It was cold, wet, and dreary – perfect conditions for my second run of the year. Still being cautious, with plenty of stretching, and just taking it easy, but I made it to the top of this hill and another without stopping.
Not fast, but I didn’t stop.
I think that’s a wonderful thing about running, that you can always slow down. Like, you’re allowed to just jog, shuffle, trot along. It’s still moving, and really what counts is just being out there.
Of course I want to compare this run to another time I did this route. Am I faster, have I lost my fitness after just three weeks of rest? Will I ever hit my goal of 1000 miles in 2019?!
There were a thousand photos I wanted to take on this run. Surrounded by empty corn field, crows on power lines overhead, houses sitting silent on top of a hill, fog rolling through the valley.
If I can’t show it, if you can’t see me What’s the point of doing anything?
from St. Vincent’s ‘Digital Witness’
So I just remember that if I only took one photo from each run in 2018, that’d be 167 photos. At the end of this year, this month, this week, I should have enough photos from my adventures.
Sweet melodies and lo-fi beeps and boops get me every time, so I’m stoked I came across Emma Winston via the Uses This website.
If you’ve been keeping up lately, you know I’m getting back into music writing a bit, so of course I’ve been trying to learn how other people are making music.
I write about 90% of my music on a Teenage Engineering OP-1, which is a kind of synthesiser/sampler/sequencer/miniature-four-track-workstation hybrid with its own teeny-tiny elf-sized speaker and a 16-hour battery life. It’s made by some awesome nerds in Sweden, and I lived on baked beans for a month so I could buy it and I don’t regret having done so for even one second. It’s amazing, and addictive, and limited, and powerful, and inspiring, and it goes everywhere with me.
Sometimes the best ideas come about when you’re not looking for the best ideas.
Sonic Cathedral, meanwhile, came about by accident after a couple of pints. Nat Cramp had been running a club night of the same name – jokingly billed as “the night that celebrates itself” – for about 18 months when he got chatting to Mark Gardener, frontman of veteran British shoegaze band Ride. “One night, after a show at the Bodega in Nottingham, I spontaneously asked if he’d let me release a 7-inch single for him and he said yes,” Cramp remembers. “I had no idea how to make that happen and I don’t remember having any particular ambitions to run a record label either. I’d just had a couple pints and thought I’d chance my arm!” Almost 15 years later, the label is still going strong.
“Nat Cramp had been running a club night of the same name – jokingly billed as “the night that celebrates itself” – for about 18 months.”
That “by accident” is the sort of thing we don’t hear enough. Instead it’s “I FIGURED THIS OUT” or “I FOUND A WAY.” And the fact that Cramp was doing a club night “for about 18 months.” Yeah, that’s a year and a half. Of “just” doing something.
For a long time I struggled with what I should do, or what was next? I kept strangling the universe for the answer, when actually letting go provided the answer.
And then, by chance, this video hit me square in the face tonight. Before, when asked the “so what do you do” question, I would spew a bunch of internet jargon and editorial speak, and zzzzzzz….
If I would have paid attention to work I was already doing “on the side,” and seeing that it scaled, was sustainable, and profitable, I could have started Close Mondays years ago.
For me, it just took the exhaustion of running the 10 mile Broad Street Run in May 2018 . I was fried physically, and mentally I wasn’t far behind. I had to put Skull Toaster (my baby at the time) on hold, and that’s when it hit me.
When I was a bit broken.
It didn’t come from meetings, cursing the heavens, playing around with some numbers on a note pad… it took being completely exhausted for the message to get through.
Like Cramp above, “just” doing a club night for a year and a half led to the next thing. Developing a running “practice” got me here. Because when running, I can’t scroll through social media for the answers. There’s no time for pity parties when running. There’s focus, and distraction, both at the same time.
I could focus on the running when running, and thinking about running, and planning for races. And running was also a distraction, something that pulled me away from the idea that if I just looked hard enough the answer would come.
It was about 50F on New Years Day, so I set off for the Paulinskill Valley Trail in Blairstown, NJ, a 25+ mile trail that was perfect for my first run since resting most of December (after hitting 801 miles for all of 2018).
I was up until 4am the night before, ringing in the new year with some lovely friends in NJ, and I fueled for this run with a few adult beverages, donuts, and nacho cheese deep. Perfect.
The trail was flat as a pancake, and just as spongy since it had been raining. My shoes got muddy, and my bones creaked a little, but overall this was a comfortable, easy run, just getting the body used to running again.
It was just about 30 or 40 minutes, nice and easy, out and back. Once I hit the waterfall at Paulina Lake (above), I ran back on Rt 94. I bore easily covering the same ground, and I really wanted to get a feel for running on the road again, and it felt great.
The best part was just being outside, able to trot along, and feel the legs moving again. This was certainly a nice setting to get back to that.
Jocelyn Aucoin asked a great question on Twitter today, and I’m writing a blog post about so it doesn’t get lost in the river of social media posts by tomorrow (here’s the link).
For me it was realizing that opposing vibes can’t exist at the same time.
If I listen to good music, and dance, and fist pump, it’s impossible to stress and worry, so now I just dance all the time.
Sure, I can’t do that 24/7, but I find the more momentum I build throughout the day, the less likely I’m going to fall into any evening funk, which reminds me of some other wise words:
I have a very simple rule that serves me well: Don’t think too much about your life after dinnertime. Thinking too much at the end of the day is a recipe for despair. Everything looks better in the light of the morning.
Ran into an old friend of mine recently, while they were home for the holidays. They’re a full time musician these days, playing for a pretty prominent indie-rock band, which is awesome. I played in two bands with this dude when I was younger.
But in our early 20s, while me and some friends ran off and got married and bought houses, this friend was couch-surfing in random loft spaces in Brooklyn before loft spaces became big money. He was just making music with friends, and got to tour a bit here and there.
“Lots of veggie lo-mein,” he told me, of that moment in time.
Now, some 15+ years later, he makes music for a living.
I think one of the things I appreciate so much about this song by VULFPECK is how close this feels to falling off the rails at any moment. Of course it’s a perfect take, and they most likely went over the song 18,320 times, but the degree of difficulty here gives me goosebumps.
Been messing around with some music production using Abelton Live, and finding some interesting characters on YouTube to learn from. One of them is Sarah2ill, and she’s great.
From Tilt #67 I learned of photographer Drew Kerr who was going to have an exhibition at the Queens Library, but it got cancelled, and raises all sorts of questions about censorship and art.
My first mentor taught me that it is OK to not know how to do something as long as I am willing to learn how to do it. Another taught me the value of “Dance like nobody’s watching; email like it’s being read into a deposition.”
When I go downstairs in our apartment and all of my recording gear is set up, it’s rare that I don’t at least come up with one idea. If I come back from a show and leave my guitar and pedals packed away, it takes longer for me to get back in a groove of practicing and making demos.
Listen to me talk with Matt Bacon and Curtis Dewar on their ‘Dumb And Dumbest‘ podcast, on the subjects of social media, marketing, internet metrics and more. Click below, or listen over at Ghost Cult Mag.
My continued distrust of Facebook
How I stared Buzzgrinder and Noise Creep
Building Skull Toaster from the ground up
How to build engagement on Twitter
Helpful books I’ve read
Let me know your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com), or leave a comment over at and have me on your show! Get in touch!
How do you handle a new thing? I recently bought a new MacBook Pro, my first new machine since 2014 (and 2009 before that).
I actually just got a new computer because my old one died. It feels like the first computer I’ve ever had as an adult. It has nothing on it, and every time I download something, every time I add something to it, I’m like, “Do I want this to be on there forever? Or do I just delete it?” I’m deleting a lot of stuff and it feels really good to keep everything clear, to have that lack of clutter.
My photos sit in the cloud, my music streams from Bandcamp and Apple Music. All of my important documents sit on DropBox or Google Drive.
That said, here are a few things I’ve installed on my new machine.
TextExpander: A few keystrokes and whammo, a string of text, a phone number, or a line of code. I use this every single day.
Spark: Holding my breath on this one, but this email app lets me export tasks to Tododist, snooze emails until later in the day (or any date I pick), and schedule emails to be sent (usually at 7am the next day).
Bear: A replacement for my beloved Evernote. Syncs wonderfully between Mac and iPhone, so I can bounce text and code between the two throughout the day as needed.
Todoist: I’ve tried OmniFocus (just too much), and Things (pretty, but I can’t make it work for me), but I’ve fallen hard for this minimal, stripped down to-do app.
Abelton Live: Bass riffs become loops, all easily recorded and sounding great. I only have the Intro version, which works fine for now, but could see upgrading in the new year.