13 August 2017

Gnome Barbarian - work in progress

Sample of some pencils I'm working on for a gnome barbarian character.

19 June 2016


I have a number of friends who have become fathers in the past year, either for the first time or in a relapse (you know who you are). My brother is celebrating his 6th Father's Day.

I want to recognize my own father and wish for each of you that you can be this kind of model for your children. And since I forgot to buy and send a card in a timely fashion (y'know, cuz I'm an awesome son and Father's Day is a tough holiday to keep on the radar) and our call this morning was cut short due to the absolutely abysmal cell reception in York Beach, Maine (yeah, I'm calling you out York - get with the program here!), I thought a timely blog post would be in order.

For those of you who don't know him, my father is a big man. Not as big as I am, and he's certainly gotten physically smaller over the years as he deals with a number of health issues. But I remember him as being big, able and anyone who has ever known him would agree that he's big in personality and of character.

My brother and I grew up in a home filled with love and we were fortunate that both of our parents were able to spend an inordinate amount of time with us. Since they were both teachers, we were all on similar schedules and I remember them being very involved with everything we did. I took it for granted that parents were always at sports and band and plays and school things and whatever else, because my parents were.

My father coached us from an early age, serving as the coach of various sporting teams - soccer, little league, basketball, hockey. And it was hockey that we fell in love with and that consumed immeasurable time of my father's schedule. But he never complained (or never let us hear?) and (seemed to) enjoyed it.

It wasn't until years later that I fully appreciated how much of a commitment that was and how unusual. I don't know that I can fully appreciate it even now.

As an electrician, Dad worked big construction when he was younger. But a dip in the construction market came as he was starting his family. While the pay might not have been as good, teaching was consistent and it gave him summers off. I remember years when my father worked all summer doing side wiring jobs. Those were interspersed with summers where he didn't work at all and we took epic, once-in-a-lifetime trips.

My father's work ethic and desire to see more took us up and down the eastern seaboard a number of times, through some of the biggest national parks, cross-country, to Hawaii for a month, and to Bar Harbor, one of our favorite places to go and home to one of our favorite hikes - The Precipice.

As much as my brother and I give him a hard time for his collection of truly terrible jokes (what's a Henweigh?), he has a wonderful sense of humor and a playful, pranking side that either rubbed off on or exacerbated my mother's mischievousness.

My father loves to tell us how uncreative he is and that my mother, brother and myself are the creative ones. Yet over the years I have watched him as a photographer, a potter, a tailor (and a frigging good one, too - he hemmed and mended all of our clothes growing up), a cook, a mechanic, a designer, upholsterer, game designer (for a host of custom-designed learning games my mother devised for her classes), landscaper and farmer. While he may not draw or write, I truly do not know many artists that can claim to be as creative as my father.

I could fill a book with the things he taught us over the years, but perhaps the greatest thing was that he showed us what it meant to be a man - kind, compassionate, hard-working, patient (I can say patience beyond reason is one of his virtues after having dealt with our nonsense over the years), strong, principled, clever, earnest.

This is to say "thank you" to my father and "happy father's day" and to wish that those of you who are fathers can take some of those qualities on as you raise your own children. 

18 June 2016


It's like that. Two weeks into healing a sprained ankle and going stir-crazy as I watch beautiful weather pass me by.

Here's what happened:

I'd been racking up pretty good mileage and trying to incorporate trails into my Saturday long runs. I was up to 5+ miles and decided to do a loop from Redbank, out around the far end of the Jetport, and down into Stroudwater to pick up the Fore River trail head and loop back up along the River's edge. This was the same loop I'd run the previous week and had some trouble with keeping my bearings and wanted to give it another shot.

It was a good run. I left the ear goggles at home and was running at my own pace. I kept up a slightly harder than easy pace, navigating heavy traffic on the roads and then switching to a solid pace on the undulating terrain of the Fore River trail. In spite of the beautiful weather, no one seemed to be out on the trail and I was enjoying the solitude. I'd found a good rhythm, working over hills and through breathlessness in a peaceful mind and keeping up the running without feeling I had to stop for a rest.

As I neared the junction where I'd veered off course the previous week, I was in good spirits and confident, taking stock and thinking that I might actually push the run over six or possibly even seven miles (a length I'd not managed since high school). I felt good.

I made it past my previous wrong turn still feeling good and at the next trail head veered onto pavement for a moment before realizing I was looking to connect with the next trail head up. I quickly backtracked, got on the trail again, negotiated a short set of stairs in poor repair, through a small field and plunged back into the woods.

The slight downhill grade was nothing and I was still in that solid stride, when


Down I went. I'd stepped on a stump (I think), my foot rolling inside and the ankle rolling out. I saw stars. Searing pain shot up through the arch of my foot, circling the extra bones in my feet that have been a lovely evolutionary gift over time. My knees buckled and I hit the deck, barely getting my hands out in front of me to break the fall.

In a split second my run was over.

After swearing for a few minutes, holding my knee (yup, I did that; I can only justify it in that I couldn't reach my foot, so I guess my knee would do), I started to take stock:

  • I was probably three or four hundred yards past the last trail head and the next one was probably another 3/4 mile further on; 
  • I'd not seen a single other person out on the trails that morning and was now deep behind industrial parks, not residential areas. It was unlikely anyone was coming along anytime soon. 
  • I had no signal where I was - my initial text to my wife came back "did not send" or something equally maddening. 

I tried to stand and put weight on my foot. NOPE! Nopenopenope. Fuck. This was going to suck.

Determined not to crawl the several hundred yards back to pavement, I found the thickest and tallest fallen branch I could (it was all new growth so "slim pickings" is an apt descriptor on a number of counts), broke off smaller twigs and used it as a sort of 1/2 walking stick. It was damp and brittle, so it didn't take much weight, but I was able to offset enough weight to limp out and used the stick to balance on my hops.

Back at the trail head, I realized the road was all uphill and groaned. I seemed to have a signal now, but it was early enough that Becca had gone back to bed and apparently turned off the ringer. Several tries via phone and text yielded nothing. Crap.

I started hobbling up the road to get to Congress Street, hoping for Becca to wake up and come pick me up. I knew that as much as my foot and ankle hurt like hell, it really wasn't a 9-1-1-worthy injury. And I also knew that without Becca seeing my texts, I was looking at either a long, exceedingly painful limp home (probably 2 miles or so), or potentially hitch hiking, the prospects of which I didn't hold high hopes for (seriously, would you pick up a 6'2", overweight man profusely sweating, covered in trail detritus and carrying a random 5-foot stick? I sure as hell wouldn't).

It wasn't until I'd reached Congress St. (and tried Becca's cell several more times) that Uber occurred to me. I'd already thought about trying to call a cab, but I had no currency - just my phone - and dismissed the thought. But then Uber came to mind.

"Oh God, that would be amazing!" I thought. I'd never used it before but knew how it worked and had read plenty about it.

"If only I had Uber, I could get a ride and be home in minutes. If only...." my thought process went. "If only...wait. Wait a minute. Uber is mobile-native. I wonder if I have enough of a signal to download it here? But what about payment? Oh right! It's all handled in the app through ApplePay, isn't it!?"

There was a glimmer of hope. I sat precariously down on the beautifully lush and manicured lawn of some nameless company in the shade of a lovely maple and fished out my phone.

Minutes later, the app was installed, the payment was set up, and an Uber driver (Bruce, Ford Escape, 5 min.) was en route. I was saved.

Within 15 minutes, I was limping through my kitchen to fetch the frozen peas and the ibuprofen. I knew it was bad and I was in for a weekend of vintage anime and R.I.C.E.

As of today, I'm two weeks into rehab. I'm able to walk for 30 minutes at a time but running still shoots lighting through the arch of my foot. The peace of mind I have from running is seeping away and my challenge now is maintaining my patience so that I don't try to run again too soon and cause more damage.

My personal records now involve being able to take the dogs for a walk without the ankle brace, making it a whole day without limping, and keeping the ibuprofen to a minimum. 

17 March 2016

The Joy (and Hallucination) of Running

February and March have been challenging for me as a beginning runner. Back in February, just as I was beginning to log uninterrupted mileage from the run/walk ramp-up program I'd been using, I managed to roll my heel. ...nope. Not a typo. I managed to roll not my ankle, but my heel.

I was turning onto a long hill, feeling strong for a Saturday long run of 3-4 miles (I hadn't really made up my mind 1/2 a mile in and was feeling strong and ambitious) and mentally playing out the curving 200-yard climb when I planted my foot unevenly in an ice rivet. I felt my heel dip down and start to roll over, and gave myself a mental high five for my cat-like reflexes, quickly shifting weight and pulling out of the roll.

"Whew! That could have been disastrous," I thought. I stopped. Stood. Hmmm. Bears my full weight. Hmmm. no pain when I move it around. Hmmm. Looks like I lucked out!

Smiling and feeling good, I took a few slow strides just to make sure. Still feeling good.

I was ecstatic. Years ago, I managed to pretty severely sprain BOTH ankles in short succession playing soccer. I remember how awful the pain was and worse, how frustrating it was to stay stationary, letting all those hard-won fitness gains slip away as I healed.

The idea of a sprain as I was leveling up after two and a half months of plodding along did not fill my soul with sunshine and ice cream.

Off I set to finish my run.

About a mile later was when it really started to act up and another couple hundred yards I knew my luck hadn't held. I had a long cold limp home.

As it turned out, I was much luckier than I realized. A few years ago, I probably would have just let it go, rested until there was manageable pain and tried agin, likely hurting myself again in the process. With this injury, calculating my weight, age, the potential lasting damage of a sprain and balancing against the benefits I was seeing in my health, endurance and mood, I opted for the doc. What I imagined was going to be catastrophic for my running, turned out to be a micro tear of the Achilles tendon in fibers attached to a heel-borne bone spur. Sounds awful, but it resulted in a week of walking rather than months.

I was happy to get back out on the road, making good progress until being laid up with cold/flu or whatever was going around. And then a lost week due to it being cold and my laziness/refusal to go back out in miserable cold when I'd already been running in shorts. Your choice on that one.

This week I renewed my milage goals as I finished Born to Run, the classic tale of prehistoric running super athletes. (And yes, I fully realize I'm likely the last runner on the planet to have read it.)

Tonight's run was three and a half miles. It was hellish and a struggle. My knees were tender and I was painfully aware of the ground I've lost in the past month.

It was, in a word, awesome.

I've come to realize in my running, both in the past few months and in spat we had a few years ago in pursuit of the Beach 2 Beacon, that the sport is at least as much a mental game as a physical one. I settled into as close to a tempo as I can manage and focused on form and pressure to let the knees take care of themselves. I pushed myself into a new neighborhood to pick up a few extra yards. I tackled a long hill (not the same one I rolled my heel on). And I forgot about time and distance and struggle.

Around about mile three, I realized I was smiling, standing up straight and literally high-fiving street signs along the route.

Because, shit, those street signs thinking I'm doing great!

Yeah, not kidding on that one. I honestly caught myself thinking that. Which probably should have embarrassed me. But nope. Just made me smile more.

As much as a struggle as tonight's run was, I feel at peace, the inner running monologue of my life is quiet, and, hey! I'm writing to boot!

The point being that while I am by no means a challenger to the Tarahumara, I am quickly becoming a believer in the idea that humans evolved to run, and there is a supreme joy in doing what, on a primal, primordial level, we were made to do.

There is joy. And, apparently, there is hallucination. Which isn't such a bad thing either. 

19 February 2016


n. 1) a natural elevation of the earth's surface, smaller than a mountain; an incline, 
especially in a road 

Hills are also known as the bane of many runners' existence. Certainly the bane of a new runners' training regimen. 

When I decided to go out for cross country in high school, I wasn't really looking for anything strenuous. I played hockey outside of the school system and a friend suggested we try out. I think he had his eye on a girl. I figured why not. It's just running (how hard can it be). And better yet, it was running in the woods, which in my mind put me way ahead of the curve since hiking with the family and running in the woods was a huge part of my childhood. 

To say I was wrong would be an enormous understatement. 

Cross country track turned out to be little more than a slog of endless miles in shitty weather capped by weekly runs on trail courses where I had the distinction of finishing dead last in nearly every race. I sucked at track. 

I'd love to say that even though I was terrible at track, I truly found joy and freedom in running for its own sake. 

Nope. Not that either. I hated track. And it got worse when cross country ended and winter track started and races were indoors, doing endless laps around a track in a gym. And I hated it the following year when, for some indecipherable reason I signed up again. 

Looking back, I honestly do not know how I lasted three years of running track with how bad at it I was and how much I disliked it. And it's even further beyond my ken why I ever came back to it. It may have something to do with the fact that I grew up in Hopkinton, Mass. (in case you're not a runner or otherwise familiar with the geography of New England, my hometown's claim to fame is the start of the grail of distance running - the Boston Marathon) and then proceeded to spend another ten years in Boston proper. 

I suspect it has more to do with the moments of peace I found when I finally let go of the misery and drudgery of one foot in front of the other mile after mile long enough to fall into a rhythm and a sort of oneness with the surroundings. I distinctly remember a series of god-awful runs that remain in my memory the pinnacle of my high school running career involving a solo trek, a cemetery and snow and freezing rain. In sweats. 

And the hills. 

At the time that I started running with any manner of structure, the words "hill day" were as dreaded as the phrase "pop quiz". More, probably. For someone with a slow gait, shuffling pace and gasping sports-induced asthma (not to mention the beginning of a very unhealthy smoking habit, hills were the absolute worst. Torture. Running sprints up hills, jogging back down and sprinting back up, over and over. And in some cases, the workout was just miles of up and down alternately rolling and steep hills. They were miserable. 

I suppose it's funny that now, more than two decades later, I see hills not as misery, but look forward to them. As I'm building endurance and mileage, I feel stronger with every foot of elevation and find things fall away as I climb. 

I'm coming to appreciate that running is as much a mind game as a physical one. The challenge isn't in the personal record or the time trial or the race. The challenge is in getting out there in the first place. It's in continuing to get up and run, even when the weather is terrible and you don't feel like it and you're sore. It's in those first steps up the hill. 

An appropos metaphor? I think so. 

15 February 2016

Story On The Prowl

The Hermes 3000 cinched the broad silk tie tight around its neck. It glanced in the mirror, made sure the knot was straight. Then shrugged into its jacket. It pulled the hardware from the holster under its arm and turned to the hotel door.

"Time to go to work," typed quietly across the crisp blank page.

12 February 2016

I am a runner.

I am a runner. Not because I run fast nor far. But because I run. Period. (Image of a wintery road.)

Running & Resurrection

A little over two years ago I last posted on this blog. Over the years, I've had various intentions for this column, including using it as a live journal, a writing lab, an ongoing experiment in coding and a portfolio/sketchbook, among other things.

I'm now returning with the intent to foster a more long-term writing discipline. To this end, I intend to write on topics of public relations, running, surfing, motivation and mindfulness, design and illustration, and various other subjects that strike my fancy.

Since a little before Thanksgiving, 2015, I have been running.

The beginning and the bible.
To be more precise, I have been walk-running. I had been entertaining the thought that I would someday run again and start getting fit for some time, without actually doing anything about it. Becca and I were doing our regular turn around the god-awful bookstore we're now saddled with in South Portland since the tragic demise of Borders and came across Runner's World's 2015 edition of Learn to Run. I flipped through, as I do every time I come upon the "Learn to Run" or "Get Super Fit" or whatever annual super-prestige book-magazine is out that month because, to be honest, I'm a magazine junkie and I have a problem.

For whatever reason, the plans and layout of this edition resonated and I decided that I'd start running. I laid out the 16 bucks and away we went. It was a few weeks later I picked up a fresh pair of Brooks Adrenalines from our local Fleet Feet Sports and another week or so before I was mentally committed enough to set my daily alarm for 5:00 a.m. to allow enough time for a 20-minute walk-run with 5-minute bookend walks.

...and I have been running steadily since. Four times a week for three months, taking off two weeks only for a recent rolled ankle and micro-tear in the achilles tendon off a heel bone spur.

I feel great.

This is a big deal for me. For those who know me, even admitting, that I feel great is a massive change. My mood, focus and productivity are all improving. I'm more patient, my clothes are fitting differently, and I don't get winded by the stairs at work.

Over three months of consistent running including adding daily yoga into the routine, I have developed a thirst for accomplishment, finding pleasure in the small accomplishment of simply getting out of bed in the morning and running, regardless of the weather.

What I laugh about is that I ran track in high school and I hated it. Hate may not even be strong enough of a word for it. I was awful at running, was almost always last across the finish line and was frankly too stubborn to hang it up even though I often found ample reason to slack off. Now I find that just getting out the door is a joy and the worse the weather, the better I feel about having run.

And I'm not walking anymore. Now it's all miles.