I love running because it's the hardest thing that I do, because success comes in the smallest increments, in breaths and seconds after months and months and months of fighting uphill. Of starting and stopping, over and over again, in the heat and the ice and the rain and the wind and the dark. The park this winter has been so empty and so quiet, we could be out in the middle of anywhere, playing in the snow. In the past year I've knocked one minute off my pace, and I'm still slow as molasses. A single minute took 12 months to earn. I ran six miles last Saturday for the very first time without stopping to walk. After years of trying! It meant everything and nothing. It meant I'll be out there this Saturday and next Saturday and the Saturday after that to do it again. I'll never be one of those people who make it look easy. The fact that it's hard for me is why I keep running: the need to push against something that pushes back and will not let me cheat. I do the work and I'm rewarded: my lungs are still going and my knees are still moving and my heart! Aha, my heart is strong.
Betty's voice scares me sometimes, like getting a jolt from an electric fence and then stepping on a rake right before you stumble into a hole that might be your own grave. But in a good way.
I'm waiting at home for my accountant to call back with bad news, so why not do some imaginary bag shopping online? Here are some recent favorites, all of which are large enough to haul multiple books and/or sacks of lost kittens and will soon no longer be imaginary. Hence the impending bad news from my accountant. </lazy fiscal humor>
+ see also the utterly delightful Troy Patterson on man bags:
The 50-something fellow shouldering a blocky Dell laptop in a blockier black synthetic bag is carrying the contemporary equivalent of Willy Loman’s sample case, one fears — and so is that fellow’s younger, more fashionable colleague, the one with a Mac in the twill Ghurka tote that goes so well with his A.P.C. barn jacket. The strap on a laptop bag is also a kind of yoke, for the liberating laptop has its flip side. The person carrying a computer used for business is wearing a reminder of business obligations, and is also mixing his business and personal lives in a way that must, on at least some vague level, change his sense of pleasure. Is there something galumphing and inherently inelegant in this relationship with technology? In having a mobile command center mingling with your own stuff? Or is this the way of all personal things in the time of the personal brand?
I sense a theme! From an interview with Teju Cole in this week's NYT Book Review:
Q: What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
A: I have not read most of the big 19th-century novels that people consider “essential,” nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too.
You should definitely read his book Open City, though; it's exquisite and a little hypnotic.
There's no use in regret. You can't change anything.
Your mother died unhappy with the way you turned
out. You and your father were not on speaking terms
when he died, and you left your wife for no good
reason. Well, it's past. You may as well regret missing
out on the conquest of Mexico. That would have been
just your kind of thing back when you were eighteen:
a bunch of murderous Spaniards, out to destroy a
culture and get rich. On the other hand, the Aztecs
were no great shakes either. It's hard to know whom
to root for in this situation. The Aztecs thought they
had to sacrifice lots of people to keep the sun coming
up every day. And it worked. The sun rose every day.
But it was backbreaking labor, all that sacrificing.
The priests had to call in the royal family to help,
and their neighbors, the gardener, the cooks.... You
can see how this is going to end. You are going to
have your bloody, beating heart ripped out, but you
are going to have to stand in line, in the hot sun, for
hours, waiting your turn.
— Louis Jenkins
I've been dog-earing nearly every page of this book, lest I poke someone's eye out with a pen on the subway. As if sacrificing an eye for literature would be the worst thing in the world. This description kills me: the detail and care he uses to frame this faded beauty (tragic enough as it is) and how well it signals the fate of poor Leonard Bast by association:
Presently there was a noise on the staircase. He shut up Margaret's card in the pages of Ruskin, and opened the door. A woman entered, of whom it is simplest to say that she was not respectable. She seemed all strings and bell-pulls—ribbons, chains, bead necklaces that clinked and caught—and a boa of azure feathers hung round her neck, with the ends uneven. Her throat was bare, wound with a double row of pearls, her arms were bare to the elbows, and might again be detected at the shoulder, through cheap lace. Her hat, which was flowery, resembled those punnets, covered with flannel, which we sowed with mustard and cress in our childhood, and which germinated here yes, and there no. She wore it on the back of her head. As for her hair, or rather hairs, they are too complicated to describe, but one system went down her back, lying in a thick pad there, while another, created for a lighter destiny, rippled around her forehead. The face—the face does not signify. It was the face of the photograph, but older, and the teeth were not so numerous as the photographer had suggested, and certainly not so white. Yes, Jacky was past her prime, whatever that prime may have been. She was descending quicker than most women into the colourless years, and the look in her eyes confessed it.
p.s. Leonard Bast would be a good name for this puppy, who appears likewise confined to a prison not entirely of her own making.
I'm less nostalgic for my youth than I am for 2009.
In other news, my father ran his latest Beach Dash in 39:02 but was beaten by three minutes by an 80-year-old. It's a major family scandal and we've heard about nothing else for weeks. He did send me his race shirt, which for some reason is a size small, along with this note which as you can see reflects his current state of mind:
This “save injured wild animals and strap a camera to their spare parts” sales pitch is outrageously beautiful. It will make you love birds, for god’s sake. Birds!
p.s. Tucc had one of these GoPros clipped to her noggin during the Emerald Nuts Run on New Year’s Eve, but I have yet to see the footage. I only hope its eventual release, years from now, does not implicate me in any crimes.
+ extra credit: Cumberbombed
I’ve been mainlining the bananas flambé that is this horrible show “Reign” on the CW (Megan Follows for all the poisoned gold doubloons!), so the word “frolic” is currently colored by images of scruffily bearded French dauphins chasing Anthropologie-clad maidens ’round impromptu lawn picnics. But there’s also this gem from “New Girl” creator Elizabeth Meriwether in last week’s New York Times magazine about a road trip she took with friends through Scotland:
We also played a game called Frolic, where anyone could just yell “Frolic!” and we’d pull over and run up and down the hills until we had enough. In Frolic, there are no winners or losers—unless you count the Scottish people who had to watch three slightly buzzed American tourists running around a hillside waving their arms around and screaming, “Frolic!”
I shall be instituting this policy for my next Hamptons visit, STAT, but mostly because I hate Americans.
I've been obsessed with visiting Montauk in the winter since I first saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind lo so many years ago (10! It was 10 years ago). It started out as a lark and turned into one of those someday things you keep in the back of your mind and on the tip of your tongue for so long that it takes on an almost mythic quality, and grows too big for its britches, when in reality it's a dream that maybe you're holding on to because you need to hold onto something. You know? The way I hold onto George Clooney and certain pairs of britches. But this weekend, lords a-leapin', I finally made this one happen. I rented a car at 8:00 Saturday morning, picked up SarahB at 8:15, and by 9:30 we were in the goddamn Hamptons. The roads were clear, the skies were blue, the towns were empty, and it was glorious.
Important note: the house from ESotSM (you know the one) isn't in Montauk at all but in Wainscott. I found a photo of it on Flickr a couple of weeks ago and when we tooled into Wainscott Saturday morning I just googled up a map and followed a street called "Beach Lane" that looked like it might lead us to the water. And it worked! And the house was right there! And we even made it to Montauk eventually. And I'm not gonna lie—it really was a dream come true.