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‘I Don’t Know What Else to Do. So I Run.’

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In this poignant piece for Outside, longtime runner Christopher Solomon considers loss and the body’s inevitable decline as he recounts how his father helped him fall in love with running, what running has meant to him over the decades, and the injury that stands between him, daily roadwork, and the peace and joy that it can bring.

And when the Colonel decided that his three children should also love running, it was more decree than suggestion. Other neighborhood kids had to take out the trash for their allowance; my sisters and I ran for ours.

The conventions of memoir dictate that we must have hated our father for this—our own Great Santini. But my sisters and I adored him, and we adored running. I grew up an eager if unexceptional athlete; my medal haul from years of competition would not fill a soap dish. Those early decades of running shaped me, though. At day’s end in college and then later, as a young writer, I laced up. Having run almost every day since childhood, I rarely found the act too unpleasant, even when I was pushing along at a decent clip. On these runs, something curious always happened by the 18th minute. The ragged bellows in my chest grew less insistent. The chaos of arms and legs settled into a rhythm. Thoughts from the day—­current arguments, past heartaches, the sentences that resisted being pinned to the page—drifted past as if on a conveyor belt. I reached out and picked up each in turn, considering it from different angles.

These runs rarely produced thunderbolts of insight. But by the time I got home, with streetlamps flickering to life, my brainpan had been rinsed. The world felt possible again. For me, these runs were almost like dreaming.

When the wheels start coming off an athlete’s chassis at middle age, the big surprise isn’t that it happens. It’s that you, me—we—barreled along so blindly for so long, not seeing that the road ahead was really a narrowing one-way street.

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The Overdose Video: America’s Latest Genre of Horror Film

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Drug addicted people passed out, actively overdosing, have recently become the subject of police and amateur videographers in America. The lurid footage — often including the children of the drug addicted for heightened effect — gets posted on YouTube and other social media channels and naturally invites the cruel, nasty, mean-spirited comments you’d expect from an anonymous online mob ready to judge without even a cursory understanding of who the user is or what they’ve endured thus far.

Capturing video of someone at the worst possible moment of their lives sure seems like a gross indignity and invasion of privacy, and as Katharine Q. Seelye, Julie Turkewitz, Jack Healy, and Alan Blinder report at the New York Times, the public shaming and humiliation has had mixed results in encouraging the drug addicted to get help and get clean. The videos do have one lasting effect: a source of shame users’ children will have to endure for the rest of their lives.

In Lawrence, Mass., a former mill town at the heart of New England’s opioid crisis, the police chief released a particularly gut-wrenching video. It showed a mother who had collapsed from a fentanyl overdose sprawled out in the toy aisle of a Family Dollar while her sobbing 2-year-old daughter tugged at her arm.

“It’s heartbreaking,” James Fitzpatrick, who was the Lawrence police chief at the time, told reporters in September 2016. “This is definitely evidence that shows what addiction can do to someone.”

Mandy McGowan, 38, knows that. She was the mother unconscious in that video, the woman who became known as the “Dollar Store Junkie.” But she said the video showed only a few terrible frames of a complicated life.

Ms. McGowan had only seen snippets of the video on the news. But two months later, she watched the whole thing. She felt sick with regret.

“I see it, and I’m like, I was a piece of freaking [expletive],” she said. “That was me in active use. It’s not who I am today.”

But she also wondered: Why didn’t anyone help her daughter? She was furious that bystanders seemed to feel they had license to gawk and record instead of comforting her screaming child.

“I know what I did, and I can’t change it,” she said. “I live with that guilt every single day. But it’s also wrong to take video and not help.”

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The Portrait of the Artist as a Criminal

This combination of June 2017 file booking photo shows Max Harris, left, and Derick Almena, at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, Calif. (Alameda County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

A charismatic yet abusive and manipulative guru, derelict building owners who allowed habitation in a warehouse with wiring described as “grossly unsafe,” and an underfunded, mismanaged fire department all contributed to a fire at Satya Yuga, also known as the Ghost Ship, an art collective that was the scene of “the most deadly structure fire in the United States since 100 people died in the Station nightclub in Rhode Island in 2003.” But who’s taking the blame? Who’s incarcerated? Not the building owners. Not the fire chief. Not the electric company. Not the city of Oakland, California. Rather, as Elizabeth Weil reports at the The New York Times Magazine, it’s Derick Almena the charismatic guru, and also, inexplicably the second man taking the rap is a kind yet hapless vegan artist named Max Harris who first discovered the fire and attempted to put it out before it got out of control.

Yet life can be cruel, and even a person striving toward right thought can set off cascades of events that go incomprehensibly awry.

Satya Yuga had its own logic. You had to tolerate people playing music at all hours of the night. You had to not use your toaster and your teakettle at the same time because the electricity was channeled from Custom O’s auto shop to the warehouse and then dispersed through a complex river system of wiring and extension cords. You had to work on your own art, collaborate with the other members of the collective and also help build the living, breathing art installation that was the warehouse itself. The mock contract people signed upon joining the collective had only one condition: “Be Unconditionally Awesome.”

Around 11:20 p.m., Harris decided to leave his post at the door to go inside Ghost Ship to use the bathroom. As he entered the building, he noticed the light looked strange — a glow on the ceiling. He ran to his studio and grabbed a fire extinguisher. But by the time he returned, eight or 10 seconds later, the fire was out of control. At 11:23 p.m., Carmen Brito, the potter and substitute teacher, who lived in the back of the warehouse, woke up in a room filled with smoke and called 911. Upstairs, as fire rose through the baseboards, people started shrieking, pleading, streaming down the strange staircase.

As details began to emerge, the fire was not understood as an isolated, idiosyncratic catastrophe. It was understood as the product of civic and societal failings. In the years leading up to the fire, the Oakland Fire Department had been chronically underfunded, understaffed and mismanaged. Between 2011 and 2015, the department employed neither a fire marshal nor an assistant fire marshal — and it is the fire marshal’s job to ensure that property owners and tenants follow the city’s building code. To deal with the fallout after the tragedy, the fire chief retired.

They found the prosecution’s idea that Harris held what the district attorney described as “a leadership position in the warehouse” manipulative, infuriating and absurd.

There was no way for Harris to process the situation, no way to assimilate the facts. He always thought that if he moved gently through the world, the world would move gently over him. He thought that if he helped others, good karma or Jesus or both would take care of him. Had he not done enough? Every time he entered the courtroom, he felt the vast weight of the community’s grief and accusation. “It’s just wrong,” he said of the whole situation into the jailhouse phone. He lost friends in the fire. He had his own trauma to work through. How had his life taken him here, with all these bodies laid at his feet?

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Sea Lion Herschel: Steelhead Salmon Scapegoat

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It wasn’t necessarily Herschel the sea lion outside the locks with a very hungry tummy; the decline of steelhead salmon in Puget Sound in the last couple of decades could be due to many factors including whales, hake, pollock, and sculpins, though as Katharine Gammon reports at Hakai, humans needed someone to blame for depleting fish stocks.

The sea lions kept on coming and kept on eating. In 1986, the Seattle Times trumpeted, “It’s the return of ‘Herschel’ and the good old boys—those wandering California sea lions that are arriving earlier, staying later, and dining out more frequently. Pass the salmon and steelhead, please.” In 1982, 2,575 steelhead, Washington’s state fish, had swum through the locks; in the fall of 1988, only 686 were counted.

It’s undeniable that sea lions impacted the steelhead population by capitalizing on the advantage afforded by the locks. Wildlife managers estimate the animals consumed between 42 and 65 percent of the total steelhead run between 1986 and 1992. Yet steelhead had been in decline in parts of Puget Sound long before Herschel boldly poked his whiskered snout up to the foreign structure and discovered nirvana. Models suggest that the historical steelhead run in Puget Sound maxed out somewhere between 409,000 and 930,000 fish. The fishery likely peaked in 1895 with 204,600 steelhead caught, but such a heavy harvest was unsustainable. Just three years later, the Washington State Fish Commission estimated that the run had dropped by half.

When predatory animals go from being a rarity to a commonplace, people struggle to adjust—and it’s especially hard if we watch them compete for depleting resources. Sea lions often consume their meals on the surface, which is unfortunate for their public image. “We tend to want to blame things on the surface, but would anyone think to start blaming hake, pollock, sculpins?” says Andrew Trites, director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit in the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. Those are all species that may be feeding on juvenile fish. “We tend to come up with simple narratives: when salmon are down, it must be the fault of something we see.”

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For the Love of Phish: ‘The Art of Letting Go’

HAMPTON, VA -OCTOBER 19: Trey Anastasio of Phish performs in concert at Hampton Coliseum on October 19, 2018 in Hampton, Virginia. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com)

For Topic, Jen Doll dives into the world of the band Phish and their followers, known as “phans.” She discovers a hippie-esque subculture of “you do you” people dedicated not only to a band renowned for live jams, but a shared appreciation for uninhibited drug consumption, joyful escapism, and making new Phish-following-friends at every show.

I wander toward the edge of the lot, where I’m introduced to Boogie and Leroy. Boogie looks and talks exactly like Joaquin Phoenix might if he were acting in a Grateful Dead biopic; Leroy has on colorful knee-high socks and boasts a peppy energy. “How did you end up on tour?” I ask them. “I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and I met this guy, and he was like, ‘Have you ever heard of Phish?’” Leroy says. “I was like, ‘No, man, not at all.’ And he said, ‘They’re playing in Virginia.’ We’re in Georgia, it’s 1,800 miles away. He’s walking to see them and asks, ‘Do you want to go with me?’ I said, ‘You have 1,800 miles to convince me.’ It was the most epic summer of my life.” This was two years ago, and Leroy hasn’t looked back. “It was the camaraderie of the people. The music is incredible, but just that family aspect, everyone takes care of each other.”

“Hey, has anyone given you a pin?” Boogie asks. I shake my head, and after some deliberation, he and Leroy present me with a “Stealie,” the classic red-and-blue lightning skull icon of the Dead. “Make sure you tell them that came from Leroy and Boogie,” they instruct me. I nod, trying to figure out where it should go. “You should always put it on your jacket,” Boogie says, and a woman who’s been sitting with us pipes up: “It’s your pin, honey, put it wherever you want to.” Boogie gives me his phone number so when I’m done with this story, I can call him and arrange to come on tour with the Dead. I can’t say part of me isn’t tempted. “You’re a ball of light, and you bump into him, you bump into me, you take some of that light and you move on,” he’s saying, and it’s time to do exactly that.

Maybe it sounds weird, but that doesn’t take away from how real any of it is; how seriously, even in moments of joy, fans take the music, the band, and the overall experience. You can take try to deconstruct the magic—Phish’s word-of-mouth-based popularity; their improvisational talents and creativity; the way the music pairs so well with mind-altering drugs; the way they supported the taping of shows and trading of tapes early on, creating a culture of sharing even before the internet; the way they speak to their audience and ask their audience to respond; the inside jokes and private terminologies through which you can learn and feel a sense of belonging. In some ways, though, all this dissection ignores the point, which is something much larger, the sum of so many parts.

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‘A Beautiful Contagion’: Anthony Bourdain

Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

At GQ, family, friends, and co-workers share their memories of chef and television host Anthony Bourdain, who died in June, 2018.

David Remnick (editor in chief, ‘The New Yorker’): My wife came home one day, and she said, “Look. There’s a really nice woman at the newspaper. Her son is a writer. She wanted you to take a look at his work,” which seemed…adorable, right? A mother’s ambition for a son. I took this manuscript out of its yellow envelope, not expecting much. I started to read. It was about a young cook, working at a pretty average steak-and-frites place on lower Park Avenue. I called this guy up on the phone. He answered it in his kitchen. I said, “I’d like to publish this work of yours in The New Yorker. I hope that’s okay.” That was the beginning of Anthony Bourdain being published. I don’t know if there’s any way to put this other than to say he invented himself as a writer, as a public personality. It was all there.

Josh Homme (frontman, Queens of the Stone Age; composed the theme song for ‘Parts Unknown’): He was such a beautiful contagion. He presented such a fascinating doorway to so many other things that aren’t within your narrow doorway of what you do. When it was time to write the song for his show, he sent over [Joey Ramone] doing “What a Wonderful World.” And I said to him, “Are you sure you want me to do this?” And he just said, “It is a wonderful world. Isn’t it?”

Michael Ruhlman (author): There was this woman who was a foodie, but she was a student and she was poor. And she used to go by his restaurant every day. She’d just stand out there, looking in and smelling the smells and thinking about it. One day Tony came out and said, “Hey, I see you here all the time.” She said, “Yeah, I can’t afford to eat here.” He said, “Come in. I’m gonna feed you.” And so he fed her a steak and a proper béarnaise sauce while she sat amongst the crowd.

Hamilton: That’s the thing about friendship with Tony. Tony lavishes you with love and friendship and generosity and kindness, and then he disappears in the night and you don’t get to reciprocate. It wasn’t mutual. But it was breathtaking to be loved by him.

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Scholar of Mazes: Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse

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At The Globe and Mail, Scott C. Jones writes about being molested by a neighbor as a young boy. When he reveals to his mother what’s been happening, in a bid to stop the abuse, she refuses to believe him. Knowing he has to survive on his own, he finds solace in conquering Pac-Man’s mazes.

The Atari 2600 version was not the real Pac-Man. No matter. I sat in front of the TV in our living room for hours, foolishly trying to get the mazes in Mr. Uston’s guidebook to bend to my will, to co-operate with me, to be what I wanted them to be. I kept obsessively searching for the “safe spots” in the maze that Mr. Uston’s book said existed; the mysterious places where Pac-Man himself became invisible to the patrolling ghosts. Because this is what I did when I was a kid, for better and for worse: I found silly things, like safe places in a pixelated maze, to believe in; and I had a very difficult time accepting that those silly things didn’t exist.

I still do this today.

As I explained everything to her, I braced myself for that wrath again. I looked forward to it, in fact. I wanted her to do to the man what she had done to me. I wanted her to snatch him up as if he was a rabbit she’d caught in her garden.

But there was no wrath. None whatsoever. She did not transform into the powerful creature I’d seen before. Instead, she peered at me with an indifferent look in her eyes. She shook her head from side to side, slowly. “I think you must be mistaken,” she said. She set the onion down on the newsprint. “Those people are our neighbours,” my mother said. “That man is a friend of the family. He was in the military. I know that man. He wouldn’t do something like that to you.”

I was dumbfounded. “But, Mom …” I said.

She said one more thing I’ve never forgotten. She said, “And one more piece of advice? Don’t be melodramatic all the time. It’s not flattering for a man to be so melodramatic.” She frowned at me in a theatrical way.

Then she picked up the onion off the newspaper. She resumed peeling.

My mother didn’t believe me. She did not believe me. She didn’t believe me, and so she would not help. She would not help. So I was alone.

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Bruce Springsteen: Sadness, Love, Madness, and Soul

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 12: Bruce Springsteen performs onstage during "Springsteen On Broadway" at Walter Kerr Theatre on October 12, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

At Esquire, Bruce Springsteen talks to Michael Hainey about Trump’s divisive politics, raising kids to become solid citizens, how to deal with the baggage of your upbringing to be the person you truly want to be, and how, at age 69 after two serious bouts of depression, he’s still figuring it all out, just like the rest of us.

“DNA.”

This is, curiously, the first word that Springsteen says when he takes the stage. An unlikely, unromantic, unpoetic choice for a man who has always been more about the sensory than science. Yet in many ways, DNA is Springsteen’s unrelenting antagonist, the costar that he battles against.

This is the central tension of Springsteen on Broadway: the self we feel doomed to be through blood and family versus the self we can—if we have the courage and desire—will into existence. Springsteen, as he reveals here, has spent his entire life wrestling with that question that haunts so many of us: Will I be confined by my DNA, or will I define who I am?

We ignore our demons, he says, at our peril. The show is, as he calls it, “a magic trick.” But in other ways, as I tell Springsteen, it is a revival show—not just him energizing the audience through the power of his life-affirming, raucous songs; it is also a self-revival show. This is the work of a man revealing his flaws so that he can inspire us to redeem ourselves.

You’re Bruce fucking Springsteen! How do you not know who you are?”

“Ugh.” Springsteen laughs and lets out a sigh. He drops his chin into his chest and then smiles and looks up. “Bruce fucking Springsteen is a creation. So it’s somewhat liquid—even though at this point you would imagine I have it pretty nailed down. But sometimes not necessarily. [Laughs] And personally—you’re in search of things like everybody else. Identity is a slippery thing no matter how long you’ve been at it. Parts of yourself can appear—like, whoa, who was that guy? Oh, he’s in the car with everybody else, but he doesn’t show his head too often, because he was so threatening to your stability. At the end of the day, identity is a construct we build to make ourselves feel at ease and at peace and reasonably stable in the world. But being is not a construct. Being is just being. In being, there’s a whole variety of wild and untamed things that remain in us. You bump into those in the night, and you can scare yourself.”

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What Has Everyone Got Against Dave Matthews?

MONTGOMERY, AL - APRIL 27: Dave Matthews performs during The Concert for Peace and Justice celebrating the opening of The Legacy Museum at Riverwalk Amphitheater on April 27, 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

You may remember the Dave Matthews Band from your Gen X ’90s. Despite the fact that nobody seems to want to admit to enjoying their music, they continue to be wildly successful and Dave Matthews uses his fame to help support charitable causes on a regular basis. At Seattle Met, Allison Williams wonders why there’s a Dave Matthews “dad-bod”-shaped hole in Seattle’s idea of musical genius, overshadowed by bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

He married and moved to Seattle where his wife studied holistic medicine, buying a house on an unremarkable block of Wallingford in 2001. Today the tiny blue Craftsman, even with its finished basement and artfully overgrown front garden, would barely qualify as a Seattle starter home. Dave still owns the property, valued at less than a million dollars in a city where that barely buys a dog house. Seattleites do double takes when Dave pops up at QFC or an Eastlake punk show, but he seems to crave the anonymity he found here. He declined to be interviewed for this story, but in 2012 he told critic Gene Stout, “For the most part, I feel comfortably middle class in Seattle.”

Less quiet was the band’s growing philanthropic force. Dave became a director of Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid but his specialty is disaster relief; DMB played charity shows post-Katrina, post-tsunami, post-floods. And relief for human-borne disasters too: post-Standing Rock, post-Virginia Tech massacre. After white supremacists marched on Charlottesville, where he still has roots and real estate, the man who left South Africa’s apartheid headlined a unity concert in his adopted hometown.

Even as they faded from radio prominence, Dave Matthews Band racked up sales, dropping a whopping 96 total live releases on CD and digital. The most recent milestone: When the band released Come Tomorrow this June, its success marked the seventh consecutive number-one debut on the Billboard 200 list for studio albums — the first time it’s happened. To any band, ever.

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Karst: the Latest Casualty of Clear-Cut Logging

ANCONA, ITALY - AUGUST 17: A general view of the Frasassi Caves on August 17, 2018 in the province of Ancona, Marche in the municipality of Genga, Italy. The remarkable karst cave system are among the most famous show caves in Italy, discovered by a group of Ancona speleologists in 1971 are situated 7 kilometres (4 miles) south of Genga. Rich in water, the cave system is particularly well endowed with stalactites and stalagmites. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

As Bruce Grierson reports at Hakai Magazine in this fascinating piece, clear-cut logging has much deeper repercussions than simply denuding the land of trees — it also affects a critical underground ecosystem of dissolved rock called karst and the organisms that depend on it.

The server returns with a glass of ice-free water. Immediately, the reading climbs past 40. The higher number is a geological tell. It’s proof that the water ran underground through karst, an underground ecosystem of dissolved rock.

“That’s more like it,” Griffiths says.

Something naturally perfect happens to water when it flows through karst. It trickles and tumbles, picking up oxygen, picking up minerals, losing its acidity. The result is life-giving, luring and nurturing organisms from the tiniest microbes to humans to bears.

To be clear, karst isn’t a kind of rock. It’s a topography, one shaped by water that seeps and squeezes through limestone or gypsum or marble or dolomite, creating cavities from the size of the ones in your teeth to caverns the size of ballrooms, filigreed with delicate speleothems, dripping down and growing up and sometimes meeting in the middle. Limestone bedrock—the kind found here—was once alive and in the tropics before plate tectonics ferried it to Vancouver Island 100 million years ago. Limestone, composed of skeletal fragments of shallow-water marine organisms, such as corals and mollusks, is found in your toothpaste, your newspaper, your store-bought bread, and the cement beneath your feet—but the true worth of this karst bedrock includes more than its commercial value. A single subterranean water droplet is an ecosystem of its own. Two drops less than a meter apart have been found to harbor entirely different biological communities. For something that’s mostly nothing, karst contains an awful lot.

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