Category Archives: Background
It’s almost 24 hours after the bombs went off during the Boston Marathon. I’ve spent this time reading about the heroes who emerged immediately. I’ve spent very little time reading about or watching videos of the explosion. I’ve spent this time reading online newspapers and blogs written by runners. They understand the runner’s perspective on this event. So much of what I read is similar to my thoughts that I wondered if I could come up with anything unique to say. While the running community has many things in common, I hope to be able to share my perspective with you.
I was in New York City when they announced the marathon was cancelled. I spent some time being angry and frustrated, but I got over that quickly and became a typical Midwestern tourist for the rest of my trip. What got to me, though, was how non-runners were so angry at us for being disappointed, or for not going to Staten Island and helping with the relief efforts. There were many people who were pissed that thousands of runners showed up in Central Park on Sunday and ran anyway. How could the runners be so heartless when so many people were without power or shelter or food? What they didn’t know was, we were told to stay away from Staten Island because they had too many “helpers” there already. What they didn’t know, or couldn’t understand was, runners of the world unite unlike any other sport. I went to Central Park and witnessed runners from across the world joining together to organize their own marathon. While tragedy stopped the official marathon, it did not stop the runners. The running community came together as one. This community made my disappointment dissolve the moment I saw them there.
Yes, but New York was an “Act of God,” right? Boston is different, right? In many ways, yes, but the response from the running community is the same. Instead of a major weather event, it was a major lunatic who stopped the race. Whoever did this stopped the race, but not the runners. There are stories of runners helping the injured. There are stories of runners going past the finish line and continuing to run until they got to the hospital so they could donate blood. If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know how physically difficult that was for them. They had to use their heart to keep running after the finish line. That’s the only way.
What happened to the people who were stopped on the course? I can identify with them because their dream marathon was cut short. I train for marathons all the time. I run even when it’s an “off-season” because I can’t stop running! I run at least two marathons a year and usually around five half-marathons a year. It’s the same training cycle with each marathon. I spend 12 weeks ramping up the miles by running at 7:00 AM on Saturdays, as well as every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. I’m not complaining – I love it! As race day approaches, I’m forced to cut back on my miles so I can recover. The lack of running, and the growing anticipation of race day, drives me (and Alana) crazy!
Being at the starting line is the second happiest part of a marathon. It’s pure joy being out there with old friends, new friends, and running friends I’ll meet on the course. The next 26 miles are a blur of gels, hydration, electrolyte depletion, strangers cheering, kids wanting high-fives, runners passing me going uphill and me passing them going downhill. The last two-tenths of the marathon is the best part of any marathon I’ve run. Everyone is cheering you on. People are on the sidelines waiting for a loved one to come down that finish line chute, but they cheer you on anyway. Or at least it feels that way to me. I cross the finish line and, despite the cramping and other pain, I celebrate my accomplishment while limping to find Alana. I limp to find my running team friends, take pictures, and re-hydrate with a beer later in the day. I need this post-marathon routine almost as much as I need to run! The people on the sidelines need to cheer and share in the joy of the finish line almost as much as we need to run.
So what does this have to do with Boston? The bomber attacked the marathon by attacking the friends and family on the sidelines. When they attack our friends and family, they attack us! I shared my marathon running perspective with you so you could understand how important it is to me. I’m not alone in this feeling. I don’t just run with a community of runners, I run in a family of runners. My family just happens to live all over the world and I see them twice a year (or more). The reason I know it’s my family is because we are all thinking the same thing about this tragedy. The lunatic wanted to stop a marathon and kill as many people as possible in the process. He, or they, succeeded in the short run. But, within 24 hours, the marathon family came together to decide that this senseless act of god will not stop us. We will keep running. We will run today to honor the memory of those who lost their lives or were injured yesterday. We will run tomorrow and the next day, and we will show up for the next major marathon (Flying Pig for me) without fear and with a renewed purpose. Our purpose will be to show the people responsible for Boston, and anyone else who thinks violence can control us, that we cannot be controlled or stopped. All you did when you set your bomb was to run away. We run for ourselves. We run for our loved ones. We run for our team. We run for our running family. We run toward hope. We run.
- Boston. (trexrunner.com)
- Boston Heartbreak (jeffpearlman.com)
- Reporter’s Notebook: A Marathon Now Tinged With Tragedy (wbur.org)
I’ve been doing stand-up comedy once a month for the past 5 months. It’s something I always wanted to try, and now I’m doing it! I don’t want to do it for any reason other than as a creative outlet. Now that I’ve done it a few times, the challenge isn’t getting up there in front of a crowd and forgetting my routine. The challenge is finding enough material to keep it fresh and new every time I go up there! I get only five minutes, so I don’t need a lot of material. Still, it takes discipline and a deadline to keep me writing and revising my routine. That might explain why I don’t update this blog on a regular basis – no deadline!
A friend asked me recently which comics influenced me or were my favorites. I told him I grew up listening to Bill Cosby and George Carlin when I was a kid. I also listened to Steve Martin, and Richard Pryor as a teen. I watched every episode of the early days of Saturday Night Live and as many episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus as I could find. Later, my taste for comedy added Mitch Hedberg, Stephen Wright, Jim Gaffigan, and lately, Louis C.K. My taste in TV shows gravitates to the weird/abnormal comedies, like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Archer, Frisky Dingo, and Robot Chicken. Apparently, I like cartoon humor. When I was a kid, I sat in front of the TV every Saturday morning watching Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner, Tom & Jerry, Hong Kong Phooey, and Fat Albert.
The first thing I do every morning, after I grab a cup of coffee, is to go online looking for something that makes me laugh. I share most of it on Facebook, but not everyone likes it. I think there are things that are funny in general, and things that are funny to small groups who have something in common, and things that are funny to just me. My only rule before posting something is that it has to make me really laugh!
Which brings me to my central question – What is your sense of humor? Do you have a sense of humor? Of course you do! Everyone has a sense of what is funny to them. Knowing that not everything will be funny to everyone makes it easier to try being funny. When I didn’t have enough material to have a fresh five minutes, I repeated a portion of my previous routine. The first time I did it, I got some hearty laughter. The second time was just mild chuckling. The only difference was the audience. As long as the humor can’t be mistaken for bullying (mean spirited comedy), then someone somewhere will find it funny. You might be a horrible joke teller, but you can tell a true story that will make people laugh. I’m sure something funny has happened to you recently!
Laughter really is the best medicine. Research has shown that regular laughter can help improve your immune system and help you live longer. I never get sick. Next time you have a sick day, break out the funny! Better yet, look for the funny in your everyday life and don’t get sick in the first place. Humor is everywhere – you just have to know how to see it when it’s happening. If all else fails, you can laugh about it later.
It’s impossible to do something out of the ordinary when you’re 51 years old without someone saying “is that on your bucket list?” It’s like they believe that I’m going to kick the bucket just because I’m older than they are! Certainly I drink too much, I eat too much, I drive too fast, but I still expect to live forever! But why does running a marathon, jumping out of an airplane, buying a sports car, and doing a pro-am night at a comedy club become a bucket list item? Maybe I just want to challenge myself!
For years, I have come up with ideas for comedy. I do my best work riffing with a friend or one of my brothers in a very spontaneous way. When I’m with a small group, I come up with some hilarious stuff! But my audience is clearly biased towards laughing at me. They know me, they know my twisted mind, and the still like me. So how do you transfer that spontaneity to a structured, easily translated comedy bit at a local comedy club? You can’t! You can’t take a “had to be there” moment and turn it into a comedy bit that strangers will find funny. That’s the challenge of doing stand-up. Making strangers laugh.
I finally decided that I was going to enter a pro-am night at a local comedy club. There were about 15 people who were just like me. Some of them had experience while others of us were rookies. Some were really, genuinely funny while others struggled to get laughs. While I was in the audience waiting for my turn, I would laugh for the comics out of courtesy because that’s what I would want for me. I have no fear of performing in front of a group of strangers, I have a fear of failing in front of a group of strangers! Now that I’ve written that, I see how ludicrous that statement is! If the audience is a “stranger,” why do I care what they think? Failing in front of people you will never see again is not a problem! It’s actually a strength. You can free yourself to be yourself when you know you’re trying to impress strangers! Fuck them if they don’t think you’re funny!
The video of my first attempt at standup is at https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=3930959439355 I’m pretty sure it’s public, so you should be able to see it.I was really nervous before it was my time to go up there. I had a lot of friends come to see me and I didn’t want to let them down. But once I got up there, I relaxed and had a great time! Since then, there are lots of people who are offering me jokes by saying “you can use that the next time you’re up there.” Everyone, without fail, has said “I’d like to do that but I don’t have the balls to do it. You must have some big balls!” I don’t know how the size of my balls became a topic of conversation, but, thanks?
I guess the moral of the story is, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will always get the same results. If you stretch yourself, you may be surprised by how much you’ll grow.
I wonder what was on the menu when some genius came up with the cliche, “you are what you eat.” What does that even mean? You certainly can’t take that literally! If you could, I would be known as “Delicious!”
I know what I’m supposed to do to eat well, I just don’t want to. I go through phases of eating right, but I come back to eating the same stuff all the time. Monday through Thursday, I’m diligent about what I eat. Well, not Wednesday nights. That’s when I run with Team in Training and we go out for dinner and beer. I could eat right – the menu includes salads, right? Nope, I go for the mushroom and swiss burger every damn time! And bring me your darkest beer! If I want to drink water, I’ll get a Bud Light! OK, so it’s back on track for Thursday. Friday rolls around and I can eat well until dinner. If we aren’t buying a pizza, I’m making one. The one I make is actually very healthy for you and tastes amazing (that’s what she said – really she did, you can ask her)! But you can’t have pizza without washing it down with a beer, can you? Saturday rolls around, I go for a long run, and then it’s party time! Everyone needs a day off, and this one is mine.
The funny thing is, even when I try to eat well, there is always someone who thinks the way I’m eating is unhealthy. They’re probably right, but I don’t want to hear it! When I go out to dinner with a group of people, the skinny people order from a different menu. They always seem to get the healthiest item on the menu! Have they gone over to the dark side and converted to “whole foods?” Or, do they go home and have pizza and beer when we’re not looking? I’ve looked at the healthy weight guidelines for my height and I could be 20 pounds lighter and still be considered healthy. That’s just not going to happen! I’ve been gaining and losing the same 10 pounds for three years now. It’s the party weight that just won’t go away!
The only time I went on an extensive, life changing, “diet,” was the 18 month period while I lost 70 pounds using Weight Watchers. I counted every “point” and tracked them religiously, which is a good analogy because Weight Watchers is a cult! I’m not dismissing them, in fact I would encourage anyone wanting to lose weight to join them. They know their stuff! But going to a meeting is like going to church. Every Saturday morning at 8:00 AM, even with a hangover, which happened quite often, I was at the meeting worshiping at the altar of WW. The meeting leader was more of a motivational speaker, so it was like going to a motivational seminar every week. He told his story so often that I could get up there and recite it! But he was able to help people see that they really could eat what they want, but only if they did it the right way – with portion control. Telling food addicts that they can have a little food without eating it all is like telling an alcoholic that they can have a shot of liquor without drinking the whole bottle!
I think it boils down to my relationship with food. I’ve been a big fan of food from the beginning. Food will always be there for you. Sometimes it waits too long for me to love it back by eating it that it spoils the relationship by turning green. Then I have to dump it and get a fresh new food. You should never keep a food past its expiration date thinking that it will get better with time. Sometimes I eat something that I know is going to give me trouble in the morning, but I eat it anyway. Who can resist such a hot tamale? I often wonder if food gets jealous of other food. Does the lettuce in the salad bowl look at the steak on my plate and think, “he likes steak more than he likes me!” You both have so much to offer, can’t I love you both? Some foods just don’t belong with other foods. They just don’t get along! And why is it that “cheating” on your diet feels so good? Ice cream always looks at me and says, “come on, big boy, you know you want to eat me!” So I give in even though I know that the steak and salad I just ate are going to find out I cheated on them with ice cream.
I guess if I am what I eat, then I’d have to say I’m pretty happy. I eat happy foods and drink happy drinks. I run a lot so I can stay close to a normal weight. I actually practice portion control too! I have one piece of advice for you to follow – nothing good will ever come from a Taco Bell drive-thru after midnight. You don’t want to wake up to that person you took home from the bar at closing time, and you don’t want to wake up to a Taco Bell hangover! Finally, if we are what we eat, then most men are pussies and most women are dicks!
The people who know me casually see me as someone who would seem quite normal. I don’t throw off this weird vibe (at least I don’t think I do). I tend to blend in and mirror the crowd I’m with. When I’m with people who want to have the usual “hi, how ya doin’” kind of conversation, I can small talk with the best of them. When I’m with a group of friends ready to party, I can party with the best of them. I guess I’m saying that the conversation I’m having in my head can be filtered and used for good, not evil. Sometimes, the evil slips out. I’ve been told that I tend to say whatever is on my mind without filtering it. That’s true now, but that’s not always been the case. I don’t always say everything I’m thinking. That would make my cloak of invisibility fall off and you would see how much of a nut job I really am!
When I was a young boy, I was surrounded by a large, loud family. I’m talking 13 kids, two parents, four cats, one dog kind of large, loud family! My only hope to survive was to observe how the older siblings got into trouble and I tried to do the opposite. That worked out until I was the older brother in the house. I found new ways to get into trouble! I figured out that the less my dad heard, the better off we all were. You could haul off and smack your brother in the head, make him cry, and Dad would come in and yell at the kid crying! I experienced this phenomenon from both sides. It was bizarre being the one making someone cry and then sitting there while Dad yelled at them. He gave a cursory yell at the offender, but the loud one was the one who was really in trouble. So I learned that quiet is good and keeps you out of trouble.
The problem with this is, you really can become invisible in a group if all you do is observe without adding to the conversation. It took me a long time to become more vocal in group settings. Even so, I’m not the most talkative or loudest of the bunch. When I’m with a group of friends, there’s usually one person who dominates the conversation. They can be loud and boisterous and make people laugh at how silly they are. That will never be my style. I will sit there and pay attention and laugh when appropriate. There comes a time in every conversation like this where something pops into my head that may or may not be appropriate to share. When I do share, and it gets a laugh, I learn that sometimes the weird thoughts in my head can be appreciated by others. I’ll never tell a “guy walks into a bar” joke, or clown around in a crowd. There’s too much of the “quiet keeps you safe” in me to be that guy.
At home with Alana, it’s a different story. Here, I have an audience of one and she’s a great audience! She loves the silly! I can be a clown with her. Everything I do that makes her laugh has to be repeated so she can laugh again. After being with her for over a year, I could record a “best of” album of my greatest moments in silly! When the wedding planning began, and we had to go meet professional photographers, DJs, and the Rabbi, she saw my professional persona for the first time. This is the persona I try to maintain at work, though I’m not always successful with that. She was surprised at how “serious” I was in those meetings. I just explained that’s just how I am in those situations. I can’t be myself in every situation. So, she gets to see all the crazy that’s inside my head because she loves that shit.
The battle in my brain is ongoing. If you’ve been lucky enough (cursed enough) to be on the receiving end of a snarky comment on facebook, you’re welcome. You’ve experienced the unfiltered version of me. The other me, the quiet me sitting on the sidelines is having an unbelievable conversation with myself! I really need one of those cartoon thought bubbles hovering over my head. On second thought, that would be really dangerous to your well-being! It’s in your best interest that I not say everything I’m thinking. I’m not really being quiet to protect me, I’m being quiet to protect you!
It’s officially “Holiday Season.” For me, that means many things, none of which are normal! First, we have Thanksgiving. For you, that means a day off filled with family you may or may not like. If you’re the host of this gathering, you have to get up early to get ready. Then, you get to clean it all up and fall into bed wishing you had spent the day at work! For me, it means a day off that begins with a 10K and ends quietly at home with the woman I love. In between, it’s filled with football, naps, and Facebook.
I have had Thanksgivings filled with family. As a child, we had to have a “kids table” for our own family! We didn’t need to invite extended family to fill the house. I liked helping Mom make the stuffing because it involved tearing up stale bread. As an adult, I found a recipe for White Castle Stuffing, so I had to make that! It was awesome! When I clean and prep the turkey, it comes to life as I thrust my hand into the cavity and make him dance. I never understood why the include the neck, but it was always a source of “R Rated” fun. Carving the turkey starts with such precision and ends with a plate of shredded meat yanked off the bone. Patience is not my strong suit.
The Thanksgiving conversations remind me of a first date. They’re always so polite and safe and no one really says anything. You haven’t seen some of these people since last Thanksgiving! If they’re on Facebook, they should know what the hell you’ve been up to so why do they always start with, “so what’s new with you?” Some families have the drunken uncle at the table who will say just about anything. Sometimes, I’m that uncle!
The first year after my divorce, my brother Carl invited me to his house for Thanksgiving. I went and had a nice meal, but it was awkward and uncomfortable. I don’t meant to offend him, I just felt like I was an intruder and not a guest. Every year after that, I was either happily alone or in someone’s house trying to find a comfortable chair. You can’t do a seat check in an away game!
I won’t even mention how much I hate using the away bathroom! (I guess I just did.) First there’s the lock that I’m never sure if it actually locks the door. Then, I have to turn on the fan to drown out the god awful noise that I’m about to unleash! Time to wash my hands. What the hell kind of soap is this? I just want clean hands – I don’t want to smell like a tropical rain forest! We top it all off by trying to figure out which towel I’m supposed to use. I’d almost rather be using the gas station’s bathroom at this point!
My current tradition with my sons is to take them out for pizza on Friday. We get to hang out and I don’t have to clean up. If I do decide to host another Thanksgiving, it’s going to include drinking games and Survivor style competitions where one family member after another gets eliminated from my house. I’ll leave the Feats of Strength for Festivus.
Everyone says you don’t really get to know someone until after you live with them. You can take that two ways. One, the person you’re dating will reveal her true self after living with her for a while. Two, she’s going to find out about my true self too! That’s kind of scary! Only I know my true self and I’m my worst critic, so how can I let her see that guy? You are always on your best behavior during the dating stage. The gentleman opens the door for the lady, you call if you’re going to be late, you’re always in a good mood, and the most important rule is, NO belching or farting!
Alana and I spent a few dates in that “polite” stage, then we spent some time telling each other our deepest, darkest secrets. I think she was telling me what she thought would scare me away. This just caused me to tell her things I thought would scare her away. I found out rather quickly that she accepted me flaws and all, and I accepted her without judging her. We had this mutual, unspoken, agreement that we were getting and giving a new start to each other. It was like getting a do-over! The funny thing is, this acceptance of each other created a bond very quickly. We entered the “impolite” stage soon thereafter. That’s when I found out that you keep a woman who won’t fart in front of you, yet who laughs at my farts! Her laughter is what has saved her from the dreaded Dutch Oven.
As soon as I moved in, she did everything she could to make me feel at home. She helped set up the Man Cave in the finished basement. Then I found out that she sends me to The Cave so she can watch TV alone! This really is a good thing. I’d rather watch the shows I like and not be forced to watch The Bachelor in order to compromise with her! Every so often, I’ll go upstairs just to say hi. She is genuinely happy to see me every time. Forced togetherness causes resentments. Being able to be home with her while doing what I like to do without her makes me want to be with her more! This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings – “how can I miss you if you won’t go away?” Our “alone” time makes our together time all the better.
There are many things I’ve learned about her since moving in. Whenever I do something that makes her laugh, she makes me do it again. She’s like a little kid saying “do it again, do it again!” So I do it again and she laughs harder than she did the first time. There are things I have repeated for months now just because it makes her laugh! Because she is so competitive about everything, I’ve also learned to let her win most of the time! She has found out that I sometimes need to vent about something that frustrated me. She listens and understands my venting has nothing to do with her – I just need someone to care that I’m frustrated. She makes these faces and says “you’re scaring me, Baby.” I know she’s joking and that helps defuse the situation. She realizes that once the venting is done, I’m happy again.
Life with me can’t be a bed of roses, but it’s been pretty spectacular so far! We have so much respect for each other that when disagreements or misunderstandings occur, we work them out very quickly. She figured out the trick to staying happy with me is to not take me too seriously. I figured out the trick to staying happy with her is to just let Alana be Alana. We fell in love with each other after we allowed each other to just be ourselves. Neither of us wants to change anything about the other. I guess that means no matter what else we learn about each other over the rest of our lives, that’s going to be okay too!
I got married when I was twenty years old. Everyone said we were too young to know what we were doing. They were probably right, but we were married for 15 years, had three wonderful boys, and currently have a good ex-spouse relationship. She took the plunge relatively quickly and remarried a few years after our divorce. I spent the next 15 years being either single or in relationships that weren’t going to lead to marriage. I wasn’t about to get married again. Not that being married was horrible, but I wasn’t ready to commit over that 15 year period.
As I dated, I found that there were three types of first dates:
- The date that can’t end quickly enough. I had these types of dates quite often! I went on dates with women who wouldn’t talk and who wouldn’t stop talking. I went on dates with women who claimed to be casual smokers but smoked a pack an hour. I went on dates that were supposed to be just a quick drink but ended up with them ordering food that they assumed I would pay for! I even went on a blind date because a mutual friend thought we’d hit if off. During the date, I began to question if my friend really knew me at all because this person was not my type at all. This is the kind of dating that leads to hilarious stories in the future.
- The date that leads to more dates. These types of dates gave me some hope that I might be able to meet someone normal after all. They were a good enough first date to warrant another. So you go out again and learn more about each other that you can’t learn during the first date “interview.” It might lead to more dates as you haven’t found anything causing you to turn and run as far away as possible – yet. Eventually, something happens that makes you reevaluate this person and decide it’s best to walk away. This is the kind of dating that makes you hopeful in the beginning, but you know in the back of your mind that it’s not really what you’re looking for.
- The date where you find “the one.” This is the date that is so obviously different from all the others that you go home alone wishing you didn’t have to. This is the date that tells you your life has just changed irreversibly because you just met your future. This is the type of date that made me want to ask Alana to marry me. Not on that date, mind you, but cautious optimism became outright giddiness. This is the kind of date you get to have once, if you’re lucky.
On our first date, Alana made a very subtle, straight-faced, joke about one of the stories in Date Type #1 that I told her about over the phone. You had to be there, but let me assure you she caught me off guard. The date was at Go Bananas, which is a great first date place to go. You get to spend some time talking while waiting for the comedians, then you get to see what makes them laugh. I already knew I could make her laugh because we talked for hours on the phone before we even went on the date. She loved my sense of humor and I loved making her laugh. A comedy club was the only natural choice for our date. After the club, we went next door to the bar. She spent the majority of that time flipping me off and saying “fuck you!” I knew I had either met my match or met the female version of me. This date took place in late November.
I’m 50 years old – she’s 36. I’m a Reagan Republican – she’s a Clinton Democrat. I’m an early bird – she’s a night owl. I’m a recovering Catholic – she’s Jewish. I could list all the ways we’re different but none of that matters. Over the next few months, we became inseparable. We started out by spending just the weekend together. Little by little, it became Friday through Sunday then Thursday through Monday. Then, it became odd to be at my apartment alone for even one night. I loved being alone in that apartment when I leased it in May 2010. I couldn’t wait for the lease to end in 2011. We became “roommates” for good on June 1st.
To be continued . . .