Thursday, August 24, 2006

One year ago I really was kicking your ass :

The question these kids keep asking me since returning from my California adventure is the most trite and useless question I can think of. "What is the coolest thin you did all summer?"

You really want to know? It was a couple hundred miles north of Los Angeles. Far away from Sunset Boulevard and the distractions and daemons. One weekend where I found myself lost in the hills outside Monterey, CA under the hot summer sun. It's the southern end of wine country and it's beautiful and it's secluded and for the most part it's quiet but for one weekend. This weekend The Laguna Seca Racetrack is a magical place because everything is so out of place. The twists and turns of flawless black pavement wrapped around the golden grasses of the rolling hillsides.

I've heard that at 150 miles per hour the world is completely clear. There's room for one thought and one thought only. I had woken at dawn on Saturday to drive 4 hours and stand close enough to the small men on the big bikes that maybe I could faintly make out what the one thought was. A whisper against the roar of engines loud enough to make you feel your larger organs rattle against your ribcage. Somehow I found myself on the roof of one of the racer's RV's watching the best of the best of the best with honors glide by effortlessly. Somehow Sunday rolled around and I found myself in the VIP area for the main event. It didn't matter. It was just me and the bikes. Michael Jordan on my left? Who cares. Brad Pitt on my right? Go back to Angie at home. I'm not phased at all. This was Moto GP. It was in my blood. It was in my soul. And if my entire summer had consisted of raking manure just for that one weekend of heaven on earth it would have been enough to keep this grin plastered to my face.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The key is to really be kicking their ass, to really be knocking their socks off, even if you're having an off night. I tell myself every time I get lost that it's not about flawlessness, it's about leaving people with something a little bigger than any of us can ever be. I put on a good show.

One bit like a fish, unable to resist the temptation of the fly even if she knew just as well it was false. Another saw through me right to the other side. She wasn't fooled for a second.

Now I have two e-mail to write. One pushing for the future, closing a door, ignoring a familiar ring and playing safe. The pain and the hate are just a price that time makes you pay. Another reaching hopelessly backwards for something maybe lost and hoped to be forgotten but never able to be drained as much out and washed as much away as I would ever have liked. I'll let you decide who gets what letter.

But forget the letters because certainly the best part is that the show will still go one. Not a cough, not a stumble, not a broken string. The key is to really be kicking their ass. Because then maybe for a second they won't see the show, they won't see through you, they'll see right into the tasty, cream-filled center.

One song is always on repeat
There are calluses on my fingers
My watch died at exactly 9:45 a.m. and 15 seconds
There are blisters on my small toes
I cant' decide what blew more, K-Fed or Prison Break's season premiere
Yes, I'm that shallow
I really wish you would believe that
I need more lists in my life

There's a place by the water somewhere in Boston. I couldn't tell you exactly where it is or what it's called because I've never gone there. My few trips into that city have somehow always been in those magic times when the leaves or changing or when the first buds of countless trees lining the streets begin to sprout. And each visit I walk out the front door of wherever I may be staying, take a right at the sidewalk and see where I end up.

I've explored quiet, small streets and bustling squares but no matter how lost I feel, somehow I always end up at this beautiful spot, a pier by the ocean where I watch the planes glide in across the bay to the airport on the other side of the water. There are very few places that exist in my mind outside of routine, outside of seasons and time and life. But this spot is at the core of all of them. Not someplace with a dot on a map. It's only accessible by wandering, by imagining, by losing my way and finding the most perfect dead end. Some people's dream of escape means tropical islands, or beautiful women or somewhere magical through the back of the wardrobe. But my dream is a solitary seat on those cement benches, dangling my feet out over the water below and slipping back into a what-could-be.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I can feel it coming around again. Call it a wave or a wheel or anything else that will return if you wait long enough. There's an emptiness to it. It's funny because the emptiness is what makes it so tangible. After all, how can you know that there's more out there, more to see and to do and to be until you feel that hole in your chest saying, "wherever we're headed we aren't there yet."

It's the call of the road and I've got no reason to fight it this time. But the hardest part is waiting my turn. This is how it always works. First you feel it. Then you hear it. But then all you can do is shake up the compass, set it still and wait for the little, red needle to stop spinning.

I hate the kids who've had it set in one spot for as long as they can remember. They're sure they want to be a doctor or a musician or a lawyer or a priest just chugging along. But they're always the most patient ones. Willing to work and wait and be silent and never having to worry that the red arrow might move.

I'm learning to love the feeling. When north becomes south. The well becomes the crest. I'm ready for things to flop. It's the waiting I just haven't gotten used to. Maybe all those straight-liners do have something to teach me.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

There are back doors to your brain. There are a million ways to override your brain and your muscles and your nerves and to make them believe things that just aren't true. Back before I wrote this blog an worked at magazines and newspapers and lost my soul I got payed to play sports for a year and wear a stupid corporate logo on my chest like a shield over my heart. Back then we would spend entire days training our bodies and minds, not just to become stronger, faster, and more agile, but to process the impossible as if it were the likely. It wasn't miraculous. It was routine. Pure training. Somewhere between conscious and subconscious.

It all started with oatmeal. Every practice morning I ate a huge bowl of maple & brown sugar oatmeal. And on competition days, or on days when I was told to fake my body into thinking it was a competition day, I would eat apple cinnamon oatmeal.

I laughed in the face of coaches and trainers when they first started me on this program. Different Breakfasts? Come on. But nearly a month into the season something spectacular started to happen. Each time the flavor of apple cinnamon oatmeal hit my tongue, my eyes shot open, I felt a sudden surge of energy, pouring out of my stomach all the way to the ends of my fingers and toes. It's so on, my body said.

Maybe it was just nerves? One night I decided to test it all. It was 10 p.m. and I threw a cup of water into the microwave and hit the 2-minute button. I'd already had a few drinks, hoping that maybe those would help disprove the ridiculous "programming." It only took 2 bites and I couldn't fall asleep until 4 a.m.

It didn't stop at Oatmeal. The way I breathed, the way I stretched, the music I listened to and the things I said to myself out loud. And every time I'd turn into something else. A machine, programmed to run almost on auto pilot. And that's when amazing things would happen. Because when you don't need any concentration to balance, to pull, to run, to catch, to jump, to recover, it's all free to strategize, to eek out extra speed. That's when an athlete becomes superhuman to everyone else.

To this day I'll make myself a bowl of apple-cinnamon oatmeal before a really important day. But I learned one lesson the hard way. "Are you OK? You look like you're ready to jump up and run right out of here." I was. Makes me wonder what else I could make my body do with enough time and patience.

P.S. Dear google search ferries: Thank you for possibly finding the best oatmeal pick I could have ever asked for.

Monday, August 07, 2006

It was nighttime on a bed on a beach. I swear I saw the surf creeping closer but I couldn't hear a thing other than her breath, in and out, perfectly in time with my own.

"Some moments are..." she said, without losing the rhythm. I smiled. Not because I agreed. But because I understood the appeal of a moment like that lived only because of other things.

People will tag you, I thought. They want to pin you up on a wall under "funny" or "sad" or "boring" before you make it to sentence number two. But those beautiful moments are the ones that in that space of absurd and funny an amazing and passionate and unforgettable. All side by side, just barely touching.

Maybe it's because what we think are real emotions are right there on the border of belief anyhow. When you're trying so hard to escape the real feeling is when you fall in head first.

across the beach I heard a cell phone ring through the clatter of a party.

Louder and louder.

She felt my forehead.

My eyelids opened.

The pictures all stared down at me.

Perfectly spaced.

None touching the other.

Wait, did I forget the funny part?

Saturday, August 05, 2006


From the week passed:

Always trust the man behind the paint counter. If he tells you not to use the paint on texture for the ceiling, don't be an ass and try it anyway.

I never understood the appeal of a flip phone until my first one arrived a few nights ago. There is little more satisfying than ending a conversation with the wrist-flick snap-to-closed. Stamp it and file it bitches.

Seeing old friends makes me loud and belligerent but much more fun.

Stevie Ray Vaughn music looks so unbelievably impossible on a page but makes so much sense in my ear.

No, I will not clean my room.

The art of porch sitting may be lost but it's not forgotten.

Trying hard to look disheveled is out. In 06-07 you're either with it or you're lost.

I don't get the Entourage hype, but yes, it is pretty true to life.

Ya sure, I'll move to LA. Where do I sign?

I refused to listen to Death Cab for Cutie for almost a year based solely on their name. Meesteak.

This. The best part being that despite the title, it's the only CD he's got on itunes.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. See it. Love it. Live it.

The most important part of sailing lessons are the cold beers afterwards.

Oh, and goodbye Madeleine. If blogs were people mine probably would have passed yours notes with crappy little drawings hoping for a giggle and a smile. Either that or rufied you. Toss up.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I couldn't concentrate on the beauty as I walked through the narrow, cobbled lanes of the ancient streets. Instead my mind filled with memories from my own past. Thoughts, places, people that I hadn't even remembered that I remembered. At first I wondered if perhaps the only way my brain could process all these new surroundings was by filtering them through the understanding of my own experiences. Then suddenly I realized what was really happening. My brain was purging useless holdovers from the past to replace them with the onslaught of newness. I was seeing these memories for the very last time on the way out the door.

As I followed Charif through the old city of Asilah to his sister's apartment, the memory of someone's sixth birthday or one of my first kisses or some algebra equation drifted off and
evaporated into thin air. Charif had made many promises, that my bag would be safe at his sister's, that we would explore the beautiful town and that, despite my refusal, would smoke golden hash with him out of a traditional Moroccan pipe. All three came to pass and exactly in that order. Charif, a chef who assured me that he was between jobs, also brought me down a dead-end lane where he assured me I would find the most beautiful Berber rugs I had ever seen. The shop owner made us the traditional hot, mint tea as he showed his wear and I laughed at the idea of purchasing a giant rug in a foreign country. That was until I saw something special. A patchwork of designs, each telling it's own story.

I can't believe I bought a rug in Morocco. I wondered if I had been suckered in as I walked to the local post office to mail the box home. There was no way I could fit this into my backpack. Speaking of which, was it still where I had left it? Charif escorted me back to his sister's apartment where she was cooking a traditional dinner. There was no doubt my pack had been rummaged through. Everything of any value was in one of my 6 pockets.

It wasn't until I had eaten, drank, and smoked the traditional pipe that Charif dropped his facade and leveled with me.

"My friend," he began. "I am really in bad shape. I have no more work for a month and I am living here with my sister. I need your help."

It wasn't a question, it was a demand, and I had already decided that I would happily reimburse him for the amazing day I had exploring the city walls, the oceanside and the people. I pulled out the equivalent of $20, and more than double what I spent in any hotel in the whole of Morocco.

"No, my friend. I am in bad shape. Please, $60."

My mind was altered, but I could tell the tone of Charif's voice had changed and. I thought back to purchasing the rug, and the cabbies and the drinks and the food. Was he getting a kickback on everything we did today? As I took another $10 from my wallet, I tried to pull out an apologetic smile.I also snked my hand down into my backpack and pulle dout a shirt I had decided I wanted to get rid of. This was all he was going to get. Charif's face cringed and he rose from his seat. My body tensed, and readied itself for an unknown. But Charif moved towards the door and opened it. I Behind him through the open door that the sun had gone down. He pointed out to the street and I didn't even think, I just walked.

As the door slammed shut behind me, I wasn't concerned that my new friend turned out to be half-hearted. I was more worried about finding my way to the train station a mile away before the night's last train left for Marrakesh.

Struggling under the now weigh in my backpack,which was now uneven after someone else's hands had been through it, I made my way to the station quickly and found a bench. A group of Arab teenagers looked in my direction and laughed, mocking my american dress and taunting me by playing 5-year-old american pop tunes on their little boom box. I didn't care. I had made it back to the station in one piece. I could hear the train whistle blow in the distance. I was safe. And just then, I heard another whistled blow. Suddenly 30 or so men in military uniforms with packs and rifles came pouring over a chest-high fence on the other side of the tracks. One by one each man landed, looked around and headed straight for me. I had made it this far, but I definitely wasn't in Marrakesh yet.

If I could have picked a memory to lose at that moment it would have been getting punched in the face in 4th grade by a punk named Derrick. Unfortunately, that one is still with me.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Dear Corporate America: Thank you for the high-paid job offer. I would prefer to keep my soul.

The story will resume tomorrow.

That is all.