Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why I'm Psyched to do the RBR

Hey, isn't that the girlfriend from Mallrats?

I got the postcard in the mail yesterday, giving me my bib number (21288) and verifying that I am running the River Bank Run's 10K race on May 11.

Yep, no turning back now.

In light events surrounding the Boston Marathon, I think most participants see it as our patriotic duty and right to run in the race; I know I do. But what else motivates me outside of defiance in the face of terrorism? For a 10K, makes sense to make a top 10 list.

(BTW, I refuse to say my run is an act of heroism. Let's reserve that definition for people facing real danger.)

10. Chance to slip into my racing alter ego, the Punk Rock Prom Queen. Why? After October's Fuel Your Fire race, I felt the need to find a persona that would help me find an inner drive. Prom Queen comes from my skating nickname. The punk rock, well I just picked that up from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack. Fitting, since I don't care what I wear, don't care how fast I am, as long as I finish.

9. Discovering 10 things challenge. I can drive 6.2 miles in nothing flat. But what do I miss along the way? I am motivated to find 10 things I would have missed otherwise. Could be a gargoyle on a building, maybe a frog crossing my path or someone's spring flower garden.

8. Last year, I did my 5K 14 pounds lighter than 2011; this year, I'm doing a 10K 23 pounds lighter than that! You do the math.

7. Killer mixes. One of my suggestions, Rush's "One Little Victory" was picked up by the RBR organizers and included in their training mix off their phone app. My favorite mix has been the Beatles, entitled "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"

6. I'm gonna eat anything and everything I want in victory post-race. Cake? Loaded nachos? Cake? Beer? Cake? Don't mind if I do!

5. My collection of racing tees and bibs grows by one, and there's a new story to add to the boot box.

4. By continuing to train, I'm kicking diabetes ass.

3. By being active, I'm encouraging others to do the same. Will wants "to run da race!" I have girlfriends wanting to try too, leading to a group of us doing the Color Run in July.

2. I want that finish. I want that pin.
1. It pains me to admit, to validate myself, prove I can do it and that by completion, I really am an athlete and vanquish the latest bout of self doubt that creeps in like so many gray hairs along my temple. I thought I was done with this kind of self esteem issues after the first time I did the RBR, but of course one must never become complacent. With new challenges comes new fears and hopefully, a new reward.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What's Right in the World: Single Serving Friends


What's up "friend?"

In the novel/movie Fight Club, the unnamed main character (alias Tyler Durden) laments how disposable and temporary things in our lives are, and when he "meets" Tyler on an airplane, he considers him a single-serving friend.

While Ed Norton's character viewed short-term friendships with the same disdain he saw the rest of the world, I'm going to defend them.

What do I consider a single serving friend? People you bond with intensely for a short time. People you meet on vacation. Sharing a class. A group at a tailgate. Work friends.

What works in these friendships? Shared memories. A person to attach a moment in time or a place - I'm thinking the movie Lost In Translation is a perfect example. Mutual interests and common goals, like high school or college friends. Great singular memories of memorable people not marred by the conflicts that taint longer-lasting relationships.

I've had quite a few vacation friends. I made of bunch of these type of friends on spring break in Daytona Beach back in 1987. I met MSU Dennis on the beach while he was playing Frisbee. In an effort to avoid plowing into me during a catch, he snatched me around the waist instead. Ah, the sweep her off her feet move. Yes, it worked. Yes, we made out. And yes, after he found out I was in high school and not college, I never saw him again. Thanks Carla!

Then there was Mike and his gang from MSU and LCC we met when they invited us into their room for beer pong. Rachel dated him for a while, and then once they stopped seeing each other - and I exhausted his stock of single friends to double with - those friendships petered out.

I was fascinated with a girl named Keely in photography class, a tiny bird-like girl with a sing song voice and a hippie fiance. She was a mentor to the intro students, and we struck a quick friendship based on her love of color. She had a bright thrift store wardrobe, a love for the Grateful Dead, and a talent for capturing joy with her Pentax camera. She was the first to remark on the attraction between P and I (Feb angst, 2012). She also happily shared her plans for a honeymoon: spending the summer following the Dead after graduation.

I also met a group of folks tailgating at the Madonna Who's That Girl show at the Silverdome. We shared a picnic lunch, kept a mix of dance tunes going as we bonded over a mutual love of music and educational aspirations. One boy, Jimmy I think, lover of all things Madonna/Marilyn/James Dean, exchanged letters with me a couple of times before the friendship ran its course.

But sometimes, these single-serving friendships endure. When I was 9 or 10, I met Nancy at the Holiday Inn/Sandusky, when our day at Cedar Point was rained out. She and I met at registration and bonded immediately, playing in the pool, the mini golf course, the video game room, bumper pool and begged to be able to have dinner together. Once we checked out, we became pen pals, sharing stories of school life until graduation. Our correspondence sputtered to a stop once I went to college and she married her military boyfriend and moved overseas. Sometime in the mid-90s, I received a letter from a base in Oklahoma. A wedding invitation to her was met with a wedding gift in '97, a picture frame from the photographer. A trip through New York met with a chance phone call to her parents home in Buffalo, where her brother gasped with surprise, saying I just missed her visit home, and how she had read through a pile of my letters she had saved. A quick Internet search and I found her, so I think I'll surprise her with a letter.

The common thread with each of these friendships, whether they burned bright then simply ran its course over time, was the sudden and intense bond we shared.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Inner Drive

RBR, 2012.

Ever since I decided to up the ante to a 10K at this year's annual River Bank Run, I've been going through my usual angst about not being a real runner, not being ready, worried about embarrassing myself with a poor finish.

Then the bombing at the Boston Marathon happened.

Suddenly, this race has taken on more significance. I'm running because I CAN. I'm running because an unknown someone out there doesn't want me to. There's nothing keeping me from that finish line, not even if I have to crawl to get there.

I dare you to stop me now.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Typing Out Loud: Know When to Hold 'Em, Know When to Walk Away

I have this as a shot glass, champagne glass, martini, beer mug and highball.  

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I received an email from the national headquarters of my college fraternity, encouraging me to apply for a national leadership role. I jumped at the chance, did the appropriate research and history review.

But I began reconsidering during the interview with the delegates at the national council. I examined my heart throughout yesterday, and here was my reply this morning:


Good morning Alan.

I was struck by one of the delegates questions yesterday afternoon, asking me why I was coming back to Phi Gamma Nu after so many years. I suddenly felt my age.

I felt like one of the moms shopping with her teenage daughter at Forever 21, and dressing entirely too young, as there IS an age limit on micro minis.

Comedian Greg Beherendt once put it, attending a concert at 39, "I was creepy old guy, hanging out with the young punks; I remember creepy old guy and was bummed out by him and don't blame you for being bummed out by me."

I have conversed with national and Olympic level figure skaters post-retirement. They knew when they were "done," and comfortable ending the competitive chapter of their life.

The national board sounds like a dynamic group of young professionals that knows where and how to take PGN into the future. This is your time, and your organization. I had my time in the 90s and I assure you, I had a ball doing so, and accomplished all I wanted to accomplish then.

I am grateful for the opportunity to throw my hat in the ring, and let you all know there is alumni out there that still cares about PGN. I'm grateful to know the fraternity is in your good hands. I'm grateful for the chance to contemplate rejoining PGN on a national level, but must acknowledge that I'm not the person for the job.

Therefore, I'm withdrawing my application as national executive director.

Best of luck to all of you on the future of Phi Gamma Nu.

In Our Bond

Even ending my correspondence with "In Our Bond" labels me old school.

My history with PGN started as a pledge in 1991, when we were a professional business SORORITY. This is yet another detail to mark me a throwback as most chapters, by that time, had gone co-ed.

I have memories of carrying my pledge book, interviewing the sisters, studying for the tests, winning the pie eating contest during homecoming and thus securing our victory at the games. There was Greek Week, Comrades in Plaids, Delt Sig toga parties, 90210 night at the house, scholarship dinners and loving when I got to eat instead of cook, collecting pennies, Founder's Day, candle ceremonies, graduating my pledge classes, my little DSP brother David, and being little sisters to the SAEs.

Sweeping the academic awards at the Panhel banquet. Sisterly Sister. Actively Active. Winning the Alumni Scholarship as well as Sorority Comedian two years running. Earning the nickname TKO for drinking while still standing up as well as "mom" for the way I took care of my sisters. Hot tubbing at 10 below with a Greek soup of students and waking up on a plaid couch wearing a "I took the mai tai challenge!" t-shirt.Woodstock and costume parties at the Sig Ep house. Partying with Chocolate Thunder and Shoe.

Creating a new chapter. Attending the national convention and bonding with members from all over, including a guy from Mississippi and a gal from PA. All my sisters weddings. Arguing with the old Executive Director about marketing, public relations and promotion. All my Phi Gam drinkwear. And sadly, retiring one t-shirt after another, until all that is left is my red Phi Gam windbreaker from Greek Week 1993.

I'm not "done" with Phi Gams since my friendships have endured. But I have a full and complete history with the organization and am satisfied with what I have contributed and have nothing more left to add.

I don't feel like I failed the organization. I would have failed them had I accepted the position half-heartedly and not done the job I know I was capable of doing.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April Playlist: MJ!

MJ gettin' fierce.

I was in a minority in the 80s as I did not buy into the mass hysteria that was Thriller. When something is too overhyped, I have a tendancy to reject it until I can absorb it and base an opinion on its own merits. Since the hype machine for MJ was never off, I'm afraid I listened but never embraced.

What I do embrace, however, is a post- Off the Wall, pre- Thriller Rolling Stone interview done with him while hanging out with Janet. A child star growing into adulthood, MJ had a fascination with PT Barnum, the master of bullshit. In turn, I believe Michael embraced the smoke and mirrors of the turn of the century carnival barkers, wholly amused by the bullshit surrounding him.

Until, of course, he started believing the bullshit himself.

Nonetheless, the man created an impressive body of work that blended soul, pop and rock into something amazing. And while we as a society still roll our eyes at Bubbles the monkey, the bed chamber, the scandals and the headlines, at its core is the music, and that is all that matters.

Wanna pinch those cheeks!

I Want You Back: Michael started performing before the age of 8 in clubs with his brothers, imitating the dance moves of James Brown. Dang.

Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground): Jacksons do disco.

Don't Stop Til You Get Enough: Grooving in the Jodis' van on a 6th grade field trip to go bowling. That is so 1980 in Jackson. And that's Janet playing the bottles!

Rock with You: the video is laughable compared to what comes after, but him in his sequinned moon boots and pinstriped suit is a special kind of awesome.

Off the Wall: that distinctive little hiccup, somewhere between an "ah" and a "yeah".

She's Out of My Life: probably my favorite MJ vocal ever.

Wanna Be Startin' Somethin': great opener to Thriller.

Thriller: era-defining video and dance moves. We all tried them. One of the rich kids in school had the jacket.

Human Nature: a companion piece to She's Out of My Life, I think of these as parts one and two.

The Way You Make Me Feel: pure pop, a great big piece of joyful noise.

Dirty Diana: the long hair, the heavy metal guitar. Was it about the supreme Supreme or the Princess of Wales? Who cares, rock on.

Leave Me Alone: Michael's first middle finger to the media machine. The video is hilarious.

Jam: I can't explain why I like it, I just do.

Black or White: master's thesis on pure pop.

Scream: another eff you to the media, this time with a hard rock edge and Janet in silver pants and breasts that are downright dangerous.

They Don't Care About Us: angry MJ is a good MJ.

Smile: knowing a little of his history, this melancholy version of Chaplin is appropriate.