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June 30, 2005

Calling all enthusiasts

Francis has blogged at length about the incredibly full day we had last Saturday, so I'm not going to repeat all the details he laid out. I'm more interested in getting at two specific experiences from the weekend that were thrilling at the time and have continued to resonate for me.

Saturday morning we both ran the Front Runners New York Lesbian and Gay Pride Run, a 5-mile race. That makes it sound as though Francis and I ran it together, though, and that's not true; our running paces are very different (he runs around an 8-minute mile; in Prospect Park I'm running 11-minute miles) and it would be silly for us to try to stay together. We did hang out until it was time to line up, then we wished each other a good run and we went to our starting places.

I ran well. I didn't walk at all until after I'd run two miles, and then when I walked it was just to bring down my pulse and calm my breathing a bit, so I could go back out a little more relaxed. My walks weren't long, and I recovered well from them and went back into running. I ended up finishing strong, running the last mile without walking at all, and ran through the finish to see Francis waiting for me, all smiles. I'd seen people along the race route with rainbow popsicles for the last quarter-mile or so, and I was pretty damned eager to get one. Gay-themed and yummy; what more could you want from a post-race treat?

Here's what I loved about the run: it was totally absorbing. More so than any of my actual training runs, I suppose partly because there was a real impetus to finish, partly because of having so many other people around. If I'd been made to predict before running my first race, I'd have imagined that having other runners on the course would be distracting, but back at my end of the pack it's not too crowded, and instead of providing a distraction, the runners provide me with this happy sense that we're all in it together, all us weirdos with our bib numbers and our running shoes, and I like having them there. It's the same camaraderie I feel from seeing folks out in Prospect Park, but heightened.

I felt terrifically aware of both my surroundings and my body. It was only the second time I'd run in Central Park, and only the second time I'd run five miles, and the newness of both things kept my mind enjoyably engaged. I did have one sort of weird spot in the middle, emotionally, where the distance started to seem a little long, and that's when I said to myself, "Wow, the marathon is over five times as long as this, are you really doing this?" I solved the emotional problem by telling myself that yes, in fact, I did seem to be doing this, and could I kindly shut the fuck up? Magically, I did shut the fuck up, and that was the end of the negative talk. The rest of the race was gorgeous. Taxing, sweaty, perfectly wonderful. I love how there are NYRR people at various points who shout bits of encouragement; I was wearing a distinctive t-shirt (a tank that says "runs like a girl" that I bought from marmalade.ca's Cafe Press site) and I have purple hair, so I would often get specific words of praise. That rocks! I had heard this was a good plan, and I will certainly do something special when I run the marathon in November.


So, as I was saying about the race, I was thrilled by how completely involving the experience was. That would have been satisfying enough, but then I went on to have another such experience, in a completely different context, the very next day.

I had been looking forward to the Ted Leo concert for weeks. It was at Irving Plaza, not a venue I have a lot of love for, but Francis and I managed to score standing space in the balcony right behind the sound guys, facing the center of the stage, so while we weren't near the stage, we had a perfect view, totally unobstructed. The first opening act was kind of eh (distressingly loud math rock); the second opening act I liked quite well, Francis agreed, and we ended up getting a CD of theirs. (That second band is Radio 4; they've toured with Ted Leo before, and they played a great, energetic set, full of nifty percussion and keyboards, and sounding just enough but not too much like Franz Ferdinand or the Futureheads.)

Then Ted Leo went on. I loved the show we saw last year at the Bowery Ballroom, and being neurotic, I had fretted that I somehow wouldn't be as transported by this one. Happily, I was wrong. It was still just Ted, his bass player (Dave Lerner), and his drummer (Chris Wilson). They are the tightest rock combo I think I have ever seen. Their songs, on the CDs, are incredibly fast, and then they come out and play them live, like, 10-15% faster. It's astonishing. It's a little hard to describe the music, but you can just go over to Ted Leo's website, click on "audio" and listen to some stuff for yourself. I suggest "Me and Mia," "Bleeding Powers," and "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone" for starters, but all the songs he's got posted are great; you might try "Loyal to My Sorrowful Country" to start getting a sense of how this guy both rocks and is writing thoughtful, interesting, political lyrics.

The concert itself captivated me. It's so hard, in the midst of a crazy, busy, overfull life, to stop multitasking and to just be someplace. To just experience the thing I am experiencing, and to not be thinking about the next thing or remembering the last thing: to be in the moment. That concert was a series of moments; being present for them was, most emphatically, not a problem. Just listening to recorded rock music can be exciting, of course, on headphones, or on speakers at home, or even in a club. But there's nothing like a live show by performers who are on; part of the thrill is that they themselves seem to be in a kind of flow state while they're performing; another observation I've made over the years is that performing so intensely is an extremely vulnerable thing for someone to get up and do, and doing it well forges an incredible connection with the audience. Other aspects of a great show are "simply" sensory—it's dark, and crowded, and the music is much louder than you could ever play it at home, and if the venue's competent the sound's sharp and the lighting on the band's interesting.

All those things I just described were true for the first band, whose music I didn't enjoy, and clearly they weren't enough to make up for music I didn't like; they were also true for the second band, whose music I enjoyed fairly well, and I could tell that it gave them a bit of a boost (in my books, at least). Then Ted and the guys came out, and the effect was overwhelming.

I'd be happy to watch and listen to Ted Leo play acoustic in a church basement; I've seen a video of him doing just that, and it was great stuff. He clearly doesn't need a particular setting to produce good music, and I don't need to be in one to appreciate it. Sunday night at Irving Plaza, though, I had one of my very favorite concert experiences ever. I was just there, hearing the music, watching the drummer nail every fucking beat, singing along sometimes, and not sometimes, and utterly intent on the show. I didn't want to be anywhere else but right there in that square foot of space for that length of time, and I can't think of any better definition of contentment.

Posted by Rose at 11:54 PM | Comments (1)

June 24, 2005

Done is good, but done well is so much fucking better

I ran five miles for the first time on Tuesday! My strategy of not going out too fast to start, and incorporating a little walking early on (roughly at mile intervals, although in practice it was just when it felt right) worked out pretty well, and I ran the five miles in just a hair under 60 minutes, 59:40, and I was well pleased with myself.

I'll be running five miles again tomorrow, in the Front Runners New York Lesbian and Gay Pride Run, so I decided that I should taper my mileage in order to run well on Saturday. I feel a bit silly, since my mileage is so low, but in fact, my experience over the last few days has me thinking that there's something to this theory of tapering!

I didn't run Wednesday morning, and Wednesday evening, as I was walking home from the train station, I had a sensation in my legs that I've only had a couple of times before, always when my conditioning was going well. I could feel my legs eager to run. It's a kind of thrilling feeling, really. Like I've started a process that my body intends to continue, but which isn't entirely volitional. Spooky.

Thursday morning I ran once around the park, 3.35 miles, and tried to take it easy, but I still came in at 37 minutes. The niftiest thing about the run on Thursday was that it seemed short! I was running clockwise, and as I cleared the Oriental Pavillion, I thought, "Wow, am I really almost done?" Yep. I wouldn't say I was disappointed at not getting to run more that morning, but I certainly could have run more, and that was enlightening.

This morning I ran two miles. Two miles! I dilly-dallied getting out the door; it seemed funny getting dressed out to only run two miles. I stretched before and after, and took the run seriously, and I had a wonderful time. I was tempted to try to run fast, to see just how fast I could go, but I was able to remember that the point was to NOT spend all my energy, but to BANK my energy, and stretch, and be loose. It was all good.

I'm a little peeved that the cool, dry, astonishingly lovely weather we've been having is going to disappear just in time for me to run in Central Park, but I'll try not to develop a complex about it. Francis is running, too! It's his first race, and I'm sure he'll get all bloggy about it.

This weekend we've also got the Mermaid Parade, and the New Pornographers concert in Prospect Park, and a friend's shindig on Sunday, and then the Ted Leo show at Irving Plaza on Sunday night. Yay! w00t! I promise, right here in pixels, that I will not attempt to run away with Ted Leo after the show on Sunday. I promise. Unless he begs. (^_^)

Posted by Rose at 07:19 PM | Comments (1)

June 20, 2005

My heart going boom boom boom

Wow, what a great run this morning! A great run yesterday morning, too! Each time I just went once around Prospect Park, but the weather has been terrific, and I'm feeling fabulous.

This morning I went out thinking I'd run five miles. This is unprecedented. Because of this, I tried to keep in mind that I should save some energy. Things didn't quite work out the way I planned, but I can't say that I'm particularly upset about it.

Today I worked a little on form, and it was incredibly fun. I kept my arms low and I ran tall and loose and easy, and it really made a difference. I'd see someone pushing a stroller towards me, and I'd give the baby a grin, I felt so good. Also, I've learned to love hills, both up and down—I love feeling my legs working hard when I go up them, and I love getting to cruise a little as I go down. When I speed up coming down a hill, I think to myself, "This is what it would be like to be fast!"

I had to force myself to walk a little here and there, because I knew I wanted to go long today, and I wanted to keep some run in my legs. I was a little sad each time I did it, but I felt mature and responsible. Even so, as I came around towards the Oriental Pavillion, and then towards the Peristyle (I was running clockwise this morning) my legs were feeling somewhat tired. That seemed odd, but I didn't pay it a lot of attention. Then I came in to Park Circle at the lower end of the park, and I checked my time: 37:10! That was with a ton of walking, when really I'd wanted to run straight through! Wow! Yay!

I thought about it for just a moment, and then I made a truly responsible decision: I went home. I'll run long tomorrow, and I'll try to do a better job pacing myself. I'm excited about my fast run, though. Eleven minute miles, including walking breaks! Zoom!

Posted by Rose at 07:50 PM | Comments (2)

June 19, 2005

Daddy, you been on my mind

My parents used to send me cards for holidays that really got on my nerves. I got one for every birthday and Christmas, and then usually for lesser holidays, like Easter, and Valentine's Day, and they even sometimes sent an out-of-the-blue one. What annoyed me about the cards was that they were so unlike me, and so unlike the relationship I'd had with my parents over the years. So Hallmark. You know the kind I mean. Sometimes rhymed, sometimes free verse, always sappy. I suspected that my mother was buying these and getting my dad to send them; there was never anything written in them but, "Love, Mama and Daddy," in my father's handwriting.

That was what I suspected until my father died. I haven't gotten a single card since. Reframing the whole thing makes it almost impossibly affecting. These cards weren't expressions of my mother's overblown and somewhat scattershot sentimentality, they were my father's attempt to say the sorts of things he was never any good at saying out loud. Things like, "I was thinking about you," and "You've turned out okay."

I wish I could send him a father's day card.

Posted by Rose at 11:34 PM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2005

For your sake I hope heaven and hell are really there, but I wouldn't hold my breath

When I went down to Louisiana in April, the first thing my mom and I did was find a place selling boiled crawfish. I bought a few pounds, got some cold beer, and headed home to feast. What I thought was going to be a relaxing first evening with my mom didn't turn out so well, unfortunately. Within two hours of my landing at Ryan Field, I found myself facing my mother asking me whether I believed in God.

Before leaving on the trip I had decided that I would handle any hard conversations that came up in as straightforward and honest and loving a fashion as I could possibly manage. I figured, look: I'm not a kid; my mom's not getting any younger, and she's fucking got CANCER; now is not a time for euphemisms and fibbing and talking around the corners of things. It was easier to take this position in my Brooklyn apartment than it was on my mom's couch in Gonzales.


"Do you believe in God?"
"Well, um, Mama, um. No. No, I don't."
"Aiiigh. You.... You don't believe in God?"
I sipped my beer and ate a couple more crawfish before I answered, and I pitched my voice as comfortingly as I could, and I said something like, "Well, no, but I try very hard to be a good person, Mama."

My mom didn't waste any time at all getting to the heart of what pained her most about my atheism. Her indictment of me was the most poignant thing anyone could possibly have scripted for this moment: "This means you haven't been praying for me!"

Nausea flooded over me as I thought, simply, "I suck." Then I remembered that I had prayed for her, the day I found out she had cancer, but I can't imagine my prayer would have consoled her any, as it began, "Look, I don't believe in you, but my mom does, so if you're there, here's the thing." I could hardly offer that prayer to her as prove of my belief in her God. I was suddenly inspired, though, to say something I am still pretty pleased with.

I apologized to her, implicitly admitting that yes, she was right, I had not been praying for her, although I explained that she hadn't been out of my thoughts since I'd found out about the diagnosis. I added, though, that I knew she had all of her friends, and all of her church congregation, all praying for her, and that I knew they were good people, and that while they believed in God, I believed in them.

That statement gets right to the heart of my own cobbled-together house-brand philosophy. I think it's better to have a lot of people care about you than it is to shout wishes down a well; I know which of those ideas gives me more comfort, certainly.

Unfortunately, my mom didn't hear what I said as being an expression of my personal philosophy. She heard it as the brandished excuse of a lazy heathen. When she fought with me later that week, she threw what I'd said back at me. A version of it, anyway. She claimed I'd said, "You don' need me prayin' for you! You got a lotta other people prayin' for you!"

Fucked. I am so fucked. I don't think she's ever going to hear where I'm coming from on this one. At least she's dropped it for the last few weeks, having decided that she's got more pressing things to deal with than the matter of my eternal damnation.

Posted by Rose at 04:14 PM | Comments (1)

June 16, 2005

I chase my memories alone down through my dreams

It's been a hell of a month, y'all. Anybody still visiting? I'm surely sorry I haven't been posting; it'll take a bit of explaining to even get across how it happened that I've just gone quiet for weeks and weeks.

It wasn't writer's block, not in the normal sense. There were things I meant to write about, that I wanted to write about. Some of those were things I ended up scrawling in my little Moleskine as I rode the train and which aren't actually fit for other people to read, though. Some of the things I sat down to write at the computer ended up being so lengthy and far-ranging and emotional that they were becoming essays more than blog entries, and I just couldn't wrestle them into a more concise format. The biggest problem over the last few weeks, though, has been that I've been overwhelmed. Before I became overwhelmed I hadn't thought of myself as being in a precarious state, but looking back it seems kind of obvious. The addition of some mom-induced anxiety overbalanced me, and I just fell over into a quivering pile of jumpy, irritable, spaced-out insecurity and neurosis.

Well, I took it up as a part-time job, actually. In between I was going to work at Facts on File, and keeping up my running, and doing freelance work, and minding the store, and little bits of everything else. The wretched anxiety was filling up more and more hours of the day, though, so I had to call a halt; a couple of weeks ago I saw a psychiatrist, and she was very helpful. Next week I start seeing the therapist she recommended. I'll get this all straighted out. (I'm not new to the world of helping professionals, so I know the drill. It's actually kind of interesting to have a problem that is so *straightforward*!)

Anyway. That's been the background of the last several weeks. What have some of the details been like? There's been cool shit, I tell you what. I ran Prospect Park for the first time! Twelve minute miles on average, but that included some walking, and it was fucking awesome. I've gone on to keep running the main loop of Prospect Park, and last week I ran the lower loop twice, for a four-mile run. *A four-mile run!* Wow!

On June 5th I ran my first road race, with NYRR. It was a 4.7K race, in honor of their 47th anniversary as a running group. I was slow as hell, as it was the first day of our major heat wave, but I finished, and I was on top of the world. I ran, out in public, with a bib number on my chest, just like a freaking athlete!

I've gotten to do some cooking recently. The supper club I belong to was my baby this month, and I had a meal to feature all the good stuff I brought back from my last trip to Louisiana. I made crawfish etouffee and a chicken and andouille gumbo, and I also served head cheese and some wonderful boudin as appetizers. I had even brought home some pickled quails eggs and some locally smoked beef jerky, and it was all awesome. My friend Mary made delicious bread pudding with bourbon sauce, and my friend Jenny made fabulous pecan praline ice cream, and we had a little taste testing of different bourbons along with our desserts. Oh, that was a fine, fine meal.

I've also been experimenting with putting up liqueurs. So far there is a jar of rhubarb and a jar of strawberry liqueur in the cupboard, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing how I like the results. I became interested last year, and then I read Teresa Nielsen Hayden's lovely blog entry on the topic, and then I saw the site she linked to, and then I've bought a book that Gunther Anderson recommended, and it's just all becoming lots of fun.

As for things that are less fun, well, there's been some of that, too. I've got a lot of work to do with the therapist I'll be seeing, that's for certain. The raw anxiety is calming with the help of the pharmaceutical interventions; I expected that, and it felt appropriate to seek out that help. Now that I'm calmer, I have the opportunity to actually think about what's really upsetting me, and damn, there's some big scary stuff there. The meat of it should get its own entry, since I'd like to address it fully and more thoughtfully, but there are a few aspects I can touch on quickly.

Teaching myself how to interact with my mom through her illness has been a really interesting challenge. I'm learning a lot about myself, and about her, and about how we are very different people, at least in how we face difficulty. I am a person who gathers as much information as possible, and asks every question she can think of, and tries to eke out some semblance of control. My mom just relinquishes control entirely. She dwells in a place of fear and ignorance (real, literal ignorance -- not stupidity, you understand -- actual *choosing to not know things*) that I would find absolutely intolerable. I find it very nearly intolerable just to know that *she* is existing in this place. However, this seems to me to be my chance to learn how to tolerate the intolerable. Her doctors are kind, smart, compassionate people. They are keeping *me* informed, and they are not going to let *her* do (or not do) anything that will harm her. Therefore, her choice to remain personally uniformed, however uncomfortable it makes me, is not harming her, and I need to learn to let go. Can I just tell you that this is easier said than done?

As I deal with my mother's illness, and as I deal with *her* dealing with her illness, I find myself missing my father more and more. I didn't expect this to happen; it never really occurred to me that it might happen until I started noticing it. I'm finding it a little hard to bear some days. Yesterday I had an epiphany; unfortunately, my epiphany has been making me feel like a bit of a bad person. Here goes: if I'd gotten to pick one parent, I'd have picked my father. I think some of my frustration with my mom is because she's not him, which, of course, is not her fault. It's also utterly irrational; he was fifteen years older than her, and had treated his body horribly over the years -- he was lucky to live to 72. So there's no way in hell she was going to die first. It's just, well, sometimes if I'd call and she wasn't home, he and I would have the best talks on the phone. We were getting closer as I was getting older, and some of the stupid, broken, painful crap from when I was younger was getting more distant. And then he had to go and die. He's not here to help with taking care of my difficult, frustrating mom (who's the woman *he chose*, not a woman I'd have chosen), and he's not here to talk to me when I want to talk to him, and dammit it all to hell, I'm 33 years old and I want my damn Daddy.

Posted by Rose at 12:20 PM | Comments (3)