Sunday, October 9, 2022

To Abandon Yourself To Running Before Running Abandons You


I once met a serious woman who was training for a marathon at a corporate cocktails reception party.

“That’s 26.2 miles” she said, like I didn’t know.

She got into goal-oriented long-distance running with enthusiasm at a difficult time in her life, desperate for a bit of mental distraction.

She said her last one took her less than 3 hours, and that runners started at 9pm because of the heat. I think it was in Las Vegas or a similar hellhole of a city. 

I learned that she used to carry water and gummies with her in a running backpack connected to her mouth via a long straw. But she now religiously stops at the water and food fueling stations. 

I was reminded that for full marathons there are water stations with actual food. In my world of half marathons, most races don’t even have water every mile.

Before she confided in me, a stranger at the time, I learned that she had an unplanned child with a man who left her while she was still pregnant. She was very young then. The kid grew up and left home as soon as he turned eighteen. He doesn’t talk to her since the day he packed his bags and left her. It felt too intrusive to ask why.

“It is amazing that you run marathons! I want to ask you all sorts of stupid questions now. I am sort of a runner myself, if for shorter distances” - I said, awkwardly.

She looked at me with her serious, big green eyes while a smirk formed slowly at the left corner of her mouth and said:

“There are no stupid questions”. 

I paused for a moment instead of debating this notion with her and inquisitively asked “So, how do you love again after such incredible pain?”

She must have misunderstood my words over the music of the venue, because she didn’t bat an eye or miss a beat. I can now see how I also failed to transition topics in an orderly fashion, lending my question to confusion.

She responded. After her last marathon - which was on pretty flat ground and on a day with great weather - her feet were chaffed and bleeding; and her body was sore and mangled. She thought that she might crumble several times, but…

This is when I realized that she had misheard my question and thought I asked “how do you RUN again after such incredible pain?”

But I was already as invested in her answer as she was in answering. So, her feet were chaffed and bleeding and her body was sore and mangled and she thought that she might die but realized… it didn’t matter!

She truly loved running marathons. She just really, really loved doing it. More than a hobby, it was a passion. 

She said that it “made her feel alive”.  And that the act of surviving such agonizing pain makes you so proud of yourself and want  to do it again, so you can use all the new survival skills you’ve acquired.

And I realized that even though she misunderstood my question, she gave it a great answer.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The end of "A Beer For The Shower"

The highlight of my Mondays was, for a number of years, the latest comic of the fun blog called "A Beer For The Shower". A collaboration of two friends - both aspiring and later book authors - it made light of the daily struggles of becoming an adult. Their shenanigans often revolved around beer. At the end of the post, they used to add recommended beer pairings for the situation. I'm convinced they got drunk off the chosen style every time. Artistic integrity is what I call it. One day, years ago, I clicked on the link seeking the levity that would rescue me from a long and painful workday. But the blog wasn't there anymore! All posts had been removed, and only the banner remained. I looked for information around the site, in the comments, online... There was no explanation and no reason. It was just... gone!


Days went by, and I kept clicking the link to see if that was a mistake. Or, maybe I imagined it was gone. Or the authors changed their mind. But no, it really was down. One of the small things in life people talk about as our source of happiness was gone, possibly forever. Days, weeks, months went by. Then they turned into years. Every once in a while, I'd type the link in my browser. This became one of the few areas of my life where I allowed myself to be hopeful. After all, the worst-case scenario was that it was still down, right? Right.

A warm summer afternoon in May of last year, an idea came to my head. What if I looked these guys up and asked them directly if they had plans of resuming posting? Or at least make the old entries available for us, their fans. I found one of the authors, Brandon Meyer. His Amazon author profile included an email address. So, I emailed him.


From: Me Sent: Monday, May 10, 2021 at 9:47 AM 
To: Brandon 
 Subject: Re: A Beer for the Shower

hi Brandon, I hope this message finds you well. I'm a fan and former follower of your blog, "A Beer For The Shower", and the books I have read authored by you and Bryan. Slim Dyson's was one of the best stories I've read, full of heart and innocence. It made a big impression on me. But it was the weekly entries to your blog that made me look forward to Mondays. Wanted to ask you about the blog. Some years ago all posts disappeared and never came back. I click on the blog site every once in a while, hoping it would get miraculously restored. But it looks like it is gone for good. Did you move it to a different domain by any chance? 


Exactly three months later to the day, he replied.


Tuesday, August 10, 2021 at 10:31 PM:

  Hi J, 

 Sincerest apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I had your email earmarked to respond to, but things have been unexpectedly hectic here since the spring (I do construction) and I'm finally getting caught up with myself. Thank you for the kind words and I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. We had a hell of a good time working on it, though I think my greatest contributions were to the written work, before we started mixing in the cartoons. Bryan was the real mastermind behind the comics. Those were good times, man. I miss the recklessness and fury. Eventually, I wasn't able to keep up with my blogly duties and had to step away from the production when I started a family and a new business. I just needed to start focusing on providing for a family and had to start making money. I do still occasionally chat with Bryan but it's very infrequent. No bad blood or anything like that, we both just kind of grew apart. Honestly, I saw he'd taken all the work offline a few years back and never asked him about it. I know some of it is still accessible via the wayback machine, but it's not easy to navigate. Thanks again for reading and supporting our work, J. It really does mean a lot and I appreciate knowing you enjoyed reading our stuff. We put a lot of ourselves into it


Out here, within this perimeter of existence, I don't know why I asked. What type of response did I expect? This was closure, alright. But it was also the official end of hope. And it was a lesson on temporality. And it was a lesson on seizing the moment, and cherishing the small things that make us happy. And it was a lesson on the reprioritizing that takes place when we stop being kids and gradually turn into responsible, well-adjusted, dogmatic, conservative, complacent, functional adults. And, in my opinion, this is exactly what the comics were about. They were about growing up, moving on, and letting go. It's not that the memories won't bring a smile to our face here and there. But these moments sure are gone to never ever ever ever come back. I decided to cut myself some emotional slack and only click on the link once in a while. It's not elegant to obsess over something like this. But then, one day, I noticed something different.


Under Construction! All new comics coming in... August!

Something must have happened. Maybe they got together again and started working on something awesome? Maybe Brandon felt the need to write something and use the old domain to post it? Maybe someone else took over? Maybe, maybe, maybe... The possibilities assaulted my mind with heavy artillery. There was something to look forward to, and it had a very clear deadline: August, goddamit! That's just a few months away! This is going to be... epic? Epic! . . . 

I'm posting this in late September. Only now today did I allow myself to look. I even set a reminder in the calendar, just in case. It's one of those "No, let me wait until way after the posting day to prevent unnecessary heartbreak". Because, what if they/him were/was delayed a bit? "Give it some extra time" - I told myself. Patience gets its reward, eventually. Today, I clicked. I clicked hard, my thumb hurt a bit. The WiFi connection *obviously* fucking stalled. Come on! It's been over 30 seconds! How long does it take for this signal to go to space and back?! Jesus!!! Okay, we are in. And the image is displaying, slowly. Okay, here it is. Finally, I was able to see it in all its glory.


Still under construction, but we were already deep in September...

But it was okay, and it is okay. And I'll be okay.

Cheers and thank you, Brandon.

Cheers to you too, Bryan. And thank you, wherever you are.


 Beer: Mashbuild Rye Whiskey, Barbados Rum Finish


Music: Charlie Crockett - The Man From Waco

Monday, February 15, 2021

When it snows

Claire. A lifetime of devotion I'd have given you, my Claire. It was all at your feet. My whole self was. I would have taken a bullet for you. It was all for you. It was all you. I was all for you.

Are my memories your memories? Did you ever feel what I felt? You came out of Raul's room crying for me, for you, and for us. Your tears melted my spirit. The universe fell inside itself. 

I went to the school's foyer to play the piano daily since that evening. But you never knew it, because I never got lucky enough to see you pass by when going to class.

Edmonton, Canada

I played that old piano like I never did before or after, showering the keys with the tragedy of having lost you. There wasn't space for anything else inside me, so I carved a slice of flesh for music. The world falls upon you hard when you are a 19 years old ball of raw, new emotions.

School ended a little over a month later. I had to pack my things and leave. Spent the last couple of days at Armando's apartment. Didn't want to be alone in an Edmonton that got colder and darker by the day. I desperately needed to see you, but didn't know how. Went to sleep earlier every day, struggling to find the strength to get out of bed the next morning. I was asleep when the phone rang. Armando passed it to me. Claire, my darling, it was you. Your flight was scheduled to depart at night, and you chose to call me there though I told no one I was at his place. The sands of life slipped through my fingers. 

The Power Plant at University of Alberta, CA

I said I loved you, and that I still did now. Without giving you time to respond, I asked if you were aware we'd never meet again. I could hear how you started to sob. I waited in silence as you kept crying, hoping you wouldn't notice the knot in my throat if I didn't speak. My mushed heart broke again, less loudly this time. I hadn't felt sadness so deep and bitter before.

A lifetime in a single season; it all felt trapped inside a single day.

Crossing the snowed streets of Edmonton

Thank you for Edmonton. I still miss you when it snows.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Looking in all the wrong places

 Somewhere in January, 2020

We no longer want to figure out the question. Right now, all we want is answers.


Joy was supposed to be a sub-division of happiness. When someone is asked about happiness, it is humanely impossible to think outside the framework of moments. We inevitably go back to the brain's archives and look for the folder titled "Joyful Moments" or "Moments of Happiness". Thus, one more limitation of the concept of happiness is that in order to be consistent with its most common definitions it needs to be ephemeral and elusive.

Following this logic, it is entirely possible that several/most/all of us never actually get to experience joy. Instead, we sort the moments most present in our memory and consider moments of happiness those that we enjoyed the most. In this way, enough painful memories would make an uneventful moment feel like happiness, when it was actually just an instance of reduced pain.


I forgot about the runny-nose and the overall flu-like symptoms. Figured I should attend more live soccer matches (and be alive while at it). 


This week I kept asking myself how everything you find pleasurable today could merely be the result of thousands of years of evolutionary adaptation, with these apparently innocuous preferences being at the center of the survival of your ancestors. Therefore, indulgence is an act of strength, not of weakness. We're just perpetuating the behavioral traits that culminated in our physical existence.

The problem is the modern overabundance of sensory satisfactions, a scenario we have not yet had time to adapt to. We are built for resource optimization, as we have faced their life-threatening scarcity for the majority of our existence. This is because we now live firmly in the world of want, not of need.

Cannot forget that any victories against weather (ability to freeze food, canning, irrigation, lighting) are temporary. In the end, if it doesn't eventually rain we're all fucked. Stability can't remain stable for long.


And thus Mario took the mushrooms and left reality for 6 hours. He was living in a world with many lives, stages, continues, princesses, coins, and turtles. He slowly crawled back, but he'd never be the same again. He saw enough to know it was always nothing but a game with lives, stages, and continues. It was the world of short term rewards, very different from Mario's current reality.

What do you want as your long-term reward? A happy kid who doesn't love you? A somewhat healthy, wealthy retirement to wear stupid light-colored pants while hitting a tiny white ball around a field with your surviving buddies? A participation trophy?

Did you end up craving exactly what you rejected throughout your whole life?


The old Fish asked the young Fish he just encountered - "How's the water?". The younger Fish looked at him, confused. Then asked back - "What's water?". The most crucial and essential realities can be the hardest to see and understand. 

"It's all banal platitudes" - The Octopus. 

Bestowed with the capacity to think, we are now burdened with the choice of what to think about. The thought chooses you first. 


Deliberately making yourself sick to get a bit closer to a state of divinity, risking ending an already fragile existence before its "due time", may be one of the few exercises in free will we are left with. Is it worth trying once in a while?

The proverbial red pill doesn't make you sick. You just see and feel what you've been too numb to notice, to comfortable to accept. You've been sick the whole time, but didn't know it. 

Also beyond our reach is the knowledge of just how fucking sick we've been all this time. The simulation is real, but so entrenched in us and intertwined with our identity that you can yell about it to our face and we will still pay $13.50 to see the concept turned into a movie instead of doing anything about it. Is power in the form of a juicy, bloody rib-eye steak worth slaving for? No. But we still chose the blue one instead because losing our reality is too much for our minds to handle, and because we already had it and learned to call it life. We can no longer afford to lose what we have decided makes us who we are.


One of the worst ambiance sounds must be the one a gas-powered hedge trimmer makes. Would it be so bad to let plants grow as they please? Why do we need to control everything? We spend so much time and effort leveling the ground, keeping shrubberies even, removing any foreign particles from our glasses, plates, food and drinks... only to then go on vacation to places with uneven surfaces everywhere, where the water is wild and considered clean, and where plants do whatever they want, where they want, when they want.


Why do we need to keep killing the very things we end up craving? Every year we make more humans, and every year we pay more and more money to find and visit uncrowded spots on vacation, away from our own creation. We are god and we are the devil, while also the mortals that have to deal with the consequences of our celestial decisions. Humanity's  main product is still shit in both a figurative and literal sense.

The leaf-blower effect: One could achieve the same in a cheaper and less noisy manner, but one wants it to be easier and faster. Thus, we sacrifice what is good about life in favor of convenience. 


Independent of our relationship status, it is human nature to spend a lifetime running from those who love us, in order to be able to chase those that reject us. In dismissing us, the latter confirm that they probably own something valuable (superior genetic material, material possessions, better social status... ). Since they are chasing us, the former probably carry impairing liabilities (disease, social awkwardness, poverty... ). Life would be a bit simpler if we knew this instead of acting on it instinctively.

Truly introspective people do not go to war nor work in construction, a constant problem to the survival of our species in the way we are used to thinking of it. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

A brief dialogue in sociopathy

Claire: I couldn't believe my ears, Julius. Just two paces away, three of the students at school were gossiping about Professor Julius having an affair with one of the teachers. I was mortified, Julius. What is happening?

Julius: My darling, I swear I don't even know what you're talking about. Affair? As in... cheating?

Claire: Yes! As in cheating. My heart is broken. How could you? Is any of t true?

3 seconds of silence go by. 

Julius: What are you even talking about? What are you asking me?

Claire: I can already see it in your eyes. Just want to hear it from your own mouth.

His faced slowly relaxed; jaw unclenched, making it seem as if his ears had gone down. He straightened his back. His eyes squinted halfway, followed by the subtle manifestation of a smirk that started on the corner of his mouth, making its way into the middle to eventually form a shy smile. He then leaned forward, took two steps towards Claire, and hugged her tightly.

Julius: Then you already know. I've never cheated on you, not even once.

Claire looked surprised, then calmer. She then started to slowly hug him back. Eventually, she gave in to his embrace completely, with utter abandon.