never turn your back on a champagne cork

It started a few weeks ago. Mo walked into a door at work. No, really. Big black eye. It’s an odd thing these days. You worry that people will look at her, look at me, and shake their heads. I would point out that I love my wife more than anything on the planet and would never do anything to harm her. Plus, she is WAY tougher than me and would totally beat the crap out of me if I tried. But still people don’t know that. Eventually, the eye healed and we went on with our lives. Until today.

Longtime readers will recall that the main gate to the track has been locked lately, as well as the other gate, and even the secret third gate. Today they upped the ante. Upping the ante being the kind of poker talk we guys who hit our wives say. They locked the big metal gate that you have to go through to get to the other gates. This appears to be serious. No fence hopping.

So we set off on the little dirt road that goes around the college. As we’re moseying along, Mo points nervously to the left. The resident coyote is standing at the edge of the field on the side of the road.

My life flashes before my eyes. I’ve never been eaten by a coyote before, and it’s a very hot day today, so it seems like a bad time for a debut. But the coyote looks like he’s hot too, and wanders away into the field, occasionally looking over his shoulder in the hopes that I will start screaming like a little girl. I don’t give him the satisfaction. Mo, meanwhile, is snapping photos and commenting on what an adorable color he is. Did I mention she’s way tougher than me?

We finish our loop and plop down on a picnic table in the shade overlooking the track. Almost immediately, a guy comes by on his way to the secret gate. We snicker, knowing he’s out of luck. But then we watch him leisurely hop the fence and set off on a loop. Minutes later, a cart comes by. The guy is gone a half lap later.

We linger a few more minutes as I try to crop an incriminating letter showing that Niece the Younger tried to kill Niece the Elder when they were young, a suitable offering for Siblings Day. Four more guys come by. They’re big football guys. Again, over the fence. They head into the back stretch and out of sight. We never see them again. I assume they were tased.

But that’s not why we’re here. We are here for this. As we walk back toward the car past the tennis courts, Mo is intently watching two tennis players volleying. In a former life, Mo was a serious tennis player. As I near the turn, I hear a BANG. Mo has walked into a metal pole. She nailed the right eye, yes, the same eye that only recently stopped being black. So now she will be parading about with ANOTHER black eye suffered on her day off with her hubby. I am going to jail for sure.

Back home, I look up coyote attacks on people. The Humane Society tells me that more people are killed each year by errant golf balls and flying champagne corks than coyote attacks. Oh, great. Now I will be worried about golf balls and champagne corks as well.

Bottom line: It’s not even mid-April and it’s already 100, the track is off-limits, and I’m going to spend the next week saying Mo was in a terrible champagne cork accident.

Maybe a coyote attack won’t be so bad …

Posted in running | Tagged , | Leave a comment

just another morning conversation, part 73

mo: Today’s the day.

me: OK! What day?

mo: We’re going to Lowe’s.

me: OK! Why?

mo: We must buy a spray-paint respirator and a prickly pear cactus.

me: OK!

I hope jail offers the chocolate frosty on its lunch menu.

Posted in margarine | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

mr. pants’ spring running quiz ©


Spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, goals are looming, Grant is tombing. That can mean only one thing: mr. pants’ spring running quiz ©. Let’s get started.


  1. You go to the track. The gate is locked. The other gate is locked. The third secret gate that is NEVER locked is locked. Might the track be closed?
  2. You are running on the track, given that if you step over the “bleachers closed” chain and then step over the fence from the bottom row on to the benches inside, it’s fairly easy to break in. Coming down the front stretch, a guy is looking in. “Is the track closed?” he asks. What do you say?
  3. You’re running on a sidewalk on the greenbelt. You see a sign that says “Pick Up After Dogs.” Minutes later, you come across dog poop. What do you do?
  4. You’re editing a story. A woman is going to push her boyfriend in a wheelchair over the Boston Marathon course. She didn’t get in officially, so she is going to run the course this Monday instead. There’s no mention of that “traffic” thing. You resist the urge to add “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?” at the bottom of the story, but only because it’s late in the shift and typing in all caps makes your head hurt. Do you still go to heaven?
  5. You’re having a dream. A church you once attended in the area has suddenly closed its doors. They’re not admitting they’re shutting down, only that their doors are shut. Your editor from the paper you worked at 10 years ago is looking over your shoulder. You keep writing headlines for the story, but you’re writing them on a cake with one of those icing squeezie things, so every time he doesn’t like the hed you have to scrape it off, smooth the cake down and start over. Given this dream, what can you expect your average time to be for the 5k summer series?
  6. Aránzazu Isabel María “Arantxa” Sánchez Vicario. (That might not be a question. I just enjoy saying Arantxa Sánchez Vicario.)
  7. You have the opportunity to bail out a co-worker who is going down in flames in Guam. But the story is about the Guam Marathon. Because of some weird dateline thing, the marathon was held on Sunday and you’re editing it on Saturday. So in effect it’s an advance story on an event that already happened. Rather than trying to figure this out late at night, you go home. How long do you avoid your co-worker?
  8. You get selected to be Jesus in your Passion Play. This consists of running while carrying a cross. You run every day while carrying a cross in preparation for the event. Does this have to be classified as cross training?
  9. You get on the airplane. You read the original New York Times review from 1968 in which the critic says “Sgt. Pepper” isn’t a very good album. You laugh at how embarrassed he must be now. You proceed to listen to “Sgt. Pepper” on the flight. And he’s right; it isn’t a very good album. Do you switch to Fiona Apple’s “Frosty the Snowman” because it’s a turbulent flight and if you have to crash that would be a more appropriate soundtrack?
  10. On letsrun, a guy says he ran a BQ but was not able to run it this year because of injury. He wants to know if it’s OK to get the jacket anyhow. I wonder how anybody could possibly entertain this notion. I do this while wearing the Bandera 100K shirt from the race I signed up for but then got pneumonia and drove down to see the Loop peeps anyhow and picked up shirt while I was there because it cost $160 and now I wear it a lot because it’s purple and matches my eyes. If I run Bandera on a different day in a different place at a different distance, does that still count? Can I get a matching Boston jacket?
  11. Is it OK to call Mr. Pants Daddy-O?


  1. I’ve never understood why it’s called the “track.” Where did that come from? “Track.” Why not the “loop” (hey that could be a catchy name) or the “oval” or the “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.” Given such an arbitrary name, I can hardly be held responsible for the consequences.
  2. Headphones are your friend.
  3. I tend to see dogs IN pickups, so I would think the proper sign would be “Dogs in pickups” rather than “pickup after dogs.” Not knowing for sure, I tend to avoid the matter altogether.
  4. Can you even run the course on a day when the roads aren’t closed? I will file this under the category “uh oh i just got to the bottom of my coffee cup and there’s some sort of weird flavor down here I probably shouldn’t have randomly taken a mug out of the sink.”
  5. This actually happened last night. It’s the only cake decorating/headline writing dream I’ve ever had. I consider it a sign. That sign being “Pick Up After Dogs.”
  6. Aránzazu Isabel María “Arantxa” Sánchez Vicario. (That might not be an answer. I just enjoy saying Arantxa Sánchez Vicario.)
  7. Also, the story had a lot of people whining about how it was raining over the entire marathon. Jeez, people. It rained once here in Arizona and it wasn’t that bad, although I never actually went outside because it might mess up my Bandera 100K shirt. Guamers (Guamees? Guamians?) are sissies.
  8. It is a fashion foe paw to listen to “Superstar” between Easter and Labor Day. It also is a foe paw not to pick up after an opponent’s dog.
  9. The 50th anniversary “Sgt. Pepper” also has alternative takes that aren’t very good, thus explaining why they were alternative takes. This is probably why the Beatles gave up and disbanded. Crappy band. Although I sort of liked Wings.
  10. I once ran a half-marathon but signed up after the “must sign up 18 months before race to get a shirt” deadline, so Mo made one for me. The shirt she made was much nicer than the actual race shirt. This made me realize the universal truth: “You can teach a chimp to smoke cigarettes, but there will always be people in the world who don’t like queso.” Once you know that, everything else is just gravy. Or queso. Damn. Now I want queso.
  11. No.
Posted in running | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

life is funny, part 379

Well, hello there
My it’s been a long, long time
How am I doin’?
Oh, I guess that I’m doin’ fine
It’s been so long now but it seems now
That it was only yesterday
Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away …
— the prophet willie nelson

I drove through Austin yesterday. Theoretically I should have driven through it Monday, but I found myself on a fancy tollway that allows you to drive 300 mph through the countryside without coming within 20 miles of any signs of civilization. I’m waiting on the Hertz bill for that one. But yesterday, it was straight up good ol’ I-35 through the heart of Austin, for better or worse.

Rick and I, small-town boys who had never been on a major freeway, were first terrified by I-35 when we were young. For two aspiring hippies from West Texas, Austin was the Holy Grail. Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comics, the Soap Creek Saloon, Whole Earth, the Armadillo World Headquarters. It was perfect.

It was the place I always wanted to live. And then I did. The music, the running trails, the food, the far left counterculture, it was everything I wanted.

And then I had to move. When I came back many years later, it had changed. It still sorta looked the same, although a little older, but it’s fading now. The soul is missing. It’s odd to look at it now through the prism of my memories and realize it will never be what it was back then. I miss it. And there’s nothing I can do.

I guess aging is like that. The test this week wasn’t good. He looks the same, that guy who dragged me up on stage to meet Willie Nelson and loaned me his American flag shirt whenever I wanted to drive Dad nuts. But he’s fading slowly, like the Austin scenery.

I still go to Austin now and then. Mo and I make the South Congress loop, Mo spray paints some graffiti, we hit up the Magnolia Cafe. It’s not the same. The thing I loved is gone, a victim of time. But what else can you do? You hang around and cherish the memories while shaking your fists at the gods who let things come to this.

I always wanted to go back to those days when we were driving on I-35 for the first time, terrified. And here I am, driving on I-35. And I’m terrified indeed.

Life is funny …

Posted in margarine | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

happy trails

‘Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.”

— henry david thoreau

I’ve been on better trails, but I couldn’t ask for a better hiking partner.

Posted in margarine | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

heart surgeons have no sense of humor

heart surgeon meets with us right after operation.

surgeon: blah blah blah blah blah.

Laura asks series of questions

surgeon: blah blah blah blah blah.

turns to me. Any questions?

me: Will he be able to play the piano after this operation?

surgeon: I don’t see why not.

me: He doesn’t know how to play piano.

surgeon: death stare.

I’m never having heart surgery at this hospital. Just in case.

Posted in margarine | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

the day i became an old man

I am hanging out with my brother at the hospital. He is four years younger than me. He has just gone through bypass surgery, so he doesn’t look that great. I, on the other hand, am freshly showered, well slept, and thoroughly adorable.

The nurse walks in. She looks at Mike. She looks at me.

And says to him, “so this must be your father!”

Yes, Mike says, yes he is.

I feel sort of bad about unplugging his life support to plug in my phone charger. But I’m sure I’ll get over it. He was a good son …

Posted in margarine | Tagged , , | 1 Comment