Monday, September 29, 2008

Full circle

I lost my favorite brown dress shoes two months ago. I’ve torn up our house and even my parents’ house in Iowa looking for them. I had just resigned myself to the fact that they’d somehow gotten thrown away when, as I was getting dressed this morning, I noticed them sitting on the closet shelf. Where I’ve always stored them.

Speaking of shoes, I went to order a new pair of my running shoes this weekend so I could be springy and fresh for the marathon in two weeks. And I can’t find them anywhere in my size. ACK!

Speaking of running, Matthew and I ran eight miles on Sunday in windy, overcast, altogether perfect weather. Except I was still sore from last weekend’s 23 miles. And now my knees hurt. In a bad way.

Speaking of body parts, I went to the gym in my neighborhood on Saturday and got a pretty satisfying pump in my chest and shoulders. The place was almost empty except for two guys who just oozed A-gay beauty and arrogance through their clingy tank-tops and conspicuous tans. To my surprise, one of them smiled at me. I felt totally validated.

Speaking of gay people, my Chicago friend Marc started a blog that’s an ongoing dialogue between him and his LA friend Jamie. The whole thing’s still in its infancy, but so far it’s a good read—except for its focus on music reviews. You know I love you more than my luggage, Marc, but NOTHING puts me to sleep faster than a music review.

Speaking of Marc, he and his husband hosted a fabulous Auntie Mame brunch on Sunday. I’d (gasp!) never seen the movie, which is fabulous in some places and long in others, but it was lovely to spend a Sunday afternoon with food, friends and faggy cinema.

Speaking of surviving the Depression, how about today’s bailout fallout? I’m not worried, though; my money’s invested in shoes.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mental Illness Theater

KATIE COURIC: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

SARAH PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land-- boundary that we have with-- Canada. It-- it's funny that a comment like that was-- kind of made to-- cari-- I don't know, you know? Reporters--


PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah.

COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our-- our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia--

COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.

Overheard on the lakefront trail

Runner #1: You got quiet.

Runner #2: I was thinking about how much I hate Sarah Palin.

This is the closest I’ve come to hurling

When you’re working out in a vain and vapid attempt to get huge, you push yourself well beyond your capabilities both in weight and intensity. And when you finally get yourself into the outer bounds of your natural abilities, your body responds two ways: getting pumped and fighting back. The pumped part is awesome, but the fighting back part involves shaking and varying degrees of nausea. I’m not disciplined enough to push myself that far on my own, which is exactly why I hired a trainer. And today, after a high-intensity three-part chest superset followed by a high-intensity three-part biceps superset, it took a lot of effort to get my protein shake down without gagging. And now I can hardly hold my hands still enough to type this. Woo-hoo!

When you’re working to convince the electorate that you have the basic skills required to lead the country, you say and do thing that demonstrate integrity and instill confidence. And you go out of your way to make sure you don’t come off as a two-person clusterfuck of ineptitude, mendacity and desperation. Yesterday alone, Sarah Palin moose-in-the-headlightsed to America that she has no idea how hard John McCain has fought against financial oversight over the last quarter century, though she kept insisting he’s devoted his professional career to financial regulation and reform. And McCain, who just a week ago insisted that the “fundamentals of the economy are strong,” is suddenly suspending his campaign under the guise of trying to repair the economy, which he’s now describing as “about to crater.” Which tells us either that he’s spent 26 years in Congress with no workable understanding of economic science or that he’ll readily stoop to the most transparent political stunt to distract the electorate from his culpability in our economic meltdown.

McCain and Palin are political ipecac. But they don’t even offer the side benefit of making us look better. And the fact that they have even one supporter outside their immediate blood relatives makes me embarrassed—and scared—to be American.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Women: Two options at the cineplex

Option 1: Predictable. Hackneyed. Clumsy. Overacted. Wholly disappointing. Plus, there's a goddamn montage where a character undergoes a personal transformation to a rock soundtrack. There's no lower art form than a personal-transformation montage.

Option 2: At least it doesn't have a montage.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

23 miles! Finally!

As I'm sure you remember (all week you've no doubt been saying to yourselves, "wow, we're sure finding ourselves thinking about this all the time"), last Saturday's 23-mile run got pre-empted by some stupid rain. And some stupid tornadoes.

But! This morning's weather was perfect for running. (OK, it was about two degrees warmer than perfect, but we'll still take it.) And at 6:00 the entire 2008 AIDS Marathon population found ourselves gathered along the lakefront for our pre-run pep talk:

The weather remained perfect (well, two degrees warmer than perfect) all morning. And we had a fabulous first 12 miles. We were all smiles just after the turnaround ... way down on 31st Street beach. It's weird to contemplate that we ran from Foster to 31st Street and back, but when you're in the middle of it you just kind of focus on the miles in front of you and you don't take in the big picture until you're done. At least I don't.

Unfortunately, we lost a runner soon after that when an old injury of his flared up. But the three of us who remained (our pace group is down to about four regulars from the 10 or so we started with in April) continued to plug along. Here we are at North Avenue beach, which I think is about six or seven miles from the end. You'd think after running in Chicago for eight years that I'd have a better idea of how many miles are between landmarks, but I don't.

Since my longest run this summer had been only 18 miles (everyone else had done 20 but I crashed in the heat on our 20-mile run), 23 was quite a jump this morning. And the last four miles were pretty painful. But I crossed the finish line just moments after everyone else. And since the AIDS Marathon training program is filled with gays, we had balloons and flags and even a drag-queen bar mitzvah clown waiting for us:

We also got medals! But we always get medals for any run over about 15 miles. So my cumulative medal collection is well over the paltry eight that Michael Phelps won in Beijing. What a loser.

Of course nobody was really watching us cross the finish line because somebody was shooting a damn Abercrombie & Fitch-type ad right there. Seriously. Matthew (being a completely impartial photojournalist) took pictures, which I am posting here only for the sake of being a dutiful, news-reporting blogger:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The domestic partner and I joined a book club! We went to our first meeting on Tuesday! It was fun!

But, most importantly, I read a book!

I got my degree in English literature in 1990. And I’ve read exactly two works of fiction since then: one that I’ve completely forgotten (it was about Southern women and I remember it being pretty good) and The Da Vinci Code. I’ve read tons of other books on history and social science since I graduated—along with my weekly fixes of Time, Newsweek and The New Yorker—but fiction has always seemed to be such a pursuit of secondary importance what with all this real stuff out there that I’d rather read about.

But no longer! I’ve read Oscar Wao! And I loved it! (See? Exclamation points! That means I’m serious!)

Actually, I loved it until the last few chapters. The story is only partly about Oscar, an obese, lonely Dominican-American man-boy who actually leads a conspicuously mundane life. The story’s jagged, meandering narrative spends the majority of its time focusing on the picaresque, soap-opera lives of Oscar’s mother, sister, ancestors and the omniscient narrator.

Author Junot Díaz has said he wanted the story to read like an animated jumble of conversations at a Dominican dinner table. So it jumps around in time and it even switches narrators. And it’s filled with lengthy meta-footnotes explaining how the Dominican Republic’s cultural and sociopolitical history influences—and a some points even drives—the narrative. It all works together beautifully, weaving a tapestry of rich, layered personalities struggling to navigate what may or may not be a family curse, three decades of Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorial cruelties in the Dominican Republic, and the poverty, distemper and crushing ennui of the New Jersey Dominican diaspora.

The book won the Pulitzer Prize this year, which is one of the reasons the book club picked it. And while I loved the book—or at least most of it—nobody else shared my level of excitement. And we were all hard pressed on Tuesday night to justify that it was award-worthy. It’s a great story told in a fresh, interesting voice. But it builds up these fascinating, nuanced characters, sends them around the world and through many layers of hell, and finally reunites them in the Dominican Republic for a big cataclysmic … pfffffft. It’s like the check finally comes at the end of this beautifully animated dinner conversation and everyone suddenly looks down at his or her hands to avoid paying it. Loose ends get tied up clumsily, layered storylines become disappointingly linear and Oscar himself—who was never all that interesting to begin with—goes from tragically pathetic to irritatingly pathetic.

That said, I came to love Oscar’s mother and sister—and the narrator once he revealed his identity and his relationship to the family—and I was sorry to say goodbye to them at the end. Díaz is masterful at building rhythms, dwelling on small details long enough to keep them interesting, and skimming over huge spans of time in elegantly crafted asides that tell you exactly what you need to know to stay engaged in the story.

While the majority of my new book club disagrees with me, I heartily recommend it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ask me about the stupid way I just wasted money

So in my new life as a marathon runner AND a personal trainer user, my diet has shifted dramatically toward the world of powdered shake-type things. Partly because I feel that the makers of these shakes know a lot more about sports nutrition than I do. But mostly because they're so darn easy to mix and carry and consume. But not necessarily to store. Get a load of our powdered shake cupboard:
So what all is up there? Aside from some mysterious potions mixed and consumed only by the domestic partner–and some random photos of and drawings by our nieces and nephew—there are four products I take regularly. To wit:

Hyper Shock™, furious fruit punch: My pre-workout shake. It's all about caffeine, and when I take it before my 7:00 am workout I'm still jittery until about 1:00. But it helps me have killer workouts. And I feel very awake and productive all morning at work. Best of all, I don't feel any kind of crash when it wears off; I simply stop feeling jittery. I've also started taking it before my long runs because the jitters translate into reserve running energy with blessed ease.

Myogenix™ After Shock™, wild berry blast: My post-workout shake. It's delicious. It's packed with protein and mystical recovery chemicals. It definitely helps my muscles recover quickly enough that I can attack them again with the same intensity 48 hours later. I will drink this product until the day I die.

Myogenix™ Myolean™ Evolution, strawberry: My nighttime shake. It's also delicious. It's also packed with protein. It's also so easy to consume that it often substitutes for about 23 other meals during a typical day.

Endurox® R4® Recovery Drink, tangy orange: My post-running shake. Normally after a run longer than 15 miles, I feel like I have the flu for 24 hours. When I drink this after a long run, I just have sore muscles. And the soreness goes away in two days instead of four or five.

And so far, these products—which are not cheap, but they replace other foods we'd normally buy so we figure the cost is about a wash—have all been easy to manage and consume correctly, with no expensive mixups.

Until today.

See, I had filled my individual shake containers with the pre-workout caffeine stuff and the post-run recovery stuff on Friday night before I went to bed. Because we were supposed to run 23 miles at 6:00 the next morning. But the run was canceled because of the stupid tornado and flood warnings sweeping across Chicago. And it was still raining enough this morning that I decided not to run on my own. But by the time I went to the gym this afternoon, I'd clearly developed a case of the woefully stupids because when I went to empty my individual shake containers back into their storage canisters, I poured my post-run powder back into the pre-workout canister. Crazy! And then I brought the pre-workout stuff with me to the gym, which I didn't realize until I mixed it with water and started drinking it after my workout. And nobody needs a six-hour caffeine buzz after a Sunday afternoon workout. So I poured it down the drain.

Is anyone following all of this? Because now that I've written it I realize it's probably interesting to nobody but me. But I never promised you fascinating stories—or even coherence–on this blog.

Or even a clever closing paragraph.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

23 miles! Or not!

I carb-loaded. I skipped my leg workouts. I avoided sodas because they seem to dehydrate me. I went a week without shaving things that might get all stubbly and rubby. I laid out all my clothes. I went to bed at 9:00 on a Friday. And after all that, our 23-mile training run this morning was rained out. Or, more specifically, tornado-warninged out.

BUT! I do have a few pix from my 18-mile run last weekend with Matthew and Peter. We were supposed to do eight one-mile sprints with our training group, but we were concerned we were low on our high-mileage runs so instead we ran 18 miles by ourselves.

Here we are all fresh and happy at 6:30 on a perfect Saturday morning:

We were (or, more specifically, I was) still smiling at our first walk break. We train at a 6:1 pace, alternating six minutes of running and one minute of walking. It supposedly helps our bodies learn to manage the break-down-and-recover cycle more efficiently. On long painful runs, it also gives us something to look forward to. Like the Biden-Palen debates.

Sunrise over the lake. One of the billion reasons I love Chicago:

The Bridge to ... well ... somewhere. The North Avenue Bridge carries the lakefront trail over Lake Shore Drive. After a few rusty summers, it was refurbished this spring and now it looks pretty spectacular. But damn is it steep:

While we had a beautiful cool morning to run, it did get kind of warm toward the end. I was wearing a dry-fit shirt, the kind runners swear by for wicking sweat away from your body and keeping you cool and unchafed. I beg to differ. While the shirts are great on cool days, the minute it gets warm out they seem to trap heat next to my body and rub my nipples raw. So when the temperature shot up, my shirt came off and everyone had to see me running in my training bra:

We finished with a pretty great time. And then we gorged ourselves on brunch. But not before posing for the paparazzi one more time:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pocket polarization

Front left pocket: Cell phone. Can’t be stored near magnetic cards.

Front right pocket: Keys. Breath spray. Chapstick (if I can figure out where it disappeared to last week). Magnetic CTA card, which can’t be stored near other magnetic cards or cell phones.

Back left pocket: Magnetic ID card for my office building, featuring one of the more flattering photos in the canon of magnetic-card portraiture. Can’t be stored near other magnetic cards or cell phones.

Back right pocket: Wallet containing magnetic-striped credit cards, etc. Reportedly can’t be stored near other magnetic cards.

Back right butt cheek: Inflamed zit whose painfulness is exacerbated by its rubbingly close proximity to my wallet. Which apparently can’t be relocated to the pockets containing my cell phone, CTA card or building ID card.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Waiting for the girls upstairs

I don't ask much of our neighbors. A friendly hello when we see each other. Maybe some extended small talk on the back step. If we hit it off, some reciprocal emergency-key storage. Or a kidney.

In return, I promise to return the friendly hellos. Make the small talk. When it's not creepy. Keep the Joseph Megamix to a minimum. At three in the morning. Even coo over the dogs.

And this low-obligation symbiosis generally works. While we don't have anything approaching kidney-sharing friendships with anyone in our building, we're certainly on lots of ongoing friendly-hello terms. And I'm pretty sure I know the names of all the dogs in our tier.


There is this lesbian couple above us. And I'm not bringing up the fact that they're gay just because I'm trying to collect lesbians or anything. It's just that they're another gay couple! In our building! We have something in common! We should be friends! Right?

Apparently not. Not only do the lesbians pointedly not make eye contact when we run into them, but they actively turn their backs on me when I try to say hello. Or coo over their dog. What's more, they have actually slammed our front door in my face when I've tried to follow them into our building. FOUR TIMES.

Also! I suddenly can't find my chapstick. Or my checkbook. I'm not saying that unfriendly lesbian neighbors steal things alphabetically, but you have to admit it's an awfully big coincidence.

And while we're on the topic of women unfit to function in public, did you hear what Sarah Palin said on Saturday? "The fact (FACT!) is that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers." The stupid cunt.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Setting a new world record

Or, technically, a new personal best. But it's the week of the RNC, so who has time for fact-checking?

Or fiscal responsibility? Instead of shelling out $15 for a print of me crossing the finish line, I just cropped a screen capture of the web site that was trying to sell me the print. SCREW THE WORKING CLASSES!

In any case, here I am stopping my running watch as I cross the finish line. My official race time—which doesn't take into account the time it takes me to cross the start line and only approximates the time I cross the finish line—put me at an 8:30-something pace. But my trusty GPS watch tells me I did it at an 8:26 pace, which is well over half a minute faster than my usual 8K pace. A NEW WORLD RECORD! I HAVE FOREIGN POLICY EXPERIENCE!

One secret to a faster time: Carry your own water. I didn't stop at any of the water stations in this race, gulping sloppily instead from my water bottle. Which easily shaved a minute off my total time. AND TOTALLY SAVED THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE.

If you'll excuse me now, I have some earmarks to pretend I didn't influence.

I wish I'd gotten knocked up at 17

Then the GOP would celebrate my marriage as well!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The RNC is giving me a rash

So we interrupt their unhinged, desperate rants (School desks? WTF?) to bring you this heartwarming story:

I was in Iowa visiting my family over the holiday weekend. I took Tuesday off to make it an extra-long weekend. Also because I have seven vacation days to burn off before the end of October. But that's not the heartwarming part. Neither is the part where Sarah Palin let her underage, uneducated pregnant daughter borrow her banana clip and her scrunchie. But not her diaphragm.

The heartwarming part is where I got to walk my niece and nephew to school on Tuesday morning. They wore their little school clothes and their little backpacks, and as we worked our way through their bucolic little neighborhood where a school bus stopped and put out its little stop sign so we could cross the street in front of it, my little six-year-old niece reached up and grabbed my hand. Bliss!

And then she launched into her lecture about architecture. It seems that she's landed on some pretty specific preferences in the kinds of houses that meet her approval: Red brick. No screened-in porches. (They look "messy.") No hanging plants. (They make a house look "bumpy.") And the final mandatory: Symmetry. Symmetry! My six-year-old niece knows what symmetry is. In sharp contrast, Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter doesn't know what abstinence is.

And when we get to the school (I'm back on the niece and nephew here), it seems ... tiny. When I went there in the early 1970s, the playground was a massive span of asphalt in the crook of an L-shaped building the size of the Louvre. Or Sarah Palin's stack-of-pancakes hair. Or the $750 million in earmarks she so valiantly fought against receiving. The lying cunt. But the Iowa sun must be harsh and cruel, because it's shrunk my sprawling grade school into a tiny little lean-to the size of a shoebox. Or Sarah Palin's foreign policy experience. (I mean beyond the vast experience she's gotten living in a state that's this close to Russia.)

Of course, the architecture and the hand-holding were completely abandoned when we got to the crowds of classmates. In fact, I had to hunt down my niece and nephew amid the teeming sea of under-four-feet-tall people just to get my goodbye hugs. And then they shrugged and turned to their friends and we adults made our way home without them. Which, I suppose, is as it should be.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The GOP's 2008 convention platform sez:

We call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it. In the absence of a national amendment, we support the right of the people of the various states to affirm traditional marriage through state initiatives. ... We also encourage states to review their marriage and divorce laws in order to strengthen marriage.
So, tell me: What will the politically expedient union of two sexually irresponsible minors with no high-school diplomas who suddenly find themselves pregnant do to "fully protect" and "strengthen marriage"?

Monday, September 01, 2008

One caveat:

If anything you read in this post seems bigger or brighter than normal, it's because I'm using my parents' computer, and they just got a ginormous monitor screen so my dad can still look at his Precious Moments collectibles sites even with his macular degeneration. Seriously -- this screen is like a windshield on a Hummer. You'd think it would make typos jump out at me even more, but the words are as big as Sarah Palin's squirrel-on-her-head updo so they're hard to focus on. My advance apologies for any mispelings.

Anyway, I'm in Iowa for the weekend. Specifically Cedar Rapids, the city that made flooding the cool-kids trend of 2008. Our flooding happened in June, the weekend I was here for my parents' anniversary. And it was still pretty devastated in July, so the annual July 4 8K race was postponed to this weekend. Cedar Rapids is still pretty devastated, but the race was still on this morning ... and I ran it at an 8:26 pace. A personal best, baby! Woot!

Speaking of Sarah Palin ... wow. I mean wow. A quick google search of her name shows us that she's passionately opposed to marriage equality for gay people, passionately for abstinence-only "education" and passionately against sex education. So of course -- of course -- her unwed 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. Couple that with the fact that John McCain dated and became engaged to his second wife while still married to his first wife and you can see how the Republican party is at the vanguard of moral authority. Their "pro-family" programs work because they believe in them.

The 8K just happens to run past my sister's house, so they had a good 100 people over this morning to eat, drink and cheer for me the runners. I stopped by afterward to catch up with people I hadn't seen in ages, including a bunch of my parents' friends ... many of whom quote Rush "Drug-Addled Whore" Limbaugh as though he's lucid and wax rhapsodic about Palin and McCain as though they aren't scary in an "intelligent design"-believing, calling-the-second-wife-a-cunt monkeys-in-the-White-House kind of way. ACK!

But I choose to focus on my 8:26 pace for now. It's way more calming, it's not unweddedly pregnant and it doesn't blame the gays for heterosexual divorce. Plus it looks pretty impressive on this Hummer windshield.

UPDATE: Obama responds to the Broken Watergate scandal:
"People's families are off limits."

Um ... no they're not. As long as Palin and McCain vilify my family in an attempt to sell hate votes, their famlies are up for grabs. As long as Palin and McCain endanger families by legislating mythology over biology and science in the teaching of sexual health, their families are up for grabs. Palin and McCain set standards for our families that they clearly don't hold their own families to. And you, Mr. Obama, have yet to prove yourself to be a friend of marriage equality. So if you have an affair or a divorce or your daughters get pregnant, your family will be up for grabs too. You'd be a moron not to realize that.