Same As It Ever Was (Water Flowing Underground)

January 5th, 2007

Every once and a while, I look around and think (a la David Byrne in “Once In A Lifetime”), “How did I get here?”

Last night’s unusual location was Sirius Satellite Radio’s Studio 12, thirty-six floors above Rockefeller Center. The studio was thoroughly modern, dimly lit, and wrapped in glass. I was wearing headphones, seated behind a thousand dollar Neumann microphone, as guest of (get this) Martha Stewart Living Career Coach, Maggie Mistal.

‘Huh?’ you ask.

Last year, freelance writer Eileen Gunn called. Eileen’s a friend of my buddy, Ron Lieber (the curly half of the Lieber/Kantor NYT/WSJ uber-couple). A few years ago, she interviewed me for a New York Times article on cover songs and iTunes (at Ron’s suggestion). This time, she told me, she was writing a book drawing parallels between sports and careers. As a marathoner with a cool job at MTV, she said, would I be interested in talking?

Me? Interested in talking? About myself?

One hour, one hundred thousand words, and precisely three breathes later, we hung up. Eileen began transcribing, and I all but forgot about the whole thing.

Fast forward to September. A cool-looking, paperback book, “Your Career As An Extreme Sport,” arrives in the mail. I flip through it, and find my profile in which Eileen draws parallels between preparing for and enduring the New York City Marathon and the MTV Video Music Awards.

Fast forward to December. Eileen calls and asks if I was interested in talking in support of the book on Sirius.

Me? Interested in talking? About myself?

Getting out of the office last night was no easy task. The first three days of the year have been almost wholly dedicated to undoing MTV.com’s messy, thoroughly un-2.0 October relaunch. The meetings, conversations, problem solving and politicking have been unprecedented. Yesterday, in particular, was a roller coaster of a day. Our Q1 plans and strategies were changing moment to moment. At five to seven, a (partial) solution to (some of) our issues became clear to me. I raced down the hall and offered a radical proposal, the best case scenario in a period characterized by deciding between bad and worse.

Ten minutes later, I was darting through Times Square. I was due at Sixth & 49th in ten minutes, but had to pick up strings at Manny’s (being that I’m providing all of the music for Chris Abad’s wedding ceremony). I popped in, grabbed two sets of Martin Medium Bronze Acoustic Strings, tossed a ten spot on the counter, and dashed off towards Sirius Headquarters.

I managed at least one deep breath before tiptoeing into Studio 12. Maggie and Eileen were in the middle of their first segment. I slipped quietly into my seat, pulled on my headphones, and waited.

I told Maggie, excepting maybe with the birth of my nephew, Ethan, no single experience has been as life changing (in a positive way, of course; otherwise I would have listed the divorce and my jaw being broken) as tackling my first marathon. I mean, I’m no Steve Prefontaine, but I’ve learned a thousand lessons from running.

For starters, twenty-six miles seems, at first blush, an absurd, impossible distance. To simply finish is to understand that we are physically and mentally capable of much more than we think.

Every mile, every moment of a marathon is different from the one prior. It requires patience, flexibility, and a long view. Endurance is earned, and learned, and 100% applicable to every facet of life — including work.

And fortunately, the bone-crushing pain of marathoning is fleeting. What better lesson is there than that? If pain (and the memory of it) weren’t temporary, how would we ever endure the uncertainty of every day life?

It’s (usually) so easy for me to talk — especially about two things about which I’m passionate (like running and The MTV), that I worried I was prattling on too long. It was Eileen’s moment, I just wanted her to feel supported. Still, Maggie (bless her heart) had done her homework, and enthusiastically inquired about my music, my documentary, and my website.

While I joke (and am teased) about being verbose, or narcissistic, or whatever, the truth is that, every time I write a song, or a blog entry, or an article, and every time I do some press or make an appearance, all l’m ever trying to do is make a connection. Every time I open my mouth, or put out my hand, I’m just trying to learn something about myself, about others, and about life. I’m just trying to inspire, and be inspired.

Yesterday, for all its challenges, and all the rushing, and all the uncertainty, somehow affirmed all that. Because it really is as easy as it sounds: just out one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward.