a post on why I'm so awesome. i was on a bit of a rampage, going hard through my workouts, making good relationships with people at work, getting shit done. i even knew how to make a figure-four deadfall trap.

and then it all fell apart.

the trap turned out to be very sensitive and would have been effective if it weren't for the lack of pull in the decade-old bungee cord that was supposed to provide tension. the running workouts were awesome and hard and propelling me toward absolute victory in my sub-three-hour-marathon goal, and then my mind got so tired and preoccupied it was all i could do to make it through the wind one foot in front of another in the golden sunshine of no man's land. and i got complaints and consultations at work, something about questioning evaluations and consistency and something else. bullshit.

there is no need to talk about all the broken feet and ankles in the house this autumn. there is no need to address the things that got lost in yardwork long past due, or the things that got lost between 'me' and 'you'. there is no need to write about the fact that i can't write so much anymore, that everything that used to be is no more, that easy wasn't even yesterday, that tomorrow no longer shines with possibility. we may not give up on hope or progress or the nitty gritty in between, but, i tell you, there is much more to be desired. i still wake up exhausted but it's not always because i ran so far the day before. my legs hurt but not in a good way. my lungs are slowly filling with the thick dredge of winter. and you'll notice there's no poetry here.

so on we go, hapless and hazardous, teetering on edges more than brinks, just stumbling toward somewhere that's got to be better than here and now, because here and now kinda sucks. on and on and on.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

boston 1.

i knew that the distance was too long and the leg was too sore and it was too cold and there was too little daylight left, but knowing and believing are very different things.

winter hit toronto hard, so the running was hard, so the will had to be harder. more commutes to work were done on foot than on two wheels. more workouts were done in the snow than on salty pavement. we drove a lot of sundays, making sure the kids enjoyed winter rather than groaning about it like their old man too in love with the wrong sport.

every sunday, after skiing, i got dressed in all of my layers, and went out for the long run. my weeks included at least four runs, one of them long, and one of them thrashing myself at the club circuit of intervals. a bunch of men and women flying around snow-covered neighborhoods every tuesday night. steaming in the frozen car on the drive home. dark tuesdays at the burger joint if it was a pay week. soggy shivers home if it wasn't. sundays were just long and the soggy shivers happened at the end, coming into the hill, nowhere near any triumphs.

i got used to chasing the sun. i got blisters from my yaktrax the tuesday before, so that sunday i resolved to duct tape the toe boxes of my road trainers, and i set out for laps of a local snowy road. i made four sets of tracks in the middle of the road, an out and back not being long enough for the full distance. footsteps slurred through the corners, found solid ground the further they got from the highway. the best times were when it was just snowing and silent.

my knee hurt that afternoon.

the next week was a longer run, a longer way from sunset to home, so i ran west to make the most of it. i jumped snowbanks and dodged construction fences. i ran around pillars and people and potholes. i ran to the west end, then the watch beeped a muffled bleat beneath layers, and i turned around. by the time i was almost home, there was fresh snow and no one had shoveled and i was out of gels and still three kilometers short of the distance, so i ran up a street, over a street, up a street, over a street, and so on, snaking my way to the full 21 kilometers. five steps from the porch, i was done.

 i sat on the kitchen floor, thawing and steaming, and generally resolving myself into a dew, when i realized: my knee hurt.

i started some physio and saw some experts and did all kinds of exercises that week. nothing helped. the knee seemed like it would be okay, and then it flared up to stabbing pain, and i knew something was going terribly wrong. but knowing and believing are very different things.

i knew i had a terrible case of IT band syndrome. i knew i had already paid for boston. i knew i had already booked my room and was ready for an airline seat sale. i just had to get there. and that was going to be the hardest part.

trust the training. we do this because it takes the pressure off of ourselves, and allows us to rely on something we've already done, something we've already achieved, something stockpiled in the cool room, right next to confidence and a small stash of dynamite, just in case.

i got to boston common by pure chance after a short ride on the boston bus system. i got on the humid school bus excited and a little stonefaced. i ran from the bus to pee as soon as we got into hopkinton. i huddled under a tent with other pre-race survivors while the wind and mist blew through the waiting area. i vaselined everything i could. i donated my warm clothes too soon. i took off my hat for the anthem. i cheered for meb. i smiled for twelve miles straight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


what i said to the youth the other day. and i meant every word.

i yelled at my kids last night. two little girls, the most wonderful treasures in my world, were driving me nuts and not getting to bed fast enough at the end of such a day that would only end when their eyes closed to dream. i was too tired to get into hurtful words. i was too tired to be patient. so i sat, and i yelled.

when my knee was hurting for so many weeks and none of the therapists in the city could fix it, i finally got in touch with the best healer i know, and she told me one true thing: find where it hurts, and turn into the pain. you see, the tension arises because something is pulling on something else, maybe twenty other somethings, and somewhere along the way the pulling is too much so it hurts. turn toward the hurt. relieve the tension. the hurt will go away.

standing in front of you every day and trying to be worth your while is a nearly impossible task. i struggle, usually in silence, while trying to help you along to a better version of yourself. i hope all of you moving together will somehow rub off on me a bit and that maybe i'll be a bit better by the end of it too. the most important part of this whole deal is that i hope. my brother once told me that he did not hope, not at all, because he thought 'hope' was the same as 'wish' and wish was the opposite of work and he'd be damned if he wasn't going to get the things he wanted without earning them through work. it hurt me to hear him eradicate hope. so i worked to clarify the difference between the two words. hope is what makes us live and alive. wish is a frivolous want that falls far short of having a reason to breathe.

you and all that you will be, are part of my reason to breathe.

(no pressure)

a girl asked me yesterday if i had heard about madeline. i had not.  i still know next to nothing about her save the heart-wrenching vagueness of her obituary, or my own opinion that no one should have to have an obituary when they're only fifteen.

each day the routine remains much the same. we meet deadlines and adhere to schedules and make appointments just in time. we yell at our friends and our parents and our families and anyone else we love. we read and write and do math that makes no sense. we practice and then practice more. and all of this is a wondrous miracle. that we can have minds inside bodies with beating hearts that can love others'; that we can be aware of time and waste it or make it; that our time can be cut short, whether on our clocks or those of the ones we love; this is all a miracle, and none of it makes any goddam sense. because balance never has.

i may not propose a solution here, friends. i know no answers, hold no clues. i'm lucky to be here, i'm lucky to look at you and know just a scratch of you, and i have no idea how this miracle works. but if there's something out of balance, if you're wondering what's next and if there is anything next and whether anyone gives a shit about you, know that i do, and a ton of other better-informed, better-resourced, and better-looking people give a shit about you too. we're not trying to reach perfection here, friends. we're just trying to stay up. turn into the hurt. release it.

Friday, April 3, 2015


we called aaron that night, figuring that he would say yes. 

'hey man.'


'we're going to the bridge in town to jump off it. can you meet us there?'

'i don't know.'

'come ON.'

'let me ask my mom. hang on.'

i can picture that bridge, in that light, with zack and me sitting cross-legged smack dab in the middle of the warm and crumbling concrete, stretched slack over the lazy river twelve feet below. it was nine-thirty. 

these days mean that every day starts before the sun and ends well after bedtime, no longer tangled in sheets, but in debts and expectations and dreams of everything going right. despite it all, i'm convinced it will work out. my leg will return as will my pace and the ability to hurt without injury. the credit card bill will return to zero after warm months' promises are paid for and enjoyed. i've mortgaged my present for excellence later and cupcakes in the meanwhile. it must be worth it. 

on the wall between the dining room and the mudroom, next to photographs by my father and paintings by myself and drawings by the girls done in crayon and markers that used to smell, there is a framed poem. it talks all about the stuff that could have been done to make a house presentable. it talks about cleaning and polishing and keeping things tidy. it talks about foregoing all of that crap so that children could be raised well. that's about where we're at. take care of what's important; forego the trips to mexico and the down payments on overpriced real estate. give people what you've got. promise what you mean. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

les mains.

nicky said she had beautiful feet.

i had no idea what beautiful feet were, so he went on describing things to me so well that now i cannot go round without appreciating the aesthetic quality of anyone's feet. i liked my own hands well enough, with their longer fingers from my white grandfather coming out of their wider palms from my brown grandfather. that are not beautiful hands, but they get the job done and do not resemble sausages before or after cooking. asians have beautiful hands. this is a generalization of course, but true more often than not.

grant had rough hands. i suppose he was a real man from a time when real men worked with their hands, knew what do do with every tool in their garages, and would be lost in the moisturizer section of the nearest grocery store. turns out grant never used moisturizer. and she remembers her baths as a small child and the rough scrub from his hands on her perfect skin. he was a great father.

i came home one day from school to the house my dad had built with few tools and less money, and he was moisturizing his hands. they had cracked at every single crease. it was a wet and cold autumn that year when he secured a position as a labourer on the same crew he had employed to close in the house of his dreams before winter came. he bought a yellow raincoat with navy blue corduroy around the collar. he bought steel toe work boots with a green CSA triangle patch on the side. he worked in the rain, sloughing liquid concrete and bags of sand or mortar, until the boss called him in. his hands cracked. he went to bed early. and we were always warm.

my mother never paints her fingernails. deep reds and garish greens and the odd pink or powder blue have started decorating her toes, but only now, in her grandmother years, in her big house, mostly finished and nearly empty of all of us. painted nails would never do as she cares for the sick and medically needy. painted nails would chip on firewood at the furnace or the copper-bottom pots in the steel sink under the window. there is little time for painting nails when you've an entire world to put before your own whims.

time to get to work.

Friday, January 16, 2015

no days off.

i am never ready to write.

i lay in bed last night, with stiff, heavy legs, thinking about all kinds of things and, eventually, resting on just a few eloquent lines for a spoken word poem about… it's left me. i came up with everything, rhymed and metered for a few perfect beats, then fell deeply asleep. i figured i could wake up in the morning and type them out and be a better person for getting something right before six a.m. this was not so.

the kids at work have been barreling through three-to-five-minute bursts of speeches through a range of topics. every time one of those shining faces opens a mouth to speak, a new idea rattles around inside my head, and i have to wrench my focus back to the evaluation at hand. nothing kills creativity like a goddam rubric. and so i want to speak. i would like to get up there, all important-like behind that lectern, and go off on some eloquent tangent like i know, and believe, what i'm saying. but i've spent days being quiet. and it's been great.

tracksmith sent me a free calendar. large and obtrusive, it dominates the wall of degrees in the office, holding its ground just above the light switch and an older work of so many crayons by the fat fingers of the big kid when she was little. the thick paper bears the grey, sans serif numbers of each day of every month for this year. underneath, in gilt bold block letters are three simple words: NO DAYS OFF. tracksmith also sent me a red sharpie. though i was hoping for a big fat marker that maybe smelled like synthetic cherries from the 80s, i use the sharpie to mark an 'X' over every day i run.

there are many Xs.

consistency being the key to mastery of so many things, i resolved to run more long before this calendar thing ever got tweeted or mailed in a real envelope to a real address. there are days off, but that only makes sense as rest days are as important as stress days. and it's fucking winter. but the main point is this: more often, i must do the right things. consistently, i must right and run and ride and grin and read more. there must be more Xs.

there will be no days off.