Category Archives: compassionate action

Those first few weeks

Me, pretending that I don’t, in fact, want to drink an entire bottle of wine with my large frozen pizza after that goddamn run.

I’m a multi-sport athlete.

I run, bike, cross-country ski, and in my “down” time, I sail, hike, lift weights…

I go.

I do all this stuff because it gets me out into the wide world, where the act of propelling myself merges with the beauty around me and helps me find joy, God, the sheer exultation of being.

And though I’ve been active like this regularly for nearly a half-decade, I have a confession:

The first few weeks of a new season suck.

They suck big, hairy donkey balls.

A little afternoon torture session

I went for my first run in a while today.

Oh, fuck me.

Windy. Cold. Tired. Sore. Runny nose. Need to poop. Whiny. Cold-sweaty. Icy puddles.

And my body isn’t used to moving that way anymore.

We’ve been doing this thing on skis for the last several months, and now you’re asking for what???

My brain, on the other hand, is all like, “Dude. Yesterday you skied 15k. You tellin’ me you can’t jog a measly 5k today? Pffft.”

Shut up, brain.

Be gentle with yourself

It takes time for the body to adjust.

It takes time for the mind to adjust.

It takes time for the spirit to adjust.

When you’re starting a new endeavor, be it sport, business, relationship, job, adventure… give yourself time.

Savor the transition.

Drink a lot of water, and a little wine.


Eat well.

Enjoy your time as a beginner (again).

Love School

My old friend and college roomie, Jonathan, was up from Atlanta to visit last night. It’s been a decade since our last visit but we immediately went deep with our conversation.

“What’s the point of all this,” he asked, waving his hand around my small kitchen, but including the whole world; our entire existence. “Why are we here? I’ve been thinking a whole lot about this lately.

“I think it’s to learn to love.”

Continue reading Love School

The beatdown commeth

I know I was (ok, ok *am*) a cocky and mouthy little fuck back in the day. But at least I didn’t go to classes for a combat martial art and lip off to the biggest guy in the class, whom I’ve never met, and who’s belt is definitely darker than my pure-white-as-the-driven-snow one. At least I didn’t ignore the rules of the dojo and keep wearing my stinky hippy necklace that my fourth-grade girlfriend gave me back in the day, because I figured that it a) might get broken; b) might make a good handle if it doesn’t break; c) is against the rules of the dojo.

It seems someone is just begging for a beatdown, and I’m just the guy to give it to him, but I’m going to have to wait for a little while. I want to regain my control and finesse a little before I lay into him seeing as how I don’t want to actually do any (lasting) damage; just open his eyes and his mind. And besides, the later in the semester this happens, the closer we’ll get to free sparring.

Regardless of what my mom well tell you, I think providing this service is going to increase my positive karma. This kid is so similar to how I was, it’s almost like going back in time to give myself a lesson.

Sign me up

So I’ve officially signed up to with the American Red Cross to be a disaster response dude. I’ve filled out my application, allowed them to do a background check on me, and I imagine I’ll be hearing back from them next week. The lady I talked to sounded pretty excited about my skills (the ones I volunteered were ham radio and IT). It sounds like they could really use that stuff during their national disaster responses. So there I go.

The need to help

When a disaster like this bridge collapse happens, I get this almost overwhelming urge to rush in and help. I want to pull people from the rubble, get them something to drink, patch a couple of wounds, and get them reunited with their loved ones. And I want to do it right now.

I was all set to drive down to Minneapolis last night and help with communications via my 2m radio in the car, but the cops and EMS people on the scene were telling folks to stay clear and let them do their jobs. So I got on the local ham radio linked repeater system asking for info about a ham response to this disaster, but no one answered my calls, which (probably) means no one had any information for me.

Since it doesn’t look like there’s any good way for me (and the rest of us who have the same kinds of urges) to help in the immediate aftermath of this disaster, I’ve done the next best thing: I’m getting ready for the next one. I’ve sent an e-mail to my local Red Cross chapter (find your local Red Cross chapter) outlining my basic abilities and asking how I can help. I’m hoping to get training in disaster communications from them so that I can be useful in a confusing situation like that. I’m going to get hold of the county emergency government coordinator this morning and schedule a meeting to talk about ham radio in local disasters; apparently there’s currently no volunteer emergency coordinator for either Ashland or Bayfield counties. I sure don’t have a lot of experience on the radio or in planning county-wide emergency responses, but I can learn, yeah?

I’m going to prepare my family, too. I’m going to re-up my first-aid and CPR certifications (which aren’t particularly lapsed, by the way), and I hope The Wife will come with me (hint, hint). I’m going to work with The Wife to make a disaster plan for our family for everything from local “inconveniences” to major regional disaster. We’ll put together a comprehensive, compact first-aid kit for the house, and a crash kit for each car.

And that’s a pretty decent start, I think. What will you do?

Bridge collapse

I assume most of you have heard by now, but a major bridge in Minneapolis collapsed yesterday evening. Everyone in our family is OK, but my Mom had a close-ish call. She drives under that bridge twice a day on her way to and from work. Last night, she stayed late to finish some things, and as she was leaving, emergency vehicles were pouring into the area, and her usual route was blocked off. If she had been five minutes faster, who knows what would have happened? At any rate, if you have friends and/or family in the Twin Cities, give them a shout (not on their cell phones; the network is overloaded as it is) and let them know they are in your thoughts.

Cat Down

I guess it’s about that time; Vaca’s bladder is getting less controlled by the day and while he still seems to be in good spirits, he has bed sores and is spreading urine all over the floor of the two rooms he’s confined to.

I’ve left a message for our Vet friend Dan to come over and put the Handi-cat down. I’m just waiting to hear back about when it’ll happen.

I hope I’ll get to make the injections.

City Mouse, Country Mouse

But we’re all mice, no matter how you cut it

Note: This is a longish post. You were warned

I immensely enjoy reading Mark Morford’s column for the San Francisco Gate-Chronicle. He’s funny, smart, and right on. Most of the time.

In his latest column, though, (link above), he writes about wanting to flee the city to somewhere beautiful and peaceful and small-towney and get some property there and do the Urban Dweller Two-Step that goes like this: Get in the city, work; Get out of the city, relax. Have the best of both worlds, neverminding that:

  1. It’s hard enough to have the best of one world
  2. It’s remarkably easy to destroy the thing that brought you out of your living room in the first place; one foot in wrong spot in the forest, one Starbucks in a small town, and the delicate blossom in ground into the mud
  3. (Forgive me for stating the idealic and obvious, but…) If no one commuted, there’d be no traffic jams

Feeling that the odds of Mark reading my blog were pretty small, I felt I oughtta send him my thoughts, as per his request at the end of his blog. So I did.

The First Letter

Hiya Mark,

Sorry to hear about your car. I hope you got to take it spiraling up
the coast at least once before it’s unfortunate interaction with the
mid-80s behemoth.

So, anyway, about getting out: Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but
come, visit, relax, enjoy, then get the hell out. Unless you’re
planning to stay.

Here’s why: I live way *way* up north on the south shore of Lake
Superior in a seventy-year-old brick school house that my wife and I
heat entirely with wood. We have a pond and a small garden and dogs
and chickens and cats and a beautiful little boy, though not always in
that order.

My commute to work is thirty minutes, along the shore of the lake,
then through the edges of the murky, beautiful boreal forest. The
roads all have two lanes. I might see a hundred different cars on my
way to work, and about a third of those belong to people I at least
recognize. When traffic is backed up, it’s because the school bus has
stopped to pick up the neighbor kids.

Our friends the organic farmers, the giant-puppeteers, the musicians,
the chefs, the house builders, the horse-loggers, and the
whatever-they-are-this-week get together for food, cards and
smack-talking on a regular basis. We make meals out of what we grow,
what we forage, and a few things from the local food coop.

At least, this is the way it is in the winter, when the stars beat
down through the crystaline air and shimmer in the dim white world,
when folks go fishing through holes in the ice, and when the absolute
icy calm of the night will both freeze the inside of your nose and
keep out the riff-raff.

In the summer, things are different. The roads are clogged with boats
on trailers behind behemoth campers, cars and many more trucks with
out-of-state plates. The easy-to-find beaches are swarmed with people
in ugly bathing suits and zinc on their noses. The restaurants are
filled with sunburned people in shock at eating out for ten bucks a
plate and asking their waitress how to pronounce “Chequamegon.” And
this is all good and as it should be. It’s great when other folks want
to come play in my back yard because it’s beautiful and realitively
untrammeled and makes them feel better about life.

But then there are the folks who buy a “second home” or a
cabin. Sure the view is nice, and the house is relaxing for the five
or six weekends a year the owners might actually be there, but it’s
destroying the foundations of what it’s meant to enjoy. The big,
beautiful (or little, tasteful) house is expensive, which isn’t a
problem when you live in the city and have a city job. The taxes on
the house are also expensive, but it’s still not a problem. The
problem comes from the house’s impact on the community as a whole.

The big, beautiful house increases the property value of the whole
area it’s in, it brings in more BBHers, and the circle turns until
folks who have lived up here all their lives (emphatically not me)
can’t afford the taxes on their property any more and are forced to
move from a home that, in some cases, has been in their family for

That, however isn’t the biggest problem with the two-home phenomena.
The real problem is one of community. Where are all the second-home
folks when the schools up here have their holiday recitals? Where are
they when my jazz combo plays at the bar on a winter night? Where are
they when my neighbor’s barn is on fire?

It’s this sprawling refusal to choose, to commit to one thing, one
place, one community, that is causing great division and harm in our
country. Imagine a politician who when she says I’m going to do this
thing, then goes and does it. Imagine going shopping at the local
market and knowing the kid bagging your groceries because you went to
school with his dad. Imagine not only knowing the folks next door, but
being able to ask them for help without embarassement or fear.

I’d be proud to have you or any other urban refugee as my neighbor,
but only on a full-time basis. I’m not particularly interested in
being background color for a sophisticate’s soire. In this life, it’s
not a question of wealth or of status. It’s not about where we live or
where we’re from. It’s a matter of who we are and who we’re with.

An Invitation:
Why don’t you come up for a weekend or a week, meet some folks around
here, see what I’m writing about? You can stay at our place, or go to
some of the beautiful B&Bs around here. It’s quiet. It’s calm. Bring a
friendly lover or a lovely friend. Be our guest.

His Reply

a wondrous and generous and kind reply, good A.J., and much
appreciated, partly for giving me a geography lesson. Shows what I
know of Ca that I have little idea where, exactly, you are. You mean
Lake County? Anything I would end up buying wouldn’t affect local
taxes one iota, given my extremely limited budget. But yes, well do I
know of your community woes, but that’s CA living, unfortunately.
Almost every lakefront/oceanside community shares the same fate.
Trust me when I say, you’d want me as a seasonal visitor/owner than
some of my wealthy dot-com breathren.

Anyway, a weekend getaway wherever it is you are sounds nice indeed.
I do need to explore this region much more. Thanks much for the
terrific note, and invite.

My Addendum

Hiya Mark,

I think we’re talking about different geography. Here’s a link to
MapQuest that’ll point you toward my house, but if it was me doing the
driving, I’d definitely wander through Pine Ridge and the Badlands:

I guess I wrote to you to let you know (as I’m quite sure you already
did, but I felt compelled to speak up and be that one person in the
room who, for better or worse, restates the obvious) about my concerns
about the influx of city folks to the verdent green (or in my case,
white) spaces in the world. But you are certainly right: I would
*much* rather you were my part-time neighbor than some porsche-driving
dot-com plasti-tron. There’s nothing worse than new money unless it’s

Anyway, keep up your good work — your lovely and interesting and
intertaining writing — and I’ll keep reading the spectacular bits
(like the first two (at least) paragraphs of the BushCo Thanksgiving
Lust Fest) outloud to my co-workers, and keep me posted about a
potential visit. Honestly, coming here in summer is probably a better
idea, at least for a first trip, because there are sailboats to trim
in the Islands, horses to drive through the fields, beans to weed and
a little corner of the garden that first turns into ruhbarb, then pie.
But you are, of course, welcome any time.

In Summation

So. We’ll see what happens. But what an interesting communication. And how cool would it be for Mark to get in his rebuilt Audi and come out?