02 February 2007

"Reports of my Death..."

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the full quote from Mark Twain which begins in the title of today's post: "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." This was part of a letter that Twain famously posted to the New York Journal in May, 1897, in response to an obituary the paper had printed earlier (the editor had apparently read a death notice for Twain's cousin, Samuel Ross Clemens, and confused the two). In the interest of historical accuracy, I suppose I ought to point out that the text of the actual handwritten note reads "... the report of my death was an exaggeration." Or something pretty close. Either way, the point is the same.

Anyway, regular readers here already know that I've endeavored to keep things interesting (or, at the very least, to feed my pretentions of scholarly and literary grandiosity) by littering these posts with occasional and sometimes gratuitous allusions to everyone from Homer to Haruki Murakami to Tim O'Brien to Virgil to Arthur Herzog (no, really!) to Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin. Many of these references are arguably a bit on the oblique side (all the better to cultivate my pointy-headed mystique, of course) -- so why I am I now leading off with something as obvious and hackneyed as the quote from Twain?

I guess because it seemed appropriate, that's all. Seriously, I wasn't going to post anything for another couple of days, but I found myself compelled to pass along the following:

1) I am not mortally injured, and
2) I still plan on resuming this whole running thing.

A few days ago, I was surprised to receive a phone call from a reporter at the New York Post asking me to verify whether or not I was, in fact, abandoning my plan to run all the streets of Brooklyn. I of course replied in the negative, and went on to explain that I'm merely taking some time off to rest up and heal a bit. And while I hadn't really thought about it prior to talking with this guy, after our conversation I realized that there were indeed a few hints here and there that might lead people to this (quite erroneous) conclusion.

Some of the confusion, of course, probably has its origins in my predilection for self-deprecatory rhetoric, and my apparent fondness for endlessly writing about the various aches and pains I've encountered and my general physical decrepitude. (When reading back through the archived posts, in fact, I was struck by the frequency with which I engaged in this sort of grousing. Yikes!)

But some of the rest might be traced to brief mentions in two relatively small local media outlets. First, a couple of weeks ago the Brooklyn Paper (a free weekly distributed to "bulk drop" locations throughout the borough's more upscale neighborhoods) ran this short piece which, though I didn't seem to notice at the time, does offer a somewhat distorted version of things. It calls me an "Iowa native," for instance, even though the "About Me" box at the very top of this blog clearly states that I'd moved to Brooklyn after "thirty years in New Jersey and another ten in Iowa." Moreover, the piece seems to imply that I might not even run the second half because I didn't think things all the way through, or simply because I'm "too lazy."

This last quote was actually a (typically self-deprecating) comment responding to the question of why I didn't stretch more, though the writing isn't particularly clear and it's kind of hard to tell what it refers to. Nonetheless, between the Forest Gump comparisons, aforementioned "Iowa native" references, and out-of-context quotations, it's understandable how a reader might possibly come away from the article with the impression that I'm some kind of midwestern rube standing at the edge of Brooklyn, rubbing his eyes in disbelief at the sheer vastness of the Big City and wondering just what he's gotten himself into. I'm not quite sure whether the general tone of the story and its casual treatment of the facts are due to specific editorial policy or simply the result of a young reporter's inexperience, but regardless, it does make me seem a little ambivalent about continuing. (To be fair, however, I should note that over the course of a few emails and a short phone conversation my impression of the writer in question, Christine Rizk, was a positive one, and the photographer they sent out couldn't have been nicer.)

The second mention consisted of only two sentences in last Wednesday's end-of-the-day wrap-up in Gothamist (the widely-read blog covering local news, events, and popular culture), quoting me on some of the aches and pains I'd written about and implying that injury might prevent me from running the second half. And while there's obviously no malicious intent lurking behind this (frankly, I'm quite sure the folks over there don't spend all that much time thinking about me or my sore legs in the first place), and though I appreciate the concern (really, I do), the quote about occasional numbness in my legs was part a larger explanation of why I needed to take some time off before moving on to the second half, not instead of moving on to the second half.

Whatever. The reality is probably that the underlying meaning of almost anything I try to say here is hopelessly obscured as I attempt to negotiate the text of each post between the Scylla of my ineluctable loggorhea and the Charybdis of my complete inability to self-edit (see? I'm doing it again! It's like a disease!). In other words, I have only myself to blame if readers of my blog walk away confused. But self-incriminating finger-pointing aside, let me wrap things up by saying, as straightfowardly as possible:

True enough, the first half took its toll both mentally and physically. But I'm going to take a few more weeks off, and if everything heals up properly I'll pick up the running right where I left off -- hopefully some time in early March.

Now why couldn't I have just said that in the first place?

As usual, here are a few more pictures:

gables, midwood
Somewhere in Midwood

wall, williamsburg
Marcy Avenue, Williamsburg

truck parking, cypress hills
Along Jamaica Avenue in Cypress Hills


At 3:28 PM, Anonymous jen said...

Wow, I'm sorry Gary. So typical of the media to distort the facts for effect, but this is too bad. Esp. that Brooklyn Paper article, which is just so mean and unfair. It seemed so clear to me as a regular reader that for the past month or so that you had been planning all along to take a break once you got to the halfway point, and that the break was to to recover before doing the second half. But I guess people read things the way they want read them. Don't let that stop you from writing what you want to write, though -- I really look forward to your interesting and humorous posts!

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Hi, Jen,

Yeah, that article kind of took me by surprise. Especially the line about how I had "apparently failed to look at a map before predicting that [I] could run the entire borough."

Whoa! Anyone who's looked at this blog for more than ten minutes could probably tell how map-obsessed I am! In fact, I couldn't even begin to tell you how much time I've spent looking at both the paper map (aka the "big map") and Google maps. I'm sure it's been as much as (and probably more than) the amount I've actually spent running. Wow.

You should've seen the original draft of this post, though. I initially included some pretty choice words about the Brooklyn Paper (which isn't so much an actual newspaper as it is one of those things you see in big stacks in ATM lobbies and near grocery store exits), but figured I'd take the high road.


At 1:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I've been following your run for quite some time now; I like to think of it as a test. I grew up in Brooklyn and I like to think that I'm familiar with every neighborhood. So far, you haven't shown me anything new (unless you count those streets currently being built). :)

You did mention taking a break, but at the same time you did complain about your aches and pains. I was afraid you'd given up on your run. (I was going to email you about it in a few weeks if nothing happened-at least to try to encourage you). I don't know you personally so I can't say if you're the kind of person to keep going or to stop. I'm sure the local newspapers felt the same way. My point is, I wouldn't take thier comments to heart. If anything you should be happy that so many people are concerned enough that the Post had a reporter contact you.

Also, I wouldn't complain about those stacked-by-the-ATM-papers because that's where I originally read about your blog several months ago. I'm glad to hear so many reassurences that you'll continue.

At 10:57 PM, Blogger mandisa said...

I just discovered your blog and I think this is a really great goal...especially since it is sooo freezing! But keep writing and I love your pictures.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Gary said...

I'm glad I'm able to "test" you (but not surprised that a native Brooklynite would "pass," either!) There sure is a lot to see, though. And assuming I'm feeling better soon, I'll sure try to see it all. Thanks for the encouragement.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Gary said...

Thanks for the kind words, too, miss m. And while I certainly didn't necessarily plan my midpoint break to coincide so perfectly with the sub-zero windchills and the rest of our belatedly frigid winter, I'm not complaining too much, either...

At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Dawn said...

The guy who wrote that article sounds like a total douche bag. That's just one Iowa gal's opinion.

At 10:42 PM, Anonymous susan said...

As one of your faithful readers and loyal fan, I simply have no desire to read the Post article! Hope your aches and pains are slowly healing.

At 8:10 AM, Blogger Gary said...

Thanks, Susan! I think things are getting better - I'm just impatient because it's taking a lot longer than I'd imagined.

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