Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Growing up with Jeff

The number of times my Mazda 323 (affectionately known as "Eggie", RIP) and I made the 300 mile trip between Chicago & St. Louis along highway 55 in the years 1997-2000 has to be in the hundreds.  Or so it felt.  We'd pretty much go on auto-pilot, left hand contained a large coffee and handled steering, right hand dealt with shifting and keeping the tunes going.  Most often I drove only in the company of Jeff.  Jeff Tweedy.

We'd been friends since before college, he then in Uncle Tupelo and me under-age drinking, playing volleyball and collecting a paycheck from Imo's pizza.  Both being from the greater St. Louis area, he on Illinois side of the Mississippi, we had our Midwestern roots in common & shared some of the same hobbies like going out on the Landing & hitting up the gambling boats.   By the time I was in college, he'd formed a new band, Wilco, but many of his lyrics' themes remained and certainly the ties to America's heart land.  I took comfort in hearing those twangy but rocking beats and felt our friendship was solid.  I wasn't wrong.  As he and his band mates grew in popularity they moved to Chicago and identified with that being more of their hometown; this worked out perfectly for me as I also moved to the Windy City after college.  We'd see each other from time to time, often at the Riviera and smaller venues in the Chicagoland area and around Southern Illinois.  But once...  once at the most amazing of shows ever, at the now defunct Lounge Ax on Lincoln, it was like being in the living room catching up with your friends and listening to some amazing music; I still have a cassette tape of the show recorded off a DAT tape.  If only I had a sweet Walkman so I could actually listen to it.

Eventually I moved to NYC and we saw each other less but I kept up with his latest releases and caught a show whenever Wilco was in town. I can't help but feel like I grew up with Jeff and his various band mates and just as their music has evolved so have my expectations of the newest albums ...but man oh man, the older stuff can twist my heart up in an instant.  To this day, listening to Summerteeth's Via Chicago transports me back to my days along highway 55 and so many of the other songs bring about a deep emotional response.  And so I was beside myself, last week, when after selling out both shows in Central Park at Rumsey Playfield, they released additional tickets.  Snagging up a couple quickly, J and I found ourselves in the middle of the park on a dark foggy night.  The skies hinted at rain but it never came, instead the familiar lyrics of an old friend filled the wind and filled my heart with a little of what I'll always miss of the Midwest.

Go get yourself some of Illinois's best... The Whole Love is available in iTunes now!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If not now, when?

"To be alive is to totally and openly participate in the simplicity and elegance of here and now" - Donald Altman

Days, weeks and months pass just as they did before, just as they have for the last 30+ years of my life.   It's different but it's not, it's scary but it's not.  I guess I'm thinking more of the quality and content of those days, weeks and months more and from a different perspective.  You'd think that in doing so some introspection would occur as well.  Well, you'd be wrong.  The thoughts aren't of the quality of my life but rather that of my father. And while it seems an easy conclusion to draw, it wasn't until my Monday morning running buddy, TK, said so did I know it to be obvious & of course true.  It's so much easier to focus on someone else, their needs, the support required for them than to look inward.  My family is pretty much the best of the most kick ass people I've ever known.  We're loud and dysfunctional as all hell but we've always got one another's backs and we can organize like no other.  You throw a task down and it's CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!  So while we're all moving forward in our new daily reality, each with our own facet of the challenge well underway, I've completely lost touch of just how much of my own stuff I've let fall away.

As any runner will tell you, we're big eaters, but because we're often in motion it all balances out.  I'm no different; sure there may be times after a big race or maybe when injured that activities don't exceed intake and a little weight is gained here or there but soon enough the balance is restored and all is right with the world and its supply of cupcakes & salty snacks.  Given my lack of doing much of anything, I'm both up in weight and down in activities; this needs to change.  A couple weeks ago I joined some friends and family to compete in a game-like contest of building better habits, dropping the crap and losing some tonnage.  Things are looking up thus far although they'd speed up a bit if I were to get back to building some mileage.  And thus why I'm posting here, I need just a touch more accountability.  I may also need to do something more drastic, like commit to a race before the year's up, something with some distance ... any suggestions?   In the meantime here's to running more on a daily basis & to refining my skillz on the kickball field (yeah, I joined J's team ... eeps!)

Coming up:  an overdue recap of the Spartan Race, and both the Fifth Ave Mile & a cool performance in BK