Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Holy Awkward

So, I would normally never post on back-to-back days. It's sort of a principle thing. Blogs are a dime a dozen, and who's really interesting enough to write about their life every single day?

[Aside:] The answer there is no one.

But I feel compelled to let this one rip (future pun totally intended). I'm in the process of training for a marathon. This process is sometimes rewarding and sometimes utter torture. Occasionally I feel like Mercury flying wing footed just above the ground and the pure exhilaration of running fast(ish), over distance, and comfortably is enough to make me smile suddenly and laugh to myself. This was the case yesterday when I found myself slowly but surely clicking through the gears on a seven mile run and finishing strongly with a maniacal grin plastered across my face. But, as the Greeks were so fond of pointing out, when a mortal likens himself to a god, there's sure to be some sort of divine punishment. Ah, hubris.

I set out on my run today feeling full of myself, but I quickly realized the legs weren't there. Whereas yesterday I felt springy and light, today I felt like an elephant with concrete shoes. First my ass tightened up, then my calves, and finally my stomach started to rumble in protest. Two thirds of the way though my planned run, I was out of gas and walking dejectedly back home.

On the trail in front of me an Asian couple was shuffling along enjoying an evening stroll. When I first saw them they were a good hundred yards in front of me and I was confident that there would be no awkward walker-passing-walker exchange. You know what I'm talking about. It's sort of like when you see someone you know in public and have a brief exchange, say your goodbyes, and then both realize you're headed in exactly the same direction. No one likes that. It's awkward. Before I knew it though they were only fifty yards in front of me. Then twenty. Now ten.

They had been passing a mobile phone back and forth and speaking a staccato rhythm of what I believed to be Mandarin Chinese and I was confident that they had not yet noticed I was just behind them. Right as I was about to break into a jog and play the I-just-caught-up-to-you-because-I've-been-running card and coast the final quarter mile back to the house, the woman in the couple hung up the phone, paused for about two beats, and then uncorked the longest, most intensely strained fart I have ever heard in my life.

Oh. My. God.

I was like a burglar in a Loony Toons cartoon. I froze in a tip toe and tried not to breathe...both out of fear of being noticed and of the possible malodorous consequences, my face strained as if I were in the process of dipping myself into a frozen lake

At that very moment, the woman SHOOK HER FREAKIN' LEG to wrest out the final crescendo of gas. All told, we're talking a good five seconds of fart time.

Biting my cheeks and holding my breath, I faked my best I've-been-running-for-a-while-and-just-now-caught-up-to-you-and-no-I-definitely-did-not-hear-you-tear-the-sky-in-half-with-your-ass jog. When I was at the woman's eight o'clock, she noticed me, stepped to the side, and grabbed her husband's arm. As I passed, she said something in Chinese which, although I don't speak, I was able to roughly translate as, "Holy fuck, I just crop dusted the bejesus out of that guy!"

I ran the final quarter mile to sell the farce that I had been running the whole time and finished with another huge smile on my face, but for an altogether different reason. As my sister once told me, with a look of convicted sincerity on her face, "I don't want to live in a world where farts aren't funny."

Amen to that. And also, I'll think twice before cutting a run short again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cracker Barrel Casanova

I have never used a pick up line. To be honest, I didn't realize "game" and "raps" were as prevalent and well-rehearsed as they are until recently. I kind of always figured that if you were yourself and yourself was an attractive, confident, intelligent, and witty dude, that yourself would bat at least .300...which I guess sort of sounds like a pick up line. I also just realized I used a sports analogy to quantify matters of the heart...well, maybe not the heart...maybe just hormones...does that make it ok? Crap. Now I'm confused and off topic.

Regardless, I have never used a pick up line (trying to find my initial thread of thought again). I'm not saying I'm charming and witty and awesome enough to just be myself in front of an attractive stranger and legitimately expect a reciprocated interest. Quite the contrary. What I'm saying is that I have NEVER walked up to an attractive stranger and PURPOSEFULLY started a conversation in the hopes that one thing would lead to another and we'd wind up in the sack together. This is not to say I'm a shrinking violet, but that to me a planned approach to someone just seems really sleazy. Well, depending on your motivations, I suppose. I mean, if you're generally love struck by someone I guess a well-intentioned approach is ok, charming even, but walking up to a stranger to get in their pants is sort of heartless. Actually, it's the definition of heartless. But isn't "love struck" just a politically correct way to say you think said attractive stranger is really, really hot and want to get in their pants? Damn! Now I'm confused and off topic again.

This whole post started as a vehicle to relay the most ridiculous pick up line I've ever heard. I promise I'll get back on track. So, the other night (see, I'm back on track), a guy I know, and he's a really good guy - honestly, he just plays to the audience sometimes and I think spouts locker room banter to be one of the boys but is actually a big softy - said that he leads with, and I'm not making this up, "So, let's say after you and I wake up tomorrow morning, we go have breakfast at the Cracker Barrel." Cracker Barrel? Seriously? I feel like breakfast in bed would be a better route to take, or even a nice cafe with farm fresh omelets and mimosas. Crepes? Belgian waffles? Lattes? But Cracker Barrel? Off the highway? Exit 103? Maybe it's just ridiculous enough to work. Regardless, I can't say I'd jump at the opportunity to hook up with the girl who swoons at the prospect of a $6.99 eggs and bacon breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.

To each his own. I guess it's better than a McDonald's egg McMuffin.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Phantom Pains

I've read before that when a patient needs a limb removed either because of irreparable injury or cancer or infection that they can sometimes "feel" the limb even after it's gone because the nerve endings transmit sensations as if the limb were still there. I can't imagine how disconcerting this must be to the amputee, especially in the months immediately following the amputation. Can you imagine waking up one morning and feeling your arm only to come fully awake and realize that this appendage you can't imagine being without is gone? Forever? If the arm or leg was lost in a clinical setting, clearly it had to go. A conscious decision was made to sacrifice a limb to save a body, but that can't make it any easier to be without. Maybe it helps to rationalize and be philosophical about the loss, but in the end it's still a loss - a vital loss - and it must be heartbreaking.

Without indulging in hyperbole or stooping to teenage poetry, I'm feeling a bit like that these days. Before I go on, I have to admit that I'm a writer. It helps me make sense of things and order my thoughts. It's sort of like organizing a disheveled work space. Bills go in one folder, incoming and outgoing memos are separated, trash is disposed of, and before you know it, you can see a clear path forward and prioritize your actions. It's like that, but with emotions and thoughts and hopes. In realizing I need to do this to make sense of myself, I have to ignore the audience. It isn't for the audience (well maybe this explanation is), and I can't help that I know some of the people who will read this and that they may see themselves in it. It's not a message in a bottle or a flare from a sinking ship. It's where I am and hopefully a starting point to where I want to go.

To pick back up my analogy, my amputated limb is the loss of a relationship. I mean that strictly in the sense of loss and the now, more than three months later, realization of the gravity of that loss. It's the strangest thing that the easiest part of a break up, at least to me, are the few weeks immediately following the decision to end it. All of the bad things are perched aggressively in the forefront of your mind and the frustrations and hurtful things and reasons why it's not right come at you like a rapid fire diagnosis. I had to end things to save us from an unhappy relationship. We have to take your arm to save your body. I can accept that. I imagine most amputees can as well. When you're presented with all of the reasons why a thing has to be done, you can rationalize doing that thing, even if it's highly unpleasant and emotionally wrenching. But then the recovery starts...

You don't miss having your arm because it had cancer. You miss your arm because it was a part of you; because you could climb and throw and reach and hold hands or stroke your lover's face. You come to this point months after you've experienced the loss when the clinical decision has been taken and the necessity of having to make that decision has faded into the past. I don't miss my girlfriend because we fought and didn't trust one another and became gradually resentful of our differences. I don't miss her because I never felt she was comfortable being totally vulnerable to me or because I craved a measure of warmth, intimacy, and understanding that I'm sure looked an awful lot to her like losing herself. I miss her because she gave me exhausted hugs at the end of her workday and she sometimes unknowingly used the wrong word to hilarious effect. I miss that she has to sleep in pitch blackness, is the world's worst cook, won't save herself from embarrassment if the story is good, smiles like a spotlight, and when she genuinely laughs, sounds like a symphony. I miss her striking beauty and her graceful power. The diagnosis has faded and now I'm living without something I thought I would live with for the rest of my life.

Which places me at a starting point. Pick yourself up, kid.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dirty 30

Full disclosure: I hate being 30.

I know it's just 30 and you hear all sorts of cliches about the joys of turning 30, but I think most of them are BS.

"30 is the new 20." No it's not. 30 is 30. 30 is 10 more than 20. 30 and 20 have very little in common except they are both divisible by 10...and 5...and 2. Ok, that's three things, but none of them make me feel younger.

"Life begins at 30." No it doesn't. Life begins at birth. Or if you're a Super Pro Lifer, it begins at conception. At any rate, it doesn't begin at 30. You can't abort your child as long as they aren't 30. That's murder. And murder is illegal.

"30 is when you get to start really enjoying being an adult." What does that even mean? All the fun adult stuff starts at 18 or 21. I feel like the 30 adult stuff is a mortgage, car payment, receding hairline (more there later), and an expanding waistline. Why did I have to wait 9 years to enjoy adulthood? And now that I did, I have the sneaking suspicion that the only reason someone is now telling me I get to start enjoying it is because this is precisely the moment that I realize I would like to be 21 again.

I could go on, but suffice it to say, turning 30 is a little like that moment when you wake up and realize you've slept through your alarm clock. One minute you're cozy and half asleep, like the bear on the Sleepy Time Celestial Seasonings tea box, the next minute you're in a complete state of wide awake panic because you're never going to make it to work on time. It's like that, but with more expletives.

Why, you ask? Well, at a time when all of my friends are married, about to get married, having kids, buying houses, taking fabulous vacations with their fabulous significant others, and generally loving being loved, stable, and secure, I'm single (again), childless (as far as I know), renting a room from my buddy, and still planning for my financial future. I can hear your objections now:

"You have plenty of time."

"Don't be in a hurry."

"All of those things will eventually happen for you."

"You're still young! 30 is the new 20!" We've covered this one. See above.

Here's the deal, I'm not in a hurry. Clearly. If a relationship is not right, it's not right. No way am I going to wind up 60, brow beaten, and miserable because I married the wrong person. Nor do I want any hypothetical kids of mine to get some fucked up sense of what a marriage is supposed to be like by watching mommy drag daddy around by the balls or vice versa...except without the balls part...although that would certainly confuse my hypothetical kids. Not doing that. The real issue here is that the people I still have a lot in common with are in their mid 20s. I'm not afraid of winding up childless and alone, but as my same age friends check out of the single, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants club, I'm afraid of winding up the creepy older guy who doesn't quite fit in with the 20s crowd.

It wouldn't be so bad, but it seems like my beard and hair decided to turn gray at exactly the same moment. That moment? 30. Oh, and for added giggles, my hair decided to abandon my scalp in a way that leaves a tiny island on the crown of my forehead. My hairline is like the last stand of the 300 Spartans of Thermopylae. A few brave follicles are holding the pass while my forehead advances in a classic Rommel style pincer movement. I'd punch a baby for a full head of hair. Kidding. Well, maybe not. I guess it depends on the baby. I mean, if life doesn't start until 30...

Also, my left knee is becoming progressively wonkier. It used to be that running and riding the bike and playing soccer could be counted on to make me feel young and free and happy. Now I'm losing a step and having a little bit of difficulty keeping up with the younger players. Just standing in the kitchen making dinner, one of the decidedly adult things I actually do, causes my knee to swell up. Who gets hurt making dinner? 30 year olds. Oh, and when I do suck it up and play soccer I feel like I got the shit beaten out of me the morning after...and the morning after that.

A buddy of mine at work (he's 25...fucker) gave me crap about wearing a v-neck t-shirt the other day. Apparently, I'm too old. Too old for a v-neck?!? These kids today!

I accept that age cannot be reversed and I'd never go so far as to dye my hair or call Hair Club For Men (side note: are those not the creepiest commercials on TV?) or roid it up to try and reverse muscle and joint deterioration. I would stoop to Cialis though. Why lie? I just don't want to be the awkward older guy hanging out with the kids. No one likes that guy. Not even that guy likes that guy.

Here's to hoping 30 sits easier with me as the year goes on. It'd better. Next year I'll be 31.