Cringe-Worthy

Okay, it’s only because we’re friends that I’m about to share this with you. It is, without a doubt, my most embarrassing moment. Ever.

My youngest daughter, who was about 16 at the time (and, as a point of reference, a very intelligent girl who 2 years later received an academic scholarship to USC), and I were in Boston for her participation in the Irish Dance National Championships. As we poured over a city map, must-sees flowed across our lips like verbal diarrhea: “Harvard!” “Paul Revere’s house!” “Boston Harbor!” “Old North Church!” “Boston Common! with a frog pond!” A frog pond! That’s were we’d start! First thing in the morning!

We walked along Boylston Street and ate warm cinnamon bagels out of a bag until we came to the southern entrance of Boston Common, then wiped our fingers, unfolded our map, and took a left toward the frog pond.

“How do you think they keep the frogs from leaving?” one of us asked the other (I don’t remember who said what. Let’s pretend the least ridiculous more lucid statements were mine.).

“I don’t know. Maybe they keep them in crates at night? Or one end’s covered, and they corral them by using a special whistle or something every night?” Like some sort of frog honor system.

Disclaimer: As a native Southern Californian, I have no knowledge, expertise, or experience with frogs. Pastel mechanical frogs at Disneyland come to mind, but I’m not sure they exist. I might be imagining them.

As the two of us walked, we debated the pond’s dimensions and depth. Was it fenced? Were we talking a few frogs, or hundreds? Our pace increased.

We race walked as the sidewalk veered left, then saw a decent-sized shallow-looking body of water. The sign said “Frog Pond.” There wasn’t a frog in sight. We looked at each other. I don’t remember for sure, but our foreheads probably furrowed.

If there are no frogs, then why name it…? Oh, never mind.

What was going on? The sign clearly said “Frog Pond.” It was still early: maybe they hadn’t been let out yet. A girl of about 18 stood in the distance, hosing off the pond’s perimeter. “Let’s go ask her,” I said.

“Excuse me.” I said to her.

“Yes?”

“We just had a question.” I got the map out as evidence we weren’t making this up. “It says this is a frog pond. Actually the sign back there says it, too. Where are the frogs?”

“The what?” she said.

“The frogs. For the frog pond.”

I kid you not, she glanced around before she answered. I’m positive she was looking for the hidden camera. “Ummm. There are no frogs. It’s a kid’s wading pool.”

Apparently these count.

I think we mumbled thanks before hightailing it out of there. Then again, maybe not.

We still had the Swan Boats to visit on the other side of the Common, but we didn’t get our hopes up. We were on to these people; there’d be no barebacked swan rides in our future. Fool us once…

 

Images: crossfitfenway.com, travelpod.com, and bostonartsmarathon.com

The 13.1-Mile Sweet Spot

Running requires decisions achieved by trial and error; sort of a physically fit version of Goldilocks, if you substitute GU flavors, shoes, and running surfaces for gruel, chairs, and beds.

Had Goldilocks experienced the illusions of grandeur we many runners have, she might have fancied entering a race. But what distance would she have chosen?

Would it be a 5K, the most popular distance for beginners?

Maybe a 13.1-mile half marathon, with its concomitant bragging rights to the other beginning runners in her village?

Or would she make the rookie mistake of assuming a 26.2-mile full marathon is “only” double a half, not realizing the exponentially increased physical stressors awaiting her?

(I doubt she’d yet subscribe to Runner’s World so she’d have no knowledge of ultramarathons, which—at any distance over 50 miles—aren’t so much races as endurance experiments starring you as the lab rat.)

My guess is Goldilocks would be an overachiever—I mean, she was pretty bold to enter a vacant house and take over like that in the first place—so she’d sign up for a full marathon.

She’d pooh-pooh the ugly rumor about month-long training plans, believing a few weekly miles and a hideous fuel belt buckled around the waist of her tutu (yes, she would run in a tutu—she’s a diva that way) would be enough. But this was no fairy tale.

An unfortunate part of many runners' wardrobes.

An unfortunate part of many runners’ wardrobes.

Oh, the shame of it as she’d limp across the finish line just under the six-hour time limit and just before the walkers pushing strollers. She’d peel off her shoes, afraid her toenails would come sprinkling out, examine the blisters that grew before her eyes like August corn in Nebraska, catch a ride to her car on the back of a volunteer’s golf cart, and mutter, never again.

Months later Goldi would remember the disgrace of that day and vow never again. She would sign up for another race, only this time it would be a 5K.

In time she would rue a distance that took longer to find a parking spot for than to run. She’d get a medal (sort of) and a T-shirt (100% cotton, not wicking tech material), but she’d want more.

She’d want a half marathon.

This time Goldi followed a training plan recommended by someone in her running group who subscribed to Runner’s World. She took no chances with the all-important fueling issue and tried PowerBars and Clif Shot Bloks and Honey Stingers, ultimately deciding on Clif Shots. She tried these options on her out-and-back long runs: far enough that she needed to refuel, but close enough to home in case of any unfortunate digestive issues. She taped her toes, and bought shoes based on fit rather than fashion.

She arrived race morning prepared. She’d ditched the scratchy tutu in favor of compression shorts (she was still somewhat ruled by vanity and refused to use BodyGlide) and decided stopping at Krispy Kreme on the way to the marathon hadn’t been her best idea. The starter’s horn left her nonplussed, and she kept to her training pace despite the adrenaline. She took water at every station, and swallowed her Mocha Clif Shots like pudding (because you really have to talk yourself into a lot for this to work).

The race wasn’t easy. But just when Goldi felt like she couldn’t possibly propel herself another inch, she hit the 12-mile marker. Ten minutes later (she’d fallen off her pace) she was at the 13-mile marker and had 528 feet to go. This time she honored the distance and told herself 528 feet left; not, only 528 feet left. She ran across the finish line because she couldn’t—no, she wouldn’t—walk. A surly teenager receiving community service credit handed her a medal and said, “Good job” with as much enthusiasm as Goldi had for marathons.

She’d done it: Goldilocks had found her distance. She lived happily ever after, but perhaps most importantly she had a newfound respect for BodyGlide.

The End

Image: Michael Thom for CC/Flickr

Why I Won’t Get a Tattoo

I don’t like butterflies or shamrocks or tigers on people (not “on people” as in a man-eating tiger, rather “on people” as in a tiger snaking down an arm). Maybe it’s symbolism these tattooees are after, but here’s what I see: The butterfly lover is an 8-year-old girl at heart, a shamrock belongs to someone with no imagination, and a tiger means you’re able to sit very still for a very long period of time.

See what I mean? Who knows what you could end up with. Photo: StumbleUpon

See what I mean? Who knows what you could end up with.
Photo: StumbleUpon

 

I don’t understand Sanskrit. Happens all the time: “Hey! Look at me! I’m so current I got a tattoo in a language I’d never heard of before I watched Inked!” Faster than you can say, “Shoulda looked it up myself,” you’re stuck with “French Toast” when you wanted “Faith Lives.” Tattoo-artist practical joke, or legitimate mistake? When it’s on your calf, does it even matter?

"I used to be indecisive but now I am not quite sure."  --Tommy Cooper

“I used to be indecisive but now I am not quite sure.” –Tommy Cooper Photo: Flickr

 

I’m indecisive. I’ve stepped foot in one tattoo parlor in my life. And I do mean a literal foot—just far enough to peruse a photo album crammed with possibilities: Pages and pages of crowns, birds, quotes, curlicues, skulls…you name it. No wonder people default to butterflies. Either I’d have wound up with a Leopard Lacewing on my shoulder, or I’d still be there deciding.

 

I don’t like pain. An emergency appendectomy is one thing. Hundreds (is it hundreds? I don’t even know) of needle jabs administered by a guy named Duke is quite another.

 

Tattoos are forever… Unless you go with your own name (and what’s the point of that, unless you need reminding?), there’s an inherent risk of times a-changin’ and your tattoo becoming obsolete. We’ve all seen celebrities sporting fancy scrollwork designed to cover the name of an ex. Nothing like a constant reminder of your mistake.

 

…unless you have money. Freeway billboards might advertise laser tattoo removal, but I’ve heard removal is more painful than the actual tattoo. Plus, I’m doubting flexible spending—let alone insurance—covers removal.

Give it 20 years, and this tattoo will practically be invisible. Photo: Flickr

Give it 20 years, and this tattoo will practically be invisible.
Photo: Flickr

 

I’m getting older and body parts are sliding into the southern hemisphere. Maybe I can’t stop the inevitable, but there’s no point in drawing attention to the fact.

Unconscious Coupling

Driving home the other day I saw an older couple waiting to cross the street. Nothing alarming there, right? And yet the scene evoked the type of fear usually reserved for that gap of time between medical tests and medical test results. Why, you wonder, would such a benign sight make my palms sweat?

Because I don’t want to be like them—because they were dressed like identical twins.

Same bucket hats—the kind that work equally well for fishing as for safaris—same blue sweatshirt slung over white T-shirts, same Arrowhead water bottles, same cargo shorts, same no-show socks in white cross-trainers. If the Reebok Princess came in a male version (the Reebok Prince, perhaps?), they’d be set.

Not a fan of the attire, but it beats matchy-matchy. Photo: Flickr

Not a fan of the attire, but it beats match-matchy.
Photo: Flickr

Right next to sleeping with the closet door open (The Ghost and Mr. Chicken has had lingering effects), my biggest fear is loss of autonomy.

That may sound like a flare shot up from a sinking marriage—which I assure you is not the case—but I’ve noticed the longer two people have been together, the more of themselves they seem to lose. They blend into one, like lines on Bert’s sidewalk drawings in a monsoon. “We like the Sizzler,” they announce, or, “We don’t care for reality TV.” We? I think. Did you two vote? Discuss your options before filling up on all-you-can-eat 3-bean salad and declaring half the night’s television programming off limits?

My husband sees no point in perusing Barnes and Noble once you’ve found a book because his theory is, how many can you read at once anyway? (More than one, but that’s my personal preference.) And I’m happy he loves woodworking, though I prefer just to go buy the piece of furniture and be done with it.

It’s these separate interests that keep us unique and individual after many years of marriage. Plus, it gives us something to talk about over dinner, which never includes 3-bean salad because my husband hates beans. Note we don’t hate beans—just him. And that’s fine by me.

I like older folks—really, I do. But there’s something so tired about parroting your spouse. It’s like individuality just isn’t worth the effort any more. And that scares me more than the idea of aging. That, and picturing my husband in a pair of Reebok Princes.