the streets of sesame

Two for the run
But something inside you tells you
Some things can’t be done
— the prophet brent babb

i went out to run in a 25 mph wind on a day that would have been futile anyhow. looking for some inspiration on spotify, i discovered they have added the entire dead hot workshop catalog. they’re the band that carried me through the absolute best and worst days of my life. the songwriter, a guy named brent, was sort of a nutcase, but my favorite songwriter of all time. i spent endless nights drinking rolling rocks and marveling at how lucky i was to be in a tiny bar with a 5 buck cover to see a band that never failed to amaze me. rainy nights at long wong’s, the door open and the dancer over in the corner, an audience of half True Believers and half college students out for some wings. and now i was listening to them on an abandoned road in a crappy little town that is almost in texas and it was just so sad. then brent told me

when everything is wrong
and ending all along
and everyone’s to blame
sometimes you come up short
sometimes not at all. oh well.

i had only gone 2 miles. i quit. i just quit. the body just doesn’t work anymore. long wong’s is gone, the sun club is gone, nita’s is gone, doug is gone, elvis the cat is gone, my legs are gone. they’re just memories. i came home and watched two hours of dead hot playing at long wong’s and remembered. i thought those rainy nights of e minor drifting down mill avenue would last forever. i thought the same thing about running. i would be running effortlessly forever. i was wrong. i found myself crying softly in a dark room while brent fired up “free bird” at the end of the show just because a drunk guy screamed it one too many times. i miss those days. i miss charging 6,000 feet to crown king on a saturday morning in march and watching a show later that night, basking in that fuzzy state of too may miles and too many beers. i’ll never have that feeling again. it’s gone.

the guy who wrote that song
handed my friend a bong
and said see you later, so long
so long
so long forever

because in life, and in running, sometimes you come up short. and sometimes not at all. oh well …

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oh, well. at least it’s not the middle finger.

they’re buying and selling
off shares of air
and you know it’s all around you
but it’s hard to point and say “there”
so you just sit on your hands
and quietly contemplate
your next bold move
the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
to yourself
— the prophet ani

I spend a lot of time worrying about my form when I run. Keep arms low, pump as pistons straight ahead, don’t allow them to cross your body. Hands closed but relaxed. Efficiency is everything.

Then I get my race photo back, and there it is.

My right index finger is sticking out.


I’ve always run that way. I have no idea why. The left hand is fine. The left hand is the poster child for running, although you don’t see that many children’s hands on running posters. Whatever. But whenever I run, it’s only a matter of time before the right index finger pops up.

When did this happen? How long have I been doing this?

And then I saw it. The first known photo of Baby Gary.

I was in little league running past first base (yes, I likely tripped and fell.) I’m in a full sprint. And there it is. The right index finger is extended.

Apparently I’ve always done it. 58 years later, I guess it won’t stop.

The obvious solution? Mittens. The obvious problem? South Tejas not the best place for multiple layers.

So if you see me running toward you and I’m giving you the finger, don’t be alarmed. Just think, “he’s weird.”

You might have a point.


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“I am slow, I have fought my little voice, and I have won.”

I’m coming off a lousy night of editing into the wee hours. I’m drinking my usual glass of low hanging fruit (world’s greatest name for cheap wine) and peeking at margarine, when i see the pending quote above. it’s amazing.

her name is sarah. She has a blog.

Here’s her story, in her words.


My name is Sarah. I have CF (Cystic Fibrosis). I share that same introduction with so many people, I won’t even give you a count.

We are the people who leave parties or events to go do treatments, yes, I may have an extra glass of wine at home, but I am sucking up albuterol while I stare at water condensing on my glass.

Yea, I know. I shouldn’t tell you I have a glass of wine in front of me while I do my treatments. I also shouldn’t ever put onto paper I went to wine club instead of run 3 miles. . . but I did.

I have made life choices that have landed me where I am at, in this very moment. I wish I could tell you I would trade my low lung function, but, honestly without it, I would never have put on a pair of running shoes. I never would have met some of the most inspirational runners, who happen to have CF out there (who qualify for Boston BTW).

Some day, I want to write a book, tell my story. It isn’t glamorous, it is pretty average. I am not amazing, I just keep living. I don’t try as hard as other people, I wish I did, I wish I had the courage and strength they possess.  I think I have a very realistic look at what life is like for an average person living with something that is trying to kill them on a daily basis.

Here I am. My name is Sarah, I am a runner, I love people, I love to craft, I have a heart for hurting people, I love to serve others, being a Barista makes me smile, I work at a Children’s Museum and it has been more challenging (in a good way) than any other job I have worked, I love Texas, I enjoy every moment (even the hard ones) of my marriage, I love my best friends, I love my running partners, I love to run alone, I love to encourage people, I LOVE TO SMILE, I am loud, I am rowdy, I say things I shouldn’t, I love cats, I embrace the weird in people and myself, I look for the positive in all people, I have the best parents ever, and I have CF.

In no particular order, this is my life, but CF is never at the top. It has given me an outlook I would not have otherwise, but it is not the only thing I am.

So she loves Texas, coffee, cats and running. That’s pretty much all I would need to know to sign up her as the coolest person in the world. But she also has an adversity that she chooses to make just a footnote in her life.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent, Eleanor Roosevelt said. Got a situation that causes you to run a little slower? You run a little slower. I’ve got a monkey heart that doesn’t have a second gear. Stop running? No chance. Sarah has a lung problem. Sidelines? Hell, no.

Her amazing blog is the tale of a fighter. Someone who already has beaten the odds. I wouldn’t bet against her. She hasn’t posted in a while. Maybe she just needs a proper kick in the butt. Maybe this is it.

“When you are struggling, you want to meet the people who have struggled and come out on the other side,” she wrote. She was writing about other peeps with Cystic Fibrosis, but that quote is the essence of running as well. Aren’t we all looking for those stories of folks who have endured the bad moments in a race and came out on the other side? It never always gets worse, the old ultra saying goes. We learn from each other. Our victories. Our setbacks. Our challenges. They all make us who we are.

She reposted the “winning” post because she’s a back-of-the-packer like me (although I saw the time for a half marathon she ran that was way faster than mine this weekend. showoff!) She’s a lot like me, working with the hand she was dealt. And not afraid to sneak an occasional card off the bottom of the deck.

I stayed up way too late reading her entire blog. You should too. It’s a great story. I hope there are many more chapters ahead. Thanks, Sarah. See you at the races …


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the quotable mo sheppo, part 10

“I made chicken and rice, but without the chicken.”

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The half marathon has been going on for nearly four hours. That’s not unusual.

Nobody has left. That’s unusual.

Back in the old days, 4 hours was the cutoff time for a marathon. Many years later, the mass of participants has resulted in increasing times and waning interest for the later finishers. Until today.

The race team had a genius idea. They’re giving away prizes to 10 people in a raffle. There aren’t that many people in the race, so odds are pretty good. And it’s not a $10 gift certificate to Marlene’s Frangrances that you’ll never actually go to. It’s just a hundred dollars in cash. A HUNDRED BUCKS! 10 PEOPLE! SIGN ME UP! The catch? The raffle won’t start till the last runner finishes.

As I continue to get slower, I’m fascinated with the folks in the back of the pack. Bill Rodgers once said he couldn’t imagine how people could stay out there four hours running a marathon. What would he say about the peeps who take that much time for 13 miles and change?

If you’ve never run way in the back, you don’t know how hard these peeps are working. There’s just as much suffering here as in the lead pack with the gazelles. Maybe more. We’re just doing it in slow motion.

I’ve had the world’s crappiest run today, coming in a nudge under 3 hours, so I know exactly what they feel like as they wage war with the clock, which is quickly ticking down toward the cutoff. I’m alone on a sunny day with free beer and pizza, so I prop my feet up near the finish and watch the last guys come in. And I find myself cheering like crazy.

Finishing clearly is a huge thing for them. The fast guys quibble over seconds. These peeps just want to cross that line. They do it with arms raised, smiles extended, medals gratefully accepted. They’re celebrating in a way you forget about when you’re going to a lot of races. It’s a Big Deal.

A pair of women come across, hands locked and extended overhead. Another pair. What is it with women? Guys would be tripping each other. It takes a village to run a half, I suppose.

And then, the clock ticks past 4 hours. I snap a photo of the last guy, and the race director starts handing out the cash. I’ve got the number 969, so I figure in a pinch I can flip it and claim 696, doubling my odds. Or not.

It goes along at the same pace as every other running auction — 62,000 numbers called out with nobody claiming. Slowly but surely, they find a few winners.

And then.

A bike escort guy pulls up, waving his hands up and down like he’s an NFL linebacker revving up the fans on a fourth-down stand. And there she comes.

She’s shuffling along in pretty much the same fashion I was, except that she looks more determined and does not appear to want to kill herself. She’s got a huge smile and clearly couldn’t be more delighted to be here. She crosses the finish line triumphantly, high-fiving anyone with an outstretched hand.

She’s 10 minutes past the absolute cutoff, which suddenly becomes not absolute at all. The race official leads the applause and then asks someone to grab the lottery number from her bib so she’ll get in on the drawing. I’m suspicious.

She sits down on the raised curb, taking off her shoes and basking in the congratulations from her family. The drawing goes on.

The closest I come is 959. I consider asking for 20 bucks and calling it even, but I’m not quick enough. “Not quick enough” is something I’m thinking a lot about these days.

And a few tries later, whose number do they call? Hers.

The race official, who has insisted that people come up to get their money, takes it over to her. Coincidence? Nobody seems to care. She earned it.

As he’s leaving, I run over and ask if I can take their photo together. A woman who must have been her relay partner gets in the photo as well. They all beam. After a really depressing day of running, I’m happy.

I stop by on my way out to congratulate her. I shake her hand and tell her simply, “that was a great race.” Because it was.

I finish my beer, get my $200 Honda out of the valet parking of my $200 a night hotel, and head home.

I think about it all the way back. I still get so hung up on times. I’m too slow. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m not a runner, just a pretender. Why bother.

Then I see someone finish an hour later, and I realize it’s not about time at all. It’s about winning. She won this race. Maybe I did too. Maybe we all do, every time we put on a number and face down the demons.

The running philosopher George Sheehan said it best: “It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” 

She heard the voice. She told it to shut up. A champion indeed.

Maybe I sort of loved that race after all.

But would it have killed him to call 969 …


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Yesterday: I get this email for our half marathon.

Today: Mo says she’s moving down to the 10K.

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scenes from a run

Sometimes you just want a run to end. Sometimes you want it to go on forever. This was the second kind.

Today was Pie Day. Pie was had.

Spectators on the beach. I love this photo. Woman’s best friend, indeed.

I have heard of some people using the Yakima aid station attachment to carry bicycles. weirdos.

I was running 20 miles on the Jesus Etc course when they set up a 5k around me. It was pretty hilarious. I ran through the finish chutes four times and they still wouldn’t give me a medal. Snobs.


St. Patrick’s Day festival offered quality entertainment.

In Texas, it’s all about the cowboy boots.

Sad that Mo wasn’t here. Mo loves her bagpipes.

I loved this guy’s shirt and asked him if I could take his photo. He gave me a disinterested shrug in that teenager sort of way. Only when I looked at the photo later did I see he’s looking like the proudest guy in the world.

I could run fast too if I had a jaunty hat and my feet weren’t required to touch the ground.  I found myself going the wrong direction in a quite popular 5K on a quite small sidewalk.

And then it was 20 miles later and I was sorry to see it end. My legs were not. And then I had pie. Because, well, you know …

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