Sunday, October 12, 2014

First karate tourney

When the judge yells, “Go,” I use my 11 inch height advantage to sting Gary with a left jab. Yes, that’s correct, 11 inches. The tale of the tape puts Gary at 5 foot 2 and 180 pounds. I am 6 foot 1 and have a bit more than 100 pounds on him. But, he does have a very long beard.

I walk back to my line feeling a bit ashamed that I used my huge reach advantage to score that point. Well, I thought it was a point until the judge indicated he didn’t see my gloved fist pop Gary in the forehead - the score is still tied at zero.

On our second clash, Gary kicks me in the groin (generally not legal nor encouraged) right before I punch him in the ribs. The judges debate whether to give Gary one point or two before deciding on one. 1-0 Gary.

I hesitate a bit on the next clash, not sure what I have to do to score a point on Gary while at the same time protecting the family jewels. He uses this opportunity to throw a short kick - I move out of the way and tag him with a short jab to the jaw. 1-1.

On the next clash, I chase into the corner Gary, and he catches me with a kick as he is falling away from me. 3-1 Gary.

Gary kicks me in the groin again. As I am chasing him down, the judge decides there should be a break, right as I am popping Gary with a short right hand which sends him to the canvas. No point. Still 3-1 Gary.

On the next clash, I back Gary up with a thrust kick before my second thrust kick sends him to the canvas. Point Gary. 4-1

Seemingly able to kick Gary at will, I tag Gary with an ugly combo roundhouse kick. As Gary does not get within 3 feet of me, the judges decide I may have earned these two points. 4-3 Gary.

Feeling confident, I attempt a spinning wheel kick which missed by a few inches but leaves me in perfect position to drill Gary with a left jab, knocking his helmet nearly completely off and sending him wobbling. No point.

On the next point, I decide to go back to the basics and just stick Gary in the face with a left jab. Gary goes down hard and some piece of his equipment falls off, which he angrily tosses aside. The judge tells me that because Gary chose to wear a helmet without a facemask, I cannot hit him in the face. But, as I am wearing a facemask, he can hit me in the face. No point, but that blow got Gary ticked off.

At this point, I was pretty perplexed about what move to attempt. As I don’t have very good balance my kicking arsenal is limited, so my attack is usually focused around left jabs to the face, which are now illegal. So, I go at Gary with a weak thrust kick - he blocks it and counters with a nice right hand toward my chest. I largely block his punch so no point is given. I would have given Gary the point - it was a great counter attack.

On the final clash of the match, Gary stays aggressive and comes at me with a low kick, which I block. As he loads up to throw a haymaker to the outside of my shoulder, I swat him in the side of the helmet, carrying my blow into his face. He wobbles away holding his eye. No point.

2 minutes is up and the match is over. Gary wins 4-3.

A couple hours later, I am catching some of the other action at the tournament and see Gary in the distance. I walk over to him and congratulate him on his victory. It turns out that he is from Missouri. He has been whooping up on his competition down there, so he joined some members from his gym on a 10 hour bus ride to Minnesota for this tournament. I ask if he brought any family with him, and he shook his head, saying he could not afford it. We shake hands again, snap a quick picture, and then  go our separate ways.

As I reflect back, I’m certainly not satisfied with how the fight was judged. From an obviously biased perspective I felt like I should have won somewhere between 7-3 and 11-3. However, I take two lessons away from the experience. First, I have a lot of improving to do when it comes to clean technique and striking. If my form was better, I probably would have received more points.

Also, I can’t help but be happy for Gary. I’ve had plenty of moments in the sun, but something tells me Gary has not. He can go home with his head held high and tell him family and friends how he whooped up on a big boy from Minnesota. So, good for you, Gary. I look forward to a rematch next year - any chance you could wear a helmet that has a facemask?

Here is the video (the left jab that put Gary down and got me the warning was not taped):

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Operation: Creature Preservation - Day 3

One of the things I love about writing is that it causes reflection. I went to bed last night feeling somewhat unnecessary, kind of like a caretaker more than a head-of-household. But the act of putting my feelings on paper, especially in a public venue, was rather therapeutic.

So, when Tito woke me up this morning, two minutes before my alarm was to sound, I had a different energy about me. I went downstairs and engaged with him during his morning routine. I can’t even recall what we discussed, but I recall spending good time with him. And when I woke Bitsy up a short while later, I repeated the routine. I just hung out and chatted with her.

I know my mom reads my blog, so I will just give her a quick shout out and say that I remember how you would get up each morning with me and I remember feeling like I wasn’t alone as I stared the day. And I really appreciated it.

After the kids departed, I went through the rest of the routine…dog…cats…chickens. But I chatted with the creatures during this process, and they appeared pleased. Well actually, Cash was the only one who seemed pleased. Cats never really seem much of anything, and chickens don’t have much in the way of facial expression. But, I had tried. So when I curled back into my warm bed an hour and a half after rising, I fell back asleep with a satisfaction.

After yesterday’s ten-snooze debacle, I made real progress today – arising after only three snoozes. I am about to enter my busiest time of the year, so the ability to just lay around at times is certainly satisfying.

Upon arising, I saw my jeans on the floor and had a decision to make. Put them on and do the right thing, or remain in shorts and take the easy way out. It was perhaps the reflection of trying to add value that gave me a nudge, and the jeans went on. This was important as this meant that Cash and I would be going for a walk.

We walked for a good half hour, much better than the last walk I gave him which was only fifteen minutes long. “Why even bother?” may have been the question I received upon returning that day. After our walk, Cash and I went into the backyard to find three eggs. I can see why Kacey enjoys the chickens, as you never know how many eggs you are going to find. Eggs are kind of like presents, and presents remind me of Christmas - except that with chickens, every day of the year is December 25th.

I fetched the mail (three days’ worth I believe), and found a package. This is not abnormal as Kacey frequently receives packages (or “prizes” as she likes to call them). But this prize was different – it was addressed to me. I opened the package and found a gift from heaven – 2 packages of K-Cups (34 in all) for my office coffee maker! And accompanying the K-Cups was note from a freshman student.

His note was a simple thank you for all I had done for him this past fall. Interestingly enough, this student was probably my favorite of the 95 students I taught this fall, long before he gave me this gift. So to receive a gift of appreciation from him was truly satisfying. Plus, there was a time this fall when my Keurig was broken and I taught some caffeine-free classes – and it showed, badly. Perhaps he is also looking out for my future students.

On my drive out to my consulting client, I called Kacey. She answered the phone with excitement, like she was actually happy to hear from me. And I felt loved, and I felt important. And when I feel like that, I feel as if I can conquer the world. Well, I may not have conquered the world, but I conquered some German and Italian tax issues and billed a few hours.

After back to back dinners of chicken wings, I decided to vary it up a bit and provide my children with a balanced meal of meatloaf, potatoes, and green beans. And when I say “provide,” I mean that I accepted my mom’s invitation to join them for dinner.

After dinner, I leisurely enjoyed a glass of Alexander Valley Cab and some good conversation with my parents. A bit too late, I summoned the children to head for home.

I arrived home to some restless creatures. The cats were meowing at me, being that it was three hours past dinnertime. And Cash was sitting patiently next to his empty food dish. Feeling a bit guilty, I may have given him a bit more than extra.

We were out of duck-based cat food so I risked it and gave the cats the chicken-based cat food. Within thirty minutes, DollyMama was hacking up a lung. And I made a plan to venture out to a pet store tomorrow for more of the pricey duck-based food. While I am not sure I like our cats enough to spend significantly more cash on their food, it does not seem right to effectively poison them. So for now, expensive cat food it will be, and I will hound Kacey to whip up a less expensive recipe herself.

As Tito diligently completed his homework, Cash and I went outside to round up the chickens, freshen their water, and food, and stuff them in their coop. They are struggling less when I touch them and pick them up – perhaps they are even getting used to me. Or perhaps they were just tired.

When I got back inside and plopped down on my easy chair, I felt better than at the same time the day before. For today, I felt as if I added value. That doesn’t mean I am missing Kacey any less, it just means I am embracing her absence a bit more as an opportunity.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Operation: Creature Preservation - Day 2

For quite some time, I have been unsuccessfully trying to put my finger on “it.” The “it” is referring to what our home is missing when Kacey is not here. Tonight, as I reflect on the day’s events, I think I have identified “it.” When Kacey is in charge of the house, she “adds value,” as one would say in the business world. But when I am in charge, we simply punch the clock.

Take today for example. I “worked” until the wee hours of the morning last night, and was slightly disheartened when Tito woke me up at 6:38am with his man-child voice barking, “Get up.” I still had seven minutes to sleep before my alarm was to sound at a quarter ‘til seven, and honestly felt robbed of those seven minutes. I lumbered downstairs to basically watch Tito make his own breakfast, make his own lunch, and walk out our door toward his school bus. I really did nothing of any value in that time other than comb his hair.

I walked with him down the driveway to our street and asked if he wanted me to walk him to his bus stop. Predictably, my twelve year old son said, “No, I’ll be alright.” So, I stood at the end of our driveway and watched as he walked down to the end of the street. I was jacket-less, and it was fifteen below zero, but I didn’t mind. I knew that the number of times I would get to do that are limited.

When his bus pulled away, I re-entered my abode and fed Cash. As for the cats, they didn’t even pay attention to me when I dumped their $6 per pound duck food on a fresh plate. They almost seemed disenchanted with my existence. “Screw ‘em,” I thought to myself, and Cash and I went out to the chicken coop. I opened the coop, freshened the water and food, looked for eggs (none), and retreated into the warmth of my house.

Never haven fully woken up, I found it easy to fall asleep on my easy chair for twenty minutes. I arose to the sound of my cell-phone alarm and went upstairs to wake up Bisty - fortunately, she didn’t even fight it. She got herself ready while I mindlessly watched You Tube videos in my office – at least they were keeping me awake. At one point Bitsy called up to me and said, “Mom usually is down here with me during this part.” I obliged and asked if Kacey did anything special and she said, “I don’t know. She just kind of hangs out and talks with me.” Value added.

When it was time to drive her to school, I decided to take Cash with to get him out of the house. I opened the garage door, expecting that he would simply hang out by my car and wait for me to open the door. That expectation was foiled, however, when he spied a cat on our street. Collar-less, he bolted. And not surprisingly, wouldn’t obey my pleas to return.

For a moment, I imagined losing him forever, and I imagined Kacey beating me over the head with her largest mixing bowl. But then, the cat must have jumped a fence, as Cash came running back, and we got Bitsy to school right on time.

Now, I am known for napping. It wasn’t always that way. But a hip injury diagnosed as “osteitis pubis” shelved me for nearly nine months last year, and my physical condition went to pot. I also seem to have developed sleep apnea, and need to act on my doctor’s referral for a sleep study. So, after only resting for about four hours the night before, it is probably understandable that I laid down for a nap, and maybe even understandable that I set my alarm (my third of the day), for a full 2 ½ hours later. Well, what is not understandable is that my alarm sounded and I snoozed it TEN times – for a total of 90 minutes.

Horrified at my slothfulness, I sprung into action and I went downstairs, heated up some of yesterday’s coffee, and did some consulting work. Before long, I decided to check for eggs, and remembered how Kacey told me, “If the chicken is just sitting there, lift it up because it is probably just sitting on its egg.” I did so, no egg was present, and the chicken scurried away. I felt as if I had just violated the chicken’s privacy, and wondered if this would constitute an “intimate” moment between the two of us. I did find two other eggs, one of which was frozen. As I said in yesterday’s blog, Kacey suggested that I scramble any frozen eggs and give them to the chickens - to which I said, “Whatever.”

So, after scrambling the frozen egg (see what I did there?), I arranged for a play date for Cash with his best friend Freddy. And by “arranged,” I mean that Freddy’s owner called me and said,”I am coming to get Cash, have him ready in ten minutes.”

A while later, I picked up Bitsy from school. Dinner consisted of left-over chicken wings and Chinese food, much to the delight of the children. At church, I actually had a value-added moment and led my small group of rowdy twelve year old boys in a game of mini-marshmallow dodge-ball. Effort was expended, teamwork and strategic skills were developed, and nothing got broken. Some marshmallow may have got stuck in the carpet, but I will throw an extra few bucks in the offering plate this Sunday with a note to pass it along to our church’s custodial staff.

When we got home, I tended to the chickens and promptly fell asleep in my easy chair for another fifteen minutes. During this time, the kids, perhaps sensing my ineptness, proactively worked on their homework. The cats never even bothered to ask (and yes, they would ask) for their special dinner. In fact, I am not sure if Scarf is still in the house or not. Regardless, they certainly miss their usual caretaker. All of us do.

Today, we survived, but no value was added. Tomorrow, I will see if I can make a difference.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Operation: Creature Preservation – Day 1

Out of habit, I smacked the snooze button when my alarm clock made that hideous noise at seven o’clock this morning. I pondered dozing for those nine precious minutes, but knew that the sooner I got up would be the sooner I returned to bed. And so, I donned a sweatshirt and a pair of dirty jeans, the only kind I own, and buffaloed down the stairs and into the kitchen.
I fired-up my laptop and found it - the Word document titled, “Creatures.” In this document, I found instructions. These instructions would be vital in keeping alive the creatures in my home while Kacey is away frolicking in the Arizona sunshine. The creatures, in order of importance, are as follows:

1. (tie) Bitsy the girl and Tito the boy
3. Cash the dog
4. Boz the husband (I have a better life insurance policy than Cash)
5. DollyMama the cat
6. Scarf the cat
7. Gracie the chicken
8. Bob the chicken
9. (tie) – Ziggy and Marley the chickens
Step one was to feed Cash two-thirds of a cup of food out of two different bags. Done. Easy peasy.
Step two was to feed the cats. Kacey has been feeding them duck-based cat food, as DollyMama seems allergic to the regular chicken-based cat food. How one identifies food allergies within cats is beyond me, but my wife is cool like that. However, Dolly’s duck food is quite a bit more expensive, and I proudly identified a fix. I gave the duck food only to Dolly and the chicken food only to Scarf, utilizing separate plates. They looked at me like I was the most stupid excuse for a human being they have ever met. “You are a fool,” their eyes said to me, and they promptly switched plates.
Step three was to tend to the chickens. So, I put on my windbreaker (my only coat) and headed outdoors. Mind you that the chickens have been in our possession for about 250 days, but this is the first time I have cared for them. And I got to practice in beautiful elements – 15 degrees below zero. “But it’s a warm fifteen below,” I told myself. “There is no wind.”
I successfully freshened their water, provided them with more food and scratch (whatever that is), and let them out of their coop and into the run.
Step four was to get the children off to school – but alas, school was cancelled due to the frigid temperatures. And with that, I was back in bed.

A couple hours later, I arose again and decided to check for eggs. I opened a trap door in the coop to find either Ziggy or Marley sitting comfortably – on three eggs! On this dastardly cold day, this feathered clucker had guarded the eggs from the elements. Now the eggs were still cold, you see, and this was an important. fact Because if the eggs had frozen, Kacey told me that they would not be good for human consumption and I should scramble them for the chickens. “Scramble them for the chickens!” I said to myself in a high-pitched voice. “Whatever.”
Having no idea what frozen eggs feel like, I decided to crack them right then and there, and fortunately enough, none of them were frozen. Sofia was the lucky recipient of my culinary skills, and said she thoroughly enjoyed her scrambled freshness – at least until the point she dropped her fork between the couch cushions and could not find it.
Skipping ahead to seven o’clock in the evening…I figured it would be good to feed the human creatures in my possession. I found a gift card to Cowboy’s Saloon, and just our luck, it was “wing-night,” with twenty wings costing only five dollars. Given that Tito and I were the only ones eating wings, I only ordered forty. The saloon was packed, likely due to it not only being wing night, but also bingo night. A lover of any and all games, I asked the kids if they wanted to participate, and before waiting for their reply, I bought a card for a dollar. Now, I don’t know that it is a great example to teach your kids how to gamble at such a young age, so I told the kids to view this as low cost entertainment – as any amount we won would be given to our server.
After coming up empty for two rounds, I asked the kids if they wanted to stay a bit longer, as the thousand-dollar jackpot was just two rounds away. Bitsy was game, as always, but Tito protested and expressed a desire to get to his homework. I briefly tried to talk him out of it, before coming to my senses when I saw an image of Kacey's scowling face hovering menacingly over our booth.
We got home around eight thirty, and I fed Cash. Part of me felt badly that I stretched past his normal dinner time, but the other part noted that he is the slowest dog at our neighborhood dog park, and perhaps he could stand to lean-up a bit. I headed back into the frigid outdoors and crawled into the chicken run, scooping up the chickens one by one and pushing them into their coop. They clucked at me, and not to be outdone, I clucked right back at them. After giving them some fresh, hot water, and another batch of food, I retreated inside, my chest slightly puffed out with accomplishment.
I oversaw the completion of math and science homework, and even got the children to take showers. Plopping down in my easy chair at nine-thirty, I thought to myself, “This ain’t so bad.” We shall see.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Metrodome Memories

The Vikings just played their final game in the Metrodome, and in only a couple weeks the Dome will be deflated for good. A variety of news sources have been posting their top “Metrodome Moments.” I was fortunate enough to spend a fair amount of time in the Dome, so I figured I would create my own list of top 13 Metrodome Moments (in no particular order).

Number 1 – In my senior year of college, my friend Jeremy caught 5 touchdown passes in the first 17 minutes of our final regular season football game. We had a 42-7 lead at the time, and the coaches pulled the offensive starters for the remainder of the game. Some of my extended family in attendance grumbled that paying 10 bucks to watch me play for 17 minutes was kind of a rip-off.

Number 2 – My friend Joe and I watched Adrian Peterson have a decent game in his rookie year against the San Diego Chargers. We left early to beat traffic and turned on the radio in our car to learn that after we left, AP broke the NFL record for my rushing yards in a game. Fool me once…

Number 3 – …but you can’t fool me twice. My brother and I were watching Brett Favre and the Vikings battle the 49ers. Favre was having a pretty brutal game and when the Vikings gave the ball back to the 49ers with just a couple minutes left to go, my brother and thousands of others stood up and said, “We are out of here.” I talked him into staying and sure enough, Favre found Greg Lewis for a last second touchdown. Older brothers are always wiser - well at least this time.

Number 4 – In 1998, George Strait brought Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and John Michael Montgomery with him for a big ole boot stomping stadium show. I sweet talked the security guard into letting my wife and me on the main floor, where we danced the night away. I got a bit carried away on one dip and my wife’s head slammed against the concrete floor. She left with a mild concussion, and Tim McGraw left with a new girlfriend (that would be Faith Hill, not my wife).

Number 5 – I played in the state championship football game as a junior in high school. The coaches moved me back to linebacker for one play. a position I had never played nor practiced in my life. I was scared to death and can’t remember much about the play. But the TV showed that I knocked Burnsville’s all state center onto his keister and made a good tackle on the running back. Glory days. I won’t mention that I spent the rest of the game getting trampled on by Burnsville’s dominant left tackle.

Number 6 – During a junior high field trip to watch a Twins game, a thunder storm developed. The Dome’s ceiling started rippling, and the huge lights above our hands started swaying perilously. When the roof finally ripped open and drenched one section of people, panic ensued as folks raced for the corridors. That moment certainly did not help my claustrophobic tendencies.

Number 7 – In my sophomore year of college, we played against Carleton in a highly touted matchup which was billed as the conference championship. After a Friday practice where I am pretty sure the scout team offense never crossed the line of scrimmage, we destroyed Carleton 70-7. And we will pretend our season ended right then and there.

Number 8 – My brother and I were showing our German friend Julia around the cities and decided to stop by the dome on the day after a Vikings game. I pulled the “She is German” card and security let us go run around on the field all by ourselves for thirty minutes. My brother and I played catch with used Gatorade cups and were in hog heaven.

Number 9 – Playing in the state semifinals football game in my senior year of high school, our not so brilliant assistant coach was so hyped up that he worked us into the ground during pre-game warm-ups - right up until the time the game started. Supposedly a leader on the team, I couldn’t catch my breath until halftime and played the lousiest thirty minutes of football of my life. By that time, we were already well behind. I’m no longer bitter. Really, I’m not.

Number 10 – The Gophers asked me to come on a recruiting visit during my senior year of high school. I was with a couple dozen other recruits watching the pre-game warm-ups when an assistant coach walked over to me with his right hand extended. Quite giddy, I shook his hand. He then extended his left hand and asked for the game program I was holding in my left hand. He looked something up in the program, said thanks, and walked away. It is stunning that the Gophers haven’t had more success in football given that strong type of recruiting.

Number 11 – I was playing in a touch football league on a team of bean counters when I faked a block and lumbered out for a pass in the left corner of the end zone. I caught the perfectly thrown ball for a touchdown, then tripped over my own feet and landed abdomen-first on the ball. The ref told me to give him the ball and then roll off the field so the game could continue. I wheezed for several minutes and now wince in pain whenever I see a player get the wind knocked out of themselves.

Number 12 – I attended Game 7 of the 1991 World Series when the Twins played host to the Atlanta Braves – that was the last time a Minnesota pro sports team won one of the four major sporting championships. However, my parents had given me some football pencils in elementary school, and as I thought the Atlanta Falcons one looked the coolest, I cheered for everything Atlanta. So, when Gene Larkin hit the game winning fly ball to center field, I hugged my mom, waved my homer hanky, and cheered along with 60,000 others, but inside I was crying.

Number 13 – I learned of an opportunity to do some volunteer tax preparation as part of Twins Fest, which was taking place at the Metrodome. I was disappointed when I arrived and saw that we would be preparing the tax returns at tables in the corridors. A co-worked asked, “What, did you expect that we would be setup on the field and that people would be cheering for us as we prepared tax returns?” Well, yeah.

Metrodome – thanks for the memories, and may you rest in peace.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Twin Cities Marathon 2013

October 5th, 2008. The date when I ran my fifth (and perhaps final) marathon. Despite diligent training and a relatively clean diet which was dangerously light on chicken wings, I was hobbled by cramps at mile 16 – cramps in my calves, hamstrings, quads, and groin. This was the fourth marathon in a row that I had battled cramps, and nothing I tried could seem to prevent them. I staggered through the rest of the race and missed a personal best by 2 minutes.

Discouraged, I decided to keep my focus on shorter distance, so when I toed the starting line near the Metrodome the following fall, it was for the 10 mile race.

I still remember that day – it was gorgeous. Somewhere around the 5 mile mark, my buddy Trent noticed that the faceplate of his new fancy running watch had fallen off. We told his wife Tracy to soldier on without us and Trent and I backtracked in search of a 2 inch by 2 inch black object.  We never did find the missing faceplate, and after at least ½ mile of running backward, and more than a couple increasingly annoying “you are going the wrong way” comments, we turned around. Trent was ticked and I was feeling great, so we decided to drop the hammer. We flew past hundreds of runners, especially on the many inclines, and caught up to Tracy right before the finish.

As is the case with many runners, a frosty beverage sounded like a good reward for the weeks of training and a race well run. We drove back to an open spot just before Mile 24 of the upcoming marathon, and carried a smaller cooler and boombox full of Rocky music out to a nice grassy patch. We cheered on the marathon runners until the final one had passed us by. We were amazed at how many made a point to thank us for being out there. We were also amazed at the number of people who asked us for a sip of our beer – pressing the can to their lips before handing it back to us. And with that, a tradition was born.

Every year, a group of us meet up at Mile 23.9 to cheer on the marathon runners. Sometimes we run the 10 mile race beforehand; sometimes we don’t. Here is a report from the 2013 edition of the Twin Cities Marathon.

8:00am – My alarm clock sounds. It would be nice to sleep in some more but not this day. Today, I am needed.

8:02 – I find that my wife has a full pot of coffee waiting for me. She rocks. She is also pretty hot, but that is not relevant to this report.

9:30 – We leave home with a mini-van packed down with essentials... A full sound system, a couple coolers full of beer, and several dozen of my wife’s homemade monster cookies.

9:40 – We stop at Target for the remaining necessities…Jolly Ranchers and Tootsie Rolls, 5 ounce Dixie cups, a jumbo umbrella, and several gallons of water.

10:15 – Everything is unloaded at mile 23.9 and we are beginning to get setup. My folks are out for their first Mile 23.9 experience and seem unsure what to expect. The lead runners are beginning to fly by, but that is okay, we really aren’t here to support than anyway.

10:16 – Residents who live on the other side of the street come over to tell us they will call the cops if we play our music too loud as we are simply “noise polluters.” They shake their finger at us in a menacing fashion. We promise to keep the music to a reasonable level and go about our business of preparing to help 10,000 people reach the finish line. They go about their business of scowling at the evil that has taken over their street before quickly retreating into their mansion.

10:30 – The music is pumping, with the Black Eyed Peas “I’ve Got a Feeling” getting the nod as our opener.

10:45 – Other members of our cheering section arrive – a former student and his wife, sister, and best friend. Marathons bring families together, and they are much cheaper than counseling and more fun than family reunions.

11:00 – Another 15 friends and family members have arrived and are putting their hands together and cheering for the runners. Presumably the mansion dwellers are getting nervous by our growing numbers. In fact, they probably think that marathon day is kind of like the recent box office hit, “The Purge,” and are expecting us to attack at any moment.

11:15 – One of the younger folks decides the runners may be thirsty and volunteers to take over beer-pouring duties. His belief is correct and soon thereafter our station becomes very popular.

11:30 – It is drizzling on and off, and I am thankful for the newly acquired $19.99 jumbo umbrella which is now protecting my sound system. Great purchase, I tell myself with a bit of pride.

11:45 – A guy wearing a headband, midriff-exposing t-shirt, and cut-off jorts (that is jean shorts for you non-hip folks) runs into our station. After he grabs his third Dixie cup of Corona, I wonder if we will need to cut him off. But after pounding it in record fashion, he runs off - on pace to finish 30 minutes faster than I ever did while wearing proper running shorts and properly hydrating with water and Gatorade. I decide that if I ever run another marathon, I will wear jorts. And then I remember how badly I tend to chafe, and I decide that wearing jorts would be as silly as, perhaps, running in a Chewbacca costume.

11:50 – My brother is holding my almost three-year old nephew and they are giving high-fives to the runners. The smile on my nephew’s face is sure to shave 20 seconds off the finishing time of any runner who sees him.

12:05 – Our friend Sandra from church shows up. Sandra is running her first marathon and is one of perhaps 100 runners that are running for the organization World Vision. Sandra gives us a double thumbs up and runs off - looking so happy that I secretly want to beat her.

12:09 – I turn off the music and announce to the crowd that it was four hours and nine minutes into the Boston Marathon when the bombs went off. When I say that the act of cowards cannot stop us, everyone begins to cheer. And I crank up Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue.”

12:15 – A runner hobbles into our station to grab some water, and I recognize his limp. It is the limp of someone cramping up. Without warning, he grabs at his calf and shrieks in pain, Dixie cup tumbling to the ground. My dad is first to embrace the sweat-soaked man, and former student Mike is soon to follow. The runner is in luck, as Mike is an elite athlete and is currently in chiropractic school. Mike goes to work on his calf, and after a couple more bouts of cramping and shrieking, his pain is gone. He leaves us for a minute to go heave in the bushes and when he returns, Mike gives him a thorough working-over – stretching, massaging, and pressure points. At that moment, I can’t help but wonder what the mansion dwellers are doing to help humanity.

12:20 – Drizzle has turned to rain, but thankfully my brother brought a canopy large enough to cover the West side of St. Paul, so we are set. And I have Luke Bryan’s hit “Rain is a Good Thing” queued up and ready to rock.

12:30 – I play a Pitbull song and notice that most of the runners are now dancing. I am unsure who this Pitbull person is – whether it is a guy, gal, band, or simply an actual pit bull dog with a good voice. I also don’t much care for Pitbull’s music, but today is not about me. I follow-up Pit-Bull with ChumbaWumba, and I feel like I am back in the late 90’s.”I get knocked down, but I get up again. Ain’t never gonna keep me down.”

12:35 – Our Rejuvenation Station is very popular right now. Many runners cut across the entire road, nearly knocking others over, just to see what we have to offer. Two female runners run by and one of them says to the other, “They have beer.” So I grab my microphone and say, “Yes. We do have beer.” And they turn around, extending their 26.2 mile race by an extra forty feet or so.

12:50 – A man I do not recognize is standing across the road, sometimes watching the runners but mostly just staring at us with his arms folded. We send my dad over to investigate.

12:55 – My dad returns to say that the man is another neighbor, but is very impressed by our spirit. He will no longer get an invitation to the mansion dwellers’ holiday party. I am actually guessing that the mansion dwellers do not have a holiday party as people having fun scares them.

1:10 – I notice that a few of my wife’s monster cookies are left, and as I haven’t eaten anything yet today, I am tempted. By they are not for me – at least not yet.

1:15 – No way! A runner in a full and very wet Chewbacca costume slowly trots by. I am sure he/she is miserable, but in 2.3 miles, his/her race will be over. And he/she will be able to say that he ran a marathon in a full Chewbacca costumer. Bragging rights forever.

1:20 – A runner juggling several balls comes into sight. He does this every year, and he never ceases to amaze me. I am tempted to ask him if he can one-up himself next year by juggling while wearing a Chewbacca costume with jorts underneath, but decide against it.

1:30 – The folks coming through now are on pace to finish the marathon in a time of about 6 hours. My slowest finish was a bit over 5 hours, and I can’t imagine being out there for another hour.

1:45 – The sweep bus, official race SUV’s, and a couple police cars slowly drive by. The marathon is over. A few runners have fallen behind them, but they are now moved off the road and must run on the sidewalk to make room for traffic.

2:00 – We have cleaned-up our area, including hundreds of used Dixie Cups and empty Jolly Rancher and Tootsie Roll wrappers. The mini-van is packed, and a bit lighter, for the drive home.

2:10 – We are driving home and there are about eight monster cookies left in the basket on my wife’s lap. She hands me one, then another, and then one more. I decide that the runners should be happy I didn’t get into these earlier.

3:00 – I am taking a nap, but you probably don’t care about that.

6:30 – My son and I take our dog for a walk. Not surprisingly, I have an extra spring in my step. As we near home, it begins to rain, and the three of us break into a slow jog…and it feels good.

And with that, another marathon and Mile 23.9 Rejuvenation Station are in the books. Congrats to all runners!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Beautiful Girl

It was a bit past five o’clock, and darkness was already beginning to fall over the Caribbean.  My wife was fiddling with her phone by the hotel’s reception desk, and our friends were at a restaurant watching the football game.  The hour before sunset is my favorite of the day, and I intended to enjoy it.  I picked up my John Grisham novel and a bottle of cold Mexican beer, and made the 100 foot walk from my cabana to a beach lounger.  There I sat - alone, but completely happy.

The occasional tourists would walk by, usually an olive-skinned couple speaking in a European dialect.  The men would have plenty of tattoos and facial hair, and the ladies would have skinny legs and sunglasses.

Eventually, a lone traveler began to walk down the beach toward me, and when she drew near, she began to approach me.  Figuring that she wanted me to take a picture of her or provide her with directions to the local cantina, I glanced up over my book.

“Could you watch my bag for a few minutes?” she asked.  The accent told me that she was French – no, Italian.  Definitely Italian.  She was probably in her late 20’s.  Not planning to leave my spot until the last ray of sunlight had disappeared, I agreed.

After setting down her bag, she slipped off her shoes, then her shorts, and then her shirt.  What was left was nothing but a black bikini covering a small portion of her slender body.  I guess she is going for a swim, I thought to myself.  With her back to me, she then untied her bikini top, let it drop behind her, and walked out into the ocean.

She bobbed about for ten minutes, and although I kept trying to focus on my book, I found myself reading the same paragraph over and over again.

About this time, I began to get nervous, because I knew what was coming.  She would eventually come back out of the water.

I turned to our cabana and looked for my wife, but she was nowhere in sight.  I then thought about what my pastor recommends to do in these situations – run!  But, I had agreed to watch her belongings.  So, I just sat there and waited for it to happen.  Eventually, she came out of the water and pushed her long brown hair back as she walked toward me.

I sensed that my anxiety would be more obvious if I pretended to ignore her, so I decided to quickly engage her in polite conversation.  Within a few seconds, her top was back on and she picked up her belongings. She smiled as she said “thank you” and turned to continue walking down the beach.

And then she walked out of sight, before my wife or friends came to find me.  So, there is no proof that it ever happened.    But it did.

Five minutes later, my wife sat down on the lounger next to me and asked how I was doing, likely expecting me to reply with a grunt.  I told her my tale, and she simply laughed in amusement.  And I watched her face light up as she laughed, and felt pleased to have the company of the most beautiful girl on the beach.