November 7th, 2015
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would write about going forward. When I started this blog eight months ago, I wasn’t sure if it would be something that I would maintain, but there is something to trying to take everything in your head and get it on to a page that continues to be liberating. That being said, I am going to continue to stay away from politics and current affairs, I'm not smart enough to dive into that without getting myself into trouble, or having an opinion about something I don't know enough about. So I'll stick with my adventures and events in my own small world :)
On the 7th of November, Kelly's birthday, I went for a hike by myself to the top of Mount Marcy, the highest of the high peaks in the Adirondacks, the tallest point in New York State at 5,343 feet above sea level. At one point in our bike trip we were right around 10,000 feet above sea level and the Grand Canyon run took me to 7,200 and 8,060 feet at both trail ends, but I want to say Mount Marcy felt the tallest.
It was nine hours from when I left my car to my return. This was by no means the longest day of the summer. There were four days on the bike and the day in the Grand Canyon that were much longer and more physically challenging ordeals, but nine hours is still a long time. There is a visitor center at the Adirondack Loj, where I parked to get to the trail head. I was told by a few friends to stop in there, get the low down on directions and conditions. I did not do that. Instead I just sort of headed out. I signed in at the first registration hut and went into the woods on the first trail I encountered. I had a map with me of the whole Adirondack area which I quickly realized served no purpose. A mile into the hike I noticed I had dropped the map, I felt no reason to turn around and try to retrieve it.
So off I went. There is little signage at the start of the trail and at one point I had to guess right or left. I went right and about a mile later found a sign for Mount Marcy… that was lucky. There was a group behind me of four, my guess is they were most likely from the Montreal area given they only spoke French and appeared to know little English. They were jogging the early parts of the trail. I had just run and hiked 47 miles through the Grand Canyon in one day, and while I knew the injury I obtained while doing so was probably not as healed as it seemed, that pride kicked in and I jogged myself to stay in front of them. Things seemed fine for about two miles before the tendinitis in my right IT band decided to give me the old "go fuck yourself". Yeah, not healed. At this juncture it was decision time. I had gone about four miles, meaning I had another three and half miles to the summit plus the return trip, totaling eleven miles to finish. I pushed on slowing my pace to a walk, letting the younger group behind me pass and thinking this might give my IT band a reprieve. I only made it another half of a mile before I had tightened up to the point of having very limited range of motion in my right knee, but the trail was still fairly navigable in this condition.
I don’t know what drives one to push through physical discomfort, to take pride in overcoming it, particularly when you don't actually have to. For those of you who do follow my stories, I have had my tough moments but no more than, if not less than, many of you. I was born with a roof over my head and a family that has always been there for me. I never worried about food or if my parent was going to hit me. I never worried about the judgement of others about the clothes I wore, the job I had, the way I looked. I've never worry about if someone is going to bomb the area I am in, or shoot a bunch of people. So all these adventures and challenges, maybe they are my way of testing myself in a way that is not totally controlled. Entering into a challenge without total preparation, oversight, planning. It gives me a chance to see how I handle the unforeseen and every time I overcome something, I feel that much stronger, that much more alive, even if my leg is extremely uncomfortable, or I am beyond an exhaustion that I’ve never known before. One day I might be called upon to exercise these skills in a much more serious situation and I’ll have the experiences to draw on.
I made it to the summit of Mount Marcy. As I got closer to the top, people were coming down with crampons, full winter climbing gear and warning me about how icy the last few hundred feet would be. Yeah I was in trail running shoes, my right leg wouldn’t bend more than a few degrees, but I had gone this far. Shit, coming down was going to suck.
I’ll finish this part with saying that it is otherworldly up there. The vastness, the lack of any noticeable infrastructure. Just mountains, trees, land. Even with the wind hollowing and some snow falling, being cold and tired, you forget it all as you look out over New York State. I had Mr. Sock Monkey for the trip as always and I think he enjoyed the view also. Unfortunately he couldn’t share in my habitual victory snickers, stuffed animals don’t eat, but it was good to have him on the trip. Sometimes I think I should just get a dog, but what if he ate Mr. Sock Monkey while I wasn't looking? That would be no beuno.
I hope that if anyone who has followed all my adventures this year takes anything from them it is this. I acknowledge that I have certain attributes like my physical condition and genetics that allow me to attempt things that are well out of the realm of possible for others. To do the Grand Canyon run, I had to go 47 miles in a day. I had never run a marathon before and it was only four weeks previous that I had run over ten miles for the first time in my life, but I have built the level of endurance, both physical and mental, needed through other activities and by having good genetics. If you've been at a desk for the last two years and haven't run more than a mile or two at a time, do not attempt to go across the Grand Canyon and back in a day, that would just not be smart. I also will never attempt to play in the NBA or be remiss about not being good at basketball. I think we can all push ourselves in a meaningful way based on where we are now.
If there is one person in my life that I have taken much inspiration from in regards to this, it's my mom's sister, my aunt Careen. She has gone from walking a mile being tough to running her first half marathon this fall. A half marathon would be extremely difficult for me and I'm in some of the best shape of my life. I can only imagine how many times she probably got up and thought, no way, not today. But she's kept pushing forward and if you ever get a chance to meet her and talk to her, I bet she would tell you that there is nothing better than that moment of accomplishment, of testing your limits.
So I hope when I share these experiences that they are taken in the light of showing that we don't have to be special to go out and tackle something challenging and that dreams can and should be relative. That dream does not need to be physical either, it could be a multitude of things. There is no secret sauce to it, there is no special gene you need, you just have to get up and put one foot in front of the other. I would hope the more people see "average" people doing this, the more they recognize they can do it themselves. My aunt Careen did. She embodies what it means to be Ginger Strong in a way that I know Kelly would be so honored by, so proud of. It's also pretty cool that she's a ginger herself.
December 26th, 1919 to July 14th, 1998
There is a moment I had with my dad’s father that I will never forget. Sure to be embellished by my minds growth and change over time, but still a constant through the years. That moment took place at the very small white stucco house on Honeoye Lake where he and my grandmother lived. He had built the house himself, or so the legend goes, and I spent much of the summers of my childhood there.
I had this black fishing pole with this enclosed red reel. It had this large rectangular button on the reel that you pushed down to cast the pole. My brother and I would practice casting in the yard out front by the lakes edge. We would use a sinker at the end of the line for weight, but no hook, as that would have just got caught in the grass, or better yet, in one of us. So I remember this moment when my grandfather and I were fishing on his rowboat, a simple aluminum haul with a few benches and a faded green stripe painted around its outer side. There I was, bucket hat, black life jacket, big old red bobber on my pole with some fresh worms. I pulled the pole back behind me, pushed down on the button and gave it a good hard toss, always trying to cast it as far as I could. The top half of pole came removed from the rest of the pole though and quickly found itself in the water, sinking. What happened next is what I seem to remember best. My grandfather grabbed me by the back of the life jacket, pulled me over board and pushed me down to retrieve the ever slowly disappearing pole. I don’t remember much after that, whether or not I retrieved the pole, but I have to believe the top half of the pole was never at risk of really going anywhere. We still had the base and reel of the pole and there was a bobber on the line, we could have probably just reeled it in. But I survived the ordeal, and to this day I take pride in jumping into the fray.
Dante Seconi was 78 years old when he passed away from Alzheimer’s disease on July 14th of 1998. I don’t actually remember the date, but google did and there’s only one Dante Seconi that comes up when you google that name. I was eleven years old then, and my father and I flew down that summer to see him in New Port Richey, Florida. I remember the nursing home as well as an eleven year old can. It was nice in a way, but still sad. No one is living there because they are doing well. We got to walk around the home, I remember there being a piano and at one point someone was playing and some of the residents were dancing. I remember meeting a woman in her late 90’s, I want to say she was 98, but she could have been 82. She was painting with watercolors by a window in the back of the gathering space. They were small canvases, maybe 5”x7”. Her talent seemed impossible to me, I couldn’t believe there were people who existed who could paint that well. I believe we bought a small piece and that my parents might still have it. I remember going back into the home, through a hallway to see the room that my grandfather was living in. It’s all surreal at that age, you don’t know why at the time, but these memories stay with you. They are the early moments of losing your innocence. They come at different chapters for all us, with differing affect, but they come none the less.
So I had flown down with my dad, but I came home on my own. He dropped me at the airport and under a small amount of supervision from the airline crew, I was off to Rochester. I wasn’t the only young person flying solo either. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone under the age of 16 flying solo, and I fly a decent amount now. There seemed nothing odd about sending an eleven year old on his own from Florida to NY, but then again, I can’t ever remember my parents not trusting me with being responsible, even though they knew there would be times that I would fail them in upholding that responsibility.
I recall my grandfather having a hard time with who my father was, seeming to grasp at the idea at times, but only to lose it again. My dad would try to tell him who I was, but I remember him getting upset and that seemed to be the extent of it.
That was the last time I believe I saw my dad’s father before he passed. Again, at 11, I am weary of my memories and the certainty of events. I do not however, doubt the importance of those moments, we hold onto those memories for a reason, if not in complete accuracy of what actually happened.
I don’t remember my Grandfather with any negativity. I can remember other things, such as his use of the word Jackass whenever we played 500 rummy at the lake house, which makes me laugh. His large prescription glasses and polo shirts. I remember his love of golf and some of his other tendencies, but mostly I remember his hardness. He was a strong man with stone mason hands, and there was an aura of intimidation about him. I can’t ever recall him being mean to us, just stern and stoic in a way. There was a small oval wooden sign, with sailor like rope around it’s circumference in the porch area where we would eat and play cards. It simply read “The captain is always right”.
Dante Seconi was from a small town outside of Teramo, Italy, Born on December 26th 1919, he was 67 years and one day older than me, and we were worlds apart. I know nothing of his father or his life, nothing that would allow me to understand who he truly was, but when he passed away, many thought he had been too young and it was too soon. 78 years old, his mind and function stripped away by a disease we still have very little hope for. What made Dante, Dante, was gone before I had a chance to take it all in. 78 years old, 50 years older than Kelly and countless others. What does time really mean when it comes to the life lived? Why do we measure life this way?
February 9th, 1921 – Present
My dad’s mother is still alive, I went to visit her today. She is on morphine and had not been eating for almost a week. She lies in bed at my Aunts, where my Aunt cares for her, keeping her comfortable. She’s started eating some smoothie again, but it’s evident that the bed she lays in will be where she passes, that she won’t get up again. It’s been over 17 years since her husband passed away. I can’t tell you whether or not she has lived a good life just because she has lived a long one. I have no idea what life was really like in her youth, what it was like for her and Dante to come over from Italy and Sicily. I know bits and pieces told through other family members though, and based on those stories, I am more inclined to say life was not easy, that it was most likely well beyond a difficulty I will ever know.
I will remember moments with Dorothy, my grandmother, with fondness. She use to drink Old Milwaukee’s Best and her and I would play 500 rummy, a card game, for hours. There were times where she must have let me win, and other times where she would just crush me. I remember loving the game because I got to count. That probably sounds funny, but at the end of each hand you get to count your points, I just remember loving to do that.
We continued to play cards as the years passed, it was our thing. I don’t remember when the moment happened where she couldn’t play cards again. Thinking back on it, I haven’t seen her much in the last 6 years and it’s probably been at least 3 or 4 years since she’s had any recognition of who I am.
But she holds on, having moments over the last few years where I am told I might not see Grandma again, only for her to recover, albeit it not completely to her previous state of “well-being”.
I won’t be sad when she passes, which is not to say I will be happy, but I don’t think it will take much of an emotional toll on me, no more than her current condition has on me. You have few peers, if any at all, left at 94, and when your mental faculties that allow you to communicate in any sort of meaningful way are gone, what’s truly left.
I will be sad for my father and my aunt. While there mother is gone in so many ways, she is still here, and when that finality comes, you cannot belittle the loss of one’s parent, no matter what the circumstance. It is the closing of one chapter of life, a reminder of our own mortality, one that no one looks forward too.
What’s to be gained from writing this all down? To sharing it? So much of my life and countless others is consumed by sharing in some degree. The vehicles we have to share with, facebook, Instagram, twitter, our own websites, text messages and snap chats, what do we truly derive from them? I don’t think there is some inherent evil to what we call social media and what we share there, without it, we never would have raised the money we did this year in Kelly’s memory, but with anything we consume, we are probably best served by a balance and an open mind when taking it all in.
We all judge what others share, not necessarily in a pejorative way, but we look at photos or read comments and we add those to our assessment of that person, maybe we even comment back. These are memories in a way, and memories we get to proliferate into our own worlds, to create a lasting image of ourselves. Which brings me to the last thing I will share today. An excerpt from a book Kelly and I had started writing together.
When I heard news of her death, I felt numb. It was terrible, yes, but I didn’t have that heavy feeling in my stomach; my throat didn’t close up and my eyes were dry. Then I felt guilty because I had thought of her just the previous week – because isn’t that how it always happens? – When I realized we hadn’t spoken in years and thought, “I should write her a note.” And of course, I didn’t.
What wrecks me about this, what puts me in a dark place with dark thoughts, is that this is how the news of my death will be received by some people. A footnote in their lives. But what fucks me up even worse is how it will be received by those that truly love and care for me. How do you comfort them after you’re already gone?
My mother will bury me someday. Her daughter who never got to live a full, happy life. I’m supposed to be the one that dies peacefully in her sleep at an old age because she made all the right choices – never smoked, exercised and never did anything dumb like run across the subway tracks or shoot heroin.
Yet here we are. My mother will bury me someday.
When Kelly wrote this chapter I remember how tough it was to first read, but I was glad she had decided to share it. We remember Kelly for her smile, her strength her "Hiiiii!!!!" but its the moments, the thoughts, like she shared in the above, that I hope help us all realize that the range is in all of us, and that's ok. Just because you might see so much of fun and happy when people share on facebook and intstagram and other platforms, as my dad would say, we all put our pants on the same way, we all have tough shit to deal with.
We measure a life in time so often, but is it how a life should be measured?
Miss you Muppet,