Running Boston.

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BOSTON — The city was quiet.

The sidewalks were empty. The sun was luminous, reflecting off the Charles. The humming of traffic echoed off the concrete and against the exterior of Fenway Park.

It was a Thursday in April, three days after the bombs went off, and I decided I needed to run through Boston. I had arrived in town on Wednesday, to see a girlfriend, a vacation scheduled weeks before the annual marathon. But as I laced up my running shoes for a jog from Cambridge, just near MIT, to Back Bay, where the bombs had ripped through the finish line, the man hunt was still on.

I don’t know why, but running felt like the right thing to do. Whenever I hit a new city, I always like to explore with a pair of running shoes. You can feel the pulse that way; you can feel the way the neighborhoods connect, the way people live and work in a great American town.

So yes, I wanted to see Boston, to feel the sidewalks underneath my feet, to feel the remnants of the marathon. But mostly, I just wanted to see how the city was surviving.

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Forward in Boston

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I went to Boston last weekend because I wanted to see the marathon the year after.

Marathons have environments that defy logic. I’ve seen them in St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas and now Boston. To think: An event that considers its origin the death of a Greek messenger sharing the good news of a battle is equated with a party. But it’s true. Marathons have evolved from the necessity of Pheidippides, to the straight-business approach of most of the twentieth century, to block parties full of behavior that would be considered odd in about every other circumstance. Continue reading

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An ode to bad beers

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The bar’s shipment of PBR had not arrived, and I really didn’t know what to order. And they didn’t have Coors Original, either. So the top two beers I am most likely to drink were not options.*

*I know these beverage choices could not sound more hipster, but I promise I was drinking PBR before I knew any hipsters did. …AND I also realize that saying you did something before someone else or being in hipster denial are the most hipster traits one can possess. Damn it. 

Resultantly, on Wednesday night, I spent a solid minute looking at a list of beers that might as well have been written in Farsi because I knew nothing about the selection in front of me. I settled on what may have been a seasonal Sam Adams beer but pretty much just wanted to tell the waitress to pour anything of amber tint in a glass (except for the famous Sochi water) and I’d be happy. And I got to thinking, (and when I get to thinking, I often get to writing sprawling blog posts, so here we are): I have no clue how to differentiate beers and I don’t even have a preference for different tastes. Continue reading

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My most reliable rebounder

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For as long as I can remember, my dad always answered the phone the same way:

“Frank Dodd!”

It was his signature, the emphasis always put on the second syllable. “Frank-DODD!” From rotary phone (our house had one), to the years we installed a second line to appease my older sister (early 90s!), to the black car phone my dad installed on the floor of his 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis, it was always the same: “Frank DODD!”

These days, it’s an iPhone.

You should see it. My dad can do many things on that new iPhone. He can check Facebook, and “favorite” my Tweets on Twitter, and he can fire off a group text to his four kids. On Tuesday night, my dad’s 70th birthday, I was sitting courtside at the Baylor-Kansas game in Waco when the latest text buzzed in.

“KU was in control all the way,” my dad texted.  Baylor should be better!!!!”

(Yes, Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew takes heat from everyone.)

But for every tech upgrade, for every new year and every new phone, my Dad has always answered the phone the same way: “Frank DODD!” There is something friendly about it, something honest, simple and helpful

Something that feels just like him.

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Being in India

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The car accident was actually the perfect welcome to India. About ten or fifteen of us, fresh off the plane and jetlagged from twenty hours of travel, boarded a bus for a ninety minute ride from the Kochi Airport to the hotel in Thrissur. It was inescapable to not quickly notice that we would experience an eventful ride. Continue reading

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Best of 2013*: The List

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So every December, for the last couple years anyway, I’ve been compiling a list of my favorite songs from the previous 12 months: My year-end mixtape, so to say.

Now before we go forward, my list is a little different. And the ground rules are pretty simple. The list is not limited to songs from 2013 (or whatever year it happens to be). They can come from any year … with the following caveat: This list is songs I listened to A LOT in the past year. Some were old, most were new, but all meant something to me. And when I hear these songs in the future, I’ll probably think about 2013.

I’ve been passing out the mixtape for the last couple years, and this time, I’m sharing the track listing here. So enjoy.

1. “Providence” — Fourth of July

Year it was released: 2010

2. “Running If You Call My Name” — Haim

Year: 2013

2. “Afterlife”— Arcade Fire

Year: 2013

4. “Shadow People” — Dr. Dog

Year: 2010

5. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” — Drake

Year: 2013

6. “Letter From An Occupant” — New Pornographers

Year: 2000

7. “Cannons” — Youth Lagoon

Year: 2011

8. “Further On Up The Road” — Bruce Springsteen

Year: 2002

9. “French Navy” — Camera Obscura

Year: 2009

10. “Byegone” — Volcano Choir

Year: 2013

11. “Sunday” — Earl Sweatshirt, Ft. Frank Ocean

Year: 2013

12. “Then He Kissed Me” — The Crystals

Year: 2013

13. “Friend of a Friend — Fourth of July

Year: 2010

14. “Another Is Waiting” — Avett Brothers

Year: 2013

15. “Man” — Neko Case

Year: 2013

16. “Everlasting Arms” — Vampire Weekend

Year: 2013

17. “Elephant King” — Yellow Ostrich

Year: 2012

18. “My Face” — ACBs

Year: 2011

19. “Love” — Dr. Dog

Year: 2013

20. “Young Fathers” Typhoon

Year: 2013

Stuff…and not having any of it

For two weeks this summer I had to be a drifter. This transformation of lifestyle was driven not by choice but rather inconvenience as the lease at my old place ended on July 31, a full two weeks before the lease at my new place began. This is a common problem in State College, where I live as a writer, aka a conscientious objector of the real world.  Unlike in most cities, where I suspect these two weeks would be viewed as an obvious nuisance, State College has the perfect can-do attitude that turns any obstacle into an opportunity. This city, after all, ranks among the places leading this country in intelligence, as well as among the places leading this country in arrests for drunkenly stumbling into the wrong house at 4 a.m. (Ed’s note: The mayor would not confirm this last detail for me.) One of my friends opined, in fact, that bumming around on couches is a Hajj-ian experience for college town residents, an action that must be undertaken at least once. Over these two weeks I easily found refuge at two friends’ apartments and was even able to sleep on a mattress. There was no need for an extended stay motel or to browse AirBNB. Problem solved.

So the hard part wasn’t securing a free bed; it was figuring out what to do with my bed. WTF was I going to do with all my stuff? Continue reading

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The last match of James Blake

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I bought so many headbands in the fall of 2005. Not the 90s fashionable kind for women, mind you, the athletic kind. I bought a black headband and a Carolina blue headband with the white Nike swoosh, a red headband with the black Jordan jump-man logo and, knowing my taste in tropical colors, probably something neon yellow.

I bought all of these headbands because of James Blake. He had become my favorite athlete. Continue reading

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Coming to the (late) realization that “Garden State” really sucked

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In the summer of 2004, a few months before I entered my senior year of high school, I saw the movie Garden State for the first time.

This is almost 10 years ago now. Dubya was still in the process of running for a second term, the Iraq war was in its second year,  and the iPhone was still three years away.

And along came Garden State, a little indie flick that seemed predisposed to capture the morose and whiny nature of a generation of 20-something dudes in a post-9/11 America . It was also, depending on whom you asked, the “it” movie of the summer. And it reached this status for a number of reasons. It had a trendy soundtrack (more on The Shins in a minute), a young director (Hey that’s Zach Braff from Scrubs!), and it came onto the scene as an emerging internet culture greased the skids for a more friendly atmosphere for independent movies.

So, of course, I saw the movie that summer, and to put it one way, I was down with Comrade Braff and the movement. Garden State was cool. But it was cool in a way that the bands “Grizzly Bear” or “Sufjan Stevens” are cool. It was sardonic and darkly funny and sort of depressing and also greatly ambitious. But it was all these things … while still also maintaining a level of authenticity. Maybe it was cool because Braff was just a young kid that wanted to make a movie. And he did it. Or maybe Garden State was cool, because you saw it, and the rest of your high school hadn’t. Or something like that.

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Kansas City in the Summertime

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I was in the Crossroads on Thursday night. Drove down there from Johnson County with my dad.  Thunder clouds hung overhead, gray but not entirely threatening, and summer’s humidity snuck through the windows, which were cracked open an inch or two as the air conditioner blasted.

I love the Crossroads. Set a few blocks from downtown, this area has a Wild West feel. There’s enough grit and wide openness to imagine yourself in a self-sustaining enclave isolated from the glitz and rush of a city, but the tall buildings touching the sky in the distance assure you that everything you need is right here. Continue reading

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