Sunday, September 29, 2013

leaving los angeles


i'm leaving los angeles. for those of you who know me this is a pretty big deal. i held off on making an announcement partially because i haven't quite digested it, partially because i've been swamped with work, but mostly because i've been in denial about what this meant to me. of course, despite my best efforts to manage the preoccupations of packing, crating, inventory, insurance, billing, shipping and studying, researching, grading, writing and saying goodbyes, farewells, and bonnes chances, it's actually ended up becoming a very emotional experience.

in a way, it should be no surprise. i've lived in LA longer than i've lived anywhere else--pretty much half my life. my time in this city has gone along a theme of constant, chaotic change, some of it good, some of it bad, all of it unforeseen, all of it unexpected. i can say that in this city i've lived multiple lives that have taken me through multiple phases as b-boy, punk, industrial metal, goth, mod, rockabilly, swing, electronica, and unabashed shameless hipsterdom. concurrently, i can say that i lived these lives against a backdrop of a city enduring a time of some of its most profound upheaval, with seismic shifts in demography (a massive influx of latin and asian immigrants), economics (an erosion in traditional industries of aerospace and entertainment to new ones in biotechnology and technology), class (a deterioration of a middle class and a widening of the gap between the elite and the powerless), infrastructure (a return of light rail, a growth in cycling, and a surge in green energy use), and culture (a halting, fitful rise of a world-class visual and performing arts scene).  i lived with this city through all these states of change, and like the city never looked back on what had been and never thought about what might be. together, we just lived the moments as they came, even as their dynamism and eclecticism at times overwhelmed our mutual capacity to take in all the experiences that came our way.

it goes without saying that in such an eclectic environment my relationship with LA was less than placid. it was, to summarize it in a single word, crazy. c.r.a.z.y. it was like having a partner who didn't know, couldn't comprehend, and couldn't decide her own tastes, her own preferences, her own personality, or even herself. sociopathy might be an apt description. schizophrenia would be more accurate. multiple-personality disorder might be even better. it was confusing. it was agonizing. it was frustrating. it was infuriating.

and it rubs off on you. if anything, it magnifies whatever similar predilections you have in yourself. because a partner's inability to know herself keeps you from finding yourself by distracting and diverting your attention with the baser tendencies of your mutual souls, and thereby accentuates every bad quality you didn't know you had or were too afraid to acknowledge you had. it doesn't help that LA offers, invites, encourages, hosts, and allows and enables you to indulge in every vice known to humanity--and then some.  to summarize it in the most succinct terms, this city was Elizabeth Taylor to my Richard Burton; the relationship brought out the worst in both of us. in ways no one understood and in ways we couldn't explain.

but then there were those times when, incredibly, inexplicably, unbelievably, LA would reveal itself to expose the most amazing, gentle, selfless, caring, poignant, even noble, soul. and while it didn't know itself (or know you)--and didn't really seem to care to--it did know something about what was right. and better yet, it had no fear or self-consciousness about doing something about it. and that's when it redeemed itself by rising to the occasion. and at those times LA lived up to its name, sometimes to the point that it became beatific.

like the time your car died on a bridge overpass in morning traffic and a plumber on his way to work stopped to push your car to a shoulder where you could safely wait for the tow truck to arrive. or the time a stranger stopped traffic so that you and a group of passers-by could help an old lady cross a busy intersection to reach a farmer's market.  or the time a tattooed cholo gangster stopped in the middle of selling you his fresh bread to explain his decision to ignore his church's take on gay marriage, saying "yo homes, like, why is it my business what 2 dudes are doing?"

and those kinds of things also rub off on you. if anything, it's then that the city not only brings out the best in itself but also the best in you. it was become of those times that this city was like Grace Kelly to my Prince Rainier; the relationship brought out the best in both of us. in ways no one understood and in ways we couldn' t explain.

the funny thing was, for all the insanity, for all the contradictions, for all the chaos, the very things that made LA so frustrating and infuriating were the very things that made me want it more. LA pulled me in, and the deeper i went the more it revealed itself. even more complicated. even more diverse. even more varied. even more preoccupying. even more engrossing. and i found no matter how deep i went, there was still more.

which is why i, a sworn member of the bachelor brotherhood, finally realized that i had found someone with whom i could finally be faithful, because no matter where i went in the world i still wanted to come back. because no matter what i saw or what i did, i still felt there was someplace i needed to return.

because that someplace was something special. eclectic. diverse. complex. contradictory. quirky. dynamic. shifting. fascinating. no other place did so much to contradict my preconceptions and challenge my assumptions. no other place did so much to prod me to question the status--or static--quo. no other place so constantly made me encounter something new. no other place so continuously forced me to deal with the unexpected. no other place so totally kept me in flux and ready for change and flexible and open and accepting and curious and eager and seeking all there was and all there is and all there will be to the experiences that constitute the act of living human life...and no other place made me want it all so much, so long, and so deep.

i became LA. LA became me. because as much as we were different, all along deep down inside we were, we are, really just the same.
 
the only other time i've felt something close to this was in Hawaii. but there, the feeling was one of deja vu, like i'd been there before, as if i'd been a Polynesian navigator in a prior life, standing on the shore gazing at the sea that lay beyond Diamond Head, for various reasons unable to complete his destiny to find the land that lay beyond the edge of the morning sun's horizon. here, i felt like i had finally come to belong. that for whatever reason here, in ways that i could only begin to understand and could only partially articulate, was right. LA became, in a word, home.

a place is ultimately just a place. a geographical marker that sometimes coincides with our lives and occasionally, infrequently, briefly hosts our activities while we are upon it. in the end, what makes a place a home is not the geography, but the lives of the creatures that inhabit it and infuse its substance with the actions and intentions of souls expressing their nature and fulfilling their design to imbue the universe with the stories of their lives. and the creatures that have inhabited this city--all of them, good or bad--have imbued this place with stories in a supply whose sum has exceeded the respective parts to become a song of the human spirit.

and you, my friends, are among them. sing loud. sing long. sing well. sing of the human spirit that we all share.

for that spirit has given me life. it has awakened me to things i never imagined, and led me to see the world in ways i never thought possible. and in so doing, it has given me the freedom to think and see and hear and taste and touch and feel this life in ways that go beyond the possibilities of dreams.

life and freedom...those 2 things are all this man could ever have any right to claim. for they are what empower me to realize the secrets that lie far, far out in the vast reaches of creation--a creation that finds itself in the mysteries placed deep in the core of the human heart.

i do not know what the future will bring. but LA has made me understand that i do know i need to see what is out there, because it will lead me to discover what is within here.

deep in the core of the human heart:

LA, i love you.

http://youtu.be/8bAfqhjQTb4

Thursday, September 05, 2013

on diana nyad

note: Diana Nyad trains at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center (RBAC) in Pasadena, California, which is the same place i swim. it's only 2 miles from where i currently live. i've seen her swimming there, and as you might suspect, it is rather awe-inspiring. she swims. a lot.

this past Monday, September 2, Diana Nyad completed a swim from Cuba to Florida. she covered a distance of approximately 110 miles in 52:54:00 (that's 52 hours and 54 minutes). this was her 5th attempt, with the 1st being in 1978 when she was 29. she is now 64.

just think about that for a moment.

i should note that the Cuba-to-Florida swim was done before by Australian Susie Maroney in 1997, who was 22 at the time. but Diana Nyad's achievement is unique because she is 1) the 1st person to swim without a shark cage, through waters notorious for sharks, and 2) she is 64 years old.

at an age when the vast majority of people have resigned themselves to the lives they're living and are looking to retirement, she accomplished a feat that most people--never mind young and active athletes in the prime of their lives--would never even think of trying. for many, i suspect that this distance is absolutely inconceivable.

which i think offers quite a few life lessons for the rest of us. i won't go into too much commentary, since i think Diana was more than eloquent enough in her post-swim interviews to render anybody else's prose irrelevant. in particular, the short speech she gave at the end of the swim sums things up nicely:
http://youtu.be/7uKjEA_11a8


you can also reference her own website and the news features on her:
website: http://www.diananyad.com/
PBS interview: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/sports/july-dec13/nyad_09-03.html
CNN interview: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/02/world/americas/diana-nyad-cuba-florida-swim
CBS interview:: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57601044/diana-nyad-on-epic-swim-my-mantra-was-find-a-way/
New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/03/sports/nyad-completes-cuba-to-florida-swim.html?_r=0
LA Times:http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-diana-nyad-20130903,0,3322544.story

i'll repeat what she stressed throughout her statements and interviews to emphasize her points:
1)  never give up
2)  we're never too old to chase a dream
3)  we're part of a team
4)  find a way
5)  stay engaged in life

these are all fundamental truths that many in the endurance community know so well, and which carry over into daily living.  we can never quit, no matter what, because the central theme of life is to just keep going on. we can never accept age, or for that matter anything else, if we want to realize our dreams. we may think we act alone, but we are always a product and a reflection of a larger team seeking the our same goals. we have to be resourceful and pragmatic in order to move forward. and above all, we have to know that the reason we do all these things, and the reason we do anything, is to engage our lives to the fullest extent of our being.

i would also like to add the qualities of diligence and dedication. we need diligence in terms of taking the care and sacrifice necessary to lay the foundations in ability and skill that enable us to achieve our goals, and we need dedication to carry out such diligence with the time and energy necessary to help us become what we need to be to reach our dream--in short, we can dream big, but we have to be worthy of our dreams.

i'll finish w what i think is the most significant and most poignant quote from Diana, and the one that i think calls for us to listen, learn, and take action in our own lives:

"we blink and another decade passes. i don't want to reach the end of my life and regret not having given my days everything in me to make them worthwhile."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

a long way to go

a little over a year ago i spent some time in northern Spain engaged in an attempt at a different kind of endurance event called the Camino Santiago (often just called "the Camino"):

http://jonathaninthedistance.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-different-kind-of-endurance-event.html

the attempt was a bit mixed, since we made the destination that is the goal of the Camino: the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and also visited the termini often used as a denouement: Finisterre and Muxia. but being neophytes, my mom and i were totally naive to the pilgrimage and traveled more as tourists, and so missed out on quite a bit.

in a way, this is not really a big deal. over the past few years, i've been accompanying my mom on trips to religious shrines that comprise a canon of the major pilgrimages in the Catholic faith. i'm personally not Catholic, but i've found these trips illuminating, providing substantive, meaningful time for connection with my mom, quiet reflection, and spiritual restoration--all things which i've come to realize mean a lot more to me than i thought, and all things which i've come to consider as fundamentally important to comprising our identities and our existence as human beings. we've been to the Czestochowa (Poland), Montserrat (eastern Spain, near Barcelona), the Vatican (Rome), Notre Dame a Ile-de-France (France), and most recently Notre Dame de la Grotte a Lourdes (also France). so the Camino is but one of many pilgrimages we've undertaken.

i've gone w the understanding that each pilgrimage, whether in destination or in time, is its own journey w its own expectations, own adventures, and own lessons. but the fact that each pilgrimage is a journey has provided a consistent quality that has appealed to me as an endurance athlete. as signified by this blog, my motivation for endurance athletics is for the most part utilizing it as an opportunity for personal exploration via the peaceful, deep, thoughtful contemplation typically ascribed to meditation. it is, in a way, moving meditation, using my body to connect to the greater rhythms of the universe and go beyond my corporeal existence to discover the greater truths of this creation. and these religious pilgrimages, i've come to realize, are essentially at their core doing the same thing: taking pilgrims on meditative journeys to reach the mysteries of the divine.

but the Camino Santiago, from what little of it i experienced, comes closer than any of the other pilgrimages i've encountered. i think it's because it calls for a physical act covering long distances, which while walking as opposed to swimming, cycling, or running, is very much the same as ultra-endurance racing. i can feel a greater connection to it.

which is probably why i can't stop thinking about it.

you can sort of get the spirit (sorry for the pun) that i sense from this documentary from another pilgrim, who i think very much shares a mindset that i have:
http://youtu.be/4dqOI87nSU0

yeah, i know. i do Ironmans. i do ultra-endurance. i do distance. already. what more can i get from walking? even long-distance walking? to someplace i've already been?

but as i've written before, this is a different kind of endurance event, w different characteristics from other races that i do. and so allowing other aspects of the distance to come into play. and so allowing other experiences on other types of journeys. each with its own expectations, own adventures, and own lessons.

and for me, this means more personal exploration, in connection w the greater rhythms of the universe, to discover the greater truths of this creation. and while as a mortal i may not reach the mysteries of the divine, i can still do what i want to do: grow beyond whatever it is that i am, and thereby go a little bit closer to god.

that, and if there is a god, maybe he'll finally be nice and bless me w what someone once told me happens on the Camino: "you will find the woman who will be your wife on the Camino."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

a (different) swim workout

for those of us looking for an alternative workout to break up the stale dullness of monotony that comes up w our exercise routines, i came across an article in Fitness magazine that caught my eye. it's a swim workout, but for those of us who swim this is probably not what we have in mind. most of us think of swimming as lane lines, sets, intervals, stroke count, breath count, and a pace clock. maybe, if we're feeling adventurous, we add in paddles, pull buoy, fins, and drag chutes. and if we're feeling really kinky, we add exit-and-enter reps, running starts, and mass starts.

well, drop all  of the above and add this to the list of alternative workouts:

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/lose-weight/total-body/swimming-workout/?sssdmh=dm17.678363&esrc=nwfitdailytip071013

there's also a video:

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/videos/m/76800497/pool-it-water-workout.htm

i never quite thought of pool workouts as a total body sculpting exercise. i mean, yes, i know swimming is a total body workout and that there are countless exercise routines that are done in swimming pools. but swimming workouts never helped w other sports, like cycling and running. and the exercise routines done in pools that i know are usually associated w physical therapy. i never considered just doing exercises in the water to tone specific muscle groups--certainly not w these kinds of exercises. but they look like a challenge and definitely something that can put the body through the ringer, so i think they're worth a try.

if nothing else, they at least offer some variety and a taste of something different from staring at a black line at the bottom of a lane every lap in a swim set. and they sure take up a lot less space than a competition pool.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

the measure of devotion, and what to do about it

recently i watched a stroke patient with disabilities so severe he couldn't sit straight fight to rise from a wheelchair and walk unassisted through the front doors of the Basilique de Notre Dame de l'Immaculee Conception (english: Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) at the Sanctuaire de Notre Dame de Lourdes (english: Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes).

it was an agonizingly slow, painful process, with the man hunched over his curled, atrophied right arm and dragging a twisted, limp right leg. each step was a shuffle of the left foot a few inches forward, a lurch of the body to pull the other forward, and then a pause to balance the total precariously on a single good limb, before repeating the process once again.

he had only the assistance of 1 person who appeared to be a relative. but she did little other than to hold open the door to the basilica and motion for others behind them to go ahead and pass. i thought at first to try and help, but then i noticed that he had refused the offer of aid from church monitors and had left his wheelchair behind, and realized that for him, this was something that he decided he had to do on his own. not so much as a display of determination, but more an act of personal devotion to what he--and so many others like him--believe to be a place of miracles from the divine.

i have not gotten him out of my mind.

i am not Catholic, and don't consider myself particularly religious, but i found the image of him deeply moving. shuffling out from the glare of summer heat into the cool shade of the church interior, silhouetted against the votive candles and urn of holy water by the entrance, he was in that moment an expression of a commitment made to transcend the limitations of an earthly body and become an embodiment of faith to realize the possibilities of something more.

this is something that i can and must respect.

because i know the desire to exceed the confines of this physical body, the yearning to go beyond, the need for something greater. i know it as the motivation that drove me to undertake this life and take it with both hands and wrest it from its complacency and push it from its indolence and kick and drag and hurl and crawl and throw and scrape and stagger and fall...and shuffle...and limp...as a display of determination. as an act of devotion. to transcend the body. to realize something more.

because i know the meaning, the feeling, the living of the moment when you go beyond what you think is possible and you enter a different place entirely beyond anything you've ever known.

and because i know that means that devotion is not just about belief and that sometimes, just sometimes, faith is instead itself made manifest.

as the mantra says: nothing is impossible.

so who am i to judge another? we are, ultimately, all pilgrims on our own ways.

so what am i to do to help another? we can, and must, respect the pilgrimages we take.

so how am i to recognize another? we see the nature of our paths as we proceed, and acknowledge each other as we pass by, and remember that we believe in more than what is possible.

dominus vobiscum

Saturday, July 20, 2013

more dynamic warm-up exercises

it's not been fun dealing w these nagging injuries. it has, to say the least, put a serious crimp into my fitness level and disrupted my routine. the consequences have been physical (being a fat slob) and mental (being out of sorts for being a flat slob, and being out sorts from not being able to follow my routine).

what's been bothering me the most is that the injuries won't go away. whenever i seem to be getting back into a groove and making progress, the problems come right back again, forcing me into another shutdown for rest and recuperation.

i'm starting suspect that i may be focusing on the wrong thing: i've been obsessing on the post-injury recovery when maybe i should have been focusing on riding the rehabilitation and following pre-injury preventative practices.  and by that i mean i should have been doing more to make sure i was limiting my body's susceptibility to re-aggravating these injuries. specifically--and some of you have probably guessed it--i should have been doing more regarding warm-up/cooldown routines and dynamic range-of-motion work to promote flexibility and resilience.

i admit, i've slacked off on this over the past year...which is about the time these injuries started to linger. i got complacent, and figured that being fit i could forego the warm-up/cooldown and dynamic range-of-motion stuff. in reality, it may have been because of such stuff that i was able to maintain fitness. i'm going to have become a little more religious about that stuff once again.

to honor this recommitment, i'm providing some current Youtube videos that i found useful. maybe those of you experiencing the same issues i am will find them so as well. cheers.

i'll give you an update, hopefully sooner rather than later.
http://youtu.be/AW1RNkryf1k


http://youtu.be/4TIRWwiAflw


http://youtu.be/E7ghNKOH9To


http://youtu.be/23IAMXjzISg


http://youtu.be/KlRkA8ToONc


http://youtu.be/uqwBIItHHrA



Tuesday, July 09, 2013

we're not fat! (er, well, um, maybe?)


you would hope the health and fitness movement is finally having an effect after seeing this:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/news/america-fattest-obese-un-144341236.html

the article references a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which you can read here:

http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3300e/i3300e.pdf

according to the FAO, the U.S. no longer has the highest percentage of obese people in the world. it's now Mexico.

um, so, i guess hooray?

it is a positive trend, going from #1 to #2. but #2 isn't exactly anything to be proud of, especially when you go behind the rankings to see what they're referring to: Mexico has 32.8% of its population being obese, while the United States has 31.8%, both of which are obscenely high numbers.

in addition, it's still disturbing when you realize that these obesity rates are rising. you can see the numbers for the United States:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/163205/snapshot-obesity-rate-ticking.aspx

so the point to draw from this is that while the relative rankings may have changed, the absolute scale of the problem remains the same: we're all getting fatter. and that's not good.

health and fitness folks, we've got a long way to go.