Notes from the Underground

Chances With Kenan Juska

Chances With Kenan Juska

Since 2008, New York native Kenan Juska and his partner in crime, Kray La Soul, have been specializing in obscure and rare vinyl gems as the world-renowned D.J. duo Chances With Wolves. I first heard the Chances With Wolves show on East Village Radio way back when, and my mind was completely blown (and you can have your mind blown here if you haven’t already). There’s nothing like CWW. It’s weird and wonderful, and, actually, really good listening on a long run. 


Recently, I discovered that Kenan isn’t just nuts about weird, old records—he’s also a passionate runner with O.G. running world roots. So, when we decided to make Music Issue of POSSESSED, I knew I had to call him up. Kenan and his family left New York for the Motor City a little while ago, which is where we find him now, at home, in his office, buried neck-deep in mysterious LPs and 45s. Owooooo...

What’s Detroit like?

It’s fucking weird, man. You ever been here?

Never.

It’s probably one of the coolest places to visit. I used to love coming here before I lived here. It’s so fascinating and unlike anywhere else in the world, really.

What’s it like running in Detroit?

It depends... It’s obviously different to New York. The first year I moved here, I ran the Detroit Marathon, and I’d run New York twice, and the New York Marathon is fuckin’ incredible; the energy and the people. And having grown up in the city, the first time I ran it, running past all these really important personal places, and through neighborhoods that you know and some that you don’t, is just so special; and the way the people show up gives you this other level of energy and motivation. It can really carry you, y’know, when you start to feel like garbage toward the end?

Yeah, I’m familiar with that feeling.

But the Detroit Marathon is like the opposite, man. There’s like these long stretches of just no crowd, like, nothing.

God, really?

Yeah, silence. And it’s funny, there’s part of it where you run into Canada and—

'Anyway, my godfather—my dad’s best friend—is a guy named Tim Sheehan, whose father was Dr George Sheehan, who wrote the book Running & Being, which was like the first running and philosophy book.'

Wait, what? You go to Canada?

Yeah, ‘cause it’s just south of Detroit, which is a weird thing to think about... Five or six miles of the race is in Canada. You run over the Ambassador Bridge. And they don’t even close the whole bridge—there’s, like, trucks and shit going by on the other side.

I feel like you’re bullshitting me.

No, dude. It’s true. You got trucks honking at you as you run into Canada. It’s insane. And then you run back through the tunnel, which is just disgusting. 

But how do you enter Canada without a visa or whatever?

They just wave you through!

So, if you wanted to migrate, you could just enter the Detroit Marathon.

You could! 


[Laughter]

How did you get into running?

Well, my dad was a runner, and he’d run the New York City Marathon a ton of times. I don’t have memories of being there, but I’ve seen photos of myself at the finish line when I was a kid.

That’s cool.

Yeah, and funny story: my dad ran the marathon in ’77, and there were 5,000 runners. And then the next time he ran was ’79, and I think there were about 8,000 runners, and my dad and his friends were like, ‘Man, this is too commercial now. We’re done. We’re off this.’ 


[Laughter] 


Isn’t that hilarious? There’s like 50,000 now. Anyway, my godfather—my dad’s best friend—is a guy named Tim Sheehan, whose father was Dr George Sheehan, who wrote the book Running & Being, which was like the first running and philosophy book.

Woah. George Sheehan is your grand-godfather?

Yeah, I guess so.

Did you ever meet him?

Yeah, I met George, but his son, Tim, he’s like my uncle. So, running was always kind of in the air when I was growing up. We used to vacation with [the Sheehan’s], and my dad and Tim would go running together and come back drenched, and, you know, it was just part of the family... I ran a little bit in high school, but not seriously, and then I started running in 2014, like, taking it more seriously. My wife and I would run together, and then she got pregnant, and the pregnancy was complicated, which was pretty stressful... For part of it, she was staying at Mount Sanai Hospital on the Upper East Side, and we were living in Red Hook. So, I would do the Central Park loop while I was up at the hospital, and then I started doing that and running home to Brooklyn. And I kinda just did it to take my mind off everything that was going on; it just felt like a good meditation to help me deal.


And that was eleven and a half miles or something, and I was doing that a couple of times a week, so I was like, ‘Maybe I should run a race, start training for something.’ So, I ran my first official half right before my [twins] were born, and by that time, I was hooked completely. After I ran the half, I was like, ‘Well, if I can run a half, I can run a whole marathon,’ so I started training for that pretty quickly.

Did you find a running crew?

Yeah, I had a friend, and we started training together, and that was an important piece that I hadn’t had before, like, just to be accountable to somebody. And then a little bit later came the community stuff. New York has such a vibrant running community. I started meeting all these people who were super cool and inspiring through running, y’know? 

Yeah. 

I would do those Tuesday night runs with the Orchard Street Runners. Do you know those guys?

Yeah, I’ve got some buddies who run with OSR.

Joe Dinoto—who is the coolest and just a great guy—started with those Tuesday runs, but everything he’s done since then, the races, like the Midnight Half and the Bread Run, were these insane, unsanctioned races. And I don’t want to be overdramatic, but they’re almost like art in the way he’s looking at the city and choosing to interact with it, y’know?

I do. OSR is definitely a special phenomenon. 

The one race I always wanted to do that I didn’t do was the OSR 30, which is the one around Manhattan. It’s a 30-mile race around the circumference of the island. And that shit is just so gangster; there’s not many people that do it because it’s such a beast. But it’s still on my list.

'I was all warmed up and the city was kinda waking up around me while I’m running through it, and it was poetic, it was beautiful. New York gives you those moments sometimes where it feels very cinematic.'

Dude, you have to do it.

I know, I know.

Okay, I better ask a music question.

Okay.

Do you listen to music when you run?

You know, I used to not be able to not listen to music, like, I had to, but there was one morning when I went out training for my first marathon; it was my weekly long run. So, I left the house at 6 AM, and then my headphones didn’t work, and I didn’t have a key to get back in for some reason. So, I stood there for a moment, and I was like, ‘What am I gonna do? I’ve 16 miles to run right now in silence? This is going to be awful.’ But I ran from my house in Red Hook into the city, through Chinatown and up to, like, the 20s before I turned around, and I had this totally different experience. 


I’d never really heard the city while I was running because I was always listening to something, and it was sorta cathartic. It was this whole new thing that I hadn’t anticipated, and I kinda got addicted to that for a while, you know, just listening to what was going on around me. And that particular morning, by the time I reached the city, I was all warmed up and the city was kinda waking up around me while I’m running through it, and it was poetic, it was beautiful. New York gives you those moments sometimes where it feels very cinematic.

Dumb music-related question: how many records do you got?

That’s not a dumb question.

You know what I mean, though. 

Well, technically, if you were to combine mine and my partner’s records—

The Chances With Wolves archive.

Yeah, there’d be maybe... I don’t know, but it’d be a nice number.

How many do you have in your home right now?

Maybe 4,000, something like that?

4,000?

Maybe? Not much more than that...


[Laughter]


Is that a lot?

'My mom always used to joke that when her and dad went to parties, she could tell when he’d found the other runners at the party because they’d all be standing in a circle pointing at different parts of their bodies.'

Yeah, dude. That’s so many records. I mean, if you’d said 30,000, I would’ve been worried about you, but 4,000 records is still a lot. 

Well, I’m actually at a point now where I’m trying to get rid of a lot of them because it’s like, what’s the point? There are things you just don’t need. But then I have kids, and I’m wondering if they’ll have an interest in this one day, and is that a reason to keep it? But then there’s some where I’m like, ‘I just don’t need this, and could I trade a box for one or two special records?’ That seems more worth it to me than just having the volume.

Where are they all?

They’re in the room I’m in now, the room I work in, and then they fill up the whole attic. 

What do you listen to when you do listen to music on a run? When I listen to music on a run, it’s like Zeppelin or Soundgarden or LCD or—

Interesting. Okay.

I just listen to a lot of ordinary up-tempo rock, I guess. But your whole thing is rare and forgotten stuff, obscure stuff no one has heard of. What do you listen to when you run?

Well, this is gonna sound funny, but I listen to old episodes of my show.


[Laughter]

Really?

Yeah, because I don’t get to hear that music very much. We have that rule on the show where we only play the song once, so you make the episode and then it’s on to the next one and—

And then you never hear those songs again.

Right. 

I’m gonna listen to your latest episode on my run tonight. Okay, last question: what’s your next race?

I’m playing with the idea of running the New York Marathon again next year. If I do end up doing New York, I’ll probably end up doing a couple of others before.


I wanna run New York one day.

Oh, man, you gotta. Let me tell you one last little running story.

Okay.

The first time I ran the New York City Marathon I was injured; I had some kinda Achilles strain or something. 

Like during the race, you were injured?

No, but you know, anyone who runs regularly has always got something going on.

Right, just like little aches and pains and tears and shit.

Yeah. My mom always used to joke that when her and dad went to parties, she could tell when he’d found the other runners at the party because they’d all be standing in a circle pointing at different parts of their bodies.


[Laughter]


But that first New York marathon, I knew I was hurt; it was this stabbing pain in my Achilles, but I was like, ‘I’m still gonna try to do this.’ And getting to the 59th Street Bridge—which I hadn’t run before—that thing is at mile 15 or something, and it looks like a mountain the first time you see it. And with my ankle feelin’ the way that it was, I was like, ‘I cannot run up this. If I run this, I’m not going to finish the race.’ So, I was kinda half trotting, half walking up the bridge, and this guy, who must’ve been in his late 60s, he runs by me and pats me on the shoulder, and I had a Red Hook Runners jersey on, and he’s like, ‘Come on, Red Hook, come with me.’ He was maybe Portuguese or Spanish—and that’s one of the things I love about the marathon: it’s that international shit, right? Anyway, he’s like, ‘Come with me, come with me,’ and I’m like, ‘I wanna run, bro, but my ankle, my leg!’ And he’s like, ‘Come on, Red Hook, you don’t run with your legs—you run with your heart!'


[Laughter]


So, I had to run. Some stranger picked me up, and I ran.

That’s so great.

Yeah, it was beautiful, man.

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In This Issue

Special Guest Pheidippides

Your Running Stars

Special Guest Pheidippides

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Matt Shapiro

High Rotation

Matt Shapiro

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This Month's Mail

Smoke Signals

This Month's Mail

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Musicians Who Don't Run But Should

The Knowledge

Musicians Who Don't Run But Should

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Pre-Race Pizza Party

Eat it

Pre-Race Pizza Party

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Runner's Neck

Highway to Health

Runner's Neck

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Back Pain

The Bullshit Report

Back Pain

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What is The Runner's High?

Welcome to Earth

What is The Runner's High?

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Mike Versteeg

Phone it in

Mike Versteeg

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Mix Tapes

Get Possessed

Mix Tapes

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