Wednesday, May 25, 2011


This isn't so much an advertisement as it is a testament to how, every once in a while, a small company, or more importantly a man running a small company, makes you have slightly more faith in the human race than if you had not met them. On the surface we're talking about running shoes; some crappy synthetics glued onto some equally crappy pieces of foam and rubber. There is nothing mystical or even particularly significant about them except for the fact that, in my case, they allow me to do something that I love, keep me within shouting distance of sanity and relative health, and keep the majority of the human race, which I have a distaste for, at a distance.
In the last year and a half Stacy at Wilderness Running Company has sent countless emails helping me to purchase anything from shoes to socks, to hydration packs; never once did he seem annoyed or make me feel like I was being a pain in the ass. I was. I've put more time and effort into buying running gear than I have buying cars or houses. He replied to no less than 4 (FOUR!) emails before I finally bought a pair of La Sportiva Crosslites and his recommendation was dead on. Four lengthy emails for a pair of shoes that didn't even cost $100! When I placed a large, ridiculously discounted order with him before Christmas, I found a free pair of Sugoi socks and gloves in the box. Fast forward to Monday... It was a shitty day. I found out that I won't be able to start school in June and may have to wait until either September or next year. Work was an absolute clusterfuck, and I was not pleasant company. So I came home from work to find the box with the shoes that Stacy had special ordered for me, ripped it open like a kid on Christmas morning, and was stunned to see a pair of used (but in great condition) La Sportiva Raptors along with my shiny new shoes. Stacy reads my blog, saw pictures of some of the trails I run on, and thought that the shoes might be just what I needed to protect my aching knees from the technical trails I run. Where the fuck are you ever going to get service like that? It turned my shitty day around.
If this all sounds like I'm gushing over Wilderness Running Company, let's be clear; I am. I don't hand out praise like cheap candy and I place great value in honesty and integrity. I've gotten nothing but that from Stacy. Who the fuck else will put up with my crazy rambling emails about stress fractures, rocks and roots, and headlamps??? No one. The crazy thing is that Stacy treats all of his customers this way. I've heard stories of people opening boxes and finding extra goodies inside and I get the feeling that he has (or should have) other customers as fanatical as myself. Now go and buy something from him. Please.

The Wilderness Running Company link is at the bottom of my blog list. Why is it at the bottom, you ask? Because I'm too stupid to figure out how to move it to the top.



Saturday, May 21, 2011


I guess I'd better get this post up quickly. This morning I went for my last training run before the Rapture. I've secretly been upping my miles, dialing in my nutrition, and doing CrossFit, all in anticipation of this day. Apparently at 6:00pm today I am either going to fly through the sky to heaven or suffer about 5 months of earthquakes, fires, and general lousy weather conditions before being killed. My thoughts on this are A, If I am sucked up into the air, I want to be fit and handsome when I get to heaven, or B, If I'm not one of the chosen (which, let's be honest, is a long shot anyway) I'll be able to get in some pretty gnarly and rugged trail running before I'm finally swallowed up by the heaving earth. Either scenario is fine with me. My only fear is that in hell I'll be locked in a room with the country station KIX 106 endlessly playing faux country music with nothing sharp to jam into my ear drums. Holy shit. In case it isn't clear, and how could it not be, anyone that believes the "Rapture" is happening is a fucking retard. Now I know that retard is not a nice word and every time I write it or say it I think about that, but really, if you believe that you're getting sucked up to the sky like dirt in a vacuum, then you are a fucking retard. I wish I had the time and money to drive around and interview all of the people that blew their life savings on billboards, radio, and TV ads proclaiming the end. HA. HA. HA.

Let's talk tomorrow...

Sunday, May 15, 2011


It seems like I should be writing, but I'm not sure about what, so I'll just let it flow. Yesterdays run was sort of a mixed bag. 55 degrees, sunny, and the morning had that nice moist earth smell. Things were going well until, that is, I was almost bitten by a big ass Pit Bull mix owned by some fucking retards that hadn't yet caught on to the concept of the leash. This was in the parking lot. Before the run. Nice. As it was snapping at me all I could think was that hitting it with a plastic Amphipod water bottle was only going to piss it off and it would be nice to have something a bit more substantial to bash its head in with. I love animals, and prefer them over humans, but if something tries to bite me I will fucking kill it. Primitive and simple. As if that wasn't enough, I spent the rest of the run listening for said retards and Cujo to go for round 2. This in turn created even more anger because I didn't have the mental toughness to hit the reset button and enjoy the beautiful morning and the fact that once again my knees felt great. Lesson learned (hopefully).

The night outshined the day...


The last 3 or 4 months have been a particularly creative period for the band. The way we typically work is that I put together a rough framework of a song at home, bring it down to Philly, and then it goes through the amazing process of morphing from 'my' song into a Starkweather song. Sometimes the end result is pretty close to the original vision and sometimes it becomes nearly unrecognizable. Either way it transforms from something static and lifeless to a living, breathing entity. This is something I wrote after one of those sublime moments when everything came together for us in the old factory that we used to rehears in in scenic North Philadelphia:


My god, the sound of the undertow, the four of us locked together like some fucking
primordial beast, crawling the filthy floor, soaring against the pitched warnings of Icarus,
the punishment of the dissonant twist, syncopation, halted rhythm, shattering safety's ties,
North Philadelphia, filth, arson, gunshots breaking the sway of our night,our soul, our sound.

Last night was one of those nights. I brought 4 or 5 parts to the table, we turned up so loud that we shook the floor, and we lit the fucking fuse and didn't stop until the song came to life and we were spent. There are no words to describe the feeling we get when we're on. There are no words necessary; just quick glances, a nod, or a quick hand signal. Nights like this make the 365 mile weekly drives, the exhaustion, and the sometimes hostile and combative rehearsals worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The Amebix crawled from the gutters of Bristol, UK in 1982. While many of their American counterparts (myself included) were rebelling against the comfort and privilege of middle class, the Amebix were scrounging food out of dumpsters and living in filthy squats with a handful of other bands that chose to walk the walk as well as they talked the talk. A combination of squalor, drug addiction, and sheer ferocity helped to forge a pair of albums that were seminal works in the shaping of my life as a young punk rock/hardcore kid in the 1980's, and as an undying influence on me as a musician to this day. The Amebix took the fury and chaos of punk rock and strapped it to an undercarriage of Sabbath infused heavy metal, creating one of the most unique and gifted rackets ever created in the genre. They were the first band in the genre to fuse morose sung vocals with ragged, Motorhead inspired wailing, and every note was played as if it might be their last. Their inspiration can be heard in every note of every song Starkweather has ever written. The lyrics had a literary influence that was unheard of for the time and spoke eloquently of the personal struggles of the members as well as the politics of the day (which, in hindsight, are more relevant in 2011 than they were back in 1985). From the 1987 album Monolith:

Last Will And Testament

The parchment of my flesh must break
The winter winds my soul doth take
And all beneath the heavens lies in peace
A world will form and fade away
The crystal dawn of the final day
Breaks upon the shores of death's release

Bring me my flesh and blood
On land, the sky, the sea
And light a raging fire upon the hearth
Gather round 'neath the cloak of time
And drink a toast to these
Our final days upon this earth

We made the deserts from the gardens of our youth
We spewed our blackened hearts into the sea
Through darkened skies and poisoned clouds
We blindly grope for truth
We couldn't see the forest for the trees

To my wretched son I leave this gun
To slaughter all your race
For this, the beast you have become
I have no longer taste
And daughter fair with burning hair
The swamp of life be thine
And watch as e'en the great will mate
With the lowliest of swine
To breed the sons, the greed and scum
Of this your ravaged land
All my estates, both small and great
Shall fall beneath your hand

I place very little weight on nostalgia. To me it implies that the best has past, and I'm not ready to surrender to that just yet. I despise reunion tours, retro anything, and have a near pathologic resistance to revisiting the Starkweather back catalog when we play live. Having said that, seeing the Amebix at the Trocadero in Philadelphia on January 31, 2009 was a transcendent and unforgettable moment for me. It was their first time playing the States, their first time playing together since they split up in 1987, and from the first note to the last it was a sublime experience. Not content to just run out the 'hits', raid the cash register, and fly home, they were able to channel the ferocious invincibility of the band as young men with the wisdom and sadness of adults who have lived their lives at the margins. I started going to shows in the late 1970's and began going to punk rock and hardcore shows in the early 80's. I've had the good fortune to see many of the iconic bands from that era and there are only a handful of bands that gave me the same feeling that I had that night in Philadelphia.

Here's a clip from their album Sonic Mass, due out on September 20, 2011:

Sunday, May 8, 2011


It's been a fucked up few weeks. I've added a new med that increases my focus and ability to retain information, but it makes me a bit jittery and shoots my heart rate up by 15-20 bpm. This medication has something to do with a major change in my life. I'm a Physician Assistant, graduated from a fairly prestigious PA school in NYC (who would have thought!), but have never practice as a PA. If you follow this blog at all you can probably piece together why that is so. After having graduated a decade ago I have been given the chance to return to my program and audit some of the classes that will allow me to pass my board exam. The prospect of going back to school and practice the type of medicine that I love fills me with excitement and absolute terror. Some of the fear comes rushing back. Am I smart enough? Am I good enough? Will I be able to complete this broken circle? It looks like I'm going to find out.

There are few things that I'm sure of, but one of those things is that I was put on this earth to practice emergency medicine in an "underserved" urban environment. Underserved is a polite way of saying a tough inner city neighborhood, a remote town, or American Indian reservation that has been denied the care and comfort that most of us accept as a right and not a privilege. For me that environment is Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx. I spent four months training there as a student and it is a remarkable place. Nowhere else have I seen such extremes of tragedy and hope. The gunshot wounds, stabbings, auto accidents, and overdoses seemed endless, but the satisfaction that I felt every time I walked out the door was beyond description. By being able to help a population that not many people seem to give a fuck about is a privilege and I will never be able to give back as much as I've gotten from treating those patients. The punk rock streak that is now part of my genetic makeup insists that I pay back what I have been given. I squandered the middle class lifestyle that I grew up in, ended up running myself into the gutter, and was given the chance to crawl back. It's time to repay that debt. The plan is that in about a year I will have stuffed enough knowledge into my cabeza to pass the exam and begin my mission. One definition of the word grace is that it is an undeserved gift. It is.

Now we'll go from the extremely heavy to the absolute retarded. One out of five new relationships start online. Sure they do., eHarmony, what absolute crap. On a whim I signed up for 6 months of this ridiculousness. Having asked out almost every woman between the ages of 20 and 40 at the hospital I work at, I figured I'd better try a new approach. Considering that my after work activities involve either running in the woods alone or spending my Saturdays with the sweaty and ill mannered male members of Starkweather, I figured my only hope was to go fishing online. Apparently it is not. The way it works is that after you fill out your profile, they email you every day with some prospects that theoretically match some of your interests. You click on their profiles, look at the pictures first (no matter how shallow anyone thinks it is, EVERYONE looks at the pictures first), then, if the person isn't hideous, you read through the profile to see if she's written anything of interest. I swear to fucking christ that 9 out of 10 of these profiles mention that they like a "nice" glass of red wine (what the fuck is that?), walks on the beach at sunset, and bubble baths with candles. I am not fucking kidding. Every one of them believes that they're "laid back" (Again, what the fuck does that even mean? Does it mean that when I spend the rent money on a Bulldog puppy you won't get mad?). They're looking for a guy that's funny and can make them laugh. Ridiculous. Is there anyone that's looking for someone that's not funny and makes them cry? I can handle both the former and the latter. Now onto my part in this sociological disaster. Apparently describing oneself as a cynical and somewhat self destructive guy with a poor credit rating and a Subaru Impreza isn't the way to go. Good thing I didn't list salesman as one of my better attributes. It also doesn't help that in my pictures, most of which have been taken by me, I either look like a serial killer or like I'm dizzy and about to pass out. Impressive. So I'll stand by my claim that online dating is just a slightly cleaned up digital version of walking through the Red Light district in Amsterdam and picking out a hooker in a window. It's shallow, artificial, and somewhat soul deadening. And yes, I have walked through the Red Light district. And no, I did not bang a hooker. Nor, for the record, did I partake in any of the other activities that Amsterdam is famous for. As a side note, we are honestly the most boring band in the history of rock and roll. Guns & Roses would be ashamed.

I guess that's enough for now. I'd planned on going for another run at Bear Mountain in New York on the way home from my parents but remembered that this is the weekend of the North Face Endurance Challenge trail race. Fuckers. I wish I were running it instead of driving past it. Next year.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"The best laid plans of mice and men..."

Let's start with the pictures since apparently they were the high point of the whole fiasco:

4/30: Absolute. Fucking. Disaster. What was supposed to be a celebratory romp through the woods turned into 4 miles of running and three miles of painful hiking anger-fest. I don't know what the fuck I've done to make my left knee so mad at me, but right now it's pure hatred. It's amazing the mood swings that can take place in the span of 12 to 14 hours. I'd had a week of pain free VERY low mileage running and couldn't wait to get up this morning to spend a few hours alone in the woods. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry (John Steinbeck). Fuck yeah they do.

5/1: It really wasn't that bad. It was actually pretty dumb. I haven't run more than 5 miles in almost a month. Okay, it was really fucking stupid. I paid for the mistake on my run and continued paying right through the night. Driving back from Philly last night, 2:30 in the morning, I got stuck in a friggin' traffic jam. 3 miles, 45 minutes, stick shift, shitty knee. Oh yeah. In my world, it was a big deal, in the grand scheme of things (what the fuck does that even mean, a grand scheme of things?), it's pretty inconsequential. Here's the proof: I had a patient the other day: 84 years old, Ukranian, strong as a tank. As I was finishing up his stress test he told me that he was going to live to be 150. I laughed and asked him what made him so sure. He proceeded to tell me about how he fought in World War II, got shot and then put back together, and eventually returned to fight the Russians in Poland. He was captured one night blowing up a bridge and sentenced to death by firing squad. On the day of his execution he and 9 other POW's were lined up and all 9 were shot. When it was his time, the marksman missed and his execution was commuted to a life sentence. After 10 years and 4 months in captivity he was freed and told me that after that, there was nothing that could stop him.

I've had the privilege throughout the years to hear stories like that: a dying guy telling me that he was one of the first Americans through the gates at Dachau, a patient shot by the Germans during WW II and thrown onto a body pile that was eventually found alive by American soldiers collecting the dead, and German Jew that escaped a concentration camp by hiding in the baggage compartment of a train out of Germany.

I guess my point is that, as Evan Hone says (check his blog on my favorites list), it's just running, and really, it's kind of dumb. There's far more discomfort and pain than elation, it's incredibly selfish, it's very easy to be a dork like me and go on a 7 mile run weighed down with enough crap to go camping for a week, and it's really not that hard. Don't get me wrong, I've probably learned more about life running through the woods than nearly any other place I've ever been. It's improved my mental health greater than a whole pharmacy full of drugs, and it's a physical and mental challenge that I cherish, but in the end it is only running. How ridiculous is it that I limped through the woods throwing a temper tantrum, screaming 'FUUUUUUUUUCK!' at the top of my lungs, and feeling like a 5 year old that just had his GI Joe stolen??? It was sunny, warm, I ran into a very hot woman, and walked out of the woods under my own power. Not much to whine about. Idiot.