Monday, March 31, 2008

piece of mini-cake

We ran the ING half marathon on Sunday. The day began at 5am when we got up for coffee and breakfast. By 5:30 we were on the MARTA headed to Centennial Olympic Park with the rest of the crazies wearing numbered bibs. I kept scanning the train for the other resentful bleary-eyed people, but everyone appeared eager or agreeably contemplative. No one else seemed put out by the early start or the 40 degree weather. Luckily, I picked my partner in crime with care because she was able to fill the void of griping camaraderie that I needed to start the day off right.

We weren't sure which direction to head out of the train station so we followed the guy wearing the most intense running outfit and what appeared to be his gear bitch (an older man carrying a duffel bag). Using the Herd Method, we made it to the runners' corral without incident (not to throw too many bovine terms into the mix). Once we figured out our starting position, we went off in search of a bathroom. The northern perimeter of the park was lined with Happy Camper! porta potties. In my infinite wisdom, I decided that a line with mostly men would get us back to our corral faster. It became evident that my logic was flawed as other Happy Camper(!) doors slammed in an oddly satisfying rhythm while the ones devoted to our line remained silent for longer (and longer) periods of time.

Despite the extended bathroom duties of some individuals who will remain nameless because I don't know their names, we made it back to the corral (or staging area) with time to spare. 30 minutes after the intended start time, the corrals in front of us began to empty. As we rounded the last corner before the official start line we were greeted by Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al." This is secretly one of my all time favorite songs and under just about any circumstance it bolsters my mood. We bopped our way across the start line and so began the fastest 13.1 miles I've ever run (hobbled).

The race itself was somewhat lackluster, but an all around great experience. The cheering sections were sparse and the course was hillier than I'd expected, although it was nothing like the infamous Decatur route. As feared, my IT band went into extreme rejection mode around mile 3. I was mentally prepared for a flareup, but I hadn't expected it to happen so early in the race. I was really upset for the next mile, but it never occurred to me that I should stop because of it, so I ran the next 10 miles in a great deal of pain. It leveled off somewhere around mile 7 and came back with a vengeance at mile 11. We both started to lose steam around mile 12, and halfway through mile 13 I was so unenthused by the lack of spectators and the vanishing ink finish line that I was tempted to walk in the other direction to get a cookie from Octane. But I couldn't shake the passing bug (i.e. the need to pick a person and then proceed to pass them, which is why coffeeshopgirl probably wanted to throttle me for the last 4 miles), so the cookie had to wait.

The last 300 yards consisted of a snakelike chute that spit us across the chip sensor line into the pen of dazed and exhilarated finishers. I like to sprint the end of my runs (something that used to infuriate my mother), and I really wanted to finish this one with a bang, but the narrow lane they'd cordoned off put a damper on my kick (accelerated hobble). We did manage to weave our way through the crowd and pick up speed for the last 50 yards. As usual, coffeeshopgirl out-sprinted me and crossed the finish line first. Despite the dreaded IT band flareup, our pace was a full 2 minutes faster (per mile) than any of our training runs(2:23 for anyone who just has to know that we ran 11 minute miles).

When we were standing around in our corral waiting for the race to begin, we joked about how all the marathoners (denoted by their orange bibs) looked so determined and purposeful. We decided that we must be only half-purposed because we were only running half the race. It's safe to say that by the time I made it to the food tent and picked up my lemon poppyseed mini-muffin, I felt fully-purposed.

(the mini-cupcakes pictures above were part of the second wave of purposefulness)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

you're killing me smalls

I spent most of the weekend looking through my camera viewfinder (and eating good sushi). the overwhelming response to my current obsession can be characterized by the following evasive techniques:

dirty looks.
(note the subject's aggressive eyebrows)

shooing hands.
(note the subject's use of firearm mimicry)

and the ever popular duck & cover.
(note the subject's attempt to conceal identifying features)

but i can always count on the canines for a glam shot
(note the subject's relaxed features and intent gaze)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

emergency toilet paper? check!

A tornado went through downtown Atlanta this past weekend. At the time, it seemed more like an overactive thunderstorm, but that assumption quickly turned into an understatement around 10 o'clock Friday night.

When the initial rains hit, coffeeshopgirl and I were walking home from an impromptu visit with Elise and Isabel. The last quarter of a mile turned into a sloshy dash with me clutching my camera underneath my sweatshirt, cursing myself for being stuck in the rain with something that cost almost as much as a month's rent. After recovering from the sprint, we were about to watch the rest of Annie Hall when I got a text from Tony (owner of Octane Coffee) requesting dogwalking backup because he was busy rubbing elbows with James Hoffman, the UK Barista Champion. Back into the rainstorm we went.

The first roadblock was a downed tree in Cabbagetown. Then we hit a wall of fire trucks. Thanks to all the running we've been doing, I had a few detours at my disposal. We ended up on Boulevard Ave, which took us right by the Stack Lofts (also known as Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts). There were bricks in the road as if someone had crashed into the building (we didn't find out until later that the bricks were from the top floor of the building, which was basically leveled). We finally made it Tony's place and took Buckley for a quick walk. He's scared of thunderstorms so we turned on the news and kept him company for a few minutes. The lightning storm we'd marveled at earlier in the evening turned out to be a possible tornado: CNN center damaged; basketball tournament at the Georgia Dome postponed; broken water mains flooding the Congress Center; power outages across the city; the list goes on. If we hadn't ventured out to walk the dog we would have been sitting at home watching Woody Allen stuttering to Diane Keaton about his obsession with death books.

The next day we embraced our human propensity for rubbernecking and went for a run through Cabbagetown to survey the damage. The skyscrapers downtown were backdropped with dark clouds when we left the house, but the storms headlined on every news channel didn't seem to be materializing, so off we went. Not long after getting into Cabbagetown, the wind picked up and the sirens started. People clustered on porches with radios (and beer) yelled at us to get home because another tornado was headed straight for us. A text from Elise confirmed that we had about 20 minutes before the storm hit. Mad dash #2 was about a mile long, the last 5 minutes of which included hail and pouring rain. Three different people offered us rides, which I found to be an amusing show of southern hospitality, but it incensed coffeeshopgirl and made her run even faster.

The second round of storms passed through town pretty quickly. About an hour after the hail sprint, it was just another spring day in the drrty drrty, for us at least. No trees in the living room and no reason to use the emergency bag that I packed as coffeeshopgirl laughed at my hypervigilance.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

4 legged therapy

ah, the regret of writing a self-pitying post. it feels similar to the self loathing that accompanies waking up next to someone you don't remember meeting (minus the host of fears that go along with that gem of a situation).

at any rate, i'm feeling a little more grounded today. it's 73 degrees outside, and i spent almost an hour walking in Piedmont Park with coffeeshopgirl and this 4 legged pogo stick:

her name is dixie and she's my second dog-walking charge thus far in the attempt to make extra money while simultaneously trying to lift The Dark Cloud. she apparently likes to spend a lot of time upside down:

i have a fat cat (she's not big-boned, she's just big mouthed) that also spends a good portion of her day belly up. one time i tried to understand what was so great about it by getting down on the floor next to her, but all it did was make me dizzy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

in need of social ex-lax

You'll have to forgive the following sitcom example; we've been working our way through all 10 seasons of Friends for the second time in 4 months, which is what happens when you live with a full time student and continually have experiences like this:

There's an episode of Friends where Mike (Pheobe's boyfriend) and Ross spend an evening together while Pheobe and Rachel have a girls' night out (it's on the second disc of the 9th season if you also suffer from The Syndrome). Ross, albeit possessive and dorky, is an educated and capable conversationalist. Mike, also a bit eccentric (sitcoms are like the stage makeup of television programming), is equally as engaging under normal circumstances. One would expect two interesting people such as this to interact with ease, gamboling through shared interests and current events. Instead, they sit in agony, straining more than an old lady who's run out of Metamucil.

I don't profess to be a social cougar, but ever since moving to the drrty drrty, I have to admit, I've felt more akin to a social woodlouse (a.k.a. roly poly or pill bug).

My proclivity to shyness is partially to blame (please see blog title). I’m not one to take social initiative unless I’ve established a comfort zone with someone, and I’m certainly not one to use my own life as a conversational device (that getting people to talk about themselves maxim will NOT work on me). I’d like to think that if I were more inspired by something (anything) personal, I’d be able to hold my own a little more. As it stands, I hover on the edge of group conversations and make no advance to start or maintain one-on-one interactions.

The other half of the equation revolves around the interpersonal “click” (not to be confused with the high school horror known as the “clique”). I’m talking about the feeling you get when you realize an hour has passed and not once did you agonize over what to say next. Part of the problem may be my sample size. My current job requires interacting with a maximum of 3 people on any given work day, which averages out to zero people because I have a very hands-off supervisor and my work is generally not collaborative. I come in contact with coffeeshopgirl's schoolmates on a semi-regular basis, depending on their respective workloads. [Enter the Friends example.] Most of these schoolmates (some of which read this blog, so I apologize ahead of time for the possible offensiveness) are genuinely nice people, but I constantly find myself struggling for some way to connect. Inevitably, I give in and ask about their school work because it's the most readily available subject and one that they gravitate towards like a fat kid to a box of krispy kreme donuts. In their defense, my social constipation doesn’t stop with the design obsessed. I’ve had so many lukewarm and stilted interactions in the past 12 months that it’s made me dread contact with the outside world.

Maybe I’ll just stay home and communicate with the squirrels in the attic. They can scratch at whatever it is they scratch at up there, and I can thump a response on the ceiling with my baseball bat. There will be a rhythm, and it won’t feel like someone has sucked my lifeblood when we go our separate ways.

Or perhaps it’s time to dust off the juggling balls and revisit my circus roots.

judgement free zone

I would like to propose a new exercise concept: Yoga for the Flatulent Prone.

The practice of yoga requires a certain command of the human body. You twist (or wrench, depending on your skill level and inability to accept your limits) into complicated positions that you have to sustain while remembering to use your Dirga. How can you pursue your highest nature and focus on self-discovery when you're preoccupied with last night's mexican casserole? Wouldn't you like to be swathed in a cocoon of acceptance and feel confident that you will not be judged for your gastrointestinal distress?

Now, I haven't fleshed out the logistics (i.e. ventilation systems and marketing strategies), but there could be an untapped niche here. I can think of several legume-heavy dieters that would be grateful for the opportunity to relax and ease their way into a Pavanamuktasana.

(the sculpture is a perfume bottle design by coffeeshopgirl)

Monday, March 3, 2008

mark time mark

the thing that used to scare me about marching band was the idea of having to do two things at once. i never understood how people could play and walk at the same time. during my junior year, i landed a spot playing flute in the most advanced band, thus embracing my geekdom with full force. the consequence of my talent was mandatory marching band participation. the weekend before band camp (that girl from american pie has ruined whatever social clout the phrase "band camp" could have held in non-musical circles), i had nightmares about puncturing a base drum with my flute or playing through a rest in the middle of a performance. little did i know there were greater things to fear (like ill fitting uniforms). my terror quickly abated as i discovered a natural talent for roll stepping and pivoting on a dime.

i went to a college that didn't have a football team, so my marching band career stalled out in its prime. my days of musical multi-tasking went into hibernation until i took up the guitar. it was (and still is) a purely recreational undertaking so there were no night sweats about my left hand forgetting to change chords while my right hand plucked the wrong strings. one thing that has always eluded me, though, is the ability to sing and play at the same time. i'd like to blame it on my mediocre singing ability, but i can't even manage an off key version of "mary had a little lamb" if i have to accompany myself. i must have been genetically engineered with a connection between my vocal chords and my hands because the moment i start singing, my pick hand becomes spastic and i can't remember what chord to play. my guitar teacher of six years always told me it was a matter of practice. i suppose this could be true, but i wouldn't know because i'm too afraid of getting a knock on my door from a neighbor asking me to PLEASE stop stepping on the cat while i practice. i guess i could try humming instead.

or i can just stick to watching people like Jose Gonzalez who've already mastered the feat. a certain monkey and i went to see him perform last night at the Variety Playhouse. the opener was soporific at best, with droning baselines and underdeveloped lyrics. i'm sorry, but i can't accept forced rhymes with words like "watch" and "latch." Jose, on the other hand, was the kind of performer i love to experience. He didn't address the crowd until the 5th song and even then he kept the chatter to about 6 words at a time. His finger picking rivals that of Sam Beam, and when combined with his voice, you will feel like you're standing on the front porch of a Montana cabin, eating a bowl of steaming oatmeal, waiting for the morning chill to wear off before you go for a hike. [insert steamy breakfast food here if oatmeal makes you cringe]

speaking of Sam Beam, Iron & Wine will be playing at the Variety Playhouse in April. you can bet i'm putting a moratorium on the spending freeze to attend that show!