Dark, cold and crazy. Three words to describe standing in front of the auto shop, dropping off the car at o’dark thirty and preparing to run in to work. It’s one thing to do a couple miles on a trail in the middle of the day, another to be on the nasty windy streets with all the things you need for a shift at the firehouse strapped to your back, with nearly three miles of strip-mall and one high rise sprawl between you and work. No one is going to pick you up and haul you in; there will be no excuses for being late. The bike shop called yesterday to say it wasn’t ready so a ride in wasn’t an option, and I didn’t want to bother my crewmates, and that is how one finds oneself alone at 5:30am staring down a windy urban thoroughfare. What a cliched metaphor, playing out right in front of my chattering knees.
I dropped in the ear buds and “Scotland The Brave” on the pipes began to drown out any outside noise, thereby assuring if I got hit by a rogue bus driver, they’d discover my musical tastes were as questionable as my decision to run these streets at this hour. As they say, if you’re gonna be weird, might as well embrace it. The sidewalks and their unforgiving concrete were giving me a newfound appreciation for the soft trails. I hoped that I wouldn’t get jumped by a wide-eyed tweaker as I passed an infamous flea-bag, pay-by-the-night motel. Then Uncle Lucius’ haunting and off-beat song “Keep The Wolves Away” came on fortuitously, as though the shuffle function was set to “moods as you run like an idiot” mode. Figures.
The Mall comes into view, around the same time “Nobody Else” by Trampled By Turtles slides on, reminding me of her. I smile to no one in particular as cars rushed by in the opposite direction, a police officer slowing down enough to see just WHO I was running from. No one, I wanted to say, just my own shadows and ghosts. The thought of her, making me smile. The wind, slicing me like a Ginsu knife through hot butter by now, taking its toll. “This was a horrible decision” flashed in neon lights across the newsfeed that constantly scrolls across my mental billboards. Each step is one step closer, I try and tell myself. I then argue with myself about it for a while, and then realize no one, including me, is listening. Figures.
“Good Love” by John Mayer cues up next. A guilty pleasure for sure, the music of that guy is freaking good, I says. These are scary times, indeed, but I would have it no other way. The lyrics as are haunting as the soaring blues arc of his performance live, and I’m reminded of a decline I made to see Mayer live in concert with her, a regret I still hold in the highest regard. A great concert in her company, all missed out upon, all left to my imagination. Yes, and I hope there’s another opportunity to see some live music again with her someday. Let’s focus on that, fool, and not getting hit by the swerving morning commuters. Going out like that is not an option.
As I round another corner, “Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters drops into rotation. The ESP powers of the shuffle function are starting to freak me out, enough to give my best impression of an asthmatic Darth Vader pause. A local cop was recently shot in the face by some dirtbag, and I drift to thoughts of him and his family as the oncoming headlights approach me drowsily. I can’t imagine their burden is any less than that of my friends who recently lost their son to a tragic accident, or my coworker and friend who is struggling valiantly to survive against that horrible thief, cancer, long enough to savor each day with his young daughters. How are these people so strong? How do they bear such pain? I feel the fool again, for selfishly turning inward to try and re-set my own mental pathways, getting intimidated by such prospects, when there are such greater struggles out there. My heart slows down for a moment for them. This actually helps me keep pace as I lumber into the final leg of this godforsaken little journey. Figures.
Fittingly, the playlist throws “Don’t Tear Us Apart” by the Dropkick Murphys on as I crank out the last half mile. A smile begins to creep upon me, as the end is in sight. Although alone in so many ways, the strength of the people in my life has done nothing if bond me to them in ways greater than I’ve known, ever. From coaches at the gym to re-establishing communications with old friends from the college years to cinching down the ties that bind me to my family, I’m so fortunate in so many ways that people have within them levels of compassion that they do, and it sets an example of how I need to treat others.
Finally, the lights of the firehouse come into sight as an old pain in my knee fires up, my body sending the signals that this was, indeed, a foolish idea. “The Tide Is High” by Blondie fills the space between the fringes of the property up into the engine bay, where I surprise my coworkers as I stumble across the threshold of another day. The tide IS high, indeed, and sometimes the cold and bitter mornings can wash out the fog of your normal routine. Glad I started it, glad I feel much better having arrived. Surprised I learned a thing or two along the way.
Playlist (click on links to see/hear it all. Enjoy!)