Tag Archives: Sam Cooke

“And Just Like The River, I Been A Runnin’ — Ever Since!”

[Continued from July 31, 2011]

But who knows just how long we’ve all been running.  I haven’t been watching the mile markers:  They’ll only make me psych myself out.

It’s all in mind, you see.  The game — is all in the mind.  The race, the run, the marathon.  So, I rein mine in:  I don’t judge other humans — and I don’t compete.

This sport — is in the very doing of it:  You against you.  And if you do it for the love of you — you’ll go farther, and longer.

This City — THE City — has taught me that.

Speaking of THE City:  We have now been unleashed into Her.  After warming up and hydrating us quite plenty in the park, the masterful, gracious hosts of my first half-marathon have opened the gates — and straight onto Haight we go.  I have been watching my breath until now, while running through the park:  It’s a resilience thing.  But here is where it skips, I must say.  I’m breathless:  This City — is a vision!

The locals have spilled out onto the streets once designed by someone with unreasonable imagination:  Families, youngsters, couples — of all shades, shapes, ages and sexes; teenagers in want of inspiration or curiosity; children with dreamy eyes, and dogs — with confused ones.  Funky descendants of hippies that have long ago migrated here:  They’re beautiful boys with long hair and girls with compassionate faces.

“…V to the izz-A!” Sean Carter starts hollering into my ear, from my running playlist.  “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 8th Wonder of the World!”  Yep.  This City — THE City — deserves no less!

Lovers in various relationships have been watching us from each other’s embraces or from the opposite windows of their half of a hexagon rotundas.  A lonesome woman timidly smiles at me, from her second floor balcony; and in the midst of her sadness, I think:

“When was the last time she was found beautiful?”

“Beautiful!” I holler up to her, simultaneously with “H to the izz-O!”.

At every intersection, every traffic light, the San Francisco policemen and women remind me of volunteering Hells Angels; and they do one of two stances:  Either they root themselves through their black-leather-bound legs (they’ve got this!). Or they pace while swooshing their gloved hands through the air in the direction of the finish line.

But who knows just how long we’ve been running, and how much longer we’ve got left!  Who knows — and who the hell cares?!

A glorious family of six has taken over an island in the middle of a street — all blonde, tall, and boho-chic — and they have been extending their hands into the avalanche of runners crashing down the hill.  I haven’t greeted that gesture yet, from anyone:  It’s a resilience thing.  But the youngest of the family, standing at the very end of the island, like the broody teenager he is supposed to be, shakes his tousled surfer curls out of his face and studies me with his blue-gray eyes.

“Looks like Joseph — my future son,” flashes across my mind.

Joseph extends his hand, right in front of my womb — and I tap it.  His hand feels dry and callused, belonging to the young man that he is supposed to become.

A symphonic tune begins winding up and Bono comes in, screeching:  “At the moment of surrender, I folded to my knees.”  I tear up.

Soon, my baby-boy.  I shall see you very soon, back in this City:  THE City.

An older couple is jogging slowly.  I wait for a reasonable gap in between them and I pass:

“I’m right behind you,” I hear her say to her man.

“I’m not going anywhere!” he responds.

Who knows just how long we’ve all been running.  I haven’t been watching the mile markers:  It’s a resilience thing.

At every water station, I soak up the faces of the volunteers.  I lap ‘em up, actually, drink them all in; and regardless that “resilience thing” of mine, I make sure to thank them.  The very specific, very studious boy with dreadlocks who is sweeping the plastic cups from under our feet, the crunch of which has become my own mile marker:  He extends his free arm to salute us with a victory sign and doesn’t crack a smile.  This is no laughing matter here!  This is THE City:  United!

The Asian boy that has handed me water:  While I find my mouth busy with the sensation of it, I thank him with a kind tap over his heart.  He grins.  He’s wearing braces.

A brown girl gives me both of her cups, then pumps the air with her fist:  Power!

Here comes in Nina Simone, right on time and perfectly poignant, as always:  “Yeah!  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,”  My steps are liking her rhythm.  Take it away, you goddess!  And, oh, how she does! Alright ye!”  

I pick up the pace.

An aging small man is jogging calmly with an aging small dog trailing right behind.  They aren’t in any rush.  They’re just doing their thing.

A woman with some handicap affecting the evenness of her stride:  You do your thing, love!  You do your thing!  And don’t EVER let anyone treat you inconsequentially!

The two young men in nerdy knit hats are in the midst of a chill conversation:  Awesome!  I pass ‘em.

The two poster boys for what health looks like up in the Bay are strutting their surfer bodies along the Embarcadero:  Breathless!  I pass them too.

“It’s just the way the game is played!  It’s best — if you just wait your turn,” RiRi is right on top of me.  I think of my brother.  He calls me RaRa.

The gossip spreads:  The finish line is ever so close.  Very close, somewhere past the bridge.  My calves are feeling like they’ve taken over half of my body weight, in blood.

Still:  I pick up the pace.

Past the cowboy offering swings of vodka on the sideline.  Past the flamboyantly dancing chicken suit.  Past the gentleman jogging in a pink tutu.  Past the girl running with a pair of fairy wings on her back.

Past, past, past!

Past the wide-eyed boy looking up at his mother with complete worship.  (Joseph?)  Past the little girl running like a girl along her mother’s thigh.  Both are wearing matching t-shirts that say, “RUN LIKE A GIRL!”

And who knows just how long I’ve been running; but suddenly, there is some sort of a tilt — a bump on the road, a hill — and:  I see the blue banner of the finish line.  No longer do I feel half of my body weight in my calves, in blood.  Neither am I any longer aware of my playlist.

Here.  We.  Go.

I leap.  I fly.  I zip, in between.  I zoom.

Faces!  Faces!  Faces!  Screaming the name of their beloveds — or just screaming.  Beautiful faces!  Breathless City!  THE City.

Past!  Past!  Past the lingering jogger to my left!  Past the ambitious, athletic honey to my right.  This is it!  I am here!  In.  THE.  City.

I cross the line.

And although I haven’t been watching the mile markers (and I have yet to see my end time), all of this has been for the very doing of it and for the very love of this City — THE City!  My gratitude floods in.  Or rather, it has never really left me, 13.1 miles ago.

In the name of the sport, we’ve all been running for a very long time and committing our personal feats of courage:  It’s a human resilience thing.  And, yes!  It has been completely worth it!  And so has this City.

THE City.

A Change Gonna Come — Oh Yes, IT WILL!

“The world has no idea!” she said last night, her jet black eyes sparkling with reflections of the caramel candlelight with which the bar was illuminated.  “The world had NO idea of the responsibility that comes with being a woman!  And the beauty, and the intuition, and the struggle!  And the weight, and the…” — (she paused for long enough for me to overhear my own heart’s whimper) — “and the awe!”

Oh you beautiful girl child!  You magnificent survivor of your own destiny!

She was one of those exotic, smart girls.  Barely in her mid-20s, with a face constructed from genes of some ancient culture, she sat at the bar last night and — get this! — read a book.  Only V, in her younger days, would pull shit like this.  But that was just it:  The hunger of her mind, the refusal to compromise her vocabulary, the fieriness of her still idealistic beliefs, her stubborn love for humanity, and the religion of her kindness — all that reminded me of myself.  In a funny-kinky way that only life can think up, this younger version of me appeared at an unexpected time and place — and with that very higher grace that insists I should never give-up on living, she guided me to the next chapter of my own self.

I am now living, my comrades, in a visceral anticipation of change. The recent survival chapter of my life has so obviously expired!  There was a heartbreak, followed by brutal lessons of self-discovery and a painful birthing of forgiveness.  But that’s over now.  There is a new art in my life.  A new art and a new love.  But that doesn’t mean that today, there is no suffering; because the choice of living as an independent woman and a self-made artist is a loaded one.  There are still survival jobs that eat my time with their tedious nonsense.  Frequent disappointments in the lapses of human goodness, in acquaintances or occasional strangers, still scratch my heart with metallic claws.  This year’s coming-out as a writer who publicly reveals her word has, unfortunately and unexpectedly, been one of the harder lessons my life has offered.

Yet, still, my beautiful witnessing comrades:  It HAS been worth it!

I bow down my disheveled head in recognition that despite all the pain and loss and disappointment; despite the horrific, border-line criminal offenses that I’ve suffered at the hands of others; despite my own poor choices and embarrassing missteps, my life — has been magnificent.  And the main reason that I carry on (despite an occasional temptation to give-up on it all and retire into a commune of Tibetan monks) is because it continues to change.

Sometimes, change comes in as a storm, hitting me from all angels, tangling me up in my own hair and nerves, and confusing me about the functions and the origins of gravity.  Other times, it slips in gracefully and non-violently, like a San Francisco fog, reminding to hush-up, and to breathe and bear:

“It’ll all work out,” it promises.  And somehow, I believe it.

This oncoming one — is the quiet type.  With the very follicles of my skin, I can feel its approach.  It tickles with excitement and; only when I’m alone and this town’s exhausted children are asleep, it scares me, ever so little, with the proposal of the unknown.  Alas:  A woman’s intuition!  (My intuition, I’m convinced, lives in my uterus.  When shit ain’t right, it raises its sleepy head from my ovaries that it uses as pillows, and, like a quirky, misbehaving child, it starts to raise havoc.  Off it goes, swinging from my tubes, and nibbling at my gut, and playing patty cake with my diaphragm; and if I continue with my Dumb Bitch act and refuse to listen up, it then sits down into a lotus position and observes the consequences with a sardonic smile.  Because that rascal — is always right!)

But just maybe — and just maybe for this first time — I am not going to brace myself.  Instead, I’m going to strip myself — of all the residual dead weight — and in the nude form, while my unbound breasts bounce to a tribal beat, I shall chant for courage and grace.  It will be painful, I know; and there will be losses to count at the end of the battle.  But in the end, I bet there will be a discovery of my own upgraded self; and I bet — she will still be worthy of the serious yet innocent girl-child I was always meant to be.