Thursday, September 27, 2007

Manhattan malaise

My old boss and I used to discuss a condition we called Manhattan malaise: that sense when everything to do in the city, all the shows and events and restaurants and people and possibilities, seems completely boring and stupid. You just feel like the whole city is in rerun and there's nothing remotely interesting or appealing about any of it, and the only thing that grabs your attention is the idea of commandeering one of the ferries to New Jersey in order to get off this craphole of an island, so you start thinking about if it takes any special skills to drive a boat and if there are enough inland waterways to get you where you're trying to go.

I have basically been battling Manhattan malaise for a couple solid weeks now, and have been feeling sort of depressed about things in general. That's partly why there's been a scarcity of posts up here. I don't know why I've been down lately; I think school is really boring me right now, and I feel like each day I'm lurching out of bed to perform tasks and jump through hoops that I would really rather leave unperformed and unjumped. I don't like spending my days waiting for the evenings, when I get to be with L and see friends and watch tv and perhaps even drink. I've caught myself being really irritable and cranky, cutting people off on the sidewalk, mentally cursing out strangers for the smallest and most unintentional infraction, and I don't want to hold on to this anger. It's like an ingrown nail or something, this sense of frustration that is directed inward, where it just digs at me and makes me crazy, and I can't find a damn outlet for it. I have been pounding the streets running, I have been at the gym three days a week as well, but I can't sweat it out either. I don't know. This Manhattan malaise, as I charitably call it in this case, is maybe part of my Piscean character. I don't know.

All that to say, tonight I have had a really pleasant night, and tonight was the first classic Thursday evening of the year, and I couldn't be more thankful. Let me tell you how to spend it: you go to the gym for a hell of a long time -- two and a half hours -- for an awesome set of classes and a surprising amount of decent socialization. On the way back, sweaty and content with pounding dance tracks ringing in your ears, go to Chipotle and find that the thugged out guy behind the counter gives you a free burrito, because you've become friends with him. Return home, burrito in hand, to settle in for a night of the best TV ever. Think fondly of your good buddy James, who used to enjoy these Thursday nights with you. In his honor, make sure you and your wife pronounce the names of the "Survivor" contestants in a funny accent as the opening credits roll. Then watch "The Office" and laugh like a fool and think about why this show is so damn good.

I'm really trying to pull myself out of my funk or malaise or depression, and nights like this really help. My life is still so ridiculously blessed and fortunate; there are so many great people I love and see and miss; the city is still unfolding itself to me. I always try to remember to be grateful, and at times it can be hard, but the beauty of things is undeniable.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Nadir of the week

On Wednesday I went to the gym the same as usual, changed in the locker room, locked up my stuff and worked out. When I came back down to the locker room an hour later, I didn't see my lock on any of the lockers. Huh, I thought. I guess I forgot to put it on. Oh well. (Do you see that something bad is about to happen? This is all ominous foreshadowing). I took a shower and returned to my locker, and put on my clothes. After I was dressed I sat down to put on my shoes and socks. (How suspenseful is this right now?! Seriously!) Then I realized: my wallet is in the wrong pocket. A split second later, I thought:

Your ass got robbed. (Pardon my French.)

I took out my wallet as my stomach plummeted into my feet and sure enough, the forty bucks in cash I had was gone. On the other hand, my credit cards were there, as was my ID, and I had my cellphone too. But damn! Somebody stole my stuff!

The surly gym attendants at the front desk could not have cared less when I explained what happened. They asked if I wanted to file a police report (no), or if maybe I put my lock on an adjacent locker by mistake (uh, no). I was mad at them for not caring about the fact that theft is occurring in their gym. I was extremely skeeved out that this happened.

But then again, how the heck did this happen? Did somebody break my lock, which is admittedly a sort of wimpy suitcase-style lock? Or did I not lock it, and some opportunistic gym-goer (or, ahem, employee) saw his chance? I felt disturbed that this happened in a place where I usually feel happy and comfortable, as well as the fact that a stranger had the balls to root through my stuff. Who does that? I always think that people are basically good, but instances like this can shake up your assumptions.

But I think believing in the basic decency of people is key to living in an urban environment like this. Otherwise you go crazy and start hiding food in sewage grates. I returned to the gym yesterday feeling distrustful. This was the first time anything like this has happened to me, thankfully, and granted, it wasn't a demolishing theft, but it was enough to get under my skin. I feel pretty stupid about the whole thing, too. Remember when James Frey went on Oprah to glumly receive his smackdown, and she had this righteous fury in her eyes when she said "I was duped. I was duped. I was DUUU-uuuuuped!" in that Oprah way of hers a million times? Having $40 stolen out of your wallet when you're at the gym feels sort of like that.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Marathon training update: week 11, day 7

Yesterday was my 16-mile run. It went very well, although my knee has been hurting since Tuesday's treadmill run. I've decided I'm not running on treadmills anymore, since they only seem to break my heart. But my knee didn't hurt yesterday (although I was aware of it, in a certain way, the way you're not usually consciously aware of body parts that are just functioning normally).

When the alarm went off yesterday at 5:40 it looked like a wretched day to leave the house: pitch black, cold, rainy. When I made it up to the park it was still really dark out, yet the park did not seem threatening and I knew all of my would-be muggers were sleeping soundly on their piles of stolen handbags. This run was unlike any I've ever done with the Road Runners: it was not scored, it was not timed, and you didn't have to attach that computer chip to your shoe. Instead they broke us down into groups based on our running times, and they released us with staggered start times. Consequently I ran with a huge pack of dozens of other nine-minute milers.

I really enjoyed running with my nine-minute pack. Nobody was jockeying for position or cutting people off; we were just running in a big, friendly clump. The people seemed to have the same intenstiy level as me: everyone was sort of in shape, sort of serious about it, but no one had that Emaciated Marathoner look I assumed everyone developed, where your wrists are constantly getting snagged on your hipbones. It was a sixteen-mile run, but I never felt winded or out of breath; it was a very comfortable pace, and as it ended I felt like I could have continued on.

Great things that are happening: a run of 26.2 miles is beginning to seem plausible and perhaps even enjoyable. My comfort with longer distances is really increasing; now my basic unit is 6 miles, so I can look at a 16 mile trip, break it down into one six-loop and two five-loops, and be pretty much ok with that. I did not expect these things to happen, but I guess it's part of the mental training.

When I came home my good wife L had left the bed open for me to crawl back into; she made me some delicious eggs, I took a shower, slid into some pajama pants and took a blissful nap as the first autumn weekend of the year unveiled itself. A good training day...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Marathon training update: week 10, day 6

Because the only thing more interesting than actually running is talking about running, here's another marathon training update! Today I ran 15 miles, setting a personal record for distance. Fifteen of anything is a lot, and miles are no exception. I was pleasantly surprised, though, because my run felt great today. The "Runner's Knee" that has been plaguing me for several weeks now ("Runner's Knee" being a sort of made-up affliction I discovered on Runners World, but which does accurately describe my leg situation) was nowhere to be found today. Instead, I ran with a boulder-sized knot in my calf, which was at least a welcome change of pace, pain-wise.

I slept really badly last night in nervous anticipation of the day's race. I had been planning on running three five-mile loops, and when I got to the park around 7:45, I discovered that there was another Road Runners race taking place. So I ended up running their 4-mile race three times as part of my own trek, and happily took advantage of their water stations throughout.

The best part of the run was clearly the lack of Runner's Knee. This week I ran on Tuesday, and did a lot of cross- and strength-training on Wednesday and Thursday, a routine I think I will keep doing for a while. These long runs are getting horrifically long, so I don't want to destroy myself with the mid-week runs, and I also want to make sure I'm doing all the squats and lunges I can to stay strong.

One new concern: I'm supposed to be doing these long runs slowly, like with nine minute miles. I am slipping very easily into this rhythm, but I wonder if I'm losing any speed overall because of it. Is my slow run becoming my standard run? I hope not.

Anyways, to sum up: today was an especially good run, and I feel really good about where I am and how my body is doing. Take it to the top!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Prussian style

I painted our study a new color, comically named Prussian Blue, over the weekend L was away in Armenia. For the last year and a half, our study has been a salmon color that was pretty in theory, but was actually like being inside a human organ once you entered the room. If you tried to eat or study in there, you were confronted with the stressful visual scream of this bright, pinky, pucey, gross color. Something had to be done.

So, after running 13 miles on Saturday morning, I was struck with a sudden (uncharacteristic) burst of ambition in the afternoon. Given the sorry state of my legs I minced over to Ace hardware and bought primer, paint, and a few random paint supplies we lacked at home. I dragged all the furniture out of the study and taped up all the edges. I laid newspaper on the ground, busted out the boombox and some Fleetwood Mac and John Mayer cd's (what can I say, painting calls for white music) and applied the primer. As soon as I first dripped primer on myself, I realized that our efforts to donate away our old clothes meant that I had no clothes for painting, so I made an executive decision and just painted in my underwear. That is a tip you won't get on "Extreme Home Makeover," but trust me, it works. Anyways, priming the walls was a uniquely hellish experience: it never seems even, it's always splotchy and seems resolutely bound for ugliness. So, being someone who must always be stressed about something, I spent Saturday night feeling anxious about my primer application and disconcerted by the furniture from the study that was clogging up the hallways and other rooms.

I woke up on Sunday, eyed the misplaced furniture with angst, and opened up the Prussian Blue. It's a nice color, carefully chosen by L and me amidst a rich palette of: Celery, Impressionist, Light Sky, Shoreline Blue, Bellflower Blue, Surfboard Yellow, Lisbon Blue, Cloud Blue, Blue Mesa, Basalt, Spanish Bluebell, and Shoreline Blue. Our selection was a gorgeous color that really seemed to capture the spirit of the Prussian people, as far as I can tell. After all the prep work of Saturday, and the hell of applying a coat and a half of primer, yet with remaining streaks and clouds and foggy bits of the old color shining through, the actual painting didn't take long at all. It only took about an hour and a half, and by mid-afternoon I had restored the room to its former glory.

The new room looks great. Miraculously the color seems to match all of our wall stuff, as well as the woods of the desk and the table and the floorboards. The room is now calm, and serene, and a great place to eat and read. It only points out how gross the room was before. Why did we tolerate it for so long? Who wants a room they hate? I'm just happy that the least favorite room vaulted into first place. L was thrilled with it, too -- not bad for a weekend's work.