I’m a sucker for story-telling in song. I’ve never really listened to much John Prine but this morning this song popped up my YouTube playlist. I was mesmerized. Enjoy.
Come sit by the fire. I have a story to tell.
Ok, so it’s Verlon Thompson’s story. And Guy Clark’s.
A few years ago, you became my radio station of choice. I listen to all the great story-telling shows on Saturday. On Sunday afternoons, the cooking and travel shows fill the time as I drive through the mountains of West Virginia. I even dig most of the classical music shows. We have a local DJ, Matt Jackfert, who is always playing something interesting in the genre.
My job requires a lot of time in the car, and in the mornings, I usually tune to NPR to get news and commentary. I like the seriousness with which the news is presented and the absence of hyperbole from local radio personalities.
But here’s the thing: You’ve become sooo negative.
Nobody can do anything right. It seems like all your stories are about how somebody doesn’t get it, is incompetent, or just plain mean. If only everyone were as enlightened as the good, caring souls at NPR, what a better world we would live in. Yes, we need journalists to fact check and tell us the truth and I appreciate the work you do, but I can’t take it anymore.
I’ve found myself tuning in to the local commercial stations and enduring the screaming car dealers and the bad jokes and the shallow reporting just to get a break from the prophecy of doom that NPR is becoming.
Yeah, the world is a crazy place and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. But I need a break. So NPR, can you lighten up a bit? Please?
In his book, Chronicles, Bob Dylan was looking back at the 60s and all the analysis that went with the events that were changing the world. He said this:
“All the news was bad. It was good that it didn’t have to be in your face all day. Twenty-four-hour news coverage would have been a living hell.”
I can relate.
I tried to run on my birthday last Thursday, but it just never felt right from the beginning. About halfway through my four-mile run, my legs pretty much quit working. Not a very good birthday present to myself. NBD. Live to run another day.
This morning, I’m up at 7:00. Outside, the air is crisp, quiet, and shrouded in fog. That’s why I love running on Sunday mornings. It’s so peaceful.
City Park is about a mile away but it’s all uphill. If I make it, I’m rewarded with a scene like the one posted above, which I took last year. I haven’t made the run since then, but in the last few weeks, I’ve started to increase my mileage because, well, I just don’t know any better.
I grab my phone, my knife, put on my cap, do a few stretches and I’m out the door. The knife? Last year I heard that there were bobcats in City Park. Overgrown housecats, but with really big claws. Usually they’re afraid of humans, but if you do a quick internet search you’ll find videos of bobcats attacking people. And, the story goes, someone saw a bobcat kill a deer in City Park last year. Suburban legend, probabably, but I carry a fold-up knife with me when I run through City Park. Not that it would do much good if a bobcat jumped on my back. But still.
Usually my legs are really tired for the first hundred yards or so, but not this morning. They felt good. I went up the hills like they were nothing. At one point, a group of five deer stood and watched. Look at him go, one of them said. Pretty good for an old guy, another added. That’s right, I answered. Not out loud, of course. That would be weird.
I got to the summit and felt great. I took a photo. Not the one above, but one just like it, only better. Why did I not post the photo I took today? It needs a little Photoshop and I don’t really feel like it right now. You’ll understand why, later.
I start down through the park and pass a bicylclist struggling up the hill. I say hello but he ignores me. Too much pain, I reckon, for pleasantries. For me, it’s a nice easy rhythm, cool shade in the forest, all downhill. I love Sunday morning runs.
Once out of the hills, I try to find my pace for the flats. I push it, because, as I’ve already established, I don’t know any better.
I’m running along Kanawha Terrace now. Usually on Sunday morning, there’s little traffic and I run in the street. Sometimes along the double yellow line, just because I can. But cars keep coming, which annoys me. I have to stay on the sidewalk.
Then I call my wife, who had texted me earlier, and I talk to her about our plans for the afternoon. Again, NBD. We do this all the time. But there’s more traffic. And then a train. Now I’m really annoyed, because I can’t have a conversation and my rhythm is out of whack and I’m losing the joy of running. I’ve passed Walnut Street and continue up the Terrace toward Spruce Street. I’m in the section of highway where the road and sidewalk narrows. I’ve got to go, I say.
Then my toe hits the rise in the concrete. My arms go out in front of me and for a moment, I feel like Superman. I’m almost horizontal to the ground and I think NBD, because I’m an athlete and this has happened before and in another two steps my feet will be under me and everyone who is witnessing this display will marvel at my sense of balance and conclude that I really am an athlete. So amazing!
Here comes the sidewalk. I hit first with the heels of my hand, then dip to my right and hit the ground with my shoulder and roll. Toward the highway. When I stop, my phone case is a couple feet from me, but my phone is skidding toward that double yellow line.
I waste no time getting to my feet. My hands are red, but not much road rash. My shoulder is stinging, but again, no blood. Just a little trickle on the side of my knee.
I look up and see two cars coming toward me so I step back on the sidewalk and wait for them to run over my phone. Somehow they miss and somehow, the screen is intact.
Are you ok? It was a guy who had seen my fall and pulled over to check on me.
I’m fine, I say, hoping that maybe he was attributing my quick recovery to my athletic prowess. That’s probably not what he was thinking.
And then I keep going. Like nothing happened. About a half mile later I realize I don’t have my knife, so I backtrack and find it where I fell. It was then I figured out that the real cause of my accident was the warp in the gravitational field which was brought about by the many previous alien encounters on Kanawha Terrace. It certainly couldn’t have been my duck-footed running style. Aliens are the only logical explanation.
I ran five more miles after the fall. Yeah, that’s how tough I am. As I ran, I felt a tightening and a dull pain around my ribs. Of course I kept running. And now, as I sit here and type, I’m hoping the Ibuprofin kicks in. We went out to eat with my Dad this afternoon and he kept telling hurt rib stories that made me laugh. You really don’t want to laugh when your ribs hurt.
So what lessons have I learned?
- Don’t talk on the phone while you’re running. (duh)
- Pick up your feet. (really? that’s a lesson you have to learn?)
- Watch for tell-tale signs of warped gravitational fields.
All in all, NBD.
Tuesday: speed work at the track. Because I really don’t know any better.
in all good stories, something goes wrong.
that’s not to say it doesn’t get fixed in the end.
but if you want to tell a good story, something has to go wrong.
so if I tell you how beautiful the morning was, and how good i felt when I left for my run at 7:45…