Saturday, August 18, 2012

To Say "Thank You" 186 Times

I am on a plane from Idaho to Denver…. The connecting flight from Denver to Minneapolis might leave before we get there. If this occurs, I will most likely seek out hard drugs or something that can take me into the immediate afterlife. I am in the worst physical pain I’ve ever felt- well only second to that time I had a hernia surgery and tried riding a bike to the coffeeshop only to tip over in slow motion against the sidewalk.

What kind of pain would drive a man to such heights of extremism, you ask? Hmm, it's comparable to a time- a time almost ten years ago… I awoke one morning to find that my contact solution was gone. Being the resourceful asshole that I am, I decided to use my roommates. Half-hazard I disregarded the printed red band around the bottle of my roommate’s solution, soaked my contacts in the liquid and placed them in my eyes.

At the slightest touch of my right cornea, I felt the sting of a thousand suns. Whatever the solution was made of had grazed my eye like a razor blade. “HOLY FUKIN SHIT FUCK  PERRY WINKLE STAR BRIGHT!”. Sidenote: I curse like I have Tourette's. Credit it to my high school friends and I freestyling at lunch over beatboxing, stirring ourselves to think of the most immediate thought on our minds and connect it to our mouths. Sometimes it landed me in the principles office, and other times I wound up writing a script to take stage for hundreds to spectate- I’ll take both. So, cursing whatever’s at the forefront of your attention span is… fun. I figured it’d just been awhile since I had brand new solution and tried to place the contact back in my eye- ZZZZZZAP! The sting struck again, my eye went bright pink… and it was then I noticed the large red band wrapping the bottle of my roommate’s solution “WARNING 3% PEROXIDE”. I’d voluntarily burned the life out of my eye.

Flash forward to now, this is what it feels like. The only difference between the two is this feeling won’t go away, and something keeps refreshing the sting in my left eye to the point it’s at a constant drip- something similar to Jinno resurrected as half-robot/half-human (ref: Afro Samurai). Following suit, the left side of my face has begun to submit to the pressure of the flight cabin hinting that I might blow an aneurysm. One more anime metaphor, if I may: it feels like I’ve been slapped in the left-side of my face by Fist of the Northstar- not hard enough to make my head blow up, but just enough impact to make it swell to the point of me making it want to blow up.

Phone stolen, face swollen, and the only thing I’m truly pissed about is the laundry basket full of metro area kickstarter packages to send out. When staring at the stack of 150+ t-shirts I had to mail out to the backers/investors of the kickstarter project, I went still with intimidation. What had I created, who was going to help? The answer lie in the action. Essentially dodging people and extra curriculars for a week straight, I was able to get all the out-of-towners mailed in 7 days, and the locals prepped. What kicked my ass the most was the personal Thank You letters, and also what kept me going as well. Every one or two notes, I noticed a familiar name. When I thought I had nothing genuine to express or unique to say, it kept coming to me naturally. Hell- I’d do another kickstarter project just to write thank you letters. More than writing lyrics is writing a play, and more than writing a script is writing  a slam poem, and above that… the thank you letter. I can’t think of any way better to spend an afternoon, morning, evening- I can’t think of a better way to spend my time than to write a thank you letter.

Where a society has gone addicted to digital text, in-and-out boxes, sitting down and writing a letter to someone creates its own place in the world for you. Its tangible enough you can see the words, touch the paper, and read it again without having to reboot a machine. It’s the epitome of giving someone your time. To disregard a letter is to rip it up, throw it away, or even not open it- all in all, you know it’s there. Those words have been put out into the world, written on earth for you.

My grandfather used to write salutations to my grandmother just whenever, at random, from his heart. Dude didn’t call her for a week (ref: gangster) after he first got her number, and just started writing her salutations since they began dating. And now, I’m here with a sickly face sitting on a situation with 40+ thank you letters for people that more than deserve it. Got-dammit, these people will have their mail whether my face turns a droopy Quasimoto or not- I vow to get the packages there.

With all that said, I’m thoroughly amped for this week to play out. We release the mixtape online, we go live with national radio, and I leave town for a week to do educational theatre for GTC Dramatic Dialogues. Priority still stands, getting the packages to the locals.

Even in the utmost rock bottom of physical pain, it’s a soothing thought to be near the finish line of completing what you said you'd do- to say “Thank You” 186 times. It didn’t actually hit me that 186 individuals contributed to a project that hadn’t even begun to get it’s engine started, until my colored pencils started sketching bubble block letters to each backer. I’m in the 2nd most physical pain of my life (which could be worse), but also believe I may be the luckiest guy on the planet. For what it’s worth, thank you again- can't wait to release this mixtape out into the universe.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Four Hundred Meters of Redemption (1/2)

I have nightmares.

One of them is a reoccurring haunt. Reoccurring and occurring for the past 12 years of my life.

How do I explain- Where to start...

I was bit by a deer tick. The bite panned out like Spider-Man, but in reverse. I had trained the entire year to make it to the state track & field meet in the 300 Intermediate Hurdles, had won my conference in the event and was en route to qualifying for the big show. However, after a game of splat ball  in Hinckley, a deer tick found its way to my right shoulder blade and burrowed a poisonous life-threatening/altering  bite mark.

I had contracted Lyme Disease and didn’t know it at the time. My legs slowed, muscles atrophied, and energy dissipated to nil all before my own very eyes. I raced my heart out, but came in a lowly 5th at the regional finals. Only the top 2 go.

Now, when I close my eyes and take on any kind of nap or slumber, a scene plays out within the recesses of my mind. A gun fires, the racers leave their blocks, the crowd screams- everything moves with such an elusive fluidity to it that it becomes a smear of colors streaming through space, painting the track, leaving behind shadows of their former silhouette. Old friends smile with great expectation that I will set a personal best, or even win the race. It is a beautiful thing, as the sun is always shining in this dream… and this is my nightmare, for one thing is always wrong with this picture- one horrifying part is absolutely wrong.

The moment I try to advance from my blocks, or even from a stand still, my thighs seem to float like balloons pushing through space. There is no force behind the movement, no muscle, no chutzpah, no nothing. I am a slow motion figure in a fast paced world of trained sprinters. I am worthless.

To my friends, to my family, to the sport, to myself- I am of no worth to watch or cheer. I fail. The race leaves me, and I stay behind… everytime.

As I write it, now, I find the nightmare more in the reliving than the happening. As Prometheus was banished to a rock for his transgressions toward Zeus, he faced an eagle daily that would fly down and eat his liver. However, this was not the bane of his punishment, the curse lie in Prometheus’ liver growing back everyday just to be eaten by the eagle. I find it parallel to dreaming of racing for my goal just to lose… every single time.

I have struggled with this dream turned nightmare for 12 years, now.

Perhaps watching a 34 yr. old (Felix Sanchez) win the 400m hurdles in this year’s 2012 Olympics has turned my daily 30 minute jog to sprinting hurdles on a track… or maybe it’s the ultimate resentment for the piece of my brain that can’t let the past be finished- the part of me that clutches the loss as hard as it did the goal.

Working with two children this summer as a youth mentor, I decided to take them to a track at the edge of the city to run time trials- develop some sort of penultimate summer goal of measured progression. I’d run my morning sprints on this track in the past to prep for high school meets, and hone hurdling techniques. It scared the shit out of me to be back there.

After dropping the kids off, I headed back to my house- picked up my track cleats and drove straight back to the secluded track, my sanctuary. Jog, stretch, plyometrics- I began my hurdle routine. This wasn’t for enjoyment, this was to slay a dragon- to kill the echo rung from my final high school track race. After three-step speeding over several hurdles, I noticed an old white man enter the field. His strut was slow, but tall. He eyed me like I had trespassed onto his property- watched my every move over the hurdles. When he wasn’t in my range of visibility, I could feel his attention on my back as I still ran the hurdle routine.

“What ya’ runnin’ for?” murmured the old man.

My heart went cold. A breath escaped me a beat. Although the disbelief in me pulled back the notion, I still trusted my instinct that I knew this man. I recognized his voice. The circumstances were simply improbable- beyond chance that we’d ever run into each other again.

But here we are. 15 years removed, at the edge of the city, on a track only few have driven by let alone set foot upon.

This man was a ghost, to me. He’d been present in a few of the nightmares watching the race. And now here he is asking what I’m running for while I’m wide awake.