Monday, September 17, 2012

Thank you, Louis Simpson

Tonight's news that the poet Louis Simpson had died returned me to the second floor of the Shaman Drum bookstore in downtown Ann Arbor. Mr. Simpson was giving a poetry reading, but I was in attendance for a purely selfish reason: My professor, who had brought Mr. Simpson to Ann Arbor, had selected one of my poems and that of another student at Eastern Michigan University for Mr. Simpson to read and critique.

A Pulitzer Prize winner … reading my poem … and then giving his thoughts on what I had written. I was puffed up, ready to hear Mr. Simpson praise my poetry as the ripplings of the literary world's next tidal wave. He must, he would say, read more.

And in Ann Arbor, to boot. This was not Ypsilanti, or even Detroit. This was the center of the academic and free-thinking universe, as far as I was concerned.

Perhaps he would call me "the next Allen Ginsberg." Perhaps even Ginsberg himself would call after he and Louis Simpson discussed me over coffee in a chic cafe in New York or San Francisco or while they strolled along the Seine. ("Al, old pal, I came across this kid in Michigan who will make your 'muscles big as a vagina' howl!")

As I've described the critique to friends since then, Mr. Simpson savaged my poem. Ripped it. Left no word unscathed. He played Sherman to my Atlanta.

"Overwrought" may be one of the words he used.

I should have been upset, but I wasn't. "How many people get their poem ripped by a Pulitzer Prize winner in front of the literary elite?" I told myself.

I fear that the words of poetry's next revolutionary leader, written during and for a few years after that class, unfortunately have been scattered in one of my many moves to, within and from Michigan, Prague and San Francisco over the past 25 years.

Perhaps Mr. Simpson's death is a sign to start writing poetry again with a clean slate.

Regardless, in remembrance of Louis Simpson tonight, I say thank you to Mr. Simpson and to my professor, Lawrence Smith, for the opportunity to be shredded by one of poetry's best.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I hate shin splints

I'm trying to concentrate on writing a short blog post, but it is difficult when NBC is broadcasting the women's synchronized diving competition. I never knew there was synchronized diving, but then the camera keeps showing what appears to be a hot tub every time the Italian women are in it. Tough to keep my focus. Anyway, today I went for a run for the first time since running in Wisconsin on July 5. My right leg was in pain all that night and it really didn't let up for a couple of weeks. It hurt when I slept. It hurt along the shins. It hurt along the calf muscle. It hurt when I walked. It … hurt. Well, it was shin splints. The best thing to do was to rest. And buy new shoes just for running. I used my old shoes for running, walking, working out at the Y, bike riding, hanging out -- everything. But Saturday I bought new shoes, Brooks Beast 10 is what they're called, and my feet and legs love me for it. I have flat feet, and I've had seven knee surgeries, so I shouldn't be playing around. Now I'm not. Benny and I walked to Kezar Stadium today. With the walk itself, my leg felt better. Benny and I ran six laps around the track, stopping after each lap to assess how we both felt. He was fantastic, finishing each lap at least a minute ahead of me. At home tonight, my legs still feel good. Now if only I had a hot tub with the Italian women's synchronized diving team.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Confessions of a (new) running addict

I flew to Boston last week to cover a biotech industry convention. I always look forward to the annual gathering -- the only only out-of-town, work-related trek I get to make each year -- but this year I was excited about something more: Running in Boston.

After nearly 47 years, seven knee surgeries and the discovery of a heart murmur, I have become an unlikely running addict.

Mind you, I run like an old man. It takes more than a mile into a run before my knees stop sending nasty messages to my brain. Even then, I must consciously work on relaxing my muscles -- all my muscles -- so my body doesn't go on strike in mid-stride.

I've even hit a couple of At-One-With-The-Universe moments, when my mind sees clear of any obligations and the running is easy. That lasts about a half-mile.

I record my routes on the RunKeeper app. I track all my workouts on, which creates mini-competitions, either with others or with one's self, to spur workouts.

I joined one of Fleetly's challenges -- run 100 miles by the end of the year -- in February. I started on the treadmill, not even hitting a mile. By mid-May, I completed the nearly 7.5-mile Bay to Breakers run in San Francisco.

Now I want to do more … more … more. I made an appointment with my doctor to get her opinion on whether I could/should increase my running, especially considering the heart murmur. She sent me for a stress test. I'm having some blood work done, too. I have no doubt that everything is fine: Just checking.

My goal is to run a half-marathon yet this year.

While waiting for the stress test and lab results, though, I didn't want to miss a step, so I found a couple of routes to run while I was in Boston. I ended up running two of the four full days that I was there for a total of about seven miles, mainly along the Charles River. The total would have been greater except for the 97-degree heat that translated into 70 humid degrees at 5:30 a.m. on two of those days.

I ran on our family vacation earlier this month, taking a short, two-mile jog around the beautiful Oregon Gardens, and a slightly longer route in Cascade Locks, Ore., that took me across the Bridge of the Gods into Washington state. When visiting family next week, I'll run in Wisconsin.

Years ago, I didn't have to train to run 10 kilometers in my native Michigan.

So, that will be Michigan, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, California, Oregon and Washington. Only 44 more states to go.

Yeah, I'm addicted.