2016? You’re Just Fine

2016 doesn’t have a monopoly on death. It may have more celebrity deaths than you’d like, but it’s been worse. Much worse. September 11, 2001. Don’t make me explain. 1986 – “Howard the Duck” was released (kidding). 1968 – MLK and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. The Tet Offensive was launched in Vietnam and footage of the campaign provided Americans with a new understanding of the war’s horror. Also, Richard Nixon was elected. 1963 – Alabama Governor George Wallace tries to stop the desegregation of this state’s schools. Medgar Evers, the head of the NAACP in Mississippi, is murdered. Four black girls are killed by white supremacists in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Alabama. On November 22, John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. 1945 – Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, killing over 250,000 people (you can debate how this saved lives by ending the war, but still, 250,000?). 1942 – The Holocaust spanned more than a single year, but ’42 was its deadliest. In total, 6 million Jews would die at the hands of the Nazis. 2016? You have 3 days to catch up!
People are whining on social media about the death of someone they never met, who had no influence other than to entertain them. Celebrities leave behind a treasure trove of media for you to watch on repeat. They never die, they just stop making new media for your consumption. Freddie Murcury died 25 years ago! I still have “A Day at the Races” and “A Night at the Opera” to keep his memory alive. Elvis and Michael Jackson’s estates make more money every year than the artists ever made during their lifetimes. Can a celebrity or musician have an influence on your life? Absolutely! You might fall in love with an actor and strive to become an actor, or at least gain some insight on how you can be more confident, or see yourself in an iconic character of theirs. You might hear a great guitarist and spend years learning to sound like them. Look at Jimi Hendrix – “Jimi is on a whole other level of playing. His live performances were largely improvisational and even the greatest guitarist ever, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend and Jimmy Page put their guitars down and admitted they weren’t even close to him when he jammed with them.” Curt Cobain dies? Foo Fighters is born. Eric Clapton’s son dies, and we end up with “Tears in Heaven.” Just listen to the opening guitar riff of “Pride and Joy” and don’t tell me you can’t say who that dead artist is! Influence from other artists, actors, and musicians, is what brings their art to a higher level than even they could achieve. Bet me one Jonathon Winters and I’ll raise you a Robin Williams. The only influential person who I believe exited at the peak of his profession, while all others who came after pale by comparison is Muhammed Ali. No one has ever been able to come close to “The Greatest.”
Just wait until someone you truly love dies. Only then will you see how trivial your whining is. I recently had a conversation with a friend who lost her mother 2 years ago. While sadness still pervades, she tells stories of her mother’s life with laughter and admiration. I’ve lost both parents and an older brother over a decade ago. Great friends of mine have lost loved ones to cancer, among other diseases, for years now. Don’t even start on my friends who have lost a child or friend to suicide. They don’t get to hit “play” on the DVD to remember. Memory, at least for me, comes in the form of dreams. I remember having long, deep, conversations with my dad, only to wake up alone in my bed profoundly saddend once again. All I have are memories of him – some good, many bad, but I’d be willing to trade your favorite movie star’s life for one more day with my dad.
 And now I feel like I’m lecturing you. I don’t mean to. On December 28th, 2016, I’m just tired of hearing “This has been the worst year ever – make it end!”
Posted in Observations | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Jim Fund

When I’m out running, I come up with all kinds of ideas. This is a work in progress, but I thought about what it would be like to be in love with the idea of not working. What would it be like to not care about having a career? My inspiration for this thought comes from the book, “A Confederacy of Dunces,” featuring possibly the world’s laziest man who hates everyone. A very good friend of mine recommended it to me. It’s incredibly funny, so check it out. I came up with what could turn out to be a 5-minute stand-up routine. I’d get on stage wearing running shorts, a running shirt, and a pair of knee high, 70’s era white tube socks with the stripes at the top. My “personality” is a person with a higher opinion of himself than he should have.Here’s the routine I came up with:

Hello! Like the man said, my name is Jim. Everyone gets confused when I say I’m going to the gym. That’s a free Dad Joke for you, right there. You can use it if your name is also Jim.

That’s right, I’m a runner. I just came here after my daily jog. It’s okay, though, because the sweat has already dried up. I’m totally odor free! I run for charity. I’m a charity runner, so I’m going to ask you all for $5 on your way out tonight. It’s a good charity too! It’s called “The Jim Fund.” It helps guys named Jim. The purpose of the charity is to help Jim be Stay-at-Home Jim.

Stay-at-Home Jim gets to stay up late and sleep in every day. There aren’t any pesky kids or animals around to bother Jim. There is a Work-at-Home wife. She lets Jim live in her basement as long as Jim is quiet. Jim hasn’t seen her in three months!

Stay-at-Home Jim decided to be an Uber driver. This motivation and initiative did not last long because Jim hates people. People wanted to talk to Jim while riding in his car. Jim would tell them, “Look, it’s only a 20-minute drive. Can’t you just zip it and let me enjoy my beer?” Jim dropped a lot of people off at bus stops for some odd reason.

When Jim needs some time out of the house, Jim creates an amazing looking sign with the words, “Will Hold Sign For Beer” written on it. Jim then goes downtown as people are filing into a Reds game, stand next to a homeless person with their sloppy sign saying something about being hungry, and make fun of their sign. Surprisingly, no one gives Jim beers.

This is why you need to donate to the Jim Fund. Jim needs your help. If the Jim Fund runs out of money, Stay-at-Home Jim will have to talk to Work-at-Home Wife. On the plus side, she does provide Jim with a donation just to get him to go back downstairs. Everyone who donates $5 tonight gets a free hug. Not from Jim! Don’t touch Jim! But someone will hug you within 24 hours after your donation.

Everyone who donates $5 tonight gets a free hug. Not from Jim! Don’t touch Jim! But someone will hug you within 24 hours after your donation. Jim guarantees it! Thank you for your support of the Jim Fund.

Posted in Observations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Already Had Marriage Equality – We Just Didn’t Know It

Yo, Imma let you finish celebrating, but someone needs to answer a question for me. Why did the Supreme Court even need to rule on marriage equality in the first place?

Thinking logically about this, I’m compelled to compare this to other “licenses” you need to have. The drivers’ license you received in your state allows you to drive across the county and into Canada and Mexico without any other state questioning your ability to do so. You are still a licensed driver while out-of-state. So, in this case you proved one time that you have this skill and they gave you a license good for all states.

For professions needing licensing in a state (lawyers and accountants, for example), you can’t practice out-of-state without becoming licensed in that state. So maybe they hold those licenses in higher regard than a driver’s license due to the skills involved to hold those licenses.

Which brings me to marriage licenses. “Some groups believe that the requirement to obtain a marriage license is unnecessary and/or immoral. The Libertarian Party, for instance, believes that marriage should be a matter of personal liberty, not requiring permission from the state. Libertarians argue that marriage is a right, and that by allowing the state to exercise control over marriage, it is implied that we merely have privilege, not the right, to marry.” [thanks, Wikipedia] Personally, I think marriage licenses are completely unnecessary. Why bring in a government to a completely private agreement between two people? The cynic in me says it’s so the government can profit at the end of of the marriage.

Now, let’s take this to my logical conclusion. My same-sex partner and I get married in a state allowing said marriages. We get a license before the wedding. There is no special skill involved to being married, so it’s not like going to a state banning this marriage makes you forget how to be married. A state that doesn’t recognize your marriage is like a state that can arrest you for driving on their roads without that state’s license. “You aren’t a driver in our state because we don’t recognize your out-of-state license.”

The logic just doesn’t support states’ rights to ban or refuse to recognize a marriage that happened in a state allowing the marriage. The only hole in my logic is, all states will give you a license to drive. There are no states that ban drivers’ licenses. But I still think the comparison is valid, which makes the Supreme Court’s decision a moot point. Yes, they had to rule on the constitutionality of the case before them. I just think the case should never have existed in the first place.

Posted in Observations | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My European Vacation – Paris Marathon

The reason for this trip was to run the Paris Marathon. Today is the day! My start time was 10:10, which is the latest start time ever! I got to sleep in, but I still woke up at 6:30. I made some coffee in the room’s Nespresso machine. I tried to make another one, but failed to fill the water reservoir. Even after adding water, it would not make another cup for me. I was hungry and I had three hours before the start, so I went down the street for McDonalds. Yeah, I know. Don’t judge me! I wanted a small, quick breakfast. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and asked for chocolate milk instead of coffee. When she gave me the milk, it was hot and in a to-go coffee cup. After questioning her, she assured me it was chocolate milk. It turned out to be hot chocolate! I took everything back to my room only to find out I mistakenly ordered a sandwich without the egg. It was just a muffin with sausage and bacon! Oh well, I needed the protein.

I arraigned a meeting spot for my friend, Stacey. She brought along her Facebook friend from France. He didn’t enter the race but wanted to run with her anyway. We smuggled him into the start corral and we waited for the start. The Arc de Triomphe was behind us and we were on The Avenue des Champs-Eysees. Before too long, we were on our way.

I promised Stacey I would stay with her. I can run a 4:30 marathon. Her asthmatic body needs six hours. I spent the first four hours stopping to take pictures and then running to catch up. I overheard one person say, “why were they walking?” as we ran past them. I enjoyed the day  and learned a lot from her friend as he and I walked together throughout the race.

Around mile 22 the sweeper cars passed us. This meant we needed to stay to the side because traffic was now allowed on the course. At this point, Stacey told me to go get my medal. I hesitated at  first, but then I worried about ending up with a DNF (did not finish). With four kilometers left, I told Stacey that I will be at the finish line to take her picture.

I ran really fast the last few miles. I loved passing everyone and wondered if they thought, “what drugs is that guy on?” I waited at the finish and then I saw an incredible sight! A woman collapsed less than 100 yards from the finish. The medics rush out to help her. They put her on a wheel chair and wheeled her to just before the finish line. They helped her up and let her finish on her own. Right after that, Stacey finished. She didn’t know about the struggles of that woman because I didn’t tell her. She gave me a hug and sobbed on my shoulder. I take marathons for granted because they’re kind of easy for me. They’re not easy, but I don’t have trouble running them. Seeing that woman and knowing how hard she trained and how much she wanted to finish helped me realize how great I have it.

Posted in Experiences | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My European Vacation – Paris Day 3

Today was relatively calm compared to the first two days. I wanted to rest up for the marathon, so I slept in and took it easy. I got hungry and went out for breakfast. There are so many cafés here with outdoor seating, but I went back to my favorite. It’s on the corner of a busy street, so it’s great people watching. Before I was able to place my order, a man who appeared to be homeless and/or drunk came up to me with a big smile. He had on button fly jeans with only the top button buttoned. He spoke english and asked, “Where are you from?” I told him , “America.” “Where in America?” “Ohio.” He then held out his hand to shake mine. I’m not a germaphobe, but I was about to eat breakfast and I didn’t know where this guy with an open fly’s hand has been! I politely refused and didn’t shake his hand. It was then that my server came out to help me. She shooed him away with an offer of a small coffee. He seemed happy with that and went on his way. She gave me an apologetic look, but I just smiled.

When you order fried eggs and bacon, they don’t care how you want them cooked. You’re getting them sunny side up! Bacon is never crispy, but it’s still good. They always offer croissants with breakfast. It’s such a relaxing time of day, enjoying the strong coffee and watching the city wake up. Eventually, I went back to the room to relax some more.

Of course, I got antsy and had to go somewhere. I decided on the Notre-Dame Cathedral. I mapped out my Metro route and was on my way. This time, I brought my portable cell phone charger with me! I chose what looked like a nice café for lunch. It was too cold and windy to eat outside, so I found a table inside. First, I asked if this table was okay, because they don’t seat you at cafés. This was his clue to bring me an English language menu. I felt like he was bringing me a Menu for Dummies! The service was quick, the food arrived and I inhaled it quickly. As I sat there, I realized I must have picked a café where a lot of French people go on their Saturdays. I really felt like I was the only American in the place.

The Notre-Dame Cathedral was spectacular! I’ve decided that I enjoy the history and architecture of a city more than going into a museum and looking at the exhibits. The buildings around here are all amazing, but this cathedral was stunning. The work that must have gone into this place showed in every little detail. I couldn’t take a picture to show the immense size of the inside. I wish I could have been there during a mass just to hear the acoustics of the place. As I finished taking pictures, someone started playing the organ. It sounded as awesome as I thought it would!

We ended the day at a highly recommended restaurant near the Eiffel Tower. We weren’t aware that the term “entrée” means starter here. Alana ordered ravioli from the entree portion of the menu. It came with our shellfish bisque, but we had no idea what it was. It didn’t look like ravioli, but we ate it anyway. When my meal arrived, nothing came for Alana. Confused, we asked what happened to her meal. They explained the whole starter thing, so we asked to see the menu again. She ordered from the meal section of the menu and ended up happy. With one quick trip around the Eiffel Tower glowing at night, we headed back to our room. Overall it was just the day I needed for the day before Marathon Sunday.

Posted in Experiences | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My European Vacation – Paris Day 2

I set my alarm for 6:30 AM. Damn the lack of sleep, I’m going to the Eiffel Tower at dawn! I had no troubles with the Metro today, so I arrived at about 7:10. It was already light out, but the sun hadn’t made its way above the buildings around the tower. It was a very peaceful place to be. There were runners out, but very few tourists. I took a bunch of pictures and, after breakfast, headed back to my hotel. This was, by far, the easiest part of my day!

Alana and I headed out for the day, starting with lunch at a café near our hotel. We sat outside and people watched. A cat stopped by for a visit. It looked like she lived at the café and just wanted to sit outside under a chair. As I reached to pet the cat, Alana said, “Don’t touch the kitty!” I said, “But I want to touch the kitty!” Our conversation degraded from there directly into the gutter. Needless to say, no kitties were touched this day.

Before we left, we decided our destination was the place in Paris that is the highest point and offers spectacular panoramic views of the city. That’s not where we went. We mixed up the names of the cathedral and ended up in not the best neighborhood in Paris. Even the nice Sri Lankan woman sitting next to Alana said, “Are you sure you want to go there?” It was actually a nice church with some great photo opps, so it wasn’t a total loss. The streets looked like something from a Disney theme park, maybe something you’d find in Epcot. After Googling the place we wanted to be, we got back on the Metro.

The Paris Metro is a very busy, confusing, place. You have to know exactly where you’re going when you transfer or you’re on the wrong train. My experiences from yesterday helped us with that today. 30 minutes later and we were at our destination. After exiting the train, we rounded the corner, expecting the stairs to the exit. Instead, we found a crowd of people waiting for an elevator. We had to push our way through to get to the stairs. I was confused why so many people would wait for an elevator. I was impatient enough to not want to wait for what I expected to be multiple elevator trips before all those people would be able to get upstairs. So, we started on our trip up the stairs. After two flights, I knew we were in trouble. The stairs became an endless spiral staircase, going around and around and around with no end in sight. I kept looking back at Alana to make sure she didn’t enlist the aid of a Sherpa. At this point I realized, I’ve made a huge mistake. We could see daylight after completing the spiral portion of our climb. Once we reached the level where the elevator was, the doors opened to reveal the people we passed exiting what had to be the world’s largest elevator! They got to the top at the same time we did, but I wasn’t going to let them know how hard that was! Two more flights of stairs and we were finally outside.

This part of Paris is really beautiful with cobblestone streets and kids playing nearby. We took in the sights and headed to our destination. Then we saw the next set of stairs! Keep in mind, this is two days before I’m running the marathon. We climbed to the top and took a much-needed break. I grabbed a beer, she had a coke. We sat there in our outside seats watching people climb and descend from the next set of stairs. There was what looked like an 80-year-old woman coming down the steps. I watched her and thought, “If she can do it, I can do it,” so we started our next climb. Finally at the top, we realized the trip was worth it. The view was spectacular and the cathedral was amazing. There was a mass in service, so it was kind of like I went to church! Of course the mass was in French, but I still kind of knew what part of mass was happening. We were all allowed to see everything, we just had to be very, very quiet. It was at this point that Alana and I got separated. I was taking pictures with my iPhone and its rapidly declining battery. I was below 5% when I left the cathedral. I had no idea where Alana was, so I went back inside going the opposite direction to find her. Halfway through and not finding her, I actually cussed inside a place of worship thinking, “Where the fuck is she?” I went outside and sat down to wait for her. Ten minutes or so later, I got up to look for her. I was looking out at the crowds scanning for her. After giving up, I turned around and she was sitting on the steps looking at her phone! She said she texted me, but I had my phone on airplane mode to save power.

We found a tram that took us back down the hill, so no steps! At the bottom, we decided to get Uber to help us back to our hotel. The moment Alana was able to secure our ride, her phone died! I was certain they needed her phone to be active so they could find us, so we waited about 15 minutes and gave up. I tried to get us another one, but my phone told me our hotel didn’t exist. I couldn’t input our destination, my battery was now at 1%, so we headed down the hilly street hoping to find a Metro entrance. We got lucky and quickly found the one we needed. Let me save you some time and let you know, riding the Paris Metro during rush hour lets you get to know your neighbors standing next to you very well! I watched two women, speaking French, having a lively conversation. They were laughing and having a great time and it really helped me to decompress a little. And then the image I couldn’t get out of my head was Gomez Addams kissing Mortcia’s arm begging her to speak French! Cara Mia!

Finally, back in our room, we ordered room service. No more walking, no more stairs, just dinner and vodka on the rocks. Exhausted, I slept well – for a while. During the night, our air conditioner stopped working. I woke up with the pillow soaked in sweat and flipped it over. Alan couldn’t take it and called for service. I think it was 4:00 AM. I managed to fall back to sleep knowing that Alana makes shit happen when she decides it has to happen. I didn’t hear anything after that. Finally, my body is now on Paris time!

Posted in Experiences | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My European Vacation – Paris Day 1

My excuse for traveling to Europe was to run the Paris Marathon. Of course, Alana and I made plans to turn this into another of my “running vacations.” Our trip to Paris ended up being the longest day of my life! We left Cincinnati at 4:00 PM Wednesday and landed at 6:00 AM Thursday Paris time. That means my body thought it was midnight when we landed. Eight hours sitting on a plane followed by a one hour trip to our hotel left me exhausted. So do I nap? Nope! I slam some Five Hour Energy and have some espresso and breakfast. We took a short walk to the Louvre only to find a huge line waiting to get in. The sign outside said (paraphrasing), “We don’t know when we’re going to open today due to administrative reasons.” So, they weren’t opening because they were in meetings? We kept walking and taking pictures and found our way back to the hotel. Later, after a one hour nap, I went back to the Louvre to find out they closed due to a strike! There were protesters outside and there were other protesters across the city. They even shut down the airport when the air traffic controllers went on strike. If they did this one day sooner, we wouldn’t have been able to land!

I walked to the Paris Opera House, which was a beautiful building. I found Harry’s New York Bar. I found out that Harry’s has a fabulous history of famous visitors such as, Earnest Hemingway, Humphry Bogart, Coco Channel, Jack Dempsey, and Rita Hayworth. My experience differed from theirs, I’d guess. So far on my trip, everyone was helpful to this American who can’t speak French. But this guy behind the bar spent so much time talking to what looked like his regulars that all I could do was sit there and wait for him to acknowledge me. I’m at a bar that’s famous for its cocktails but all I wanted was a beer. They had two choices – Carlsburg and the beer I didn’t order. The food pricing included the beer, but I didn’t want to spend 19.5 Euros for a club sandwich! I ordered the 14.50 Euro chili dog instead. I hear a microwave ding a few minutes later as I watch my bartender pick up my hot dog bun with his bare hands. It was in one of those hot dog warmers, so he placed the hot dog in the bun and carried it over to where I imagine the microwave was. He came back with the hot dog in the bun, slathered with mustard, accompanied by a bowl of chili with beans, and a bowl of shredded mozzarella cheese. I know I’m from Cincinnati and I love my Skyline cheese coneys, but no chili dog should come with beans! I’m not even going to start on his dirty hands touching my bun! Overall, it tasted good. I finished my beer and walked back to the hotel.

Since this is a marathon, I had to go to the Expo at the convention center. I planned my route using the metro and headed out the door. As I was approaching my metro entrance around the corner, I turned right when I should have turned left. A mile later, I realized my error and turned around. Once inside the subway, the fun began. Their machines let you choose your language, so I was happy about that. It didn’t, however, like my credit card! Frustrated people lined up behind me, so I apologized and got in line at the next machine. This time, I paid with the Euros and I was on my way. I found the metro for the first leg of my trip and got off where I was transferring. I found the next metro and got on, not realizing I got on the one going away from my destination! One stop later, I fixed that error and managed to get to the Expo. I met my friend, Stacey, who is here to run the marathon, and we went inside. Roughly $110 later, I had my running bib and souvenirs. Now I was ready to find my way back to the hotel. Did I learn from my mistakes from earlier? You don’t know me well, do you? I got to where I was to change trains and couldn’t find mine! So I walked outside and opened Google Maps and walked the mile back to the hotel. Long story short, I now know the Paris Metro system and I can find my way around now.

After dinner, I enjoyed an adult beverage or two, hoping it would help me fall asleep faster. It did the trick, but I woke up at 2:00 am thinking I just finished a nap! At 3:00, I got up and watched some Netflix until I was able to fall back asleep at 4:00. During the 36 hour period from our takeoff from Cincinnati to the time I finally slept well, I believe I slept a total of 6 hours. Plus, I was hungry all the time! I was a dog tired, hungry American traveler in Paris. I may have figured out why the Parisians think we’re so rude! We’re just hangry!

Posted in Experiences | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Father’s Day

Those were some serious glasses! He eventually had tri-focals. I don’t know how old my dad was when this picture was taken, but he died of lung cancer in his late 50s. He also had multiple (I don’t remember how many – maybe quadruple) bypass surgery at roughly my current age.

I remember him as an unapproachable, distant, and angry man. If you played baseball or acted in school plays, you hoped Mom would come, but you never entertained the idea that Dad would be there. You wouldn’t even ask. He was an alcoholic who went into rehab when I was 12 years old. He never drank another drop after that, but he lived inside himself and never let anyone else in there with him. Not even our mother. As the cancer progressed, he finally opened up and started talking to me. I remember a picnic at the park in Wilmington where he wanted to talk and talk and talk. I listened, but I kept thinking, “Why now? Why didn’t you talk to me when I was a kid? Why did you make me so afraid of you? Who are you?”

I made it a point to do my best to be a better father than he was. Granted, there were times when I’d rather take a nap than be with my kids when they were younger. But last night, at my son Alex’s bachelor party, with all of his friends and his two brothers with him, I knew without a doubt that the cycle of parenting by fear and intimidation has ended. My dad was not a great father – he was a flawed man and I accept that. I too am extremely flawed but I know that. I just want each generation of Whittenburg men to improve upon the last generation. I don’t know who my dad was. I know who I want my future grandchildren’s dads to be. They will exceed my expectations.

That’s the men they have become. They will parent the next generation of Whittenburgs with pride and with a hint of history of the name. When it’s my time to go, and they post on whatever site becomes the new facebook, I hope they can say honestly that they wouldn’t be who they are without me as their father. Because flaws and all, I am not the person I am today without this man who is my father.



Posted in Background | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Music Makes No Sense

My lovely bride, Alana, bought me a high quality turntable as a gift recently. She knew I was collecting vinyl records just for the nostalgia. I was buying records I used to own before I sold them all to the local record store back in the early 80s. I thought at that time that CDs were the way to go. I amassed a collection of several hundred CDs over the next few decades. Eventually, I took the plunge and started consuming my music by downloading from iTunes. It was convenient and I could listen on my iPhone, iPad and desktop. I also subscribed to Rhapsody and streamed hundreds of songs and discovered untold numbers of new artists I wouldn’t have otherwise listened to. It’s nice to be able to sit there with the headphones on and spend an hour discovering new music. All this convenience came at a price. I wasn’t fully investing in the music.

As a teenager during the 70s, I became intimately familiar with the records I bought. I knew every song on every album I bought. I knew which song was coming next before the last song ended. I knew all the lyrics to all the songs on the album. Maybe it was because I listened to them over and over. Maybe it was because I read the liner notes and lyrics printed on the album sleeves. You don’t get lyrics printed on album sleeves when you buy your music from the internet. Trying to read the liner notes from a CD requires very strong reading glasses! Reading along to the lyrics from the album sleeve while the music was playing is one of life’s great pleasures. Sometimes you just can’t quite understand what the singer is saying and you need the cheat sheet! This truth became clear to me when I listened to a re-issue of Elephant by The White Stripes on vinyl.

It starts with the back of the album listing the songs. At the top it says, “Complete Recordings in Chronological Order*” The asterisk says, “*Not necessarily complete or in chronological order.” That’s a detail I would have missed if I bought this online. In the liner notes, Jack White said he deliberately refrained from using computers during Elephant’s writing, recording, or production. It got stranger from there.

I’ve always been a fan of The White Stripes. When I listen to music as background noise rather than delving into the details of the song, the singing becomes just another instrument of the song. I don’t really hear the lyrics separately from the music. The singing becomes one with the other instruments. Today, I sat and pulled out the LP sleeve and read the lyrics while listening to Elephant. I’m now convinced that Jack White is either insane or crazy intelligent!

The album won a Grammy for Best Alternative Album and for Best Rock Song for “Seven Nation Army.” Let’s look deeper into the lyrics of that song:

“I’m gonna fight ’em off. A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back.” – So far so good.

“They’re gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back” – Okay, I’m slightly confused now.

“And I’m talking to myself at night
Because I can’t forget
Back and forth through my mind
Behind a cigarette
And the message coming from my eyes
Says leave it alone” – I’m totally lost now!

It’s almost like,”I need to find a word that rhymes with forget – I know! Cigarette!”

I won’t repeat the entire song here, but you get the idea. Reading the lyrics can confuse the shit out of you if you try to isolate them from the song. Sometimes, the lyrics make no sense at all until you add them to the song where they make total sense. It just works. That’s the genius of the song.

The song was number six on Rolling Stone’s 2009 list of the 50 Best Songs of the Decade. In March 2005, Q Magazine placed “Seven Nation Army” at number 8 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. In September 2005, NME placed “Seven Nation Army” at number 5 in its list of the 50 Greatest Tracks Of The Decade. It was also called the 75th greatest hard rock song by VH1. In May 2008, Rolling Stone placed this song at number 21 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. It was also ranked #1 on Rhapsody’s list of the Top 100 Tracks of the Decade.

There’s an endless list of songs where the lyrics make no sense taken out of context. Sure, there are just as many songs where the lyrics take center stage. The Beatles wrote many meaningful songs that live on today as classics. They also wrote:

“Sitting on a cornflake waiting for the van to come
Corporation teeshirt, stupid bloody Tuesday
Man you been a naughty boy. You let your face grow long
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen
I am the walrus, goo goo goo joob”

It makes no sense, but it works.

I guess I could go on reading the lyrics and trying to interpret the song. Or, I could just enjoy the music as a whole. I may not be able to sing along, but I can play a mean air guitar!

Posted in Observations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boston – A Runner’s Perspective

It’s almost 24 hours after the bombs went off during the Boston Marathon. I’ve spent this time reading about the heroes who emerged immediately. I’ve spent very little time reading about or watching videos of the explosion. I’ve spent this time reading online newspapers and blogs written by runners. They understand the runner’s perspective on this event. So much of what I read is similar to my thoughts that I wondered if I could come up with anything unique to say. While the running community has many things in common, I hope to be able to share my perspective with you.

I was in New York City when they announced the marathon was cancelled. I spent some time being angry and frustrated, but I got over that quickly and became a typical Midwestern tourist for the rest of my trip. What got to me, though, was how non-runners were so angry at us for being disappointed, or for not going to Staten Island and helping with the relief efforts. There were many people who were pissed that thousands of runners showed up in Central Park on Sunday and ran anyway. How could the runners be so heartless when so many people were without power or shelter or food? What they didn’t know was, we were told to stay away from Staten Island because they had too many “helpers” there already.  What they didn’t know, or couldn’t understand was, runners of the world unite unlike any other sport. I went to Central Park and witnessed runners from across the world joining together to organize their own marathon. While tragedy stopped the official marathon, it did not stop the runners. The running community came together as one. This community made my disappointment dissolve the moment I saw them there.

Yes, but New York was an “Act of God,” right? Boston is different, right? In many ways, yes, but the response from the running community is the same. Instead of a major weather event, it was a major lunatic who stopped the race. Whoever did this stopped the race, but not the runners. There are stories of runners helping the injured. There are stories of runners going past the finish line and continuing to run until they got to the hospital so they could donate blood. If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know how physically difficult that was for them. They had to use their heart to keep running after the finish line. That’s the only way.

What happened to the people who were stopped on the course? I can identify with them because their dream marathon was cut short. I train for marathons all the time. I run even when it’s an “off-season” because I can’t stop running! I run at least two marathons a year and usually around five half-marathons a year. It’s the same training cycle with each marathon. I spend 12 weeks ramping up the miles by running at 7:00 AM on Saturdays, as well as every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. I’m not complaining – I love it! As race day approaches, I’m forced to cut back on my miles so I can recover. The lack of running, and the growing anticipation of race day, drives me (and Alana) crazy!

Being at the starting line is the second happiest part of a marathon. It’s pure joy being out there with old friends, new friends, and running friends I’ll meet on the course. The next 26 miles are a blur of gels, hydration, electrolyte depletion, strangers cheering, kids wanting high-fives, runners passing me going uphill and me passing them going downhill. The last two-tenths of the marathon is the best part of any marathon I’ve run. Everyone is cheering you on. People  are on the sidelines waiting for a loved one to come down that finish line chute, but they cheer you on anyway. Or at least it feels that way to me. I cross the finish line and, despite the cramping and other pain, I celebrate my accomplishment while limping to find Alana. I limp to find my running team friends, take pictures, and re-hydrate with a beer later in the day. I need this post-marathon routine almost as much as I need to run! The people on the sidelines need to cheer and share in the joy of the finish line almost as much as we need to run.

So what does this have to do with Boston? The bomber attacked the marathon by attacking the friends and family on the sidelines. When they attack our friends and family, they attack us! I shared my marathon running perspective with you so you could understand how important it is to me. I’m not alone in this feeling. I don’t just run with a community of runners, I run in a family of runners. My family just happens to live all over the world and I see them twice a year (or more). The reason I know it’s my family is because we are all thinking the same thing about this tragedy. The lunatic wanted to stop a marathon and kill as many people as possible in the process. He, or they, succeeded in the short run. But, within 24 hours, the marathon family came together to decide that this senseless act of god will not stop us. We will keep running. We will run today to honor the memory of those who lost their lives or were injured yesterday. We will run tomorrow and the next day, and we will show up for the next major marathon (Flying Pig for me) without fear and with a renewed purpose. Our purpose will be to show the people responsible for Boston, and anyone else who thinks violence can control us, that we cannot be controlled or stopped. All you did when you set your bomb was to run away. We run for ourselves. We run for our loved ones. We run for our team. We run for our running family. We run toward hope. We run.

Posted in Background, Observations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment