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Bumming Around Banff

Banff

L to R: Downtown Banff on a perfect afternoon for hanging out on a roof deck; post-storm rainbow outside the hostel; and the Banff Hot Springs just after sunrise.

We rolled into Banff on a warm Saturday afternoon in late June, and the town was buzzing.  It was too early to check into the hostel, so we strolled downtown looking for a pub with outdoor space.  A sidewalk sign announcing “Roof Deck Open” was enough for us.  With heavy post-run legs, we climbed three flights of stairs before settling in at a high-top table with a killer view.  We lingered for a while, grazing on snacks and savoring a few cold Canadian beers. (more…)


Stranger Danger

L to R: Our first wilderness hostel in Jasper N.P.; the offending 6-person bunk last night in Canmore; HI's mission; and my mission tonight: blogging and beer.

L to R/top to bottom: Our first wilderness cabin and rustic kitchen in Jasper N.P.; the offending 6-person bunk last night in Canmore; Hostelling International’s mission (They just need to add “up-close and personal”); and my mission tonight at Glacier N.P. (blogging and beer).

Prologue: I wrote this post last night while laying in the middle bunk of a six-person bunk bed (picture the middle seat on a plane…only for sleeping). As you can imagine, I wasn’t in the best of moods. As a result, the post is a bit of a rant, but it’s still mostly true. I’m writing this prologue from the common room of a rustic hostel in East Glacier, Montana, where the peeps are friendly, we have a private room, I’ve had two Montana beers and my perspective has “improved.” Nonetheless, I thought it fitting to share my honest hosteling experiences with you… (more…)


An Exercise in Flexibility

L to R:

L to R: Entering Saskatchewan with a bug-splattered windshield; making a pre-run breakfast at our hostel by the river; and a stunning view of the Canadian plains from yesterday’s drive.

As we headed out for a run on the Meewasin Trail in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan this morning, the question “right or left?” immediately came up. The trail runs along the South Saskatchewan River by the hospital and the University of Saskatchewan. We had planned our stay at a small hostel-like inn near the river, knowing that we had a run scheduled for this morning and having researched the Meewasin Trail online.

Despite our research and pre-planning–the Google images of the trail and the online maps–we still had to choose a direction to run with limited information about which direction was “better.” That choice got me thinking about the concept of expectations and subsequently the need for flexibility. We could be surprised or disappointed, not necessarily because of the trail or run itself, but because of our own expectations. Had we expected a populated, well-marked trail and a sunny run, we would have been disappointed. The trail was paved and wide, but the grasses were tall, the route wasn’t always clear and it was raining. Also, since it was Tuesday morning, only a few other runners and cyclists were out on the trail.  (more…)


Reason, Season,…Race Day?

L to R:

L to R: Scenes from Charlevoix (the drawbridge and marina); M and me at the Athlete’s Meeting in the park; the marathoners at the start line; and S and me approaching the finish line.

Building a road trip around a marathon training plan takes a bit of effort.  We focused first on our long training runs, booking hotels in places that have good running routes (like urban trails or bike paths) and adjusting driving targets based on our daily training schedule.  We also contemplated signing up for a race or two to take advantage of closed roads and on-course support.  Last Saturday we were scheduled for a 13-mile drop-back week, so before we left home, we looked for a half-marathon in an interesting place and built the first week of our trip around it.

The place we selected was Charlevoix, a vacation town on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.  Saturday was the 7th running of the Charlevoix Marathon, a multi-race event which included four distances: 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon. (more…)


Life as Art…Art as Life

L: Me transformed into Kafka on Dusni Street in Prague (2012); R: J as part of an installation at Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris (2011)

L: Me transformed into Kafka on Dusni Street in Prague (2012); R: J as part of an installation at Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris (2011)

Conceptual art, or idea art, is an art form in which the concept (or idea) that generates a piece of art is more important than the art itself. For example, poet Kenneth Goldsmith (of @ubuweb) recently announced his plan to “print out the internet.” Clearly, Mr. Goldsmith’s idea is loaded with intention. The idea, and the public’s response to the idea, is the art. I hope we never actually see the internet on paper, but the idea has given us much to contemplate.

Another common aspect of conceptual art is the rejection of self-expression. Once the idea and rules are set by the artist, expression is abandoned and the piece becomes what the rules and form allow, nothing more. Many would compare this to the process of computer programming, although I would argue that this comparison ignores an enormous amount of human variation, innovation and expression that exists in the programming and software development world (another blog post altogether).

I, however, am a believer that self-expression cannot be taken out of art. The moment an artist makes a decision (at the highest or lowest level) that influences the piece, self-expression has occurred.  But I often wonder if there is an opportunity to embrace the self in conceptual art. (more…)


It’s National Poetry Month…and We’re Headed to NYC!

L to R: Manhattan as seen from the Empire State Building in April 2011; Beer & Books...the new PB&J; and one of my favorite quotes from NYC's "Library Way," the sidewalk on E 41st Street.

L to R: Manhattan as seen from the Empire State Building (during an April 2011 visit); Beer&Books…the new PB&J!; one of my favorite quotes from NYC’s “Library Way” project (embedded in the sidewalk on E 41st Street).

As you might know, April is National Poetry Month, 30 days during which we remind each other (and ourselves) that art and beauty and rhythm and rhyme and lyrical acrobatics and words that move us to tears are generally good things, good things that should be read and heard and experienced and celebrated.  Unlike run-on sentences.  And fragments.

As you also might know, M is one of 85 poets participating in the Pulitzer Remix project sponsored by the Found Poetry Review.  He’s crafting one found poem per day based on the source text of a Pulitzer Prize winner in fiction—in his case, Conrad Richter’s The Town (from 1951)—and posting them on the Pulitzer Remix website.  You can access all of M’s poems here; new ones will be added daily through April 30th.  By the end of the month, the 85 poets will have created 2,550 new poems from old text…art begetting art in a funky-fresh way. (more…)


Choosing Joy

Soccer shenanigans (c. 1986) and grown-up joy (c. 2012)

Soccer shenanigans (c. 1986) and grown-up joy (c. 2012)

M and I emerged from winter hibernation to attend a writing conference in Boston last month.  One of the seminars we attended was on the topic of teaching writing at community colleges, and one of the panelists, in sharing his personal experience, said that many students arrive in the classroom having had negative experiences with writing.  Specifically, in students’ pasts, writing frequently had been used as punishment.  So beyond having no current “relationship” with writing, many of them had a well of negative emotions associated with the topic.

Unexpectedly, my own latent writing memories rushed forth, strange elementary school flashbacks of writing the same phrase over and over again until I filled a piece of lined paper or writing an essay explaining why our class misbehaved for a substitute teacher.  For many students who have similar experiences, writing becomes permanently associated with negative events or emotions.  They never return to writing freely or for their own interest or benefit.

Fortunately, I had a pre-existing positive relationship with writing, even as a kid.  (more…)


Race-tober: Tear Down the Walls

L to R: Runners competing in the 2011 Smuttynose Rockfest; us, after yesterday’s 2012 Rockfest, happy to be done running in the rain; and the finish corral, where everyone wants to be!

I was lying in bed last night contemplating the start of October and thinking about an article I had just read.  The article asked, “Why do you run?  Every runner should know the answer to this question.”  I thought about it for a minute, and my first answer was that running helped me lose 160 pounds and now it helps me keep from putting it back on.  It also helps me to stay balanced (read: sane).  Then I thought on it a little further.  Running helps me test my limits, both physically and mentally.  It helps me push myself further or faster than I thought I was capable, and this gives me courage.  If I can push past things that I thought were limits on the road or trail, then I can do it anywhere.

There’s a lot of truth in this metaphor.  I haven’t learned everything in life, but I’ve learned that many things that present themselves as barriers are false.  (more…)


Chasing Pavement: Reach the Beach New Hampshire 2012

“Should I give up / or should I just keep chasing pavements / even if it leads nowhere?” -Adele

Starting our journey (L to R): Waiting to meet the team; the starting line at Cannon Mountain; life inside the van; tracking our progress; and a tasty firehouse breakfast at Bear Brook State Park

We went chasing pavement this past weekend, but in our case, it didn’t lead “nowhere”…it led to the beach!  Hampton Beach, to be specific, the finish line for the Reach The Beach Relay (RTB), a 203-mile team relay race.  We started our adventure at 7 AM Friday when half of our team picked us up in a stylin’ mini-van at our meeting point in southern New Hampshire.  We cruised two hours north to Cannon Mountain where, after a brief orientation and safety meeting, our first runner set out on his 8+ mile leg a little after our scheduled 11 AM start.  (They stagger the start times based on expected pace so all the teams have enough time to complete the race before the closing of the course Saturday evening.)

After our first runner disappeared down the mountain trail, the rest of us piled into two vans and hit the road.  We were underway!  (more…)


Summertime in Central Michigan

L to R: Crossing back into the U.S. at Blue Water Bridge; Capitol Dome in Lansing; inside the Lansing City Market; and the MSU campus

Greetings from Michigan!  Michigan is the 21st state we’ve traveled through this year, and we picked up our first Canadian province (Ontario) on the way.  By the time this particular trip ends in early September, we’ll have touched ground in 26 states since March.  (As for the license plate game, we’re still on the lookout for North Dakota and Wyoming, but we’re headed in the right direction…)  I was hoping this would be the year I’d notch the last three states I need, but a lot has changed since we first envisioned this trip in the spring.  (more…)