I’m not so impressed with this apocalypse.

This bloody disarray of bodies is… unconvincing
a little overdone a little heavy on the
— where did that blood come from exactly? —
scatter effect;
the mechanism of injury isn’t clear particularly given the big picture.
(What was the big picture?  Blast? Tremblor? Laser strafing runs or just a single big
Incoming wave?)

 

By this I mean, the buildings are just gone, bare dirt and rocks except for the spot where We Woke Up or
Our Story Began,
In the distance futuristic spires rise out of place,
supporting a theory of something like aliens and lasers
but
then why is this balcony littered with bodies and one
slid a long distance, streaking blood?

 

If I walk long enough through this wasteland
the landscape forgets itself and I come across an elephant making her way
trunk cheerfully lifted,
head swinging,
along a path.
Consider the fact of a path, a worn path through brand new desolation.
Consider it, for a second.

 

Or consider a hallway leading off a ruined hockey rink
with a bare powder blue floor where the ice once was,
now melted,
and when did the air have time to take on
a musty moldy quality if the tidal wave
invasion
earthquake
just happened? —
and cheerful vendors down that hall sell everything from
paper lanterns to
gulab jamun to
comic books.

 

If I want a better view, to try and reconcile the inconsistencies,
or find survivors
then I push off hard from the ground.
And it’s effort, but I can feel resistance
like the kind you get when you put the backs of two magnets together
pressure
like that under my arms and as with a magnet all I need to do is just keep that stable
and maintain forward momentum using that to get high up over the disconcertingly unexplained ruin of a city
in bare dirt surrounds;

 

chagrined to enjoy the realization that I can finally fly,
possibly at the cost of millions of lives
to better survey a disaster
I’m not sure I buy anymore.

Image

I actually never wrote about the Spartan I ran year before last.

I guess in part because I didn’t feel like I had to say what I was supposed to say about it.

*

First off, I say “ran,” like I actually ran any of it, which I didn’t.

I did get through it.  Sort of.  For a while I had a medical truck following me like some kind of EMS vulture. Like I was going to go down any second and maybe I was.

Folks, I wanted that empowering moment. I really wanted that TV moment, that video moment of HELLS YES I AM DOING THIS. I wanted… what do they say?  “You’ll know at the finish line,” like somehow I was going to have some huge revelation about myself.

*

Okay, here’s my revelation:

Shit talking myself as I’m trying to do something kills me. Kills. Ends. Finishes.

I caught it way too late in the race. Because I was fat and slow and did some stuff really strong but mostly stumbled through it, burpees on burpees. I was alone the whole time, which totally sucked. I mean, I was alone except when people kept pace with me for a while then passed me. I think I was one of the last couple of dozen people in.

Anyway, I was on the top of this major hill, and I came out of the trees fucking aching, hating myself for the terrible showing and having flashbacks of failing firefighter agilities, and looking bad in my clothes and fuck knows what else. And I heard my voice, this litany of how I was fatter than everyone else and slower than everyone else and how I probably didn’t do all the burpees and cheated or something at the spear throw jesus fucking christ I thought. Like the hill isn’t steep enough and the mud isn’t thick enough.  Like this isn’t hard enough without this constant soundtrack of you suck you suck you suck going through your head.

Like every time I failed it was some kind of sick, twisted, wrong triumph.  Hah, see, you suck. I knew it.

Up at the top of the hill, I shut that voice up. Like I just… I shut it up. I said shut the fuck up, voice.

Look around yourself. It’s a gorgeous fucking day, you’re covered in glorious mud and you’re hiking in the woods. You got this far. Even if you didn’t get any further you got this far. You came all this way, why not fucking enjoy it?

Look around yourself. Woods.  Grass.  Nature. Shut up. Have fun. The fuck.

*

Any one obstacle was doable. The race itself was doable; I did it. I did it in shape far worse than I’m in now, undermedicated, with none of the cardio prep I should have done.

What I carried away wasn’t some sudden insight about how awesome I was.

What I carried away was how much, just how much I stood in my own way.

*

In the end, knowing that is probably worth the price of admission. I know these days that in the gym I just… don’t allow that shit in my head. Anything about fat, anything about weak. Anything about how I’m not here enough or not trying hard enough. I say “I believe in victory” a bunch of times, I listen to my music or watch the guys around me lay everything out, draw my inspiration from them.

Clear my mind of anything but the task at hand.

Just you and the iron, I think.

That’s it. Nothing else.

Terry Brennan at the Black Rose

Spent the evening last night with my buddy Matt at the Black Rose in Boston.

The Black Rose is a funny place. I used to go there when I worked across the street at the big financial place, trying to reconcile myself in three piece suits and nylons every day, trying to tell myself that working in a big financial institution wearing three piece suits and commuting three hours home and back every day on the train was somehow being an adult.  That is, a better person.

Walking into the Black Rose was a reality check.

Look, it’s a tourist trap. It’s smack dab in the middle of all the tourist BS downtown, right off Faneuil Hall and it’s not run by some Irish family as it has been for generations — like many other pubs in Boston — it’s run by a “Hospitality Group” and it’s not a pub where I walk in and people say “oh hi, Kate, where ya been” and I’ve had pubs like that in my life. Like the Poet and the Patriot in Santa Cruz where on a given night I knew most of the people around me and there was a good chance someone would just pull an instrument out and we’d start singing and playing, impromptu.

The Black Rose isn’t like that.  It’s not small and cramped and smoky and romantic.

It’s a big fucking pub, two stories, with tourists.

But this thing happens there.  Almost every time I walk in it’s different, and there’s some new experience that’s as much about the patrons as the bar itself, it’s a weird, magic, unexpected thing.

Like last night, when I told Matt look, it’s Monday in fact it’s a holiday Monday, likely it’s dead but we’ll see what’s up, and so we took a cab over and walked in and sure enough it was all quiet but the thing about pubs is there’s no loss ever in terms of pubs because that’s where the beer comes from.

And halfway into the first pint this guy gets up on stage with a guitar, which is fine and I think nothing of it because a guy on the stage with a guitar is not four people with fiddles and whistles and your goddamn Uilleann pipes, right? It’s just some guy and a guitar but music’s fine, and there was beer so no complaints there, I was mostly just happy there was going to be some kind of music.

About then, the guy opened his mouth and started singing.

*

Let’s go back for a second and remember what pubs and music are all about. I was thinking about this the other day, about what constitutes leisure and how if you work on a farm or in a factory or even in an office in a pair of high heels and itchy nylons and it all feels less like clothes and more like drag, how you spend your day having your sense of self eroded. But you do it because money has to happen and you’re not captain of your own time and at the end of the day you want to be with people who don’t make you feel like shit about yourself. And you want to be entertained.

Sure, there’s a whole group of people who go and listen to Irish music in pubs because it’s a thing and maybe they’re like… 12% Irish by ancestry and it’s some kind of connection. And they like the music and it’s also just what that generation of people do, because we went to too much Ren Faire and listened to the Pogues and got Celtic knotwork tattooed on us and it was just kind an incidental part of who we are.

Or some of us grew up steeped in folk music, the Seegers and the Guthries and Dylan and the Dubliners and the music of social change is a theme, a constant in our heads even when we’re long past the generations of the Troubles, or factories and lockouts or maybe we actually have in our own times been locked out, or walked out, and look, almost every story I write is about prisoners in jail or whalers and sailors, or the working class. I don’t think that’s some kind of coincidence.

And at the end of the day, we love some internet but we also feel a need, a desire to get the fuck out of the house, to connect with people, drink beer and be entertained.

So we go to a pub, and maybe it feels right for a variety of reasons but what we look for is connection with a bunch of other people, strangers and friends or both, and entertainment that echoes who we are and what we think and believe and know, and that’s how we get, somehow our sense of self back, in some small way.

*

Terry Brennan got up last night and owned the stage and everyone in the room. He’s got a perfect, certain voice and he knows all the standards, and so did the crowd. “4, 3, 2, 1!” he yelled and so we banged on the tables and clapped our hands for The Wild Rover and it’s good when the table almost falls over and the empty pint glasses dance around.  That’s when you know it’s a good night, when instead of — okay, I just have to say it I’m sorry I’m going straight to hell — a bunch of hipsters stand around being cool at the small local Irish pub and completely fucking drown out the little seisiún going on with their asinine chatter, the people in the bar make total idiots of themselves doing something completely not like dancing and banging on tables and belting out “Sweet Caroline” like their lives depended on it.

But not just that. Most of us also knew the Fields of Athenry and sure, we have Dropkick Murphys to thank for that in large part but that was Brennan’s version. Not the Dubliners, not DMs, it was his, and we all sang along and that song?  It fucking means something and for a second even the people who’d never heard it before in that bar got that.

Because we all sat together and either sang or listened and that was a real, shared moment.

And that’s what the fucking pub’s for.