This is about fellowship in a big orange truck.

Six days a week, Monday through Saturday, I attend a meeting of my AA group which starts at 7:30 a.m. To get there I always drive the same route  :   down Jackson Street past the post office, then turn left at the traffic light onto Dunlawton Avenue.

A few months ago, when Central Florida had so much damage during the hurricane season, the parking lot of our USPS was being used by a fleet of trucks belonging to a large national company that specializes in tree trimming and removal where storm damage has affected power lines. The fleet of approximately 30 trucks had been brought to our community by their regular crews, but were being driven by local men who knew their way around town. These vehicles are large-bodied dump trucks, equipped with cranes and picker baskets. They are all painted bright orange.

One morning, on the way to my daily meeting, I was waiting at the traffic light behind one of these orange trucks. The driver got out of the cab, descended to the ground, and waved at me. Recognizing a fellow AA member, John A., I waved back.

A few weeks later I saw John at a meeting. He told me he had been working double shifts, 65 to 75 hours a week, and “I don’t have much time to attend a lot of meetings. Every morning I watch for your car at that corner because it is a good way to start my day, seeing another AA member like that.”

Since then I've remembered what John said whenever I see one of the orange trucks.

Most of the storm damage has been repaired now, and many of the trucks have left town. But yesterday morning, at that corner, there was an orange truck in front of me, waiting at the light. It made a left-hand turn onto Dunlawton, just like I was doing. I got into the lane next to it and looked up at the cab, hoping John was the driver and I could wave to him.

It wasn’t John so I accelerated, feeling a bit foolish. As I pulled ahead of the orange truck I thought, “No, I’m not being foolish; that’s the Fellowship in action.”

Gotta like synchronicity!

I've been reading a book called 'Jihad vs. McWorld' by Benjamin R. Barber, which is about how parochial sub-national forces are eroding the power and meaning of nation-states and democracy from below while trans-national homogenizing free-market forces are eroding them from above. I hope when I'm done to feel I have a clear enough grasp of it all to write a decent node about it.

I read a bit early this evening, then spent some time web surfing for news, checking on this mild storm bearing down on SoCal, and following rabbit-holes on e2. When the e2 server went down for a little while, I hopped over to wikipedia to see what was on the home page, and the featured article was about the Old Swiss Confederacy. I know nothing of Switzerland, but have flown over it a few times and have been meaning to read a little about it since finishing The Magic Mountain recently. So I gave the article the once-over, learning that there's more to the place than chocolate and skiing :) Particularly interesting was how the original 3 cantons formed their loose alliance in the late 13th century and it evolved slowly, along with innovative social developments. Bumping into this kind of information is one of the key things that I love about the internet and the Information Age.

So what does this have to do with synchronicity?

A while ago I got in bed and resumed reading J vs. McW, and I'm toward the end, after all of the exposition detailing the how and what of jihad and McWorld, and how the top-down democratic structures slapped onto East Germany and Russia failed, and why. I'm to the part where Barber is discussing what needs to be done to keep Democracy and nation-states from becoming irrelevant, how to re-establish public ground for civic activity by citizens, between the private realm and the corporate markets, where the people, not governments, not corporations, can have a voice in shaping global development. He mentions the American Articles of Confederation as having some good ideas, but says the real model to follow is its predecessor - the Helvetic Confederation (!!) "that made the Swiss such an extraordinary example of democratic association long before parliamentary institutions elsewhere had found their way to genuine representative government." He asserts that such Confederalism may offer a workable defense against national disintegration since it "offers a gradualist, voluntary, trust-building strategy of supranationality...(that is)... evolutionary in nature" and grows from what are initially loose ties.

It isn't like I was doing research into a subject and found the same topics in a couple of places at nearly the same time. This was quite random - anything could have been on the front of Wikipedia tonight. Sure, one could point out all of the other pages I saw tonight that didn't have relevance to anything, but that's just facile dismissal. This kind of thing just feels cool, and if it leads to a little fantasy of being in touch with the zeitgeist, where's the harm?

I had a similar coincidence a couple of months ago, when I read This is the Way the World Ends shortly after The Illuminatus! Trilogy and realized that both of these shared not only apocalyptic themes, but both prominently featured unlikely trips on unlikely submarines. Just have to make sure I don't go off the deep end and start looking for connections...

I went bar-hopping tonight. Alone, and intentionally.

I got out of work at 1am and wanted guinness. So I went searching. Some things I've realized:

  • No matter where you go in New York City, a pint of Guinness will cost you five bucks. Some kind of inflationary standard, maybe?
  • I know the jukebox numbers for Squeeze's 'tempted by the fruit of another' at WAAAAAY too many bars. It's 1110 at Bar 81, 2310 at The Hairy Monk and 1810 at the Bull's Head Tavern. I either love that song, or think about it altogether too much.
  • No matter how well dressed you think you are when you walk into a doesn't help. I thought the clothes were everything; now that I regularly dress respectably, I realize the suit really isn't the point. This is simultaneously heartening and disheartening.
  • Anna Begins by the Counting Crows is an AWESOME song to walk into a bar to, second only to Bittersweet Symphony.
  • Speaking of which...when did they start playing music from my generation in bars? It used to be Springsteen and AC/DC and that was IT. Now? Counting Crows, Dave Matthews, RHCP. The works. Makes me feel accepted and simultaneously...old.
  • Oh, and (for the true server-wranglin' geek girls out there): if you look like a librarian and go out drinkin', don't be pissed off when you get hit on by geeks. YOU'RE HOT, AND WE WANT TO SCREW YOU. Least you could do would be to either a. be attracted to us or b. tell us straight out to go away. I'm so sick of the standard array of bar games that I want to poke my eyes out with a stick. For the love of all things holy, we can take it. Promise,
  • Also: bartenders=awesome. Bartenders who pretend to listen to your requests and then go on autopilot=LAME.

Afterthought: remember when words, like, you know, mattered? Or is that a figment?

The law of specificity has raised its snake-like head and bitten me off below the knees. I should have known better. The law states that as you do something repeatedly, you get better at it; your system becomes proficient at the given task. For example, if you do chinups every day, you'll get better at chinups. I have obeyed this law for years. Whenever starting a new activity, training regimen or coming back from a layoff, I have eased into it, allowing my system to gain momentum and ability.

I have, that is, until recently.

The marathon bug also bit about six weeks ago. I wanted to do a flat, low-key marathon in Clearwater at the end of January. Looking at the calendar, I thought, Hmm, roughly twelve weeks to get ready. The initial runs during the week felt great. Hmm, I thought again, if I can go from zero to 30 to 60 minutes of running and walking in one week, maybe I can really ramp up the time on the weekend long run. So I did.

I did a two-hour run/walk the first week. The following week I did a few 30-to-60-minute runs. Thanks to staying up too late Friday night, I split my Saturday run in to an hour that morning and an hour-15 on Sunday. That Sunday run felt so good, I got up extra early on Tuesday to do another one. Due to driving Sweetie-Pie to work at the butt-crack of dawn both mornings of the next weekend, I scrubbed running until the next week. I recovered the time by adding on to my weekday runs during the week, tossing in a little speedwork at the end of each one and then nailed another two-hour run that Sunday.

I should have heard the rattler, should have seen the diamond-shaped head in the weeds at the side of the road, should have noticed the body coiling for a strike. Maybe I did, but I ignored it.

I rationalized it this way: four years ago, until the birth of my second son, I ran a marathon every weekend just for grins. Four to five gentle hours on roads, trails and sidewalks with shorter, speedier runs sprinkled during the week. If I could do it then, I could do it now.

However, new child responsibilities and a graveyard shift at work kept me in a walking coma. Those runs went in to a corner of my closet, under my shoes. I left the graveyard the next year, went back to school and took three programming classes, which nibbled away at any time not taken by work and family. Desperate for something to let my body know it was alive, I bought a set of weights and started lifting. I gained 30 pounds and became bigger and stronger than I ever had in my life. Mice made homes of dust in my running shoes. This year, though, with the exception of the last few weeks, has been a desert for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was a general sense of aimlessness.

Which is why aiming for the marathon was so exciting. I felt terrific. The comforting rhythm, if not the speed, slowly returned. A time under 4:30 seemed doable, although just finishing with dignity would suffice.

I sat at the family table for a while after the last long run, wandering over the comics, sipping my second cup of coffee, finishing the boys's leftover pancakes. Someone called me for something and I stood up. Fangs shot through my left foot. I started limping to whomever kept calling.

Vix spotted me turning a corner. She looked at me as if I'd broken a lamp or lost my paycheck. "What did you do?"

"Nothing," I said. "I'm always a little stiff after a jog."

The pain subsided after a few steps, just long enough for the dull tightness in my right Achilles' tendon to register. Oh great.

It's now been about two weeks of inactivity. The Achilles' is still tender, but mending. That snake, however, carved the words Plantar fasciitis in ornate script in to the bottom of my left foot. The first few steps every morning and after sitting for any length of time are excruciating, but eventually the pain lessens to a whispering nag. The only treatment for both injuries are rest and stretching.

I broke the law and the law won. Now I'm doing time. My wife said it perfectly:

"Well, you're an idiot."

Since I've become an old fart, apparently the timeframe for regaining old super powers shortens with the years. Just because four years and 30 pounds ago I could chase the sunrise miles doesn't mean I can pick up where I left off.

I've thrown away the flyer to that marathon. The entry fee was a little steep anyway. Right now I just want to feel healthy again and not like the old creaky man I'm swiftly becoming. Daily stretching for a while. Then walking. Then adding some running a minute at a time, gently.

The world of marathons, ultras and weekend races resides far away for the moment. Starting as a beginner once again, I may be running again by my birthday. I don't care how long it takes. It seems silly, I know, and maybe only another runner can understand, but just running without pain would be accomplishment enough.

LoveJoyMan is, of course, god, and I revere him as such. As our brother in arms - or legs - is down for a while, we need someone else to take up the torch. That, dear friends, would be you. And me.

Life has sucked hard these last few months, and it will continue to suck hard, and so we need an outlet. Here's what I'm proposing:

You and I make a pact that we're going to start running on January 1, using the IWSTF patented method of starting with a strenuous zero-minute run the first day, then adding a minute every day. Run every day until we've reached, oh, say, an hour a day, or perhaps 90 minutes a day.

Who's with me? I can see lots of chubby little boys and girls out there who will be eager to shed a few holiday pounds.

A bit of running will put a spring in your step, and you'll be able to wash that girl right out of your mind when you run along with Face.

Goal: By mid-year you will be able to run a 10k (6.2 miles) without stopping (quit whining - you can do it), and you'll look damned good doing so.

All you've got to do is this:

1. /msg iwhosawtheface YES I'D LIKE TO COMMIT TO RUNNING in 2005!
/msg (your name here) Of course you would. Your life is so pathetic you've got nothing else on the dance card, do you?
/msg iwhosawtheface No, I really don't. How did you know?
/msg (your name here) No problem. Buy some shoes and shorts and a cold weather running jacket and join me out in the crunchy snow and let's get wicked healthy. This cures erectile dysfunction, BTW.
/msg iwhosawtheface I'm a chick, you nimrod.
/msg (your name here) Oh, sorry.

Also send me your weight and your waist size, and you'll amaze yourself how much weight and waist size you drop in a year. Really truly. I'll be glad to post results at year's end. If you're a woman, send me your chest size, like, you know, just in case.

In a year, lovejoyman will be all better and loping along with us, laughing at our puny frames. But at least we'll be able to keep up with him for the first few hundred yards.

Come on. You know you want to join us. The few. The proud. The runners.

People who have taken the pledge:
JohnnyGoodyear......CLAIMS he's not a nimrod. We'll see.
lovejoyman.... to show us how it's done.
grouchyoldman.... naturally athletic.
aeroplane.... who's practically a professional runner.
NotFabio.... because he does these things during morning PT anyway, because he's a personal friend, and because we need a cute young whippersnapper as a mascot.
icicle.... "ok i'll do it. except i don't know my waist measurement. and my bra size hasn't budged in about 9 years, so there's nothing to see there." First woman! And a cute one at that! (Can I say 'cute'? Sure I can. I'm the dumb coach. Dumb coaches can say whatever they want. That's their role in life. (MEMO TO SELF: buy a clipboard.)
andromache01..... which will practically guarantee an accompanying wave of youngboy entries as well. *sigh* The dumb coach shakes his head. Dis is gonna cause problems keepin der minds on da task.
posmella..... A chicka from NZ who wants to keep herself motivated.
Grzcyrgba...... who's already on a running question, and who's already dropped 20+ lb in 3 months! He adds that "E2-ers are a little less intimidating than most running clubs in my area..."
exceptinsects......"all I'll say about bra size is that I need one of those cantilevered, Frank-Lloyd-Wright-designed sports bras if I'm going to be running."

Listen folks, this is a seriously impressive roster, and a damned good looking one too. Join Team E2 and run your ass off in Oh Five. If you can't get lucky, you can at least get in shape.

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