The Long Run Up Rayado Mesa -One Writer’s Passage

Installment One: The Way to Rayado — and Labrador

This morning I ran again in Fort Lauderdale, in what I call the Backcountry. A joke of course, given the complete dominance of man-built environment here in South Florida. As a trail runner, I resent covering any distance at all on asphalt. But the Backcountry is a reasonable compromise in light of my current situation.

A comparatively lightly traveled area set several blocks behind the W, Ritz-Carlton and the other top end hotels that front Lauderdale’s beach. Fewer cars, almost no delivery trucks, no tourists weaving inattentively across the beachside pavers along A1A. Occasional sliced views of the Intracoastal Waterway between condos and apartment buildings. It’s changing now of course, as the shuttered two-story mom and pop hotels from the 60s and 70s are finally being updated. Not necessarily a bad development given the prior blight, and in the meantime the Backcountry still offers a respite from the relative frenzy of Las Olas and Sunrise boulevards and the four-lane stretch of A1A that runs between them.

I’m three weeks into a training program that should, if I can ward off alcohol, depression and injury, put me on pace to run a half marathon called the Arizona Distance Classic in the Oro Valley outside of Tucson in late March 2017. I drink too much. I have since 2005. While going through my divorce from Ally eleven years ago, after my inaugural tour of lovely Iraq. And the subsequent flame-out one year later of my deeply passionate but, finally, doomed relationship with la belle chinoise. Lin, for whom I’d left Ally in the first place.

All of this will eventually get laid down in the pages of In Broken Country, the saga that, across the bloodied flesh of three novels bearing a thin fictional patina, relates the story of my marriage to Ally and its demise, our adventures in various post-conflict countries and war zones of the Balkans, East Africa and Iraq, and the follow-on affair with Lin until its ultimate, fallopian collapse.

First things first however, and that would be With Your Husband Over Labrador. Labrador is the story of the fairytale romance-with-a-twisted-twist between Hart Walker and a certain Colorado married woman named Skylar Lovendahl. Given that Hart is the lead character in the Broken trilogy, Labrador could one supposes be thought of as the fourth and concluding volume. But as a novel it will have to stand or fall on its own merits, particularly as it will be the first one to hit the literary marketplace.

The running here in Lauderdale, then, is meant to be a writing program as much as anything else. It’s damned difficult after all to write hard and seriously every day when one is busy knocking off a six-pack every afternoon, followed by a bottle of chardonnay or pinot noir in the evening, a regimen not unfamiliar to me. Equally hard to train for a half marathon while daily putting away copious quantities of alcohol. If the goal of running a low desert half marathon four months out helps me curb my alcohol enthusiasm sufficiently to make real headway on Labrador……well, I guess that would be a twofer, no?

In the meantime I’m fortunate enough to enjoy the intelligent and lively social company here of the Canadian marine industry woman who loves it when I call her Sailor Girl. As I continue to write my Long Run up Rayado Mesa journal, my good friend Hart Walker is also writing on Medium. His pieces are under the rubric Women of The Year: One Man’s Search for Sexual Healing in America. You can find it here: https://medium.com/@In.Broken.Country/women-of-the-year-one-mans-cross-country-search-for-sexual-healing-in-america-91b53b5e4412#.319pbaozk

I’ll leave it to the reader to discern how much of Hart’s tale is true. But, considering I’m his creator……I’ll bet there’s a good deal of reality in his installments which, like Rayado, should appear on a weekly or every other week basis. Too infrequent you say? Consider that, in addition to training runs in Lauderdale’s Backcountry, both of us are hard at work on Labrador as our highest priority — me in the writing of it, Hart in the living.

What is Rayado Mesa then? Not much, just a nothing place in northeastern New Mexico. With any luck, I’ll find myself out in that vicinity four to ten weeks hence. A good friend has asked me to house sit her place while she’s traveling abroad for several months. She knows what I’m up against, grappling with Garcia Lorca’s El Duende on the rim of the well. All that artistic stuff.

The Rayado Mesa jaunt is a refreshing, soul elevating, duende vanquishing trail run. You take the dirt ranch road that leads south to the mesa’s western flanks, then the switchback game trail ascent to the top, the untracked loop around the summit, and then back down again to the small creek that crosses the ranch road. Given its 7,500' elevation it should be a terrific place to lay down a final month’s training before heading down to run the Oro Valley half marathon outside Tucson at a lowly 2,900'.

Rayado’s more than that, of course. It’s a sort of polestar for me, if a mesa can in mangled metaphor also be a celestial body. All I know is it’s a place I desperately need to get myself to. For the sake of my running — and therefore the sake of my writing. If I can stand atop Rayado Mesa in my trail running shoes someday in February or March of 2017 it’ll mean I’ve slaked my alcohol urges sufficiently to make real progress on my novel. If I can stand atop Rayado, hell.…..I just might be halfway to Labrador.

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