Why I run.

Yesterday evening, I was lamenting my condition (constant vertigo) and feeling somewhat sorry for myself. Or, just, you know, feeling really down. But instead of pouring myself a drink, lighting a cigarette and staring out the window from a darkening room upon the city as the harbor lights flickered on one by one -- which would have been very rock and roll of me -- I went for a run.

I took the route I usually take, and have taken hundreds of times these past few years. It starts out along a busy street, then cuts right, down to the water, and finally brings me home where Van Ness -- one of San Francisco's main thoroughfares -- dead-ends into a pier. There is so much beauty on this route, I never fail to feel a little better after taking it.

As I got underway, the sun was setting, but still well above the horizon and casting a warm orange glow over the streets and buildings. Normally, there is a strong headwind for the first half of this route, since it takes me directly toward the Golden Gate and the into the air currents flowing through the break in the mountains. But last night, the air was mostly still.

After a short bit along North Point Street and a brief jaunt up Van Ness, the route takes a right, heading along the edge of the park above Fort Mason, then a left, still along the park, down into a parking lot bordering a marina. At water's edge, the route is flat and becomes a wide path along the Marina. Here is where my mind starts to settle.

Yesterday, it settled on a song, after first pulling loose from my own private mental swamp, where constant verbiage about all my problems bubbles up endlessly from the murk and all that grows stems from seeds of doubt. The escape was not easy, it never is, but as I felt my stride lengthen, felt the easy wind, felt the surety of the asphalt under my feet, escape I did.

The song, oddly enough, given what I had just NOT done, is called I Got Drunk, and has to do with the kind of evening I would have had, had I poured myself something sturdy. But I wasn't focused on the words, just the arrangement. I needed to get from the second chorus back to the pre chorus, without plodding through yet another verse. I hummed, I visualized my guitar, thought about sounds, and ran. Ahead of me, the Golden Gate Bridge sat suffused in a soft, grainy light cast forth from a large yellow orb hanging nearly over the south tower.

At the end of the Marina Green, my route turns right, taking me back around the green and toward home. Alcatraz is off to my left, ahead is Fort Mason. I was still working on my song as I made the turn, but my mind was starting to drift. Seeing Alcatraz, I always think of the sheer cruelty of the place with its priceless view of the the most free thinking city in the world. Would I have swum for it? Doubtful, but I can see why some did.

Nearing Fort Mason, I am usually a little bored. How the hell do people run for hours? I just do not get it. Even surrounded by so much natural and manmade beauty and shone on by a perfect sunset, I could not help but think, "Enough already." Then I hit The Hill.

It's not long, maybe a 1/4 mile, it's not even that steep, but it is hard. The Hill focuses me again, as I tell myself to just get to the top. Sometimes I continue running past the crest and down to the water again, but last night I stopped at the top. I wanted to just enjoy the view. Behind me, there was the bridge, ahead Aquatic Park with its old sailing ships, tugs, sailboats and bouys, water to the left and The City to the right.

I walked down McDowell Road, as the path is called, and took a few more pictures. The song was no longer on my mind, my vertigo was there but weakened by my better state of mind, I was breathing normally again. I headed toward Ghirardelli and home, thankful I lived where I do, thankful for a lot more than I had been back in my living room.