Running to Soft Rock

imagesI’ve started running again.  It is predictably unpleasant.

I know some people like running.  Some get a “runner’s high.”  I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that.  Mostly I just imagine people who run long distances are already high on something…

Some people put a lot of thought into their running.  They have special shoes, special shorts, and a special playlist to keep them motivated.  It usually takes me so long to get up the energy to actually go run that everything else about it is an afterthought.  I wear mesh shorts. I wear my neon green Nike shoes (and socks if I remember them in my gym bag).  And I put Pandora on my iPhone.

This last week when I walked into the cardio room, I set my eyes on the treadmill without anyone nearby.  If you’ve read any of my posts, you know that I kind of sweat (read: sweat cascades down my arms and chest like Queensland Falls).  The movement of my arms makes the sweat fling off my elbows.  I think it’s gross and it’s my sweat.  I try not to run near people.

But, of course, the moment I step onto the treadmill, the dude who still wears friendship bracelets gets on the treadmill next to me.

Note: he was wearing the friendship bracelet on his ankle.  I am unclear how far down the friendship totem pole you have to be to get the handmade bracelet you made for your friend relegated to the foot, but I digress…

Anyway, I had no other option, so it was going to be me and Friendship Bracelet running in tandem tonight.

I set my iPhone to play my “Classic Rock” Pandora channel.  I love it.  CCR, KISS, the Stones, Hendrix.  They all danced in my ears for the first mile.

Well, sort of.  It always takes a minute or two for my iPhone to find the signal in the gerbil cage that is the cardio room at the gym.  So they danced for about 3/4 of a mile.  That first quarter the only thing that danced was my hand waiving the phone in the air trying to get a signal like I was helping to land a plane.

I looked over at Friendship Bracelet to see if he was paying attention to my waving, but thankfully he was engrossed in untangling his earbuds.  This was the second time I pitied him (the first was for wearing that bracelet)…nothing tangles quite like earbuds.  It’s hard enough to run, but try running while doing a puzzle.  That’s what those first few moments of starting the treadmill before the earbuds are untangled are like.  It’s like Sudoku for your fingers.

Anyway, Classic Rock comes on, I’m jamming, I’m sweating, all is well.

But see, when I get to running I also get to being bored.  Which is generally my biggest issue with running: it’s boring.

So, at about the first mile, I take my phone and go to my Pandora station options.  I won’t be going for George Winston.  I won’t be going for Lady Gaga, either…though that station is always tempting. No; we’re going to test ourselves tonight.

I boldly turn to my “Soft Rock” station.

I know what you’re thinking.  “You have a Soft Rock station on Pandora?”  Frankly, yes.  I have an eclectic taste in music.  And I happen to have a knack for memorizing lyrics. I also tend to like things that are schmaltzy…because I think that’s funny.  And because I like touching things that aren’t too cutesy.  I don’t care for those motivational kitten posters, but that McDonald’s add at Christmastime where Ronald convinces the young kid not to run away from home?  Man…there’s a story there…

See?  Yeah, that’s me.  In that sense I fit the demographic box for the Soft Rock/Easy Listening audience.

I do not fit the Soft Rock/Easy Listening demographic in the sense that I am not my mother.

So at mile 1.3 I start my journey with the sounds of Bertie Higgins and Key Largo, smiling my butt off as I mouth (a little too dramatically) “Here’s lookin’ at you kid…”  And in that moment I didn’t feel my wobbly legs or my taxed lungs, but was whisked away to Key Largo where I nestled my toes in the sand and breathed the easy, salty air of tropical Florida.

And then I recall doing air drums. Lots of air drums. To Dan Seals and John Ford Coley’s I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.  If you listen to that song (and you should…watch the video for the mustaches alone…) you’ll notice that there aren’t a whole lot of drums.  But the ones that are there…oh the ones that are there…they deserve air drums.  Friendship Bracelet didn’t seem to care.

And I don’t remember which artist was next or how many songs later it happened, but at about mile two old-school Michael Bolton came on.  I’m talking mullet-in-the-back-nothing-on-top-button-up-shirt-with-a-bejeweled-stud-instead-of-a-tie Bolton.  And he started asking this question about how people can be lovers if they can’t be friends.  And I think it’s a really good question.  And although I know he means it as a hypothetical, I think it deserves an answer.  And for about four minutes my mind wandered through the relationship woes of a couple who can’t start over because the fighting never ends.

A fascinating psychological journey through the heart and soul of love.

And I know there were others in the mix, but I want to take you to the end of this run right now because blog posts should be less and not more, and the ending is really the apogee of the post.

Because all of a sudden Rod Stewart’s Forever Young came on. The unplugged version.

And I know you’re thinking to yourself, “Wait, there was a version that was plugged in?”

Yes. The original.  No more questions.

Anyway, we’re waiting on baby number two and have this great little 21 month old at home who cracks me up every day and as Stewart’s words fall like a benediction upon my ears all I can think of is my little guy with cornsilk hair who will not be forever young and this new little one about to be born.

And I know we hit three miles because the treadmill stopped (why ever run more than three miles?).  But that’s the only way I knew we hit that mile marker because by this point I was openly weeping while running and couldn’t even see the treadmill dashboard anymore.

I didn’t wait around for Friendship Bracelet to grab me a tissue.  I wiped off my machine and ran like Napoleon Dynamite to the lockerroom.

And may you, dear reader, be dignified and true and remain ever young.

And may you also never dare to listen to Soft Rock while running.  It’s not worth the (emotional) pain.


“The Days When T-Shirts Said Something” or “When I Tried to Do a Sudoku While Jogging”

I have lots of t-shirts with phrases and sayings on them.

I have one that says, “Sermonator.”  I like that one.images

I used to have one that said “Super Student.” That one was awesome.  It made my campus pastor laugh when I went up for communion.

Sometimes the truth is really funny.

And I have one from my college days that says, “Don’t You Wish You Were Me?”  It glows in the dark.  I bought it 20lbs and 20,000 hair follicles ago, but I still wear it to work out at the gym.

It used to be funny.  Now it’s ironic.

They don’t make many of those t-shirts anymore.  Sigh…I pine for the days when a t-shirt said something about a person.

Anyway, I was wearing this last shirt to the gym tonight, and in my right hand I had yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) Redeye paper, the free paper here in Chicago with all the news that’s fit to be printed in a free paper.

I like the Redeye…but I like it mostly for its Sudoku.

I’m not a Sudoko wiz.  In fact, I’d call my Sudoku skills as “above average,” with my number skills falling somewhere between an 8th grade mathelete and Stephen Hawkings.  But I can usually tackle the Wednesday Sudoku with little problem.  It’s a “medium” in difficulty.

And so I came up with the brilliant idea to do the Sudoku while jogging on the treadmill.  I did this for two reasons.  A) my biggest stumbling block when it comes to running/jogging is boredom.  God, it’s boring.  Ugh. Boring, boring, boring.  Runner’s high?  Nope.  Jogger’s boredom. B) Because running is boring, I need a goal to get me through.  Past goals include, “Run until Cops is over.”  Another goal, “Get through half the Scissor Sisters album, and then you can stop.”

Tonight’s goal: do the medium Sudoku from Wednesday’s Redeye.

I started up the ‘mill.  5.5. Easy, easy jog.

It wasn’t until about 30 seconds in that I figured out this was the dumbest idea ever.  First of all, it was really hard to read the blocks.  I don’t run with my glasses on (sweat streaks), and I don’t wear contacts (can’t touch my eyeballs), so I had to squint really hard to see the blocks.

Secondly, have you ever tried to write numbers in blocks while jogging?  Not easy, my friend.  Not easy.

So I lowered that level down to a “brisk walk,” where I could hold the Sudoku up to my face and work on it.

That’s when I started hearing the high-pitched squeaking noise coming from my treadmill.  I thought to myself, “Awesome.  I chose the squeaky treadmill that everyone else avoided and hates, and I’m going to annoy the hell out of all of these people…”

And then I realized that the treadmill only squeaked if you neared an edge.  And then context clues led me to conclude that the treadmill is designed to do this to tell the user, “Hey, get your eyes off of the Sudoku, you’re about to fall off!”

Apparently I was walking much slower than the speed given.

So I adjusted and started filling in the blanks, and I was doing a pretty good job (except my 7’s began looking like 4’s, causing some momentary confusion).

And then the sweat started.  It started dripping on my paper.  And the ink started to run.  And here I was, 32 minutes into my jog/brisk walk Sudoku challenge with about half the boxes filled in, and my hard work began to suffer terribly because my body started flinging juice everywhere.

So I started filling in boxes; guessing at answers.  And before I knew it, two fours appeared in the same line and, blamo, challenge met.

Subconsciously I self-sabotaged my Sudoku challenge to stop the embarrassment; I know this to be true.  Between the squeaking, squinting, odd gait, feverish sweating, and intermittent vocalizations of “Ahhh” and “No…” that just come from me when doing math problems, my true self had had enough, ramped up the sweat, and called the question.

As I was wiping down the machine, my failed Sudoku in hand, another jogger passed by, looked at my shirt, and just said, “Nope.”

It took me a minute, as he stared at my face, and then at my chest, and back at my face.  “Nope.”

He walked away.

Inside I said quietly, “Me neither, buddy, me neither.”

And then I balled up the Sudoku and tossed it to the trashcan.

And I missed.


Why I Want My Kid to Play Hockey

My son is 10 months old.Hockey-Stick-and-Puck-Photographic-Print-C11950881

We’re starting to think about his first birthday party, but not because it’s going to be a huge blow-out. Let’s be honest, any peers he has won’t even remember the thing so, why bother, right?

No. A small affair.

But there is something that we want to make memorable, not just for us, but for him: the cake.

Why? Because we’ll undoubtedly take a picture of him next to the cake and force him to look at it on every birthday for the rest of his life.  And when we show him that picture, we want him to recognize that this moment was the moment when it happened: he decided to play hockey.

Well, technically we decided for him, but whatev…

So his cake will be a Blackhawk sweater.  Chocolate body, vanilla sleeves. I can’t wait.

See, this is the thing, I’m a big fan of just three sports: hockey, football, and baseball.

But if I’m honest with myself (and I always try to be), baseball is only really fun to watch if you’re at the stadium.  A professional stadium.  Oh, sure, I’ll have the Cubs on at home when I can’t make the game.  But I’m always reading or folding laundry or making dinner or anything but actually watching much of the game.

Because baseball is often like slow death to watch.

So, baseball is out.  I don’t want to sit on metal bleachers in the blazing sun to watch a kid hit a ball off a tee and run into the outfield because he’s confused about where the bases are.

And football?  Well, I love football. Love. It. But I don’t want him to play football.  His head isn’t even fully fused yet! And am I going to, in a few years, risk unfusing it?

No ma’am.

So, football is out.

And that leaves hockey.  And I love hockey.  I love watching hockey.  I love cheering to hockey.  I love trying to figure out exactly what “icing” means as an infraction (because, really, who the hell knows?).

I love hockey.

“But he might lose his teeth!” you say.  Listen, we can replace teeth. Perhaps it’d even be a benefit to replace some teeth at some point. Easy maintenance.

But we can’t replace his brain.  Hence why hockey is preferable to football.

Another added benefit: I’ve never played hockey.  If I’ve never played it, there’s no expectation that I’ll be any good at it.  There’s no expectation that I’ll have to show him how to play…we’ll leave that to the professionals.

I’ve played baseball and football.  I’m terrible. TERRIBLE!

I was that kid out in right right roving right field who was picking dandelions, bored out of his mind.  When we were told we couldn’t taunt the other team, I really had no other role.  I played right field for a reason.  You know how many balls came to right field in little league?

Zero. None.

Unless you got that errant roller, and then it was just a matter of running to the ball already on the ground. I had zero talent.

And football?  I played fine for a kid who wasn’t big or fast or coordinated.  Which means I stunk.  I loved playing, I just stunk. I was great on the sidelines…which made me realize I should just join the band because at least they got to do something during the game.

So I did.  I figured trading one uniform for another isn’t so hard.  Plus, band headgear was so much easier to wear…

What’s that?  Basketball?  Why isn’t basketball on the list?

To be honest, basketball doesn’t do it for me.  I played that more than any other sport and I made one basket in four years of playing.

That’s a quarter of a basket per year, if you’re keeping track. Which is about as often as I got to actually play, anyway.

The only thing I was good at in basketball was fouling.  Which is why my parents stuck me in karate class.

I was good at karate. He can do that, too, if he wants.  But karate isn’t that fun to watch.

And really, it’s all about me.

So, hockey it is.  Now lace up while your mom and I grab a seat in this temperature controlled rink.

Two Main Things I Learned about the Dude I Ran Next To Last Night (and One Thing I Learned About His Friend)

I went on a short run last night.index

It was short because I haven’t been running much.  Needless to say, my elbows sweated a lot last night.

The treadmill I chose had no one running to my left, but did have someone on it to my right.  I usually try to go for the totally open treads, but this was the best I could do at 5:30pm on a Tuesday.

As I got on the ‘mill and was about to put my headphones in, I heard the guy next to me start talking to the person on his right.  It was at that point that I knew I wouldn’t be putting my headphones in; this was going to be entertaining.

So, I learned two main things about the man next to me last night (along with one thing about his friend).

Let’s start with his friend.

I learned last night that his friend is his “dog.”  I know this because he constantly called him that.  I wouldn’t have thought this strange, actually, except that the man he kept calling his “dog” was an overweight, late-sixties, white guy.  Not the person I’d stereotypically consider someone would address as “dog.”

But, there it is; he was this other guy’s “dog.”

The first thing I learned about the guy running next to me is that he originally came for Puerto Rico.  Born, raised, still has family there.

When he goes back home to Puerto Rico he stays at his brother’s house.  His brother lives near the beach (which, since PR is an island, is not as impressive as the man wanted it to sound).

He also weighs 158 lbs.  I know this because he was telling his dog how he had just weighed himself.  Actually, he made it into a game that was fun for almost no one.

“Guess how much I weigh, dog.” (Silence)  “No, guess.”

His dog was reluctant to guess.  Guys, by and large, don’t like this game.  It’s not that we don’t want to get it wrong or are afraid of offending, it’s mostly that we just don’t care.  The relative mass of the person next to me is only important if I’m trying to orbit them.

His dog didn’t answer, so he offered an unprompted response. \

“158 lbs, dog.  Pretty good.  I mean, I was wearing my shorts and shoes when I weighed, so I’m probably about 10 pounds less than that, you know what I’m saying?”

Well, perhaps if he had jumped in the pool and then weighed himself that would be kind of true, but his mesh shorts and running shoes weren’t adding multiple pounds to his weight.  This, though, is where I learned the second thing about our friend: he is extremely concerned that the people he talks to are not clear on the exact meaning of his words.

I know this because he followed up every statement with, “You know what I’m saying?”

Another example from the conversation, “I lose weight when I go to Puerto Rico, you know what I’m saying dog?”

My response would have been, “Well, on the surface I think I do, but since you followed it up with a phrase inquiring if I need clarification I’m afraid I might.  Can you present your statement in a different way that might help me understand?”

His dog’s response was silence.

So he followed up again with more information about his island weight loss secret.

“It’s ’cause it’s effing hot down there, you know dog?  I’m standing for the bus, I’m sweating.  I’m shopping at the market, I’m sweating.  Puerto Rico is effing hot, you know what I’m saying, dog?”

Because of my basic grasp of world geography, I did know what he was saying.  PR’s proximity to the equator makes it’ effing hot.

“And it’s ’cause I run 17 miles on the sand, dog, you know what I’m saying?  17 miles.”

I tried to run on the sand once and quickly changed my mind and went for a swim.  If we were meant to run on sand they’d make running tracks out of loose sand.  We’re not meant to run on sand.

Or run in general.

It was at this point that I looked over at his treadmill and saw that he had gone 3.4 miles and looked like he might pass out soon.  Perhaps he hadn’t been to PR in a while as his 17 mile sand regiment didn’t seem to be helping him on the treadmill.

Finally his friend spoke up, “Sand running is hard.”

“You said it, dog, you know what I mean? This running sucks, too, dog.  You know?”

And then, silence.

Yes.  Yes I do.


Why If I were a Rower I’d be a Coxswain and My Hand Smells Like “Old Dude”

Was at the gym this past Monday.theperfumespot_2270_591010

Ran for a bit.  Did that obnoxious stair climber for a bit.

…I hate the stair climber with a passion that rivals my love for peanut butter.  And I love me some peanut butter.  Hence why I have to use the stair climber.

Anyway, I suddenly get the bright idea to go and use the single rowing machine in the whole place.  It’s tucked at the end of some treadmills directly below the TV that only shows Fox News.

I sit down and begin to strap my feet into the harnesses and assess my position.

Those foot harnesses, B-T-W, are from designs straight out of the movie Saw.  I mean, getting my feet in them was hard.  But to get them out I thought I was going to need a hacksaw.  The heel bone’s connected to the ankle bone, but the ankle bone almost became dislodged from the leg bone as I tried to wriggle my leg outta that torture trap.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m uncertain about how to row successfully.  Is it with the legs?  The arms?  The back?

I’m sure I appeared as if I was trying to start a lawnmower sitting down as I did it.  And that little seat didn’t seem to ever be in sync with the pulley system there.  It was as if I was either too heavy for the seat and it kept getting stuck, or I just suck.

Probably the latter.

But whether or not I sucked at it, I could definitely feel that my body did not like this workout one bit.  Legs begin to strain.  I felt muscles on the sides of my ribs that haven’t been used in a long time (read: ever). And after running and stair climbing, I was sweating like a dog.

And that was only after 7 minutes.

Yes, I lasted 7 minutes of rowing before I began contemplating hopping off the machine.  It truly is a terrible, terrible machine.

I eeked out my 10 minutes on it, and after unhinging my ankles from my legs, removed my carcass from the squatty rower of death. For a machine so low to the ground it certainly causes a lot of damage to your ego.

As I got up to grab the complimentary “wet nap of health” that will prevent other people from mixing my sweat with theirs, I noticed that someone was waiting in line behind the machine to use it when I was through.  Yeah…someone watched me and then voluntarily took my place.

Truly, if I joined the rowing team, I’d sign up to be the coxswain.

And upon hearing that I was too tall and big to be the coxswain, I’d join the drinking team that supported the rowing team from the stands.

Once in the locker room I stopped just inside the door to fill up my water bottle.  I had finished it off between the rowing machine and the door, and hoped to finish off another bottle between the door and the locker.

I was half way through filling when all of a sudden I heard a crash from the end of one of the locker rows.

I knew exactly what it was.

Some old dude (said with much respect to my older readers…dad) had dropped his cologne on the hard tile and it had shattered into a million pieces.

So, quick question for all of you out there.  What happens when the economy size English Leather cologne breaks and fills the men’s locker room with its pungent fragrance?

You guessed it. Vomiting ensues.

No, seriously.  It was the smelliest smell I’ve ever smelled.

Being the nice dude that I am I first, in no uncertain terms, demanded that old dude put on his flip flops before taking another step.  Because if there’s one thing I wasn’t doing it was digging glass out of old-dude-in-his-boxer’s feet.

Then I began picking up the big shards.  And as I did, I covered my little paws in English Leather.  I mean, my hand stunk to high heaven.  And sure enough I cut myself on one of those shards, which made me imagine that my blood now smelled like English Leather and I would sweat English Leather for days and I would be “that guy” even more than I already am “that guy” in so many other ways…

Nightmare city.

As I picked up the big shards, the old dude went and grabbed the stock of paper towels and began mopping up the aromatic liquid.  As it plopped into the trash can I resolved myself to give it at least a full 48 hours before I returned.  That whole place was going to stink for a while.

And that smell?  I still smell it.  It’s like it’s stuck in my nasal cavity and making a home up there.  The hand that did the dirty work still has traces on it.  It’s radioactive, I tell you.  My nose’s Geiger counter still clicks whenever I rub my eyes.

So, we all learned some lessons today.  First: rowing blows.  If you can’t be a coxswain just stick to land sports.

Secondly: English Leather should not come in economy size bottles, should not be brought into locker rooms, and should be investigated for toxicity.

I mean, I get that old dudes have to have a smell that is just theirs.  But can’t tobacco and peppermint do?

Things I Observed Today at the Gym (and Responses)

I went back to the gym.

Wear this thing if you like passing out quickly.

Here is a short list of things I observed:

-A sweaty dude smelling his armpits after he got off the treadmill.  His face indicated that they were, in fact, gross.

-A dude in the locker room smelling his socks after a workout.  It remains to be seen if he will reuse those socks…but I’m hoping not.

-A dude in the sauna wearing socks.  You read that correctly.  In the sauna.  See, unless you’re wearing a whole “sauna suit” there is no good reason to have socks on.  Because it just stinks up the place.

-There was a skinny dude trying to take off skinny jeans, and I would liken it to watching a sausage un-case itself.  It took a lot of effort, and for some reason I could not look away.  Fascinating.

-I saw a woman try to drink from her open-mouthed water bottle while running.  This does not work.  She ended up sloshing water all over herself…but, to her credit, she kept running as if she meant to do that, even as she continued to cough and choke.

-Half of the TV’s at the Y were on late-night cop/investigator serials.  The other half were on Fox News.  A conundrum occurred in my mind as I pondered whether to watch the made-up drama or the cop/investigator serials.

Here is a short list of things I thought (in order of response to each observation):



-“You can do it, dude!  Try a shoe-horn around your bent knee…”

-“Nice effort.”


Ah, Monday’s at the Y…you never disappoint, sometimes.

I’ve Got the Protein Shakes

Protein shakes taste terrible.

They do; there’s no two-ways about it.

I didn’t realize what a craze this whole protein shake thing was until just this past week.  It seems with the New Year everyone has decided to introduce vomit shakes into their diet plans, and they all walk around the gym shaking those stupid special-made thermoses whose contents comes in colors that can best be described as “unappetizing.”

First off, I’m suspicious of any powder that turns into a drink unless it is accompanied by a fat red guy and comes in flavors like “Ecto-Cooler.”  Kool-aid is the only acceptable powder drink.  Game, set, match.  No more games.

Secondly, though, you know you have to be suspicious of this stuff when the special thermoses that come with the shakes have a filter on the spout, and sometimes include an “agitator” in the body to break up chunks.

Yes, that’s right, the filter and agitator prevent you from drinking chunks.

Now, call me stupid, but I’m pretty sure the only liquid I know that should have chunks is commonly called “soup,” and you normally don’t drink that from a thermos.  And if you do drink it from a thermos, it had better be a Campbell’s thermos with two round, snot-nosed kids on the front assuring you that it is “Mmmm-mmmm good.”

And that stuff in your thermos, that protein shake?  It is not “Mmmm-mmmm good.”  That is, of course, unless “mmmm-mmmm” is now considered a vomit noise.

And don’t even try to tell me what “flavor” it is.  Protein shakes only come in one flavor: dumpy.  Sure, it can be cherry-dumpy, or banana-dumpy, or even the chunky chocolate-dumpy.  But it’s all dumpy.

Please tell me how they come up with these flavors.  Because it’s all relative.  I mean, relative to a real strawberry, a strawberry protein shake tastes like dog crap.  And relative to dog crap, I imagine it’d taste like crap from a dog who ate strawberries a few days ago.  Sure, when compared to dirt a banana flavored protein shake might taste more like banana…but that does my stomach no good.  Especially when my stomach is already mad at me for the insane amount of time I spent planking.  In fact, I think I spend more time planking now, just so I can delay the inevitable vomit I’ll have to swallow in making one of those drinks.

Really, you should be suspicious of any drink whose container eventually smells like old feet after so many uses, even when you’ve washed it regularly.  That means something is off.

I was getting my water (water, cause it’s healthy) out of my locker when the guy next to me opened up his hell-holder (thermos) to release the most putrid smell I’ve ever smelled as he poured powder in the bottom.

“What flavor is that?” I asked in between gags.

“Dreamsicle,” he responded.  He was sitting down, obviously nauseated by the smell of his own concoction.

The only thing that smell made me dream about was diarrhea.  And I’m sure that dream became a reality for that poor young man with the stinky thermos.

Suffice to say, I will not be jumping on the protein shake bandwagon.  Thinking about it gives me the shakes.

I’ll stick with water, thank you.  And eggnog when it’s in season.


…and beer, any season.