The increasingly parochial observations of a casual runner in his fifties. Was "serious" about "the sport" until personal and sociocultural inevitabilities prevailed.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Sadness with no real name

The 3" x 5" index-card version of the end of my year is that I spent a low-key Christmas holiday with a couple of friends, went to a couple of token social functions, made use of the down time to learn a few new songs on my computer in the shape of a piano, became stuck many times trying to get past the prologue of my most recent never-to-be-finished novel, and did most of the stuff most people whose nuclear families are thousands of miles away do in the last week or so of the year: Wait it out and dodge the inevitable yuletide commercial, emotional and vocational mayhem as it comes. On the surface, an unremarkable smattering of events.

I did something different for Christmas itself in 2019. I have a relatively small family for someone my age; I don't know my dad's relatives very well, and on my mom's side, all but a dozen or so of us are usually hard to find and most of those with stable addresses are in New Hampshire and Virginia. Rather than give out "presents," I decided instead to give $50 to ten diverse and trustworthy charities in the names of friends and family members. Since we've all just been giving each other the same damn restaurant gift cards for years, making it a wash from all of our individual perspectives, this felt a lot more Christmas-y than most past years have. I have deeper reasons for doing this sort of thing, which on the surface appears to contradict the low regard I continually seem to exude here for my seven million fellow inmates in the prison of life, but actually makes a lot of sense if you consider that I see all of us as hapless victims of our own feeble composition, including the things we do to piss each other off.

That was the nice part.

About a week before Christmas day, I got notice from a longtime friend in Colorado Springs that he and his girlfriend would be coming up to Boulder for two nights, the 24th and the 25th, staying at a hotel a little over a mile from where I live. I have known him since the winter of 2011. We became acquainted when he, looking at my shoes from his spot next to me on a bench somewhere in Boulder, asked me if I was a runner. I smiled and told him sort of, which has been my honest answer for years. He then rattled off a series of numbers that would be unintelligible to most humans -- "1:47, 3:38, 7:55, 13:45" -- ticking each one off, index finger on thumb, as he spoke.

He was an intense guy. Robust, small, compact, anxious. And boozy, like me.