Monday, July 28, 2014

Running alone through the dark and back yard happy hours

A packed house is when I feel the most alone. Bar scene, packed house, music blaring, I am pretty well alone. Background noise to the forefront, sound becomes gray, I float on the outside of conversations. I've always felt the outsider.

But that goes back further than bars and crowds. Never fully identifying. Never knowing exactly where I fit in. I remember, high school era, four of us cruising in a car one night and our friend sitting in the back seat next to me looked around the car and said, "Check it out man, we've got a rasta, a skinhead, a longhair, and a... a... a Mike!" And at the time feeling like, well, shit, how come I'm not anything? And then realizing that that may have been the greatest compliment I have ever received. At a time when we were labeling, no label fit.

Among soccer players, I became a skateboarder; among skateboarders, I became a writer; among writers, I became a runner; but was all those things. The thing about it, is all those things, shifts, evolution, I don't know what to call it, happened without thought. It felt more like peeling off some other superfluous part of me to get to what was inside. And when I didn't think about it, it felt good.

But thinking. And man, I am guilty of chronic over-thinking. When I would sit and think about it, the end result was... alone. And Camus is right, if you make too much of defining happiness, you likely won't be happy; if you make the search for the meaning of life everything, chances are you aren't living.

So what does that mean for the outsider, the over-thinker, the stuck in my head? It means happy hour. It means go for a run. It means paddleboarding, skateboarding. It means find your niche, maybe.

Funny things can happen with time. And this came up in conversation recently, where at one point, feeling always a little outside, a bit different, standing within but not a part of the group, sucked, at some point it became the only perspective I wanted. It became what I dug most, that it wasn't any one group. It was maybe a group of one.

And even more odd, when that made sense, comfort in difference, you start to know yourself, and show yourself a bit more, you start running into other folks more and more like you. I think about our group of running friends. On a morning when we would run, I would start out from my house, running through the still dark. Over the next few miles, other folks are doing the same, running alone through the dark. And then we would each come into a familiar glow, the streetlight of the corner where we always met. And there would be four or five of us, together, running through the dark, smiles, conversations, questions, stories, sweat, soles hitting pavement.

And I got thinking about that more clearly the other night, at a back yard happy hour, celebrating/seeing off friends who are moving out of town. And I talked to the elementary art teacher about skateboarding, about Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian," and talking to the brewmaster about Liverpool, and talking to the physician's assistant about malt liquor and Camelbacks, and watching the photographer shotgun a craft beer, and watching all of our kids attempting to pole vault across the yard with bamboo poles, or playing soccer, or climbing on the swingset.

And I looked at the assembled group, the folks and families around me, and thought/felt, yep. That's it. I am not a crowded bar, I am a back yard happy hour.

And this may have nothing or everything to do with all this, but I read it this morning and it is stuck in my head. So now you can have it...

We live by tunneling for we are people buried alive. To me, the tunnels you make will seem strangely aimless, uprooted orchids. But the fragrance is undying. - Anne Carson, "Plainwater."

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