why am i always the last to know?

“The first time I was ever paid to publish anything, it was 2013, the end of the blog era.”

— Jia Tolentino

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things i wish i had said, part 83

“People who read are not happy.
People who do not read are not happy.
People are not very happy.”
— Bob Kaufman

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december 2019

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american jesus

He’s on the course again today.  Floppy hat, little dog, and the song. Always the song.

I have no idea what it is. Seems like some sort of Buddhist chant. He sings it at the top of his lungs as he and the little chihuahua in the jaunty sweater make their rounds.  I google Buddhist Daily Chanting to get an idea of what the song prayers are like.

Arahung summa sumbuddho pakava

I am running to a playlist of songs with 182 beats per minute. I find myself here because I was trying to listen to the impeachment hearings before deciding that maybe I don’t want to kill myself today and therefore should stop. I don’t particularly like the 182 bpm songs. They are loud and bossy and not at all Buddhist. But one must never question the religion that is Jack Daniels.

I don’t wanna know
I don’t wanna know
I don’t wanna know
I don’t wanna know

The man and his dog walk here almost every day. Their rounds must coincide with mine. He seems so relaxed, so at peace, so disconnected from the craziness.

Buddhang Pakawuntung abhivatemi
Savakkatho Pakavata tummo

A turtle eyes me on the back turn. I give him the Stink Eye. Finally someone I can beat. He yawns, dives into the water and takes off. Try running with this weight on your back, he says. I’m no hare. An old couple on three-wheel recumbents pass me. The Fast Woman sails by on her daily out-and-back. The 182 parade marches onward.

Freida, can’t you spare me a dime?
I got to give myself one more chance
To ring the band that I know I’m in

I pass the man and his dog  again. They are walking along the edge of the pond. He sings, unaware of the attention. There is peace.

Tummung na-mussami
Supatipanno pakavato savaka sung ko

I’m running too hard, but I read recently that you have a better chance to beat dementia by going super-aerobic. What better reason for intervals? So I persevere. The run is stressful. There is no peace.

I feel sorry for the earth’s population
‘Cause so few live in the U.S.A.
At least the foreigners can copy our morality
They can visit but they cannot stay

I finish off my futile Gumbo 5K. As I climb into the car, NPR is broadcasting the impeachment hearing. I can hear him in the distance, still singing.

Sunkung namami
Namo tassa bhagavto arahato samma sambhudssa

I’m doing this running thing all wrong.

The Perfectly Self enlightened one and blessed one, who has extinguished all suffering.
I bow down before the Awakened, Blessed One
The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One
I pay homage to the Dhamma
The Sangka of disciples who have practiced well
I bow low before the Sangha
Honor to Him, the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the fully Enlightened

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Nov 10, 1969
Dear Cheri,

How are you? Hope everything is fine. I haven’t written for a few days, thought I better write you. We’re now at FSB Deb. It’s about 10 miles north of Marge. The road beyond here (North) hasn’t been used much for about two years. So, we’re waiting for the line troops to get it secure before we move any farther north. Not much new, otherwise. It’s the same as at Marge, except we start all over again filling sandbags. Once we get everything sandbagged, we’ll move on.

I jumped off my track the other day and sprained my ankle. I didn’t worry about it at the time. About a day later I took a shower and when I went to put my boots back on, I couldn’t get the left one on. I went to the Doc and he wrapped it and told me to stay in bed for a day. So, I got today off. It’s ok now.

Today some CIDG’s (Civilian Irregular Defense Groups) made contact. They called F100 fighters in with napalm. I sat here and watched them. It was pretty cool. I’d give anything to be a fighter pilot.

Hope all is well at home. Be good. I am fine.  Will write when I’m more ambitious.



Nov. 11, 2019
Dear Dave,

I’ve been reading the letters you’re posting from 50 years ago. I find it to be the perfect description of life in a war zone. One minute a guy is being cut in half by a helicopter, the next you’re having camera problems. Such an insane time. I have no idea how you did it.

Today is Veterans Day, a day for people to get in front of me at the sub shop because they have the day off; a day for picnics and relaxation. This is the first Veterans Day in a long time that I actually thought about veterans.

I was running today, thinking about you. Thinking about how you would go from guarding the coke machine in camp to driving into what must have been terrifying countryside. Such an emotional roller coaster, never knowing what the next day would bring, if you would live or die. It’s so easy for someone like me, who has never experienced anything scarier than my wife waking up and finding we’re out of coffee, to forget.

I know the war will never be over for you. You will always be fighting health issues and nightmares and the memories of an uncertain time in our history.

I just wanted, on Veterans Day 2019, to say thanks for your sacrifice 50 years ago. Heroes are where you find them. Sometimes amid a pile of sandbags in a hostile country. Sometimes on a farm with a view of Mount Rainier.

Hope all is well at home.



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mary and me

running twice a day isn’t that hard when you only run 2 and 1 miles. i am a genius.

i know what you’re saying. gee, mr. pants. 3 miles a day. 13 minute pace. ZERO followers. you are quite the Internet Influencer. surely you must have an opinion on the mary cain thing.

and i do. which is this. i don’t know.

i do know that many years ago, i ran my best when i looked like a skeleton. there was a saying that if people were worried about you, you were getting close to racing weight.

in a sport where every second counts, every pound does as well. i realize it’s complicated, that your health begins to decline. but racing is all about trying to walk on that ledge between being your best and falling off the edge. seems like you sign up for that risk when you aim to become a world-class runner. everything else has to take a back seat if you’re going to be the best in the world.

but for a teenager to become suicidal from it and to begin hurting herself, and then for the people in charge of her to refuse to help? that’s not sports. that’s a total loss of compassion, a lack of basic morality.

i’m glad she appears to have come out on the other side. i’m glad her parents were there for her. i’m glad the bastards behind this are losing their jobs.

mostly i’m glad that countless girls will see her video. they’ll have a role model for running and balance and bravery.

running is just running. it should be fun. it shouldn’t kill you.

i spend my mile thinking about a young woman who is my new hero. success is survival, the prophet murphey once said. indeed.

thanks, mary. good luck in the next chapter.


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“it’s okay to be white,” says the sign taped to the fence outside the track.

i’m not sure why it bothers me so much. but i think the answer lies on the track.

it’s a beautiful day, sunny and 70 degrees. white? it’s more like a rainbow.

two hispanic women in their 30s are walking in lane 3. an old white guy, maybe in his 80s, is sprinting on lane 1. the Beefcake Boys are doing shot put drills. an old guy of uncertain ethnicity and a younger woman are flinging the hammer. a black guy in dreadlocks is getting a massage from a young asian man off the front straight.

and i’m the old white guy in lane 9.

that’s the thing about the track. age, race, gender, speed, talent — it doesn’t matter. you do your best, and cheer as others do theirs. the world should be more like the track.

it’s okay to be white.

it’s not okay to be racist.


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