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.

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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

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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.

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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…

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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

Almost Heaven

“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” – Sylvia Plath

It all began with a 1,000′ climb to a mountain ridge on the Appalachian Trail, a 35 pound backpack strapped to my back. My buddy Ed and I descended five days later and 70 miles south in Duncannon, PA with lacerations, sore joints, and drank many cold beers. In between we encountered boulders, hills, valleys, rattlesnakes, rocks (PA as a reputation as Rocksylvania to AT thru-hikers) and a monsoon–pouring rain, high winds, thunder and lightning.

IMG_0004_2

On the final evening as dusk settled in I realized that Ed and I had been separated. We were in a dead zone (no cell phone towers) so had no way of communicating. He could have been one mile or five miles behind me. I set up camp, hung my hammock, and chilled in the mountaintop breeze before sliding into my sleeping bag to saw some logs.

The most common question I’m asked when I tell people about my ventures is “Why?”

“Because,” I tell them, “when I lie in my hammock before the sun goes down and look out over the valley, I feel like I’m on top of the world.”

Susquehanna River from my hammock as I fell asleep

Hammock view of the Susquehanna River from the Appalachian Trail.

The expression on their faces tell me they’ve never done such a preposterous thing, and they don’t quite understand. So I try another tact. I describe to them what I saw when I stuck my head out of my tent the next morning.

“I do it to get a glimpse of heaven.”

Susquehanna River when I woke.

Same view of the Susquehanna River when I woke in the morning.

I know they will never get it, so I concede, “Well, it’s as close to heaven as I might ever get.”

Almost heaven
Almost heaven

Turns out Ed set up camp about 300 yards behind me.

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The Enduring Art of Ray Ferrer

“Intuition is seeing with the soul.” – author Dean Koontz

"Intuition" is a creation of  New York City spray paint and stencil artist Ray Ferrer.

“Intuition” is a creation of New York City spray paint and stencil artist Ray Ferrer.

I began following Ray Ferrer and his art work after he commented on a blog I posted in 2012. The more I learned about Ray, the more impressed I was not merely by his art, but his versatility and humanity. Ray was a genuinely good and caring person. In December 2012, I wrote about Ray competing to have his work exhibited in Time Square. His images ran the gamut from Jack Nicholson to Billy Holiday, Bob Marley to Einstein, and from ironworkers eating lunch on an I-beam high above the streets of New York City to a joyful child swinging on a tire swing. But it was the work he named “Intuition” that hooked me for its beauty, innocence, and because it reminds me of my granddaughter Carley.

Early this year Ray’s wife, Rhian, found him in bed suffering from a seizure. He was rushed to the hospital where they discovered a massive tumor on his brain. Ray continued his work while fighting for his life, a testament to his optimism and will to live. He posted a blog in early February titled “Watchful Eyes” which was the first work he created after being diagnosed with the tumor.

Sadly, I returned from a hike on the Appalachian Trail yesterday to the news of Ray’s passing. My heart goes out to his wife Rhian, Ray’s loved ones and all of his fans. I am honored to have gotten to know this talented artist and wonderful human being.

The beauty of art is that it endures, and Ray left the world with a vast piece of himself through his paintings. Visit Ray Ferrer – Emotion on Canvas to read Ray’s story and to appreciate his art.

Artist Ray Ferrer with "Watchful Eyes."

Artist Ray Ferrer with “Watchful Eyes.”

 

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