just another morning conversation, part 71

mo: When we started out as a couple, you always made the coffee.

me: That was only to get you to sleep with me.

note to self: don’t talk in the morning till after you’ve had coffee.

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living with an artist, part 16

The best part about living with an artist? The constantly evolving gallery 6 feet away from me.

Plus really good coffee.

OK, mostly that second one. But still.

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art

She stands transfixed by the painting. A step back, a step to the side. Studying it, embracing it, loving it. It’s who she is. She asks afterward if i just go because of her. I say I love going. And I do. But I don’t tell her it’s not because of the art. It’s because I love watching her.

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Mr. Pants’ Guide to Thanksgiving

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‘Tis the season. Mr. Pants once worked at a newspaper* where the news editor would buy pizza for all the copy editors if nobody used ’tis the season in a headline through the holidays. The problem being, by the time you make it through Thanksgiving and Christmas food fests, nobody is particularly interested in food anyhow. With that thought in mind, it’s time for Mr. Pants’ Guide to Thanksgiving.

Q. Thanks for taking my call, Daddy-O. There’s this thing that’s been bugging me for a couple of days now. Shalane Flanagan won the Five Burros Marathon last weekend, and people are making a big deal out of how she’s the first American woman to win in 40 years. But aren’t they overlooking the obvious? SHE WASN’T BORN IN AMERICA!!! SHE ISN’T A REAL AMERICAN!!!! She was born in a place called “Colorado” and then moved to “Massachusetts.” Only MUCH later in life did she move to the United States, settling in Oregon. Shouldn’t the top American honors go to the second-place finisher, homegrown Mary Keitany, from Kaberney, Kenya? Yes, I realize many people don’t recognize Kenya as being a U.S. territory, but after the whole Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands hurricane thing, I think we should move past that. And besides, “Shalane”? What sort of crazy foreigner name is that? Give me a good American name like Mary any day. USA USA USA!!! Thanks. I’ll hang up and take my answer off the air.

A. Don’t call me Daddy-O. Mr. Pants doesn’t really care about this. Mr. Pants just cares about that video of the dog high-fiving runners during the marathon. Who the hell cares who won? High-fived by a dog. EVERYONE’S a winner!

Q. Hello, Mr. Knickers. I have been enduring ice baths after long runs since I can recall. And now The New York Times reports that ice baths are detrimental, and in fact you should jump into the hot tub afterward instead. I was skeptical at first, but the research was done by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. How can you doubt the Swedes? Remember that movie “Cool Running” where the Swedes put together a bobsled team and against all odds made it to the Olympics? Can you confirm that a hot bath afterward is indeed the preferred treatment? Or is this more of that “Fake News” stuff by the liberal press to stifle the sales of Republican companies selling ice?

A. Did you not SEE that video? He’s a dog! He’s on the side of the road! He’s HIGH-FIVING RUNNERS!!! 

Q. I have an upcoming Turkey Trot. Is it OK to run, or will I be disqualified if I don’t solely trot? And what’s the deal with prancercising? Why didn’t that catch on? Still waiting for my first Prancercise 5K. No, my name is not Molly.

A. Don’t you get it? All these people are high-fiving you on the race course, and then suddenly here’s a dog sticking its paw out. ’Tis a time to paws and give thanks. Damn. No pizza for Mr. Pants.

 

Do you have a question about running, the Apple offshore account that allowed them to avoid billions in taxes or how to play the entire   Innagadadavida drum solo using only an empty Quaker Oats container? Maybe just watch the dog high-fiving runners video instead.

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* Newspapers were these things we had back in the old days that would print objective, neutral information on the events of the day that people would read so that they could form their own opinions from a basis of solid facts and avoid electing crazy people for president. You probably had to be there.

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Wasn’t Hoover in Animal House?

I know there’s a word for this
I know cause it’s in the dictionary
And when I find what it is
I’ll write it down in case it comes up again
I’ll be certain to avoid it

— the prophet aimee mann

Today was the day. I’ve been putting it off forever. But sometimes you have to suck it up and do the thing you don’t want to do. I think Eleanor Roosevelt said that.

I set out to Buy A Vacuum Cleaner.

I must admit that months ago I thought this would be easy. Mo’s beloved monstrosity (which only now can I admit I always hated) finally sucked up its last sock. When Mo went to use it, she discovered that not ONE, but TWO socks had somehow been sucked up into it. I claimed innocence because I don’t wear socks, and if indeed they were vacuumed up it must be because someone left them lying about. Like in the living room or under the bed or in the sock drawer on the day of the Annual Sock Vacuum. These things happen.

And that’s how I ended up at the Wally-Worldmart, fully expecting to happily snatch one and be on my way. How hard could that be?

And then.

THERE ARE SO MANY CHOICES!!!! From $40 to $500 (seriously? $500 for a vacuum cleaner? This isn’t a Garmin!). Big and small, cord or battery charger, dog hair, bag or no bag, blah blah everything is turning gray the room is spinning dear god i’m going to die in Walmart. I did the only reasonable thing: Shadowing a couple who seemed properly domesticated. Only to discover they had the EXACT SAME REACTION. We all stared for a while in total bafflement (that might be a word), and then we all left empty-handed. I probably should have bought Mo replacement socks. I am a Bad Person.

And so I went home to do Internet Research. I looked up those silly ball things and the little cordless guys in 700 brands. I remember from marketing that they said you should only offer a few choices, because people get overwhelmed and end up not buying not anything. This is the first time I can recall actually experiencing it.

In the end, I settled on a Dyson cordless thing that did nothing I wanted and was ridiculously expensive. But I WOULD BE DONE!

Having made my choice, I put off actually doing the deed forever, before declaring today that This Was The Day.

I drove to the WallyMart. And there it was, sitting proudly on the little shelf. I took it down. Felt fine. Whatever. $300? I don’t care at this point; get it over with. I went to get the box. Only to find out they had none in stock.

Sometimes you get a sign from God. Or at least a postcard. This was it. “Wish you were here.” Ominous. The rational person would quit at this point. Which explains why I kept going. I remembered that Best Buy had it, albeit for more pesos. Because, of course, they’re Best Buy. One would expect differently from that name. Likely in a marketing class I overslept. I slept through a lot of marketing classes.

So I drove to the shopping center where Best Buy lives. And there was Target, a little oasis where bargains meet designers. I fancied the idea of a Designer Vaccum Cleaner.

I went in to an even larger selection of those stupid cordless things. Google. Google. Google. For every vacuum cleaner, there are invariably two reactions

  1. This is the greatest device I have ever owned I have no idea what my life was like before this little slice of heaven arrived to accidentally suck up the cat’s tail. I only wish I could give it more stars.
  2. What a worthless piece of crap the battery lasts five minutes and they seem to have mistaken sucks for suction. I only wish I could give negative stars.

And then it struck me. These things do a LOT of things. Vacuuming your car, getting under furniture, sucking up cobwebs in the corner of the ceiling. NONE of which I’m the least interested in. I think spiderwebs give the place an air of mystery. All I wanted was a stupid vacuum cleaner, and cords have never bothered me. So it was back to Google Google Google for a conventional vacuum while dodging Target employees preparing for Easter. Same result. Best ever/piece of crap. What to do?

Did I mention that thing about a Sign From God?

I was standing in front of a  vacuum cleaner, a Hoover. It looked exactly like all the others. Except it was marked down from $149 to $100. AND MONDAY ONLY IT WAS 70 BUCKS!!!! Even Eleanor couldn’t walk away from this one.

I bought it while playing scenes from Animal House in my brain. Whatever happened to Belushi? I haven’t seen him in a movie forever. Whatever.

This gesture of frugality allowed me to go next door to Best Buy and get headphones while still staying under my anticipated budget for the day, give or take a decimal point.

So I bought it. It seems fine. I stuck it in the closet, not having realized the second part of the equation is actually vacuuming.

But at least I know it’s there, waiting for Mo’s socks to come out.

I know there’s a word for this. And when I find what it is, I’ll write it down. In case it comes up again I’ll be certain to avoid it.

You tried to warn me, Aimee. Sorry I wasn’t listening. But I’m listening to you now. Through my new headphones …

 

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saturday

You wake up. It’s cold.

You turn on the news. Why do you always turn on the news?

You go to make oatmeal. After 61 years of Quaker Oats, Mo has bought you an organic brand. Fortunately it still comes in a round cardboard box, just in time to allow you to play Little Drummer Boy for Christmas. You try it. It tastes like oatmeal.

You put on the shorts with the unfortunate hole in them. A run around the soccer park. Elitist kids in $200 soccer shoes. Screaming parents. A husky who wants to pee on your leg as he prances to the dog park. Another day of things not feeling right. Is it your body? Is it the world? If bad things happen to good people and good runs happen to bad people then why do we persevere? What’s the point?

The run is a 2.6 mile loop. You try to figure out in your head how many loops you would have to do for a marathon. Too complicated. You give up. Because giving up is what you do.

You stop on the way home and buy a donut. Because you no longer care. And if you don’t care, you might as well have a donut.

You check on Sandra Vi’s run. She’s finishing around 1 a.m. Sunday in New York. In a city focused on 26 miles, she’s running the last of 54 days across America, somewhere around 55 miles a day. Nobody cares. You give a silent cheer.

You go to work. You feel the 2.6 miles in your legs. How is that even possible? You consider taking the stairs up the eight floors. But there are six elevators and you would hate to disappoint them.

You work for nine hours, churning out newspapers somewhere in Palm Springs and New Jersey. Is New Jersey even a real place? It’s a slow news day. That’s a good thing. Too much calamity in the world. A Dr Pepper, a vending-machine burrito, a promise to start eating healthy tomorrow. Or maybe 2018. Isn’t that coming up soon?

You go home. You start thinking about the next run. Do they play soccer on Sundays? Will the marathon be on TV? Is Char OK? Are any of us?

You think about the Ani concert coming up. It was so long ago that she said

But I love this city, this state
This country is too large 
And whoever’s in charge up there
Had better take the elevator down
And put more than change in our cup
Or else we
Are coming
Up

But, of course, there is never change. And there’s the whole stairs vs. elevator dilemma you would have to revisit. Revolution is complicated.

So you pour a glass of wine and settle in with another bowl of Fancy Organic Oatmeal (does merlot pair with oats?)  to watch the last half of a Hallmark Christmas movie you hate. You hope there won’t be another shooting tomorrow. At least you know  it won’t be in Texas. They have guns there.

You go to sleep. You dream about a world where people don’t kill other people.

Then you wake up. It’s cold.

You turn on the news. Why do you always turn on the news?

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six women vs. the aau. guess who won?

The photo is from 1972. Taken by Patrick A. Burns of the New York Times, it depicts six women sitting at the starting line of the New York City Marathon. And that’s how my history lesson began.

Of course, I knew about the Roberta Gibb Boston bandit run in 1966, in which she became the first woman to complete Boston. “I hadn’t intended to make a feminist statement,” she said. “I was running against the distance.”  Followed by the infamous Katherine Switzer run with the help of Syracuse teammates throwing body blocks on race officials trying to stop her, the debate was pretty much over on whether 26.2 would make your uterus fall out.

I’ve always thought of them as the heroes of pioneering marathon equality. But then today I saw this photo.

The year was 1972. Talya Minsberg, a New York Times reporter who will be in the race field tomorrow, tells the story. The New York City Marathon was gaining popularity, and the race had grown to a massive field of over 250 runners (despite the steep one dollar entry fee). The course was run entirely in Central Park. The race was notable in that six women were in the field. This was the first year women were allowed in the race.

Five years after Ms. Switzer’s Boston run, the AAU had finally deemed that women would be allowed to take part in distance road running. The caveat: They would be required to start 10 minutes before or after the men, or at a different area altogether. Girl cooties, you know. Can’t be too careful.

So New York decided to start the women 10 minutes before the men. The women lined up, the gun went off.

And the women sat down.

They sat holding signs. “Hey AAU. This 1972. Wake up.” and “the AAU is Archaic.”

And there they sat for 10 minutes, till the gun went off for the men. Equality was born. I assume they didn’t start their Garmins still the men’s race bagan.

Minsberg says Nina Kuscsik, one of the six, became the first woman to finish the New York City Marathon that day. She called the win “an important one, because it was official.”

I find myself shaking my head that this was ever a thing. With women such a dominant force in running these days, how was this ever a controversy? Maybe it just takes getting dropped by a female in a tutu who smiles as she’s passing you while laying down a 6:15 mile to understand.

My own experience came in the early ’80s. My roommate Mickey had gotten the running bug from me and we went together to the Run in the Sun, San Angelo’s biggest 8K. Mickey was wearing a tank top, cutoff blue jeans and an old pair of adidas. He was a fairly gifted runner who didn’t see why training was essential. I asked him what his goal was. “I don’t care where I finish,” he said, “but no women are going to beat me.”

Mickey had his awakening that day, finishing with his tail firmly planted between his legs, and never made that statement again.

I have had so many heroes over the years. Helen Klein, Ann Trason, Joan Benoit, Lauren Fleshman, Gumbo, Sabrina Little. But I don’t think of them as women, although I suppose technically they are, except for the no uterus thing. It’s easy to forget the path so many fought to get them to where they are, able to kick butt without worrying about whether some guy in a suit deems them worthy.

They’re not female runners. They’re just runners.

I hope the 25,000 women in the race (and as KRG wisely points out, the 25,000 men), think about the pioneers as they cross the Verrazano Narrows Bridge tomorrow.  In a time of pussy hats and #metoo, the fight is never over. But I guess victories are where you find them. NYC is a good place to look.

The race is 26.2 miles long. The struggle is a lot longer. Never, ever hit the wall.

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