Monday, September 27, 2010






It looks like training has finally begun. I have 26 weeks to prepare myself to run 31 miles through the Maryland woods. My runs at Birch Hill Orange and the run I did this weekend at Bear Creek in Macungie, PA have been pretty technical and fairly steep. The Bear Creek trail climbs a series of switchbacks up the side of a ski area and Birch Orange has more elevation gain but less roots and rocks. As I was running Bear Creek on Saturday, trying not to split my head open on the very fucking gnarly trails, I started thinking about the absolute stunning firepower of the human brain and its' comparison to crap that we regularly stand in awe of (iPhone, Fast Computers, Automobiles). It all reminded me of how, when I was training for the Philly Half, I would leave the house far before sunrise and I'd marvel at the extraordinary number of calculations that have to be made to do something as "simple" as put a key into a lock in the dark. The number of steps to pull off this feat of engineering genius is staggering.

So... As I was visiting lovely Macungie, running downhill at a pretty good clip on twisting root and rock filled "trails" sometimes not more than an arms length wide, I thought back to the key in the lock. I became awed by the human brain, the human body (even one as old and graceless as mine), and the solitary hour I am allowed to spend in the woods. I started to think about the way that every foot fall requires that the eyes relay to the brain a series of important variables (fallen tree, rock field, tree roots, uneven footing, mud, snake, elevation gain/loss, etc), and then, once the brain has received those variables, it begins it's calculations to keep the vessel (me) upright. Once the brain chooses the correct place to plant the foot it has to shoot the information down the length of my spinal cord, down not one, but two legs, and, with an extraordinary success rate, gets every calculation completely accurate nearly every time. When you consider that I also remember to breathe, am able to talk to myself, take in the spectacular views and have time to think all of the above nonsense you begin to realize that there is no feat of engineering that will ever top what we have rolling around in our skulls.

So next time you want to gush about how your iPhone can tell you where to go for dinner or whether some douchebag friended you on Facebook, think instead about the greatest machine in existence, and then think about how it allows you to play with said iPhone, while at the same time thinking about what you might have for lunch, listening to your favorite Lady GaGa song, AND not dumping you on your ass while navigating a flight of stairs.



Tuesday, September 14, 2010





AUGUST 28, 2010

Sometimes I'll read Gym Jones or Simple Iron Truth and I'll try to create that mindset. Singleness of vision, laser focus; but I'm a different beast. After the ego bruising has washed away, and the inferiority complex subsides, I take a long look. I claw away at what I am, and in brief moments, "moments of grace", I see myself as I am. I am a misanthrope that delivers compassionate and quality health care. I am alternately satisfyingly solitary and crushingly alone, I am the undisciplined writer and the ritualistic runner. I will lace up in cloistering humidity and temperatures that challenge the solubility of mercury but I am also the same child that can't fall asleep without the soothing monotony of the television. I gorge myself on sugar when life gets too tough. I see injury in every tiny little fucking discomfort. I have survived more than most, hardened myself mentally to a life that gave nothing back, and now I have begun the spiral into what Pink Floyd calls "alcohol soft middle age".

Perhaps these spiking contradictions could be filed down. Perhaps I could throw away the TV, clean out the refrigerator, exile myself to darkness, but at what cost? The battle between discipline and chaos has always been a part of my life, it is my foundry. It is why Starkweather songs can be in excess of 28 minutes of twisted guardrail wreckage. It is why the book is called "Pulling Scars From The Nighttime Sky". It is why the TV will continue to flicker into the night. It is why my workspace is fanatically kept. It is also why I will run long miles on too few hours sleep. It is why, when I am poked with needles, I feel nothing but satisfaction. And it is why I know, when I hit the starting line, that I will see the finish.

To favor one over the other, chaos or discipline, would be to drown one half of me. The struggle between the two, uncomfortable and disappointing as it sometimes is, is not without its' own satisfaction. There are battles without measure that have been won. There are failures so great that not 1,000 lifetimes could undo them. There are sublime moments that erase every battle and every failure; crossing the finish line in the Philadelphia Half Marathon, writing and recording the 30 minute epic "Drug Holiday", the 400 plus reeling pages of "Pulling Scars", and the moments of clarity that I have alone in the woods traveling under my own power.

"Drink deep, it's just a taste, and it might not come this way again/
I believe in moments, transparent moments/
Moments in grace when you've got to stake your faith."

Rites Of Spring, D.C. Hardcore. Revolution Summer, 1996.

AUGUST 29, 2010

It was too nice out to sit inside so I decided to drive up to Pawling, NY to check out a section of the Appalachian Trail. I never realized that only ~20 miles from my front door was a beautiful section of the AT that was easily accessible from the same road I drive to get to the Birch Hill trails that I run. The first 1/4 mile is a wooden bridge over a swamp and at the end of that is what I consider the trail head. It starts with a half mile of beautiful single track, very few roots and rocks and a gentle series of switchbacks. After that 1/4 mile is a half mile of pretty steep grade with lots of trail rubble and sharp switchbacks. Some of this will have to be walked I suppose. Once this climb levels out it puts you into a field with a nice view of the kind of dense and leafy rolling hills that I grew up with.


The momentum seems to be building toward a move to Colorado. Things are slowly coming undone here and I'm finding fewer and fewer reasons to stay rooted to the place where I grew up. I never thought it would be Colorado. For the most part I hated living there in the early 80's. I was an East Coast Hardcore dude, they were Mid West pussies that liked and played horrible music and Denver was so small and so desolate on the weekends that it drove me out of my mind. I had no idea that I was living in one of the most beautiful trail running places in the world (Boulder) with some of the best weather on the whole earth.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2010

It's been difficult writing recently, hence the incomplete 8/28 and 9/1 topics. It's been a combination of action (running/playing with the band) and complete inaction because some of the demons have come calling again. The good news is that I'm running and that the injury I had (posterior tibialis pulling from bone) is getting stronger every day. The bad news... a series of disheartening shows with Starkweather, a 3 week layoff from rehearsal because our drummer occasionally tries to saw/grind/burn his limbs off at work, and an event that put my job in jeopardy. I've spent more time with my head burrowed under the blankets with the shades down than I have putting in miles or playing my guitar.

Below is something I wrote after playing a 3 day hardcore festival in Philadelphia, one of the most dispiriting shows we've played in a very long time. It won't make sense if you don't know this world, or know that I started listening to hardcore punk in 1980 when I was 15 years old. It won't make sense if you don't know that I've spent the better part of two decades creating music that has best been described as "Beautiful, Repulsive, Hateful, And Soul Wrenching" with the most talented group of musical freaks that have every dragged themselves into a recording studio or onto a stage. It won't make sense to you if you don't know that the ideals I was introduced to back in 1980 reside in every tendon, every bone, every artery, and vein in my body. Or that the middle finger I've held up to cheapness, compromise, and the path of least resistance has made life far more interesting and far more difficult than it had to or could have been. At the end of the day, when my head hits the pillow, I'll always know that the scales' balance between ideals and the death of those ideals will forever tip in my favor. If you get it, great. If you don't, that's cool too...


August 14, 2010. Our first time playing a festival since Europe. We were the outliers on this bill. Again, hardcore ethic and some twisted form of metal as music. Blank stares, folded arms, and an emptied room. The decades may pass but the reaction is still the same. I'm usually numb to the indifference but I've never felt like more of an outsider in a scene that I was part of almost from it's first breath. It's not good or bad. It's not necessarily that the old bands are better than the new; it's just different. Shedding skin and moving on is easy but where do we move on to? My vote for the last few years has been to retreat to the rehearsal room and recording studio. There's no financial incentive to play live anymore. Our days as a (marginal) headliner are a decade behind us so we're not gaining new fans, and we certainly don't enjoy the long hours, long drives, and the hauling around of our gear. Our tribe resides within the 4 walls of the rehearsal room where we create self indulgent self satisfying music with not an ounce of marketable potential.

Twenty seven and a half weeks until the Hinte-Anderson Trail Run 50k race. One more week before I start my formalized training. I know already that I'll battle fatigue, doubt, and injury over the next 27 weeks. I have burned myself to ash and I'll spend the next 27 weeks rebuilding. The physical challenge will be difficult. I know that it isn't wise to jump from 13.1 to 31 miles. I know that there are phyical limits, and I am searching for them. More than the physical discomfort will be the nagging nightmare factory in my head that plays the words can't/shouldn't/won't in an endless loop, poisoning breath and bone.

"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never pushed through the obstruction." William James.

"Between the desire/And the spasm/Between the potency/And the existence/Between the essence/And the descent/
Falls the Shadow." T.S. Eliot.

That's enough for today.