Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Things that separate us from the animals

Digital toasters. With the numbers in blue. Because blue goes well with our eyes:

Nice dishes. In neutral colors so as not to frighten the food. And a coordinated Barbra-themed mug to keep everything classy:

Bathroom magazine racks. So we don't trip over our bathroom reading like they do in prison:

Clever, relevant, thoughtful advertising. Exactly like this ad is not:
A model is supposed to do one of three things in an ad: Be someone you relate to, be someone you aspire to be, or be someone you want to get to know better. Ahem.

This chick is wearing semi-opaque pantyhose with a shorty-short romper. Who wears pantyhose with a romper? Who wears pantyhose? She's dressed too much like a slutty church secretary to be someone any thinking person can relate to. She's dressed too clownlike to be someone any self-respecting person could aspire to be. And unless you like your archy-backed porn starlets encased in tight nylon so you can't get to the good china, she's dressed too cluelessly to be someone any desperate person could want to get to know better.

And how exactly is she supposed to make me want to get an Android? Or even help me make the mental connection between her archy-backed pantyhoseness and the post-industrial aesthetic of all the rest of the Android advertising in the world?

With all the checks and balances my agency has in place to prevent bad ideas from seeing the light of day even for lowly billing inserts, how on earth did an agency with an obviously massive budget and a contract with a highly visible national brand get the corporate approval to stick this shitty stock photo into an enormous outdoor campaign? And why do I have to look at this stupid ad in every fucking bus stop in Chicago?

Advertising FAIL.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Many marathon musings!

The New York City Marathon cost me around $2,000, which includes the entry fee, airfare, hotel, cabs, food, a commemorative shirt and three pair of shoes for training during the summer. Plus maybe one Broadway show. Which might have been La Bête. Which I actually didn’t like. But I was a little excited about finally running the New York City Marathon so I had a hard time focusing on things like theater the whole weekend. Add to that the $2,500 we just spent on the bathroom renovation. And the roughly $12,000 I spend a year on my addiction to working out with a personal trainer.

So my disposable income and I decided that the elfin photos I stole off the NYC Marathon website are just as good as the huge, high-resolution images I’d get if I forked over $99 plus the inevitable handling fees even though I’d be doing the downloading so handling fees my ass.


I do have an actual photo to start my marathon photoblog. It features me and a dear family friend who flew in from Iowa to stay with her son and daughter-in-law in Brooklyn and cheer me on in the marathon. And also to take me out to dinner on Friday.

We ate at the up-to-the-minute trendy restaurant The Breslin in the hipster-cool lobby of the hipster-cool Ace Hotel. And our waitress, who was a little too perky to be plausibly human, took this lovely picture of us as we were busy digesting our warm olive-oily beer bread and lamburgers:

To welcome me to New York, The New Yorker also ran a commemorative cover that clearly shows me leading the pack of runners on my way to victory in the 2010 New York City Marathon:
(Again, since you read that I was the winner of the NYC Marathon here on my blog, there’s no need for you to waste time reading any of the official results. You’re welcome.)

So on to the marathon.

The NYC Marathon had a staggered start, and I don’t know how I got so lucky but I got the primo starting time. While other marathons send everyone over the start line at 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning, I didn’t even have to be at the Staten Island Ferry to be shuttled to my starting gate until 8:00. So I got to have a leisurely shower and a big, hearty, unrushed breakfast on my way to the ferry. And with the whole country falling back that morning, I got even more sleep!

My marathon wave took off from Staten Island at 10:40 am, once the sun was up and the sky was clear and the beautiful brisk day was as warm as its 50º would ever get. We ran the first mile up the soaring Verrazano Bridge and the second mile down it. Which was exhilarating and beautiful, but two miles of hills right off the bat? Ouch.

Anyway, this is what we looked like from the sky:

And here we are in closeup:

And here we are spreading out as we leave Staten Island and enter Brooklyn. If I’m in this picture, I’m somewhere on your left in a white disposable coat and sunglasses that reflect reds and yellows in pictures:

Can you stand one more picture of runners on a bridge? Here’s what we looked like flooding our way into Brooklyn:
Notice the throng of runners on the ramp coming from under the bridge. Those poor souls had to run their first two miles on the lower deck of the bridge, which may have been less hilly but it was also certainly less glorious.

I don’t know shit about the boroughs of New York, but this picture looks like what I remember Brooklyn looking like as we ran our first 12 miles through it. So we’ll say it’s Brooklyn:
Brooklyn, aside from being open and roomy enough for lots of runners and packed with screaming fans (aside from the mile-long-stretch of funeral-like quiet where it ran through an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood), is also the only place I had to focus on finding people I knew in the crowd. My dinner companions from Friday were there to scream and cheer me on around mile 5, and it was a fabulous emotional boost to launch me into an even more fabulous emotional day.

The rest of the marathon is a blur of excitement, hills, screaming fans, hills, bridges, hills, brisk sunny weather, hills and the occasional hill. And aside from hills, the key word in that last sentence is blur. So I have no idea if these photos are in order. Except the first one, because I’m still wearing my disposable gloves, which I ditched around mile 6. Though I don’t remember walking in the first six miles, so this photo must be a hack Photoshop job designed to undermine my macho street cred:

The other hack Photoshop jobs on the marathon photo site include making me look fat with matronly legs:

And making me look fat with a rabid-dog face:

Thankfully, one photo actually makes me look kind of macho:

And after blurring my way through five boroughs (and right alongside the Citi corporate office building in Long Island City where I used to make endless business trips long before it occurred to me that I’d even ever want to run the NYC Marathon), huge always-curiously-uphill swaths of northern Manhattan, endless throngs of screaming fans, and three painful but beautiful final miles in Central Park (where Jared of Subway weight-loss fame actually passed me, surrounded by his retinue of hunky trainers), I finally crossed my last marathon finish line with my head held high and my freshly reactivated stress fractures in my feet screaming unflattering expletives at me:
See that woman in the black zip-up and white shirt in the bottom left corner? I met her on the Staten Island Ferry and chatted with her for a bit as we sailed our way (past the Statue of Liberty! which I gawked at like a tourist!) to the runners’ starting village. We parted ways when we docked but then randomly reconnected in one of the village warming tents. And as we walked to the starting line we decided at the last minute to do one final pre-emptive pee as we passed a bank of port-a-potties. Which made us quite literally the last two people to cross the starting line in the last heat of the marathon. And we ended up running pretty much the entire marathon together (and never needing to stop to pee). I, a veteran of six marathons, helped calm her apprehensions about running her first marathon, and she, a New York City native, told me all kinds of great stories about the boroughs and neighborhoods we ran through. She was an awesome running partner and a delightful addition to an already super-mega-fabulous-glorious day.


The NYC Marathon was my best friend from the moment I received my “I’M IN!” welcome kit in the mail last summer all the way through the NYC packet pickup, the shuttle to the start line, every thoughtfully organized point along the marathon route, the finish line, and the delivery of our goodie bags and finisher medals:

But then suddenly the hospitality was over. I was forced to shuffle along with thousands of freezing, exhausted finishers on a death march past at least a mile of trucks lined up with our checked bags and then dumped out into a barricaded street with no place to sit down, no shuttles to transportation, no cabs and enough of a traffic clusterfuck that I ended up walking what I estimate to be at least three miles to my hotel. It was a disappointing way to end a fabulous experience, but it is really my only quibble about the entire day.

Except for the next day at the airport, where I saw a good hundred people in their marathon shirts—which is cool—and a good 10 people sporting their marathon medals—which is not. Maybe it’s the stoic Norwegian in me talking here, but wearing your medal the day after a marathon is as garish and desperate-looking as wearing your homecoming queen tiara to your 10-year reunion.

My medal was tucked quietly in my carry-on where nobody needed to see it. And as soon as I got home I hung it on my sturdy Gargoyle o’ Medals Plus a Few Disco Ball Necklaces … which holds court discreetly on the inside of my closet:

I may be done with marathons, but I’m already signed up for the Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago next summer. And I kinda want to do the Disneyland Half Marathon in Anaheim next fall. But traveling for another race involves money, and I’m currently on a spending hiatus … just in time to navigate my personal budget through the upcoming holidays.

In any case, I finally got to run the New York City Marathon and it was every bit as awesome as I’d hoped it would be. And looking back at it through grainy, elfin pictures actually matches the blurry memories I have of running past cheering fans through neighborhoods I'll probably never traverse again. My marathon phase was a fabulous part of my life, but it's done and I'm more than happy now to enjoy it through my memories and my blog archives and my grainy elfin pictures. And my Gargoyle o' Medals.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The marathon photos are in!

And as soon as I have a moment to download and comb through the high-res images from the official NYC Marathon photography site, I'll post some (flattering) pictures that are bigger than the Barbie® shoe above. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 08, 2010

I totally won the marathon!

They gave me a medal and everything to prove it:
So there's no need for you to read the finish times in the papers. Because you got your information here.

Actually, the marathon was brutal and cold and hilly (seriously, New York: What's with the hills?) but the spectators were an almost endless sea of screaming encouragement and the views across the bridges were breathtaking and I totally choked up when we finally entered the home stretch in Central Park ... but I finally tipped over into the world of this is hard work and I actually kind of hate it as I was running the last half. So at this time I see no more marathons in my future.

Don't get me wrong: The New York City Marathon was everything I'd hoped and dreamed and planned it to be. I choked up quite a few times from the sheer awesomeness of being a part of it. It was a great experience, but it was also a great last experience running a marathon.

Since I was in NYC on my own and the marathon photographers haven't posted their photos yet, I have no actual pictures of me to post. But don't think I won't be posting the (good) ones once the marathon folks get them online.

Oh. And I finished almost an hour slower than my best time. 05:14:35. And if that isn't a sign to hang up the marathon shoes and find a new hobby, I don't know what is.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

If you can read this ...

I'm running the New York City Marathon! Woot!

I set this blog post to go live the moment my wave starts. It's like magic!

Unless Blogger doesn't automatically adjust for Daylight Savings Time the way my iPhone is rumored to not do. Which makes me nervous as I write this at 10 pm Saturday night because my iPhone is my alarm. And my hotel room doesn't have an alarm clock so I'll have to call the front desk for a wake-up call. And I hate to be a bother.

But! By the time you read this it will all be figured out. And I'll be running through the streets of New York in my festive Genuine New Yorker™ colors: black and gray:

That garishly colorful white coat you see on the left is a $10 disposable one designed to keep me warm until I reach my running body temperature and then be thrown away, so it won't last past mile 3 or 4. So don't think I'm getting all sunny and Midwestern in my running-gear color palette. That would just be touristy of me. Kinda like the cheap-hotel bedspread in the background.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Jake's Wild World of Macho

By Sunday night I’ll have my seventh and last marathon behind me, a long road of limping ahead of me … and my own emotional permission to get another commemorative tattoo.

But for now I’m just so damn excited about finally running the New York City Marathon that I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl in a pair of kitten panties. I peaked in my training on a 22.5-mile run two weeks ago, I’ve had two (actually kind of rough) tapering runs the last two weekends, I treated myself to a pre-emptive sports massage on Saturday and a fresh pair of cushy new running socks, which has become my little pre-marathon gift-to-myself ritual every year … and I’m entering my final stretch with no injuries, no headcolds, no lurking tummy issues and no threats of freakish New York heat spikes on Sunday.

And no family.

My folks, who were so excited about cheering me on in New York that they booked their hotel last February before I even had a chance to book my own, will be staying in Iowa this weekend. My poor mother fell on a chunk of broken sidewalk in the dark last weekend and cracked three ribs and her patella, so she’s now locked helplessly in a knee immobilizer and a crushing pain around her lungs. She was hoping she could go anyway, but her doctors kind of laughed at her … and once she started thinking about the logistics of trains and bridges and staircases and distracted crowds and port-a-potties, she realized she had no hope of surviving the New York City Marathon spectator gauntlet.


I’m actually kind of glad. I told my whole family not to come back in February when I got official word that I was in. Marathons, for as much as I enjoy running them, are stressful. Aside from the obvious physical challenges, you have to worry about hydration and nutrition and peeing and pooping and friction and sunscreen and layering and weather and waking up in time and nail trimming and gear check and bibs and pins and shoe tags and not getting trampled in the first few miles before the runners can finally spread out … so wondering whether my family said they’d meet me at mile 16 or 18 when I’m already foggy at 15 and then further wondering what side of the street they said they’d be on is more than I sometimes feel equipped to handle. Plus I don’t know jack about the NYC subway system or the marathon course so I’d worry even more about my folks trying to navigate them without my help.

And on a selfish note, marathons for me are a very internal, personal thing. I’ve found over the years I kinda don’t like sharing them. I like going to the packet pickup and browsing among all the vendor booths and taking too long to decide which commemorative T-shirt I’m going to buy without feeling like I’m being rushed. I like knowing I can set my marathon-morning schedule and nobody’s gonna slow me down by oversleeping or needing to pee or dawdling at breakfast. I like sleeping alone the night before without the worry of being awakened by another body, no matter how much I love the man in that body. I like having my pre-marathon poop without worrying that the domestic partner is gonna hear me in the next room. I like entering the runners’ area on my own, just me against the 26.2 miles stretching ahead of me. And I like running in my own little zone, without an obligation to anyone but myself … and my plummeting electrolyte levels.

So the domestic partner isn’t coming either. Which makes me both sad and selfishly happy. It will be weird to do New York and Broadway without him next to me before the run, but I’m already in my happy Zen place thinking about how I’ll be running my last marathon the way I did my first: completely, utterly on my own.

Seven years ago I didn’t know any other runners and I didn’t really know what I was doing but I found a training program online and taped it to the fridge and ran every step from my first spring training run to my exhausted stumble across the finish line completely on my own. Since then I’ve run one more on my own, three with my AIDS Marathon pace groups, one with an ad hoc training group that quickly dissolved into no group at all and then this year, where I ran all but six runs alone. And while I love running with a buddy, I kind of love even more having I-did-it-myself bragging rights.

So I take off Friday morning for my last adventure in pushing through personal limitations. With a few yet-to-be-determined Broadway shows as an appetizer. And a slow, careful stumble from the finish line to my thoughtfully selected hotel room only half a mile away. All blissfully alone.

Now that my marathon phase is (almost) behind me, I need another physical outlet. Aside from my six-days-a-week gym habit that, quite frankly, is all about vanity and not even a little bit about health or physical well-being. Fortunately, some buddies just formed a volleyball team and invited me to join them. We’re playing in the lowest-skill-level league, which I think is officially classified as Z, which stands for Zygotes on Zantac. And we had our first Z-league skills camp on Saturday, where the facts were reinforced that 1) I suck at volleyball and 2) I’m in the exactly right league for my skill sets.

The other guys on our team seem nice, but I think we were all emphasizing our pleasant personalities on Saturday to distract each other from our marginal abilities to hit a ball without squealing. Our team captain promised me that he picked players based on their coolness in the face of failure, though, so I think I can safely look forward to five months of nice-guy bonding periodically interrupted by shocked squeals and bleacher searches for runaway balls.

The team captain also sent out a request for team name ideas. I, of course, suggested quite a few awesome ones … including The Bumpits, which would be simultaneously kick-ass, kitchy, memorable, punningly relevant, undeniably gay and the inspiration for a freaking cool T-shirt design. I also suggested—unfortunately—Princess Sparklepony and the Pretty Little Glitter Kittens. Which—also unfortunately—kind of won. I say “kind of” because it—fortunately—got truncated. So our T-shirts will, no doubt in some kind of sparkly fabric, eventually feature this logo, no doubt in some kind of sparkly iron-on:
I am so sorry, guys.