Given all of the above reasons, specifically #2 and, more specifically Nate’s Running and Revival post, here is a snapshot of the memories and emotions that my current running has awakened in my heart and head:
I didn’t realize it until I was much older but the Nikes my dad ran in were called waffle trainers. I remember that particular patter quite well: raised squares with central nipples of rubber amidst troughs at right angles. In my child’s mind I could imagine X-wing fighters swooping low to avoid the tower turrets and tie fighters as they made their trench run against the Death Star. At that age everything was about Star Wars for me, even a pair of my dad’s running shoes.
As I recall they weren’t flashy or multicolored like today’s shoes. I think they were plain jane two tone grey on grey. The now familiar swoosh was a bit darker, but they were basically white tennis shoes (that’s what we called any and all athletic shoes in the 80’s or at least our household) that looked dingy from rain and mud running.
My dad used to run early in the morning and I can remember waking up early (for me) at 6:30 AM to the sound of him, winded and catching his breath, as he opened and closed the front door. Sometimes he was a little too loud for that hour since he had headphones in his ears and an AM/FM radio clipped to his shiny shorts. I don’t think it even had a cassette deck as part of it, dad didn’t own any tapes, just vinyl and it would have been difficult to run with a turntable.
He’d grab some orange juice from the fridge and drink it straight from the carton or jug. I inherited this unfortunate aversion to good manners and food hygiene, though I avoid drinking directly from the fridge immediately after I finish my run: I don’t want to sweat all over the kitchen hardwoods.
Dad was skinny then, and tall. In my memory he seemed like the tallest person in my world and the outfit – waffle trainers, shiny shorts, headband and wristbands (striped, of course) and that little radio – made him the picture of the nineteen eighties. Modern, married, active and getting it all done before he’d had his coffee or gone to work.
I don’t think I ever hugged him then so as to avoid getting myself all gross (more likely “grodie”) but he did give me a kiss on the head or a pat on the back. I wanted to go with him, but I was never up early enough and I was pretty sure I couldn’t run as fast as he could, no matter what I said on the playground or in the driveway.
The socks he wore were striped too and they went almost all the way up to his knees. We had the same socks, my dad and me, and it felt very special to coordinate like that. My own son loves dressing like dad or pointing out our physical similarities both genetic and wardrobe related. I had the same sense about my dad and I really miss those socks to this day. They just don’t work in 2011.
My dad would go directly in the shower and he’d usually sing or whistle through his teeth. My dad was always making some kind of music but I wondered what he listened to during his runs. On the one occasion I tried on the sweaty, foamy headphones of his I was treated to Steely Dan or Fleetwood Mac – something with a descriptor and a man’s nickname – and I hated it. To be fair that probably had more to do with the delivery method than the music itself, but I still don’t like Fleetwood Mac that much (though I can appreciate their aesthetic).
Those shoes of his lasted more than a couple of seasons. He wasn’t the most dedicated runner and he only wore them to actually run. Not like the way I wear my shoes now – to work, to the grocery store, to actually run – I’m in them all day, every day.
No, Dad made those trainers last (why don’t we use that term more often, like the Brits do? We just adopted ‘cross trainers’ in the nineties, but it’s gone no). He used some gross goo which was appropriately and accurately called Shoe Goo. It came in a metallic tube no bigger than a stick of chewing gum and it smelled like every disgusting petroleum product I’d ever smelled. It was black and viscous and disgusting and it fascinated me.
When the waffle trainers wore they didn’t really dull down or blunt, they cracked along predetermined fault lines, those troughs I mentioned earlier. Dad’s nearly snapped in two at the juncture of his arches between his heel and his toes. The Shoe Goo was applied liberally into these fissures and then the shoes were left upside down to dry or cure or something. I must have been seven or eight and it seemed like a lot of work for a pair of shoes. I wondered why he wouldn’t just buy a new pair.
Now I know: you fall in love with your old sneakers and you can never really bury them until they’re all the way dead. I’ve got plenty of pairs of zombie trainers and undead tennies littering my closet and garage. They go from the road to the back of the closet to lawn mowing duty and, one day, the garbage can.
Part of me wished I had some Shoe Goo, though. It seems greener in some odd sense, to want to literally cobble together your shoes and make them last just a little bit longer. Plus, I now know about minimal and barefoot running styles (focusing more on a forefoot or toe strike style) and running in older shoes can be a much better experience than running in new, heavy padded running shoes.
There’s something to be said for that old friend of a shoe that fits like a glove (if that makes sense) and just feels comfy and right. My memories are like that: comforting and comfortable, a little bit worn (but not worn out) and happy.
Nate talking about his dad, my uncle, running 3 miles every night reminded me of a time when my dad was running all the time. Interestingly enough my dad stopped running because of a bad basketball injury and I started running because of a basketball injury.
I have been holding this goddamned pose for all of ten seconds already and the camera is not even trained in my direction, not even around this “photgrapher”‘s neck. Amateur.
“I am not some William Wegman Weimaraner,” I find myself saying out loud to no one in particular. The photog glances my direction and glint of sun from the lens temporarily blinds me. I drop my frame to shield my eyes and say again, with emphasis this time, “I am not some William Wegman Weimaraner.” He gets the picture and goes about rapidly readying himself to get the picture.
His picture. My picture. A picture of me standing on this beach ball, on this beach, displaying my skin and skill for all to see and share.
A tripod is produced as two production assistants, I assume, finally start assisting that there might be production today. A photograph is to be produced and I am its main subject, though I suppose the beach and the lighting are nice as well. Come to think of it, it’s not really me that is the theme, but age defying time.
I am not beautiful or particularly athletic, but I still have the balance and skill that many years as an acrobat in the circus taught me long ago. I have the sinewy muscle memory of a thousand tucks, rolls, flips, spins and flourishing salutes. I am doing such a statuesque salutation right this very second if this idiot and his drones would ever bother to snap a shutter.
“I can place my hands on my hips, you know,” I say.
No one is paying me much attention, not even the dolt with the light meter flitting about my now-ample frame. I suck in my gut just a touch before releasing a follow-up statement.
“I did not study for six years under the Teutonic tutelage of Theodoric Tausher to simply let my shoulders slump and place my hands on my hips.”
“f/8 at 1/250 maybe?” the light meterer asks.
“I would be doing it purely by choice, mind you,” I continue. “Certainly not because I’m tired of all these amateurish antics and am ready to be done taking this absurd picture.” Perhaps I mean absurdist here, but I am becoming frustrated. I still like to think of myself as an artisan, an entertainer, but my collaborators clearly see me as nothing more than a trained seal.
I consider barking, clapping my hands, balancing the ball on my nose or jumping in to the sea to grasp a fish in my mouth but the water is cold and craggy. I need neither the shivers nor the sharp protrusions poking me.
“No!” someone shouts and I struggle to maintain my composure as the ball slips back and forth underneath my feet and I extend my left arm to join my right to help me balance. The photographer has cried out and is now gesticulating in the general vicinity of me, though I suspect he is addressing the light meter man.
“We are in full sun, yes?”
Light meter man and I both respond: “Yes”
“Yes!” the photographer echoes, throwing up both his hands in a mirror image of my own. I briefly imaging I am being mocked and return to my previous stance.
“He is standing stock still in the full sunshine and you would have me shoot him at f/8 at 1/250?”
To this question neither of us offer a response. I am not being addressed and the light meter man is either too stupid to know the answer or too smart to offer one to an angry photographer.
The photographer proceeds, happy to educate those he has either stunned or stumped.
“If I wanted to wash him out and overexpose the whole damn scene I’d use f/8 at 1/250 but that’s not the assignment. The assignment was a fully focused, no bokeh view of a beach with a man standing on a ball in center frame.”
He turned to face the tripod and pull it a few feet closer to himself and the scene we were finally about to shoot, it seemed.
“We’ll be shooting f/32 at 1/125,” he announced and the light meter man dutifully readjusted his sensor to take some more readings.
After a few furtive fidgets with the meter the light meter man went to the photographer’s side to relay his current message. I suppose I would have done the same after surviving such a shameful scolding as he had just received.
Still, it was nothing like the tongue lashings I used to receive from that German bastard Tausher. I sucked in my gut again and stood a quarter of an inch taller just thinking of his stinking breath and his ranting rebukes.
It was time to take this picture and I was proud that we had all arrived ready to do it justice, whatever misguided stock photo editor was thinking.
The vacuum tube shushes us all to a hush, sliding to a stop in its housing, a slippery sluice of pressurized air and the only mode of transportation into and out of the factory. We disembark our shiny, ferrous ferry onto brushed metal pathways that click and clack each footstep ringing like the tick and tock of the clock. It is time for work and we have arrived with all pompous precision that is intended to inspire and reassure with its glinting glare and hyper-realism.
I sometimes imagine the tube car is a giant, gentle worm carrying us on its back to our subterranean factory. Since I have never seen the steam pumps or generators or whatever it is that power the pulsating thrust of our underground city, it is easy to transform the technical into the animal. Hums can be anthropomorphized more-so than the drumbeat drone of drudgery that is electronics, so I choose to imagine my gigantic animal friends as opposed to crazy Kirby creations that are far more likely to draw us in each and every morning and churn us out each and every evening.
Striking strides on the hyaline hallway lead to my assembly line. Number 34. Thirty four of seventy six if you’re keeping count and they most certainly.
They arrive in the form of Masterson, my supervisor. I adjust the thin metal visor to ray shield my eyes. The glasses were forged by Geordi La Forge or so says the supervisor clucking a chicken chuckle cackle oblivious to the fact that I obviously don’t get the joke. Or maybe I wasn’t supposed to and that’s why he’s laughing.
We’re here for the chickens, after all. And the cows. And the pigs. And, most important of all, the people.
Masterson makes another crack about Soylent Yellow before cracking up and cracking the whip and starting the countdown clock. We run for eight straight hours every day from 8 AM to 4 PM. No breaks to pee or smoke or choke down coffee, just churn the corn, inject the dye and hormone and whatever the fuck else we’re pumping into the food nowadays. I should know, I’m the one doing it, but I don’t ask questions. I just sit and stare behind my silver slitted shielded eyes, hollow out a point on the cob, dip the hollow point of the needle in then out and just keep moving. On, on, on.
I can do my stretch pretty well most days. Today is not most days. I’m itching to fidget or move or get up and walk out at the 90 minute mark. Masterson notices and comes on over, intent on refocusing attention.
“What’re you doing, eighty six?”
“My job, Masterson. Same as you.”
“I mean,” he smiles, “what are you doing later on?”
I almost stop and drop and roll. The heat of such an impromptu proposal, so apropos of nothing, and so inappropriate by current standards could get us both fired.
“Whatsa matter,” he says, noticing that my work has all but stopped and I haven’t yet responded. “Not your type?”
The short, simple answer is no, but I can’t say this to Masterson. He’s easily twenty years my senior and he has a visible scar on his face despite trying to hide it with a short, dark beard. The alopecia runs along the right side of his jaw and terminates in a sliver of silver hairs that point up towards his pointy ears.
He is not my type and my continued silence is giving me away again. I try to lie but it comes out as workplace avoidance and temporal vagueness.
“I’m busy,” is what I say. Now, right now, and forever is what I think. What I mean.
“I’m not your type.” He pauses this time. “You missed a spot. Get to work.” And then he leaves.
I have missed a spot. All this talk – and this is a lot of talk for an otherwise sterile and stainless steel structure – distracted me. I rush to catch the cob I missed before and the one I should be doing now and the one after that which is ripe and plump and almost (not quite) perfect until I’ve injected a drop of this whatever inside of it. My contribution. My deposit, no refund.
The corn wars are raging. The porn wars used to rage. After all the exploitation and explosions (double entendre!) of the race to own the space of pleasure we all now race to meet the needs of that other insatiable desire: hunger.
I don’t know what to say or do. About this job. About Masterson. About the sleek and shiny and silver and stainless steel that protects and corrects.
I just know that desire never goes away – as Masterson has proved despite that previous porn war being over – it is just redirected, shifted, to a new enemy.
I look back only to discover, my brother, that there is one footprint left behind and it is not my own. Nor is it yours. Nor is it mine.
You are not here. I am not here. There is only the single depression pointing in the opposite direction of my gaze.
Seven wonders were there once. This is but a singular occurrence. One of none, or at least not so many. The lasting effigy of a colossus now disappeared.
I have emerged, I decide, on the other side. Born out of this indentation. Marker from nowhere, marking my appearance I know not where.
I seem to recall a conversation. With my brother? With the colossus? With the desert I now find myself in? I only seem to recall, it could be the heat getting to me.
I’m awfully overdressed for desolation, wearing wingtips in the sand and a windsor knot in the windswept Sahara or some other such sweltering sunshine. Shiny seems too positive a connotation for the intensity and brightness of a light that shone no relevance, revealed no secrets, only made shadows; doubts.
I look skyward to meet its gaze but, instead of striking blindness, I’m stuck motionless. Moving my eyes, changing my perspective, yields no difference in angle or lens flare. I’m frozen in the desert if such a thing is possible and all the details of my derangement are arranged in linear synchronicity. Each piece and part moving in geo-static orbit that only some impartial, unseen observer must be seeing.
It must be him, right? He (the colossus) must have been carrying me. It’s not my footprint, I can see that, but where were we two? Where are there two? Why is it only me now and not my brother, not the colossus, not another mark or dent of hill or mountain or molehill or goddamned anything at all. At all; at all. At. All.
I twist around and crane my neck and discover I’ve leapt ahead (or fallen back) and am repeating all the lies, the lines, to myself inside my head. I try to speak, to scream, to cry and find I’m emerging newborn again into the light again but I’m no more enlightened than bats who strike out at daylight, though just as blind.
I find a new thought creeping in and seeping out through sweating pores: what if the footprint itself is Sisyphus’ rock? And here I am a dapper demigod doomed to dampen the ground with my sweat and toil thinking over the thoughts of abandonment and aloneness and isolation but those never lead to civilization. Or rescue. Or anyone else; they only lead in.
No pool is forming for the liquid I exude. I shake my brow to spread some spray but it evaporates into fine mist before it even hits the ground or the footprint or the surrounding area. My eyes tear up and I begin to cry but they only leave stain trails on my cheeks; they can’t penetrate the crusty earth either.
I raise my crying eyes skyward once more searching for the sun, the light, through closed lids. It follows me as a I look away and races towards a draining source as I seek it’s warmth and guidance and explosive exposing rays. I only get exposition written in the trailing tears vanishing points of an absentee celestial entity.
The sun is no good to me.
It refuses to reveal its face to me.
Colossus had had to flee.
I’m back to staring over my shoulder. Still wondering, not wandering, the desert. Is this my just desserts? What I wouldn’t give to be a deserter. To through caution to the hot winds, throw up a sail in the sky, and just disappear.
Is that how it happened, a disappearance? Was there something here before? Am I what came after? Or was all of this nothing a more barren brand of nothingness disguised as empty void?
Is the footprint empty or am I filling it up? I try to fill it up again with tears and sweat and yelling and now the coughing spatter of blood from sand-caked lungs.
A single drop of blood splashed down and now there are mountains within the distance of my tilt-shifted view. Are they blue?
I. I am. I am still. I am still staring. I am still staring down. I am still staring. I am still. I am. i.
Constructing the sine wave has proven incomplete. I am still on this side and cannot complete the thought, complete the wave, complete myself without proper understanding of myself, my brother and the colossus.
I finally collapse and fall straight through the other side.
I am. STILL?!
Now I have but one large foot but it is not my own foot and has unfamiliar hairy toes and breathes and pulsates life, radiating white hot heat and it is not my own, this foot, but I am. Still.
I sense a thousand eyes and ears and nose (I know) but none can see or hear or smell only suck the life out of me. Some give but fewer than all of those who only take, take, take, take take take, take-take-take.
I am the sun. I am the desert. I am the mountains.
I am the wind. I am the footprint.
I am the doubt. I am the stillness. I am the searching.