The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

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Identity

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I pose a question to my Creative Writing students at the end of each semester:  What is your identity as a writer?  They have the option to respond to it as they compose their final exam, which is a reflective essay on their creative writing experiences over the previous eighteen weeks.  Not many have ever chosen that avenue of exploration because I offer other options that are easier, but my writing identity is something I consider regularly.  Having had my latest story published last week at Knock Your Socks Off Flash Fiction, right now has been a good time to consider all things identity, but more on that later.

I’ve been a William Kennedy fan for well over two decades, ever since I read Ironweed.  That novel only has only a little to do with my fandom, the strongest roots of which go back to meeting Kennedy in 2011 while attending the writing institute he established with some of his earnings after being awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant.  I saw the man most every day for a month, and enjoyed a reading he gave from Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes before it came to publication.  Since then, I’ve been a casual consumer of anything I could find about Kennedy—reviews, critiques, interviews.  A few years ago I read an article titled “Still Bill” that I can’t  find just now on the Googles.  Nonetheless, the writer, who was a friend of Kennedy’s, related an episode he witnessed in which someone told Kennedy about a real-life young politician who asked where one gets the money to run a political party once one takes it over.  This was in some way related to the infamous Albany Democratic machine.  According to the writer, Kennedy busted out a little notebook and wrote down the episode, and then stashed the notebook in a box.  Some time later, the episode appeared in Kennedy’s 2002 city hall political novel Roscoe, with the quote and context pretty much verbatim.

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William Kennedy, about whom Jack Nicholson said, “That man can drink.”

I’ve always remembered this because I love to see a professional writer still adhering to the basic steps of writing and turning them into great reward, especially when I have direct experience with that professional writer.  To me, that episode stands as a great endorsement to keep your feet on the ground as a writer and to keep practicing the scales, as a concert pianist might say.  The idea of that simple journal notation is something I’ve talked about before herein, and without my adherence to it, I couldn’t have written “Last Time.”  The story started in part with a wiseass comment I made to my girlfriend last fall about toilet paper usage.  The idea of a person asking someone to bring their own toilet paper when they visited struck me as hilariously absurd.  What kind of person would ask someone else to do that?  I grabbed my bedside seed journal and took a few quick notes on the notion, and those notes sat there for nine months.  It wasn’t until I mistakenly thought I saw hairs stuck in my copy of The Paris Review that the story dropped in my lap (it wasn’t hairs, by the way…  it was pine needles in a picture TPR published).  This will make some sense if you check out “Last Time.”  I paired some thoughts on pine needles with the previous irreverence about toilet paper, and the story fell out of my head onto the paper.

I’ve also remarked to several friends that I broke an important writing rule with “Last Time.”  Here’s the thing:  Nobody looked at the story before I sent it off.  One dude looked at it for shits and grins, but I didn’t ask for any feedback.  So there were no editorial comments from anybody.  No feedback.  No edits.  I wrote a few drafts, felt good about it, and shotgunned it to several different publications.  The editor from last one I queried replied the next morning:  “Got a kick out of ‘Last Time,’ which is a great way to begin my day.”  From start to finish, the whole thing took about a week.  I was stunned, and quite pleased with myself for finding a home for the story while working on instinct 95% of the way.  I mentioned in a previous blog that, like most stories, there came a breakthrough moment.  It wasn’t all about juxtaposing pine needles and toilet paper; when it was at first, I figured the story would just be practice.  But my prior experiences with publishing flash fiction told me that a compelling final image would help take the story where I wanted it to go, and that image came to me when I was doing yoga a few days after writing the initial draft.

So I said “prior experience publishing flash fiction.”  Yeah.  I’ve said that to myself a lot the last few weeks.  Enough to think that flash fiction is where I am as a writer.  I started that way as a fiction writer seven years ago in Imitation Fruit, and over the last two years my three publishing experiences have all been flash-related.  Why is that?  Poetry, methinks.  I write nothing more than poetry these days (and have a damn fine poetry workshop member, by the way), and I think the greatest Bennett-fit has been how practicing it has informed my other writing to the point where I can flesh out singular episodes, or make apparent the underlying ideas behind unusual and absurd circumstances, while trying to work on a subconscious level with the reader.  You know what writing so much poetry is not doing, though?  Making me a poet.  I can’t get that shit published to save my life.  But that’s okay.  I was heartened by what Percival Everett said in a recent interview:  “I write poetry to prove I can’t write poems.”  Does my experience tell me that I should focus less on verse and more on prose?  Hell no.  It’s the verse that got me here, and I’m happy with where I am.  I’ve got to keep practicing the scales, just like a concert pianist.  What about writing a novel?  Don’t I want to be a novelist?  Fuck that shit.  But I used to say the same thing about poetry.

 

 

Written by seeker70

August 8, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Thirty 5Ks: Done. And Farewell.

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This is how it ended:  It’s 9:35 A.M. last Saturday, and I’m sitting in the shade at some sidewalk cafe in Highwood, IL.  I’m hoping my heart’s frantic tempo will decrease, and no matter how soon it does it won’t be soon enough.  My t shirt is plastered to my chest.  My wristbands are practically dripping sweat.  I drank close to a gallon of water yesterday, and right now it doesn’t feel like it was enough.

Dave walks over, and he looks about as bad as I do.  He’s been at half of these races since last August, and we’ve come to know each other.  Dave’s friend, also named Dave, is sitting in the shade where I am, and there’s another guy.  Four guys, all well over 45, all considering the mortal implications of what we just did and what decisions we’ve made that have led up to this point in life.

“It’s humid like a motherfucker,” I say.  The others nod.

Dave says, “That’s wasn’t good.”  Dave, who routinely finishes in the top ten overall, or at least the top two in his age division.  If he struggled, what word do I use to describe my experience?  He adds, “Once the sun came out, forget it.  And the course felt too long.”

The guy I don’t know speaks up.  “Yeah.  My app measured it at 3.21 miles.  They had a timer at the first mile, but that was actually 1.3 miles.”

This is not how I envisioned the end of my quest to complete thirty 5K races, though I can’t say I envisioned anything specifically.  I really only thought about it ending because it had been 11 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days, and it was time to put it behind me.  It could have been over almost a month ago except for an ear infection that kept me out of a Valentine’s Day 5K.  Had I run that one, I wouldn’t be languishing in a pool of sweat and regret on a sidewalk in Highwood, IL.

Nonetheless, there I was.  My heart finally slowed, and I leaned back in my chair.  I wondered what my time was, but then didn’t care.  I smiled.  It was over.  I can stop arranging weekends around races.  I can stop keeping track of races on the dry-erase board in my office and counting down to zero.  I can stop writing about running.  I can’t say that I can stop worrying about completing my thirty because I’ve known I could do it since mid May when I hit the single digits of races remaining.  Now I can chill for a few weeks, maybe run a 5K here or there, and wait for fall when I truly love to run and when I get my best results.

The quest was not for naught.  No quest is, really.  There is wisdom to gain along the way, both worldly and personal.  How else to explain the timelessness of The Odyssey?  I thought a helluva lot about why I’m still running, and thought even more about how fortunate I am that I can still run.  I’m winking at you, Yoga, though don’t get a big head.    In the least, the last year has been a lesson in keeping on with life in a certain way, and gearing life to where I could keep on in that way.  I guess I was inspired by “Tangled Up in Blue,” which I always considered to be about keeping on with life despite the bumps and detours and unexpected breakdowns, and despite how clownish Dylan looks singing it in that video.

Thirty 5Ks meant that for an entire month of the year, I exercised vigorously.  I typically relax and go on “austerity,” as I call it, the day before a race, so for another entire month of the year I drank a lot of water and very little booze, ate no fried foods and very little other foods that are orgies of fat and calories, and got a lot of sleep.  It also meant that I ate a lot of Raisin Bran to keep myself “empty” before a race.  Thank you, Raisin Bran (both Post and Kellogg’s).

There have also been a lot of unusual courses that presented themselves only because I was running, and I appreciated the novelty of a lot of them:

  • Great Lakes Naval Station
  • Ft. Sheridan Army Base
  • Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago (the wrong way both ways)
  • Indiana School for the Deaf
  • seven different stretches of Lake Michigan lakefront
  • St. Mary’s Seminary (twice)

Most of those locations outside of the context of a 5K race would result in the introduction to a pair of handcuffs, or in the least permanent removal from the grounds.  I guess there were a few other bright spots along the way, like equaling my best adult time (24:40), and winning a pair of medals.

So what’s next?  Dunno.  Don’t care just yet.  A new age division is only a few years away, and I’ll consider myself fortunate if I can still run then.  In the immediate future, it means I won’t be writing about running, which is no doubt a relief to anybody still tuning in.

I’d donate them, but I wouldn’t want anybody to smell like that.

As for now, it’s time to bid farewell to a few pieces of running gear.  On the left above, a sweet tec shirt that I’ve worn for probably fifty races the last five years.  It’s super lightweight, and I’m told that because it’s so bright that I’m easy to see in a pack of runners.  The downside is that it smells permanently of running funk.  Even after it’s freshly laundered, the stench lurks just below the fresh detergent smell, like the fresh smell is doing all it can to keep the funk at bay.  Once I put in on, forget about it.  It takes about ten minutes before it smells like a bum’s nutsack, and that’s actually nice compared to what it smells like at the end of a race.  The other shirt has gotten almost as much wear, and is close to fading out completely.  It has been a go-to for cold-weather running and racing, and I’m actually afraid I won’t be able to find anything that has been as serviceable as it has been.  But it’s time to move on.  I’ve prided myself for a long time on being a bum runner, mostly wearing shorts for ten or twelve years and old t shirts so I can run on the cheap (I used the same pair of tights for seventeen years…), but enough is enough with these rags.

So I did a bunch of running.  I didn’t get much slower.  I wonder how long that will last.  Might as well find out, huh?

Written by seeker70

July 27, 2017 at 10:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Cubs Fans: Settle the #@$& Down!

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The Chicago Cubs have won six games in a row!  Clear your calendar now so you have time to watch the World Series in October and see the Cubs hoist yet another championship banner!  You might as well call Merkle’s or The Cubby Bear or Murphy’s Bleachers or Yak-Zies and put down your $1200 to reserve a table so you can watch from Wrigleyville as the Cubs mutilate the _______ (insert name of hapless American League team).

Right.  Please.  Go ahead and do all of those things, and please tell me when you do so I can make a list of people who need a swift kick in the nuts.  Calm down, Cubs fans.  It’s only six in a row, and they all came against teams that were below .500, though Atlanta was .500 when the Cubs showed up at SunTrust Park.  If you want to be blindly ecstatic about anything, focus on the notion that all those wins came on the road, and for the first time this season the Northsiders swept two series in a row rather than vice-versa.  Otherwise, if you’re contracting an airplane to pull a banner over Chicago that reads “The Cubbies Are Back!”, save your money.  The Cubbies aren’t back.  They are slowly returning to where they should be this year but aren’t yet because of listless pitching, a few injuries, Joe Maddon’s bone-headed decision to bat Kyle Schwarber at lead-off, and management’s inability to find a solid lead-off hitter.

Still, one can’t help but feel the July heat and humidity is melting the ice that has locked the Cubs into mediocrity so far this season.   Let’s hope that the weather is the deciding factor here since it’s only going to get hotter in Chicago.  The Cubs picked up a new pitcher from across town and are looking to make a few more deals, but none of these things are a guarantee that the season is going to turn around to the point where we’ll find ourselves watching riveting baseball late into October.  The best things going for the Cubs right now are that the NL Central is weak, and that Milwaukee is destined to fade.  They are Milwaukee, after all, and have an inexperienced crew of players who are going to play inconsistently down the stretch.  These factors have already played heavily in the Cubs favor since they’ve moved from 5.5 games out of first place to 1 game out of first place in the week since the All-Star game.  To give you an idea of how tough the wild-card race is (i.e. the rest of the National League), the Cubs only gained one game in the wild-card standings in that span.

The Cubs’ next seven games come against sub-.500 teams, including the team with the worst record in baseball.  But these aren’t guaranteed wins since the teams are the Cardinals and White Sox.  If you want a feel for the intensity of those rivalries, go ahead and wear a Cubs jersey on the south side or in downtown St. Louis—you’ll wish for my swift kick in the nuts for over-celebrating instead of what you’ll get.  The best we can hope for is that the Cubs further the post-All Star break win streak.  Maybe they can put a foot on Redbird necks and keep it there for the rest of the season, and remind Southsiders why life is better north of the Eisenhower.  I’ll consider the next week successful if the Cubs come out 4-3.  Even 5-2 seems realistic.

We’ll know a lot more in about three weeks.  After next week, the Cubs play nine in a row and twelve of fifteen against division-leading or wildcard-leading teams.  So gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Cubbies.  Despite the recent success, the critical numbers remain anemic for a team with World Series potential.  The starting pitching has an ERA of 4.47, which is 7th in the National League (they were first last year with 2.96).   The team BA is .245, which is 13th (!) in the National League (they were 6th last year with .256).  Cubs pitchers barely register in the top twenty in wins, ERA, and K.  No batter is in the top twenty in BA, and only two are in the top twenty in RBI and HR.  Think the Cubs can use stategery and manufacture runs?  Maybe break something open on the base paths?  Don’t hold your breath.  They have stolen 31  bases this year (14th in the NL).  Their OBP looks good, but their lack of RBIs kinda pulls the rug out from underneath that (420; 9th in the NL).  Think about all this, and you’ll probably see why Cubs fans need to calm the #@$& down.

Written by seeker70

July 21, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

All Kinds of Crazy Shit–Including Yoga

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A lot of my writing life is spent waiting for something to happen.  Perhaps it only seems that way, but it feels like time drags by when I’m not writing something.  When the situation reaches terminal velocity, I find things to do other than write.  Like play a shitton of NES Classic.  Or watch Netflix.  Or god forbid, I actually clean the house.  The absence of any  substantive writing happening is almost palpable, even though I know it’s all in my head.  The thing is that writing is one of my barometers.  Along with teaching and running, writing is one of those things that indicates how life is really going.  I frequently tell my students that those three barometers are quite important to me, and I work consistently to assure that each one is tuned and operational.  When one isn’t, the other two can make up for that.  So if I’m not writing well, then having a good day in the classroom or having a good run at the forest preserve can help bring the writing back in line.  I can’t count how many  times in the last fifteen years that a good morning 5K breaking through with a poem or story has boosted my teaching.  It’s only a three-pronged system, but it’s complicated and goes through all kinds of mutations and permutations even day-to-day sometimes, but I know it’s my system and I know I have the power to push all three factors in the direction I need to.

So what to do in the summer when I’m not teaching, I feel like crap when I run, and I’m not writing anything that I’m excited about?  It’s a question I’ve been facing down since school got out a month ago.  I rely so heavily on the three barometers, but what do I do when they’re out of whack or essentially unreachable at some points?  Gut it out, I guess, and wait for something to break through.  I wrote last week about finally turning a corner last Tuesday in my quest for thirty 5Ks, and I think that may have been what did it to get me out of my funk.  On Wednesday, I had a good day of writing on my writing date—I forced myself to stay seated, even when I was plenty ready to leave, and crap out the first draft of a flash fiction that came to me by way of the seed journal—and then on Thursday I returned to tutoring for the first time this summer and had a good session with my student in the adult literacy program where I volunteer.  Before I knew it, the ice was cracking and thawing, and I almost felt back to my regular self.

Here’s the thing, though:  I wasn’t really trying to do any of those things.  All three are part of my summer routine.  They are things I pretty much do instinctively.  Friday morning came around, and I was feeling better about life.  I got to thinking about the crappy flash fiction as I was driving to yoga class.  What I could possibly do with the story?  Most likely, it would just be good practice and nothing would probably come from it.  But then I struck a pose about a half hour later and it was like a bell rang in my  head.  I realized my story needed a solid closing image to leave the reader thinking.  It even came to me what the image should be.

Now I’m starting to think that I have the whole “three barometers” thing wrong.  I’m starting to think that it’s not teaching, running, and writing that do it for me.  I’m thinking that it’s yoga, and I’m just now realizing after four years how yoga feeds all three of my barometers.

This is not an easy thought for me because I don’t like yoga.  I only do it so I don’t keep getting tendinitis from running.  And so I can keep my shoulders fit and operational.  And so I can have a healthy stretch and maintain some decent degree of flexibility.  And to calm down sometimes.  And to be mindful of my body.  And to feel solid physical balance.  In fact, I don’t like yoga so much that I wrote a poem about how much I don’t like it.  Plus, I don’t like the idea of my life hinging on one factor because it’s not one thing that goes right that makes everything else go right.  Feeling content with life comes down to keeping the positive things happening and keeping a healthy balance among all things positive, negative, joyous, or stressful (shut up, I know:  “yoga helps you maintain your balance” said every yoga instructor ever).

Here’s also why it’s not all about the yoga:  If I hadn’t read Adam O’Fallon Price’s “A Natural Man” in The Paris Review Thursday evening last week, the breakthrough with my story would never have happened at yoga Friday morning.  Have I mentioned that you constantly read stuff when you’re a writer because that’s what writers do?  So even when they’re not writing, writers are reading and thinking on what they read and how what they read is going to inform what they are writing or what they will write.  And I happened to be at yoga when I was thinking of the stunning final image in Price’s story, which is a good thing because yoga is renowned for opening one’s mind and encouraging one to explore and accept thoughts and ideas, coincidentally while a body is working through sun salutations and downward dogs and chaturanga dandasanas.  So it’s a combination of things that balance my life, and I happened to hit the right combination at the right time because I’m too stubborn to give up on things when I get frustrated.  Spin the roulette wheel enough times and every number comes up, right?  That’s kinda what I was doing by waiting the situation out.

So I guess if nothing else I’ve discovered that my three barometers are intact, functioning, and reliable, and yoga can help me get through and maintain if my barometers are faulty.  I’m happy to have that wisdom just now since I turn 47 today.  No answer yet as to how I have gotten this old this fast.  I’m closing in on my quest for thirty 5Ks (one left!), and feel physically as well as I can expect to feel for my age, activity level, and eating and drinking habits.  Hell, I can walk upright!  That’s something!  And finally, I found out just yesterday that the crappy piece of flash fiction that I found a good closing image for is going to be published.  More on that in the next few weeks.  I subtitled my last blog post “Sometimes You Just Gotta Believe,” and I guess that applies as much to this post as it did to the last one.

Written by seeker70

July 1, 2017 at 6:18 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Thirty 5Ks… #24-28 (Sometimes, You Just Gotta Believe)

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I have felt like shit lately.  Like shit shit.  Bad shit.  Dog shit.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Dirty Harry Callahan, it’s that a lot of things can happen to dog shit.  It can be scraped up with a shovel off the ground.  It can dry up and blow away in the wind.  Or it can get stepped on and squashed.  I have been preferring any of those this last month instead of running.  And it’s easy to see why.  I’m worn out from the school year, I’m fighting humidity some races, and I’m coming into the months when I traditionally run like shit because I’m out of my usual school-year workout discipline.  It’s not a good time to be trying to wrap up this challenge.

“So take my advice and be careful…”

Not that how I feel matters.  Anything short of an injury is an excuse.  So regardless of how slow I’ve run, how crappy I’ve felt, and how many times I’ve stopped for water, or just plain stopped in the case of last Saturday’s race (I think it was called Run For Humidity, or Humidityfest 5K), I’ve still gotten out there.  But why?  Why go out there when I don’t feel like running?  Why go out there when I’m slowly feeling my mortality?  Dunno, exactly.  It’s what runners do, and some of them do it to the point of injury.

I don’t want to be injured, of course, but I also don’t really want to run.  And I especially don’t really want to run a 5K that supports a church, though I have in the past.  That didn’t stop me from trekking up to Walworth, Wisconsin last night for a twilight 5K to benefit a church.  The only thing I was looking forward to was that it was going to be a “fun run,” so no number, no medals, and no exact timing.  I guess, too, I was interested in putting #28 behind me at whatever cost.

Things didn’t start well.  I’ve been fighting a stiff and inflamed shoulder tendon from paddle boarding, and then found that I was having back cramps when I stepped out of my car.  My warm-up felt like I was running underwater, and my attitude was crap.  Still, the gun sounded and I was off with a bunch of people who looked like they were a lot happier to be out there than I was.  One woman was so daring that she ran the race barefoot.

I felt like I was pretty deep into the run when I figured there wouldn’t be a water station.  That was okay with me because I didn’t want the temptation to stop.  Then I came around a corner and down a straight stretch, and there was a water station.  Why would they put it so deep into the course?  Well, they didn’t.  A sign next to the station designated that we were at the halfway point.  Crap.  Crappity-crap-crap.

I took water, which I almost never do, and I guess it was a baptism.  I resumed my pace like I hadn’t stopped at all, and suddenly felt…  better.  Almost good.  Was it the power of the Lord emanating from the church?  I don’t know.  I don’t care what it was, actually.  I only care that at long last I felt good late in a race.  Maybe it was a reserve of adrenaline that had been dammed up inside me and finally broke loose.  Maybe my brain was telling me that it’s time to stop moping about getting older and being tired and blah blah blah.  My breathing was steady, my head was up with my eyes focused far ahead of me, and I didn’t feel a lick of discomfort from my shoulder or back.  I crossed the finish line a full minute faster than I have for the last few races, and tried not to exacerbate my shoulder and back problems by patting myself on the back.  I was glad I stuck it out and kept going, and happy to remember what running does for your head.

I’ve got two more races before I wrap this up, one in just three more days.  I don’t know when #30 is going to happen because of other summer plans, but I’ve still got plenty of time to get it knocked out before the clock expires on this year-long quest.

Written by seeker70

June 21, 2017 at 9:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The U2 Dilemma, Solved

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Photo courtesy of the lovely Heather Barnfield.

I was wrangling with a bit of a crisis three months ago when I blogged about U2 touring for the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree.  It seemed all I needed to do was announce the crisis in order to address it, and address it I did Sunday night.  I had decided shortly after my last post about the band formerly known as Feedback that I was going to take a chance and attend the concert.

The risk all along was that U2 (or more specifically, Bono) would turn in a crap effort.  I feared it would be a smoldering mess, and I didn’t much care to think that I would be reminded of said mess each time I listened to The Joshua Tree.  I tried not to think about that throughout the day Sunday as the girlfriend and I trekked down to Soldier Field and set up a tailgate.  I thought for a brief time that we might not see the concert since I had frustrations finding some decent scalped tickets, but things have a way of working out when you have the right attitude and you’ve got some ticket-scalping savvy.  We ended up in the press box without paying much more than we would have for general admission, and on our way to the suite I told myself that if someone questioned our journalistic gravitas that I would say, “Hey, I’ve got this blog I’ve written for the last nine years!”  Fortunately, it never came to that.

I had envisioned U2 diving right into the mystic soundscape that starts the album, and was ready for just that as we settled into our comfy office chairs and listened to the sounds of the opening act drift through the open windows.  However, U2 had different ideas.  They came out onto a thrust stage and played a few pre-Joshua Tree hits before retreating to the main stage and opening things up in front of a huge screen (I read it was 200′ x 45′).  Them not starting right into The Joshua Tree was my only disappointment.  Once they did get into it, magic happened.  They worked in front of a constant stream still photographs, short videos, and stylized black-and-white shots of them playing, all of which tuned into the original artwork of the album.  Perhaps most importantly, they kept their standard four-man setup and played largely without interrupting themselves.

It occurred to me shortly into the experience that the notion of touring for album anniversaries has a tremendous upside.  The reason being, the band hones themselves to a singular sound or era of their sound that they had previously mastered and had great success with.  It makes for a more cohesive experience than a vaguely connected series of new songs and old hits that are the staple of a lot of concerts.  I realized that was why I loved seeing The Who play Quadrophenia in 2012.  It was the best I had seen them, before or since.  It was the same way with U2 last night.

I found myself fully engrossed by the time the band got through the three top hits at the start of The Joshua Tree.  I knew we were witnessing something special, and I was glad for that “warm-up” before U2 got into the blistering guitar rage of “Bullet the Blue Sky,” the most politically charged song on the album, and a perfectly intact remnant of the band’s youthful anger and rebellion.  I liked what Greg Kot of The Chicago Tribune said about “Bullet” and the song it preceded:  “There was no way to improve the one-two punch of ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ as the Edge’s guitar violence melted into the hushed junkie prayer ‘Running to Stand Still.'”

Kot also thought that “Exit,” later in the playlist, “…strained to make an impression as something more than a psychodrama… and served as a poor introduction for the mourning song ‘Mothers of the Disappeared.’”  It’s not right that he faults the song or the band’s treatment of it for not doing something that it was never intended to do, or that he marks it down for being psychodrama.  It’s the fact that the band takes the psychodrama and finds a way to make it fit with the rest of the album’s soundscape that makes “Exit” one of my favorites.  And lyrically, it’s not some cliche treatment of disturbing psychosis.  It’s edgy and uncomfortable; you don’t leave the song feeling a sense of redemption or hopefulness, and it’s fine the song does that on an album that otherwise doesn’t feature many other similar experiences.  Kot also lobbied for some reshuffling of the album tracks for better cohesion, which misses the point that it was The Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary tour, not The Joshua Tree Remixed tour.  Kot can say what he wants, but those perceived deficiencies never stopped The Joshua Tree from earning tremendous accolades when it was released, nor have they done much, if anything, to dislodge The Joshua Tree from it’s place in rock history.  Still, regarding “Exit,” U2 nailed the gritty desperation in the song, abandoning the still shots and short videos to focus on Bono and flashes of white light and deep darkness as he worked through the song.  The band appeared to have given a lot of thought to the song, and it got a strong treatment, moreso than what they gave it thirty year ago in Rattle and Hum.

Ultimately, the concert was excellent beyond my greatest imaginings, but it’s not going to bring me back to being a U2 fan.  It will take a lot more than that, though more efforts in the future like The Joshua Tree and Unforgettable Fire could tilt me in that direction.  But my intention in going was never to reassert my fandom—it was to put a cap on a resounding aspect of my personal pop culture / media experiences.  Mission accomplished.  So where to from here?  Dunno.  And I don’t care to know.  I just saw my favorite album played with superb quality by all the original writers and musicians in the band.  I’ll be happy with that for a long time, and remember it at least as often as I listen to The Joshua Tree in the future.

Written by seeker70

June 5, 2017 at 11:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Thirty 5Ks…#21-23 (The Blessed Single Digits)

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The chiropractor told me last week that my hips were out.  Like, pretty far out.  And not in the groovy way, baby.  More like the right hip was in Waukegan and the left hip was in Round Lake.  And then she asked what the hell happened, and I pulled the list out of my pocket:  I’ve been running, I’m getting older, I’m drag-ass tired from the school year, and I weigh 200+ pounds.  Thus, my hips are out.  It was a good time to talk about avoiding injury, and for me to remember that a lot of athletic injuries are caused by poor form and exhaustion, and exhaustion can cause poor form.  So what to do?  Keep running, of course.  Duh.

Actually, if not for being on this quest, I would have laid off running 5Ks by now.  I usually do at this time of year because of the stress and exhaustion from the previous 8 months of teaching.  When I don’t let up, I get about halfway through a race and start wondering what the hell I’m doing, how I’m going to get to the end, and why has every force in the universe conspired against me to make me feel like crap?  And then I wonder why I hyperbolize so much, and thinking about that pretty much helps me get through the race.  I usually feel like crap at the end and am unduly sore for a few days afterward.  So yeah, this is a good time of year to not be running.  But I have been.  I ran more 5Ks in April than any month so far, and that meant doubling up two weekends in a row so I can knock my thirty down to a manageable number, and then into single digits well before the school year is over.  And of course all that meant that I’m still tired and not running very well.  And I’m courting injury.

“Everything is against me… Nothing is going right for me.”

Thankfully, other runners know your pain and frustration.  Sometimes they don’t mind if you draft off them if you’re lucky enough to find someone running the right pace for you.  That’s what I did when I was knocking out #23 two weekends ago.  Under normal circumstances, I’d probably be facing prosecution if I chased a middle-aged woman through Lincoln Park.  In fact, given the state of Chicago policing, I’d probably have a bunch of crimes pinned on me and would be tortured until I confessed to them.  Nonetheless, there I was a few steps behind and at times abreast of a women in her fifties who was running with headphones on.  The pace was slower than what I usually maintain, but I wasn’t caring about time so much as I was caring about getting through the race and getting one step closer to thirty.  She pulled ahead by thirty or forty feet after two and a half miles, and I didn’t have it in me keep up.  I did thank her at the end, though, for pacing me.  She said she was happy to oblige, and had herself paced off others numerous times when she wasn’t quite feeling a running groove.  I recalled being the inadvertent and unintentional pacer for a guy who finished behind me at Great Lakes late last summer.  I didn’t even see him throughout the race, but he tracked me down at the end and told me thanks for setting the pace for him.

I frequently think about what it is about running that makes runners so stubborn and disciplined, and many times it comes back to how you learn self-sufficiency early on when you start running.  Nobody is going to be out on the course pulling or pushing you along.  You have to do it yourself.  While that may be true, the race two weekends ago was a good reminder that it’s not so lonely out there sometimes.

Written by seeker70

May 22, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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