Handlebars and Running With Barry

The Author Enjoying Some Marathon Spectating | Photo: Jessie McCarron Private Collection

Week 2 of Movember is underway, and the ‘stache is still thriving. It was marathon weekend, this past Sunday, along that same vein, I’m sharing a story about mustaches and running.

I first wrote this story in August of 2008. Here it is again, rewritten in past tense. The above photo is from last Sunday and is for reference, only. Unfortunately I do not have a photo of myself on the date of the events described below.

In the summer of 2008 I was living all of the way uptown in the north end of Manhattan, a neighborhood called Washington Heights. While there were many aspects of the neighborhood that I didn’t prefer, a major silver lining was the very proximate access to a paved foot trail that shoulders the Hudson River. This trail is excellent for running. I worked some crazy hours back then. For this reason (and to beat the heat), I would typically wake up super early to get my running in. The summers were awesome for this, since it starts to get light around 5 AM.

One particular week that August, the lack of shaving for a ~10 day period had my mug looking pretty shaggy. I would like to blame it on the crazy work schedule, but in reality I just hated scraping my face with a razor. One night after work I decided that it was time to get rid of the impromptu beard. With the clippers, I shaped my whiskers into a handlebar mustache just like the one in the photo above, before hopping in the shower for an evening rinse. My main objective behind the partial trim was to get a quick laugh from my girlfriend at the time, in which I partially succeeded after her initial shock wore off. I turned in for the night with intentions of shaving cleanly before work the next morning, but not before taking an early AM run down the west side path.

I woke up during the dawn twilight. Totally forgetting about the trucker ‘stache, I quietly slid into my running gear without turning on the lights, as not to disturb my still-sleeping lady friend, promptly headed out the door and hit the trails. After a short distance, I saw a couple of my friends  from the neighborhood (also runners) coming the opposite direction. They curiously started cracking up when they saw me. I was confused for a sec, until they complimented my handlebars. This is a fairly common phenomenon for me. To this day, I often times totally forget what my facial hair is doing unless I’m either looking in the mirror or being reminded by a third party observer (a random mom shielding her kids from me on the train, etc..).

About 10 minutes following the encounter with my friends, I spotted a quirky looking, late-middle-aged guy running in moccasins which appeared to have duct tape on the bottoms of them. He had stopped to remove a dead rat from the path, good Samaritan-style, which he did briskly picking it up by its tail and tossing it into the bushes. Upon witnessing this, I immediately thought “oh man, I need to talk to this guy.” After disposing of the rat, he continued jogging southward, where I pulled along side and struck up a conversation. I learned that his name was Barry, he was almost 50 and that he lived in my neighborhood. He told me that he had read about the Vibram five finger shoes which made him curious to try barefoot running. For safety reasons, he didn’t want to go full-barefoot, but also didn’t want to spring for the relatively costly Vibram shoes. Instead, he invested in a $10 pair of K-Mart moccasins. He had resoled them with duct tape when the original bottoms wore through, and it apparently worked well enough that he just continued to apply new layers of tape as necessary.

Another curious fact that I learned from Barry is that in his youth he was an avid runner, inspired by Prefontaine. He told me that he had stopped running as a young adult, but picked it up again recently after adopting his minimalist approach to footwear. I was having such a great time running with this guy and learning all about him, that I ended up going about 6 miles with him, and ended up doing about 5 miles more than I had originally set out for. I was bummed when I finally had to bid farewell and turn back towards home. I thanked him for the chat and said I hoped to bump into him on a future occasion to continue our convo.

Solo again, I headed back uptown. I was musing about what a big deal Barry had made of when he was a youngster idolizing Prefontaine. Right about then, a random person coming toward me from the other way shouted “sweet ‘stache!”, again reminding me of my temporary nose duster. After hearing the stranger’s compliment, I put two and two together and realized that Barry must have assumed, based on my mustache, that I too, was inspired by Prefontaine. For the record, I was/am.

20 Years

The Author, Autumn 2002, Doing Laundry Between Class, Reading el diario in an ode to “Stop That Train”

This week is a personal milestone of sorts for the “Jake” of Jake.News. It marks my 20th year as a resident of The Empire State. This realization was thrust upon me a few days ago when I received a letter from the DMV advising that it was time to renew my NY driver’s license. The sincere, yet curt letter went on to state that, this time around I would not be able to simply log into my DMV profile and pay the fee online to renew. Further, my friends at the division of motor vehicles, in a round-about way of telling me that I was getting really old, implored me show up in person and take a vision exam in order to extend my driving privileges. I figured that since I was going to have to make the personal visit, I should probably get an updated photo. My current DL photo from 2002 shows me wearing that same early aughts Fred Durst (or worse) looking chin beard as seen in the photo above. So, yeah… I woke up early one morning, put on one of my finest collared tee shirts and rolled over to the Division. I was happy to see that the State of New York is still employing the same photo booth tech from 2002. The rest was a blur (though not literally, because I did pass the vision exam). I’m told that in a few weeks’ time, an updated NYDL showcasing my salt & pepper bearded mug will land in my mailbox.

Thinking back to August 2002- I has just completed a cross country trip in a U-Haul full of crap that I had deemed as really important, but that in retrospect should have actually just been thrown out/donated before I moved. On a trailer behind the U-Haul truck, I had towed a beat up second-hand A4, 6-speed that I loved and kinda wish I still had. I was finally permanently extracting myself from the social safety net of my childhood and adolescence. It was extremely liberating and terrifying all at once. I had a pretty good handle on west coast culture at the time. However, the east coast was a complete black box to me. I knew there was a lot of important stuff going on over there, which is exactly why I needed to check it out first hand. I’m getting a bit into the weeds.

Back to the point- I can actually still remember the first time I walked into a New York DMV. I was aged mid-20s. Thought I knew everything about everything, just like every idiot recent college grad, right? That’s what I try to tell myself anyway. When my newly minted NYDL arrived in the mail two decades ago, to me it was tangible evidence that I had committed to figuring out what NY was all about.

The Author, Summer 2012– Mirror Selfie Whilst Eric Kosten Stands Directly Behind Texting on Two Phones at Once. Camo Shirt Guy: Nick-Something.

Completing 10 years in NY seemed like at big deal at the time. Right or wrong, I started referring to myself as a New Yorker around that era. My chin beard had thankfully fallen by the wayside about 8 years prior. I had, by then, spent the majority of my adult life in the city. The global economy was still recovering from the ‘big recession,’ and I was splitting my energy pretty evenly between lawyering and photography/writing. My age and accompanying maturity finally allowed me to realize how little I actually knew about anything. In turn, it also allowed me to admit to myself that I had made some massive mistakes in prior years and finally start working through the arduous process to correct course. The liberating result of those efforts have culminated in what was sort of a personal golden era. Part of me wished those times could have stretched out indefinitely.

Fast forward another decade– 20 years in NY seems like a lot less of a big deal than I would have guessed. Just kinda seems like I have always been here. I still make mistakes (publishing this post might be one of them, haha), albeit, I would like to think that they are less frequent and less large scale than some from the years of yore. It also feels like I’m in the middle of another personal golden era, which I’m doing my best to maximize and extend for as long as possible. I’m very glad that I made the decision to move to New York. If I wait another 20 years to retake my driver’s license photo, it will probably be my last one!

The Author and Spouse, 0.5 crappy iPhone Selfie, Summer 2022


February 2019 Playlist

While my monthly playlists usually consist of mostly new music interspersed with a few throw-back tracks, this one takes the opposite approach. This decision was a product of few different experiences that I had during the month of January when I was compiling the playlist. First was a BBC essential mix I heard that was almost exclusively old disco tracks from the late 70s and early 80s. Next was the fact that so many of my regular spots in G-point play great rock. January was a big going-out month for me and I really soaked in the stuff that I was hearing. It made me realize that I don’t listen to nearly enough rock these days when I’m selecting my own jams.

A lot of the stuff that I was hearing while out and about was material from the era that I grew up in. I dropped in some Mad Season and Jane’s Addiction to this month’s mix. Both of these tracks elicit strong nostalgia of my high school and early college days. I had to mix in some Radiohead as well. Rock was really the first genre of music that drew me into music as an artistic media. So in a way, I’m starting out 2019 with a kind of “back to my roots” playlist. Of course I also included a couple of recent releases. The two that I’m mostly vibing-on are the new Bonobo track, and the new Rufus diddy. I also included the latest Chemical Brothers release. Even though they were more late college and law school for me, I’m happy to see that they are still producing high quality material. So I included their new track “MAH” even though it doesn’t really mesh so well with the rest of the songs. Anyway, enjoy-