Friday, September 28, 2012


I wonder what a jogger from 2012 would look like to folks on trolleys, in shops and on sidewalks during 1930s Chicago. Hot pink sneakers, spandex shorts, tank top, sweat bands and white wires connecting ears to pockets. They'd run away screaming. Or they'd just start running too, for World War was just around the corner and maybe bomb threats had already reached the papers. Now, runners are commonplace. Runners passing joggers. Joggers passing walkers. Walkers are another story entirely. Ever pass two women walking really fast side by side, their elbows jutting out like the wooden oars of an Olympian rowboat? Listen close. Are they trying to solve one another's problems or just talking trash? It will be one or the other. But forget that, I want to discuss the act of running for exercise. I had tried a few weeks back with Penny-the-dog, but my herding, tracking, protective pup started to panic, naturally, pulling me to every smell she could reach and to where she hoped to find safety. The fur on the sides of her face stuck out, her tail was stiff and her ears were back. To prevent this panic, I walked the rest of the way and eventually she became preoccupied with pissing on every tree and calmed down. Today, sans dog, I go out on my first real run since moving to Chicago. In old peeling sneakers, a baggy lavender t-shirt with a dinosaur on it and my dark running shorts I go. I pass runners wearing all kinds of spandex. So much spandex they could swim in the Arctic and go to a penguin prom if they so desired. I also pass runners wearing things on their feet that resemble folded skies or like giant mouse traps. They kind of bounce as they run. Science Fiction books from the seventies and even eighties could never had predicted the weird shit people do for fitness nowadays. My head is tilted down with my royal blue baseball cape covering my eyes and flushed cheeks. It's strange that we do this, this running. We once traveled only by foot. Food was scarce. Now it's everywhere we look, convenience stores of candy bars, fast food french fries, sidewalk carts of tacos. And the poorest are often the fattest. We all once had to cultivate land and/or forage food and water. Now most of us sit all day sipping from the faucet and cardboard coffee cups. Then like third graders released for recess, some of us bust outdoors to run down sidewalks, dodging old folks, children in school uniforms and shrieking loonies at crowded bus stops. I'm not wearing headphones today. It's safer, I decide. I can rely on my eyes and my ears. Scott almost got hit by a truck this morning in a crosswalk. We had the signal, but the truck had the green and apparently the driver didn't feel like waiting for us so he drove between our moving feet and the curb. Scott's head was down though and hadn't seen the truck so I yelled, "Scott! SCOTT!" He stopped just in time and looked up. We both glared at the butt of the truck as it drove off. A girl with an inhaler in her hand just passed me. I feel mildly chubby. The chewed up baby carrots in my stomach are bouncingWhenever Scott and I are with anyone who mentions running marathons, my husband will say "Rachel and her sisters ran the Boston Marathon." I always correct him. "Jogged. We jogged the Boston Marathon very slowly. Took us five and a half hours." Then, if I'm feeling silly or tipsy, I tell them the story of the porter potties before the race. While my sisters and I stood in the long line for the toilets, I begged my little sister to let me go in before her (the enormous pasta dinner we had the night before was executing an unexpected exit strategy). She refused, smiling as she entered the tall light blue rectangle of shit, sanitizer and Evergreen stink. Two minutes later, she emerged ridden with despair. No toilet paper! She told us. OH NO! What did you dooooo? We asked. She grimaced and mimed pulling up her pants without wiping. My other sister and I were in hysterics. For a good poop story always kills in my family. What did I do as the next person in line, you wonder? I grabbed one of those free hand towels they were handing out all over the place. I held my breath, walked into the little blue house of horribleness, pooped, wiped the most luxurious wipe of all time, tossed the towel into the bucket and walked out of there ready to tackle that marathon one fourteen-minute-mile at a time. I would be much faster at running long distance if there was some kind of fear involved. For instance, if I lived in a post apocalyptic world with dragons, angry aliens and/or mythic monkeys that could fly helicopters and jump through volcanoes, then staying fit wouldn't be a top concern because I'd be in incredible shape. I'd be skinny for lack of rations. I'd have tons of muscles from running, crouching in brush and fighting battles with my ax. And I'd be so fast because I'd have death-by-fire-breath chasing me wherever I went. I mean, that'd sure as hell beat saying that the fastest I've ever run was up the basement stairs of my parents' house. A sprint, which was never even recorded or witnessed by anyone besides the fictitious ghost that gave me the chill that inspired me to run up the stairs in the first place. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Beams of lime green light move in synchronized swiveling sweeps from the stage. Vinyl records bellow from electric speakers. I have a yellow bubbly beer with an orange slice. I am not drunk. I'd like that to be noted. My cup stands surrounded by other cups, strangers of ice with red skinny straws stuck into most of them. On the floor, my purse and sweatshirt huddle together in a hidden heap. They wouldn't take purses at coat check. This is fine since they would have charged me $3. And because I haven't had a paycheck in over a month $3 feels more like $10. I call it the deflation of an unemployed person's pockets. We six dance like maniacs to the disc jockey's selection of 70s soul. It's awkward when we first get onto the painted black dance floor, but soon it's clear we all embrace some kind of individual love for dance. We twirl, squat, jolt our hips, point our fingers, shake our butts, clap, snap, run in place, mime holding a baby whenever the lyrics call a lover "baby", and mimic the opening to The Cosby Show as best we can. Some of us look insane. You know that saying that's usually carved and painted onto little wooden boards and hung on dorm room walls, the "dance like no body's watching" quote? Well, we literally dance like no one is watching. We feel the beat and jerk our bodies accordingly. Sometimes we look like modern dance aficionados, improvising choreography like salaried artists, but a lot of the time, we just look like we're poking fun at this old silly human tradition of moving to music. There must be a name for what we're doing, something like Freestyle Dance, but I prefer to just call it Fun

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"The times, they are a changin.."

The ten foot moving truck is parked out front. The dog doesn't understand and keeps running to bark at the suspicious vehicle through the screen door, causing me to yell and my heart to punch at my chest cavity. For two weeks, we say goodbye to the familiar. Goodbye bathroom where our toothbrushes lean, bye Main Street where we ramble, bye bedroom with the orange curtains and streetlight beams, bye to the mountain trails we travel and to the kitchen sink where we stand to wash. This is the last time I'll see this, do this, drink this, I think, staring at bricks, porcelain, dirt, smudged car windows and a stemmed beer glass of stout. Amy and Mark are moving away too. When they leave for Canada, I cry a little, but it feels like tap water stuck in a damp clump of hair, rust, and toothpaste spit. My body must be rejecting this impending sorrow. Well this is happening, body. I say, playing sad music on the car stereo. Eventually, a breach busts through and two salty streams surge for my dear friends and for all the friendships, which will warp by the weight of distance. Goodbye old pals, I'm sorry if you fade into archived photographs, storied memories and precious artifacts of love. 

I watch Martin Scorsese's documentary about Bob Dylan called No Direction Home. Afterwards, I buy two of Dylan's old folk albums and sit at the computer listening to his rhythmic voice and guitar picking poetry. As a young man, he found himself in New York City's Greenwich Village where Allen Ginsberg was howling and small folk bands were collecting change in baskets and playing three song sets between poets. Alcohol, cigarette smoke and dancing coins passed through the candle lit darkness of crowded folk cafes in Greenwich during the 1960s. Strangers sat together while they witnessed art. There were rustic record players, but mostly entertainment was found when alive and in cafes, theatres, street parades and traveling circus tents. One big reason we're moving to Chicago is so that we can sit as strangers in theatres, old movie houses, comedy clubs and music venues, witnessing art. 

Once he got famous, Bob Dylan was asked a lot of stupid questions by the press, questions he'd question back or blow cigarette smoke at. When he started playing with a band and an electric guitar, he was booed and heckled, called fake, a sell out and even Judas. All for moving away from his acoustic folk sound. Imagine if every change we underwent faced a mob of angry audience members, of fans who are no longer. I don't have anything like that. But if I was faced with a similar sort of harassment, I hope I too would have the courage to play on. 

Tomorrow I drive my dog to Toledo, then on to Chicago.