Monday, June 25, 2007

Spinal narratives

I am in a bleak mood this afternoon, having just heard that my inspiring swimming teacher Doug Stern died this morning.

My only consolation here is that I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know him over the past six months, and in fact for that I must thank my wretched stress fracture--it was absolutely awful, and not being able to run in December and January made me a miserable wreck, and though the injury itself is now healed I am still worried a lot of the time about lingering muscle tightness--but without that I would never have taken deep-water running, which is how I met Doug & ended up in his swimming class.

I'll write more about him sometime when I'm less upset, he was definitely one of the great teachers I've had in my life, but for now it's enough to say that he'll be very much missed. I am going to go for a Doug Stern memorial bike ride this evening (my first one, actually--I've been too stressed out and busy and over-exercised, also talked myself into a frenzy about fear of flat tires etc. etc., but I must learn how to be a good cyclist so that I can do triathlons, I am too timid!), and tomorrow I am going to go and see about a swimming membership at Riverbank State Park where I believe there is an Olympic-sized pool, and next summer I am going to do four or five triathlons, and all the while I will remember Doug's advice, which is that the important thing about all this stuff is holding on to the sense of playfulness. He wanted his students to live the fullest possible lives, of which triathlon might be a part but not the whole; he was against obsession and the monomaniacal pursuit of excellence, though he showed how the pursuit of excellence might itself be supremely and light-heartedly enjoyable. I am going to remember him often and well.


Last week I issued a challenge that Ed Park took up: following the model of Nina Katchadourian's Sorted Books project, could he and his readers assemble some interesting tales by putting together various spines from the books in their collections? (The original link came from Bookshelves of Doom.)

Ed's posted a few (this one's hilarious), and here are my contributions for the day, both rather sad I'm afraid, but the second one with a more demented twist.

What might happen when you look away, even just for a second:

Some people don't just languish due to disappointed love, they turn to the dark side:


  1. I'm so sorry about your teacher.

    And to give myself comment whiplash, I loved the disastrous relationship of your second spinal column.

  2. My condolences. But Doug will live on in the inspired lives of those he taught. No testament better for a teacher and friend.

  3. I'm very sorry to hear about your teacher.

  4. To remember often and well is a fine tribute. Condolences.