Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunday bloody Sunday

Today I ran a half-marathon in Central Park. It was unpleasant, comically bad, horrible to the point of just being funny. When I finished I was soaking wet - my clothes, my body. Maybe it was from sweat, maybe it was the intermittent rain, maybe it was from the hoses they had spraying water along the way. As I crossed the finish line, collecting my celebratory water, gatorade, and popsicle, my feet squelched in my shoes and I grimly looked forward to a lengthy battle with foot mold. I ran into James, who ran it as well, and he looked like he had been hiding in the bayou and breathing through reeds for the last three weeks - we were all filthy and wet and grimy.

The actual course was two loops around Central Park, plus a bonus mile. I tried to stay positive, but "You can do it!" eventually became, "You have to do it. You can't tell people you failed. Don't humiliate yourself, don't shame the family." Cowed, I pressed on, availing myself of the rest stops and trying, honestly to not throw up for the last five miles. My mantra, besides "Don't shame the family," was "Make it a burp, make it a burp."

In the humidity and dampness, trying to jockey for position among improbably swift old people and apparently bionic professional runners, I tried to distract myself. "Wow, you're in law school. What do you think of that?" and "How does it feel to be engaged? To L?" But I was only fooling myself - I spent the entire race thinking about how far I had come, what percentage of the race I had completed, whether I had to repeat this section of the course, what hills were coming up, when the water station would appear, how quickly I could comfortably run, what my mile time was.... It was horrible, like computing obscure baseball statistics for two hours.

But the point is, I did it and I am proud of myself. It was as painful as the Great Saunter back in May, but it wasn't as pleasant to endure. After this race, my catalog of injuries includes: a painfully sore knee, blisters on my right foot, and chafed and bloodied ankles. The backs of my socks and sneakers were bloody when the race finished. Think about that. It was like the Passion of the Listless Runner out there. No good.

And yet -- doing it gave me a sense of satisfaction I rarely find nowadays, a sense of physical pride; I took one of the best naps ever afterwards (the most fun I've had in my bed alone); the rest of the day was nonchalant and pleasant; and I will sleep like a rock tonight. I think, after the pain fades away, I will look forward to doing this again in Staten Island in October.

And also: I have another reading coming up in three weeks, on September 19. I have to learn how to write again. Topics to discuss: the engagement, law school, the southern trip, Six Flags, this race. I have to learn to write.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Get set

Law School starts in ten hours from now. I can't believe it. I hope I like everyone, I hope they like me. I hope I don't get too rabbity and competitive when some people memorize flow charts of the court system and I do not. I talked to my mom on the phone and she said not to wear flip flops tomorrow because it might not make a good impression. But it's hot out, and it's summer. But I have ugly feet. I don't know.

Season-wise, I don't think you are likely to improve on summer 2005. I went on three trips: the comically bad bus tour through southern Italy with my family in May; the life-altering Calfornia trip in June with L; and the profoundly fun southern odyssey in August with James. I am a lucky man. I also left one job, in a way that was much harder and more heart-wrenching than I thought it could be, and braced myself for the student life, which begins right now. And I read some good books this summer, too, especially: "Heaven Lake," by John Dalton, "War Trash," by Ha Jin, and "Politics: Observations and Arguments," by Hendrik Hertzberg (friends call him Rick).

It was a great season, my winning season (I also got to see two minor league ball games, both wonderful). I am thankful for it, and I guess I am ready to do well in law school. I can do this. I am this. I am wearing flips.

Wish me luck...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Song of the South

Hoo boy, I am back. It's been a wild few days. We went down to Charlottesville for a wedding and a heady dose of nostalgia, and then James and I took off for our long-awaited Southern road trip: from Cville to Nashville, and then on to Oxford Mississippi, home of William Faulkner. This was a densely-packed four day period, and the theme turned out to be: People's Homes. We started out at my friends Trish and Matt's, then, consequentially, on to: Andrew Jackson's, Jack Daniel's, and Faulkner's.

It was an amazing trip but I'm afraid I can't do it justice - I didn't keep up my travel journal while we were in the thick of it, so I just have the summary notes I took after we had returned. But this trip scratched an itch I've been nursing for a long while, since I learned about Andrew Jackson in high school and suffered an instant infatuation and desire to get to the Hermitage, his house. So far, this is my first and only presidential crush.... not counting Jefferson. Or FDR. But this is getting weird.

Everything was so Southern about this trip, the way I hoped it would be. Friendliness, heat, the buzzing of insects, the smell of cedar, old, drooping trees, dilapidation. It was romantic but uncomfortably so. Faulkner's house, Rowan Oak, was a dream: less of a musem and more like someone's home. Seeing his writing room was genuinely inspiring, and seeing the origins of the world he created - a literary genesis, a Big Bang - imagining an entire mythology and landscape being spun from this house, these walls, that desk - as a reader I was inspired.

The rhythms of the trip were strange as well - driving until ten or eleven at night, staying awake until late to drink or watch old reality shows, eating a big meal at lunch and little else through the day. As always traveling with James was fantastic. It was a great trip - bigger than I thought it would be. I've been watching more than my fair share of CMT as a result, inspired by our sojourn in Nashville and the beautiful country girls we saw playing in the bars. Chely Wright, anyone?

I'm back home now and will probably head back to the city tomorrow. There is not much for me here, I'm a bit bored. Law school is seven short days away. Very excited and looking forward to writing this thing a bit more often now that summer is winding down and my real life is resuming.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I'm not a nice person

I went to Six Flags today! It was awesome. James and I met at 7:45 to schlep out to New Jersey, which is always a delight in itself, and we hung around the park for half an hour until it actually opened. We went on the following rides: Nitro, the Batman ride, the Superman ride, the Great American Scream Machine (affectionaly known as GASM), Rolling Thunder, and Medusa. As usual, I preferred the twisty ones to the dead-drop-oh-my-god-my-heart-just-imploded ones.

Two important things came out of this day trip: (1) I may be getting too old for this. After the second coaster, which was particularly violent and seizure-inducing, being one of the sleek new modern ones that are made of fiberoptic cables and videogamers' darkest fantasies, I felt like someone had applied an Indian burn to my brain stem. We kind of staggered around and waited for our synapses to reconnect. Meanwhile we watched a wide variety of adolescent social dynamics: the teenage guys who learned all of their cuss words (thug #1: "Fuck this shit!" thug #2: "Bitch!") and the gaggle of ten girls with their sad lonely one male friend who clearly has no guy friends of his own ("Justin, come ooonnnn!" "Oh my God, Mallory, you are so hurting me right now!"). From all of this I ascertained that I may be too old to subject my body to this kind of experience, and that I shouldn't spend my leisure time with teenagers.

(2) We saw at least three overweight people be ejected from the roller coasters they had just boarded after the safety harnesses and lap bars could not contain them because they were too fat. This was embarassing each and every time. Here comes Bobby or Melinda Thunderchunks, waddling up to the car after a thirty or forty minute wait, and they can't get the overhead safety bar to latch into place. Soon Attendant #1 comes over and leans their entire body into the structure, but it won't click. #1 makes a not so subtle hand signal to Attendant #2, and then both of them are straining with all of their mat to displace this poor bastard's body mass enough to strap them into place. Finally they give up, exchange a brief word with the kid, and the kid waddles down and out.

This made me sad for the kids, while at the same time repulsed by them. It was humiliating for them, and everybody waiting saw it happen. A couple of them tried to laugh it off, but nobody else was laughing with them - everybody was disgusted (and, he shamefully admitted, kind of thrilled by it too). Let's face it, extra wide seats on roller coasters are just not a good idea. Slim down or stay home, I guess. It was just so pathetic all around. No wonder the terrorists hate us.

I had never seen this before, and today it happened time after time after time. What is wrong with this country?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


I am not sure what to do with my time currently... This is the third or fourth weekday of having really nothing at all to do, and I am feeling the first pangs of boredom and panic. I was hoping to get out of town today for the day, but a combination of scheduling issues and the vastness of the wasteland that surrounds New York City (I mean really, is there anything decent within two hours of this place?) made that impossible. So now here I sit at eleven in the morning, all dressed up with no place to go. I am trying to think of something to do or some place to go that's not in my normal routine, but I am struggling. Even just writing this seems pretty darn pathetic.

Tomorrow I have lunch plans, though. That is the rock upon which I will build my day.