Yellow Brick Road

A Journal by Don Gerz

Swimming and Biking for August 2014

All things considered, I'm pleased with my numbers for August. For the last 4 years, I've been challenging myself with regular swimming exercise to control weight, improve health, and enhance general well-being. Six months ago, I added biking.



12 miles in August '14 (16 workouts)
618 miles since July 2010 >>> (49 months)

870 Workouts since July 2010
(4.1 Workouts per week since July 2010)

1 SDC10032



105 Miles in August 2014 (19 Workouts)
292 M
iles since March 1, 2014 >>> (6 Months)

72 Workouts since March 1, 2014 2010 >>> (6 Months)
(2.6 Workouts per week since March 1, 2014)



Weight on July 1, 2010 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 205 lbs.
Weight on Sept. 1, 2014 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 168 lbs.
Weight Loss since July 1, 2010 >>>>>>>>>> 37 lbs.

Blood Pressure & Resting Heart Rate (Aug. 11, 2014) >>> 121/67 - 62
Age >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 67

All exercise is logged daily.



Ted is planning a road trip next month to Oregon, a pilgrimage he is looking forward to because he is going to visit his good friend, Frank...a kindred spirit, philosopher, and observant Jew to boot.

As a non-observant Catholic, Ted is no match for Frank in the organized religion department.  Indeed, Ted's Christianity is disorganized, absurd, and strangely mythologized.


But Frank thinks Ted has something to say, so he gets Ted drunk and drives him to bookstores and morning prayers and breakfast at his synagogue, where he volunteers for many interesting duties, such as leading parts of the service, assisting at funerals, helping to maintain a Jewish cemetery, and picking everyone's brains to see if he has missed something.  But Frank seldom misses anything.  No one is perfect.

Ted is a bit concerned about Frank because he feels his friend does not give his heart enough exercise.  Unlike Ted, Frank does not need a pacemaker to keep his heart beating flawlessly to the rhythm of the universe.  But what really bothers Ted is that Frank invariably drinks him under the table.  Every time.  Gleefully.  Religiously.


On the other hand, Frank thinks Ted exercises too much and points out that his heart doesn't suddenly stop beating as Ted’s did.

Mumbling from under the table, Ted points out that his heart stopped only once, and that God Himself constructed it before time began, manufactured it with a congenital defect and that therefore God is either not all powerful or absurdly incompetent...maybe a little of both.

Well above the table, Frank posits that God knows exactly what He's doing at all times and that He probably just tried to kill Ted a little to see how he would react and that evidently Ted did not choose to die as God perhaps meant because God only knows why.


Well below the table, Ted asks Frank, "What kind of screwy game is God playing?  He tries to bump me off while at the same time giving me the divine will to fight my way back to life just for the thrill of it all?!"

Frank shrugs, "So I should know?"

So, Ted and Frank have many interesting conversations that resolve nothing yet provide an interesting backdrop to their once again getting drunk while impressing each other with their flights of profundity that never sound profound the next day...even to themselves...especially to themselves.

But what can be more profound than two good friends discussing life and their places in it?

God only knows.


Swimming Numbers as of Mid-August 2014


+ Workouts so far this month: 12 (out of 18 days) --- 66%
+ Miles so far this month: 8.5 miles

+ Workouts since July 2010: 866 (thirty-minute) workouts
+ Miles since July 2010: 615 miles


Biking in 2014 (as of mid-August)


60-biking miles in August (as of 8/17/14)
10-biking workouts in August (as of 8/17/14)
247-biking miles so far in 2014 (as of 8/17/14)
63-biking workouts so far in 2014 (as of 8/17/14)


March 2014        = 30 miles
April 2014           = 72 miles
May 2014            = 46 miles
June 2014          = 12 miles
July 2014            = 27 miles
August 2014       = 60 miles (as of 8/17/14)







Beware of the Dog


PARABLE: Once upon a time, a man noticed a small white dog in a fenced yard on a beautiful, sun-drenched afternoon. On the fence he saw a sign that read, "Beware of the Dog." The man had never met a dog he didn't like, and all dogs liked him, so he climbed over the fence to pet the dog, who looked lonely. But this dog tolerated only its master and bit the kind man's hand. The man climbed back over the fence and again read the sign: “Beware of the Dog.”

MORAL: When you are warned to beware of the dog, beware of the dog!


July: Best Month since January '14!
I continue to work my way back into shape, one lap, mile, and day at a time.


July was my best month since January.

27 miles on the bike and 6.75 miles in the pool during July with 7 days off for a vacation in Oregon.

Not great numbers, but I'm keeping up with the pacemaker for now. Soon, it will have to keep up with me.

But I need to keep working to make that happen.


26 miles in 2010
197 miles in 2011
201 miles in 2012
165 miles in 2013
17 miles in 2014

606 miles since July 2010

- 2014 -

Month Weight Lengths (25 Yards per Length) Lengths Miles Total Miles


161 lbs.

600 (Heart Problem)



Feb. 163 lbs. 50 (Heart Problem) 650 0.71 9.23
Mar. 165 lbs. 0 (Heart Problem) 650 0 9.23
Apr. 166 lbs. 0 (Heart Problem) 650 0 9.23
May 166 lbs. 0 (Heart Problem) Pacemaker Implant 650 0 9.23
Jun. 167 lbs 125 (Recuperation) 775 1.77 11.0
Jul. 168 lbs. 475 (Recuperation) 1,250 6.75 17.75

606 miles since July 2010
854 thirty-minute workouts since July 2010
(4 workouts per week since July 2010)

Weight on July 1, 2010 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 205 lbs
Weight on August 1, 2014 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 168 lbs.
Weight Loss since July 1, 2010 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
37 lbs.

Blood Pressure & Resting Heart Rate (July 4, 2014) >>> 118/69 - 61
Age >>>>>>>>>>>>>> 67

Oregon - July '14

Oregon - July '14

"Desmond and the Roach"

Sprawled across the bed like a stretched cat,
listening to Paul Desmond on
an I-Pod,
sound rich and clear...

I'll write something that might match
the ribbon of his alto saxophone,
something that will flow
with no flaw.


Writing in my head,
echoing the scales
of the sublime
in word tones...

perfect sound.

Suddenly, a roach runs across my wrist
of the hand holding the I-Pod,
across the hand holding

a perfect sound.

I bolt out of bed,
head to the bathroom,
wash my hands
turn off Desmond,
who is still playing in my ears
as though nothing has happened
in my eyes or on my hand...


Neither the perfect sound
nor the roach
life complete...
and neither can be true
in itself,

but both together...

wanted and unwanted...
revered and reviled...

adored like God
at home
on Earth
in his tabernacle
or in a vista
or on a peak


or smashed
into brown paste

like a roach

as Desmond
blows his sound,
a ribbon pure and unending
through life, death, and between
all that is desired and all that is repulsive

yet as inevitable as grace and the mystery
that is its unseen and final home.

I hear Desmond’s sax
from everywhere.

I hear it because
it has always been there
between this and that,

somewhere in the middle
of the real and the ideal.


Paul Desmond and The Dave Brubeck Quartet - "Brandenburg Gate"

4-Years to the Day! - 600 Miles and 845 Workouts of Lap Swimming

6 3

I did it...finally, and it took me 4 years and 845 workouts, but I did it!

600 Miles of Lap Swiming over the Last 4 Years

845 Thirty Minute Workouts!



"Life and Death in the Back Row"

I’m not here to tell anyone how to live or die...
I would never be that obnoxious...
obnoxious, yes, but not that obnoxious.

In fact, I don’t know what to say,
even to myself about such things,
so I’ll just mumble and invite you to listen.

Thinking about living and dying
by tossing metaphors and similes into the stew,
is a cheap thrill and a ruse at that,
yet better than grasping nothing of the experience
of what can never be more than the straws of mystery,
or even barren faith,
bargain basement faith...

Or no faith...the best faith of all because it requires
personal initiative and creativity,
an Horatio Alger kind of faith,
faith not from grace,
not from sacraments and religion and philosophy,
not from scriptures, sacred or profane,
not from evangelists, priests, ministers, monks, nuns, popes and such,
not from emotion or the Dalai Lama, Jesus, Muhammad,
or even Muhammad Ali,
certainly not from pure reason, psyche,
superstition, ideology, churches, nations,
or even from hope, love, or faith in faith.


Love and hope,
certainly faith,
are the children of Man
and God’s grandchildren,
not gifts of God
we wait passively to receive.

Faith, hope, and love are virtues
we must produce,
values we must create,
not divine gifts to look into Christmas stockings for.   

Since we wait in vain for hope and love.
we have to create them ourselves from what’s left over,
from our own blood and flesh and will...
mostly from pure, Germanic will.

Not even Spinoza’s God,
pursued as only Spinoza could,
can give us the pure faith required
when we inevitably
make fools of ourselves.


And if we do not make fools of ourselves
by at least trying,
by at least stepping up to the plate,
if we do not attempt, even in clumsy ways,
to be great,
to leave immortal traces
of the time and space that used to be us,
then we damn ourselves to mortality
Instead of becoming
who we can be....

Thinking and writing about living and dying
and all that happens in between,
and perhaps before and after,
comes from pure will,
good old obstinate, stubborn will...
Nietzschean will.

It oozes out of bottomless yearning
fed by an endless desire
to be faithful to faith, to love love,
and especially to create hope
while living, dying, and doing and being
with whomever comes
in between life and death
and you and me.


Living is walking through a doorway into the unknown,
and dying is realizing you forgot to lock the front door
before going on vacation.

And now here you are in Italy,
or maybe Greece,
or perhaps Croatia or Costa Rica
where the beer is good.
So what does it matter that
the front door is unlocked back home
when Tuscany and its wine are here?

Anyway, home is where you are now,
not where you used to be then
when your heart was banging
on all 8-cylinders
all the time, every time...
a heart you had always counted on
until now.


Meanwhile, back home,
I had dosed off,
a relaxed suburban Rip Van Winkle
on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Georgia,
watching a British detective inspector parse the mind of
the suspected murderess of the heir to the family fortune,
unofficially and informally interrogating her over crumpets and tea   
on Mother’s Day of all days.

To tell you the truth, I was not there,
having slipped off to nowhere...
no light at the end of the tunnel,
no tunnel,
no light,
nothing but nothing,
not even nothing.

Not there, not even nowhere,
not anywhere,
especially not in Italy where the wine is good,
or where a door is left unlocked at home,
or wherever my body is.

Wordsworth spoke of his recollections in tranquility,
but to me the vestibule of death and life was a
running black and white film of me
in my prime at a party,
a Super-8 of me in a college classroom
taking a final exam,
a flick of me in reverse,
someone threading me and the film of me through a clacking projector...
images of me thrown onto the screen
as an audience that is not there applauds, laughs, cries, boos,
throws rotten vegetables and eggs and spoiled fruit
at the screen of my life that began thousands of years ago
in the prehistory of China,
or maybe it was Africa,
or somewhere between the Tigris and the Euphrates
while a hidden man and a discrete woman feel each other up
in the back of a theater that is not anywhere
except in this poem.


I’m told all hell broke loose...
my wife calling 911,
911 telling her to pull me
out of the chair
and onto the floor
so I could breathe a little easier,
paramedics running here and there.

I awoke in the ambulance,
life bouncing around inside,
not much from me,
jarred inside the walls
of an emergency room on wheels,
sirens, flashing red lights,
bells and whistles,
motorists cursing at the interruption
because of a stranger
buying the farm
while disturbing the traffic flow.


“Is this a seizure?”  (Zap.)

“Have you had seizures before?”  (Zap.)

“Yes.”  (Zap.)

“Well, what you are having is not a seizure.”  (Zap.)

“Oh.  So what is it?  Where are we going?
 And my wife
is probably wondering where I am.  By the way, where are we?”  (Zap.)

“A complete heart block.  And your wife knows where you are.
She called us, and she’s
following this ambulance.”  (Zap.)

“Oh.  What’s the emergency?  And where’s the fire?”  (Zap.)

“A live one, Bruce.  We have a live one.”  (Zap.)

“Look, I’m not complaining, but how many times do you plan
to shock me with
these metal bees stinging my chest?”  (Zap.)

“As long as it takes to keep your heart from stopping again.”  (Zap.)

“I see.”  (Zap.)  “Sounds good to me.”  (Zap.)

I am me
and you are we
inside an ambulance
going God knows where.

Speaking of whom, where is God in this stew?
Everywhere, nowhere, somewhere, here, there,
but mostly over there in the back of the theatre,
next to the couple feeling each other up and down
as a cell phone goes off.

Life goes on.


Meanwhile, back in the ambulance,
I come to my senses enough to realize
I’m in trouble...but I don’t worry
because the whole show is as interesting as life has ever been,
and what will happen next will be either life or death.

But it doesn’t matter much because either one
is better than what comes between them:
ordinary existence.

And what is ordinary,
what is the soup of the day?

Postponing, dithering, capitulating,
giving the limp leg
to real life,
to eventual death,
instead of crashing head on into them
and obliterating one’s self
to become one’s self.

Of course, there’s so much more,
serious stuff like
universal signifiers,
life after death,
no life after death,
who’s at the end of the tunnel,
and what does he/she/it want from us?
Or maybe he/she/it has the answer
if we have the right question.

It doesn’t matter.
because God only knows
what the soup of the day will be.

It is his job to know
and ours to do.

Me?  I can only keep doing what I do
and being who I am
until one day I do die.

But I guess not today.


Complete Heart Block (3rd-Degree AV Block)

The Nature of Creation

It is as if all possibilities are on the table of consciousness again, just like in the good old new though all creation is acknowledged as existing as it always has in full cooperation with every other particle of being, every single other element of life in full relation with each wave of the creative impulse and the unceasing rhythm of the Creator vibrating eternally within the created in every corner of the universe and beyond.


Life has all sorts of creative possibilities, opportunities that require human resolve and positive action to realize the divine that, by its nature, has never stopped emerging out of the no-thingness of the some-thingness of the creative impulse.


And every hour is a renaissance...if we make it so.


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