Yup, I have one.
I am on my best behaviour tonight. Working, doing laundry and putting together a playlist for tomorrow. It’s long because it takes at least 20 minutes of prerace running for my legs to work.
Lose Yourself (Eminem) – old favorite. Former warmup song in college. Good times. Literally.
Run Like Hell (Pink Floyd)- No explanation needed. The Wall rocks.
Till I Collapse (Eminem/Nate Dogg)- Very much an Eminem girl.
Oh, Love (Green Day)- New Green Day stuff. I’m still obsessed.
Kill the D.J. (Green Day)- See above.
Hero of the Day (Metallica)- My favorite Metallica song. I’m pretty sure it’s been on every playlist of mine ever created.
Some Nights (Fun)- Yah, go ahead and remind me that my taste in music sucks. I love bands with a piano-banger. They got it. And I enjoyed the video when I saw it.
Only (NIN)- Leftover from my high school Trent Reznor crush days. Sigh.
I Go to Extremes (Billy Joel)- One of Rob’s favorite songs. He used to do Billy imitations on his keyboard during College Prep Writing.
Encore (Eminem) Who doesn’t listen to Eminen when working out or running?
Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd) The first two minutes of this song makes me want to get in starting blocks and hear “runners on your marks, set, go” as soon as the lady screams. “We don’t need no education.”
Seven Nation Army (White Stripes) I like bands from Detroit. A lot. And I like fast songs.
More Human Than Human (White Zombie) Huge closet Zombie fan. Went to one of his shows with @bryan_d and the guy signed my CD. He’s even scarier up close.
Rain King (Counting Crows) This will always turn me into a jumping, darting to and fro idiot. Good to hear when you think your leg is going to fall off.
Sex Type Thing (Stone Temple Pilots) I’m still in love with Scott Weiland. Guess I like the bad boys.
I signed up on Monday for the 2012 Habitat Home Run 5K this coming Saturday. I no longer sign up for many races but had this one on my radar for the last few weeks. There is knee surgery in my near future and I wanted to run a race before going on the DL again.
The race is at 10 a.m. and our games (soccer, football) start at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively, so assuming that I don’t break anything or get hit by a car/deer/branch, I should be able to make the weekend warrior/SID switch in the phone booth with plenty of time to spare.
I’ve also run about 40 miles this past month; not a lot, but it’s enough. I can do three miles.
I’m also at least in temporary retirement from soccer (took the fall outdoor season off because of work conflicts) so my legs haven’t taken any abuse lately.
While I was going through the online registration process, I realized that this will be: 1. My first race of the year and 2. My first-ever race not competing in the 20-29 age division. It hurt typing “30.”
It’s crazy that I will no longer be (technically) running against college students in the 20-29 bracket and will now be comparing myself to people older than me in this strange new world. The 30-39 age division. Against working adults! Parents! People who own mortgages, regular bedtimes and other depressing as hell life obligations.
It’s common knowledge that distance runners peak in their 30’s—but I’ve fallen out of the competitive distance runner category and into the delusions of past athletic grandeur category—so I’m not getting my hopes up for Saturday. My days of top-5 overall finishes and shiny first in age division medals are pretty much over. This does suck; I don’t like running for fun. I like running to win stuff.
The best (running) times of my life were during my sophomore/junior years of high school (prior to ACL tear) and my first year after undergraduate school (post college track, prior to ACL tear #2 in a stupid intramural basketball game at South Carolina). So I’ve essentially been on the down slope for seven years. I once clocked an 18:06 in high school but haven’t come close to breaking 20 minutes in years.
That’s all right. I’m still faster than my boyfriend. That counts for something.
I’ve been pretty good at tracking my workouts on Dailymile for the last month and have been a little above/little below the 7:00 minute mile pace for most of the serious runs.
As usual, my plan of attack is to choose ten people who burst out of the gate and pick them off one by one throughout the last two miles. I make little machine gun sounds when I run past them.
I’m interested to see if I get smoked. I’m trying to be realistic. There’s a very good chance of rain on Saturday. But if I can’t break 23 minutes I hope someone will run me over with their vehicle. Maybe 24.
That being said. Atalanta (Greek goddess of running) played a pretty neat trick on me at the race packet pickup. I went to the Habitat ReStore after work and was helped by a very kind older woman who knew absolutely nothing about the race. After I explained what I had coming to me, she dug out a size small shirt and wished me luck. “Don’t forget about the bib number,” I said. I reminded her what they looked like and she left to secure one. She came back a few minutes later and handed me the #8.
My number! #8 was/is my digit for essentially my entire elementary/middle school/high school/college/intramural/adult competitive/adult recreational/Thanksgiving flag football at halftime athletic career. The only season I didn’t have #8 was my freshman year of varsity soccer when a senior owned it. I was cocky enough to request #16 because I said I was twice as good as she was. Broke my collarbone halfway through the season. Karma.
Story everyone has already heard a million times about why my favorite number is 8. I went to my very first Detroit Tigers game on September 30, 1987. Against the Orioles. Cal Ripken hit a home run. O’s won 7-3, which made me sad but little five-year old Stephanie had her favorite player of all-time.
Do you know how many times I’ve worn #8 in a road race? Never.
So I grabbed my bib number and quickly left in case the kind and clueless Habitat volunteer made a clerical error (I’m pretty sure she did, I wasn’t the eighth person to register seeing that I had just signed up).
I’m real excited.
Ran six miles total on Tuesday night; four that were again around the seven minute pace. Took yesterday off to watch the Tigers clinch the ALDS. That worked out well. Plan is to run 3-4 miles later tonight.
It’s a bit of an anniversary for me. 13 years ago today (May 28, 1999) I tore my left ACL for the first time and snapped my left tibia in the district soccer final against much-hated crosstown rival Roscommon High School.
This is by no means a national tragedy. I know at least 20 girls/young women off the top of my head that have suffered an ACL injury (or two) at some point during their athletic careers. The world wasn’t altered because I had some back luck.
I was also not the world’s greatest soccer player; but, it was the only thing I cared about at the time. I was the kid that dribbled a soccer ball around the house and had the Cobi Jones (Detroit native) poster on her bedroom wall.
So it was a tragedy for me. I’ve never gotten over it. When I go back home to the thriving metropolis that is Houghton Lake, I’m still known as Steph the Soccer Star. Scored the first goal in the history of the program. Netted the game-winner in Houghton Lake’s upset of Gaylord in the 1998 AYSO Fall Classic. All conference/district/region/state. Hold the school’s scoring record (well, at least I used to).
May 28 is a day I tend to find myself reading old newspaper articles about some of my soccer glory days.
Back to 5/28/99. It was the third time that Houghton Lake had played Roscommon that season and the coaching staff decided to shake-up the lineup a little bit. For the first time in my high school career, I was moved from left forward to center forward.
(In case you’re wondering, yes a least a million times I have done the “what if” game; what if I had not been moved from left to center? I lost a lot of sleep over the question).
Game starts and it’s a good one. With about ten minutes to go and the score tied at one, I get the ball around center field and am immediately tackled from behind by Jen Gaylord (who also broke my foot in seventh grade, nose in tenth grade and later played at Ferris State— we never got along) who stabbed her cleat into the back of my left calf and my leg twisted the wrong way.
Whistle, foul and I can’t get up. My teammates help me off the field and hand me over to the athletic trainer.
I must interject here that we were playing on a field in the middle of nowhere in Petoskey, Mich. I have no idea if the trainer was actually an ATC.
Trainer works me over for the remainder of the half and into halftime and it’s decided that I suffered a deep knee bruise. I can run standing in place and jump up and down—and I desperately want to get back in the game because I HATE Roscommon and it’s the playoffs. What I had actually suffered was a severely sprained ACL.
Second half starts and I’m back on the field. Around the 32 minute mark, our stopper boots the ball over the heads of the Buck defense (which is playing up) and I beat everyone else to the ball. I would say that at least 90% of the goals I have scored in my life have been of this variety; I don’t have a huge foot or the fanciest footwork but I typically was able to out run everyone else on the pitch.
I get the ball and sprint down the field right at the goal. About a foot past the penalty kick stripe I planted my left leg and shot the ball. Goal. 2-1 Houghton Lake. I didn’t see it. As soon as I shot the ball, my left leg imploded and I crumbled into the grass. Teresa and Missy (the rest of our front line), ran over to congratulate me but stopped when they realized that I couldn’t get up. The goalie is screaming at the ref to stop the game and my mother is running faster than she was capable of to get around the field and over to the players’ side of the field.
Full of stupid pride (which I have barrels of), once my teammates got me upright, I fought off their help and limped off the field under my own power.
(in case you’re wondering why I know all this— my mom was filming the game; minus the shaky ending when she handed the camera to someone else to come to my rescue. I have watched this many times. Sometimes while drinking).
The rest is a blur. I was splinted from hip to foot and spent the rest of the game sitting on the ground leaning against Sarah (think Forrest Gump) watching us lose the game 3-2. My mom took me to the hospital and my left leg was casted after I refused to get an x-ray.
I’ve never really gotten over it. Not so much for the way it happened, but for everything that followed. I walked (okay, hobbled) for two weeks before going back to a doctor because I didn’t want the finality of the diagnosis; considering that I was to attend both Michigan State and Penn State elite soccer camps that summer.
When my mom finally got me to the doctor; MRI showed a ripped ACL and crack in my left tibia. My options were surgery or rehab. Looking back, I wish that one of my parents would have played sports (or at least not allowed me to make my own decision) because it was a dumb one: I picked rehab and a brace because I wanted to play club soccer (and basketball) in the fall. Screw the 6-9 month recovery from ACL surgery. I was 16 and not willing to lose my senior year of sports.
After two months of physical therapy, I went to the first open gym for basketball with a rock-hard hamstrings and a shiny blue ACL brace. Fifteen minutes in, I was on the ground after my leg buckled during a lay-up drill. No hoops. Two days later, I was playing in a club soccer game against Ogemaw Heights and had a breakaway very similar to the district final. I scored and heard the pop as soon as I planted my leg. Ripped MCL. No club soccer.
In a desperate attempt to play something that fall, I joined the cross country team but two days later had to quit because my knee was the size of a football.
In the midst of all this, it had become clear to me that I was not going to be able to play my varsity year of soccer. My uncle (English teacher/head softball coach) talked me into playing softball; that I could be the DP and maybe play first base. Base paths would be much easier on the hinge. I informed my mom, soccer coach, teammates, etc., that I wasn’t playing that spring and spent several weekends in the gym with my uncle trying to learn how to be a DP (had been years since I’d played softball). All was going swell until people started giving my uncle a hard time about scalping me for the softball team; but, what changed my plans was my mom. On some random Sunday afternoon, I scooted through the living room and saw her sitting on the couch, like she usually was on a Sunday. She was crying; crying and watching some replay of a women’s soccer game. I don’t remember what I said, but she said that “I can’t believe that you don’t want to play anymore and give up your senior year.”
I caved. I’ve never told her that, but that changed my mind. I never want to see my mom cry again. The problem was that this was December and soccer practice started in February. I went back to the orthopedic surgeon and once again had three options: more rehab, reconstructive surgery or orthoscopic surgery. It was too late for ACL reconstruction if I wanted to play that spring, but he could do a scope to clean out the scraps of my ACL that were causing my leg to lock up.
Remember Boobie Miles? I made the same decision. I went with the scope and (as I found out later), he cut everything out. After four weeks of physical therapy, I showed up for the first day of practice with a knee sleeve & an even shinier knee brace and proceeded to put my left leg through hell for the next three months. We struggled early in the season (1-4 I think) and my knee was a balloon. Being a second semester senior, I spent the mornings in physical therapy (or getting my knee drained) and the afternoons in class. I was in weight training but couldn’t do squats, power cleans or box jumps; but the teacher was the head football coach and he knew that I was just trying to survive the season.
We won our last two regular season games to qualify for districts. I played two of the best games of my life versus Oscoda (see http://m.houghtonlakeresorter.com/news/2001-02-02/front_page/145.html) and Ogemaw Heights (game-winning header in overtime) and we made it to the district final against Petoskey.
Petoskey has won a bunch of regional (and a couple of state) championships and came into the game with a record of 17-4 (Houghton Lake was 8-11). But, we were only down 1-0 at the half and I remember limping back to the field after the break thinking that we had a good chance to pull the upset.
The problem for me at this point in the season; my leg was shot and a once-shiny ACL brace was now tattered because it served as a great bulls eye for opposing teams. I was limited to a handful of sprints and had zero mobility when the defense forced me left. If you recall from earlier in this blog therapy session, I’m a left forward. So I was a left forward with no left foot.
Roughly 10 minutes into the second half, I snared a loose ball and went for the breakaway but was caught just inside the penalty box by a Petoskey defender. My only option was to shoot with my left foot or pass the ball to one of my trailing midfielders. I passed the ball and was immediately taken out of the game. In an act that still causes some debate; the coach also took out my best friend on the team (and my left midfielder) minutes later and somehow forgot to put her only two seniors back in the game until there was less than a minute left. Jen and I walked back out with: 57 seconds on the clock and we wound up losing the game 4-0. As you can see: http://www.houghtonlakeresorter.com/news/2001-02-02/front_page/175.html
Thus ended my soccer career. I headed to Albion for college but the itch to play came back after the first semester of my freshman year. I went to a new (and my current/forever) orthopedic who discovered that I had no ACL, PCL, torn MCL and joint damage. Not what an 18 year old wants to hear.
I had reconstructive surgery in April 2001 and arrived on campus four months later for soccer practice. I discovered that I wasn’t Jerry Rice and that four months wasn’t enough to recover from having your knee put back together again. I lasted about three weeks before a one-on-one play in practice put me on the ground in pain and I had to quit.
In the years that followed, I switched to track and field/lacrosse and enjoyed the rest of my college career. After a second surgery my sophomore year, I felt comfortable enough to play intramural soccer and have played ever since. I’ve also torn my left ACL twice more (2005, 2011) and have had five more surgeries.
I know my leg is shot. Knee replacement is on the horizon. I was told tonight by a non-competitive person that I play recklessly. That’s not true at all. The most consistent part of my life to this point has been playing soccer; whether I was living in Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Arizona or now South Dakota, I’ve always found a team that needed another player. I play the way I do because I still love to play. I’m at my happiest when I’m on the field, harassing the goalie, running into inanimate objects if it means that I have the chance at the ball, scoring goals.
That being said, I can’t help but sometimes think about how many more goals I would have scored if I hadn’t snapped my leg and blown my knee when I was the tender age of 16.
I struggle with days off. I don’t know exactly when this happened, but sometime in the past couple of years I have developed this terrible ailment. I feel guilty if I don’t check my work email or don’t spend a significant part of the day doing things related to the sports teams that I cover. It’s not a bad problem to have, except that it makes me sometimes forget to call my mother for weeks and then there’s that whole issue with me only being home for nine days since December 2009.
I had today off and managed to do nothing work-related. I filed my taxes, completed a student loan consolidation application, did the laundry and dishes, went for a 6.5 mile bike ride, and watched Gamecocks and Detroit Tigers baseball. A pretty full Saturday by anyone’s standards.
I also watched some cartoons from my childhood, thank to YouTube. YouTube is great for many things, including if you are ages 25-35 and/or day drinking.
My boyfriend got me thinking about old cartoons when said “Come on Pokey,” to me a few days ago when we were leaving the gym. For the rest of the week, I kept thinking of some cartoon with a Pokey Puppy. I realized today that I was thinking of this:
I loved this cartoon when I was a kid. I also had/have/will always have a fondness for my baby blanket. I named it nigh-nigh, for “night night” according to my mom. I think my great grandmother made it. In its original form, it was big (for a child), pink and white checkered with a Strawberry Shortcake patch in the middle. Strawberry Shortcake didn’t last long.
I dragged my blanket everywhere (for a time, quite literally trying to imitate Linus). Garfield was my favorite cartoon and, if you remember the way he slept, with his blue blanket over him making a fat cat casserole, I used to do the same thing.
If you had a blanket (or teddy bear, doll, pillow), you understand the love I had for mine. Even being nowhere near it, I still know exactly how it feels and the way it smelled just out of the dryer. I was invincible with that thing.
Over the years, my blanket has lost its shape, padding and began to shrink like my shooting range in basketball. I lost chunks of it at Girl Scout camp, horse camp and when it was used as a flag in live action rendition of the Legend of Zelda.
I took what was left of it to college and turned it into a good luck charm (apparently a precursor to the rope necklaces that people wear today) but found myself cutting it in half when I was working at a youth sports camp and one of my campers (Josh, 5) asked if he could have “a piece” for his very own good luck piece.
In graduate school (yes, I brought what was left with me), I remember one time when my friend April was taking me to the Columbia airport and I put up the stop sign in my apartment’s parking lot because I forgot to grab the four-inch scrap of “Nigh Nigh” that I had in my desk. I don’t fly well.
I still have it. It’s less than a wetnap. Someday I will think of something cool to do with it.
I noticed Saturday morning while I was getting ready for work that one of the cuffs on my shirt was missing a button. I have never tried to sew on a button. I never sat still long enough for my mom to teach me how to sew on a button, mince garlic or to fry an egg without breaking the yolk, for that matter.
I suppose it’s easy to learn, but it’s just as easy for me to mail home a large box of wounded clothes (button-less shirts, white dress shirt with coffee stain, jeans with torn belt loop) to my mom and have her fix everything and mail the items back to me in an even bigger box (which allows her to add cookies and other necessities).
I chose to do nothing on Saturday and wore a shirt to work that was missing a button on the left sleeve. It will go in the “Fix Me Mom” box that sits in the spare bedroom. My Miguel Cabrera jersey is already in the box; have a few Buffalo wings marks from the 2011 MLB playoffs. There’s also a pair of corduroy pants with a belt loop that is being held together with fishing line.
My inability to sew on a button reminded me of something that Jeff, my childhood best friend, used to tell me when I would struggle to complete a simple task: “I thought you were a Girl Scout.”
Believe it or not, I was. For ten years. I was the worst Girl Scout that has ever lived. My name has been wiped from the Houghton Lake High School Girl Scout archives (okay, not really, but I wouldn’t be surprised).
My mom forced me to be a Girl Scout (yes, you did). She’ll never admit it, but I think it had something to do with the fact that it was obvious as early as age 4 that I would be a tom boy and had no interest in playing with dolls or wearing frilly dresses. Easter of 1987 might have been the catalyst. On that particular holiday, I refused to wear the pink and white Easter dress that my grandmother had purchased and was forced to spend Easter dinner in my bedroom (guess what, Easter Bunny still found me that night). My Barbies and Cabbage Patch dolls collected dust while I was outside playing sports or the Legend of Zelda with Brandon and his friends.
Note: In the Legend of Zelda, I was Link and Brandon was Ganon. His friends were Ganon’s minions. I had to “earn” my weapons by defeating the minions; my first weapon was always a stupid twig (the Wooden Sword), my second weapon was the White Sword (a twig that was painted white) and the third was a bow (made out of a coat hanger and rubber bands) and light arrows (pencils with costume feathers found in mom’s closet). The magical rod was a yard stick with a slinky and balloon attached to it, but I never made it past the White Sword.
Meanwhile, Brandon had an arsenal of Nerf guns, plastic swords, rocks, baseballs and other things at his disposal. Once he went with my dad’s crossbow and one grazed my shoulder. Thankfully, my dad came home from work and found me scrambling from straw bale to straw bale as the metal arrows continued to fly past my head and he put an end to that.
So, my mom thought that I was spending too much time playing sports and getting shot and signed me up for Girl Scouts when I started first grade. She also became a troop leader with Terry (Lynn’s mom, a friend since preschool) which made it impossible for me to get out of it.
Even if you weren’t a Girl Scout, I’m sure that you are aware of Girl Scout cookies. They are over-priced and over-processed baked goods that are easily identified by the color of the box. Thin Mints = green, Samoas = purple, Trefoils = yellow.
I tried to sell cookies door-to-door just once in my life. When I was a Brownie (first grade), I loaded up the red Radio Flyer wagon and set out to get my little order card filled by the people who happened to live within a half a mile of my parents’ house. It was a humbling experience for a 7-year old; I sold one box of Trefoils to the “creepy guy” that didn’t own a car and left Christmas lights up year-round. He paid me in change.
After that, my parents sold cookies for me. They took order forms to their respective jobs and enough people took pity on me that I always hit my cookie quote (which ranged from 25 to 150 boxes).
Let’s talk about the other primary Girl Scouts activity: arts & crafts. I was terrible at arts & crafts. I still am. My Popsicle stick picture frames were never square. I couldn’t braid, or sew, or cross-stitch, or color within the lines.
The worst arts & craft activity in the history of the world is making potholders with those stupid stretchy loops that you’re supposed to weave to and fro on a loom. We were told to make four potholders (I think this was fourth grade, so I would have been what is known as a Girl Scout Junior); two as Christmas gifts and two to donate to a local shelter. My first one was missing the entire upper left hand corner. My second one was going down the same terrible path, when I looked over and saw Sarah (close friend and Girl Scout extraordinaire) was just putting the finishing touches on her FIFTH potholder.
I looked at mine, looked at hers, and offered to pay Sarah fifty cents for every potholder she made for me. And at that moment, a longtime business relationship was born. Dear Mom, you know that pretty red, blue and yellow potholder that you got for Christmas when I was nine? I’m finally coming clean. Sarah made it. She also made my Styrofoam ball Christmas ornament, candle holders and Campbell’s soup can flower pot. I did make the paperweight; could handle painting and pasting eyeballs on a rock. That’s why I always needed lunch money even when I brought my lunch to school. I’m sorry; it was too much for me. I also made a killing selling candy at recess and paid kids to drink out of mud puddles, but I’ll save that for another childhood confessional.
Now let’s talk about those coveted Girl Scout badges. I got a million of ‘em and last I checked, my vest is still hanging in my mom’s closet. The funny thing about earning Girl Scout badges (at least in the 1980’s-90’s) was that it was impossibly easy to obtain verification that you completed the work necessary to earn the badge: all it took was a parents’ signature in your Girl Scout “project interest book.” No eye-witness accounts, no troop leader approval—all you needed was a mom (or, in some instances, dad) that was willing to sign anything if you would JUST STOP BOTHERING THEM!
In fifth grade (junior GS), Erika and I figured this out and went on to earn at least three dozen badges over the course of several weekends at her house. For the “It’s Your Story, Tell It!”/Animal Habitats badge, we tried unsuccessfully to put her cat, Crystal, in the dryer (A for effort, it was decided). Checked off the “It’s Your Planet, Love It!” /Nautical badge by throwing random objects into the Ressa family pool and seeing what would float. First Aid legacy badge? Found a well-hidden medical textbook and spent an hour looking at and getting grossed out by a number of infectious diseases. My favorite was the Skill Building/Musician badge. We watched Michael Jackson’s Thriller fix or six times and greeted Erika’s dad when he came home from the jewelry store with our best Zombie dance moves.
Erika’s mom, a lovely person, trusting soul (and was almost always working while we did our badge work), signed off on all our Girl Scout checklists. Erika and I managed to have very respectable badge vests until middle school when we just stopped trying altogether.
By sixth grade, I was playing multiple sports and wanted nothing to do with Girl Scouts. We met in the seventh grade science room every Monday afterschool and I sat as far away from the door as possible, hoping that none of my guy friends or team mates would see me painting cardboard and wearing a bright green badge vest.
Every winter, the whole troop went to Camp Oak Hills for a weekend stay at the Acorn Lodge. Where we would—you guessed it— do arts & crafts. We would also sled. I learned how to ski in sixth grade and was entirely unhappy about missing a weekend trip to Boyne Mountain with ski club for two days of sledding and paying Sarah to do my craft projects. In protest, I slipped my down hill skis into the truck when no one was looking and hid them outside of the lodge. When the group headed out Saturday morning to sled, I held my skis over my head like a trophy and told my mother and fellow Scouts that they could go sled like babies, I was going skiing.
It turns out that it’s really hard to down hill ski anywhere other than at a ski resort. I broke a ski pole and knocked a bearing loose before my mom threatened to take my skis away from me for the rest of my natural life.
We also went camping during the spring, which forced me to miss games with my travel soccer team. During one such trip, Erika and I raided the food stores and gorged ourselves on marshmallows and Hershey bars. I’ll never forget Terry lining up the whole troop and scolding the unnamed person (s) who had swiped the S’mores rations. Erika and I both had cheeks full of marshmallows during the lecture and could only chew/swallow when Terry wasn’t looking our way.
I impersonated a Girl Scout for four more years. My GS denouement took place during a trip to Washington D.C. for the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts. Girls Scouts from all across the United States met on the Mall to sing songs in honor of the anniversary.
Yup, sing songs. You can probably see where this is going. I was miserable. Thankfully, Sarah was in the traveling party and she kept me company. I didn’t sing, made no effort to meet other Girl Scouts and refused to take my Tigers hat and sunglasses off for group pictures. My mother contemplated leaving me in D.C. I’m sure of it.
At one point, I snuck away from the group and changed out of the required and brightly colored Girl Scout t-shirt. Feeling human once again, I walked around for a couple hours and stumbled upon the filming of the movie Dick, the parody of the Watergate scandal. No one seemed to care that I was there, so I just hung out (and had a really good time, I’d like to add) until I was unceremoniously dragged away by my mother. She put a cast-iron grip on my arm and used words I hadn’t known were in her vocabulary as we made our way through the thousands of tourists and Girl Scouts and back to our group. To say that I was under surveillance for the remainder of the trip is an understatement.
After a 10-hour bus ride from D.C. back to the Houghton Lake middle school parking lot, my mom and I headed home. She was silent in the car for a couple of minutes and then finally said, “You really hate this, don’t you?”
Mom: “You don’t have to be in Girl Scouts anymore. Honestly, I’d rather that you stop. You’re pissing me off.”
So, that was that. I don’t make a habit of telling people that I was in Girl Scouts, because my Girl Scout track record is as credible as George O’Leary’s resume. I’m a sham, a phony, a fraud. I sold one box of cookies in ten years. I paid others to do my crafts projects. I earned a badge by trying to put a cat in a dryer (Girl Scouts of America changed their badge guidelines a few years back, so there’s no way I’d of gotten away with it on 2012). But, I’ve come clean about it and now I can move on. Just don’t ask me to make you a pot-holder.
My Christmas vacation will be over in a couple of hours. I couldn’t complain if I tried; I spent lots of time with my favorite person in the world and was absolutely spoiled by those I love the most. I have two new Kurt Vonnegut books, a Marcus Lattimore jersey and the best Jimmy Buffett album in history on vinyl. I’ve had more than my share of ham, turkey, Christmas cookies and libations. I’m a very blessed girl.
I was also able to get a lot of little things done. I’ve been spending a lot of time on what will be a pretty substantial grant proposal for a baseball research project I would like to do this summer. My personal belongings had been in boxes for the past year and a half and I finally had the time to hang up clothes and organize my life to an extent. When you have moved around as much as I have, you forget how nice it is to feel settled and as though you have a place to hang your hat at the end of the day. I now know where all my dress clothes are and have all my jerseys hung up according to season and affiliation.
And to cap my time off with a South Carolina Capital One Bowl win was the icing on the cake. I’m proud of myself for not shedding tears of joy. I was confident that the Gamecocks would win (and made a number of wagers with Husker faithful, which I’ll be collecting on), but it didn’t look good after the first quarter. Slow starts have haunted the Gamecocks all year and Connor Shaw looked uncomfortable in the first half, leaving the pocket way too early and just not making sound decisions. But defense wins games and the Gamecocks had one of the best in the country this year. Alshon’s Hail Mary TD reception to end the first half didn’t hurt either.
I’m really looking forward to getting back to work. There’s a lot on my to-do list and I can’t wait to start tackling some spring projects. I got caught up with my marketing podcasts over the past week and learned a lot of good stuff that I can incorporate into my daily activities at USF. It will be baseball season before too long and I have plans to design a first-rate USF baseball media guide. I’m also writing a book with some other SABR members and we should start flushing out some chapters in the next few weeks. Finally, I start my second-to-last MBA class in a week, which means that I’ll be Stephanie Pendrys B.A., M.M.C., M.B.A. before too long. Who knows what the future holds after that.
Last thing: in a moment of poor judgment a few nights ago I signed up for the Brookings Marathon. I had a great run and in a state of euphoria, I decided that I could & should do one more 26.2-er. My last marathon was December 2007 and I’m sure my orthopedic will throw a fit, but I’d like to do at least one more. I ran seven in a span of a couple of years and the plan was to run one in every state. Four years and multiple knee operations later, I’ve got stage two degenerative arthritis in my left knee and can no longer run every day (which blows). I’m going to try to be smart about this one though. Other than playing soccer. I know that’s not smart, but I love it and something I must do.
I recently enjoyed a lengthy (12 days) and well-deserved summer vacation that was spent in my home state of Michigan. The vast majority of my family (mom & dad, both of my older brothers, three nephews, four nieces, lots of cousins) still call the Mitten home.
It was a very pleasant trip.
I also managed to squeeze in four professional baseball games; all at different ballparks. My Mitten State baseball tour started on June 26 at Comerica Park, where I am happy to say I was in the stands for Sparky Anderson’s number retirement ceremony at Comerica Park. Here’s the audio from the ceremony (video isn’t that great; my seat was in the bleachers). I followed that with trips to Traverse City (Traverse City Beach Bums), Lansing (Lansing Lugnuts) and Midland (Great Lakes Loons).
I’ve grown up/lived/worked in five states that house several minor-league teams (Michigan, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York & Arizona). I always try to attend at least one game at every ballpark in whatever state I currently reside in, and add ballpark detours to road trips (my rule is 50 miles off the intended path, unless they are giving away a bobblehead that night. Bobbleheads increase my radius to 200 miles.).
I’ve watched all levels of baseball in person; from MLB to spring training-AAA-AA-A-independent-Mexican Pacific League-CanAm League-NCAA D-I/D-II/D-III/NAIA/NJCAA, and so on.
I’ve been to 67 different ballparks in a purely recreational capacity; if I include ballparks I’ve visited because of work, then number goes up to 73.
My baseball excursions have given me enough memories to fill a pirate’s treasure chest. I took back-to-back red eye flights from South Carolina to Detoit in 2006, which allowed me to watch the Detroit Tigers beat the Yankees in the ALDS (and to party in the streets like everyone else). Quite possibly the best 24 hours of my life.
I drove from Tucson down to Hermosillo, Sonora to watch the Naranjeros de Hermosillo (Hermosillo Orange Growers), winners of 15 Liga Mexicana del Pacífico titles. On the same trip, I also managed to: 1. Engage in a heated tavern debate RE: Mexican vs. American soccer; 2. Lose my passport at aforementioned tavern; & 3. Beg/plead my way back across the border.
I came close to wearing handcuffs during my 2006 Grapefruit League spring training trip. After the final out was recorded in a Washington Nationals/Detroit Tigers game, I hopped the fence to secure an autograph from Alan Trammell. Security guards quickly pursued, but when I shouted to Trammie that he went 4-4 the day I was born, he shooed away the cavalry and signed my baseball.
Denny McLain brought me up to the front of the autograph line at a Syracuse Chiefs game in 2007 because I was the only person wearing a Tigers jersey. Yes, there was a six-pack of Diet Pepsi under the table.
I had the great pleasure of meeting George “Shotgun” Shuba, the oldest living member of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 1955 World Series championship squad. Shuba was the first National League player to hit a pinch-hit home run in a World Series game, but is most- often remembered for being the first white player to offer an on-the-field congratulatory handshake to Jackie Robinson.
A sports history thesis about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League allowed me to graduate with honors from Albion College.
I went to Omaha this year for the College World Series, which was won (again) by my second alma mater, the South Carolina Fighting Gamecocks.
I’ve also been to at least a dozen Sioux Falls Fighting Pheasants games this season and plan to spend many more evenings at the lovely Birdcage.
I’ve been to enough Pheasants games (and read the sports section, and have two good eyes when my contacts are in) to be well aware of the team’s attendance issues. The bleachers are typically much more empty than full.
I’m not a baseball expert, but it is by far my favorite sport. I’ve been to a lot of different ballparks and have seen all kinds of baseball. I also have an integrated marketing degree from the University of South Carolina and about six years of marketing experience under my belt.
Here’s a list of ten things that I would do differently, if I were somehow involved with the Sioux Falls Pheasants. The list covers concessions/marketing/community relations/music, etc. and this is all clearly my own opinion. So, I could be wrong about most of it.
1. Offer at least one local beer in the concession stands. From what I’ve seen, you can purchase the usual domestic beers at the Birdcage, along with Boulevard (which is a Kansas City brew). Good stuff, but no South Dakota connection. All the Michigan minor league teams sell Oberon (Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo). The Loons’ concession stands also had a pale ale from Midland Brewing Co. on tap, which was very good. Support the local brew masters and offer South Dakota beer: I’ve heard good things about Crow Peak (Spearfish) and Firehouse (Rapid City).
2. Serve beer in a souvenir cup. Most minor league teams offer large draft beers in souvenir cups, not clear plastic cups. Some ballparks have even gone green and allow fans to re-use their souvenir cup at subsequent ballgames. I’m sure it’s more expensive, but it’s a nice touch and allows fans (like myself) to possess a never ending supply of pencil holders for their desk.
3. Offer a few (somewhat) healthy dining options. I know, I know. You’re supposed to eat hotdogs and peanuts at baseball games; along with fries, ice cream and sunflower seeds… but there are a lot of people now that are watching fat and calorie intake, either due to a health condition or because they want to fit in their work clothes (me). I know a couple of people at work who are following the Weight Watchers PointsPlus program and don’t frequent the Birdcage because they will have to find somewhere else to eat after the game. I’m not suggesting that the Pheasants build a salad bar on the concourse; but adding baked potato chips and some grilled sandwiches & wraps to the menu would be a huge improvement.
4. I would like to see Pheasants players be more involved in the Sioux Falls community. Of course, the players cannot visit school classrooms during the summer months, but there are other ways to interact with kids and fans on off days. Be an honorary coach at a Little League game or hold a free clinic at the new Boys & Girls Club. I know that the Pheasants have a summer promotion with the Sioux Falls area libraries, but it’s basically a free ticket voucher for kids who complete the summer reading program. The Pheasants can do better than that; for example, have a couple of the players read “Casey at the Bat” or “H is for Homerun” one afternoon at the library. (Note: perhaps they are more community-oriented than I believe; if that is the case, then it’s a matter of better publicizing the team’s community involvement).
5. Ringer needs to be a very busy birdie with a jam-packed mascot appearance calendar: I consider myself a mascot expert for two reasons. One, I’ve now had three jobs that included mascot chauffeuring as a work task (and on two occasions, due to illness, I actually had to be the mascot). I hauled Rufus (Charlotte Bobcats mascot) all over the darn Tar Heel State for dozens of appearances at schools, hospitals, youth sports camps and the like.
Two, as you can see from the pictures, I love mascots. They make me smile.
Kids love mascots. Schools love mascots. Hospitals love mascots. Senior living facilities love mascots. Ringer should make appearances in the Sioux Falls community throughout the year. Give him a Santa hat and Salvation Army bucket during the holiday season. Surprise a die-hard Pheasants fan at their place of work (with cupcakes, of course). Greet random strangers at the airport and hand out free general admission tickets. Stuff like that.
6. Have a summer intern walk around the ballpark with a digital camera and take pictures of fans and families. Post the pictures on Facebook (or host an online photo album). It’s a nice gesture and one that will keep fans visiting the Pheasants website and Facebook page.
7. Promote the “special” home games (like the Businessman’s Special) far in advance. Noon baseball games are a blast. If you’ve never seen throngs of worker bees happily loosening their ties and enjoying a midday beer, you’re missing a great baseball experience. It’s like playing hooky with hundreds of your friends. Promote the games to businesses and the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network. I would also make an effort to promote the noon games to schools, daycare centers and organizations such as the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club. With a little work, I bet there’s a way to coordinate a summer field trip even with school not being in session.
8. Show real mug shots of opposing players on the video board screen when they are up to bat. Enough already with the silly pictures of bulldogs, poodles and Bill Murray; it’s very middle-school humor. Besides, women (me included) want to know if the guy standing at the plate is cute.
9. While we’re on the subject, please play better music for opposing players. I know it’s a component of gamesmanship; you play Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, etc., when some burly first baseman steps up to the plate and it’s supposed to throw off his concentration or something. But don’t forget, that means the fans are also subjected to Britney Spears. And that’s not very nice.
10. Bobbleheads. Bobbleheads. At least one bobblehead giveaway. People in Sioux Falls, who wouldn’t recognize Brandon Sing if he was standing in the middle of 41st wearing a “Hi, I’m Brandon Sing” shirt, will line up outside the Birdcage two hours in advance for a bobblehead. I drove 2.5 hours from Columbia, S.C. to Greenville, S.C. for a Shoeless Joe Jackson bobblehead giveaway (sadly, Shoeless Joe did not survive my most-recent move). The nice thing about bobbleheads is that they don’t have to always depict Sioux Falls Pheasants players, coaches or Ringer. You can have fun with them; the Great Lakes Loons have been giving away Detroit Red Wings bobbleheads all summer. How about paying homage to one of South Dakota’s favorite sons with a Sparky Anderson bobblehead?
I am so excited for Sunday that I had plenty of trouble trying to sleep last night. I woke up about 3:30 a.m. and started checking Twitter on my phone for University of South Carolina baseball updates.
I don’t get much time off, yet I’m hoping that tomorrow goes by in a New York minute. I’ve had the Chairmen of the Board on repeat.
I am going to Omaha on Sunday for the College World Series. Father’s Day 2011 is going to be one of the best days of the year for me. It’s been four LONG years since I have seen Gamecocks baseball in person.
It’s also been 3.5 years since I’ve been in Columbia, S.C. That makes me want to cry, because it also means that it has been 3.5 years since I’ve enjoyed a heart of palms salad at California Dreamin’ or Hummingbird water at the Flying Saucer.
I spent many hours this spring sitting at the kitchen table, listening to Gamecock baseball games on my laptop and constantly refreshing the Twitter feeds of my favorite USC beat writers, bending and re-bending the bill of my USC baseball cap to calm my nerves when an opponent had too many ducks on the pond but not enough outs.
I feel fortunate that Sioux Falls has a great minor league baseball team (go Fighting Pheasants!). But, as much as I love going to the Birdcage to cheer on the Pheasants, they took a backseat when Ray Tanner and his boys were on the field.
Did I mention that I’m going to Omaha on Sunday? Did I mention that I have no idea what I’m going to wear?
I know that college baseball isn’t exactly a marquee sport in America (other than for two weeks in mid-to-late June, when ESPN gets involved). College baseball is also tough sell in the Midwest, due to the climate and many college baseball programs northeast of the Mason-Dixon line not having (or having limited access to) indoor facilities during the winter months. The ever-present problem of scheduling and rescheduling early spring games makes it more difficult for Midwestern folks to follow their local college team, because they never know whether or not a game is actually going to be played.
The Minnesota Vikings & Twins, college football and basketball are the big dogs up here, with perhaps hockey and NBA basketball doing their best to nip at the heels.
Which means I truly understand why nobody cares how <expletive> excited I am that I get to see the Gamecocks play (win!) on Sunday. But as I sit here, listening to the Baseball America podcast and dressed head to toe in Gamecocks gear (including garnet & black striped socks), I’m reminded of a text that I received last weekend, in the midst of my social media celebration of USC’s return to Omaha.
“You’re starting to remind me of those obnoxious Nebraska football fans that you swear you hate as much as Michigan & Clemson fans.”
Number one; there are no sports fans that are more obnoxious than Nebraska football fans. I didn’t realize this until I moved to South Dakota last year; they might be worse than Clemson fans (although, not as bad as Chicago White Sox fans).
The reason that Nebraska football fans are the worst is: I HAVE MET ONE PERSON SINCE I’VE MOVED TO THIS AREA WHO ACTUALLY GRADUATED FROM NEBRASKA. One.
People here seem to think it is a birth right to wave Nebraska flags on game day, dress domesticated pets in red sweaters and treat motor vehicles like refrigerator doors (how many car magnets do you need?)
As much as I hate Clemson, the only people I’ve ever encountered who will admit that they root for the Farm Cats are graduates of that institution.
I have no problem with people rooting for a school that they have no academic or personal connection (has a child attending, perhaps); if they can act like a normal sports fan and conduct themselves in a manner that will not result in being kicked out of a bar or waking up behind bars the next morning.
My personal opinion is that you are allowed to be as dedicated (at times, obnoxious) a fan of a particular college if you went to school there. That’s my personal rule. No arm tattoos of Herbie, Bevo, Big Al or Cocky unless you receive alumni publications (or student loan bills) from the school whose fight song serves as the ringtone for your cell phone.
Before I get accused of being a huge hypocrite; yes, I am also a massive Michigan State Spartans fan. But I’m not an obnoxious, running through the streets when the Spartans win, busting windows and setting cars on fire when they lose MSU fan.
Granted, there were witnesses (ironically, fellow USC graduates) to the Great Meltdown of 2010, which I suffered in Buffalo, N.Y. That tearful night took place after MSU lost to Butler 52-50 in the Final Four. That was a bad loss.
Michigan State is the team of my childhood. I will never forget that day on the school bus when I was in first grade: the Friday before the annual Michigan/Michigan State game, two fifth grade boys walked down the aisle of the bus and asked every single kid who they were rooting for: Michigan or Michigan State. I happened to be sitting with my brother (a wise second-grader); who punched me on the arm and said that we were rooting for Michigan State because that’s where our big brother was going to school. I’ve rooted for Michigan State ever since.
My sister-in-law Heidi (CPA), Uncle Tom (Exxon retiree) & Uncle Jerry (retired warden of the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth) are also Michigan State graduates. I did get accepted to Michigan State, for both undergraduate and graduate studies, but I choose to attend other schools. Albion College for a bachelor’s degree in English/History/Creative Writing (and to play sports) and the University of South Carolina for a master’s of mass communications degree.
I root for Sparty, but my heart belongs to Cocky (and Michael Roth, Matt Price, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jadeveon Clowney, etc.)
I graduated from USC (proof) and I love everything about the institution. Gamecock football games are once-in-a-lifetime events that just so happen to take place six or seven times a year. I still feel blessed that I was accepted into the School of Journalism & Mass Communications (granted, it took a lot of letters of recommendation and hours of pleading). The restaurants, bars, nightlife, daylife and culture in Columbia are outstanding.
I left USC with a great degree, lots of professional experience and a group of friends who: 1. Have great jobs 2. Remain great friends 3. Make me laugh on a daily basis 4. I’m happy to say are nearly as obnoxious as me, when it comes to Gamecock athletics.
I will not apologize in advance for my conduct either this weekend or for the duration of the College World Series. This is going to be fun.
I will do my best to limit my tweets and Facebook updates on Sunday night, though.
USC Gamecocks Fight Song: http://bit.ly/dQeVAU
I recently took part in a lengthy conversation about tanning.
I have light blonde hair, blue eyes. The extraction of my last name is Polish/Austrian. In other words, my people don’t tend to turn the color of Colonel Sanders’ original recipe chicken during the summer months.
I buy, and wear, lots of sunscreen during the summer.
I have my mother to thank for this habit. Mom, (who was one of those “stupid” teenagers that spent many summers in the 1960’s laying in the sun with baby oil-covered skin) never let me in the pool or step foot on a soccer field unless I was wearing sunscreen.
Despite (or in spite of) my sunscreen obsession, my skin does tan if I am outside on a regular basis between Memorial Day and Labor Day (see picture).
My father (black hair and brown eyes) has a dark complexion (see picture). He looks like he just climbed out of a tanning bed even when he is shoveling snow in January. My dad also has a few sun spots on his face, since he’s never worn sunscreen. His mom, (who had the same hair and eye color as me) spent the winters in Florida after retirement and was also very tan. Her skin, bless her heart, also happened to resemble a catcher’s mitt from the 1930’s.
Listen. I don’t try to “get” tan. I put that in quotations because it is irritating that tanning is considered both a physical activity and a verb. You can “go” tanning or “work” on a tan.
That is, you can go develop skin cancer or work on a premature death.
Acquiring darker skin is not an accomplishment on par with finishing a Dostoevsky novel or scraping soap scrum out of the shower. You’re not going to run faster or jump higher if your skin is more chocolate than vanilla. I promise.
Throughout middle school, high school and college, I always had friends whose favorite spring/summertime activity was to “lay out” and “work” on their tans. Sometimes, being a good friend (or in later years, having a six-pack of beer or bottle of wine dangled in front of me as a reward) I would go along with the tanning expedition. Towels, CD player, lotion, sunglasses and beverages in tow, we would stake a claim to a patch of grass or sand.
And conversations similar to these would always take place:
I begin to apply sunscreen an hour before we leave.
“What are you doing? You can’t get tan if you wear SPF 45. You need to use oil.”
“No, I don’t. I’m not a damn pickup truck.”
Once outside, we stretch out on the towels, shades on, headphones in and proceed to soak up some rays. Boredom sets in. I’m also reminded for the 987,654,321 time that tanning is an unbelievably stupid, unhealthy and wasteful way to spend a few hours. I think of all the clever insults I have directed toward people who are obsessed with being tan over the years. This is when I sit up and open a book.
“What are you doing? You’re going to get really bad tan lines. You need to lay flat and flip over every thirty minutes.”
“No, I don’t. I’m not a damn piece of barbeque chicken.”
Five minutes later, I would stand up and walk away, seeking a sport to play or dog to pet.
“Where are you going? You can’t get tan if you keep moving around.”
“I simply have better things to do.”
I think it’s asinine that there are people who truly “work” on their tans.
This is another reason why America is falling behind in terms of economics, education, science and any other category you want to write on the chalkboard. While people in other countries are reading books and building the next great technological marvel, we’re poolside or in a tanning bed, bodies slathered with tanning products like Blacklist 1000XX Bronzing Elixir, Black Vendetta and my personal favorite, Supra Ocho Poison Tingle (you can actually feel the cancer cells forming!)
In order to be fully transparent, I should also say that I have personal reasons for not being a worshipper of Helios. I’ve already had a couple of small sunspots zapped off, on my nose and under my right eye. It hurt like hell. I had to deal with the whole “you can’t knock the scab off before it is ready to fall off on its own” party.
Tucson (my crash pad for a couple of years) is where I suffered the worst sunburn of my life. The fry-job happened in May, not July, I would like to add. I had to go to urgent care, which was followed by several trips to the dermatologist. After I spent a fortnight soaking my charred flesh in a bathtub of oatmeal and aloe, I was able to once again wear a sports bra without screaming.
I also was given a prescription for SPF 125 sunscreen. That’s damn good stuff.
In my younger and less-jaded days, I earned a degree in history from Albion College. During several lectures, the venerable Dr. Chambers told his students that way back when, women craved white, pale skin.
During the Renaissance period, white skin was seen as a sign of modesty and virtue in a woman. Red lips were also coveted, as the color represented passion and beauty. For women, the ideal combination was a white face with reddened lips and cheeks.
Women even went as far as to put arsenic-based powder and lead-based cosmetics on their skin to artificially whiten their skin tone (which brought about several cases of lead poisoning).
The equation pale = attractive survived the Victorian era and continued until the early 1900’s. At that time, the fashion for the wealthy (or those that wanted to appear wealthy) was pale skin, to show that you didn’t work outside. Only the working classes and outside laborers were tanned.
What changed? Who do we have to blame for America’s obsession with brown skin, tanning beds and those ridiculous goggles that leave conspicuous marks on the nose?
My Google machine tells me that fashion designer Coco Chanel is the culprit, having started the tanning craze in the 1920’s.
Listen. The legend goes like this: Coco Chanel took a lengthy vacation to Europe, where she developed a deep, bronze tan — possibly on purpose, but probably by accident. The world took notice when she proudly paraded her new sun-kissed look at Paris fashion shows and the art of self-baking was born.
Suntans became an even bigger status symbol in the ’30s, when Hollywood studios began using color film. Actors and actresses, wanting their faces to have a youthful and healthy glow onscreen, started hanging out by the pool instead of the bar.
I wonder if the invention of swim-up bars also took place around this time.
From the 1920s on, a whiter shade of pale was no longer attractive. Pale skin was considered unhealthy and indicated people who worked inside in offices or factories whereas, a suntan showed you were wealthy enough to vacation and jet set for most of the year.
There are many other bullets on the tanning obsession timeline. In 1953, the Coppertone girl was introduced and became a pop-culture icon. In the 1960’s, the rise of California surf culture and beach party movies fed the country’s tanning desires. In 1971, Mattel introduced Malibu Barbie, who was tanned and came with sunglasses and her very own bottle of tanning lotion.
Tanning beds were introduced to America by Friedrich Wolff in 1979.
In the 1980’s, doctors discovered that excessive exposure to the sun caused premature aging and skin cancer. And yet, despite the equation that tanning = death, for so many people, extra crispy flesh still equals cool.
So, thanks a lot Coco Chanel, for returning from your little jaunt to Europe with skin that was, well, a lighter shade of cocoa. It’s your fault that we live a in a world where tanning is considered a physical activity. Honest and hard-working folks are afraid to wear shorts in public, for fear the world might be blinded by their white knees. It’s no way to live; believe you me.
People who continue to worship the sun are idiots. Idiots that I want little to do with. I’d rather stay inside with a gin and tonic and read Kafka. Even cockroaches are smart enough to stay in the shade between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
When I got done with work on Monday, there were two things I needed to accomplish. Ajax needed an oil change and I needed to run for at least an hour. My complete lack of consistency when it comes to running is well documented, but I got it in my head that I was going to run. I had important Valentine’s Day plans (beer & video games) and of course, one feels less guilty about sitting on a couch drinking beer if they had done something to deserve it.
I changed into workout clothes and made my way to Tires Plus. When I got there, I was told that I had about a ninety minute wait. This screwed up my plan; sitting for an hour and a half and then going for a run meant that I was going to have a later night than expected (and much less time on the couch). But, my car was priority one. Not only did Ajax need his oil changed, he needed new wiper blades and some work done on the passenger side wiper motor. I sat down with a magazine. Five minutes later, the proverbial light bulb went off. I can run while my car is getting taken care of!
The problem was that I had my iPod, but no ear buds. Ear buds in Steph’s world have a life expectancy shorter than a fruit fly. I have purchased seven pairs since July. My most recent pair met an untimely death last week, when I ran over them with my desk chair. Since Tires Plus is on 41st, I decided to jog over to Wal-mart, buy new ear buds and then start my run from there.
I went over to Wal-mart and made my way to the electronics sections. Thus began the internal debate: do I buy cheap ear buds again, knowing that I will break them before Opening Day, or do I go for a more expensive pair with the hopes that their cost will force me to take better care of them? That’s my opinion in regards to sunglasses. I invest significant cash in my shades because I think that will make me do things like keep them in a case and not run them over with a desk chair.
I should mention here that I currently do NOT have sunglasses. My current pair, which is already chipped thanks to that little car wreck I was in a few months ago, is AWOL. I’m still looking for a new pair.
The ear buds ranged in price from $3.99 to $149.99. I went with a $19.99 pair; green to match my Sparty green iPod. After going through the checkout, I went in the bathroom to both put my hair in a ponytail and to open the ear buds package.
That’s where the trouble began. The packaging that surrounded the ear buds was that ridiculously hard plastic casing that is impossible to open without scissors or a blowtorch. You cannot open it by hand. I tried anyways. I managed to create a small tear in the corner and got a finger inside. I went for the two hand rip apart, a movement similar to the butterfly stroke.
I sliced my finger something brutal. The package looked like it had been kept in a bottle of ketchup.
Cursing loudly, I ripped the package and stuck my hand under the sink. It was at this point that I realized that someone else was in the bathroom. And that this person thought that I was shoplifting.
Silence. Followed by, “Uh. Did you buy those?” A middle-aged woman, with stringy hair and a red face that was partially hidden by a plaid scarf, glared at me. I nodded. She took a hesitant step backwards. I suddenly had visions of her bolting out of the restroom screaming, “There’s a thief in the women’s restroom! Arrest her!”
I nodded again. “Yes, I just bought these.” Smile. I pulled the receipt out of my pocket and waved it around like a sparkler. “I am just having trouble opening the box.” Smile.
I could tell she wasn’t convinced. She kept her eyes on me as she side-stepped into one of the stalls. I wrapped a paper towel around my finger and got the hell out of there.
Once outside, I found a guy with a pocketknife. And I started running to the sounds of a Detroit Pistons podcast. The sidewalks were a combination of slush and puddles with an occasional ice patch thrown in to keep things interesting. I went down to the expressway and looped around all the restaurants, the smell of food thick and quite unappealing.
When I ran past the Kentucky Fried Chicken, I made eye contact with a guy whose cheeks were stuffed with chicken tenders. Our glance said this: “Yes, you are running and I am eating fried chicken. Judge me if you will, but I assure you that I am enjoying this chicken three times as much as you are enjoying your run.” He wasn’t wrong.
When I ran past Rookies, I thought for a second that I should stop for a beer. I didn’t.
I ran into Home Depot and jogged up and down the aisles. I thought for a second that I should throw in some sprint repeats. I didn’t.
I ran into Sam’s Club. And there were free samples everywhere. I reemerged with a paper cup’s worth of pasta salad and a sliver of pizza.
I ran into Target. I thought for a second that I should hop on one of the treadmills in the exercise department. I did, but was quickly asked to get off of it. Jerk.
When I was running back toward Wal-mart, I heard a lot of noise over my iPod. I looked up and there was a car on fire in the parking lot. I’m not kidding; it looked like the funeral pyre that Achilles built for Patroclus. This is what the car looked like as they blasted the fire with extinguishers.
I kept on going, past O’Gorman (where I slipped in the parking lot) and down Kiwanis for another mile. When I reached 22nd street, I slapped the ground with my good hand, spun around and headed back the way I came. When I got back to Tire Plus my baby was waiting for me, with new oil and wiper blades. They even reset the tire light on my dashboard!
I listened to two NBA podcasts during the run, which means that I was triple-tasking (oil change + run + learning = super-duper productive). Finger still hurts.