Thursday, October 18, 2012

More Running: Annual Story Submission for 5/3 RBR

Demented leprechaun, posting her best time, wearing memorial ribbon for dad.

It's my annual essay to the organizers of the Fifth Third River Bank Run in hopes of scoring a free entry to the race. Whereas this one is less amusing than previous years, it is probably more heartfelt:

The past couple years, I’ve submitted some witty stories for the River Bank Run in hopes to make you laugh.

This isn’t one of those years.

I was diagnosed with diabetes in January, 2012. My dad had been diagnosed with the condition at 30; I managed to put it off until 42. A man with an appetite for fruit pie and treats, he never managed to control his sugar, and his health problems continued to accumulate: diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain.

And then, cancer.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2009, and then leukemia a few months later. He fought bravely through his treatments, holding onto hope that with every meeting with his oncologist, he would be told he was cancer-free.

Meanwhile, his threshold for what was considered healthy kept getting lower, and lower, and lower.

A worrywart, from the moment of my diagnosis, he harped on me to take care of my health and do it right. His theory was all his health problems started with the diabetes and his neglect in managing it. He too was an athlete, matching my running, swimming and skating with golf, softball and bowling. The athletics weren’t enough; I had to change my diet. And I have.

Since my diagnosis, to date, I have lost 26 pounds and 4 dress sizes. I’ve competed in two races, two YMCA endurance challenges and the US Figure Skating Adult Championships.

But my dad never got to see this; we lost him to cancer on April. I did run the River Bank Run in his honor.

I’m taking care of me for you dad.

Jerry Planeta, 8/18/42 – 4/16/12

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Typing Out Loud: Rollercoaster!

Off road rage: completed my first cross country type course and it wasn't easy.

I completed the Fuel Your Fire 5k yesterday. It sucked. I ran in a steady downpour in the high 30s/low 40s on a cross country track that was muddy, slippery, a steady uphill climb meandering through woods with rocks, tree roots and uneven terrain. My ankles are protesting today. And once I made it out of the woods, an arctic blast of wind greeted me to make my way around the soccer fields miserable. And I finished with a worse time than my first River Bank Run. Once inside, I shed my long sleeved shirt, which felt like it had soaked up at least 5 pounds of moisture.

Was I discouraged? Surprisingly, no. I got a great night's sleep, and almost had a Seinfeld moment where I overslept. Even though I wasn't prepared for running in the woods, I was prepared for the endurance of doing so. The event organizers' were excited, and said "we have a beautiful course for you so enjoy" and they were correct, with the leaves changing and the path twisting through the fields, it was a very pretty. I had a new playlist to listen to so I wasn't bored, I had on gloves and a headband so I wasn't too cold. Kidszone was open, and Will was eager to play, so I didn't have to worry about him. I brought my bathing suit with me, so once I was done I sat in the hot tub to warm up. Everyone was very nice, and the guys who won were the first to offer congratulations to those of us bringing up the rear. And even though I was in the final pack to cross the line, I made an effort not to come in last.

Bonus: the race shirt is very cool, I have another bib to add to the collection, and I was surprised to get a medal for finishing, complete with engraving. All nice surprises.

I'm kind of all over the place about this race. Glad I participated, but hated making the effort in the cold. Not "up" for the race, but glad I didn't deal with butterflies all week. Tired, but smiled realizing that neither my boobs nor my knees hurt from the impact. Was it the weight loss or the spring from a natural track? Discouraged by dragging in with the last group, but secretly glad to take advantage of the other's hesitation to sprint ahead of them and not finish last.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl - new 5K alter ego? What shall I name her?
Crazy shit getting unserious...
What would I do different? I was using an elliptical to train, will adjust so more conditioning hits my calves instead of butt and thighs. More outdoor training?

I know I'm very serious when I run, so maybe I need to lighten up and runs will become easier. I was running through the field in a downpour, surely my fanciful brain could have come up with some temporary pixie alter ego, a saucy little creature frolicking in the moor. Dumb? During more than half the race, my brain groused that I was a skater not a runner, maybe flights of fantasy will work. I know when I skate I put on a character, so why not running? I think that's the whole point of the mud runs and color runs, to focus on the fun and not the actual race. I think there's a candy cane 5k coming up to test the theory.

Will I do it again? I probably have to: Will fought to play with my medal and I explained to him the hard work that went into earning it. I asked him if he wanted one of his own, and he said yes! So by doing the race, I'm encouraging my son to participate in sports. Not bad for this 43 year old mom...

Tigers are playing the Yankees for the AL pennant. Oh, Valverde... The road to the pennant is long and fraught with stomach gripping moments. I'm physically exhausted from the playoffs and there's the World Series yet to go. Makes me miss the dependable but exciting Todd "Rollercoaster" Jones.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why Art Matters: Bill Cosby

Bill and Little Bill - another generation to love

Will has started watching a cartoon on Nick Jr. called Little Bill, written and produced by Bill Cosby. He loves "widdle Bill!" I was struck by the rush of warmth I experienced knowing that the Cos was going to influence yet another generation.

Bill Cosby is a well known comedian, actor, author, producer, educator and musician. His contributions to popular culture are lengthy.

For my parents, he was the star of I Spy and The Bill Cosby Show. He was the star of comedy albums they had in their collection, such as I Started Out As a Child and For Adults Only.

For me, it started with the Fat Albert Show, then the stand-up movie Bill Cosby: Himself and then The Cosby Show.

I loved Fat Albert as a kid, it taught without being preachy, and was funny besides. The only criticism I would have was there weren't any girls on the show. The movie of his stand-up was mandatory viewing not only in my parents' house, but at school when Mr. Woolsey didn't have anything in the lesson plan. To this day, I can quote some of his sketches, most recently recalling "Little Jeffery" when Will was a particular terror at the grocery store.

The Cosby Show was a cultural phenomena in and of itself. According to critics, family sitcoms were on their way out until Bill brought them back in. Loosely based on Bill's home life and using some of the sketches from the Himself movie, the show was a huge hit. It influenced other shows, from family sitcoms to other comedians getting their own shows. It influenced fashion, from cool Lisa Bonet's style to the Cosby sweater.

Cosby used the influence of his show to give other artists the benefit of a wider audience. The crew doing lip synchs to songs by Koko Taylor and Ray Charles were brilliant. Jazz artists, R&B singers, painters all benefitted from having Cosby as a fan.

There is another story that speaks eloquently of the generosity of this man. He did a stand-up show at Ferris when I was a student. The planning of the event was done by a campus student organization and unfortunately, botched. I can tell you that tickets to the show were extraordinarily cheap, even for a student. To cancel or to host the event would have bankrupt the organization. Saving the day, Bill waived his $10,000 appearance fee, and then DONATED an additional $10 grand to ensure the organization would be in the black once the concert was over. Drop in the bucket to a millionaire? Perhaps, but who was Ferris State to him but a layover between Detroit and Chicago?

Good bless you Cos.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Playlist: Girls

Ah Stevie, all the girls wanted to be you.

There is a sweet but sad story of Stevie Nicks and Joe Walsh, who collaborated on a special project for a four year old who was dying of cancer. She had wistfully asked, "do you think anyone will write a song about me?"

Of course angel baby.

A P.S. to this story is the little girl was bothered that the public drinking fountain was too tall for her to drink from comfortably, and after she passed, Joe had tiny drinking fountains installed in parks throughout her hometown in her honor.

As a music lover, there is something so deeply moving (or confusing, see Feb angst!) about someone writing a song for you. As ordinary citizens of the world, it's also cool when one already exists, like the Allman Brothers Band's "Melissa." This seems like a phenomena strictly for girls, because outside of Toni Basil's "Mickey," I can't come up with a single song dedicated to a boy. That may be a research challenge for another time...

So for all those sparkly-eyed gals in the back row that captured the imagination of the heavy-lidded bass players converting shyness to badassery, this one's for you.

Girl, The Beatles: Another month, another list, another Beatles tune. Whatever, it's my blog. A complex marriage of Lennon/McCartney building a complex mystery girl. What is so effective is what is NOT sung - the sighs, the gasps, sucking in air. Those exclamations tell things that words can't. Bonus: the backing track where George sings "tit-tit-tit-tit" - naughty!

Valleri, The Monkees: I was trying to hold out against listing another Monkees song, but whatever, it's my blog. Besides, I have tickets to see the Monkees in Chicago this November - with Michael Nesmith. The lyrics are simple, and sung by my least favorite Monkee Davy. But the real highlight of the song is the guitar work, the Spanish guitar bridge and the electrc guitar riff. I love Peter Tork in his checkered shirt singing the wrong notes at the top of his lungs in the romp from the show.

My Sharona, The Knack: Back in '79, I like to think I was a precocious kid with a taste in music that defied my age. What nine year old grooves to Steely Dan? I also think I had an ear for what was going to be a big hit, and went nuts the first time I heard My Sharona, begging for then getting the vinyl for my 10th birthday - and I still have it. The song ended up the #1 song of the year. Unfortunately, that was the single high note for the band, now widely considered a one-hit wonder. To that I say, give "Good Girls Don't" a listen. I've downloaded it, and the harmonica is filthier than the lyrics. If I were in a punk band, I'd fight to sing this.

Jessica, Allman Brothers Band: I've mentioned Melissa so often, we have to give it up for the brothers other great girl song. Named for Dicky Betts daughter, the Wall Street Journal declared the song "a true national heirloom." That's quite an endorsement. A friend of mine skated to it when he won the adult men's silver freeskate title and of course he's a southern boy.

Layla, Derek and the Dominoes: Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone magazine says this: "there are few moments in the repertoire of recorded rock where a singer or writer has reached so deeply into himself that the effect of hearing them is akin to witnessing a murder or a suicide... to me 'Layla' is the greatest of them."  I concur.

She's Crafty, Beastie Boys: the B boys in the early years were known for chauvantistic, juvenile teenaged rap lyrics, and well, we loved it. Especially when the tables were turned, as in this song. "She's crafty, she knows all the moves, I started playing records, she knows all the grooves. She robbed us blind, she took all we owned, and the boys blamed me for bringing her home."

Ah Leah!, Donnie Iris: I don't know a thing about Donnie outside of this song and "Love is Like a Rock," is a so-ridiculous-it's-cool classic rock staple. Research has revealed a pretty cool life. Iris has been involved in music since he was a child, and was in his first rock band as a teen. He became a solo artist in his late 30s, and obtained the nickname "King Cool" in his 40s. He had a deal with Atari in one of the early examples of rock cross-promotion with video games for the song "Do You Compute?" He's now a grandfather, has the greatest hits album, a Christmas album, has a local beer named after him, key to the city, and does stuff just for fun. That sounds like a charmed rock life to me.

Beth, KISS: hard rock glam metal goes soft. The purist fans I know balk at this and "I Was Made for Loving You" (disco trash!), but let me tell you, without these two songs, KISS would mean nothing to me. The song was written by drummer Peter Criss, and the real Beths are Criss' wife Lydia and a former bandmate's wife Becky. So how do you get to Beth? Creative license.

Sweet Child 'O Mine, Guns n' Roses: the infamous story of Axl and Erin Everly. You can rock hard and love even harder. Perfect moment in time for them, forever a disaster after.

Paulina, No Doubt: From their rare first disc that is more ska than anything they did after. Also one of the rare moments when someone other than Gwen Stefani sings lead. A song about the intense infatuation one had with supermodel Paulina Ocasek.

Annie's Song, John Denver: a classic soft rock standard that has become a wedding song standard. Easy to understand, Denver wrote the song for his wife as a gift, they divorced, then got back together, I believe, on the strength of this song. No matter how soft you rock, you can still get the girl if you are a master troubador.

Cecilia, Simon & Garfunkel: the song has been mentioned before, a staple singalong song for sorority girls at Ripples.

Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond: ditto.

Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!), Garbage: okaaaaay, not a song about a girl but a song about a boy cross dressing as a girl. Count me in as one of the people who just love the camp value of a cross dressing male, who gets the beauty and absurdity of the state of glamour today. And the names! I have laughed for days at some of the names drag queens give themselves. Example: a plus sized queen named All Beef Patty. You go, um, girl.

Gloria, various: first sung by Them, but my favorite current rendition is by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom breaks it down into a 20+ minute groove, straying from the lyrics to tell of talking a gal into going out with him because, see, "I'm in a little rock and roll band, we just did 20 shows at the Fillmore..."

Hey There Delilah, Plain White T's: a nod to my teenaged heart, even in my 40s.

Lay Lady Lay, Bob Dylan: a God to the critics, I've never been a huge Dylan fan, but man, this song is lush and he creates a world where you can feel the heat from the candlelight, smell the smoke from the fireplace, and even see the swirls in the whiskey made by the ice slowly melting in your drink.

My Maria, BW Stevenson: it seems like every classic rock station has its staples. WLAV here in town always seems to play Hocus Pocus by Focus or Edgar Winter's Frankenstein around 1:10 in the afternoon. KSHE in St. Louis loved this jangly little hit for some reason and I don't really even know why, but I grew to love it too.

September Gurls, Big Star: I was interested in Big Star after reading Rob Sheffield's book about his wife Renee, Big Star being her favorite band. They didn't disappoint, and the indie darlings scored a slot in Rolling Stone's list of the top 500 greatest pop songs.

Sour Girl, Stone Temple Pilots: Scott Wieland shirtless singing a love song. Sold.

Woman, John Lennon: start with the Beatles' Girl and end with Lennon's Woman - perfect. Huge hit from his solo release, sadly marked by his passing, which adds to the melancholy. Count me as one of the few fans that don't dislike Yoko, her noteriety overshadows her brilliance as an artist, which is what John saw in the first place. It takes a strong woman to pair up with one of the most brilliant musical artists of the 20th century and hold her own.