As you must all be aware by now, the New York City Marathon, the marathon of my dreams, was cancelled last week. You might think I’d be supremely disappointed. I was, but I made the most of the situation and ended up having a fantastic time in the City!
Alana and I flew in on Friday morning. We weren’t even sure the flights would be landing at LaGuardia considering it was under water a few days ago! Everything went off without a problem and we made it easily into the city to check into our hotel. I don’t know if every hotel room in NYC is small, but our room was SMALL! (How small was it?!?!?) It was so small, we had to give up the bathroom privacy we have at home. While we’re at home, doors are closed, fans are turned on, noises are muted. In the hotel, every tinkle echoed through the room! The cool thing about the room was that with a push of a button, the bed slid up the wall into a modified couch. It was like having our very own Craftmatic Adjustable Bed!
After checking in, we walked to the marathon expo. This is where you pick up your race bib, timing chip, and free marathon t-shirt. That’s the easy part. You can’t leave the expo until you weave your way through all the vendors selling souvenir shirts, jackets, hats, shot glasses, gloves, you name it, they sell it. I spent a lot of money on my souvenirs because you only do the NYC Marathon once, right?
We then tried to find some dinner. You would think it would be easy to find a great restaurant in NYC. However, we were with our friend and fellow runner, Gina. Finding a restaurant that all three of us agreed on was the hard part! We walked up to a restaurant, read the menu in the window and said, “meh, let’s keep walking.” We found ourselves nearing Times Square when Alana and Gina started getting text messages saying the marathon was cancelled! My friends suck because no one texted me! I found out later that I received a ton of sympathy from my friends on facebook, so it’s all good. We didn’t believe the news at first. The websites we looked at weren’t updated in real time, so they didn’t have the info. Finally, we had enough confirmation to digest the fact that the marathon was really cancelled. We spent the entire dinner looking at our phones and texting people. The cancellation was soaking into my reality now. After the anticipation that started in April when I found out I was in, I now knew I had to wait another year.
So what would you do if you were in my running shoes? I’ll tell you what I did – we stayed and had a blast! Now that I knew I wouldn’t be running a marathon on Sunday, I used Saturday to explore Midtown Manhattan. I walked from our hotel at the corner of 10th Ave and 42nd Street to the Empire State Building and back again. I walked from the hotel to The Late Show With David Letterman studio. When I got there, the doors were open and they were taking lottery applications for Monday’s taping. I thought, “I made the NYC Marathon by lottery drawing, so maybe I’ll be lucky again.” They took my application and told me they’d call me on Sunday. I got the call and we made it into the taping! That experience is an entire blog entry all by itself, so stay tuned.
Sunday morning, Gina and I ran from the hotel to Central Park. We ran nearly 8 miles before we saw that the mile markers were still up in the Park. We ran from mile 25 to the finish line and took a few pictures. It was a sad sight to see what might have been. We ran back to the entrance to the park and saw large groups of people preparing to run their own marathon in the park. The original NYC marathon was four laps around Central Park. So, 100s of people were getting ready to do the “Run Anyway Marathon.” We soaked in the energy and headed back toward the hotel. I ended up running 10 miles, so I was kind of a slacker. I showered and headed back to Central Park to take pictures and video of the runners.
There were people on facebook who thought the runners should have gone to Staten Island to help with the recovery effort. I disagreed. I saw people from Mexico, France, Russia, and I don’t know how many other countries running together in the Park. I saw small crowds of people near the finish line cheering on the runners. I saw the world community coming together to make the most of a bad situation. Running is therapeutic to me on a regular day. Coming from Ohio was no big deal. I’ll come back and run it next year. If I came as far as they did, I would make sure to run in NYC as much as I could! If you feel guilty about not helping, do what we did and send money to the Red Cross. Run long, run free, run happy!
- Despite nixed NYC Marathon, runners run anyway – and offer aid – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
- Runners disappointed and frustrated by late cancellation of ING NYC Marathon (charlotte.news14.com)
- Marathoners Run 26.2 Miles Despite Cancellation Of NYC Marathon; Others Volunteer On Staten Island (newyork.cbslocal.com)
So many things happened on our honeymoon. People have asked me, “how was your trip?” As I explain things to them, I realize how little I remember what happened! I remember everything we did, I’m having trouble remembering which place it happened. I’m really glad I wrote a daily entry on this blog so I can remember what the hell happened on my honeymoon!
Here are the odds & ends of the trip:
1. On the ship, the elevators weren’t connected to each other. Usually, you push one button and it would control every elevator on the floor. On the ship, there was one button for the first elevator, another button for the next two elevators, another button for the next two elevators, and one more button for the last elevator. Every single time I wanted to get on an elevator, I started with the first button and pressed all four buttons to maximize my chance to get an elevator. On the flip side, as I rode the elevators, we would stop at a floor and no one would get on! I’m guessing that there was another asshole who did what I did and found a different elevator first.
2. Karaoke contests are frustrating! On the ship, we had three nights of competitions with a final night where the top two finishers of each night competed in the finals. I sang every night! The audience would vote for their favorite and the top two finishers went on to the finals. I believe, and I’ve been told, that I’m a pretty good singer. I have years of experience singing karaoke. I sang songs that the audience would like to hear and not songs I like to sing. Every single night, I sang and every single night, I was not selected in the top two! The only thing that kept me sane was the people who came up to me the next day and said, “Hi, Jim! I loved your song last night”" or, “I really enjoyed your singing.” So why the fuck didn’t you vote for me, you assholes??? Given my years of karaoke experience, I have seen a huge variety of singers. I believed every night that I sang better than all the singers who went to the finals. I’m conceited that way.
3. Meeting people is fun. During the first night on the ship, this friendly young woman asked Alana and me if we wanted to be on their team for a music trivia competition. She and her sister were on the cruise with their parents. The older sister was one of the karaoke singers who beat me on the first night. Her younger sister also sings, but didn’t enter the competition. They were both adorable and we struck up an on-board friendship that made me want to adopt them! I even told their parents that I wanted to adopt them! I have three wonderful sons, but if I could have had a couple of daughters, these two would be exactly the type of daughters I would want! Also, at every stop on the trip, I was able to go onshore and find an extremely interesting person or couple to talk to at a bar.
4. Food is just not that important. The main source of food was the buffet. When you entered the buffet, they gave you enormous plates! If you put a normal amount of food on this plate, it looked like you barely had anything on the plate! So I ended up filling the plate! I would taste something and if it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever tasted, I pushed it aside. I estimate that I ate about 25% of the food I put on my plate. One time, I found a small round dessert plate and put my food on that. It was loaded with food that I liked and it was just the right amount. Another thing that happened is, I wasn’t worried about getting hungry because food was always available! This made me take even less food because I knew that if I got hungry later, I could always go back for more. I ended up eating less during the trip than I would have eaten at home!
5. I had a distinct feeling of “disconnectedness” during the trip. The TV channels on the ship were very limited. The cost of an internet connection was $100 for 200 minutes. You don’t browse casually at 50 cents a minute! So, I spent the entire trip with very limited access to Cincinnati news, which includes how the Reds and Bengals were doing. The ship forces you to be a part of the ship’s culture and they don’t want you to or care if you know what’s going on at home.
6. Too much togetherness is not necessarily a good thing. When Alana and I are at home, I spend a lot of time in my man cave and she spends a lot of time upstairs doing her thing. When we were forced to be together in the same room at the same time, we were ready to kill each other by the end of the trip! We laugh about it now, but there was a lot of frustration by the end of the trip. The key to our relationship is a strong desire to be together balanced with a strong desire to be alone periodically. If we can’t get the alone time, we don’t want the together time! The fact that we both know this and want this is a very, very good thing!
I’ve enjoyed writing about our honeymoon and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. I’ll have some pictures posted on Facebook soon. You can follow me at facebook.com/jim.whittenburg We just posted our wedding photos, so the honeymoon photos might take a while! Thank you for joining us on our excursion.
I woke up early so I could do my weekly long run of 16 miles. Doing this after drinking the beer I drank the day before is never a good idea! I hydrated and headed out the door. Unlike my Denali run, I had a plan this time. I knew that it was 2 miles from our hotel to Stanley Park. This park is huge! They have a running/biking track along the sea wall It was fairly busy for a Sunday morning. At the start of my run, the view of the ocean and the sky and the light at that early hour almost made me stop in my tracks! I kept going until I came to a fork in the trail. I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I continued to follow along the ocean. That wasn’t the right way to go! I followed the ocean for as long as I could, but then I was forced to run toward downtown. The rest of my run had me stopping a lot to figure out which way to go. I got lost once or twice, but I made it!
When I got back to the hotel, Alana told me that our flight was cancelled! She made one phone call after another to United Airlines to see what was going on. Since our flight was going through their partner, Air Canada, United had no idea what was going on. We decided that we should probably get to the airport by 5:00 for our expected 11:55 flight. Before doing that, we had to do one more touristy excursion. We took a short bus ride to a suspension bridge a friend recommended. It was okay and I took a few more pictures, but it involved a lot of walking and climbing up and down stairs. Usually, I’m good with that but today’s run kind of made me feel like I needed a walker to get around!
On the bus ride back, we decided to get off before our scheduled stop so we could get some lunch. Alana pointed to a café and I agreed, but it looked from the outside like it was a soup, salad and sandwich type of café. When we went in to ask for a seat on the patio, we were greeted by an attractive woman in a tight, short, black dress. After we sat on the patio, Alana said, “Did you notice that all the servers have tight black dresses on?” What I should have said was, “No, Baby, I didn’t notice.” What I said was, “Yes, and they had the same uniform at yesterday’s lunch. I guess they hire only hot women who look good in tight black dresses.” She glared at me. I changed the subject by discussing how both restaurants must be owned by the same company. I refrained from taking their pictures. The restaurant turned out to have a chef who won Iron Chef. Many of the items on the menu were marked to show you his personal creations. I chose a burger and it was the best burger I had on this vacation, with yesterday’s burger a very close second. Amazing stuff!
At the airport, we were lucky enough to get an Air Canada agent to help us understand what happened to our flight. Our original 11:55 PM flight wasn’t going to leave until 1:30 AM, which would make us late for our connecting flight in Toronto to Cincinnati. So they just decided to re-book us for a flight TWO DAYS LATER! In their defense, they called Alana who had her phone turned off. We decided that it would be best to get on the 1:30 flight and then wait until 5:30 PM the next day to go home. I never thought I could nap on airport terminal benches, but I found a way! Before they shut all the restaurants down, we grabbed some dinner. Afterwards, I went to the bar to have some liquid nap fluid. I ended up sitting next to a guy who lives north of Vancouver. Way north! He needs a bush pilot to get him home kind of north. He was a very friendly guy but I was fixated on his thick Canadian accent. It was another interesting conversation among a huge number of people I met on this trip.
Arriving in Toronto, we tried to check into our next flight. We were told to go away until 1:30 at the earliest. There was absolutely nothing on the outside of the terminal for us to do and very limited breakfast options. The only slightly acceptable place for breakfast was a Tim Horton’s and we didn’t like how long the line was. We found a small place that sold coffee and we ate a stale sandwich. I then found out that Alana can sleep anywhere! She put her head down on the table and went to sleep for a couple of hours. I woke her up only because I had to find a men’s room. Once we were able to check in, we got though customs and into the baggage screening area. We checked two bags, so this Jamaican man near the checked baggage drop off area yelled, “Hey, I’ve been looking for you! Come over here!” We went over there and joked around with him, and then he said, “Do you ever watch the show House? You look just like him.” I said, “Yeah, I kind of get that a lot.” I don’t get it as much when I’m clean-shaven, but I had about 14 days of growth on my face because I didn’t shave on this trip. So when I’m an asshole to strangers, they must just assume I’m him and give me a free pass. I like that!
Home finally, we dropped our bags and collapsed. Going on vacation can be exceeded only by coming home. You don’t know what you miss until you can’t have it. Things like a computer with a reliable wi-fi connection, a comfortable couch with a remote for the TV that has hundreds of channels, a comfortable bed and non-lumpy pillows, a toilet that flushes cleanly on the first try, and freshly ground coffee in the morning instead of that god awful coffee I’d been drinking for 11 days. It’s good to be home!
Today was “Adventure Kart” day in Ketchikan. It was a two-seat go-kart with a top speed of 35 mph. We were expecting more, but the adventure was still fun. I drove up the hill with all the karts in a line, so I was limited to what the person in front of me was doing. It was a dirt road full of potholes and rocks so it was very bumpy. They told us that Ketchikan never has three days in a row without rain, but today was day three! Had it been raining, we would have been dressed in their rubber suits and come back down the hill covered in mud. Instead, we came back covered in dust which they blew off with an air-hose.
Alana drove down the hill with me trying to get her to drive in the center of the road. It looked to me that the right wheel was always thisclose to going off the road. I kept pointing to the left, but she claims she didn’t see me doing that. I’m pretty sure she was trying to make me fall out of the kart and go back to the ship without me!
We had lunch in a tourist trap pirate themed restaurant/saloon. An older gentlman provided the entertainment. He was sporting a grey goatee complete with a handlebar mustache! He picked up his guitar and started singing a Johnny Cash song. He actually sounded exactly like him!
After a little shopping, Alana headed back to the ship while I headed to a bar that had free wi-fi. After checking in to “The Asylum” on Facebook, a young couple sat next to me. It turns out they are on the same ship, but we hadn’t met yet. They are from Toronto and we talked about the marathon I ran there among other things. I told them that when I was in grade school, we were told that the US was going to use the metric system so we needed to learn it. We shared a good laugh about that!
They asked about life in Cincinnati and I gave them my e-mail address, promising them a tour of the city when they decide to come to town. Soon after that, the wife said, “has anyone told you that you look like a celebrity?” Then, she whispered in her husband’s ear. He said, “What are you doing? He’s a dead ringer! Do you think it’s a secret?” So I said, “Dr. House?” She was so thrilled that I loomed like him that she insisted that her husband take our picture do she could go home and tell people that she met Hugh Laurie!
One of the best parts of this trip has been meeting people. I now have a nodding acquaintance with a woman I met on the ship. We were waiting for an elevator and when the door opened, there was a very skinny Japanese man standing there in his swimming trunks with a towel wrapped around his shoulders. He didn’t look like he had been swimming - he looked like they just pulled him from the ocean after going overboard! He got off while this woman and I stayed on. After he left, I could tell she was about to share a laugh with her friend so I said, “stylish, huh?” They both laughed and now I have to say hello every time I see her.
For years, my vacations have consisted of me taking a 3-day weekend here, a 4-day weekend there. I haven’t been on a week-long vacation in over five years! I haven’t traveled out of the country since before passports were required to enter Canada and Mexico. So I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of travel companion I would be on a trip to Aruba.
I’m not the most patient person, and I’ve been known to be sarcastic and judgmental at times. I’m so spoiled as an American living a suburban, middle class, life. I find it easy to laugh at the odd people around me, knowing that being “average” gives you half the population to make fun of. Actually, it gives you all the population to make fun of! No one makes fun of boring, average people. Now take that attitude to a Caribbean island and see what happens! When I want something, I can usually get it when I want it. Island life is so laid back, they don’t give a shit what you want or when you want it!
“You want breakfast at 11:31? We stopped serving breakfast at 11:30 and you can’t have lunch until 12:00. Here’s a menu for you to study for the next 30 minutes while I ignore you and do what I want.”
“Oh, you finished your meal? I’ll have your check to you when I damn well please! Enjoy the view.”
“You want draft beer? Here’s a 10 ounce bottle of Balashi Beer instead. It tastes like piss, but at least it’s local!”
It’s people like me who create the image of the “Rude American.” I tried my best, but sometimes I just couldn’t help myself. The last straw was at the end of the week when they brought pancakes without syrup. I went kinda nuts on them, but it still didn’t hurry them up. They brought it when they wanted to!
It’s a good thing it was so easy to decompress by walking across the street and putting my toes in the sand as I walked into the ocean. I can get rude service at home, but I can’t have the ocean! It’s also a great people watching place. Do you have body image issues? Go to the beach! There are women who should have stopped wearing a bikini decades ago and men who are clearly 12 months pregnant, walking the beach and frolicking in the ocean like they’re invisible! I guess it’s that feeling you get when you don’t care what you look like because you’re on vacation. With that being said, those same people go to the water parks around Cincinnati! I have a flabby belly and the muscle tone of a 14-year-old boy, but I was walking the beach without a shirt anyway! I wonder how many people looked at me and thought, “Damn, please put your shirt back on!” Having a tan reduces the glare coming off a beer belly, so I did some preëmptive tanning at Palm Beach Tan before going on vacation. I’m all about the optical illusion of the tan.
Going on vacation makes you feel like you have to be doing something all the time or you’ll waste it. When I’m at home, I watch TV and read and generally sit on my ass. I try to do stuff on the weekends, but I’m content with being a couch potato Monday through Thursday. I woke up every day on vacation not wanting to waste any time. I ran, then I jumped into the ocean to cool off. By the time noon rolled around, it was time to do something! Laying on a beach chair entertains me for about 30 minutes at best. I had to have something to do. So we did stuff you don’t normally do at home and spent money you don’t normally spend at home. Being exhausted at the end of each day meant I succeeded in my quest to do something.
My favorite night was Monday night. Earlier in the day, we rented a car and drove to the tip of the island where the lighthouse was. We took a few pictures, then made a reservation for dinner at the restaurant next to the lighthouse. I was trying to figure out how and when to ask Alana to marry me and I thought that a romantic restaurant with a beautiful sunset would be ideal. We arrived at 6:30 as did 30 other people! We ended up with a good table with a decent view of the sunset, but it wasn’t the time or place to ask. I needed to improvise. After dinner, with only about a crescent moon shining in the sky, I convinced Alana to take a walk on the beach. Since the beach near our hotel was fairly deserted during the day, I thought that would be a good place to find some privacy. We get to the beach and everyone was outside sitting on beach chairs in the dark! I was thinking what the fuck is going on?!? This is really weird! I found a patch of large rocks on the shore away from the people. I sat her down and worked my magic and she said yes. As we were hugging, fireworks erupted in the sky! Of course, I took credit for this and said it was all part of my plan. She didn’t believe me and reminded me it was the 4th of July. So, Aruba puts on a display of fireworks for the American tourists on the 4th. I still say it was all planned out by me!
What made the night even more special was the guy who tried to sell us weed for $20 while we were walking back to the room. He said, “Hey man, you want some weed for $20?” I said, “No thanks.” Then he said, “I have coke too.” My immediate thought was, he would never make it as a salesman of any kind in America! If I refused the “Gateway Drug” that’s supposed to lead to the hard stuff, why would he think I’d buy some cocaine instead? I imagined him trying to sell cars. ”Hey man, you want to buy this Chevy? No? How about this Bentley?” I admired his tenacity. He should have gone to the airport and said, “Hey man, you want some weed? It’s duty-free!” He would have had a line out the door! Americans love putting one over on the man by buying duty-free!
I came home with a fresh perspective on how great my life is. I was able to see the poverty that exists on the island paradise. Living there would be awful. I guess that’s why people always say “It’s a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.” I’ll still be annoyed by everything from traffic to rude restaurant servers here at home. Knowing that it could be so much worse doesn’t stop me from telling the asshole who needs me to tell him how big of an asshole he really is. I’ll try to keep the island way of life for as long as I can. No worries, no hurries, it’s one happy island!