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Life of the Mind (and Legs)

By Chris Lydgate ’90 on January 27, 2015 10:49 AM

The running diary of Russian major Timmy Straw ’17 provides a glimpse into the creativity of Reed students. Alex Krafcik ’15

People often ask me what today’s Reed students are like. A dozen adjectives spring to mind. They are brilliant, creative, curious, passionate, idealistic, committed, intellectual, and iconoclastic. And yet there remains an elusive X-factor about them that seems impossible to capture, no matter how many times I scan the thesaurus.

From time to time, however, I stumble across something that conveys something of the essence of Reed. Today it is a running log that was kept by Russian major Timmy Straw ’17 last quarter for a PE class. As readers may know, all Reed students have to complete six quarters of physical education; for the running class, they’re supposed to maintain a log of their runs. This is strictly a bookkeeping requirement, akin to logging hours on a timesheet.

In true Reed fashion, however, Timmy took a mundane assignment and turned it into a virtual art form.

Curious? Read on . . . 

Oct. 29. Early enough that the streetlights are still on; the air smells both brackish & fresh; raining; crows dropping filberts, walnuts, crowding one another. Run up to Laurelhurst Park & then around the side streets along Mt. Tabor. 45 min run. I don't know the distance - maybe 4 miles? I'm slow...

Nov. 2. Late evening run. Post rain. The city is sodden and still as a drained aquarium. Run up past Immortal Pianos on Belmont, up a few hills. 45 min. again, but pace was quick.

Nov. 6. Moon out, smell of wood fires, Indian food, gasoline, wet leaves. Pass a toddler having a temper tantrum all by himself in a Nissan hatchback (full moon, certainly), his mother waiting on the porch.  You can hear him for blocks.  With an urge for altitude, ran to the base of Mt. Tabor (Belmont & 62nd). Maybe 5 miles. 

Nov. 8. Short run (3 miles).  Night feels like a cold scoured saucepan. Ran towards downtown; little clumps of drunks here & there have a Weimar Republic a-la-Otto-Dix vibe.  I note that my running shoes are Not Comfortable, but otherwise a good run!

Nov. 13. Running with Elsa (the dog): late afternoon. Traffic like a long bright javelin pitched thru the town. Just a half hour, up & around Laurelhurst Park.  Saw a flicker.  

Nov. 14. Early morning run to the river w/Blair (girlfriend). Cold ears.  Saw an outlandish floating dwelling, anchored near the Hawthorne Bridge—a compound of sorts, of rowboats, a barge, and a small fishing boat lashed together. A man in a tan overcoat cuts wood on the barge portion; I note a large artificial tree in a pot, several bicycles, a green plastic slide for swimming on hot days, a maroon couch, a set of bongos. There's a playful witticism to the whole structure.  Maybe it’s true that in humor is survival. 

Nov. 19. Late afternoon run from Reed up to 75th.  Bracing weather. The further east you go, things get more & more freehand.  Houses don't go together. Stucco, bungalow, tract home, the bitter hunkered-down ranch, all lined up on the street like a sentence composed entirely of punctuation. 

Nov. 21. Ran 7 miles up to the top of Mt. Tabor—conjugating Russian verbs along the way & liking being beaten about by the weather. The reservoirs reminiscent of the lesser Welsh castles. 

Nov. 27. Thanksgiving run—early evening with my mother—through a tract home neighborhood. So cold & wet we can only laugh & relish it, & come back to the house more rain than human. 

Nov. 29. Only have a few spare minutes this evening, so run at a clip for just a few miles. Very cold. The radical fluctuations in temperature—hard not to read the spectre of climate change into it. Notice a azalea about to bloom. Eerie.  Stars out, like spokes displaced from a wheel.

Dec. 5. Damp and cold: run up past a hospital I've never noticed before. Odd to not notice something as big and unsightly as a hospital. It’s as though it were built overnight, and full of patients in an instant. Pass a pizza place with windows fogged. No birds out, no squirrels, no moon visible.

Dec. 6. Another bone chilling run—maybe 4 miles. I manage to run and, somehow, think not a thought at all. That's the end of the semester for you: when you need all your wits, they go on holiday to Elsewhere.

Dec. 14. It's Sunday evening. Tonight it's not really a part of any year, or it's a part of all of them.  Eisenhower's still around, you can buy a reuben for a few dollars, etc. Run up through Laurelhurst Park, the pond glimmers a little like audio tape in the dark. Notice no birds. A man in huge gloves buys an Italian pastry at a food truck.  Last log of the season—til next year, ciao, be well, warm regards!!