Daytime TV

So I’m watchin’ a program and the guy goes into a church and goes into the confessional, tells the priest  that he hasn’t been to church in three years and  ain’t that a sin? and the priest says yeah.Then he tells the priest he committed adultery.  Ain’t that a big sin? he says? Yeah, the priest says.”Wait a second, you just got in here and you’ve  already confessed to two sins. Aren’t you being a little hard on yourself?   The guy shakes his head as if to clear away an annoying bug, jabs his arm froward,  grabs his leg with one shaking hand, sits absolutely still, until his pant leg starts flapping like a loosened sail caught in sudden breeze. He let’s go, get’s up, walks out without a backward glance. detail-Leadville edit_bw-2667

Photograph: Michael Lebowitz © 2013

Note to my Editor

I am swimming upstream in a river of fog, I am wrecked on shoals carved by indifferent time. The meds are having a fiesta with my sanity and my clarity. Possibly too, my vocabulary. Hopefully the re-write is useful and on target. The other draft read as if it had been written by a crew of  monkeys in search of Hamlet in the original

Photograph by Michael Lebowitz ©2013

A begining or two…




Slammin’ started here. Well, not exactly. Dennis Ahern, a Boise ultra runner and his good friend, Ryan C Lund, both got into Western States this year. I spoke with them briefly about their good fortune only find out that they were planning on doing the GrandSlam of Ultras. Like any Grand Slam, in golf or tennis for example, you have to win or at least be entered in the first event. I thought for a moment about their good fortune and the idiocy of the idea when it occurred to me that they were living by the old adage, in for a penny, in for a pound. And I realized that I wanted to be there with them.

I pitched the idea to both Marathon and Beyond and iRunFar. At this point I should tell you that I am a race photographer who loves to shoot ultras and a writer who like to write about shooting images, photography and running, that is, when I am not wandering around in a dream state about the Great American Novel. Back to the story:  to my delight both entities thought I had a good idea-following these two non elite, middle of pack folks and telling their story.

Ian Sharman is not a middle of the pack runner. Hell no, he is a fast 100 miler, a sponsored athlete, a coach and a pretty humble guy who arrives at race the night before, sleeps in the back of his car, wins the race, hangs out for awhile and then does it all over again. He gets faster the longer the distance. It turns that he is doing the Grand Slam with his eye on the record set by Neal Gorman 74:54:16 in 2010. This is some record by the way. Western States, Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch comprise the modern Slam. Gorman was 20 hours in the first three and 21 hours at Wasatch. Ian will certainly have his work cut out for him.

So there it was. Commissioned article and photo stories and the year wasn’t two weeks old. That was too easy, way too easy. Ask any freelancer and they will agree. The catch? No travel expenses, no sponsorships for the pieces, nothing that might compromise the journalistic integrity of the work. Oh my. Sad face. But wait!

It didn’t take but a minute to realize that the stories for the magazines were the necessary motivation to look at the bigger picture. Just as many books are generated from magazine articles as way of expanding the scope of the story, a book could be built on the story of the 2013 Ultra Grand Slam that would feature all of the 24 entrants and their journey together to the common goal of finishing and getting a very rare buckle in recognition of their achievement. Without knowing each other they were already a band of brothers/sisters in pursuit of something magical. A Facebook page emerged and the participants showed up one by one.

My little idea had suddenly become big enough to encompass writing a book. Back to Kickstarter. Photographs and books are great rewards for people who support the efforts of writers and photographers. It all made sense now. Raise the money to travel, research, photograph and produce a coffee table book and Bob’s your uncle. I don’t know who Bob is by the way but I take it to mean that all the pieces were in place.

Remember the image at the head of this piece? These are runners in the Javelina Jundred 2012. I caught them in the very early morning. A line of individuals, not talking to one another for the most part, concentrated fully on the task at hand. The back lighting darkens their faces and in so doing raises them above their individual personalities, creating archetypes, meta runners, representations of every who ever laced up and set out for something “over yonder” someplace down the road, a further peak, a dream in hand. I kept looking at this image and recognized that it is a journey for the runners captured in the lens, and equally for the photographer behind the lens. Our lives have brought us to here and where we go from here will be,in part,the result of what happens this day and night. I bear witness, tell the story, paint their images on the walls of metaphorical caves(this generation’s social media)in much the same way as the cave painter of early humanity told the stories of the hunt and their glorious adventures scratched on the walls of real caves.

Let your own dream factories go to work. Keep your eye the Grand Slam this year. There are some wonderful stories out there just waiting for all of us. I can’t wait. It’s gonna be a time for all of us to celebrate the most precious gift we have been given, our lives in this particular time.


Bob Dylan once said that if  “my thought dreams could be seen, they would probably put my head in a guillotine.” I know people who put their dreams on Facebook or better yet in group email lists meant for other purposes. Makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. If you see what I mean.

I read a poem the other day by a famous American poet. Didn’t understand damn near anything in it but for this: “If you cook like the way you walk, Chiquita, I will eat it down to the husk.” He said that right after he said that the substance of lack was the prime substance of desire. And then he mentioned that a child beggar in a South American village was looking up at him, pointing to his own mouth.

I remember my dreams. I still have them. To remind me, I suppose, of distances “which are not near,” places to which I drove myself until, for no good reason(as if there ever are “good” reasons) I was left with no choice but to leave. I now wake from my night dreams in fear of earlier guillotines and death dealing husks  choked down in doorways of imagined Mexican chapels somewhere along the way. The substance of loss is the prime substance of salvation. Providing, of course, that you can keep it down.

Salt Flats 100 2012

Photograph by Michael Lebowitz ©2012