Sunday, December 30, 2007

Our cats, in a nutshell

Below are the actual notes left by the cat sitter during out recent trip to Fort Lauderdale. I think it captures each of the cats' personalities quite nicely...

"Day 1:
Hi! Both Abner and Ari were all over me and following me everywhere. Ramona just ate then she would run off when I got too close. We had fun with the toys then a good rub down for Abner and Ari. We had a very nice visit."

This one in particular sums them up:
"Day 2:
Hi! Fresh new snow this morning! Ari went on the porch for a bit then just ran around like a little crazy cat. Ramona ran for food, I told her it’s ok to save some for later. Abner is his usual sweet self; lots of hugs and kisses to offer. We had a very nice visit."

Over the next two days she experiences one of Ari's little knock-everything-off-the-table-one-by-one sessions:
"Day 3:
Hi! Looks like the kitties let in all the strays, to get out of the storm. Mail and other little things were all over the floor. Ari had all kinds of things to say. We had a very nice visit."
This one is a little more about the sitter than the cats, but she still takes the time to mention the party the cats hosted:
"Day 4:
Hi! Kitties had another party last night, there were things all over the floor. There was a red truck parked in front of the white house across from your driveway, when I went to park I hit it … Besides that, the kids and I had a nice visit. "

My favorite part of the below note: "like it was her last meal...." That's our girl.
"Day 5:
Hi! The kids were great! Ari always had something to day. I love that Abner lets me give him hugs and kisses now. They played tag with each other with the laser. Ramona just kept eating like it’s her last meal. We had wonderful visits!"

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

From winter to fall

Took my first digger of the season this morning. Not so gracefully, but with a bit of style, IMHO.

I was out on the Minuteman Trail, as per usual, and had an internal commentary going about how well I had handles any icy stretch. My approach is a semi-prance step, lifting the legs a little higher to accentuate the up down motion, and minimizing the back and forth movement. Wait - that makes it sound like I am hopping, or a police horse... Trust me, it works for me.

Anyhow, I was plodding along and heard a bicyclist coming from behind. I went to step towards the edge of the path to get out of his way, and caught my toe on a tall chunk of ice. That's when the slo-mo part of the fall began. It seemed that I had all kinds of time to think through how I'd fall, or perhaps I just recalled memories of my skateboard days when falling was fairly common. In any case, I pulled my best Boris Becker impression and rolled in a tidy ball, protecting the hands and chin.

The bike guy stopped and asked if I was ok, which was nice of him. I don't even think I made eye contact thanks to my temporarily injured pride. My hope is that from the outside it looked as if I pitched forward, dove into a somersault, and then rolled back on to my feet. It went that smoothly.

Luckily, my legs were sort of numb from the cold by that point, so I hardly felt anything. Wrist and palms were a little sore, but that's it. Within seconds, I was on my way again.

I am sure it won't be the only slip and slide of the season!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Good kitty

Our most active cat, Ari, just jumped on my laptop keyboard and created the following meeting in my Outlook calendar: KKKiiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllllll. Scheduled from 9-9:30 this morning.

Um, should I be afraid of him?

Technically the full text was:
n bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb nnnnnnnnnnnnn?KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllllll

Perhaps he's only partially mastered the English language, and he's trying to tell me something larger...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

early morning run

Things that made yesterday morning’s run memorable:

  • Watching someone take advantage of the early morning light to take pictures of Spy Pond and its inhabitants
  • Seeing Spy Pond in the early morning light
  • Passing a young boy who was nearly invisible beneath his bundles of clothing, happily pedaling his training-wheeled bicycle a few feet behind his mom
  • Feeling like I was wearing the perfect balance of clothing – not too hot, not too cold (this is an ongoing quest)
  • Running to mellower music than usual. It was just that kind of morning.
  • Hitting a groove, finding a stride, and knowing that I was speeding up without any extra perceived effort.
  • Being out and about just as the sun is coming up, making up for the fact that it sets so early these days.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Paso a paso

I received a notice in the mail that one of my student loans is about to be paid off. $3000 down, $80,000 to go!

While a daunting payback road lay ahead, this smaller sum is actually quite significant. The loan was made during graduate school, shortly after my father passed away. I had worked my way through undergrad and grad, but when my father died (sort of unexpectedly, sort of not - a story for another day) I decided I needed to make some changes to allow for more trips to see my mom, mentally recover from the loss, etc. Plus, I was enrolled in a dual degree program, and this was the year I was slated to shuttle from one campus to another. That left even less time for the non-academic pursuits.

So, a couple weeks after his passing, I went to the Dean of my school to see if there was some help they could provide. I wasn't sure what I needed, but it seemed like this what what you did in such circumstances. I also knew that when my best childhood friend's parents were both very ill, her school stepped in and did everything they could to support her and make sure that she was able to stay in school. After explaining my circumstance, the Dean thought for a few moments, and then indicated the school could offer "Emergency Assistance" - a short term grant aimed at things like paying your heating bill if you come up short.

Um, not exactly what I was hoping for.

I responded that I would likely need more assistance than that, given my expected decrease in income and increase in expenses, but that was the end of the offer. Additional pleas got me the offer of a $3,000 loan, which I have been slowly paying down the past seven years. That year, I also ended up taking out loans above and beyond the federally allowed $18,500 to cover my lack of income, which I will continue to pay for the next 30 years or so.

We're our largest and best investment, right?

I switched the monthly payment over to an autopayment so I wouldn't cringe every time I wrote the check (and because, let's face it, who wants to write a check if you don't have to?), but even the school name appearing next to the deduction in my online banking account bugged me.

Now that loan is about to disappear, leaving me with an extra $50 each month, and perhaps a little less bitterness towards the whole situation. Perhaps.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Working from home

Today is the first day I'm exercising the option to work from home. Traffic on Fridays is stinky all around, thanks to MA residents heading either to NH or the Cape for the weekend. I can't blame them, as they are nice destinations. Heck, I look forward to being one of them.

I have a pretty sweet setup going on right now. Laptop, coffee, water, a napping cat on either side (I set out some fleece cat traps which are pretty much impossible to resist amongst the feline set), laundry being washed in the basement... And without the drive, it's like having three extra hours in the day. Nice.

Happily, the most active of our three cats, Ari, is one of the current nappers. He has an internal alarm clock that goes off at 4:45 am every day, at which time he starts to play with any noisy plastic bag he can find. And meow. This little bodied cat can meow like none other. P and I have learned to largely ignore it, but it does have the potential to leak into your dreams.

Three cats is a lot of cats. It feels like a tipping point of sorts, where suddenly there are lots of personalities, allegiances, triangulations of kinship, etc. in their world. At the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady I'll stop there for now, but I may start logging some of their exploits here and there. It's a show, for sure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Gym foul

Today I checked out the gym at my office building. Two treadmills, two stationary bikes, an elliptical, some weight machines and dumbells squeezed into a corner, and a huge space to stretch/host a pilates class. It's small, but it's something, and it will help me continue to keep up with physical activity even with my newly increased commuting time.

Treadmills aren't my favorite, and I much prefer being outside. Still, it is a nice backup, and when the weather turns super cold here in New England, I'm happy that I can still go for a run to clear my head. I've been running outside since I started the new gig, and last night decided I just didn't want to get up that extra 15 minutes early (read: 4:45am) to hit the road, beat much - but not all,, shockingly - of the traffic, and get on the minuteman to enjoy the morning air.

So this morning I found myself on a treadmill, with a short run as a goal so I would also have time for a little strengthening (something I don't do often enough). The treadmill faces a mirror, forcing me to either watch myself run or stare at the ceiling. I studied my gait for a little bit, and decided I liked my new-ish running shorts from REI. And I stared at the ceiling a lot.

As I was finishing up, I realized I forgot to grab my towel in the car and bring it with me. Not wanting to head out into the cold parking lot when I was all sweaty, I committed a total gym foul - I used someone else's towel. I know P is probably cringing at this... Heck, I needed a towel, this one had been there for a few days, it was clean, there was no one else in the locker room... It was all too easy. I tried to leave it pretty dry in case the owner came around, and luckily I escaped with no one the wiser. Except, well, you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Manchester Half

On Sunday I ran a half marathon in my hometown. Never did I think I would say that while I am living in Manchester, a town where I have run for four years and often go for miles without seeing any other runners. But there I was on Sunday, lined up on Elm Street with about 1600 others, getting ready to kick off the first annual Manchester Marathon/Half Marathon.

And you know what? It was great.

I had pretty low expectations, I admit, largely tainted by my overall feelings around living in Manchester. But in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. So as much as I can highlight the negative aspects of this place, I also need to give props where they are due.

The weather was just perfect. The rain and wind from the day before had cleared out, and it was around 50 degrees, sunny, and dry at the start. The field was not overwhelmingly big, but not small... Even without any official type of organization (no corrals, no people telling you where to go, not exactly knowing in which direction you'd be taking off) we all found our way to the start line and placed ourselves accordingly in the pack. Everyone played nice; no grumbling.

The course itself was tough, with enough hills to leave this girl with stiff calves the next day. Some were steep, and some just long. There was one particular street that was killer - it went uphill for around a mile, and then turned left to get even steeper for another few hundred yards. Friends standing at the top to cheer people reported afterwards that "everyone just looked broken." That was around the 10k mark, meaning we still had a ways to go. Still, people stayed positive.

I talked to more people on this course than I have in any race (generally I'm not really a stranger talker). Just little chats as you realize you have been alongside the same person for a mile or so. They'd organically end, and we'd go our own ways. It was nice.

Traffic wasn't entirely closed off along the course, but the police and volunteers did a good job of fending off cars from intersections so runners did not have to pause and wait. The reaction of drivers who were held back ranged from annoyed (even going to far as to honk at us) to cheering us on (even going so far as to honk at us). It was easy to ignore the less than happy drivers - for this one day, these few hours, they could sit tight. I think this is the one thing that will need to be addressed in next years race, which is already being discussed as having an expanded field.

Also of note on the course is that the half and full marathon routes were the same for the first part. At 13 miles, I split left while the full marathon peeps split right and headed off to the west side of town. So some of the people I spoke with en route were actually going for the full 26. With this size of a field, it was easy to mix the two, and the transition seemed to go quite smoothly.

As it was a small race, the finishers area at the end wasn't terribly packed. I stayed for a massage (which seemed to last for 20 minutes or so), tasted some soup at the "soup off" (I voted for the broccoli and cheese soup from CJs) and then walked two miles to my home. Which, incidentally, was around mile 11 of the course.

I spoke to a few others afterwards who were as excited as I was that there was an event to pull people together in Manchester. It simply doesn't happen often enough.

I'll end this roundup with a short story on life in this town. I was getting my hair cut the day before, and talking with the woman who cuts my hair about the Manchester race. Several of her clients were running in it. As we are chatting about the route, and other races in the area, she nonchalantly slipped in, "I hear there's another race happening in New York tomorrow."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Food. Sort of.

I got some candy from a vending machine today. Life Savers, to be exact. That was due to me being 5 cents short of being able to buy some Twizzlers, and not having time to go anywhere else for a quick snack - my yogurt and OJ for lunch didn't cut it.

It made me wonder when the last time I used a vending machine was... very long time ago. And had Life Savers? Even longer. I made the error of looknig at the ingredients - sugar, sugar, and suger. Makes for tasty intake that really doesn't impact hunger for very long. If only I had that extra nickel!

Luckily, I'm heading out for a more substantive meal this evening.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Adjusting the days

The past few weeks have been a blissful time without any official type of employment to speak of. I spent some time in NYC, then to Chicago, and then had friends up for the weekend. Completely lovely.

Last week I started my new gig, meaning all of the schedule-as-you-go attitude has to shift if I want to continue to do the things I like to do. For the time being, my commute is long (~40 miles each way, which in traffic is 1.5 hours) and is undertaken each weekday. This will be shifting, but not for a few weeks, if not months. The job shift is worth it, but it involves some sacrifice for sure.

First thing is getting to bed. This is hard when your baseball team is heading to the World Series and the games end late. Even when they are breaking my heart, I know I will find myself unable to tear myself away, in case the game shifts in our favor. That's the beauty of the game.

Then there's waking up earlier. My non-scientific obervation to date is that the morning commute has worsened since my last Boston-area job stint. The thought of waking up before 6am hurts me, but for the commuter the choice is to leave at 6 and have a one hour-ish commute, or leave at 6:30 and have a 1.5-2 hour commute. Leave at 7 and it could be worse... So I have been finding my way onto my feet at 5:15 to get ready to start the day. I'll get used to it.

Perhaps more importantly, I want to build running/general exercise into the days. One of the good things about my job's location is the proximity to bike/run/walking paths. In particular, I am basically on top of the Minuteman Trail, which is long and devoid of cars (although there's always the bicycles to dodge). I did a test run last week, and I think it is going to work out well.

At the moment I am in Ann Arbor, the home base for my division at work. I was in a training session today, and will head back tomorrow. Good stuff, even if it makes my head spin. We manged to get out early, giving me some extra time to find my way downtown (have I mentioned lately how much I love my GPS?) and then back to my brother- and sister-in law, with whom I'm staying.

I plotted out a small run (around 4 miles) to check out the local neighborhood. It's hilly and chilly, but it made for a really nice way to unwind from the day. Not to mention move around, after sitting and poking my way through unfamiliar software all day.

Tomorrow I will try to find time to run a new route. It's the best way to see the area!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Chi-town visit

Given the option, I think I'd be pretty happy to not work. Or, perhaps, just travel for a living. Is there a Lonely Planet guide out there waiting to be authored by me?

I write to you from Chicago, having arrived here last night. I love this town. Each time I come, there's more to discover and explore. At the same time, as I gather knowledge, I revisit some of my favorite spots. Case in point: last night P and I headed over to Lou Malnati's for some deep dish pizza. Yes, it's a chain, but who cares. We sat at the bar to watch the Cubs/Dbacks game, and chatted with the bartender, Kirby. A very welcoming start to this visit.

Another reason I love coming to Chicago is that it is a running town. I was particularly excited to go out this morning because I have new running shoes that I purchased only yesterday. My former Nike Zoom+ pair, while lovingly used, was starting to feel like I was running on a few pieces of wet towel squished together. That said, I headed over to my local running store and spent the better part of an hour running up and down the street in various pairs of shoes. The guy working with me was super patient, and I ended up with a pair of Asics. I haven't had a pair of Asics shoes since my high school volleyball days, and the report after my first four miles on them is thumbs up.

While there, I also ended up helping another female customer with some sport bra advice. Poor guys in the store had no clue what to recommend, and had never heard of wearing two bras at once for better support (an unfortunate statement on the sport bra industry that women have resorted to this option). Once I heard she was going down the two bra route, I instantly suggested a couple of options for the bigger chested ladies. I understand her plight...

I'm off to pick up some tickets for an architecture tour from the vantage point of the Chicago River. I have wanted to check this out since my first visit to Chicago, and have never been able to do so. Then off to sneak into the AAFP Expo (the meeting that has drawn P here, and how I am tagging along) and check out the swag options.

Guaranteed to be a good day!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The cord is officially cut

I turned in my laptop and badge for my previous job. I am now officially a non-employee. It's both strange and exhilarating.

When I went to drop off the computer, I saw a few people I have worked with closely, and one of them quickly started talking work. Detailed ongoings of work. And there I was, in my jeans and t-shirt, clearly not focused on any sort of work talk, feeling elated on the inside that all of this was no longer my responsibility or concern. Still care about the overall mission of said company, but you can keep the day to day mishigas.

That said, I am now in pure vacation mode. My bag is packed, and in about 15 minutes I'm heading down to Boston to see a Red Sox game with a friend. I'll stay chez him overnight, and then hit the road for NYC in the morning. Very excited to get to the city, see P (who is there for the month), give up the car for a few, run in the park, and simply enjoy just being able to do whatever, whenever.

I'll come back for a couple of days, and then head to Chicago for 5 days. That's the longest contiguous time I''ll have ever spent there, and I do love that town. The only plan I have thus far is to meet up with a friend (and her mom) who is running the marathon and check out the expo. Looking forward to being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people and product.

Given the amount of vacation time I never used while working at the previous job, I have ample vacation time to cover all of this. With some to spare.

I can't believe how well this is all falling in to place. I should switch jobs more often.

Monday, September 24, 2007

semi-vegetative state

I've worked hard. I've been diligent and responsible. I've been a team player. And tonight, I think I am going to give myself a guilty gift that has absolutely zero value in the real world.

I am going to gorge on television.

I've been planning it out. It will involve creating a zone of food/drink/pillows/cats around me, putting on loose clothes, and parking myself in the corner of the couch. Perhaps I'll sit up, feet on an ottoman. Perhaps I'll give in fully and lay down, head turned sideways to soak in the passive entertainment. There may or may not be a blanket involved.

My Tivo has been dutifully recording programs, and I have hardly paid any attention to it's achievement. But tonight, oh tonight, that will change.

Last night I stayed up a little later than I should have, watching videos and playing Vortex on my new iPod. The new iPods really are pretty, and I am going to be gifting my old 30GB photo (which has worked perfectly to this day) to my mom. Ok, ok, her mere mention of possibly using an iPod instead of CDs to hold the music for her various folk dancing groups was all the push I needed to offer mine up and make the jump.

Video podcasts are now at my disposal. Very, very dangerous, as I can now watch telly in bed. On a small screen, but still. Or movies! Video Podcasts! I burned my eyes blowing through a whole set of "Flight of the Conchords" snippets last night. I gave in and purchased "Pootie Tang" (Wa Da Tah!) as my inaugural movie - it was either going to be that or "Zoolander." But I expect I'll figure out how to burn our DVDs to the iPod soon enough, so no need to repurchase.

At the moment I am on our sun porch, with three self-bathing cats, perfect weather, and no particular agenda. "Paid in Full (Seven Minutes of Heaven)" just started flowing into my ears. It's one of those songs (and collaborations, really) that, when I'm feeling sentimental and particularly audiophile-y, I classify under Highly Important Music. This is one of those times.

So far, this whole between jobs state is pretty sweet!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The bug is back

Back in March I mentioned a little bug that lives in the Nike+ sport thingy, which fixed itself once I hit a mileage milestone (500 miles). Or so I thought. This morning, after a run that certainly didn't put me into any new milestone territory, Paula Radcliffe was kind enough to let me know that she hoped I was feeling great, because I'd covered another 500km.

Perhaps the mile has gone the way of US dollar, and now kilometers are worth more.

I blame George Bush.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Around the world

That's the song that's stuck in my head. Daft Punk. It has exactly one line, repeated 144 times. Easy to learn the lyrics; hard to get them out of my head.

Here's a little insight into my brain: I quickly did the math and figured out that there are 144 lines. In my head, that instinctively translates to 12 squared. Which translates to 4 x 3. Four is my favorite number, and 3 is P's. Thus it is a good song.

Sometimes, I scare myself.

It's been a while since I've posted anything here, which means there are lots of stories lost. Lots of runs that won't be recorded here.

I'm in the middle of a job transition, which is part of the radio silence. At the stage where I am physically still in the job I've held for a few years, but mentally starting to fade. There are a few things I want to neatly tie together to ensure I leave on a good note, and it's been tough to even motivate for those small things... Ah, well. It's been a good ride, I'm leaving on very good terms, and I'm excited for the next chapter.

In between chapters, I'm taking a few weeks off. That I am also very much looking forward to. In that time, I'll be heading to Chicago for a few just to hang out. The day I depart is the day of the Chicago Marathon, which I didn't realize when I initially booked the ticket. I'm excited to mooch off of the vibe, and see some friends who will be running. Maybe sneak into the Expo... A girl can always use another pair of good running socks.

Aside from Chicago, I have no firm plans. Which is lovely. Maybe visit my mom, maybe go running at any time of day, maybe melt my brain in front of the television, finish a few books... Who cares. It will be fall, it will be beautiful, and I will have no homework for three blessed weeks. I've earned it. :)

On the running front, it's been a good end of summer. I reached out of my comfort zone recently and responded to an ad on craigslist for a running partner. I found the guy as I was getting ready to post something myself. It gets a little lonely running on your own all the time, and having someone there to keep you running when you want to stop is really useful. Plus some chatting makes the miles go by. I do like running on my own, but periodically seeing another runner in Manchester would be nice.

So I met up with the guy, who I'll call WestSide, on Monday at 6:30am. First meeting, particularly when I don't know someone from Adam and the main purpose is to run, had lots of awkward potential. Not to mention me being a little nervous as I still have it stuck in my head that most people run faster than me, even though I know I have never finished dead last in a race.

Off we went, on a route he led. We were on his side of town, which I've driven through but never walked through. It was quite pretty, I have to say. And much flatter than my part of town. What a pleasure to not have the lsat 1.5 miles be pure uphill. In the end, we went for around 5 miles at a chat pace, talking some and not talking some. He wasn't a serial killer. Just a normal guy who also wanted someone to run with. I think we'll be heading out again.

The only downside was that I forgot my Nike+ thingy, meaning the run didn't "count" for my online tracking. I'm past my initial addition to the thing, but really would have liked to have known how far the route WestSide selected took us. Damn.

This weekend is the annual Reach The Beach Relay here in NH. I considered pulling together a team of quirky runners to have at it, but had to stop when I realized the race started on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. That counted me out, sadly. Luckily, the Jewish calendar follows the moon, so it should not be a conflict next year. I've already started listing out potential team players in my head...

For this year, I'll simply volunteer on Saturday. No idea what I'll be doing, but it involves showing up in Exeter at 7:45 am and staying there all day. At the moment I hear they are forecasting rain. Should be soggy fun!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Wisdom is overrated

I had my wisdom teeth removed last Friday. At the age of 34 it seems a little late to have this done, but periodic infections and the fact that they weren't ever going to find the space they need in my mouth dictated that they find another place to reside.

Overall, Friday’s events went better than I thought. I didn’t exactly know what to expect given the range of stories people opted to share with me, but the procedure itself was relatively painless (thank you, scientists who discovered nitrous oxide and novocain, and a good oral surgeon), and I switched from prescription painkillers to ibuprofen as of Saturday evening. I am still in the take it easy stage where I can’t really run, lift weights, or really do much of anything that puts pressure on my head (makes my mouth hurt in a weird way) – as you can imagine, that is the hardest part of it all.

On the bright side, the healing seems to be going well, my mouth has stopped randomly bleeding, I’ve become an expert rinser, and, perhaps most importantly, the procedure is behind me.

In this time of healing, I've spent a lot of time with the cats. I've been reminded that they really do sleep a lot. In fact, it is their main activity. If I move around they'll follow, but when I stop they find a comfortable position and nod off. Perdiodic playing, but mostly naps.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be back to running or at least something involving exercise. I am getting antsy. I went for a decent walk last night which felt good, but I paid for it with a headache that reminded me I am still not 100%. Twenty fours more hours of relative stillness will perhaps do the trick, and I will try for a 2 miler at a slower pace. If nothing else, to get over my fear that my mouth will bleed when my feet hit the ground with any force.

Plus, after a four day diet of yogurt, cream of wheat, bananas, and other soft things, I wouldn't mind something crunchy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Race Report: Falmouth

There are big races, like any one of the Rock 'N Roll marathons. There are small races taking place in any given town each week. And then there are the big small races, which is where the Falmouth Road Race fits in. My goal was to drink enough water, run the whole distance, keep a decent pace amongst the jockeying for space, and have fun. Using that as a measuring stick, all goals were accomplished.

The race is in its 35th year, and attracts an elite field as well as the rest of us schlubs. Thanks to P for standing on the sidelines and getting the following shots of the elites:

She got a few schlubs, too... And cheered me on at just the right time. Seeing her on the sideline around mile 5 provided more energy than a GU packet, for sure.
The course runs 7 miles, shifting between an oceanside and inland route. Before the gun went off, the requisite patriotic tunes were sung. In Falmouth, there a little extra special something when they sing "America the Beautiful," though, as the author was born in the town. Made me love New England a little more somehow.

The field was packed - 9,000 - 10,000 runners all headed the same way on a two lane road. It was generally 10 across at any given moment, so when I'd find myself between packs (is it just instinctual that people group together?) I'd shift the pace to try and stay there. Inevitably, though I'd want to push ahead and poke my way forward through the next group. I passed a lot of people, a lot of people passed me.

Miles 1-3 went fast, with rolling hills and a mix of sun and shade. Then the shade parts became fewer and far between, making the "this is fun!" part harder to remember... I considered talking a break at mile 5, but didn't want to lose momentum. Shade returned, and I regained my stride. By the time I got to mile 6 I was speeding up, and rather sad that it would soon be done. Mile 7 came too soon.

I saw more kids in this race than I anticipated. Pairs of siblings, parents and kids... Clearly this is a race that people choose as their one race a year, and the tradition is passed along in their family. One sign I saw along the way was cheering on over 6 family members.

Another sign on route simply read, "Good job, mom! Can we please keep our txt messaging?" Well done, kids.

I'd like to publicly thank all the local residents who pointed their garden hoses into the street, thus providing a brief respite from the heat. You'd know when one was coming as the entire field of runners would shift to one side of the street in the hopes of getting hit with a few drops. And thanks to the kids who made up their own water stations along the way. Far less congested than the official water stations (although thank heavens for those as well). All totaled I'd say I poured more water over my head than into my mouth. Hooray for the people who shared ice from their coolers with whomever needed a cube.

I can see why people come again and again to this race. Well organized, local feel, nice peeps, a mix of everyday Joe and world class runners. Falmouth, I'll see you next year!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Falmouth, by way of New York

This weekend is the annual Falmouth Road Race, a beautiful 7 mile course. It is my first year running it (had to get in by lottert), and I'm very much looking forward to it. I've heard only good things, and I know a few folks who are running it this year, so all in all I will be in very good company.

Initially P and I thought we'd spend some time on the Cape as long as we had to head to Falmouth (which, if you look at a map of MA, is the flabby part of the upper arm that forms the Cape). We have yet to make the pilgrimage to Provincetown this year, and thought this might be the time. Park ourselves on a beach, eat some good food, people watch, ride bikes along the dunes, etc.

Then P had a flash of brilliance: instead of the 4 hour drive to the tip of the Cape, how about heading to NYC instead? "This is the weekend we should head to Coney Island," she said. Brilliant, that girl.

Shockingly, this pair of NY Jews (her from Manhattan and me from Long Island) has never been to Astroland. We, who shaped our honeymoon around rollercoaster parks east of the Mississippi, have never ridden the Cyclone. And sadly, this is the final season the amusement park that graces the place. The property has been sold, and will be developed in to something that seems to be more Disney than Brooklyn. It's sad.

At least the Cyclone will be preserved, given it's national landmark status and ownership by the City of NY.

We have also been wanting to head to the MOMA to see the Richard Serra exhibit. The images I have seen are quite striking, and in person the enormity will be brought home. I have a small fear that I will feel like I am walking through a giant steel maize maze, but I'm keeping an open mind.

Looks like there's also a documentary about the font Helvetica showing. What is it about typeface that intrigues me so? We see it all the time, in various formats, yet there always seems to be a cool history attached if you take the time to look for it. Did you know Helvetica is considered "the official typeface of the twentieth century?" Methinks I'm about to get to know this little sans serif friend better.

Given the weather predicted for the weekend, and the possibility of flash flooding, I'm thinking we'll head to the museum today, and then Coney Island tomorrow. This is a switch in plans, as we were hoping to go to Coney Island on a non-weekend day. Saturday afternoon we'll leave the city, head up the coast, and find some place to stay on the way to Falmouth.

This may also be the trip that we allow ourselves to walk through the doors of the three story Container Store that is around the corner from where we are staying. All of those pretty stuff-holding objects and promises of organization have a dangerous cash sucking ability.

As for the road race, which originated this whole trip in the first place, my game plan is to run today (hello, Central Park!) and take Saturday off. Even if it rains I should be out there on the road. I went for one of the wettest runs in a while earlier this week, where my socks just became puddles and my shorts simply clung to my legs. Felt good to be out there, though. Sort of like swimming on pavement. Somehow it reminded me of my early days of running when I only went out at night and ran through the snow and ice. At that point I wore any old cotton t-shirt and sweatshirt, insulated rugby pants, and whatever socks I had that seems cushy. Compared to those days, this is nothing.

Saturday I must remember to drink lots of water and eat food that provides some good fuel, even though it will mean being on the lookout for bathrooms while we are inevitably wandering about the city streets.

On a completely random note, I know the HRC presidential debate on gay issues was held last night. One of the three people on the questioning panel was Melissa Etheridge. Really? I like her and all, but is she going to become our Bono?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

If I was a better capitalist

P turned me on to a local t-shirt store that I recommend you visit for all of your various t-shirt needs. Nice people, local business, good shirt material, and entirely customizable. Makes it all too easy to go overboard wth snarky little messages.

We ordered my brother in law a giftie there, specifically a shirt that reads, "Muggle." Harry Potter fan and all that. I hadn't seen one around, so we had it made. The store owner places every new design in a book on the counter for customers to browse, with our shirt being the latest addition.

Lo and behold, prior to me even picking up the thing, someone else ordered it from the book. And others have expressed interest.

I'm kinda peeved, as he gets the credit for our idea, but I figure that we aren't the only one with a muggle shirt, and I'd like to guy to stay in business. If I were a better capitalist I'd have a warehouse of random ideas that think could sell.

Maybe I can find someone to help me with my latest concept involving hot liquids....

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

singles remind me of kisses, albums remind me of plans...

We went to see Squeeze in concert on Monday. For some reason they decided to kick off their US tour in a local, small, and great venue in Londonderry, NH. This venue has managed to become a cool landmark in the area, gaining enough of a reputation that people will frequent the place trusting that Scott Hayward, the proprieter, has good taste and will book good shows.

It has also become a place where previously big - and generally of the New Wave sort - bands (Squeeze, Thomas Dolby, The English Beat) come to play. Who would have thunk that little Londonderry would become a destination?

The show was great - they were a tight unit, and knew their audience. Lots of familiar tunes were played ("Up the Junction," "Cool for Cats," "Black Coffee in Bed," etc) with enough other tunes ("Slaughtered, Gutted, and Heartbroken," "Slightly Drunk," "Messed Around") to make the Squeeze fan happy. They could have stretched things out a bit to make it sound less adherent to studio versions, but whatever. A small detail for a band that is a) just starting to play together again, b) not completely comprised of the original members, and c) playing somewhere that is remotely close to my home.

Monday, July 30, 2007

First day back

And I can already tell it is going to be a rough transition.

Last week P and I took off with no solid plans (other than a family visit) other than going somewhere. We figured we had gas in the tank, a GPS, and a mutual love of travel, and that was more than enough. We packed the car with more than we would ever need (why bring one pair of shoes when you can bring three?), prepared for any number of situations and climates. Our fuzzy goal was to camp somewhere, but we weren't quite sure what level of "camp" we'd achieve....

First stop was Cooperstown, NY. I have family that lives about 20 minutes south of there, and much of my family was visiting for the weekend. My niece and nephews have entered into the age old tradition of drop-the-kids-at-the-uncle-and-aunt's-house-for-a-few-weeks-to-give-the-parents-a-break-routine. My brother and I did it most summers while growing up, and now his kids are taking part.

The house was full, and while my aunt would have loved to squeeze us into some corner that would likely involve a 45 year old mattress placed nearly on top of a cat litter box in a highly trafficked area of the house leaving zero space for any semblance of privacy (I'm speaking from experience), we opted to stay at a hotel nearby. It was a very good decision, even if it did require us to receive guilt/grief periodically throughout the weekend for not constantly being underfoot. The sanity saved was more valuable. For some reason, this side of my family believes that if you are not within 10 feet of each other at all times, and talking all the while, then you are not spending time together. It is claustrophobic and exhausting, particularly for those of us who like some personal space and quiet time to reboot.

One day I may write more on this one aunt in particular, as she is, um... a personality. There are three types of conversation in her world: cancer (or any illness, preferably something life-threatening), cats, and Rotary. Everything comes back to that, and usually it's the illness part. She loves her some sickness.

The below samples are all based upon actual conversations that took place during our visit. It is a very, very small sample of the full Experience.

Sample conversation #1 with my aunt:
Me: We have two cats.
Aunt: When our cats die we bury them out by the barn. Yep, these two will one day be out there with the five horses, four dogs, and all the other cats.

Sample conversation #2 with my aunt:
P: The kids are going to go with (uncle) for a walk up the hill. Such a nice day for a walk.
Aunt: There are aggressive coyotes up there.

Sample conversation #3 with my aunt:
Mom: This dinner is great.
Aunt: The other day I ate something and felt awful. It was either food poisoning or diverticulitis.

Sample conversation #4 with my aunt:
Me: [trying to stay quiet and unnoticed so I don't have to engage]
Aunt: SARS! Anthrax! Bird Flu!

I could go on. And on. But enough on that. This post was supposed to be more about the vacation part...

Prior to arriving at the family destination, P and I had stopped near Albany to get something to eat and visit an EMS for some camping odds and ends. While there, I bit the bullet and bought a real pack for multi day camping trips. I've wanted one for many years, and never allowed myself the purchase. Why I don't allow myself these things is a topic I'll put on hold for another blog entry. All I needed was the right impulse, and here it struck. I *heart* it. It makes me want to hike, much like new shoes make me want to run.

While trying on packs, we asked the woman helping us for any suggestions on hiking in the Adirondacks. She suggested a section that was out of the way, and remote enough that it weeded out people who weren't willing to put in a little effort. It sounded perfect, and became our decided destination for the post-family part of the trip.

Before long we were headed out of the Cooperstown area, heading towards the Pharaoh Wilderness. We had plotted a hiking route, transitioned from duffel bags to backpacks, condensed our sleeping bags in stuff sacks, and were ready to lose ourselves in the woods for a few.

First day's hike was a long one, going up and down Pharaoh Mountain and continuing along deeper into the woods. We ended the day at Watch Rock, a peninsula that juts out into the Pharaoh Lake. It was an ideal spot - a grassy spot for the tent, places to hang our gear, access to the lake for water, large flat rocks to sit on for meals or just to stare out over the lake. We were beat from the day's hike, and both of us were physically done by 8:30. It wasn't even dark out when we got into the tent...

We lingered in the morning, as the spot was so beautiful. I'd go back in a heartbeat, and stay longer. And bring my camera. Our plan was to have day 2 be a shorter hike, and we'd picked our landing spot. It was over on the other side of the lake, and took about 4 hours to reach it. A nice walk through the woods with a pretty consistent view of the lake on our left. Took a break in the middle of the hike to eat lunch at a particularly pretty spot (and put down the packs for a few minutes).

Once we reached our landing point, we parked ourselves and jumped in the lake to cool down. Both P and I are not fans of lake swimming - for me, I think it ties back to slasher movies often taking place at campgrounds with lakes involved. Then again, I don't like swimming in the deep end of a pool at night for fear of sharks, and I recognize that the likelihood of that occurring is slim. Why does ocean swimming feel safer to us than lakes? Perhaps because we both grew up on the ocean, perhaps because something about the salt water seems sterilizing. Or, in this case, perhaps it was due to the leeches I saw over at Watch Rock. Eew.

Still, I made it "safe" for myself by thrashing about and mentally willing the potential leeches and other fishies away. And it was good. The cool water made us human again, and after getting out we lazed around the rest of the day. Made some dinner around 5, read, chatted, sat in silence... We also applied large amounts of Tiger Balm to our skin, discovering that not only is it good for sore muscles and stopping the itching of bug bites, it is also a decent bug repellent. And, I imagine, less toxic than deet. By the end of the trip we were convinced that it could do anything. Headache? Sure. Blisters? Why not? Homeland Security? I'm sure if we found the right place to apply it, it would work.

The third day was the hike out. We had a ways to go, and weren't quite sure where were were headed afterwards, so we started on the early side. Packed our bags, waved goodbye to the lake, and went on our way.

Random gear note: I used a different sock combination (liners and running socks) and it worked so much better than my "official" Thorlo hiking socks. Days 1 and 2 I felt that I was destined for blisters; the third day saved me. The fact that I am even mentioning it here underscores how happy I was with the change.

Then again, when you are out back country camping, you spend a lot of time thinking about these types of things... your feet, how your pack is fitting, what you should have left home, what you should have brought, what you will have for your next meal, making sure to drink water... it's all very elemental, and I think that is one of the reasons I love it so.

We passed along Glidden Marsh, which was dotted with lilies and beaver ponds. Parts of the trail were wide and easy, while others were full of thorns and tall grass. You sort of felt your way through the whole thing. We flew through the final hike, getting back to the car 2 hours earlier than we'd estimated.

Once we hit cell phone range, P called a friend of ours who lives in Jersey, but was supposedly coming to Maine. We asked if we could come by for a few days for a visit, and she was happy to have us.

May we always have friends that are up for last minute visitors.
May we always be friends who are up for last minute visitors.

Setting the GPS once more, and cross referencing with our big (and lovingly well used) road atlas, we plotted a route that stayed off the big roads. We wound our way out of NY, through VT and NH, and into Maine. Stopped off at King Arthur Flour (P's version of black tar heroin) for a cookie and some browsing, and continued on to the coast.

Maine was lovely. Had our first real shower in days (oh so good), ate New England summer fare (read: fried fish and cole slaw), went swimming in the ocean (no sharks anywhere, and the water was warm), did crossword puzzles, caught up on some news (both the NY Times version as well as the Perez variety), read Harry Potter (almost done!).

As long as my quads and calves were sore from the hiking, I also went for a really nice run the morning after we landed at our friends' place. I wanted to feel what it would be like to run without the 40 pounds on my back, and thought it would help to loosen me up a bit. I also just wanted to run alongside the ocean, as that rarely happens in my Manchester existence. Success all around: I was clocking 9 -9:30 minute miles and felt great afterwards. After that, I only had one small spot of soreness in my left calf. A little Tiger Balm and 24 hours of no more hiking healed that one right up.

Everything worked out so well on this trip. The only days it rained was when we were in the car, transitioning from one place to another. We had perfect weather for hiking and camping. I love that we had no firm plans and were open to any stop along the way. People we didn't know - and will likely never see again - gave us guidance on our next steps. We ended up in towns days before peak season, meaning there were rooms available without breaking the bank, and the towns were sprucing themselves up for the coming visitors. The GPS helped us find the places we needed to go, be it food, equipment, gas, or a friends home. We ended up at King Arthur right before closing, meaning they handed us free cookies rather than throwing them out. :)

And, as always, P is my favorite traveling companion. I'd like to repeat this trip again and again, perhaps each time in a different state.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Morning observations

I went out to run around part of the local high school cross country trail this morning, which loops around our local ski hill. It's wooded, hilly, quiet, and about a mile around. That makes it easy to adjust your distance in a flash, which is great for morning runs when my ability to initially get out there is less predictable.

As usual, it was totally great to be out in the woods running around. I kept looping a man who was walking his dog off leash. Each time I'd pass, we'd say hello and he'd call his dog so she wouldn't follow. The third time, I stopped to say hello and pat Kiki (the dog, not the man). I happened to stop on a fairly sharp incline, and that is when I learned that Kiki is a leaner. A 90 pound leaner, who rested all of her weight on my legs as I stood there and patted her thick fur. She was on the uphill side, meaning I had to use some strength to hold her (and me) upright.

Does that count as crosstraining?

At the top of the hill on the trail stands the Weston Observatory, which is usually closed off via a tall iron fence. The last few times I have been there, I've noticed a truck parked nearby, with contruction equipment. Nothing big, just ladders and some wood. This time around, I saw the truck during my first loop, and then saw the truck was gone when I got back.

And the gate was open.

Not wanting to miss what may be my only opportunity to see the inside of the obseratory, I walked through the gate, through the open door (which, like the gate, is generally locked), and started up the stairs.

What I learned is that it is exceedingly dark in there.

I didn't know when the truck was coming back, so I stopped midway and headed back down. The view from the base of the observatory is really nice, so I wonder how much better it gets if you climb up a 60 foot tall tower of NH granite. I bet it's pretty cool.

Mornings like that make Manchester an ok place to live.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Not a trick I taught her

Ramona the Cat's new gig is to hop up on to my side of the bed at 5am, walk towards my head, and meow a few times in her high pitched tinny (and sweet) voice. Just enough to wake me up. Then she plops down for a minute (maybe three) to make sure I am fully awake, before hopping down to the floor and continuing with her morning. Note that she does not repeat this process with P, who gets to sleep soundly while this is happening. Unless, like this morning, I am startled enough to accidentally swing my arm and hit her... Oops.

Can't really blame Ramona for her crepuscular nature, but it does make it harder to sleep in the bright days of summer.

Or maybe I should just start running a little earlier in the day...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

East coast kid, west coast soul

I went to a work-related dinner the other night, and got seated at the "wrong" table. There were some good peeps, but minus a colleague next to me and the guy next to him, all were defined by their job. They were literally shocked that I could enjoy the act of doing nothing. Nothing, of course, being something to me.

The other table verged on semi-inappropriate work conversation with questions along the line of who's on your hall pass list, marry/sleep with/toss off a cliff, etc. Juvenile, but certainly more entertaining than more growing-our-partnership-to-grow-our-business chat. I'd had enough of that already.

At one point, someone from the fun table came over to us to continue a "who would you be if you could be anyone" question that circulated around their table. My uncreative peeps were silent. I said I'd be Cyndi Lauper (and stand by that). Another woman finally piped in, and said she'd be Nancy Grace. Nancy. Grace.


They were largely from California, which was even more strange to me, as I tend to view the west coast as a mellower vibe. I figured all of the earthquakes remind you that the earth is always there, ready to take you out as needed. And knowing that makes you just a little more connected to the power of the earth. Nature always wins.

That's my hippie sentiment for the night.

Anyways, the point of this small story is that I have at times thought I am more of a west coast soul in terms of my preferred pace, but too connected to my east coast roots to ever leave.

Partially as a result of these thoughts, and partially as a result of so much good music coming from CA, I started making a mix on my Ipod. And I am looking for suggestions, knowing that the four of you that read this blog care about music.

Here is the playlist thus far, so you get a sense of what I'm going for:
Grey in L.A. - Loudon Wainwright
California - Rufus Wainwright
California Stars - Billy Bragg and Wilco
Big Sur - The Thrills
The Golden State - John Doe

Note that the Mamas and the Papas are not there. There's a time and a place for everything, and this mix is purposely absent of California Dreamin' and the like.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

This week's rundown

It's ironic - when there's a lot to say, it's hardest to find the time to get it all down.

Tonight it's just me in the house, as P is on call at the hospital. Me and the kitties. I got home on the later side, as I went running with a work friend in the evening. It was a good night for it - a fast but heavy storm had just passed (leaving behind the most striking rainbow I have seen in years), and the air was cool. I plotted out a 5-ish mile route, and off we went. It was a nice little loop, and I'm going to do it again on my own.

Having her there with me nudged me to go a little faster and a little farther than I would have on my own, and it was great to have that extra push. She'll soon start a more rigourous training plan for the NYC marathon, but for now she's still pretty lax about things.

Speaking of NYC, I was down there for a meeting earlier this week, and happily took the time to run in Central Park. The hotel was around 48th and 8th, so I headed up to Columbus Circle, into the park, up the west side, crossing at 72nd, then back down towards the hotel. I always get a little turned around upon exiting the park, but quickly found my way back on track.

I arrived at the park around 7am, and was amazed at how many people were already there. It might as well have been 11am on a Saturday. Why is it that the bikers get dressed in full peloton gear on a Tuesday morning? And why is it that I never see them outside the park? It's as if they live there, looping around and around, looking as if they are about to head to the Tour de France.

It was great to be back in NYC. From the moment I stepped off the train it felt like home. Mind you, I've never actually lived in Manhattan. But having grown up on Long Island (go ahead - call me Bridge and Tunnel - I can take it), I spent my share of hours tooling around. I was reminded, yet again, why we will never stay in Manchester, NH.

I considered going to a concert while I was in the city - the True Colors tour was at Radio City that night, and I thought it would be great to see the show in NYC. Particularly Cyndi Lauper, as she's a Queens girl. P and I had gone to see the show in Boston the weekend before, however, so I didn't really feel a great need to go again.

I give P full credit for getting me to go to that show. I thought it would be totally cheesy and I would loathe the crowd. Both of those things were essentially true (loathe might be a strong word, but largely uninteresting), but it didn't matter. I loved the whole thing.

Turns out it was a bit of a queer healing fest of sorts for me. You see, when I was a wee'un, before the whole Realization Thing, I saw Erasure and was totally horrified. Andy Bell was so... utterly gay. I couldn't connect the dots, but I got super uncomfortable. This time around, it all made sense. And let's face it, their music is pure early 90's pop. For which I am a sucker.

Vince Clarke has upgraded himself to a nice Mac laptop, and basically just stood there pressing a button when the next song was to start. Andy B. worked his ass off dancing around. Very impressive.

Debbie Harry still has got it going on. She played some new songs (per her recording contract, I'm sure), and they were quite good. And, hey, it's Debbie fucking Harry. Respect!

Rufus Wainwright played a mellow set, which was in stark contrast to the striped, sparkled, and brightly colored outfits he and his bandmates all wore.

And Cyndi Lauper. Oh, Cyndi. I have loved thee since I was 12. Went to your original True Colors tour, and still recall when you sat on the edge of the stage at Madison Square Garden and sang an a capella version of said song. In a crowd of 30,000 people, you had us all captivated. I still have the concert program, near my saved copies of Sassy magazine.

This time around she was just as good. Sound problems didn't stop her from having the show continue, although it did make for some good live-not-Memorex moments. She also came out into the crowd and stopped right in front of us; I felt 13 again.

At the end of July I'm going to see Squeeze, which will also remind me of the teenage years. It seems to be a summer of tours of my youth. Have I reached that age?

Friday, June 15, 2007

In celebration of the victory in MA

Big news yesterday in MA, with the defeat of a ban on a constitutional amendment that would have banned same sex marriage. Below was a speech that I found particularly relevant and moving. Worthy of sharing.

And I'd marry P all over again!

Speech delivered by Rabbi Dan Judson, Interfaith Rally and March, June 14, 2007

Good morning, I wanted to begin this morning by teaching everybody some Hebrew words. To say good morning in Hebrew you say boker, meaning "morning," and "tov," meaning good. And what you learn, when you learn Hebrew is that the response to boker tov, "good morning" is boker or. Now, if you were to walk down the streets of Jerusalem, no one would actually say boker or to you, but this is what you learn in formal Hebrew school. But I want to say it with you this morning. I am going to start this morning by saying boker tov, and if you can respond with boker or, because here is what boker or means, it means a "morning of light." And this morning is most certainly a morning of light. It is a morning full of light.

I became a part of the RCFM nine years ago, so it feels like I have been preaching and talking and arguing about marriage a long time. And it feels like there is nothing new to be said, it is the same conversation with people again and again. I just hear the questions, I can press the button in my mind that has the answer I have given countless times.

"Rabbi, Rabbi, what about the bible Rabbi, a man shall not love a man the way a man loves a woman, how can we have marriage Rabbi what about the bible?" Press button number 1 in my mind, bible. Right I always say to folks who ask me this, that's great that you think that verse in the bible is so important because the bible actually says nothing about lesbians, doesn't mention it all, so you must be okay with two women getting married, you're halfway there.

Listen I say to them, I love the bible, but I am not a fundamentalist, and if you don't stone your rebellious son, or do any work on Shabbat than you are not a fundamentalist either. So what part of the bible are you going to listen to -- the one oddly phrased verse in Leviticus or the countless times the prophets enjoin us to care for those who are marginalized, the countless times the bible tells us to love our neighbor, love the stranger?

Rabbi, Rabbi, but marriage is the foundation of society. It's always been one man and one woman. Button number 2, history of marriage. It's a great point I always tell the person, it's just that the history of marriage in my own Jewish culture was that the man acquired the wife like property. And then I ask the person who is talking to me if he would like for me to get his wife to discuss a return to traditional marriage values.

Rabbi, Rabbi, but it's just too dramatic a change, in America we are not ready for it. Can't they just settle for civil union or something like that? Button 3, civil union. Yes, we should have one category for straight people and one category for gay people, separate but almost equal works out so well in society. I was just thinking that we should have separate categories for Jewish and Christian marriage that would work well.

Rabbi, Rabbi, I get this one sometimes, usually at the end of an argument, Rabbi Rabbi, it's just the forces of political correctness, gay marriage is just being pushed by the Massachusetts gay liberal agenda. And to this I say absolutely, it is the gay liberal agenda.

Maybe you have heard of the Massachusetts gay liberal agenda, I call it justice.

Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, I call it equality.

Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, it is called not living in fear anymore.

Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, it is called embracing family.

Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, it is called the real promise of America that we can live in freedom.

Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, it is called the voice of the prophet calling out let my people be who I have created them to be.

Maybe you have heard of the gay agenda, I call it grace and truth and love.

So like I was saying, I have been a part of the RCFM for 9 years. And I remember when we used to have rallies. I very clearly remember we had one on City Hall Plaza, maybe 6 or 7 years ago, and we had maybe 15 people there. And I remember that people had signs that were two interconnecting rings that said, "Freedom to Marry." And I remember people walking by and they had no idea who we were, what in the world we were talking about, and they asked ,"Huh? Freedom to marry who?"

Freedom to marry who?

Nobody needs to ask freedom to marry who? We have gone from being cold outside on the plaza to being inside, with the governor and the leaders of both houses walking by our rally not asking who we were or what we were about, but saying "I am with you."

Not that long ago, you remember just 5 or 6 years ago, nobody was really seriously talking about marriage being law, we were just hoping to fight off defense of marriage acts which cropped up every year in the legislature. Legal Marriage was a distant dream.

But here we are, dream no more, as the psalmist said, Even maasu habonim, hayta le-rosh pina - The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.

I have this vivid memory from like 6 years ago, there was a defense of marriage bill that we were going to testify on. And the clergy on the other side were called to testify immediately, it was like a delegate of the archbishop and an orthodox rabbi and Martin Luther King's niece or something, and they said hateful, noxious, facile things about gay folk, and we waited to be called and waited for hours and hours and hours to explain about love, about acceptance. I am not even sure we ever got to speak that day.

But here we are today, love has beaten hate. That is what is so amazing. Love has beaten homophobia. The people who traffic in ignorance and hate have lost. Do they really think that after reaching the promised land we will settle for going back into the wilderness? I hope this ends today, I am tired of having these conversations, it is so painfully obvious what is right. But even if it doesn't end today, the people of Massachusetts will vote the right way. We will never go back to the days of being outsiders, we will never go back to the days when our voices were not heard, we will never go back to the days when gays and lesbians were stigmatized.

Today is a day full of light. Regardless of the vote, today is a day when love vanquished hate.

Rabbi Daniel Judson is the rabbi at Temple Beth David of the South Shore.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


P went away today. Off to have some quality time with her dad. Sweet that they are going away together, and I am glad that she has a whole week off. Life as a medical resident doesn't allow for much downtime.

I am on my own until Saturday. Just me and the cats. Who, by the way, are getting along much better. No more hissing, they sniff each other, etc. Ramona is still skittish, and I think that will last for another few months. She's settling in, but periodically has to go through retraumatizing events like a trip to the vet...

They told us she has to lose about 3 pounds. We could have told you that. Having watched Ramona clean her stomach, it is evident. Here is her current method: first, lean back on to tail region such that back paws lift up into the air. Then, take left paw and lift the flesh towards the head. Last, lick the belly. It is very funny to watch, and methinks the habit will (sadly) disappear along with the extra weight...

Speaking of extra weight, I have had an uninspired week of running. I went yesterday morning only through sheer will. And, of course, it was beautiful and enjoyable. It's all inertia.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

When you're hot you're hot...

And when you're not...

Friday was one of those running days that you look back upon and think, "that was one of the bad ones." There are days you feel like a champ, and days that suck. Friday was closer to the suck end of the spectrum.

Here's a small sample of the things flashing through my head whilst running:
  1. I'm tired
  2. I miss Ichabod
  3. I hope the new cat and Abner get along eventually
  4. I can't wait to get home so we can officially release New Cat from the bathroom and let her explore the house
  5. I'm beat
  6. Why am I running? I'm beat.
  7. You set a mileage goal this month. This is the last little bittle of it.
  8. Technically you're already there, if you include the 4 miler sans Nano last week.
  9. I want it to be "official"
  10. What happens if I don't hit one of the goals I set on the Nike+ site? Is there negative feedback?
  11. Why do I care so much what a computer thinks of me?
  12. It's not the computer - it's you v. you, idiot. That's part of why you run.
  13. Maybe I won't run the whole loop
  14. Do I like to run on Friday afternoons?
  15. What a long week at work.
  16. Next week isn't going to be any better.
  17. I need to work on that presentation for Monday...
  18. Am I going really slow?
  19. What happened to my headphones? Why is the left earpiece blinking in and out?
  20. How annoying that the sound keeps flipping on and off on my left.
  21. I wonder what's causing that? [tests various arm positions]
  22. Maybe I should make "Holiday" [Green Day, not Madonna] my "power song"
  23. Screw you, left earpiece. These headphones are done.
  24. Maybe I should make "Holiday" [Madonna, not Green Day] my "power song"
  25. I'm tired.
  26. I do like running Friday afternoons. It's one of my favorite times of the week.
  27. You know, you don't have to run the whole loop if you are just going to be miserable.
  28. I hope the cats start to like each other...

And so on and so forth. No focus, no concentration. I turned around after 1.5 miles and came back home. Total distance: 3.2 miles.

PS - New Cat has a new name. Ramona. P wanted to name her Fannypack Shizzlestein (Fanny for short), but I couldn't really see myself talking about our cat Fanny. So now she's Ramona Fannypack Shizzlestein. Pictures soon to follow.

Friday, June 8, 2007

And baby makes four

We made the move. There's a new cat in town.

Yesterday, P and I went to the local animal shelter to meet a cat we've had our eye on for the past week or so. She's all black, has oversized ears on a tiny head, and is somewhere around 4, give or take. She looked sweet and goofy in the pictures, and that's what we need given our other, more skittish, kitten.

Going to an animal shelter makes one want to sell their house, buy land, and take all the animals home with you. Then you wonder how you will afford to buy any of them food, and you go back to the initial plan of just getting one.

We came, we saw, we brought her home. Her name is currently Emma, but that is still up for discussion. We are considering naming her oomlaut the cat (insert two dots over the "a" in cat). Ooma for short. I'm open for other ideas.

When they handed her over, they also gave us her records from the shelter. She's come a long way, baby. She arrived, abandoned, at four pounds, not wanting to eat. Clearly she got over that, as now she's a bit of a porker. We'll be working on that. I also think she wasn't so into the whole bathing thing while in the shelter, as we basically brushed a full cat off of her last night. And there's more where that came from... Just you wait - with some better food, more chance to exercise, and lots of patience, she'll be back to her old self.

Ooma, Emma, whatever her name will be, is getting used to the new digs. She spent last night and today in the upstairs bathroom, getting used to being in a quiet, non-cage space. When we first brought her home, she was definitely a bit freaked (having spent the last four months in the shelter, that's not a shocker). In that small area, she started to warm up and show her personality.

Abner is not so thrilled with the whole situation. There's been lots of hissing both ways, but neither of them seems, thankfully, to be a fighter. They just stare at each other from a distance. I sort of want to pick them up and rub them together so they just get it over with.

This weekend is semi-dedicated to breaking them down and building their relationship. They don't need to be as tight as the Abner/Icky show, but tolerance would be nice.

Tonight we are working on relationships, and watching episode after episode of "Sex in the City." It never gets old.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

We're (mini) streaking!

Been running very consistently over the last week or so. Nearly every day. For a moment I thought to myself, "perhaps I can become one of those streaker people." Like polyamory, it seems to be one of those things sounds kinda nice in theory, but would take a little too much effort on my part.

Last night I went to the gym for the first time in months, as the rain was coming down sideways. It reminded me of why I like to run outside so much more (remind me sometime to write about the differences between morning gym goers and evening gym goers). Still, I hopped on to the treadmill with the goal of running fast and brief.

Sometimes I need to get over myself and remember that two miles still means something, particularly if you work it.

Treadmills are a bit funky to judge by, but I was surprised at how good it felt to go fast. According to the chip in my shoes, I was running about a 9:20 mile. And, get this, I could have kept going. I ended up at around 2.5 miles, and then ended on a high note.

And, as Sir Crank wisely advises, I drank water into the night...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Why have fun at work?

I was asked to be on an internal health and wellness committee at work. The goal being to put some effort into encouraing health efforts, seeing as how we are a health company and all. I think I was asked partially because I've talked to a bunch of people about organizing a group for the Manchester marathon/half marathon in November.

I ran the idea by my boss, and he essentially said no, citing that I already have a lot going on (true) and there are some big things coming down the pike (also true). I indicated that the time committment is small, and that I would make the time to participate because it would be (imagine this:) fun and team building, and he still is hesitating.

I find irony in this.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My first running group effort

Usually when I run, I am on my own. It is rare, even, that I see others on the road. In an effort to try to make some running friends and get over my fear of always being the slowest, I decided to check out a regular run hosted by our local running store.

I didn't know what to expect, but I like all of the folks at the store and, in general, I want to support them. So I laced up my shoes and headed down there to see what I would find. I assumed I'd be in the mid to back of the pack, and would simply just enjoy the company, and the space to talk about running with any random person.

In reality, here's how it went: there were three of us total. The store owner, a really chatty guy, and me. I was the fastest, and ended up holding back to keep the small pack of us together. Definitely at a chat pace. We ran a route that I am very familiar with (a segment of the Ichabod Memorial 4.2 miler). Some running talk, but not a lot. The chatty guy talked a lot about his dog, who has bad manners. The store owner and I tried to help him realize that he needs to train his dog if he wants it to be any different.

We also talked about some local races, including a series that I am planning on participating in over the next few months. There's a prize of a jacket if you run enough races in the series. As a closeted jacket whore, the prospect of a free one is very tempting.

It was a lot of fun, and I would do it again. Very low key, and a really beautiful night. The only down side was that I forgot my Nano, and this didn't track any of the miles on the Nike+ thing. This was both a blessing and a curse; on one hand I wanted to track the miles as I am currently keeping track of monthly miles. On the other, it was nice to run just for the sake of the run, and not think about pace or distance.

This morning, when I went out for a shorter (3.2) mile run, I thought about what a difference it made to have someone to chat with as we were moving along. I liked it, and it definitely gave the run a friendly edge. So I'll be heading down to Runner's Alley again for another chance to run with the small group. Perhaps I can convince a friend or two to join...

Monday, May 28, 2007

The nonstop that landed twice...

Went to a fantastic wedding in DC this weekend. Two people who truly belong together. I danced more than I have in the past 5 months combined. Spent lots of time with people I love.

The flight home was uneventful, until it came time to land. Due to winds, it was a bit turbulent once we got below 10,000 feet. And, to make it even more fun, I watched the plan half land (back wheels down), fly across the runway, and then pull back up in to the air. Landing aborted.

P, who is already afraid of flying, was a little freaked, to say the least. My reaction was to nervously giggle. I thought, "wouldn't it be ironic if we really did die in a fiery crash, which is P's fear every time we fly?"

The second time was the charm. Landed safely. It's good to be home.

In other news, I found out that our local running store has a Tuesday night running group. I chatted with them a bit when I was in the store last week. Seems like a good opportunity to meet some other runners around here. 95% of the time, I run alone.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The gift that keeps on giving

The neighbors who live across the street from us are an interesting pair. They are an older gay couple, who have been together for 40 years. Very sweet on each other. Both named Dick.

They are the type of neighbors who keep a close eye on your house. This is nice in that they are like a personal neighborhood watch program, but it gets a little creepy when they tell you about the daily activities of your cat. The cat is small - do they use binoculars?

Their names have always amused us, particularly when we are trying to distinguish them from one another. Tall Dick/short Dick? Big Dick/small Dick? There's just no getting around it.

They have taken a liking to us since the day we moved in, perhaps because we are another homo couple on the block, or perhaps because we are much quieter than the renters who live to their left. Whatever the reason, they have periodically gifted us with things, like firewood when they ripped up their floors.
Yesterday's gift, though, was one to remember.

I wasn't home, but P was. Tall Dick came over with a box in hand. He indicated that they were going through some things and preparing to give stuff to a local Goodwill-type store. This particular item, however, didn't seem like one that should go there... Plus, he said, we entertain a lot, and we might get some use from it. With that, he handed her the box.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: the penis mold.

How could we say no? Tall Dick giggled a bit, and P almost peed her pants. Both due to the gift as well as the absurdity of a 75 year old man presenting this to her with the thought that it would get good use.

Think about it: they sat in their house, potentially watching us, and discussed this item. "P and J would love this!" they said at some point. Then they had to find a good time to come over and present it to us...

What's a girl to do? Might as well put it to good use. So, as long as we are heading to the drive-in tonight (so excited for that, by the way), we made some brownies. Penis-shaped brownies.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Back on the pavement

I went running yesterday for the first time since last week. Bewteen feeling sad and traveling for work, I haven't made the time for it.

My route yesterday was a typical 4.2 mile run that I follow if I am taking off from my work parking lot. It is a lot of ups and downs. With fresher legs, I was able to tackle the hills faster than usual. It was also just good to feel like I was pushing myself, as I hadn't in days. Final mile time was just over 10 minute miles (including pauses for traffic and calf stretch at mile 3), and I thought that was pretty decent given that I took a week off. Get me on the mostly flat rail trail and I'll come in around 9:45 for the same distance.

I thought of this run as my Ichabod memorial run, given that yesterday was a week since her untimely end. Prior to going home that night, at just about the same time as I was running last night, I had been out on my motorcycle, taking a little extra longer to come home, enjoying the warm weather and blooming trees. I'd stopped to pick some lilacs, as they were finally in bloom. I remember riding home in a fantastic mood.

Things can change really fast.

Still, Icky was a total trooper through her whole ordeal, and as I was plodding along I thought about that route, and how she was really brave. I feel a little silly basing a run on my cat, but there you have it. The Ichabod memorial 4.2 miler.

Monday, May 21, 2007

IM brings out the weirdness

A coworker opened an IM conversation with me as follows:
"Speak severely to your boy and beat him when he sneezes. He only does it to annoy because he knows it teases. - I speak severely to my boy, and beat him when he sneezes. For he can thoroughly enjoy the pepper when he pleases. Wow wow wow - Lewis Carroll"

I wasn't at my desk at the time, and it was thus waiting for me upon my return. Nothing more than that.

What is the appropriate response to this?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Little tributes

This morning while shifting some laundry off the couch, I came across a perfect little paw print on the cushion. It was classic Ichabod - she was always hopping on things after going in the litter box (the corn based litter we use produces yellow dust which sticks to their fur) and leaving telltale pawprints everywhere.

I didn't have the heart to wipe it clean.

In my last post, I don't think I mentioned how much she loved to be dirty. She had a knack for finding the dustiest spot in the house (particularly basement corners), and rolling around until she was nice and coated. For such a pretty cat she had no regard for appearances. A good lesson, I suppose.

We got a card from our home veterinarian today. She wrote a really nice note, and made a point to say that our decision to euthanize was the kindest decision we could have made given the circumstances. While it made me cry all over again, I really appreciated it.

I've been really happy with this vet, with this card just sealing the deal. Last time we went, Abner got scared in the car and managed to poop himself. I wondered what the smell was as I was in the waiting area, and realized that it was one of mine.... Poor guy didn't even move - just froze in place.

I was a little embarrased about the whole sitch, but the vet totally turned it around. "Well, we know who's sample this is. That's helpful," she said, adding, "and from the looks of it he seems like a really healthy cat." Now I was semi-proud of my scaredy cat.

Never did get Icky's sample, but it doesn't really matter at this point.

We also recieved flowers from some friends with a really sweet note. While I know they intended the flowers to be the main gift, and they really are lovely, the box they came in was equally exciting. It had compartments, and a little rung of plastic was affixed to the interior side wall. It is still on the kitchen floor, providing a new fort and castle for Mr. Fabulous. He isn't quite as adept as the Ick, but he's trying. I'll leave it out a little longer so he can practice.

Abner, Fabner, Abs, Mr. Fabulous, Ab Fab, Fey Kitty... All the same guy. He's a cat - he could care less what we call him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Icky la Picky Wicky - In Memoriam

Today is a sad day.

If today were yesterday, I would be sitting here at my desk with one of my cats, Ichabod (aka Icky), on my lap. But today is today, and Icky is sadly gone. She had just turned 5.

It all happened so fast, and was completely unexpected. In short, she had a saddle thrombus, likely as the result of heart disease. We always knew she had a slight heart murmur, but it never impacted anything she did judging by her playful actions. Once the episode ocurred, it went downhill very quickly. We did everything we could, culminating in a late night trip down to Angell Memorial in Boston (they were wonderful) to get a second opinion and see what options we had. In the end, it would have been a terribly quality of life, and a short life to boot.

It was, in a word, awful.

Luckily, we have good friends who were selfless and made the evening a little easier. P was on overnight call when this all happened, and one friend was able to come in and cover what is a pretty sucky shift. When his girlfriend asked what he was doing, he explained saying "she would do it for Mike." "Who's Mike?" she asked, having no idea. "He's the dog we're going to have one day." I thought that was really sweet.

Another friend drove P down to Boston from Concord (an hour and a half drive), so she didn't have to drive there alone. She even packed us a few snacks (none of which we could eat as we were both nauseous from the whole thing). She came in to the ER, gave us hugs, and left. Yet another friend sat on the phone with me while I was driving to Boston, assuring me that I was not crazy to make the drive, and just understanding what Icky's life meant to us.

How can you repay this kind of kindness? Having P there made all of this a bit more bearable - I did not want to have to go through it all on my own. Plus, P is a little braver than me in medical situations. Perhaps most importantly, I would have felt terrible if she never had a chance to say goodbye.

I write the above because I know people are always curious as to the cause and the story. However, from here on out I'd like to focus more on her life and how cool a cat she was. So, in no particular order, here is some of what made Icky, Icky:

Every night, around 10:30, she would drag a plastic dowel with a fleece strip attached up the stairs and into our bedroom. It would click up each step, and when she got to the top she'd loudly announce that she had arrived. Sometimes her pronouncement almost sounded like she was saying "hello" (although training her to say that on command was a total failure).

If it were colder outside, she'd then hop on to the bed right where my head lay. This never failed to scare me, even though I knew it was coming. She'd walk over my chest and stand on my right side, scratching at the blanket. That was my cue to pick up the comforter a litle bit so she could crawl under. She would then proceed to circle and plop down near my hip, instantly purring. When P was around, she'd sometimes fall into the small of her back. Inevitably, she would stay for about 10 - 15 minutes, and then crawl out of the blankets and hop off the bed. I considered this her way of tucking us in for bed.

I got so used to it, in fact, that now when traveling it is a little harder for me to fall asleep. I am conditioned to her gentle purr.

Of our two cats, she was the brave one. And the goofy one. She'd be the first to venture out and greet guests (they rarely meet Abner, the other cat, unless they are overnight guests). As a chatty one, she'd say her hellos and rub across your leg as a greeting.

The chattiness... I loved her voice, and that she always had something to say. We had entire conversations.

She had the softest fur of any cat I've ever known. It was thick and so silky that it was cool to the touch. Anyone that ever stroked her agreed.

She was incredibly curious. We purposely saved boxes a little longer to give her (and Abner) a chance to make a temporary fort. It generally took less than 10 seconds of seeing the box before she had to investigate. If at all possible, she would gnaw at the cardboard and spit out bittles of cardboard everywhere. I never minded picking that up; it was clearly a source of pleasure.

She was a bit of an adventurous eater. Our habit of late was that I would finish eating my morning cereal, and then leave the bowl for her to lick. She was particularly fond of Grape Nuts, and Kashi-type cereals that contained "twigs." She also loved nutritional yeast. Just yesterday I made toast with butter and nutritional yeast, and made sure to share some with her. Part of the reason I made it in the first place was because I knew she'd like some. I was a sucker for that cat.

She was a terrible jumper. Her body always seemed a little long for her legs (or maybe just her legs short for her body), and as a result she uncovered ways to jump in increments, using whatever she had around her. I will sorely miss the morning routine of getting out of the shower and leaving the shower curtain slightly open so she could hop on to the tub as her first step in getting on the counter. She would sit and patiently wait for me to do so every day.

She loved to rub her face on anything with an edge. I'd say we tested every edge and corner in the house. I'd pick her up to try a new one, she'd test it out with a good rub, and if the paws started kneading, we'd head back. Her favorite things, however, were rolled up magazines and the brim of a baseball cap. The baseball cap was a double bonus because you could steal some belly rubs as well.

Her hips were incredibly flexible. As someone with a history of back problems, I always envied that in her.

She was good to Abner. They are both shelter rescue cats, and we wonder what their first few months on this planet were like. She was found in a dumpster (which we think explains some of her eating habits), and he was found wandering streets. He has remained skittish, although not mean, and looked to her to help him understand what he should try out. If she rubbed her face one somthing, he'd try. If she wanted to check out a box, he'd want to check it out, too. If she was laying down somewhere, he'd want to be on top of her. She always let him cuddle in, and without fail was the spooner, not the spoonee.

She was my cat. She'd follow me around, and perch herself on or near me. If I was working, she'd nap or bathe or just hang around. Don't get me wrong, I love both of my cats, and am glad that Abner is still around, with all of his quirks and habits. But Icky and I had a special thing going.

That's just a small sample of the reasons why my heart is broken. It's hard to think of her in the past tense, as everything was just fine until, well, it wasn't fine. In a sense I am glad that she had a fantastic 5 years and went quickly, but that's small consolation compared to the fact that she's gone. I can't believe she's gone...
Abner is now sitting on my lap. It's a new day. It isn't quite the same, but I appreciate his kindness.