Monday, January 31, 2011

Art Opening for Cody Justus-

Caprice Bistro will host an exhibit of paintings by Cody Justus in the upstairs Sofa Lounge gallery. His explorations of “internal structure (and) external surface” are visually powerful, pushing his painting-constructs off of the wall and into the viewer’s head, provoking questions on the nature of raw material versus finished product.  The paintings vibrate with color and texture, these equal forces arguing and commingling in shared spaces, pushing the clean & tight against the rustic & weathered.  Yet the non-objective canvases remain dynamic, united, a testimony to his intuitive sense of design. A holism is preserved in the work.  I have seen three paintings by Justus, and each piece conveys a wide knowledge of art history and art creation.  First impressions brought associations of Arte Povera, where construction of the piece,the physical elements (raw, unrefined) and their manifestation, was paramount over the ultimate image-composition. Ryman and Stella come to mind, with Ryman’s painterly white surfaces enunciating the hardware of a piece, or Stella’s funky canvas-constructs breaking traditional frames and forms of canvas.  Even Albers could show up in Justus’s understanding of color, which is superbly developed but subtle.  Ultimately, Justus’s work is his own, soundly independent and self-sufficient, impossible to cross-reference into another artist or school of thought. The dialogue of his materials is his own creative voice.  His canvases convey an intelligent presence, and he will surely create a lively dialogue of paint and material, of internal and external, of plasticity versus volume, and produce a fine show out of his explorations.  The opening reception will be held February 3rd from 6pm to 10pm.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Visions, revisions, momentum of a thing. . . .

Visions & Revisions.

Walked by a brick wall, an older building yawning in its form, a downtown alley of fractured concrete and bulging bricks where thick-iron braces mount whole levels of 1800's architecture. . . the slight curve of the walls, cement patches tearing into fissures, seams, the age self-evident and aesthetically charmed, the inevitable yield to gravity, and I was passing towards the Cape Fear river and the inky churn of her day's angst. Knots of vine dangled by thick wires while beneath the tangle of electric city and wild-growth nature, a buildup & breakdown of paint in the rough face of the deep red bricks, the wild calligraphy of shapes told an interesting story. Layers of texture, testimony, bird shit, faded mural ads for coca-cola and shaving cream, signage for long-departed hardware stores, tarred pipes piercing the walls, the gallery of scars that is Front Street. The notion of layering and delayering, deconstruction & reconstruction, work acted upon work with rebuilding and restripping, the way Life is. . . how history embeds itself in the visual. . . and this meditation became a reclaiming of my image-repertoire, became a rekindling of visual thought and work, the new tendrils & roots pushing tiny fingers into the earth and air and water, pushing energy into the cycle of creativity. What a friend calls the “Momentum”.

(Meanwhile Dvorak's string cycle “cypresses” and what a full-sound suite.)

Excavation, this is the word I revisit, that I find myself confronted with, again. The word & the idea, Excavation, even a canvas by de Kooning, has reentered my vocabulary. To unbury the Self from external exploits and submissions, the stripping of false layers, of excess, the onion layers of Being. To re-examine Identity, what constitutes the I of the moment.

1.25.11  Slagging out on the trails of poplar grove plantation. . . . rain & cold air worked against the run, but nothing like Sunday's 16 miler. Sunday's run was a fury of wild, clumsy labor with wind beating ears and face, traffic ripping mind back to thighs and knees, eroding all determination. . . . today's run felt fast, felt fluid with long strides and higher knees, red legs burning with the pleasure of the work, short trees beat percussive in large rain, the quick dodge of puddles and the fast lean into slopes, the trails unwind and whisper life into lungs, restful eyes, unstraining, easy. A mantra/ visualization presented itself during the run: a mindful passage where I enjoyed the earth propelling me, the earth of the trail pushing my kicks into easy mud-full scoops of sole, was a direct positive collaboration, the earth and my body, a reconnection, an understanding, a union. Reminiscent of a meditation from years ago: inhale, feel the pull of air come from the soles of your feet, from beneath your feet, sourced in the earth, the breath entering the body from soil and what is beneath the soil, feel the pull as the grounding part of breath, soul inhaling soul, then blow your deep-colored earth into the air as white vapor, as light, as void, quietude. The cleansing cycle of breath carried the run, naught left but the earth, the rain, the run.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rant & Pant, WRRC Survival Run 2011.

Sartre chokes on his own smoky words while Vegh String Quartet saws and hacks Beethoven’s Grand Fugue, opus 133. Now considered a canon of string chamber music, the piece was initially rejected and ridiculed, forcing a re-composing of the fourth movement.  Wonderful irony of histories.
Lately, while running, i've been aware of my degrees of spirituality as I attempt to judge whether ego is consuming my runs.  And during a 12 miler at greenfield park last Thursday, the source of my ire revealed itself: the materialism of running, the culturally dominated aspects of the runner, the classic external definitions of what a runner is, that is to say, the cultural ego pressing me into paces that steal the landscape, steal the joy, steal the deeper momentum of a run.  I have unearthed my mythologies, exposing them like earthworms to the sun: the body type, the clothing, the pacing, the jaw and thighs and attitude and all of the demands society makes on even the most beautifully solitary of Acts (not so unrelated to the Act of painting or drawing or writing).  anyway, running claims no ego, and no ego drives me other than the fact that i think running makes me a better person, mellows out my temper and stabilizes my mood as any meditation may.  Unfortunately my creative ego struggles against bloated senses of self, and that is why the image-repertoire is currently barren and rocky, like an aesthetic object devoid of use.  But below is the rant that ensued after the run.

Billboard Life:  From Beauty to Banal. . . and sometimes it is the materialism that gets you, that removes you from the Core, depletes the Passion, gets you into the Label and the newest new, the most progressive progressions, swipes the ideal of a moment, robs the momentum & loses the meaning.  the pure Act becomes mired beneath peripheral aspects, against marketing plots, the collective sheep-song of consumerism. or the beauty of a thing becomes an obsession, a demise of itself, a self-devouring Bosch-form. . . the dreadful neurotic race that everything becomes.  Decay of american passions.  Guerilla capitalism. Van gogh’s delirium.  How something beautiful becomes a commercial exploit, a bark for power, an angle into profit: magazines stuffed with advertisements, marketing-strategy essays on dead artists (profiting living dealers), commercialized & mass-market painting (the Global Image), the namebrand artist or the omniscient namebrand society.  airbrushed runners on glossed covers, uberman mythologies embedded in every article, the gear and more gear and more ads about the gear.  the ongoing cannibalism/ consumerism of Politics. Renting out God.  Communions of breast of vulture in sauce of rotten teeth and fouled essence of what-can-i-get-from-you. Fuck that. Give me a farm, a community, and a chance at something Higher.  Give me minimalism and alchemy.  Give me arte povera, a monk's wooden beads, a raspy psalm.  Whatever.  Give me the eternal, seeded Core.

1.16.10   Sunday morning,  a  nine mile run with the folks from the WRRC, the 2011 Survival Run.  Was a real jackrabbit deal, the nine mile trail twisting back from Carolina Beach State Park into unknown areas where white sand was frosted with morning dew, steep sand-cliffs overlook picture-perfect Cape Fear drifts where lazy sails caught a slow breeze, onward through massive sand dunes with black needles webbing against brown brush (a natural drawing, an environmental happening), running right through the center of a live oak circle, into Sunny Point and the fantastic stretches of woods with complete silence and more sand dunes into the underground brick tunnel of rebar-laced cement, a bunker of busted chards, with lithe, quick steps across graying concrete chunks where shrubs shove out between, then passing through sharp dry grasses, reeds sweep knees, thigh-high with dry-scratch sounds on each piston-push, Marley’s “Hammer” providing the rhythm for the knee lifts (kick on the downbeat) and then 1.4 miles of road to the community center of Kure Beach where everyone congregated for a delicious and voracious breakfast of scrambled eggs & pancakes with coffee.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Winter Interlude.

Miles & melancholy, 1.10.11, Bach’s cello suite, gray morning with pale snow, coffee like mahogany, and the lugubrious drift of Monday morning mind.

And towards the end of the winter storm, slow snow tumbling and stray flakes recycling in wind, ky began his afternoon nap and kas hunkered down into work. The window swirled with the strange weather and the idea of a winterstorm run was born.  Thus went on the trail shoes, a bright yellow top, shorts and their pockets filled with et cetera and cell.  Blockbuster was mapped as the destination, 7.5 miles for the out-and-back, the right distance for the day, and into the snow I trekked.  Navigating the road's shoulder became the deal, with capricious jolts of movement visible in the tracks left behind, the alternating cold of feet and thighs, the expressions of a random passing driver, the strange emptiness of roads around UNCW.  Ebulliance of motion. Inner-laughter became outer laughter as I passed a group of students working on a snowman. An angry-faced man in camouflage ripped a beat-up pickup into a turn where I paused, waved a neoprened finger.  Arriving at the midway point, the deep warmth of blockbuster was almost lustful, was an embrace of mansuetude, allowing a luxury of stillness.  Selections were made and wrapped, and I stretched back into the pale green-gray afternoon, where freezing rain and sleet and wet feet replaced the store’s heat.  Simple endurance of Cold became the theme, a darker deal, Man versus Self which is Nature, trudging onward. Emotionalism passed into work as cars passed and weather pulsed and legs numbed.  Only the journey matters in such lunacy, the completion of the passage, kicking Market street’s oiled slush and trusting shoes and strength-of-ankles to anchor upright the body on the next hidden-ground thrust.  Parking lot ice-lakes, the asphalt mires where freezing rain bounced and dappled, shocks of cold against muscle, traffic rips diagonal against the path, legs beat & tread, beet-red, and sweat and sleet meet as one slices through the smell-less air, rain pulsing on cheeks and shoulders, gray light deepening into labored breath and tense back and the countdown of miles ticks off.
Then, the final passage pulses by the smoking chimneys of my neighborhood to Home: my numb wet face smiling at my wife who smiles, laughs a little.  That was the proud mad moment, the climax of the deal.  We each bellied up to a meal of rare pleasure, steaming bowls full of chicken breast simmered in a gravy of hot, buttered curry, sopped up with a hunks of crusted bread and clean rice. Honied and peppered chai at the table with her, the movies no longer relevant, really never were much more than an excuse for the errand, and Ky awakens, starts his languageless songs from his crib.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Two running narratives. . . legs & language.


Thursday morning at Carolina Beach State Park, a gray coolness, a faint sun, hidden & dull behind clouds; a winter run on a winter day.
Ky and Kas left and I finished my coffee and a muffin.  Pulling into shorts and a warm top, I plugged in some Antibalas and faded into a strange sadness while driving to the park, a heavy gravity that I can only correlate to a family member’s surgery (achilles tendonitis). . . . maybe the winter funk that ebbs and flows like a collective melancholy is to blame.
The park was quiet in a flat lusterless light as clouds rolled in on cooler temperatures.  Rare sun moments layered the winterscape on mostly empty trails as my legs pumped across the blue blaze that connects the main office with Sugarloaf Trail. The sand was thick with strong, wet grips yanking at my shoes, shins splashed in cold mud as I stomped through puddles collected from the earlier rain.   The mood and conditions were challenging the very idea of the run.  The trees seemed dwarfed, brittle, elderly, hanging in the air like black smoke burning off of the ashen coals of the exposed sand. An inevitable eventuality, the state of the trees.  Eventually, slowly, my legs loosened and my eyes relaxed into the landscape.  An interesting pale, spongy moss sprouted along the side of the path, and looked for evidence of pitcher plants or venus fly traps (which I believe are warm-weather perennials). My ears zoned into the morning stillness and the cool air sizzled in my lungs and face.  A few dead ends forced abrupt turnarounds, but I allowed myself to run in new directions and follow sand roads and unmarked trails, trying to experience something organic, unmeasured, wild.   Something fresh and open, like a moving satori.  But mostly I found myself running, just running, the hoof-digs pulsing against strained breath, thoughts dispersed and fractured.  Sugarloaf was a nice reprieve though something nostalgic filtered the landscape, remembering states passed in which I viewed that landscape.  The sand mountain.  The poetic dynamics in the act of Erosion.  I looped the trail a couple more times to add up to seven miles, hitting no brilliant times nor any exceptional insights.  Ultimately, just a run, the work of the run, and sometimes that’s enough, and sometimes it is not.


A run at the beach. . . . today was a good run at the coast, returning to one of my favorite seven mile out-and-backs, from Landfall to the Loop including Summer Rest Trail on both legs.  I ran with my lungs open and my mind reeling, avoiding pace concerns, avoiding expectations, and trying to be engaged in my run.  Few people were out on the sidewalks and roads, though Starbucks was packed with folks. WB park was vacant. Two ducks were busy searching for fish, diving beneath the bridges, and they were amusing and serious.  Pelicans pushed heavy beaks into the wind above a choppy ocean chewing the shore.  A moment of sadness descended as I passed the shell of the retirement home, recently closed, along Summer Rest road.  The sun brightened as I sprinted my way to end the 52 minute run at a 7.2 minute pace before a two mile walk with my very grateful dog and some GlobeTrekker on public television.

What was I doing one year ago?  I was starting this blog.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lung Distance Logs IV e Feliz Ano Nuevo 2011.

A 39 mile week ended 2010, and a wonderful week of running it was.  The sum of total miles for 2010 is lost somewhere in my journal, the thread of addition lost and never replaced, but ten months of running put the last count (in early November) at 1233 miles.  Six weeks of Spring/Early Summer were lost to patellafemoral pain and funk, but most of the year was healthy.  ~1450 miles is an honest estimate for the year's total, and a proud personal accomplishment.

Poverty, Richness and 2011.

The first day of 2011 passed across the pine-needled trails of Poplar Grove Nature Preserve, four miles of joyful smooth running.  After a slammed week of work, with late nights and complex schedules, the noise of holidays, rampant consumer binges, heightened stress and lowered rest, the trails brought spiritual nourishment, brought the freedom and quietude to a still synergy.  The lake was still, fracturing the reflections of winter trees with delicate touches on the surface.  The trail ran easy, my forefeet, ankles and knees, thighs and then the hips finding a good pace-play.  A few sprints peppered the legs and opened the faucets.  A family and a few couples hiked around, dogs lulling behind, and there were two runners talking as they passed.  But most of the run found me alone with my pace, my breath, the vast fields rolling towards the sand dune coast, and a prayer of Gratitude along the clay and grass.  Nothing otherwise to note, except how fully synched Marley’s “Hammer” seemed when I returned to the car.

Sunday the Second was my long run at 15 miles.  The alarm vibrated my pillow at 6h11am and my wife breathed deeply beside.  My legs were curled into my abdomen, a strange sleeping pose, the residual imagery of a dream falling away from my mind, and I lifted my body.  The total act of movement via hips, stomach, shoulders, was like a series of pulleys, with muscles counteracting, such as a crane's motion against a heavy wrecking ball.  Eventually I pulled up my weight.  The coffee was brewed, a cherry yogurt ingested, a Gatorade was mixed, and I pulled on shorts and a brand new singlet for the unseasonably warm morning, tightened my laces.  By 6h55am I was latching back my fence and humming Marley, trying to keep a mellow pace for distance, aiming to hit the sunrise somewhere near the water.

Darkness yielded to fog, which dominated the landscape as I approached the coast, about four miles into the run.  The sunrise was more of a gentle waking of the land, a radiance expanding across the fog and earth.  I turned up Wrightsville and crossed onto Airlie, the prettiest part of the journey with manicured gardens, open fields, red barns and ancient trees.  Airlie was sfumato, suffused by the heavy air, and neither the horses nor their meadows were visible.  Grand oaks reached like burnt bone over the narrow, empty road, their gnarled limbs powering majestic and stark into the fog. An easy drift of thought, a language-sketch of the terrain, continued until I turned the sharp corner into the ICW.  The misted light fell shallow on the glassed waterway, elevated boats caught flattened light on their sides; short piers jutted into the silver intracoastal like terse, poetic afterthoughts. It was a clean and fascinatingly new landscape.

Somewhere around this area was a group of runners, the Wilmington Road Runners, meeting for a group run. I never saw the mass collecting on the road and couldn't remember the address of the meeting, and my hopes of merging with them failed.  Also, I was wearing down, too self-conscious.  Some of the best talent of our area runs with the WRRC, and I am not an impressive runner on any level.  So I crossed the bridge, continuing into the quiet beach morning, and pushed down the bike track onto the coast.  My breath harmonized with the ocean, her choppy white froth, respiring wheezily into the fog.  No surfers, no other pedestrians were visible.  The beach was a milk-wash of fog.  My mind was operating independently of my body, homeostasis like a glide, giving a stream-of-consciousness prayer for the blessings of 2010.  At Johnny Mercer's Pier I pulled back into the loop towards home.  Soon came a mass of runners in three formations, curling off of a side road onto Eastwood, and it was the WRRC, heading the opposite direction and looking fresh as daisies.  Horses galloping.  For a moment I felt pride at sharing the Sunday morning road with these runners, and I kicked as best I could, avoiding narrowly a collision with a few of them who had their heads tucked. The fog was clearing to a strong warm sun, and I finished my run with an okay pace and a positive spirit.

Views of ICW from Airlie Road ~8am.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2012 and 100k and the aleph.

i.  a series of loops, like a 100k.  

The body, the mind, the soul, the collective operates in cycles, layers of cycles, cycles of cycles. . . a World of habit and rhythm. And, most days, I mosh into that patterned existence with a heave/ho and a belief that my labor matters. a faith preserves & propagates further effort.  a momentum drives the body forward. Be it stillness or movement, the body internalizes habit, learns and adapts, becomes its routine.  thus, the running shoes, a notebook, a dose of music, a few starchy strides down a trail before the loosening.
sometimes, the collapse. The sag, the lag, the lull.  and for now, i feel tired.  enter the taper period of the weymouth woods 100k.  extra sugar in my coffee, a gravity on my bones, a brood.
i operate best by instinct and momentum.  i train (run, paint, write) to build a collaboration of instinct and momentum, and by repetition i sharpen my instinct and strengthen my base.  i progress towards an efficient exertion (whether in paint or language or trail). the body is a momentum, subject to itself, a god-form, a sovereign diety. when the run feels natural, when a mark falls easily, a zen inkbrush moment, when effort is impulse and reward, then you have the core of the work down.  then, you have the alignment. its an aleph of existence when a body cuts through the woods in its own strength, a communion between a runner and the earth, a primitive dance, the pursuit of a new language, a mark. 
To be present in the body's habits, to move as life moves, elusive and calligraphic, and to be engaged- even in routine- is the trick. 2011 was a fine year, thus 2012 begins with the same ideas: to get up, check my head, kick some miles, slow the angst, boil out some pigments and language and nurture the belief that the acts of life, as a continuum, as a narrative, will one day prove to be a coherent form. Otherwise, the vacuum of an existential conundrum: nothing but vast, void inquiry. pernod and cigarette whisps across sartre's nauseau.  i need action:  distillation of act, a distillation by Act.
it is really only when i succumb to easy running, complacency, the Glaze, that i bust my ass on a trail.  if i am tired, but conscious, i slow down to allow for sluggish footwork.  but if i am mindlessly milling, eventually, the ground will steal a kiss.  this has happened several times in the previous month to teach me valuable presence of mind.  it normally follows the thought, "i am running well today."  concentrate on the trail and the body will follow; concentrate on the body and you lose the meaning.   

Kicking. A word of several meanings (maybe) but I can really only focus on two. Kicking in street terms is derived from the involuntary flinches of the legs that comes from a narcotic withdrawal. The leg muscles cramp and ache severely, causing a kicking reflex. The stomach muscles and the heart muscles also constrict and spasm- all the muscles of the body revolt, a horror-bask. the gruel.
the other use of the word is running. Running is a cleansing act. A meditation in movement, a transcendental thrust, time that forces the mind into a nexus of awareness and response, faith and function. Running forces the coordination of mind and body, a belief in their collective aptitude.
running a trail is an act of self-confidence and faith and fitness, all conspiring through a funnel of physicality. 

much libido in the early miles-- craving followed by satiation-- there was massive drive and the knowledge of body, exploratory burn, the capture of touch, layers of mouth and breath, fever, primal moutheyes, hunter ears, heat of pulse, gravity, a soul cascades through a body, an eternal hush, the final limp comfort.
there was a newness of flesh and a celebration thereof. 
in truth, sexiness falls from later miles.  peels back like chafe.  libido devours its own suffering minutea and digests it towards a solitary echo, a vague thought.   the sex longs but there is no more body.
it is a common theme.


To completely reinvent myself.. . . the refashioning might include a buell motorcycle, a glock sidearm, and a wolf named wittgenstein. maybe an obsession with old coins and the alamo. i would register my own constellations.  i would consider the weight of a pillow, how it affects a dream.  i would grow a rat tail.  i would not bother running trails in sub-30 degree weather. i would find the absurdity in running 100k on a trail sufficient to avoid such an endeavor. i would meanwhile cruise on my steel horse and laugh into the wind and chase bears with wittgenstein, referring to the capture and wrestle as a tautological process.

But as it stands, ten days out from my longest race ever, the weymouth woods 100k trail run confronts a dull, tired, flat-minded runner that has little concept of the new year beyond that trail race. the miles have collected like cataracts across my eyes.

iii.  the present.
training eases into a taper. a full taper is not my body's deal: lethargia stones me if i completely stop running. so the runs shorten, slow a bit, switch to nontechnical surfaces, a way to push blood around the legs, keep the momentum of movement in the muscle.  pedaling the surly through a january afternoon becomes a primary exercise, a pleasurable break.
meanwhile, the mind accelerates into doubt, arrogance.  but little more preparation can be accomplished.  it is meat and bone and the results of the conditioning. taper is an easy time and a hard time.

What the body has on race day is the question, the big culmination. marley, wyclef, culture, kronos, dead kennedys, rage, schubert, bach, goat rodeo. nutrition is settled to include gels, fruit, electrolyte beverages, pb&j, protein bars, trail mix. Coffee. things are in place.  i have envisioned later miles, new world miles, and tried to adjust my head for them.  i have a spotlight and a pair of tights.
i have considered tom simpson. 
For now, I am tired and watching kyote play with trains and flash cards.  its 10 in the morning.  the cycle must be free to move, must be free to layer and build and burn.  the act must remain pure, must have weight, ground & gravity, like a painted figure, like a late beethoven fugue, like a passion. there will be myth and collapse and renaissance. a self-devouring.  for me, weymouth is more than a physical run, its a mental/spiritual process.