things i wish i had said, part 60

hey. i just wanted to say thanks for being my friend. it’s been such a hard stretch at work, and the only thing i know for sure is that you will stop by every day as you leave. i will ask “are you coming back?” and you will reply “no.” which sounds stupid to write now, but is always hilarious to us.

the beloved ball you lob across the room at inopportune moments (i’m sorry i slobbered on it). that look you give me when i say something stupid. the whack on the back of the head when i’m on deadline. the way you sneak over mid-shift to tell me about the homemade goodies you have hidden in features. the times you stay a half hour past the end of your shift to save my ass but never say anything about it. the way you let me know that in an uncaring world, you care. i know you’d do anything for me. i hope you know i’d do the same. the ship is sinking, but we’ll swim for it together. that’s what friends are for. i don’t know what we’ll do when we don’t see each other every day. we’ll figure it out.

i love you, pal, even if you’re a royals fan. have a good vacation. see you next week.

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life is funny, part 365

this story is probably too long, so stop reading now.

i’m at work yesterday. actually i’m at home today, but i’m writing in the present tense about yesterday which makes no sense but i always write in present tense and i don’t use capital letters because it’s fascist and it doesn’t matter anyhow because you stopped reading a paragraph ago.

anyhow, i’m at work. i might have mentioned that already. it’s an average day. we’re trying to get a co-worker drunk enough to impersonate justin beebee on the last day of work, but he’s young and holds his liquor impressively well. i’m editing stories, and there are only so many first references you can remove from a story, so i take a break to peek at facebook.


we are on the last day of the verizon month,  and we’re at 5.99999999999999999999999999 gigs of a 6 gig plan. if i use the internet at all, we’ll go over just by 15 seconds for the month, costing me $15 that could be better spent on jell-o shots for the co-worker on his way to impersonating carmen miranda. it’s his right. i have a brilliant idea. use the work computer for facebook instead.


i have no idea what my email address is for the current account. in an effort to stay a step ahead of the federales, i have several accounts with varying degrees of legality. i also have about 200 email accounts from the days i would stage hijinks on an unnamed running community, so it’s semi-impossible to know which one to use. so i try one that i think i might have used to create the current account.

it works. it’s my email address, the same password i use for everything (i shouldn’t reveal that, but you stopped reading after the first graf, so i guess it’s ok.)


i’m in the facebook account of a guy named bill collins. i totally freak out.

it’s blank except for his name. has someone created an account using my email account? am i now the mirror account for someone bootlegging spongebob videos from malaysia? i am not a technology genius, so i don’t know what it could be used for. but there it is. there seems to have been no activity, other than a couple of suggested friends, none of which appear to be drug runners or republicans. whew. and then it hits me.


not only did he use my email address; he used my password. this can’t be good.

what to do? i consider writing the fb tech guys, but it’s going to sound dumb, given that the account is empty. does this happen a lot? is this part of some global scheme? am i unknowingly harboring the rest of those missing hillary emails? can the co-worker do a passable impression of spongebob? a little spongebob always helps in times of tension.

i google “bill collins facebook scam” and get nothing. i google “cat adopts baby monkey.” that helps, but i can’t stop worrying. eventually i go back to editing and forget about it.

at the end of the shift, i open it again and stare. no activity. no photos. no links. what the hell?

and then i realize who the culprit is. it’s me.

during a long-ago quest for the perfect anonymous facebook id, i had thought about using a totally bland name to fly under the radar. that name being bill collins. i set up the account, lost interest and moved on, leaving behind an unused account and a nagging sorrow that fonzie is now on a road trip with james kirk. it’s been sitting there abandoned since.

i guess i’m relieved, but now i want to know more about bill collins. maybe we can become facebook friends. maybe co-worker can do a bill collins impression if we keep the bar tab open long enough. aren’t you glad you didn’t read this now? fascist.

life is funny …


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things i wish i had said, part 59

“I’m not upset at all. I wish I were a little bit better. I wish I would have been closer. But we went all in. And that’s as good as I am.”
— desiree linden after her seventh-place finish in the olympic marathon

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hope gallery, part 3

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living with an artist, part 11

when she was a little girl, it was a pencil and a box of crayons. these days, it’s a guerrilla box of her beloved oils and a taxidermy bag of spray paint. but the game is the same. still searching, discovering, unlocking doors. i finally understand that you don’t choose to be an artist. it’s just who you are. i’m lucky to share the adventure.  

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willie and me

willie was my training partner a million years ago. i hadn’t thought about him in a long, long time. until today.

i’ve just noticed he’s setting 4 feet away from me at my picnic table.

willie and i ran a lot together during my best two years of marathon training back in 1985 and ’86. we were living in georgetown, a little mayberry north of austin. he was older than me, but a strong runner. we would meet on saturdays for those 20-mile grinds, starting at san gabriel park and heading out the roller coaster of farm roads into the texas wilderness. he was a big part of the reason i got faster during that period. no excuses, no shortcuts. miles in the bank every week. just a truly nice guy to hang out with at 7 mph on a saturday morning.

then we would meet again on sundays for fun run day. shaking out the cobwebs with 4 or 5 miles with a couple of other guys before heading to mcdonald’s for breakfast. health nuts. it was a back-to-back weekend you could build a solid program around. and make a friend for life in the process. that was us. and then.

i moved to phoenix.

a one-year detour lasted a quarter-century. i’m not a people person, so i never kept up with him. he became one of those memories that you tuck away in a safe place to pull out on a special occasion.

which was today. here. at this picnic table.

mo and i are basking in the aftermath of the navidad valley cattlewomen’s 5k ranch run in schulenburg, texas. it’s a tiny town holding one of those celebrations that features a parade, carnival, rodeo, cow-chip tossing, and of course a 5k.

it’s an old, old school race. no chip timing (other than the cow chips). director says go, you run 3.1 miles, and as you come across the finish, they call out your time. you remember it, write it on a piece of paper along with your name, and drop it in the appropriate age-group tupperware container. it’s a joy.

as we’re waiting for the awards ceremony, i see him sitting two people down. it’s startling; a ghost from a different life. i whisper to mo, “i know that guy. he’s my old running partner.” mo wants me to talk to him. yeah, right.

longtime readers will recall that i’m a bit of a recluse. i avoid chatting with people at all costs. strike up a conversation with someone i haven’t talked to in 30 years? this will not be happening.

mo is insistent; i give her the death stare. i win. we wait for the awards. and then i realize. they’re going to call my name. he’ll be on to me. but it occurs to me that i’ve entered the race under the benjie katz alias. i have it made.

age groups pass ever so slowly. mo, who insisted we run the race together until about 200 yards after the start when she dropped me like a rock and never looked back, misses placing by a minute. and then the old guy category. i take third in 60-69 by virtue of still being alive.

and then they call up willie. he has won the over 70 category. i watch him get his award and motion to mo that i’m ready to leave. my getaway is secure.

and then i find myself walking over to him and shaking his hand.

“hey, willie. do you remember me? gary. we ran a million miles together in georgetown.”

he’s suddenly the kid under the christmas tree who has found his parents didn’t get him (ugh) books for christmas. huge smile. eyes light up. and there we are, right back in 1986.

we spend a few minutes doing the “wow i can’t believe it’s you” thing. we introduce our wives and talk about the old days. the sun run. the time i was picking up cans during our long run and putting them in my pack without realizing they were full of ants. the other guys we ran with. (what WAS his name? i’m getting old.) that easy feeling of looking someone in the eye who has the same love as you. the same memories.

willie’s 82 now and still going strong. he’s on a quest to run a race in every county in texas. there are 254; he’s notched 150 already. i wouldn’t bet against him. which is how he ended up in this little town on a crazy-hot august day. i’m still not sure what led US to be here. i’m chalking it up to the running gods.

we talk for a while and then say goodbye. did i ever mention i’m not much at socializing? but it was a godsend. it’s been sort of a hard stretch lately. mo dragged me out of bed at 3 a.m. against my will to make it to the race. “you need this run,” she said. mo is wise. i left town the happiest i’ve been in a long time.

you never know where you’ll find a miracle. sometimes it’s sitting next to you at a picnic table in schulenburg. thanks, willie. see you next time. and, yes, i’ll say hello …


p.s. never, ever challenge mo to a kolache-eating contest. you will lose.

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freeeeda mo

“i think we’re supposed to line up closer to the back,” one of the women in front of me says to her friend as we wait for the race to start. “no way,” the other woman replies. “i’m worried they’ll run out of beer.”

but when you’re running a race sponsored by a beer company and a sausage maker whose main attraction is a frida kahlo look-alike contest, you’re likely not going for a world record.

in fact, the announcer points that out shortly before the start. “the world record is 12:37,” he says. “you will not be breaking it today.” it’s at least 130 degrees. upside of a 7 p.m. start in south tejas in july: it makes for a better post-race party. downside: certain death.

the bibs have the runner’s name on them. mo’s says freeeeda mo. mine says benjie. mo is cooler than me. this is not  a surprise.

but other than a heat stroke, it’s a fine party. crazed kids sprint 400 meters before the longer race, the course is beautiful, the out-and-back trail offers a constant stream of fridas going by. i’m embarrassed to say i never knew frida’s affection for monkeys. i just assumed everyone brought trail monkeys.

mo hangs with me for a while before leaving me in the dust. i mosey through the miles, happy to trot again after weeks on the sideline.

we stay for the frida contest and a beer and a sausage before calling it an evening. it’s the way races should be: a party thinly disguised as an aerobic event. much fun. we almost didn’t go. it’s been a bad week, and we were sort of gloomy. this was just the cure. we make the two-hour drive home saying “wow i’m glad we went” over and over.

bad week? go for a run. preferably one that involves monkeys. lesson learned.

and no, they didn’t run out of beer.



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