The Silence That Changed Our Lives

I had planned to write about appreciating things you don’t quite understand before I knew what I wanted to say. My message, I thought, would be about appreciating people different from yourself. And then, early Monday morning, my beautiful young nephew, my Godson, was struck and killed by a train, and I found the message.

Chris Muldoon August 30, 1993 - August 17, 2015

Chris Muldoon
August 31, 1993 – August 17, 2015

Chris was a young man of few words with a heart so big that his passing has left a huge sinkhole in his community of family, friends, neighbors, teammates, and fellow-camp counselors. It takes a special person to quietly leave such an unforgettable impression on everyone he touched. Fellow-counselors who knew him for less than two months stopped by the house this week choking back tears. They told us that the children returning to camp next year were all jockeying to get in Chris’s group, and his supervisor said they are going to plant a memorial tree in Chris’s honor at the camp where he worked. Chris connected with people in his own special way.

My sister Jeanie shared a character sketch that Chris wrote about me when he was in high school. If my name hadn’t been in the flattering narrative, I would have sworn Chris had taken up fiction. Yet in typical Chris style, he made his mom swear she’d never share what he wrote with me. Sometimes you don’t know the impression you leave on another person, and Chris left an indelible impression on everyone he touched.

We keep those who pass from this life alive with the stories we tell. A measure of a full life and a life well lived, in my view, is not simply the number of stories, but the passion with which they are told. It’s impossible to talk about Chris without smiling. During this difficult time with family and friends in shock, a landslide of stories about Chris have emerged, stories accompanied by smiles and tears, many followed by hysterical laughing by scores of young people remembering Chris’s life and the happiness he left behind.

Chris connecting with one of his campers.

Chris connecting with a young camper.

Chris was a four-year All Catholic cross-country runner in high school, and went to the state championships all four years as well. Chris ran the Crusader Classic 5K with me a few years ago. Like a good nephew he ran the first mile or so with me until I said, “Chris, you don’t have to run with me.” Chris smiled, said, “Okay,” and went on to come in 1st place in his age group. I don’t think I could have cycled the 5K in the time it took Chris to run it.

Chris would have been a senior at West Chester University this year. Many years ago I would run the WCU track after I dropped off two of my sons at the university. I told Chris that one day I would visit him to share a run on the same track I ran with his cousins, but I let life get in the way and never made it. I guarantee you this, Chris, you will be with me on every run I take for the remainder of my days. Promise.

Life’s short; tomorrow’s not guaranteed. Don’t let it slip by. Don’t keep anything inside. Tell the people you love how you feel about them. It will make a difference. Hug your kids, hug loved ones, hug your friends. Don’t let the chance to share yourself get away.

Chris led a full and meaningful life in twenty-one short years. Fortunately, he left a huge piece of himself that we can carry with us forever.

We love you and miss you Chris, all of us. Aunt Jo, Jimmy, Jason, Danny, Colleen, Gina, Alice, Monty, Jason, Carley, Lucy, and Jane (and of course, Bella.) You will be in our hearts forever.

To read more about Chris and the mark he left on the lives of those he touched go to In Memory of Chris Muldoon.

Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Poetry in Motion – Haiku

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” – Robert Frost

Watch a gymnast, figure skater, pole vaulter, soccer player, an equestrian, a boxer… watch a nine-month old taking her first steps for that matter–step, stumble, fall–the pure beauty of determination. You have just witnessed poetry in motion. If you don’t see it, you’re simply not looking hard enough.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.16.19 AMEarlier this year I watched professional boxers, trainers, and pad men coach actors on the set of Creed. They bobbed and weaved, sweat pouring from their bodies, as they created poetry in their own medium.

These days while I’m running a trail, sweat dripping from my own body, haiku swirls in my head. Haiku is an ancient Japanese form of poetry consisting of three lines in the pattern 5 – 7 – 5. Modern haiku breaks from the traditional. It is not as rigid, and need not conform to the traditional formula.

I share the following haiku that I ginned up on the trail:

Haiku in Motion

Eyes lowered over nose

Hidden rock catches toes

Forehead slams, blood flows.

 

Warrior, Tree

Spider cactus and me,

Who’s looking at whom?

 

Crisp amber hops

Tickle taste buds, quench thirst

Gliding down my throat.

 

Steel cord whips grass

Across the flesh of my calves

Blood drips into soil.

 

Twenty dollar bill

for ten dollar roses,

Keep the change, my friend.

 

Leonard says, “You need not understand poetry to appreciate it.” More on appreciation irrespective of understanding in a future post.

 

Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Buddy’s Birthday

“I’ve never missed a gig yet. Music makes people happy, and that’s why I go on doing it – I like to see everybody smile.” – Buddy GuyScreen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.40.42 PM

The great blues guitarist Buddy Guy celebrates his 79th birthday today, and he is still going strong. Since B. B. King joined the big blues band in the sky this year, Buddy Guy is likely the  greatest blues guitarist on the planet. And, he has the best smile ever.

IMG_0059_2Buddy learned to play the guitar by listening to records by John Lee Hooker and other blues artists on a guitar he made when he was 13. He was discovered by Muddy Waters who took him under his wing at age 21 after he moved to Chicago.

Many great rock guitarists like Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Jeff Beck say they owe their inspiration to Buddy Guy and other blues musicians. Vaughn said, “Without Buddy Guy, there would be no Stevie Ray Vaughan,” and Clapton said, “Buddy Guy was to me what Elvis was for others.”IMG_0058_2

A few years ago I visited Buddy’s club Legends in Chicago. It’s kind of remarkable that this humble downtown corner bar with a brick facade has hosted not only blues icons like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley, but also rock legends like Eric Clapton, Greg Allman and the Rolling Stones, as well. There is no shortage of stories about some of the world’s most renowned musicians strolling in off the street for a show and winding up on stage jamming, like the time the Stones were in the house and Keith Richards called up Pete Tonsound who was in the crowd.IMG_0060_2

So Happy 79th Birthday, Buddy. Keep us smiling and keep on playing.

Posted in Running | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Crossroads

“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.” — Flannery O’Connorphoto

I’ve been struggling with what to do with this silly little blog of mine. It began innocently four years ago after reading advice by publishing gurus that you must have an online presence if you plan to publish a book. At the time I was in the beginning stages of workshopping and editing my first book, the memoir Twenty-four Years to Bostona project I will look back on as an apprenticeship, a training program–a baptism by fire.

I thought about ending the blog, but after 290 posts, more than 36,000 views, and scores of comments, I realized that abandoning it would be premature without sharing the things I’ve learned about blogging, publishing, and the writing life. Plus, I’ve met so many interesting and wonderful people through this blog, I felt it would be irresponsible not to thank them by introducing them to my readers. Lastly, after giving it much thought, I’ve decided to blog my sequel to Twenty-four Years (more on this to come in future posts.)

I’ll begin by taking you back to 2009 when I left a 37-year career in industry to pursue the writing life. I was a prospective author, fish out of water, a writer-want-to-be. I read everything I could get my hands on about writing, publishing and blogging. I came across a fellow-Brennan–Ann Brennan from Maryland, creator of Ann’s Commentary. To make a long story short, Ann convinced me not to be intimidated and to give it a go–Just Do It! As convincing as Ann was, I still fumbled around for about a year before I wrote my first post, and now, nearly 300 posts later, I see how silly I was. Thank you, Ann!

Looking back, starting a blog wasn’t any different from getting my first office job after working ship construction for twenty years and finding a PC plopped on my desk. Or after I bought my first PC, took it home and didn’t have an IT guy to solve my problems. Guess what? You figure it out yourself. Might take you fifteen minutes, an hour, or half a day, but you figure it out, and then you move on to the next thing. Blogging sites have easy to follow Help pages, and now you have YouTube to solve essentially any problem you encounter or answer any question you might have.

Rite2Run was not merely a platform for my book, it led to writing gigs–a one-year contract with St. Anthony Messenger for a Live Well series I co-authored with my daughter, Colleen, a clinical exercise physiologist and certified wellness coach. Most recently, the Art of Running series was largely responsible for becoming editor of the Cityscape section of the Schuylkill Valley Journal. I’ve also donated my book for prizes at races and for fundraisers. Beyond the literary gigs, my blog led to friendships with fellow-bloggers–artists, photographers, motorcyclists, cyclists, chefs, adventurers, movie reviewers, writers, marathon and ultra-marathoners, and runners like you and me.Rite2Run

So, were the publishing gurus right about an online presence? It’s difficult to track book sales to a blog, but I’d venture to say it hasn’t made much of a difference. Still, I agree that an online presence as a necessity. It’s an agent and publisher’s first stop to see if you exist, and like it or not, if you’re not visible in social media, you are much harder to find.

My advice? Get over it and get started. And it need not be about running. Write about your passion, the thing that drives you–cooking, gardening, cycling, music, nature, whatever.

In upcoming posts I will share what I’ve learned about publishing, the writing life, introduce you to some great bloggers, and then begin to blog the sequel to my memoir about aging and running, stories from the trail as well as advice for running longevity.Sketch - Running Man

Posted in Running, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Long May You Run

Long may you run
Long may you run
Although these changes
have come
With your chrome heart shining
in the sun
Long may you run.

Neil YoungScreen Shot 2015-07-08 at 11.01.39 PM

I’d been following senior runner Mary Lou Harris for some years now and was excited to read she recently finished her first ultra-marathon. In her blog Still A Runner, Mary Lou shares an interesting New York Times article by John Hanc about Why Older Runners Are Ultra-marathoners.

The way I read it, the article is as much about longevity in general as it is running in particular. Dr. William Roberts, a professor of family medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and the medical director for the Twin Cities Marathon says, “Aging is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition. Continued exercise throughout a lifetime will reduce the rate of loss of strength and endurance, likely improve quality of life and help maintain balance.” The takeaway here is that remaining active improves your quality of life, whether by walking, swimming, gardening, dancing, yoga, or riding a bike.

I find people who seek their passion practice an intangible type of exercise that nurtures longevity as well, so I would add activities like playing a musical instrument, painting, sculpting, drawing, or writing to the above list. I can’t help think about Neil Young walking out to the center of the stadium at the closing ceremony at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada with nothing more than his acoustic guitar and harmonica and playing Long May You Run.

Long May You Run, Neil!

Read the entire article Why Older Runners Are Ultra-marathoners by John Hanc, and be sure to visit Mary Lou Harris’s blog at Still A Runner.

Posted in Health, Marathon, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ride of Silence 2014

Jim Brennan:

Loyal fellow-blogger and (motor)cyclist LB took the time to comment on Ghost Bike @ Ridge & Girard and shared with me her post Ride of Silence about a community cycling event held each year in honor of those who have died on our roads and hiways. The Ride for Silence has grown to 340 events on 7 continents, in 20 countries, and 49 States in the USA.

You can read more of LB’s work at Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things 

 

Originally posted on Life on the Bike and other Fab Things:

The 7th Ride of Silence in the New River Valley (NRV) of Virginia was a great success.  We had over 100 participants in this annual event to honor and remember those injured or killed while riding on public roadways.  I’ve not seen the total numbers from around the globe, but I do know that there were 313 rides held in the United States alone.  It is incredibly powerful to know that you are riding with people from all over the world … on the same date, at the same time.  It is also incredibly sad to think that these events have to be held.

IMG_4654

The Ride of Silence – NRV began, as always, with a very brief program.  Advocacy news and updates, and then instructions about the ride are given.  I’m proud to serve as one of the event organizers (of all my volunteer interests, this is one of my…

View original 213 more words

Posted in Running | 3 Comments

Ghost Bike @ Ridge & Girard

“Oh, We close our eyes, The perfect life is all we need.” – Moby

I set out on my beater bike and cycle around town shooting pictures of things that grab my interest. The photos pile up in my library and when I sit to view them, maybe a week or month later, themes I never imagined appear that I will use for Cityscapes in the Schuylkill Valley Journal,

One such theme is a collection of bikes I’ve accumulated, many chained to poles, trees, and, believe it or not, artistically designed bicycle racks. I even have a shot of a unicycle chained to a traffic sign.

But the bike that pushed me over the edge was a Ghost Bike chained to a traffic signal pole at Girard and Ridge Avenues.

Ghost Bike memorializing 26-year-old filmmaker Jay Mohan struck and killed at Ridge & Girard Avenues in Philadelphia on May 10, 2015.

Ghost Bike memorializing 26-year-old filmmaker Jay Mohan struck and killed at Ridge & Girard Avenues in Philadelphia on May 10, 2015.

I steered to the curb, dismounted, and read the note attached to the bike:

Vijay Krishna Mohan

Vibrant Spirit

Goofball

Visionary

Educator

Activist

Friend

Justice-seeker

Generous Community Member

Filmmaker

Lover

Brother

Greatest rapper of all time

Born September 2, 1988

Died May 10th, 2015 after being hit by a car.

Jay Mohan had gone to the movies that night to see While We Were Young with his girlfriend. She took a cab home and he pedaled down Ridge Avenue toward Brewerytown where he lived when he was struck by a 1993 Buick shortly after midnight. He was pronounced dead at Hahnemann University Hospital a short time later.

The intersection at Ridge and Girard Avenues is along one of the morning routes I used to run with my friends at Back on My Feet. I stood on the path where the vibrant young filmmaker’s life ended, closed my eyes, and offered a prayer; then I thought about the beautiful testimonial on the paper attached to the Ghost Bike, saddled back up and continued on my way, humming Moby’s The Perfect Life, and keeping the beat with each successive stroke of the pedals.IMG_0049_2

Posted in Art of Running, Running | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments