Running for Your Life: Eye on the Prize II

Today (Nov. 25) the winds came on a run. Thurber had the morning; I had a blissful hour before going to work. These are the days that I feel I can run forever. Brisk fall. Up and into the park, the leaves crunch underfoot. I ran – and it was beautiful – but, alas, I did not catch my leaf.

Ah, yes, the leaves. I fear another season is upon me during which I will not catch in my bare hand a falling leaf as I run through the park. Tomorrow (Nov. 26), the forecast is for a final leaf shakedown of a nor’ easter, within which I will not run because of the very real possibility of injury from fallen branches, a clearer danger now than in years past due to the decline in tree maintenance from budget cuts that swept every public department in my adopted country since Ronald Reagan and his merry men and women perpetrated the fable that government defunding would encourage private investment in job-creating capital, the bastard son of trickle-down, what was good for the billionaires was good for the nation.

All of which is to say that if I were put odds on my catching a leaf of those that will fall from near-barren trees during the days after the nor’ easter, I’d have to put it down to about one in a million.

But, in my running-for-your-life life, I like those odds.

Next: Running for Your Life: After Ferguson  

Running for Your Life: Eye on the Prize

I had just turned fifteen when the October Crisis was at its peak. In those days in Canada, I didn’t follow the news very carefully. But Prime Minister Trudeau had recently installed martial law following the kidnapping of two dignitaries. Trudeau’s response to a question on the TV news about how far he was willing to go in suspending civil rights hooked me, is the traceable starting point to a lifelong passion in public affairs.

Just watch me, Trudeau said.

That phrase returns to me often. In Trudeau’s case, he believed action needed to be taken to restore order. As he said in that interview 44 years ago, “I think the society must take every means at its disposal to defend itself against the emergence of a parallel power which defies the elected power in this country and I think that goes to any distance.” 

Just watch me.

We’re obviously talking about vastly different stakes, but when it comes to personal choices we have to take action. In my case, believing that moving to New York City in 1988 was the right thing, even when work and love weren’t anything but sure things. Or, on a different level, going for a run – not a light jog or a walk – but a fast-paced run every other day since I left the hospital thirty-eight years ago after having recovered from serious blood clots to my legs and lung.

Just watch me. The phrase pays for anyone. In a dead-end job, believe in yourself and follow your passion. You’ll get what you want if you keep your eye on your prize.

Whatever it is, don’t settle. Believe it or not, even though on the face of it the stakes are vastly different (martial law or not, lawyer Pierre Laporte was assassinated during the October Crisis; his kidnappers served twenty years to life for the crime), it does, in the end, come down to matters of life and death. Your life … and keeping death at bay.

Next: Running for Your Life: Do Races Matter?

Running for Your Life: “The Last of the Just” by Andre Schwarz-Bart

I admire the tells of this title, a finalty that speaks of end times – in the story of the Jews the drama never recedes. (Certainly that has been my own considerable personal experience!)

In each generation there exists, as foretold, thirty-six just souls who like a dispersed battalion of prophets submerges the self and elevates the cause; in this case the survival of good Jews who are defined by their righteous practices.

Me, I’m drawn to this book, written by Andre Schwarz-Bart, because it delivers on a message that makes sense to me on this level: karma. Acts taken now and in the past that are not visible to the naked eye; we are not so simple, we creatures. We all have been affected by those who have gone before, and those who play that special role in our lives today, and will so in the future.

It is a humbling notion to think that we are to honor the just souls, that, in the spirit of the myth given voice in this powerful novel that takes us to some of the darkest moments in human history, throughout time we will be blessed with “The Last of the Just,” the gift of their power and sacrifice.

Next: Running for Your Life: Eye on the Prize

Running for Your Life: CitizenFour CitizenFour CitizenFour

Do yourself a favor and see this movie. Think “Citizen Kane” or “Metropolis” or “Casablanca” with the thriller tempo of Wes Craven.

Better to see the scenes of fugitive Ed Snowden at the theater rather than at home. The bigger the screen the better, baby. Me, I gotta see it again just to admire the Snowden close-ups. What’s behind the headlines, you ask? CitizenFour does that tired line much better. Watching him, listening to him as the story unfolds, that is beyond words better than any of the headlines you can imagine. And I should know. I write headlines for a living.

Don’t wait. See it now. Think of it like a terrible accident in your neighborhood. Do you wait until someone gets a video of it, or comes back to tell you about it secondhand. No, you race out the door and go to the scene because it is happening now. Not next week, or next month. But now.

So go. Buy a ticket online or at the box office and see the movie of the millennium, CitizenFour.

Next: Running for Your Life: “Last of the Just” by Andre Schwarz-Bart

Running for Your Life: Fall. Because It Keeps You Going

On Marathon Sunday (Nov. 2) in New York City – with the singular menacing exception of Sandy Sunday in 2012 – brings running to the fore. On this day we are all runners.

This is the season that whilst running I will catch a leaf without any help but the wind, impossible to intuit, a jolt of luck, the real thing, that brings a leaf to me to be held aloft, never touching the ground, for placement on the very full of dry leaves tackboard on the wall behind my basement writing workspace.

Fall is the season, and I’ve never been able to understand why, that the second wind will come on a run. Not every time, mind you, but often enough that it qualifies as exceptional. In fall, I will more often than any other season feel that I can literally run forever, that on a six-miler, a ten-miler, a sixteen-miler, I will come up the street toward home and feel like a million bucks. No, better than that. Lots better than a million bucks.

Because it does, you know, keep you going. It’s hot, humid in July and the sweat is literally pouring, a two-miler, at times, feeling too much to bear; in early November, the chill in the air, the wind at your back and it’s all you can do to hold yourself down, to not fly like a bird.

Cool spring days have their merits, of course. But there is something about those first weeks of chill after summer’s ropy fog. The crystal blue skies, the wetness of the air, the lungs; it’s the lungs, the song they are singing that carries you along like nothing else.

Next: Running for Your Life: CitizenFour CitizenFour CitizenFour