Monday, January 30, 2012

The Running Man

I registered for a 15K race, the first race I've run since high school. It's also probably farther than I've ever run before. I announced it on facebook, knowing that if I told enough people I'd be too ashamed not to do it.

I was running for a while at our old apartment. I had built up some distance and was feeling pretty good about it. That all stopped once we bought the house and I was spending most of my free time working on it and using most of my excess energy freaking out over all the money we didn't have and all the repairs we needed.

I picked it up a few times since then, but it would turn cold or rain for a few days and that would be it for me. Plus I was started getting shin splints, something I always thought were just made up by slackers for sympathy.

Once my neighbor Bryan pointed out that I was running way too fast, things got so much better. I'm not getting injured or burning out. I'm feeling the way I felt when I first started biking, not really obsessed but really looking forward to it on the days I don't run.

If Bryan can't make and I have to go by myself, I have a kick-ass metal and hardcore playlist. I had to make a playlist since listening on random would mean there's about a 67 percent chance that I'd get a novelty Halloween song or Dean Martin or some indie rock ballad, all of which are great, but don't give me the stuff TO POUND THROUGH YOUR STREETS, CLUELESS SUBURBAN SQUARES! Sure, I may look like a doughy middle aged guy stomping through the neighborhood, but inside I'm screaming for the youth! THAT'S RIGHT, MR. REAGAN! YOUR FASCIST POLICE STATE CAN'T STOP ME! RISE ABOVE, WE'RE GONNA RISE ABOVE!!!

Oh, that's right, most of those songs were written like 30 years ago. WELL, DON'T FORCE YOUR NAZI HEALTH CARE ON ME, MR. OBAMA!

After my forced transfer, I sit in traffic every morning, getting angrier and more frustrated by the minute. "This is no way for a man to live," I think, as I glare at the back of the stupid car in front of me.

Luckily, three or four times a week I get to feel like an actual person again.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Great Balls of Fire

Being older isn’t really all that bad. Sure, there’s annoying stuff, like constantly being on patrol for ear and nose hair, but on the whole it’s not as awful as I thought it would be. Actually, I never really thought about being this old. As a kid, and probably up to my 20s or so, the whole length between 30 through 70 just seemed sort of boring, a vague halfway point between kick ass young adult-ness and the time when it would be acceptable for me to wear a white suit and give out long winded speeches about the old days to anyone who would listen. And yeah, before you comment, I realize that’s what I do here, but I don’t wear a white suit while doing it, so it’s totally different.

Luckily, I’m incredibly immature, so mentally and emotionally I’m about the same as I was in my 20s, with maybe a bit more self-confidence and knowledge tossed in as seasoning. Physically, I can probably do more now than I did back then; while this sounds awesome, like I’m Jack LaLane, or one of those senior citizens waterskiing on commercials, it’s more a comment on how sedentary I was in my 20s. After running track and cross country and skating daily in high school, about the only strenuous activity I regularly participated in was drinking King Kobra malt liquor, being an obnoxious loudmouth, and taking long showers.

But you know what’s really weird about getting old? Realizing that whole crowds of people are younger than you. Football players, sexy actresses, politicians, business owners, cops; all sorts of people that were always older than you are suddenly young enough to be your kids, if you started young enough.

But you sort of accept this, or at least don’t really think about it, at least until circumstances force you to confront this fact in the creepiest and most uncomfortable ways.

A few years ago I had a dermatologist appointment. As many of you know, I am terrified of doctors, but I’m OK with dermatologists, which you’d realize if you’d ever seen a picture of me from high school.

My Graduation Photo

This was a regular follow up visit to make sure I didn’t have skin cancer or whatever, and the previous visit took about 5 minutes. No big deal.

Except that weeks earlier I had noticed a little red spot. On my balls. I’m not really a hypochondriac, but this seemed like a good time to start. Was this the beginning of nut cancer? Some sort of weird ball leprosy? It couldn’t be a venereal disease, could it? I was happily having regular sexual activity, and was having a great time doing so. I knew there had to be a catch. But it couldn’t be that. I mean, I was with a regular partner, and we had discussed all that stuff before and besides, we used condoms, so…Oh wait. No, I guess we didn’t really. Shit, I wonder if I got it off some toilet in the library and spread it to her? How would I explain that?

This made for a stressful week before the appointment. I didn’t research any of this stuff on WebMD or any of the other sites geared to hypochondriacs, I knew too many friends who looked stuff up and became convinced they would die within minutes of shutting down the computer. No, better to wait and see what the doctor said.

My dermatologist was an older guy who told corny jokes and did his best to make his patients comfortable. He also played classic rock in the examining room. The last time I heard “The Boys are Back in Town” and “Maggie May.” While “Cowboy Song” or “Every Picture Tells a Story” would have been better jams, it was still nice.

I was early for my appointment. The assistant leads me back and starts talking to a group of young women in scrubs in front of the examining room. One of them is a youngish Asian woman. She is wearing pigtails and is showing off her new braces, both of which make her look about 12 years old.

“Oh, you finally got them,” the women exclaim, as I’m sort of paying attention but mostly wondering what sort of long and painful process they’re going to have to use to scrape this disease from my testicles.

I’m told to strip to my underwear. I notice there is no classic rock playing. It’s very quiet, a nice place for me to contemplate and accept my ball-less future, as I’ve now resigned myself to the fact that they’re both going to have to be cut off. I have a moment of acceptance. You know, what have they ever done but get me in trouble anyway? Things would probably be more peaceful and less stressful as a eunuch. OK. Let’s do this.

The door opens. Naturally, my new doctor is the Asian woman wearing cartoon scrubs, pigtails and braces.

“Wait,” I think. “What happened to Doctor Oldie?"

“OK, stand up, we’re just going to check your skin.”

I swear she giggled. Jesus, how old is this girl? Is this Take Your Daughter to Work Day?

She looks me over. I can’t stop staring at her pigtails and braces. When she left the house this morning did she purposely try to look as young as possible? I just came in to get my diseased balls cut off, not to feel like a pedophile.

“Everything looks fine. Anything new since the last visit?”

“Uh, no, not really.”

Tell her, tell her, tell her, tell her. You can’t ignore this. You have to have this looked at, if for no other reason than to stop freaking out.

“Good, then we’ll…

“Well, OK, actually there is something. know, down there. I mean, it’s probably nothing but …”

“Down there? Where, exactly?”

“Uh…my …uh..”

“Your penis? Your scrotum?”

“Uh… yeah…uh… that one. Scrotum. Yep, scrotum.”

“You don’t have to be nervous. I’ve seen everything before. Just take your underwear off and let me have a look.”

Normally, I like hearing women say that last sentence but this time a lot of the sexy had gone out of it.

“Where is the problem?”

“Right …right here. That red spot.”

God, now this braces wearing girl is inches away from my equipment. Am I being filmed or something? I mean, they’d have to see that I didn’t try anything, right?

“Oh, that? That’s just a blood vessel that burst. People get them all over their body. Nothing to worry about.”

I swear she giggled again.

After that experience, I thoroughly research any doctors I might have to get naked in front of. They have to be at least 20 years older than I am. It’s much less stressful that way.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dance Fever

I had been hanging around the record player with my friends for most of the seventh grade dance. After discussing the finer points of Rush and Eye of the Tiger, and wondering why the girls kept requesting Michael Jackson when we had plenty of perfectly fine Van Halen albums to play, I decided the time was right. We only had the room for another half hour or so, and I had been dragging my heels long enough. I was finally going to ask my crush to dance. I had never really danced before, actually, I don’t think I’d ever even really touched a girl before, but it looked pretty easy – just sort of hug her lightly and sway back and forth. I could do this.

And this was a true awkward middle school crush. I rode my bike in front of her house constantly (which was like 3 miles or so from my house) on the off chance she’d walk out and …I don’t really know, actually. See me and decide we needed to make out on her driveway, I guess.

Joan Jett’s “Crimson and Clover” was playing as I approached her. The lights were low (as low as Catholic middle school would allow) and the dust from the art room filtered through the light from the windows.

“I’ve got to do this,” I thought.

I had been working on my approach at home for quite some time. In rehearsals I was pretty suave, giving off a mixture of both smoldering seventh grade bad-boy sexuality, with a hint of sensitive, artistic guy along with a studied air of indifference, just to seem hard to get. She was going to melt.

She was standing with her friends. Joan Jett was wrapping things up as I got closer. “Shit,” I thought. “What if she shoots me down in front of everyone? I’ll have to pretend to be sick Monday. And I’ll have to find a way to get my desk moved away from her. No more secretly staring at her neck (and sometimes getting a glimpse of bra strap, which was pretty exciting.) God, she smells so nice, and I’m going to have to give all that up after this public humiliation. I’ll have to find a new girl’s house to ride my bike in front of. I wonder if my parents will let me transfer schools. Maybe I could say I’m getting bullied.”

Should I look at her? Yeah, I mean, I had to look at her, right? But I don’t want to look at her too much, that would be weird. God, haven’t they heard of air conditioning in this place?

Well, I’m here. I have to do it now.

“HeyumCatherineyouthinkyoumightwanttodancetothenextdance? Um…With me?”

“Sure, I’ll dance with you.”

Man, this was easy! I could have been asking girls this whole time, dancing like a … I don’t know…dancing MTV guy!

Joan Jett finished and the next song came on. Journey. Don’t Stop Believin’ Hell yeah.

I put my arms stiffly around my dancing partner’s waist (I had a dancing partner!). Her arms were around my neck. We were swaying to Journey’s tale of lonely small town girls and city boys. I could feel her breathing under my hands. I couldn't really look her in the eye, but I could smell her hair. It smelled sort of like fruit. Beautiful, beautiful fruit.

It would make a much better story if I wet myself or freaked out when the song picked up, but I did pretty good, even if my arms were sticking straight out in a stiff 90 degree angle and I was swaying back and forth like a retarded robot. Of course, I never really talked to her that much afterwards, since she still made me nervous, and it was much easier to fantasize about being cool around her than actually, you know, having a conversation.

Years later my wife would express amazement that my first slow dance was to Don’t Stop Believin'.

“But you can’t slow dance to that song,” she’d say.

“You can if you’re a superstud,” I’d reply.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reflections on a Facebook Forward

I saw this thing a few days ago on a friend's Facebook wall where you look up the number one song from the date of your birth and post it. Naturally, I had to do it. I mean, it was 11 o'clock on a weekday. What was I gonna do, work*?

I did pretty good - "ABC" by the Jackson 5. Then I poked around the site to see what other songs America decided to give me as birthday presents throughout the years.

Not too bad - Two Blondie songs, "I Love Rock n Roll," "Kiss" by Prince, "Nothing Compares 2 U," Johnnie Taylor's "Disco Lady;" you know, the one that goes: "Push it in, Push it out, Push it in, Push it out,Disco Lady." Subtle!

Overall a nice little assortment.

Then I decided to see what hits were signaling my birth in the years before I was born. Still not too bad - some Elvis, Beatles, "Joy to the World," and the Chipmunks doing that "Witchdoctor" song. But I still needed to search further.

Then I saw it - Arthur Collins' bad 1899 jam, "Hello, Ma Baby." You know, the one tune everyone whips out when the occasion calls for an old-timey song. Like if you try on a straw hat or find an old microphone or see a guy in a bowtie or something. Really? You guys don't do that? Huh. Well, trust me, most normal people do.

Here's a cartoon frog doing a version of it

I was pretty happy to see the song was a hit on my pre-pre-birthday, but then remembered that "Hello, Ma Baby" was the only song released in America until about 1928, so it was a hit on everybody's birthday. That took some of the fun out of it.

Anyway, almost two weeks ago I heard Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" in the grocery store. That tune had been lodged in my head ever since. I didn't really mind it too much - it's not a bad song, but just the fact that it hadn't left my mind in close to two weeks was a bit troubling. I was considering seeking medical help, you know, like they tell you to do if you have a boner that lasts over four hours.

However, once I saw the words "Hello, Ma Baby," Joe Jackson was booted out of my brain, and that little green frog took up permanent residence.

Bookmark this page, loyal readers. Next time you have a song stuck in your head, go back. I can almost guarantee "Hello, Ma Baby" will clear it out. You might eventually end up wearing a straw hat and bowtie while singing it into an old-timey microphone, but that's a small, yet immensely entertaining price to pay.

* Note to current and potential employers - this is a joke. I didn't have to work til 12. Let's keep this out of the files, huh?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Highway Star

Like many of you, I can do some embarrassing stuff in the privacy of my car. Singing, talking to myself, air drumming, you name it. Unlike the majority of you, however, I have fancy tinted windows, so you can not see what I'm doing.

I packed up the bike on New Year's to go to the Baldwin Trail. I usually ride the bike down there since it's an easy way to add another 12 miles to my ride, but my tires are worn down pretty smooth and I didn't feel like getting a flat on the way there in the crappy industrial part of town.

I usually go in the early morning but I screwed around until late afternoon, and was lazily packing the car with all the stuff I'd need. I'd leave the trunk open and go find my water bottles, leave a back door open while hunting down something else, just a lazy, footdragging load in.

I finally started driving. I kept hearing a noise in the back, but figured it was just the bike shifting. It did sound a little more organic than that, but it was probably just some crap I left in the floorboard shifting or something.

I couldn't really be bothered with backseat noise, because I was playing a live Thin Lizzy album really loud, and if Homer Simpson has taught us anything,it's that rock music achieved perfection in 1974.

Now, If I'm alone, I'm not going to just wussily hum or nod my head, I'm gonna sing the crap out of some stuff. I'll pull out the guitar face, the pelvic thrust, the pointed finger coming off the guitar riff, anything to give my imaginary audience a thrill. And the audience was loving it. I mean, it was "Cowboy Song,", a song scientifically determined to increase rocking by 75%.

I stopped at a light, and continued to give my imaginary audience 110 percent. Right before the light turned green, as I caught the eye of a particularly fetching audience member in the front row, I felt something heavy and needle-y fall into my lap. The concert was over. I jumped out of my seat, somehow keeping my foot on the brake.

When I had the doors open, my ancient cat had climbed in and fallen asleep in the backseat. He had managed to sleep through quite a bit of noise, but eventually my rocking had caused him to jump up and join the party.

I don't really give a crap about people catching me singing in the car, but catching me singing in tight biking clothes with a cat on my lap while letting out a girlish scream was just too much. I turned around, let the cat out at my house, then continued back to the trail. I played the music lower on this trip.