Tiger

It had been eleven years since he’d last won a Major. He had never once won a professional tournament in which he had to come from behind on the final day. But then Sunday came along, and though there were many players in contention, it seemed that none of them could quite handle the pressure of seeing Tiger Woods battling for the win on a Sunday. It had just been so long. And so each one made one mistake (or two, or three, or more) too many.

Tiger Woods in Masters champion again.

Back in 2015, seeing the shit-show that was Tiger’s career inspired Jerry and me to embark on a project that changed, and continues to change, our lives. Maybe some of that energy made its way to Tiger himself. We’ve set the goal to have him on the podcast, so someday we’ll get to ask him.

We started writing Training Tiger Woods that autumn. It’s probably time to go back and revisit all that work. If you’re interested in checking it out, start at the beginning and go chronologically forward. Here’s a link: Training Tiger Woods

My Lady, Notre Dame

June 1, 2018. On this exact spot, Eurydice asked, “Where is Notre Dame from here?” Behind her: the facade to Notre Dame.

April 15, 2019. My housemate asked if I’d heard that Notre Dame was on fire.

Paris is the most visited city in the world. Memories of Notre Dame are about as common as clouds in the sky. So why does this feel so goddamn personal? Is it ridiculous that I’m nursing a broken heart tonight?

Moments

When the moment arrives, how do I meet the moment?

It’s a powder day, and also I am tired. Both of those things are true. How do these truths intersect?

You and I are having a conversation. We are talking about important stuff. I am carrying with me the idea that later, I am going to write for a couple of hours. Do I have another beer, or not?

I was at a festival once when a man, deeply tripping, swung by on a current of energy and cried out, “Going with the flow is for dead fish! We have to steer this thing!”

I have committed my life to flow. So do I agree with him, or not?

These moments: which is the flow, and which is the distraction? Which direction guides me toward the truth of myself, and which moves me away?

Off-Season

Truth be told, I’m really looking forward to the off-season.

I’ve seen my skiing technique jump a couple of levels this season, but I’ve hit the limits of what I can accomplish without some serious gym-work. I haven’t hit the gym regularly since late 2017, and it shows. There are imbalances in my body that just aren’t going to improve without weight-training and, I suspect, a true yoga practice.

Furthermore, I’m finding it hard to find much joy in skiing right now. Today was a powder day, but still, it took me a couple of hours to find the right mixture of terrain, snow and energy to have fun.

My body and mind are tired. But what choice do I have? Skip a powder day?

Spring in the Mountains

This spring has a different flavor from any other I’ve experienced, because this is the first time I’ve actually lived in the mountains. Other springs, I’ve spent time up here, but I always had a home base elsewhere. As conditions at the ski resorts eroded, I would spend less and less time in the mountains.

But this year, I live here. There’s no escape. I’ve uttered the dreaded words, “mud season,” many times over the years, but this is the first time I’ve truly lived one.

And you know what? Spring is still spring. Snow is melting. The days are getting noticeably longer. The streets and bike path are clear of snow. The plows created huge piles of snow all over the place; those piles are substantially smaller now. And houses in my neighborhood, it turns out, have yards.

It’s not green yet. But I noticed that there are buds on some of the trees. I don’t know if people up here plant flowers, but I expect the wildflowers will start to bloom in a few weeks.

Winter hasn’t fully released its grip yet. Right now as I’m writing this, the storm we expected to hit today has blown in and it’s snowing sideways. Tomorrow might even be a powder day, and if so, I’ll tell my tired legs, “Buck up, little campers. We aren’t done yet.” I even suspect they’ll be willing to rise to the occasion.

Do Not Fight With What Is

Yesterday I said, “Bittersweet spring.”

And that’s fine. That’s what I feel.

But let’s not mistake what I feel for anything but that: what I feel.

I sometimes forget this–you too?–but what I feel changes. Yesterday I was lonely. Today I was pissy. (Or whatever.) Tomorrow will be something else.

I have feelings about spring’s arrival here in the mountains? Okay. Fine.

But spring will come, as the Earth’s axial tilt dictates it must.


I have been skiing poorly for the past several weeks. It’s almost like my legs are super-fatigued from skiing hard for so much of the season. And I’ve been so angry with myself about it. Two days ago, I had to fight to keep from screaming out loud, “Why can’t I stop SUCKING!?

So: I feel what I feel about how I’m skiing.

But what if, in fact, my legs are super-fatigued from skiing so hard for so much of the season?


This morning I tried to write this piece. I struggled. I fought with the words for a while, trying to carve the piece from the idea. It didn’t happen. I got pretty frustrated. Eventually, I went to do something else.

The words didn’t fall into place. I felt frustrated.

But could it be that maybe those two facts aren’t as connected as I have tended to want to believe?


The words didn’t come. My legs are tired. Spring will come and the snow will melt.

I have feelings about all of these things.

In each case, I may not like what is. Right? I’ve expressed frustration, anger, ambivalence about the passage of time. All feelings that I’d rather be replaced by other, more welcome, feelings.

But the things themselves are what they are, irrespective of what I feel about them.

What is and what I feel about what is are two different, separate things.

If what is is what is, then do not fight with what is.

Bittersweet Spring

Last week, I cleaned out my locker at ski school and returned my uniform. Yesterday, the mountain closed to the public for the year. Today was Employee Appreciation Day: the employees get the mountain to ourselves for the morning, and then there is a barbecue, and then we all leave and don’t come back until next year.

Everywhere else in the world, the coming of spring is a time of celebration. The grays and browns of winter give way to spring’s profusion of colors. Leaves return to the trees. We put away the long-sleeved shirts and bring out the t-shirts and revel in the feeling of the sun on our arms. When I lived in the Northeast, when spring finally came, people went insane.

In a mountain town, spring’s arrival is bittersweet. It’s always a little sad when the lifts stop spinning. All winter long, I revel in the cold. Now it is warm, and the snow is melting, and soon all the other local mountains will close, and I will put the skis and boards away for the summer, stash the jackets and gloves, and go do other things. Every year, the person on the other side of those actions feels a bit foreign to the person I was in the winter. It’s like, a couple of moment’s ago, I was the guy bundled in the green jacket, wearing a balaclava and tight hard plastic boots. I was that guy almost every single day. Now, I’m not. So who am I?

Perhaps oddly, I don’t particularly feel this way when my other sports’ seasons come to an end. I don’t clean off my mountain bike after the last ride of the year and feel like some part of me has ceased to be. I wonder what the difference is. A guess: there is no feeling quite like being on the mountain in winter. A snow-covered mountain is least hospitable to human visitation, asks for our presence the least, and so is at its most powerful. Sure, with our ski-lifts and technical clothing and of course the boards we strap to our feet that allow us to slide, we have largely overcome the mountain’s resistance to our presence, but still. When I stand on a winter mountain, covered against the cold, the sun low-angled to the south, the shadows long and diffuse in the wan light of winter, I feel my nostrils sting as I breathe in the cold air, and when I breathe, I breathe in the mountain’s power, and I am humbled.

The Anti-Agnes and the True Friend

One time, back when Free Refills as you see it now was just a glimmer in my eye, I shared a short story I’d written with a let’s call her “new friend.” This was years before there was a pile of writing that I could share with an Agnes. I didn’t even yet really understood about the very existence of Agneses. But the flavor of an Agnes was there. She was like, “Oh, you’re a writer? Can I read something you’ve written?”

I had finished the short story in question not long before. It was at the time the most ambitious thing I’d ever written, and I was quite proud of it.

Not only did this proto-Agnes not tell me what she thought of the story, she stopped communicating with me altogether. I ran into her at a party a couple of months later, and she told me she hated the story so much, she chose to stop talking with me over it.

A few days later, I shared what she said in an email to my friend Shane. He gave the equivalent of a shrug and said, “I liked that story.” That right there? That’s a true friend. Not because he agreed with my assessment that it was a piece of writing that I could be proud of, but because of the shrug. Like: That’s her shit, not yours.

Agnes Update

There’s a latest Agnes in my life. (I wonder: will she be tickled to see herself here, wrapped with my words?) This particular Agnes is different from most of the other Agneses in that she sometimes shares with me what she thinks of what she finds here, and that’s nice, you know? I mean, it wouldn’t be nice if she hated my writing, but then, if that were the case, she probably wouldn’t stay an Agnes for long, would she?

A bit of advice I’ve often seen given to writers is that you should direct a piece toward one person in particular; in doing so, the thinking goes, you can use your knowledge of what that singular reader cares about and enjoys to narrow down the infinite number of things that you might say about a thing. Certain details come to focus, others fade from view.

Unless I’m writing a letter, I basically never follow that advice. I pretty much write for myself. The best pieces, I don’t know what they’re going to say until I start writing them, so it’s not like writing for myself ruins the surprise or anything. When I start the zero draft, I don’t know where they’re going. That’s why I zero-draft. I start by writing something about the topic, and I trust that, through the writing, I will learn what it is I want to say. And I figure that if I write for myself and the piece pleases me–if I say something interesting, and say it well–other people will probably like it too.

But it’s genuinely kind of fun to know that there’s an Agnes looking over your shoulder. I’d hate to disappoint her, so her presence inspires me to keep my promise to publish, but that’s not the important part. Instead it’s the hope that maybe, just maybe, if I string the words together just so, I’ll delight her. Delighting an Agnes is a great reason to write.

On This Historic Day

I don’t often write about soccer anymore, because I don’t often watch soccer anymore; and I don’t often watch soccer anymore because:

(1) The dream I once had, of becoming a widely read soccer blogger and then turning that into a career as a widely read soccer writer, is, on the modern internet, no longer really a viable path, but also:

(2) I tend to watch sports as a fan, which is to say I watch my favorite team (or, in individual sports, player) rather obsessively, which has the advantage of giving me kind of a control group/experimental group way of seeing the game/match, but has the radical disadvantage of meaning that if my team currently sucks, I watch a lot of shitty games. In soccer, my favorite team is Tottenham Hotspur, and while they do not suck, watching them obsessively for many years taught me that modern soccer teams play too many matches, and even the young studs who make up the squads on top teams accumulate so much fatigue over the course of the season that they can fall way off their best. That means that, as past seasons wore on, I found myself watching a lot of sub-par matches, until a few years back I finally asked myself, “Why am I spending my free time watching low-quality matches that I don’t actually enjoy?”

But: Tottenham opened their new stadium today. The old White Hart Lane, opened in 1899, has been replaced with a new, modern, state-of-the-art White Hart Lane, and apparently Tottenham can make a fair argument to claim that it is the best soccer stadium in the world, which, as a fan, is pretty damn exciting. They played today against Crystal Palace, and I really couldn’t not watch a match that begins a new era for a club I do still love (if maybe not with the same unabashed ardent fervor I used feel, having been burned a few times too many over the years). I even pulled out my Spurs scarf, despite my belief that it is mostly unlucky; and I wore it as I watched, and Spurs won 2-0, and even as I write this I wear that scarf still, and perhaps when I go to bed I will put the scarf on the pillow next to me, because true random is not only not rational, it’s either borderline insane or stupid or both, but also

FUCK YEAH WE WON COME ON YOU SPURS.