Running for Your Life: More “Spoke Words”

I can’t leave this “spoke words to” idea without this observation.

Imagine the following:

A young mobile phone addict happens upon my blog post and says:

“Yes, I’m game, I’ll ‘speak words to’ someone. You know, meaningful words.”

Trouble is, he can’t think of any meaningful words to speak. The whole idea being so foreign.

Here’s the answer:

Take a word form that is infinitely larger than the 20 seconds of topic matter that is the average consumed bite of content on the mobile phone – and binge.

As in “speak words” from these two must-read novels.

When it comes to meaningful words you can’t do any better than “Gateway to the Moon” by Mary Morris (my wife) and “The Overstory” by Richard Powers.

Do that, feel the rhythm in the sentences, the mystical courage in the belief in the power, the beauty of the human soul.

It’s a helluva start to getting to a place where you can't help but speak meaningful words.

Next: Running for Your Life: Artists Talk



Running for Your Life: “Spoke Words” to Him

Overheard on the Long Island Railroad, two teenagers in rapt, breathless conversation. Very loud!

“Like, I haven’t even ‘spoke words’ to him.”

Then, one teen expresses shock … shock! when discussing unfriendly behavior from that person she had previously regarded as a friend. I mean, really!?

One would think that friends ARE exclusively those people you “speak words” to. But maybe not.

It seems obvious that the teen is implying that the boy she hasn’t “spoke words” to isn’t in a position to benefit from her intimate opinions. It used to be, of course, that was how we came to be connected to people. You know, “speaking words” to them.

That leaves us with two distinct types of “friends.” Those to whom we “speak words” and those we have decided, for now at least, it isn’t in our best interest to “speak words” to.

It’s strange to me (anyone else?) how social media, especially followed on mobile phones, shapes (infects?) human behavior. Who under thirty actually “speaks words” into their smartphones?

There are times – long rides on the LIRR being one – when I can be persuaded to think that brains as I used to know them are finished.

Next: Running for Your Life: Artists Talk



Running for Your Life: Hot Running: Don’t Knock It Till You Try It

For years now boys and girls of a certain age (9-14, is my guess) have spent a good part of Prospect Park summer camp whaling away at each other, fencing with play-swords as long as their arms.

Straight, pointy things that don’t hurt from a wallop, or so it would appear to see the pint-sized warriors in action.

They pepper the trails in clusters of privilege, public paths that they swarm in league with untutored “counselors,” who encourage the land seizure so that literally as I run along I must dodge past them, often to avoid being struck by these “swords,” as one does a gauntlet during some lame male rite of passage.

Oh, youth, is that your sting?


Doctors will tell you not to over-exert yourself in searing heat and high humidity.

Better to exercise, race your heartbeat to aerobic health in the comfort of an air-conditioned gym.

Don’t hot-run, though, whatever you do. You’ll be sorry.

Sounds reasonable, and for most runners it’s the way to go.

But for me, summer running is a joy, a personal triumph. I run outside in all kinds of weather in part so that I will be in the kind of shape to be able to handle running when the temps and humidity spike.

A badge of pride, if you’ll excuse it.

Next: Running for Your Life: Artists Talk



Running for Your Life: “Gatsby” Gulch

Suddenly, everywhere you look, there are writings about F. Scott Fitzgerald, and most prominently, “The Great Gatsby.”

My first brush with “Gatsby” was in Grade Nine English class. It was the singular most important novel of the curriculum.

A nonreader, I confess I didn’t get it. I mean what the hubbub was about.

What it was in there for a kid attending a small high school in a marine-based town that the modern economy had forgot, where the scourge of New York style capitalism would somehow speak to my heart, is lost on me.

“Old Yeller” would be more like it.

Anyway, now, we’re tipping into the 2020s, a hundred years after the “Gatsby” decade, and man are we getting our fill.

In a recent London Review of Books, a piece by Alex Harvey looks at “Paradise Lost,” a new biography by David S. Brown published by Harvard U., and Scribner’s “‘I’d Die for You’ and Other Lost Stories” by FSF himself.

Here’s a beauty from Harvey review: “The dominant tone is [Fitzgerald’s] work becomes promise unfulfilled, human waste, the inevitable slide toward ruin.”

Frank Rich in New York magazine, quoting “Behold, America,” a new nonfiction book by Sarah Churchwell, reminds us that the plutocratic villain in “Gatsby,” Tom Buchanan, is a white supremacist prone to observations like “if we don’t look out the white race will be … utterly submerged” and “It’s up to us who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things.”

Fitzgerald delivers as the storyteller, the sensitive artist aware of the soulless horror in which she finds herself.

Why “The Great Gatsby” is the classic, we’re reminded in this treatise of human failure, delusion not illusion. In Fitz’s case, a race to the grave. (He died in Hollywood, suffered the fate of a barely attended funeral … in 1940 he wrote, Hollywood “was a dump, in the human sense of the word. Everywhere there is … either corruption or indifference.”) When life masks are seen by those with artistic sight, the illusion of something richer, better, utopian is revealed for what it is: a toxic lie.

Here is what could be the path. Fitzgeraldian stories that in a dramatic telling reveal, describe the cesspool that is our emotional capital – that we are doomed in Fitzgerald to live hard, die young, leave a good-looking corpse; in O’Connor we feel a monastic-style tone, alive to the wonder of human drama, adventure, excitement to be one that comes from loves remembered, triumphs recalled, dreams to be fulfilled as dreams, not through some VR stunt or video game prowess but through the as-yet untapped potential of the human brain.

What does the modern-day Gatsby reach for? What desperate rite do we expose: the retelling of “The Great Gatsby” 100 years after? That Hollywood destroys thought, emotion, the novel?

And Rich ends his piece with this: Two years after “Gatsby” was published to disappointing reviews and sales, budding real estate developer Fred Trump would be arrested at a Ku Klux Klan riot, not far from Tom Buchanan’s home in Fitzgerald’s fictional Long Island enclave or East Egg.

“Old Yeller,” anyone?

Next: Running for Your Life: Hot Running: Don’t Knock It Till You Try It





Running for Your Life: Shake … Spear

Ode to the joys of seeing theater like “Twelfth Night” at Shakespeare in the Park …

How hundreds of people in this time of unbridled mind-meld marketing, no barrier to the full-on soul extraction at work at the behest of the current US gold rush kings: Google, Amazon, Facebook and Netflix don’t enter this space – Transported – Beam me away, Scottie.

To the sixteenth century, where joy is the wide-eyed stare of the confounded actor, in the clever tricks to bring to earth the blustery Malvolio.

It will not last, and indeed we are as a civilization measured in individual opportunity, much advanced from Shakespeare’s time when so many were denied the opportunity to see, to learn and have their suspicions about the universality of human nature confirmed in this story.

Yes, so many of us, in fact the entire citizenry of New York City, more than 8 million people, are free to see these magical stories, these works of art that cleanse a soul.

For 90 minutes, the length of the performance. One hundred minutes if you count the pre-theater immersions.

And then it’s head-first back into the maw of brain disruption. Buy Apple and only Apple! Search Google for life-confirming facts. There’s an Amazon robot that will make your bed! Second season of “The Crown.” Binge!

Next: Running for Your Life: “Gatsby” Gulch