No Prose… Just Toes

“You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some with you.”                                                                                                          Joseph Joubert


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The Enduring Divine Lorraine

“Boys will be boys, and so will a lot of middle-aged men.” – Kin Hubbard

IMG_5295My fascination with the Diving Lorraine Hotel began in the early 1980s when I’d pass it during the annual Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. Thirty years passed, and the abandoned hotel on the corner of Broad Street & Fairmount Avenue so captivated me on my early morning runs with my friends at Back on My Feet that I shot some photos and posted a story as part of my Art of Running series. Only now do I admit that I must have a love affair with the building, so much so that it is featured in the current online issue of the Schuylkill Valley Journal

Read about the history, abandonment and revival of the The Divine Lorraine: A 19th Century Victorian Fortress at Broad & Fairmount here.


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Crusader Classic – 2015

“It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.” – Helen KellerCrusaders - FJHS

When my buddy Monk asked that I help spread the word about the Crusader Classic 5K I didn’t hesitate to volunteer. I mean, how could I decline to lend a hand to support the place that provided me with fond memories of cutting classes, getting jug (detention,) and miraculously, graduating, an achievement I attribute to divine intervention. Yes, Father Judge High School is my alma mater, and the Crusader Classic 5K is an annual race to raise funds for the Lt. Robert Neary Scholarship Fund.

CrusadersOne discovery I made at Father Judge that has stayed with me all of these years was that I could run really far, and I wasn’t even on the track team. I was a knucklehead football player, but to get a spot on the roster the players had to run a six-minute mile. During two-a-day summer practice sessions the coaches would send us on long runs through Pennypack Park. Everyone hated it, except me. I wasn’t the fastest guy on the team, but I could run, like forever, without getting tired.

Crusaders - FJSo if you’d like to run the same course I discovered running more than four decades ago, and you live within driving distance of Philly, or if you have frequent flyer miles you want to redeem, join me on Sunday, October 4, 2015 for the 13th Annual Crusader Classic 5K Run/Fun Walk. You can register for the race online at

Following are more details:


ENTRY FEE AND REGISTRATION:  $25.00 pre-registration if postmarked by September 25, 2014; $30.00 thereafter, $15 for all children 18 and under.  $5 of each adult registration will be sent to the Semper Fi Fund. Make checks payable to Friends of Father Judge Inc. And if you can’t make it, feel free to make a donation.

All race day registrations will take place in the Father Judge school yardbeginning at 7:30am.  Event tee shirts will be provided to all who pre-register (and to race-day registrants while supplies last.)  Race numbers, shirts and information packet pick up will be on race day only in the Father Judge school yard.

STARTING TIME AND LOCATION: The band shell is in Pennypack Park near Welsh Road and Rowland Avenue at 9:00 AM.  Parking is available in the Father Judge schoolyard.

COURSE INFORMATION:  Race will begin at the band shell, continue along the banks of the Pennypack Creek and finish with a lap around the Father Judge track (behind the school)

AWARDS:  Medals will be presented to first through third place, male and female finishers in the following age groups:  14 and under, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60 and over; special awards to the first Judge student, first Alumni and first female.

For additional information and to register online go to:

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Pope Ride Rebound

“I’d sooner do without air than prayer.” – Mary Karr

Cyclists assemble at 30th & Market Streets for the Pope Ride.

Cyclists assemble at 30th & Market Streets for the Pope Ride.

Since the announcement last year that the man in the white cape would be visiting Philadelphia, the most asked question of me had been, “Are you going to see the Pope?” My answer for nine months was “No.” I mean, between the security, the traffic jams, and the crowds, I thought I’d sit this one out. Plus I saw Pope John Paul with my wife and firstborn, who was one year old at the time, when he visited Philly in 1979. That was pre-9/11, and we walked unimpeded on the Ben Franklin Parkway, attended the Mass and watched his motorcade from a distance I could just about high-five him.

IMG_0095But as the time drew near, my tune changed. I thought maybe I’d ride my bike downtown and see how close I could get and take in as much of the festivities as possible. And then my daughter texted me Thursday night and asked if I wanted to do the Pope Ride on Saturday morning. Well, yeah! I said. An estimated 2,000 two-wheeled pilgrims, many with makeshift Papal hats, some made of origami, showed up at 30th and Market Street for the ten-mile ride inside the traffic box where all motorized vehicles were prohibited during the Pope’s visit. There were once-in-a-lifetime sites, like the barren Schuylkill Expressway which normally handles roughly 200,000 cars per day, and pedestrians navigating the lanes of the Ben Franklin Bridge instead of cars and trucks. After the ride we stopped to refuel at a bagel shop on 20th Street and a parade of brightly dressed pilgrims from Nicaragua paraded down the middle of the street waving banners, playing instruments and singing. That is when I could feel myself getting pulled in.

Cyclists peddling north on Broad Street during the Pope Ride.

Cyclists peddling north on Broad Street during the Pope Ride.

Pedaling home through town and then out on Kelly Drive, droves of pilgrims passed me on their way to center city. The further I rode the thicker the crowd grew–hundreds, and then thousands. What made the biggest impression on me was the range and diversity of the pilgrims. There were elderly walking for miles with the aid of canes, and more than a few people in wheelchairs, children in strollers and carriers, even pets in backpacks. Really! Varied dialects sounded like the United Nations, many waved flags of their native countries, or wore shirts flaunting their colors. Families carried chairs, tents and coolers. People looked as though they were planning to set up camp and stay a while. It reminded me of the days I’d go to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, minus the beer. It looked more like people going to a rock concert than a religious celebration.

IMG_5324I’ve been a curious Catholic from an early age who practiced what could be described as a freestyle brand of Catholicism. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, or as the Pope himself said referring to homosexuals, “Who am I to judge?” Over the years I’ve attended Quaker meetings, Baptists celebrations, and practiced some tenets of Eastern philosophies like yoga and mindfulness. I’m not much for hypocrites. I will take someone who lives a good life over someone who talks a good life any day. And that, I believe, is why some one million people traveled from around the globe to see this 78-year-old pious man from Buenos Aires. They flocked to Philadelphia to get a glimpse of a religious leader who opens his arms to the disenfranchised; the man who after he addressed Congress skipped the reception luncheon and went to visit a homeless shelter; the man who visited inmates at prison before he came to the Parkway on Sunday afternoon to celebrate Mass. A leader who washes the feet of sinners, visits inmates, welcomes gays, and values diversity. The pilgrims came to see hope.IMG_0097

In a matter of days I went from having no interest in going downtown this weekend, to participating in the Pope Ride Saturday morning, to hoofing it across Fairmount with my wife on Sunday to attend the Papal Mass. The crowd was electric; the energy stronger than any I’d ever experienced at a music festival or a Stanley Cup Playoff game, yet at the most sacred part of the celebration you could have heard a pin drop on the Art Museum steps. Nearly one million people watched history on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway this weekend in the form of a spiritual man who showed us how to live like a disciple.





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Denial of Denial

“God is the denial of denial.” – Matthew Fox

My debates with atheists date back to late nights on the beach in Margate, New Jersey in the 1970s with my buddy Jackie. Fueled by cheap beer and rotgut wine we’d go at it long into the night, and regardless how vehemently he tried to defend theories on the universe creating itself, like the Big Bang, I’d cut him off at every turn with, “How about before that?” and drive him completely mad.

One thing I will say about Jackie and my many atheists friends is this: They are all curious, respectful, intelligent, helpful, and entertaining. I have learned a lot from them and each has enriched my life in some way. They don’t try to convert me to their religion of non-religion, and I don’t return them the favor. I respect their beliefs, as they do mine. What is clear is that each of them cares about and appreciates the world we live in–its people, places, mysteries. And that, I believe, is where we are more alike than we might admit.

I’m no intellectual, but when it comes to creation I rely on a guy who was a pretty deep thinker. Einstein said, “I want to know how God created the world. I’m not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.” I  figure if the guy who discovered the theory on relativity wants to know God’s thoughts, then I’m in pretty good company.

And when it comes to proof I look to aviator and author Anne Morrow Lindbergh who said,  “After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.”

And here I end with a Jack Nicholson quote, “You want the proof? You can’t handle the proof…,” or something like that.

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Understanding: Optional

“I don’t quite understand about understanding poetry. I experience poems with pleasure: whether I understand them or not I’m not quite sure. I don’t want to read something I already know or which is going to slide down easily: there has to be some crunch, a certain amount of resilience.” –  John Ashbery

Poetry Night at Fergie's Pub in Philly.

Poetry Night at Fergie’s Pub in Philly.

There was a time I would finish reading a poem and scratch my head, like, “Huh?” only to realize later, in a few minutes, perhaps a few weeks, that something touched me–an image, a feeling, or simply the idea of it just made me smile. I’m finding that understanding poetry is kind of like understanding life. Spend too much time trying to figure some things out and you’ll drive yourself crazy.

Leonard says that poetry need not be understood to be appreciated. That’s not an easy concept to grasp for anyone with a relentless need to understand even the most inane doings of life. I mean, your first instinct wouldn’t be to hug a two-hundred pound St. Bernard who just peed on your foot regardless how snuggly he appears wagging his tail at you and drooling.

Learning to appreciate irrespective of understanding requires a level of trust, and letting go–letting go of preconceived expectations about what an outcome should be and trusting the source, the medium, the art. In other words, resist your hard wiring, that which you’ve been conditioned to expect or believe. Matthew Fox says that when you develop the ability to let go, you can see the world as it is and choose a course of action without reactive judgement or projecting or overreacting. It’s like watching an artist or athlete engaged in a genre or sport you know nothing about and finding beauty in their talent, performance, emotion–their joy.

Appreciating life irrespective of understanding its every facet broadens your world. It enables you to experience things that enrich life. You might take a class in something you never believed you’d try, or have a conversation with someone with a completely different world view than your own.

Or maybe you will even read a poem, have no idea what it means, and really like it. It might even change your life.

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Live For Another Day

On this tragic day in our country’s history, we honor those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, as well as remember the loved ones of the innocent people who lost their lives that day.

I share with you two posts I’ve written about 9/11 over the years. The first about being stranded 3,000 miles from my family in Seattle, Washington, the day of the attacks:

My 9/11 Run

The second I wrote as a memorial to those who jumped from the towering inferno to their death:

Choice of the Falling Man

"Tumbling Woman" sculpture by Eric Fischl in honor of those who chose to fall to their death rather than burn in a towering inferno on 9/11.

“Tumbling Woman” sculpture by Eric Fischl in honor of those who chose to fall to their death rather than burn in a towering inferno on 9/11.

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