A Melange of Weirdness

I just got off a weekend on Mancation.  Mancation is an annual retreat that I take with my college roommates, and usually five out of the six of us can make it.  This year we were without the Dr. Little.  Apparently people needed life-saving services performed on them this weekend, and he couldn’t take off.

Likely story.

For the past three years I’ve been charged (or self-appointed, depending on who you talk to) to make a mix CD for the car trip to our destination.  It’s usually a mixture of music that I think everyone (read: I) will enjoy.  I’ve named all the CD’s some variation of “Yatchfest.”  What is a yatchfest, you might ask?

Our freshman year of college a group of us took a road trip to my parent’s house in South Florida because, well, we apparently had our parent’s money to burn.  This was right after Napster had gotten big, and all of us had these inane mp3 players on our e-machines.  We had also begun to use the word “yatching” to describe complaining.  It was more complex than cursing, but with less guilt.  And since we figured that there’d be quite a bit of complaining on the car trip south, we deemed the trip “Yatchfest.”

I stole it.  I usually try to play on a variation of the title.  Last year it was “Yatchfest Revisted: A Two Disk Collection.”  Justin Timberlake and the Dixie Chicks were on high rotation for some reason.  This year it was “Yatchfest: Melange.”  I think the French title offset the fact that we were going to rural Missouri to camp.  I’m nothing if not sophisticated (no comment Rhonda).

But I didn’t have time to burn a CD this year, so I just put the Melange on my ipod.  Unfortunately, the vehicle that we were utilizing was apparently the model created after the Flinstonemobile, and it didn’t have an aux hook-up.  Undeterred, I insisted we stop at the nearest audio store (Walmart) to purchase speakers.  As we walked through those aisles drenched with fluorescence and cheaply built items, I finally found $5 speakers. 


Here is a pic from a different Walmart trip on Mancation.  Yes, I had to go to the great statue of consumerism twice on this journey.  Luckily we found these masks.  It made it worth it.

Those speakers lasted about an hour before the ipod died.  Nonetheless, the Melange was heard in her (almost full) glory.  It faded out just as Collective Soul’s “Why Pt. 2” began to wail (and by “wail” I mean, play just loud enough so that if we all strained and no one farted, we could hear it, sort of).  It was not to be heard again amongst the nights of beer drinking and philosophizing that happens around a campfire.

You’d think it’d be difficult for 5 guys to go through 75 beers in 2 days.  Either it is not, or we are awesome (I think it’s the second).

But after all that beer drinking, I was keenly aware that I needed to get back on my workout schedule.  Now, I’ve been dealing with a bit of fasciitis.  For those unfamiliar with that term (Jason thought that it was, perhaps, a descriptor for some weird fascination with Hitler),  it means my heels hurt when I sit for a long period of time, or when I first get up in the morning.  Yes, I know there are things that can be done for it.  There are certain socks you can wear.  There are certain stretches.

But that all requires pro-action.

Instead, I’d just rather deal with the pain.  I think it makes me stronger and gives me an excuse to sit around more.

So, I charge up my ipod, totally forgetting that the Melange was the only thing on it.  I had made the decision to run on Lake Shore Drive, the long path that runs between Chicago and Lake Michigan, despite the foot pain.  I also decided to break out my Five Finger shoes to do this in after having run in conventional shoes for the past few months.

These were all questionable decisions.

I get changed, begin stretching, and turn on the ipod.  To my utter delight, Jimmy Buffett’s version of “Mexico” starts me off and I remember the Melange.  My meta-self opined, “And Tim thought to himself, ‘This will be a good, long run.'”

As I turned out the gym and started running down Montrose Avenue toward the lake, I began to notice something: the people walking around looked odd.  I mean, I think I’m used to the oddness of the gym folks: the Ewok, the Asian twins, mowhawk jerk-face.  Those people are my workout world.

But outside, there’s a whole new world of weird yet to be explored and commented on.  So as Hanson’s “Mmmm Bop” began to play, I had two thoughts.  The first was a memory of how, when I first saw Hanson’s debut video, I thought, “That group of girls sing catchy tunes.”  The second was, “I bet I should blog about this.”

Blinking, I ran out from the underpass and turned north on Lake Front Path.  All around me were bicycle shorts on runners, and running shorts on bikers.  It was like a story I wrote once in fourth grade where people walked backwards and wore shoes on their hands.

As I began setting my pace, and as Vengaboys started singing “We Like to Party” in my earbuds, I saw a dude in full shirt and tie running…in loafers.  I imagined this to be the equivalent to the dude who works out in jeans on the first floor of the gym.  I saw him run into one of the bathrooms just off the soccer field, and realized that he was probably going to change into a uniform to play soccer.  This made me start asking myself questions like, “I wonder how far he ran in those loafers?,” “I wonder if he’s going to stuff those loafers in the small backpack, or just carry them to the field?,” and “I wonder why I’m not athletic enough to play soccer after work?”

I knew the answer to the last question.

I continued down the path, dodging bikers and slow walkers with excited dogs.  I was enjoying the breeze, and the Melange was not disappointing.  Whoever put that mix together is awesome!

As I was coming up on Wilson Avenue, I noticed a group of people huddled together.  As I got closer, I realized it was a party.  A drunken party (it was after 7pm).  As I jogged by, one of them decided to slap my butt.  I kid you not, Lake Shore Path brings out the crazy.  Normally I might have been offended/flattered (I didn’t see who it was).  But in this instance, I was just in pain.  They slapped hard.  Mesh shorts don’t provide much barrier.  So now, my feet and butt hurt.  Cool.

Once you cross over Wilson on the Lake Front Path, you notice that things get much more serious.  Down by Montrose you find all types: kids running around, folks playing frisbee, some dedicated soccer players kicking around a ball, a couple of people playing catch.  But north of Wilson they have legit fields.  With lines.  And people taking score.

I began to feel like an athlete just being in their presence.  I also began to run into a lot more traffic.  And porta-potties.  My greatest fear?  That I would be passing by a pora-potty right as some woman opened the door.  I can hear the smack in my mind.  The blood.  The broken nose.  The embarrassed woman who would have to stand there and wait for the ambulance, implicitly letting everyone know that she had just used the most unhygienic toilet in the park.

That vision made me both laugh and shake with fear.  I pressed on though, giving a wide breadth between me and the blue booths for both safety and smell reasons.

As I approached Foster Beach, I said to myself, “Self, turn around. You’re tired.”  This was about the time “Criminal” by Fiona Apple was invading my ears, and her angst filled my soul with a depressive mood that told me it was time to turn around before my optimism got the best of my fasciitis-infected heels.  I switched directions, arriving behind a runner, probably in his late 30’s, with good posture.

The dude was caked in sweat, so either he was a sweater (like me), or he had run down from Green Bay.  He was wearing a headband, which I take as a universal sign of psychological instability.  The headband said “Sweat Catch” on it, which I found amusing.  It’s kind of like when you enter a Kindergarten classroom and everything in room has a written label.  “Door,” “Sink,” “Teacher.”  Add “Sweat Catch” to that list.

He was running slowly though, and that’s annoying like driving behind someone who actually obeys the speed limit.  C’mon man, no one takes those seriously…

So I pulled around him, pushing myself a bit speed-wise, and resumed a better pace ahead of him.

This pissed him off, I think.

Tap tap tap tap, the unmistakeable sound of quickly running shoes coming up behind me.  The Sweat Monster pulls past me, giving me the stink eye as he does.  Or was it the evil eye?  Either way, it was not good.

But, I’m not going to let a dude with a headband out run me.  I let him resume a better pace and then began my own assault.

Quickly forward, pushing my calves, ignoring my heels, wishing there was someone there to hit me on the butt, a jockey to propel me onward.  He heard the running and started picking up his pace, but it was too late.  Sliding around to his left, I made a sharp cut in front of him.

No nasty look.  No bad eye.  Just staring straight ahead as “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads blared from my ipod.

It didn’t take him long to get upset and step up his game, but this time I was prepared.  As I ran, I started moving slightly to the left to cut him off.  I’m not going to play this game with this dude (well, actually, I am, but you get the point).  And I lived in Carolina and watched enough Nascar to know that, when someone is coming up behind you in the race, you make a slight adjustment to cut them off.

But he was tenacious.  The Sweat Monster wanted to win this fake race, and as we approached Wilson Avenue, I did what any self-respecting person would do.  I stopped, and sat down in the grass to do sit-ups.  I think it said, in not so many words, “I was planning on stopping to do some crunches because I’m more hardcore than you.  You’ll never win. Never.”

After 20 crunches, I checked to make sure he had moved on.  He had.

Back to running.  As I rounded the small turn around the bathroom between Wilson and Montrose heading south, I saw a dude riding an elliptical bike. Yes; it was an elliptical in bike form.

Sigh.  What is this world coming to?  If it hadn’t have been for Dire Strait’s “Walk of Life” sounding in my ears, I may have pushed him over.

But, afterall, that is the walk of life, right?  Different people.  Different things.  There’s probably some blog out there going, “I saw this weirdo in sunglasses and blue mesh shorts sizing up everyone on Lake Front Path today.  Who does he think he is?!”

No one in particular ma’am.  Just a dude who hates to run, but likes to write.

And that dude abides.*

Life is a melange of weirdness.  Much like Yatchfest: Melange and the Lake Front Path.

*Big Lebowski quotes=awesomesauce.