the day i didn’t sign up for a race. a photo essay.

And that was the day I didn’t sign up for a race.

The end.

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mister pants, part 22

Fetch the bolt cutters.
I’ve been in here too long.
— the prophet fiona

Mister Pants had no idea how to deal with the concept of masks.

On the one hand, he was stunningly unattractive, and any facial covering was welcome. On the other hand, he felt a bit like a desperado whenever wearing one.

He only left his fortress of solitude once or twice a day. He went for a daily run, and sometimes to the grocery store when he ran out of ice cream, which for some peculiar reason seemed to be pretty much daily. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

In the abstract, he agreed with the CDC that wearing a mask was a fine idea. Protect others if he unknowingly had acquired the vermin, and give himself some modicum of protection, if indeed modicum was actually a word. And Salazar refused to wear one, which seemed reason enough to do the opposite.

When running, he found the only drawback was a complete inability to breathe. Apparently breathing is a big deal when running. On the other hand, The Unlikely Runner had sent him a mask with runners on it. And the people on the Ed Whitlock Memorial Loop were not the best at social distancing, being from Scottsdale and privileged and all.

And the grocery store was worse. Mister Pants was shy. He supposed there would be some tipping point when everyone was masked up and he wouldn’t feel weird. On the other hand, he had felt weird since he was 7 years old, and this was unlikely to change anytime soon.

But then he worried about his loved ones. Isn’t the reason we were all doing this stuff to protect those around us?

And that’s the day he got a face mask for his racing pineapple.

Because life is all about protecting the fruits of your labor. Even if the fruits of your labor are destined to become a piña colada in their next incarnation.

Mister Pants wished the world could go back to the way it was back when we just worried about global warming and nuclear annihilation and the Taylor Swift-Kanye rift. He wished he had the “RUN? I THOUGHT YOU SAID RUM!” T-shirt.

But always count your blessings, he supposed. He could barely remember being 7 years old anymore, that day in the alley singing “Texas, Our Texas.” And there was still a chance the vermin would clear up in time for The Big July Race.

And he had a racing pineapple with jaunty sunglasses and a fine face mask as a running companion. If pineapples have faces. And he suspected they did. What more could you ask for?

Oh, yeah. Ice cream. Fetch the bolt cutters. Mister Pants put on his mask and headed into the Brave New World, feeling brave absolutely not one little bit.

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giving tanks

Give me a heart to hang onto
Give me a soul that’s tailored new
Give me a heart to hang onto
—  Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend

Easter morning on the Ed Whitlock Memorial Loop. It doesn’t feel like Easter this year.

There are no egg hunts, no families in their post-church finery, no shared celebrations in the park. Just the usual roster of cycling and running ne’er-do-wells looking at each other suspiciously while trying to maintain their 6-foot security blanket. One Easter bunny in a bow tie that may or may not be a hallucination lurks on the front stretch.

It’s easy to lose faith these days amid the pandemic, to give up on humanity, to stop caring.

But then.

You see a couple walking in the distance, united by a blue cord. At first you think it’s a dog leash, but there’s no dog.

Then you see the bag hanging over the man’s shoulder. He’s carrying his wife’s oxygen tank as they go for a stroll.

They walk along, the ambling of a couple who have been down this road many times. One minute they’re shoulder-to-shoulder, the next a ways apart, the way marriages go. But the lifeline is always there, holding them together. A heart to hang onto.

For better or worse, in sickness and health, when one needs a helping hand with a heavy load. That’s what marriage is. Love is in the air. And sometimes it’s in the oxygen tank. You say a little prayer to the Easter bunny in the bow tie, hoping they’ll be OK amid the threat of the vermin.

They head for their car. You head for the back straight. You hug your best friend. It’s a good Easter after all.

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The sun is the same in a relative way

So on and on I go,
the seconds tick the time out

So much left to know,
and I’m on the road to find out
— Yusuf Islam

My blog, I Like Margarine, was born 11 years ago today. I went for a run, saw a dog, and wanted to write about it. But I had no platform to share my thoughts. And then, on this day in 2009, I did.

Blogging (which apparently ended in 2013 without anyone telling me) is an odd thing. You share your innermost thoughts to a smattering of strangers. It’s like writing a diary and leaving it on a table in Starbucks (back when you could still go into a Starbucks and they had tables) in hopes someone will pick it up and thumb through it. Why would anyone even do that? And I don’t much care for Starbucks coffee anyhow.

But I was looking through old posts today and remembered why. It’s been a good life. You forget stuff. Small moments, big events, great thoughts. But if you write them down, you can re-live that moment years, decades later, long after you had forgotten them altogether.

I wandered down memory lane today, looking at old posts and forgotten dreams, puppies and pie races, and my life in little snapshots. Glimpses across the years …

April 2009

But during that hour a day at the Sun Ray, I’m the person i was meant to be again. I’m the same stealthy runner i was way back in the day, chasing down lesser mortals on the trail and terrorizing rabbits as they try desperately to stay out of my way. The wind blows through my hair, the sun bakes my psyche, the comfortable cadence settles in, the sweat washes away the gloom of the world. It’s a timeless joy I will never tire of. For a few moments on a perfect April morning, i’m a puppy again.

April 2010

In my own little protest over the Arizona immigration law, which nobody actually understands but everyone has an intractable opinion of, I have decided to boycott Arizona.

Which is a problem because I live here.

April 2011

What’s the point? I vaguely recall that there was one once. I just don’t remember what it was. Or my ZIP code. I don’t need to. I remember what’s important. To live. To run. To be.

Maybe it’s just life. Maybe it’s just high tide. Maybe the point is to take the one thing that you love so desperately and wring it like a cotton T-shirt that’s just gone through a run to remember.

April 2012

I’m on a mission from God. White Cake.

Mo has sent me to the store for a little square of white cake with white icing. Mo is a sucker for the white cake. If forced to choose between white cake and Matt Damon, she’d eat white cake with Mr. Damon. I just hope she never has this opportunity.

April 2013

He’s got that look.

The clean-cut, perfect haircut, bright-eyed, intelligent air about him that lets you know he’s destined for success. Late 20s maybe. Wedding ring, baby face, handsome in a non-threatening boy band way. The kind of person I generally try to avoid because I’m intimidated. But today I can’t avoid him. Because he’s asking me me what kind of sandwich I want.

April 2014

We stood quietly for a long time, each left to our memories. I thought about how many birthdays I missed, how many times I didn’t call till 10 p.m. between deadlines, how she must have been waiting by the phone all day. I’m sorry, Ma. I thought about the copy of “War and Peace” next to “Saloons of the Old West” in the garage. Of how I would give anything just to hear her say “Rare Bear” one more time.

April 2015

short run in portland
madame sheppo scared of bridge
power bar or poop?

fast forward, scene two
trotting around bus center
what’s with her headphones?

sometimes daily run
is more life celebration
parade. with puddles

April 2016

For an artist, the joy is in the creation, not the commerce. A sense of validation maybe, but no love. I guess if you sell something, you can make more. But not another space monkey. He has a soul, an aura. He has a home. He has an Artist. He just needs to get back to them.

So he waits. For the candles to burn down and the light to dim. For me to reluctantly fall asleep. For the end of his incarceration. For my untimely demise, and his family reunion.

He tightly grips the Death Ray Gun, sneaking an occasional glance from the corner of one eye.

He’s watching me.

Waiting.

April 2017

Dementia. The demise of all those stories, all that knowledge, all that history, all those memories. I don’t know what to do with that. I cry, I scream, I mope. He was the always the one constant in my life, the guy I knew would be there forever. How the hell am I going to figure out how to get to the top of Mitre Peak now? What exactly WAS the story about the beer-drinking goat mayor at Lajitas? What’s your best Ed Cole tale? Whatever happened to that Cowan guy? Whatever happened to us? Did we turn out OK?

April 2018

Mo Sheppo’s guide to the locked track: If the big gate to the track is locked but you find an unlocked gate to the tennis courts that leads to another unlocked gate to the tennis courts that eventually leads to the track, that means the track isn’t really locked up at all.

I hope they allow cowboy hats in jail.

April 2019

They are dressed in their Sunday finest, assuming you’re consuming acid on Sunday when you choose your attire. There’s music and hugs and lights and absurd costumes and fire. Everywhere, fire.

April 2020

This April is still a work in progress. I’m on the road to find out.

It’s just a blog nobody will ever read. And that’s OK. If the mass of men are leading lives of quiet desperation, maybe this serves as my one chance to channel my inner Thoreau. Eleven years of little loops are my Walden Pond. I’m good with that.

See you on the trail. Frosty’s on me.

And no, I don’t really like margarine.

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people say i’m crazy

“This day will never,
no matter have long you live,
happen again.”
— Naomi Shihab Nye

You’re headed back to the front lines of the war tomorrow. There’s only one solution: Make a run for it.

It’s easy to forget that you only have this one day. You feel a little like Ferris Bueller, without Wrigley Field and a sports car. You head for the hills.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans, the prophet Lennon said although he likely swiped it. You wonder if he had regrets. Allowing Yoko to sing on the Double Fantasy album for one.  But then you think about “Watching the Wheels.”

I’m just sitting here
watching the wheels go round and round

I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

And so you find yourself on a little trail. A red-tufted bird sits on top of a sign trying to advertise himself as a nighthawk. The cactus blooms are everywhere. The trail goes on forever and wants you to come along with it. Who could say no?

Mo crashes, thumbing her nose at the social distancing rule of keeping 6 feet between herself and the ground,  but luckily lands on her head, averting serious damage. Rudolph is standing on the trail, wearing a face mask and waving toilet paper, always a sure sign of a successful run. The sky is blue, the perfect canvas for a raptor to paint his masterpiece. And you run.

Always, you run.

This day will never, no matter how long you live, happen again. That’s OK. Once was good enough. Ferris’ words echo in your head. “You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do.” Today, you had something good to do indeed.

You put your head down and prepare to head back to the merry-go-round. It never ends, this small daily war, until it does.

Someday, Mr. Lennon, someday. Imagine …

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easter yin/yang

Yin: Impending death from the bohemiavirus.

Yang: Bunny Big Ears!!!!

I’m calling it a wash.

Just gotta figure out how to eat a bunny with a mask on …

img_9997

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once in a pink moon

She was a frail 90-year-old, forced into seclusion because of the fear of a looming virus that would be a certain death sentence if they met up one day.

But then.

She stepped outside and looked up. The moon was enormous, lighting the sky in a way that reminded her of how immense the universe is, of how we’re just a tiny part of it, that sometimes you have to stop and smell the cactus blooms and admire a supermoon, risks be damned. What’s the point of life without taking a few chances?

For a fleeting moment under a magical sky on the edge of the desert, she was a child again.

And then, she went back into her self-imposed prison to resume her quarantine.

But the moon’s glow was still shining in her eyes.

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