The Tide Is Turning

Andrew and I stood on the roof watching planes fly through the clouds overhead like something out of a Tarantino film. “Man, what an amazing, relentless city,” he said.

I woke before the alarm this morning, slipped into my running clothes, strapped my iPod to my bicep, and ran for the gym. This morning was my first of six pre-marathon personal training sessions. How Yuppy, right? How New York City, hmmm?

I have run five New York City Marathons, five New York City Triathlons, four dozen half-marathons, and as many smaller races, with nary an iota of sensible training. I simply pointed myself forward, told myself (like “The Little Engine That Could”) that I could do it, and kept doing it until I was done. But as I passed my thirty-fourth birthday a few weeks ago, it was apparent to me that my stubbornness in the face of endurance did not scale. I have been sore. I have been injury prone. And I have loathed my workouts.

I have played guitar for fifteen years. Perhaps not surprisingly, I have never had a lesson. I’ve simply strummed the familiar chords, told myself (like “The Little Engine That Could”) that I could do it. Ten records later, I have. I’ve sung my heart out.

But. But, but, but. But I have hit a plateau. I have run my best marathon. I have made my best record. (You haven’t heard it yet, but trust me.) And nothing will help me grow stronger like saying, “I need help.”

I need help.

The trainer was great. I learned a lot, like how to breath properly, how to stand properly, how to run properly, and how to stretch properly.

I went for a quick run afterwards. The sky was deep blue. The air was clear. Turning north on Central Park West, Bono sang to me:

You can stash
And you can seize
In dreams begin responsibilities
And I can love
And I can love
And I know that the tide is turning ’round
So don’t let the bastards grind you down”

Right there and then, passing commuters and tourists, bankers and dog walkers, I nearly cried when he sang, “I know that the tide is turning ’round.” I’d never felt so alive. And I’d never felt so Hell-bent on growing stronger.

Andrew is in town to rock Katie Curic’s socks off. He plays keyboards in World Leader Pretend. The band is performing on The Today Show Friday morning. But first, later today, MTV News — aka yours truly is interviewing the band.

First, though, I interviewed my cousin. We’ve been talking music ever since I gave him his first guitar in 1990. So we repaired to my favorite UWS pub, The Dead Poet after work (MTV for me, rehearsal for him). There, bathed in neon and bad jukebox music, we discussed the art, the show, and the business with unparalleled fervor. Having been on the road with a Major Label Act for nearly six months, Andrew is witnessing the tension between art and commerce first hand.

“All of my friends have lost their imagination,” he said. “I don’t want to lose mine. I don’t want to stop imagining that we’re rock stars.”

“Remember, dude,” I said, putting my hands together like a closed book, “Imagination doesn’t have to be limited to one vision. It takes a lot of imagination,” I said, opening them slowly until they were wide open, “That it takes a lot of imagination to hold on to hyphenates: rock star, writer, film director, dude who video tapes depositions, husband, father, friend. That’s it, I think. That’s growing up.”

He looked at me a little puzzled, took a long pull on his Harp, and looked out the window at the young blonde that had captured his attention moments prior.

“Yeah, I hear ya’,” he said.

It hurts a little bit, all of this growing. I’m sore. I get teary-eyed. But I know that the tide is turning around. The growing pains are evidence.

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