Keep on the sunny side

I’m not sure whether it’s because of my preternatural disposition as a writer or some undiagnosed personality disorder, but I have a bad habit of wavering between fatalistic doom and gloom and unbridled optimism about my life, the world and everything around me. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?


Oh, you’re right, no, it isn’t. Well-adjusted people sedate themselves with their medicines of choice and attempt to stay on something resembling an even keel until they retire with just enough money in the bank to pay for their funerals. Still, after a couple of negative weeks, I’ve decided it’s time to focus on the positives and address some of the goings on that I perceive to be good. In no particular order, here they are.


A local girl won “American Idol”

Did you forget about this yet? Maddie Poppe was all the rage a few weeks back when she captured the hearts and minds of listeners during the first season of the revamped “American Idol.” I couldn’t walk a block in Grundy or Butler County without hearing her name.


As someone who hadn’t paid attention to the show since Carrie Underwood won it all when I was in junior high, it was refreshing to watch it obtain cultural relevance again, and simply put, Maddie chose great tunes. Anyone who can do Stevie Nicks justice is fine by me. 


Of course, “AI” carries no guarantees of success, and while the exposure certainly helps, she’ll have to put in the work if she wants to make it in the business. Take it from a guy who spent a decade playing at Iowa dive bars with a slightly out of tune guitar and a voice that recalled a poor man’s Bob Dylan. Fame and fortune don’t come easily.


Nuclear annihilation avoided

Trump did a great thing in meeting with Kim Jong Un, and I mean this completely unironically. If thousands of years of war have taught us anything, it’s that not being at war is preferable, and diplomacy can work.


Are his methods unorthodox? Sure. Is the North Korean dictator a volatile wild man who could renege at any minute? Absolutely. But while I’m no fan of Trump overall, there’s one point during his campaign that he got 100 percent right: most of the holier than thou establishment Republicans now known for denouncing him at every turn and proclaiming themselves beacons of decency are the same guys who demanded that the U.S. get involved in every military conflict in every corner of the world just to prove how tough we were.


It’s a losing strategy, and we ought to know that by now.


I finished a 5k run (barely) and lived to tell the tale

Sometimes, I get a wild hair and surmise that I should try to do something I was better suited for when I weighed 50 pounds less and ran every day, and that’s exactly what happened on Saturday at Black Dirt Days in Conrad.


By some strange miracle, I actually finished second in the 20-29 age group for the 5k run (I’m pretty sure there were only three of us) with a sterling time of 33:55 (as a side note, men’s winner Jay Welp, who I used to run against in high school before he moved to BCLUW from Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn, literally ran twice as fast as I did) despite taking at least five walking breaks and stopping once to write out the final draft of my will—my dad gets all of my books, Kellie my TV and furniture, and Wyllo my Nintendo 64. Any remaining cash can go to the public libraries in Grundy County. Just a warning, there isn’t much.


Music is crucial during a race, and due to the fact that I arrived late (I couldn’t find my keys, give me a break) and didn’t even have time to pin on my number or take my wallet and garage door opener out of my pocket, I obviously didn’t set a playlist for the occasion. Therefore, I found myself at the mercy of my Spotify library and the shuffle button.


I didn’t get the kick I needed until, oddly enough, “Stairway to Heaven” came on, and Bonham’s crashing drum fills set up the once-in-a-lifetime Jimmy Page solo as I tried not to get passed by another 10-year-old. Nothing can quite prepare you for that.


But then it ended, I gave our good sheriff Rick Penning a high five near the west edge of town, and I still had about a mile to go. I was either going to walk the rest of the way and embarrass myself or find a song that could summon the right mix of rage and motivation. I was running low on hope. Slow country dirges and thoughtful folk songwriters weren’t going to do the trick.


Thank God for Mick and Keith. The ominous opening chords of “Gimme Shelter” crept through the headphones, and suddenly I felt as if I’d morphed into a character from every Martin Scorsese movie ever made. Merry Clayton delivered her stern mid-song warning in one of the greatest guest spots ever recorded, and I crossed the finish line as if all of the weight in the world had been lifted off of my shoulders.


Then, I fell on the ground and lay there for at least five minutes. I’m not sure if I lost consciousness, but I certainly became comfortably numb. Even if the difficulties I faced were entirely self-imposed, I managed to finish what I started.


Some days, that’s the best you can do.