Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I feel like I've run out of interesting

Or even mildly droll. Because I obviously haven’t blogged much in the last month … and when I have it’s just been lame-o lists and pictures and recipes and other manifestations of phoning it in. But the last few months—holiday adventures aside—have the ironic distinction of being filled with a lot of nothing with no time to write about it. Ask me how far along I am with my epic holiday letter. Go on. Ask. But I doubt I’ll have the time or energy to tell you I’ve written exactly four paragraphs of what usually tops out at 30 or 40 paragraphs of all-about-Jake holiday cheer.

But! Something exciting finally happened last night: I had the spiciest chicken tom yum soup in recorded thermonuclear history. Seriously. It was mega-hella-smackya-mama spicy. So spicy that after one sip my nose started running and I broke a sweat. So spicy that by the time I was halfway done with it (which ended up also qualifying as being fully done with it), the spicy tuna roll I was also eating tasted like vanilla pudding. So spicy that an hour later—about the time we realized Nine was not panning out to be the cinematic masterpiece we’d hoped it would be—my churning innards were gathering more media attention than that little seismic anomaly currently sputtering adorably over in Indonesia. So spicy that I pretty much shit fire this morning at the gym. (How sexy do you find me right now? I mean really.)

Speaking of the gym, Equinox has finally replaced the generic eau-de-suburban-teenage-lothario brand of soap and shampoo and body lotion in its locker rooms with some foo-foo high-end brand-name stuff. All to much emails-and-posters-in-the-lobbies fanfare. Starting this week, after every workout I now wash my hair with a tropical-smelling Kiehl’s shampoo and scrub my body in a grapefruit-scented effluvium of Kiehl’s suds and smooth away the dry discomfort of my overly scrubbed skin with a creamy layer of Kiehl’s body lotion. Unfortunately, the lotion isn’t the fast-absorbing kind. Because I rub the stuff all over my dry areas about 8:00 am and by noon—which usually takes four pees and four vigorous hand-washings to get to—my fingers are still sliding waxily down my mechanical pencil whenever I try to write. And that’s not a metaphor for anything.

Speaking of writing, you may have noticed while you were patiently waiting for me to finally get off my ass, do something interesting and then blog about it that there’s a new email address at the end of my little bio under my little picture over to your right. You may now email me personal notes if you want. And I may email back. But be warned: Three of you have already noticed the new email address and dropped me a little hello and I’ve found time in my busy, busy schedule of not doing anything particularly interesting to respond to exactly one of you. Also! Haloscan, the free commenting software I’ve been using since I started this blog, is now called Echo. And it’s no longer free. So for the first time in recorded thermonuclear history, I’m paying money for this blog. Well, technically, I’m still blogging free, but I’m paying money to give you a way to tell me how much you love the way I blog. The Echo moderator settings are anything but understandable, though, so bear with me as I tinker with requirements for registering and API keys and OpenID and everything else Echo assumes I understand.

Speaking of technology, I made a list of everything I want to buy in the next few months. Topping off the list: a new 13" MacBook Pro! But I need to 1) save up for it and 2) make sure there’s no fabulous new generation of computing technology being released two days after I buy it, like what happened when I bought my slow, clunky, instantly obsolete, so-embarrassing-that-geeks-beat-me-up iBook five years ago. Also on the list: an iPhone! Unless I decide to stay with Verizon and get a Droid. But I really want an iPhone. I just don’t want to deal with all the AT&T horror stories I hear about from all my cool iPhone-wielding friends. My cool iPhone-wielding friends who often have to stand by a window to make a phone call. But they have iPhones! And I don’t! Yet! Unless I get a Droid! Someone please tell me what to do! In a comment! Or an email! Or a comment and an email!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ChicagoRound: Tree Lights

Chicago is not shy about dolling up our downtown trees with little white lights in the winter. And this line of trees on Monroe Street looked especially striking in the snowy rain the other night:

It’s especially fabulous in person. If you’re in the Loop this winter, come to Monroe between Dearborn and Clark and check it out. And while you’re there, I thoroughly recommend eating at Italian Village, which you can see peeking through the trees right in the center of the picture. It’s a collection of three restaurants with decent food and over-the-top ambience.

Monday, December 21, 2009

21 years ago today

My friend Miriam Wolfe was murdered by the terrorist bomb that blew Pan Am flight 103 out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland.

I feel like I’ve told her—and our—story so often that I don’t know what more I can add to it. I had only a brief time to get to know her, but the person she was—and the way she died—still changed the paths my life followed.

I remind my friends about her at the end of my holiday letter every year. And in her memory I implore them to look around, take stock of the people who are important to them … and tell them. They may not have the chance tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In which you may call me Scrooge

Holiday traditions I really, really, really don’t like:

Gift exchanges
The domestic partner and I don’t exchange Christmas gifts. Or birthday gifts. There, I said it. We’re both men of a certain age who merged our completely furnished households three years ago and we’re STILL getting rid of stuff. So we don’t need any more. We buy what we need for ourselves when we need it and we spend the holidays just loving and respecting each other, and we’re both perfectly happy with this arrangement. Besides, wrapping paper is wasteful and expensive. And bows take up valuable storage space. And you probably think I’m some sort of misanthropic, Tiny-Tim-kicking alien right now. It gets worse. Read on:

Candy canes
Sticky, slimy, sugary, gross in your mouth, gross on your tongue, gross on your lips … plus they probably have negative nutritional value. They’re the most repulsive candy this side of Sno Balls. Their only redeeming quality: They can function as an emergency breath freshener. Which is exactly the benefit I look for most when I indulge in a holiday treat.

Mall Santas
Is there anything more disturbing than plopping your kids on the lap of a creepy out-of-work actor in a crowded shopping center in the interest of begging for free toys and perpetuating a ridiculous cultural lie? No, there is not.

Live Christmas trees

Oh, whom am I kidding? I freaking love eggnog!

The war on Christmas
I know it’s extremely trendy for Christians to feel persecuted when Home Depot employees tell them to have happy holidays. There’s even a retarded web site where Christian consumers can rate their Jesus-worshipping experiences at major retailers as “friendly,” “negligent” or “offensive.” And even though I find the vast majority of religious expression itself to be offensive, I am profoundly appalled that people who call themselves Christians actually trot out this intellectually and spiritually repugnant abortion of logic and importance year after year after year.

Secular Christmas carols
File this under gray areas, but I’m the least religious person you know who loves sacred Christmas music. And I loathe most of the secular crap that pollutes every store and radio station from Halloween through Epiphany. I’ll happily enjoy “And the Glory of the Lord” or “O Holy Night” or even “The Little Drummer Boy”—and I’ll joyously sing along with every Messiah chorus at the top of my lungs—but I fight the urge to strangle children every time I hear “Holly Jolly Christmas” … and I’d rather join a convent than listen to “Here Comes Santa Claus” ever again. There is one secular song I actually love, though: “Carol of the Bells.” But probably because it's all dramatic and dour and it never once mentions Santa Claus. Merry merry merry MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jake’s Mom’s Awesome Pie Crust

scant 2 cups Gold Medal flour
scant 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening (Mom prefers the Aldi or Walmart store brand since Crisco changed its formula)
5 tablespoons COLD water

Mix flour, shortening, and salt with pastry blender until like corn meal. Add cold water. Mix with fork and then with hands.

Roll into two crusts, adding a little flour as needed. Flip each crust once as you roll it.

Form one crust into a pie plate, rolling any extra dough under itself at the edge to create a thick lip. Pinch the edge at regular intervals or make indentations with a knife or spoon to create a pretty pattern.

To bake an empty shell, prick the bottom and sides with a fork, add pie weights and bake at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning.

Eggnog Custard Pie

1 9-inch UNBAKED pie crust

2 cups eggnog
3 eggs
2 tablespoons brandy or rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon brandy or rum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prick holes in the bottom of pie crust. Bake 15 minutes to partially cook.

Beat eggnog, eggs, brandy (or rum) and vanilla in large bowl. Add sugar, salt and nutmeg. Mix well. Pour into pie crust.

Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil and bake 30 to 40 minutes longer or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

To make the topping, beat whipping cream in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and brandy or rum. Beat until stiff peaks form. Garnish pie with whipped cream and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What recession?

Remember me? I used to write a blog here. But then the economy apparently got extra-awesome because my company got bombarded with new projects and for the last week and a half I've done little more than work, sleep and work out. And pee, because my protein shakes seem to go right through me.

But! Last weekend my folks came to Chicago for a fabulous Pie and Chanticleer Fest. We spent almost the entire weekend measuring, rolling and baking, and we whipped up 17 from-scratch pies (including a new favorite: eggnog custard!) and invited a bunch of family and friends over to enjoy them Sunday night. As usual, I took tons of pictures of the pies and only a handful of blurry pictures of our guests. But here's what our dining room pie station looked like all tricked out in Christmas crap and caloried crusts:

And here's my newest invention: the living-room pie station, which spread the pies to both ends of the house and forced people to spread out and socialize in rooms with nice comfy furniture instead of clotting around the dining room table where nobody can move. I must be some kind of civic-engineering genius ... not to mention a top-notch holiday decorator:

To cap off our weekend of holiday awesomeness, on Monday night the folks, the domestic partner and I (and an intrepid blog reader who recognized me and ran up to say hello but it all happened so fast I'm afraid I don't remember your name) piled into Chicago's soaring Fourth Presbyterian Church (third row center!) for what was probably my 20th concert by Chanticleer, a 12-voice a cappella men's choir that sings everything from early music to small-c classical to modern jazz and quite frankly would provide me with the ideal lifetime career as a singer if only it had the occasional kickline. And I had the occasional high F. Or at least a stronger passaggio. Anyway! Chicago's annual Chanticleer holiday concert has become a required first step for putting me in the holiday spirit, and this year all but pushed me over the edge of noëlic delirium with a concert that took us from a rollicking "Esta noche nace un Niño" to Franz Biebel's transcendent two-choir "Ave Maria" to a shimmering new (to me) work by Arvo Pärt that left me breathless and light-headed.

And I have a new wish: I want to sing with Chanticleer. As in sit in a room for two or three or four hours with these men and sing through their repertoire as though I were one of them. I don't want to solo. I don't (OK, actually I do) want to perform. I don't even want to make a fuss. I just want to sit in the middle of their shimmery majesty and actually (attempt to) contribute to it for a glorious few moments of my life. I honestly think the happiness of it all would kill me, but I can't think of a better way to go than by climbing the Biebel amens to whatever afterlife I imagine could barely hold a candle to the 12 heavenly voices leading me there.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I think something peed on my shoes

Seriously. Ever since I got home from Thanksgiving in Iowa with my family, I’ve noticed a vague catbox-like effluvium wafting around my person. Except for yesterday, when I didn’t wear the shoes I wore all during Thanksgiving. Clue!

It’s especially noticeable when I take my shoes off before climbing into bed. And when I open my gym locker after my shoes and gym bag and coat (and lunch, the implications of which I don’t even want to contemplate) have been cooped up there together for over an hour.

My folks and my sister’s family both have cats. Non-Jake-liking cats. (Non-most-everyone-liking cats, for the record.) I always make gestures of friendship and love when I see them because who doesn’t want the affection and good graces of a cat? And their cats always rebuke me with all the fire and brimstone their malevolent little feline selves can muster. So this trip, figuring I had nothing to lose, I got kind of hostile with my folks’ cat … the cat that had the most unsupervised retaliatory access to my shoes during my trip. Clue!

I emailed the basic facts of this case to my mom and sister this morning, and they both responded in indignant defense of their adorable little non-shoe-peeing-on kitties. But I still have my suspicions. And my clues. And my personal cloud of shoebox-whiff.

I just moments ago stitched these clues together, and since I’m a little averse to bending down and smelling my own shoes—especially at work—I’m going to wait to do the sniff test when I’m in the privacy of my own bathroom tonight. In the mean time, I’ll walk around terrified that other cats—especially office cats—will walk up to me and feel compelled to mark me as their own once they smell the (alleged) malevolent Iowa cat pee all over me.

But to show I’m not bitter—at least as bitter as I probably smell—I’m ending this post with a cat-positive YouTube clip featuring people who sing way better than an alleged shoe-peeing cat I won’t name here:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We got a new toy on Black Friday!

While I officially have a visceral loathing for the term Black Friday, I have a newfound love for the magical savings it brings me!

We've had a TV sitting in front of our fireplace—which is really the only place for the TV in our living room—since we moved into our Two-Bedroomed, Two-Bathroomed, One-Fireplaced Barbie Dream Condo three years ago. We've been meaning to replace our embarrassingly old-school, 2002-era TV with a giant flat-screen TV that would free up our fireplace for actual fireplace-type activities like providing burning-wood-based warmth and ambiance, but the flat-screen TVs we'd been admiring were all in the $1,500 price range. Until Black Friday! My mom found a 42" baby on sale for $600 in, of all places, her grocery store in Iowa. So we bought it, lugged it back to Chicago today in an upright position—just like the box instructed us, though it meant pushing our seats so far forward that our knees were in our armpits, turning our four-plus-hour drive into an extended BigWheel-in-the-driveway flashback—and spent the entire evening—along with 17 buckets of swear words—mounting it over the fireplace.

It turns out you need an advanced degree in aviation engineering to install a flat-screen TV, but we finished our degree online in only one night and got the whole thing attached to the wall and plugged in ... and it actually works!

Unfortunately, we still need to find a place to stash the cable box. And bury the cables in the wall. And install a mantle. And buy a new DVD player. And (ahem) hook up the VCR. Because we still have a few favorite shows on tape. And we just spent a ton of money on a flat-screen TV so it's not like we can afford to replace them with DVDs right now. Do not judge us.

But in the mean time, we have some shows to watch. And crackling fires to light. And ambiance to enjoy. And bills to pay. But we don't want to think about that part right now.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Addiction, Inc.

They say that getting tattoos is like killing hookers in the basement. You tell yourself you can stop any time you want, but then Sarah Palin doodles on a restaurant placemat with her crayons and gets a billion-dollar book deal while you toil away as a middle-management writer who actually knows how to operate a pen and then Carrie Prejean tells you it’s un-Christian for you to get married while she spanks her vajesus on camera for boys she barely even knows (which there technically isn't a commandment against but then she lies about it, which there is) and the cosmic inequality of it all makes your head spin and one day you look down and holy shit there’s another dead hooker in your basement. Or another tattoo on your arm.

I don’t have a basement, so you get one guess (unless you’re Sarah Palin or Carrie Prejean, in which case you get 74) as to which of the above two scenarios happened to me.

Here’s a hint, for those of you still looking for your rogue-colored crayon or the integrity you think somehow may have gotten lodged up near your cervix (which is not, for the record, a Latin way to say crucifix or a lens setting on your video camera):

This new tattoo—my sixth, which equals one for each marathon I’ve run … and is still two fewer than the Carrie Prejean sex tapes that we know about—was a bit of a well-planned impulse purchase.

I knew what I wanted:
• A Celtic knot whose structure and symmetry would offset the tribal abstraction snaking down the back of my other shoulder and arm
• A big round shape that would cover my entire deltoid for dramatic effect … and continue motivating me to get as pointlessly big as possible at the gym since people would be noticing my fancy shoulders (well, at least my one fancy shoulder) more
• A dangling element that would peek coquettishly out of my shirtsleeve
• Enough wrapping action that it could be seen when I greet people head-on:

Unfortunately, in my little live-and-die-by-the-calendar mindset, I’d also convinced myself I’d walk into a tattoo parlor on my self-imposed get-a-tattoo day, describe what I wanted and get it seared into my flesh on the spot. Which is exactly what happened … except the tattoo didn’t turn out as I’d kinda been picturing it. (Emphasis on kinda, which really didn’t give any tattoo a fighting chance to be what I wanted, right?) And so for the first week I had it I really didn’t like it. Especially because it kinda (there’s that word again) looked like a baroque apostrophe. Or a dialogue balloon from a Gallic cartoon.

But! The darn thing has generated endless praise from friends and strangers alike. It peeks out of my shirtsleeve just the way I wanted. It seems to make my shoulder look thick and round and manly (and fancy!). And the more I see it, the more I’ve started to really dig it for its nontraditionalness. And the fact that the whole apostrophe/dialogue balloon imagery has a quirky relevance for a professional writer … especially one who actually knows how to use a pen. Plus, it’s done. And even though I kept the receipt I’m pretty sure I can’t return it.

Of course, there are still hookers out there (Hi, Carrie!) so I know I'm still gonna want more tattoos. But I may limit myself to one per marathon from this point forward. (Emphasis on may. Even though I was born in April. And I tend to run marathons in the fall.) And next time I will definitely spend more time working with a tattoo artist getting exactly (more or less) what's in my head on paper before I start enshrining half-baked ideas on my body in ink and blood and fancy punctuation marks.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I am totally winning the race to Christmas!

The living room tree is up! And it turned out relatively even! Just like last year!

The dining room tree is up too! And this year's assembly phase was a lot more successful than last year's toilet brush / sparkle factory mishap. Because I assembled the branches in the right order this year. Just like a big boy! But the tree somehow still looks kind of ... squatty. But it's done and I'm way too old to start over and somehow make it less squatty because at 41 you never know when you're gonna keel over as dead as the three strings of lights I had to throw away this year. Good thing I had three packages of backup lights in my Big Box of Way Too Much Christmas Crap. Which means I get to do stock-up shopping during the Christmas Crap Clearance Sales! And that is totally worth having a tree that looks like a gay fire hydrant.

Friday, November 20, 2009

This is gonna hurt

My personal trainer has started his own blog. To his everlasting credit, he asked me—the keeper of all empirical truth and the best and most humble blogger in the entire known universe—for a few pointers. And he listened to my most important recommendation, the one I never listen to myself: Keep it short.

His blog is still pretty new, but he seems to update it frequently. And he packs his entries with thoughtful, useful, short workouts and nutrition recommendations. And I can personally vouch for most of the workouts because he inflicts them on me before he releases them to the general public.

So in the spirit of spreading the gospel of good workouts, I send you to Hank’s blog: H4 Training. And if you follow his tips and suddenly find yourself getting crazy wicked hot, please send pictures.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Comcast responds

Via email:
Thank you for contacting … Comcast. … I can understand your frustration with the incomplete installation of your two DVS's. I would be happy to look into this situation for you and help you to resolve the problem. Could you kindly reply to this email with your full service address and account number? … I appreciate you providing us with the opportunity to assist you. Thank you for contacting Comcast. We appreciate your business.

Via blog comments:
Jake, Thanks for sharing your blog and I sincerely apologize for the unacceptable experience. It was a simple task to do, but unfortunately we have failed completing it. If you don’t mind, will you please let me now the phone number associated with the account? This will help gather more information about your experience. Best regards, Comcast Customer Connect National Customer Operations

Via phone:
[I didn’t make a transcript, but I got a call with more of the above apologies and promises to help.]

We have had some extremely frustrating experiences with Comcast—especially with our Internet service—but their employees have always been courteous and helpful, and they’ve always (eventually) resolved our problems. It’s still a little appalling that there have been so many problems in the first place, but I wanted to state for the record that Comcast is making an admirable effort at customer service.

In fact, I told them three times that they didn’t need to contact me about this issue because I don’t like to make a fuss and in the big scheme of things some simple cable-connection corrections were no problem for me. I just wanted to let them know that their installers didn’t know what they were doing.

And guess what? The woman I just talked to on the phone credited the installation (or, technically, non-installation) fee back to us. Which seems completely fair. I hadn’t even realized they charged us $60 to come out and plug some wires into some holes.

So thank you, Comcast, for taking the trouble to correct your errors. I’m sure your Internet search-bots will find this post, so I won’t email it to you. Besides, it probably does more for your company out here on my blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dear Comcast,

You guys came out and installed two DVRs in our house a couple weeks ago. Your technicians not only installed them wrong—crossing the RCA cables for BOTH DVRs so our speakers buzzed like motorcycles—but they also completely disconnected our DVD players. Plus, doing all that shoddy work took them over half a day.

I wasn't there when they did their "work," but I'm smart enough to figure out how to connect a DVD player and match colors on RCA cable plugs so I've fixed everything.

Inept cable installers aren't the end of the world. But for the prices you charge I'd expect a little more competence from your employees. And despite my snarkiness here, I'm not filing a complaint or asking for an apology. But I thought you'd like to know how your employees are representing your company and your product.


Monday, November 16, 2009

ChicagoRound: The John Hancock Center

Chicago’s most recognizable skyscraper, with its delicate tapering and its iconic X-bracing, is only the city’s fourth tallest building.

Erected between 1965 and 1970, the Hancock Center actually sits on landfill from Chicago’s great 1871 fire. As legend has it, a mountebank named George Wellington "Cap" Streeter ran his steamboat aground on a sandbar 450 feet off Chicago’s north shore in 1886, convinced post-fire contractors to dump debris between the shore and his boat, and over the decades sold deeds and collected taxes on the growing mass of landfill he called the United States District of Lake Michigan.

The area is today called Streeterville, and the Hancock Center reportedly occupies the spot where Cap Streeter’s boat stood for over a decade.

100 stories tall, the Hancock Center houses stores, restaurants and about 700 condominiums. That swirly structure behind the building in this awesome satellite photo is the ramp to the parking garage, which sits on floors 4–12.

And this February, I’ll be racing up the stairs to the 94th floor once again in Hustle up the Hancock. It’s a fundraiser for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (formerly the American Lung Association), which works to fight lung diseases including cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the medical consequences of smoking and pollution.

The top Hustle up the Hancock time is 9:38, roughly half the time it takes me to climb. But it takes you less than a minute to sponsor me just by clicking this link. It's easy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm sold! Again! On N! YC!

Sheesh! How long can a boy take to blog about his favorite thing in the whole wide world? (I mean besides Tool Academy.)

So the domestic partner and I went to NYC over Halloween weekend (remember Halloween weekend? it was like six months ago or something. back when I used to write blog posts.) to see multiple Broadway shows! He was there overnight for work and I had free airline tickets so I got to have a Big Gay Broadway Weekend for the cost of theater tickets, food and cab fare. Everyone wins!


New York City cabbies are a not-very-cooperative bunch. There, I said it. Every second cab that pulled over for us all weekend didn't want to go wherever we were going. And the one that took me back to LaGuardia on Sunday didn't even know where to drop me off. So the New York City cabbies were a big ol' Fosca to the Giorgio of my Big Gay Broadway Weekend.


I got to LaGuardia Saturday just before noon and I Clara-ed my way right to the theater district to get tickets for my target matinee. (We tend to operate on a hope-we-can-get-tickets theater plan in our family. So far we've never not gotten tickets to the shows we wanted to see, though we've been reduced to standing in return-ticket lines for a couple hours when we could have been spending our New York City time wandering around Times Square feeling superior to the other tourists who plan ahead for months to see Phantom of the Opera.) I got a ticket right away, ran to grab a bite to eat and then settled down for my first Broadway experience of the weekend. But more on that later.

Because first I want to talk about celebrities!

I apparently have horrible celebrity-dar. Because I saw my first show, waited in line right by the sidewalk for an hour for return tickets for our second show, enjoyed a long early dinner at a sidewalk cafe, and stood on the sidewalk watching people go by for another hour while I waited for the domestic partner to show up from work, and I never once saw a celebrity. Not even Evan Marriott.

But the moment the domestic partner showed up—the moment!—we suddenly bumped into—in rapid succession! right on the sidewalk! out in public!—Marcia Gay Harden, David Hyde Pierce and Tony Roberts. Either the domestic partner is the Celebrity Piper whose magical flute playing enchants celebrities right out of their hiding places everywhere he goes or celebrities walk by me all the time and I just don't notice.

But there's more! As we settled down in our Jake-waited-for-an-hour return seats for our evening show, Annette Bening sauntered down the aisle and sat herself a couple rows in front of us. Of course I didn't notice her until the domestic partner pointed out the merry jig she was dancing to his whimsical little flute canticle. But still! That's four celebrities in one night! If I had a celebrity punch card I'd totally earn a free Diet Pepsi!

But that's not all!

As I was sitting at a foo-foo gay sidewalk cafe in foo-foo gay Hell's Kitchen between foo-foo gay shows on Saturday, I saw a familiar face amble up the street toward me. My New York blogger friend David—of Someone in a Tree, which I can't look at at work because he booby-traps his posts with pictures of naked men whose bodies make me feel bad about mine—emerged out of the crowd on his way to perform in Brigadoon. And while it was fun to run into him so randomly in big ol' New York City, it was more fun to think how something like that probably wouldn't happen again for a hundred years.

And the coincidences keep coming!

Because as soon as David wandered off to his show, I saw a guy walk up the street toward me in a Rehobus shirt. Rehobus is a defunct bus company that shuttled gay people between DC and Rehoboth a couple summers ago, and all that's left of the company is its very cool shirts. And I have the same shirt this dude was wearing because the guys who ran the company are the friends I stayed with in Rehoboth twice this summer. So I chatted this dude up and, sure enough, he totally knew my friends. So he was a random-friend-on-the-sidewalk-encounter-by-proxy.

Anyway, let's move on to the important part of this blog post: where to find a free bathroom in Times Square. (Upstairs at the Marriott—turn right when you get off the escalator.)

Also: the shows I saw!

I tried to take a picture of myself in front of every show I saw over the weekend. Which is really hard to do with a cell phone on a crowded sidewalk. And not only because I–who can usually be counted on to feel no shame about acting goofy in public–was suddenly overcome with a rare case of the What Will People Think Of Me's as I tried to discreetly snap self-portraits from arm's length as bored tourists milled about me in their pleated capri pants and their purses crammed with money-saving sandwiches and maps of New York City landmarks. Plus, I had to wait 20 minutes for some damn tourists to move away from this sign so I could take a self-portrait I call "Next to Next to Normal" ... and once I got it out of my phone and blown up to readable size, I realized I had been in front of the wrong sign all along because this sign was obviously for a show about a girl who sat alphabetically beside Marilyn Monroe in grammar school:
(This is my Serious Face, by the way, worn in deference to the pain and suffering endured by the characters in the show. Poor Norma.)

In any case, Next to Normal—which I saw with the original Broadway cast, thank you very much—is pretty spectacular. For those of you not familiar, it's a rock opera about a family torn apart by mental illness. Tony winner Alice Ripley rips into the role of the family matriarch struggling to find a sense of normal in her haze of delusions and disorders. And she. gutted. me. The show is a roller coaster of chaos and despair and hope and challenge and absolute emotional destitution. I don't want to say much more about it, though, because the show's awesome powers are better discovered in real time. But I will say this: If you go to see Aaron Tveit—the family's son, who is so handsome he's almost a distraction—in his underwear, don't blink; the scene goes by pretty fast. And he's still pretty covered up. So it's best to come to the show for the show itself. (Also: Don't read any reviews before you see the show. The less you know, the better. Trust me on this.)

The domestic partner and I saw God of Carnage—with the original Broadway cast, thank you very much—on Saturday night. Which means I didn't have to take a self-portrait with my camera phone. I had been under the impression that the show was a dialogue between two couples that devolves into an apocalyptic collapse of Albee proportions. But I was only half right. The couples do say and do vicious things to each other, but the play is really just a dark comedy with a lot of slapstick. Including a gratuitous vomit scene that completely undermines what little verisimilitude the show clings to (if a character vomited that much vomit with that much force in the real world, she would at the very least be too sick to move for the rest of the show ... and the room that she sprayed would not be inhabitable by humans for another whole hour of exposition). But once I'd adjusted my expectations for the show, I laughed and giggled my way through it with the rest of the audience. Including Annette Bening! The actors are spot-on in their roles, particularly Tony winner Marcia Gay Harden, whose nuanced slide from uncomfortable gentility to even more uncomfortable vitriol is matched only by the fabulously horrible outfit she wears: a helpless explosion of patterns and textures in exactly the wrong proportions for her body type. The set—a riot of brilliant reds and winter whites accented by a scorched-earth wall hanging and two massive vases of white tulips—provides a plush boxing ring for the characters to attack and retreat for 90 minutes. (My only unformed opinion: I'm still trying to figure out the significance of the show's many visual and verbal references to African tribalism, though I'm probably just overthinking.) The original cast—Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden—is leaving soon, but the show opens with a new cast—Christine Lahti, Annie Potts, Jimmy Smits and Ken Stott—on the 17th.

So how random is this: Three people I know from my Iowa home town (and by "I know" I mean "I only very distantly know and have never even personally met one of them") are in Broadway shows right now. And two of them are in one together: Bye Bye Birdie—which I saw with the original Broadway revival cast, thank you very much. The show is not getting very good reviews—it has lots of energy and color and fun, but it doesn't gel ... particularly the relationships between some of the leads ... and the choreography is both show-choir-y and sloppy—but there were only four seats left when I walked up to buy my ticket. So what do the reviewers know? Before I went to the show, I left a note at the stage door for the two people I "know" in it: a girl I watched grow up while her mother and I did millions of shows together and a guy who was in my dad's scouting troop before I was even born. They both have some of the most fun jobs in the show: chorus people who occasionally get pulled out for featured numbers. And they're both pretty fabulous, which is not just the Iowa pride talking. I was hoping to meet them afterward for a drink and a possible moment alone with John Stamos, but I had to race to catch a plane with no help from the cabbie who couldn't find the right departure gate for me. Fun fact! Bye Bye Birdie was the first book musical I ever did, way back before I even realized I would grow up addicted to tattoos. And I still know every word and every note and it was all I could do to not sing along in the audience.

WHEW. So thank you for your patience while I've been busy worshipping the gods of weekday work and weekend exhaustion. Come back soon for reports of my next adventure. Which will also include pictures! And text! Just like a real blog post!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Oh, hai.

Remember me? I used to write a blog here.

But it's been a busy week. Busy, busy, busy. (Touch the trolley!)

But I have so much to tell!

Broadway! Stage door notes! Celebrities! Small-world encounters on the sidewalk! Bad cabbies! Marathon runners! Stupid concierges! Free hotel rooms! Pictures!

I just don't have time to write about it all just yet. Stay tuned. Please. I promise I'll be back soon.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Things we hope to see in NYC this weekend

Next to Normal

God of Carnage

Bye Bye Birdie
or Hair (there are people from my home town in both shows!)

Or any of at least 10 other shows we'll be glad to get last-minute tickets to

The marathon

Some random NYC friends I emailed today with last-minute notice that we'll be there tomorrow and Sunday

Jessie Pavelka (but only because I hope to see him everywhere I go)

Ten things about my dad

1. Like most dads, he really, really wanted a prototypical athlete of a son … and he signed me up for every little league sport known to man and patiently tried to explain to my little could-not-be-less-interested self the rules of all the games. I have a distinct memory of him trying to illustrate the football line of scrimmage to me by drawing Xs and Os and lines in the redwood planks of our backyard picnic table when I was a kid. And when it eventually became clear that I was completely sucky at and completely not interested in team sports but pretty good and really interested in musical theater, he abruptly changed his expectations and started coming to cheer me on in every show and concert I ever did. No questions asked.

2. His colloquialisms and insults rival those of any you’d hear on a well-written sitcom. And I steal his material with reckless abandon to this day (though apparently it’s way better live than in a blog post). I remember laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe the first time he told my little sister—who was not the neatest or most linear of children—that she could screw up a one-woman parade. I can still make the domestic partner giggle by telling him someone is so cheap they wouldn’t pay a nickel to watch Jesus ride a bike. And I’ve even spread the jocular wisecrackery to none other than Dan Savage, who stopped mid-conversation and reached for a pen and paper when I described a fussy woman I know by saying she wouldn’t say shit if she had a mouth full of it.

3. Dad officially hates cats. My mom and the rest of our family officially love cats. So of course Mom and Dad’s cat wants nothing to do with anyone but Dad. And whenever he sits down, he patiently lets her (the cat, not Mom) climb to her favorite position on his chest with her hind paws on his tummy and her head and upper paws on his shoulder as though she were a hideous, cat-butt-shaped broach.

4. He likes to let people think he’s a gruff old curmudgeon, but he’s really little more than a giant bowl of warm Play-Doh in the hands of my niece and nephew. Like the cat, they easily manipulate him to do their bidding, and watching him happily interact with them is the most heartwarming thing you will ever see.

5. I had a 4:00 am paper route from December of 6th grade to December of my senior year in high school. (And I still haven’t caught up on my sleep.) Dad got up with me almost every morning, at the very least making sure I was awake and more often than not to take a chunk of papers and doing the west loop of my route for me.

6. Throughout my entire childhood, either late at night or right before the paper route, Dad and I would snack on milk and those rock-hard store-brand iced oatmeal cookies. To this day, every time I walk by a package of them in a grocery store I have strong and very happy flashbacks to our cookie time together.

7. He instilled in me a lifelong love of peanut butter. And, following his example, I always keep a wide selection of jelly flavors in my refrigerator.

8. His handwriting is an interesting blend of casual scrawl and indifferent masculinity … and it’s not the easiest thing to read. And by the time I’d gotten out of college I discovered my handwriting had become almost exactly like his.

9. On the day he turned 45, I remember sitting in school thinking Holy shit, my dad is 45. That means he’s going to die soon.

10. But he somehow managed to survive 45. And today he turns 70. And though he’s stoically enduring the indignities of macular degeneration and a host of lesser advancing-age infirmities, he’s still an active, happy, loving part of all our lives. And I’m so thrilled that he’s around to cheer on his grandson—who clearly understands what a line of scrimmage is—in his football games and have cookies with his granddaughter and spoil his Mom’s cat … and still sit in the audience of his sensitive, artistic son’s concerts every once in a while.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Three-Year Itch

Or, technically, the Three-Year Corporate Oral Hygiene Review

I just had my three-year anniversary at my job (thank you all for the gifts and the flowers) and, as one typically does at this career juncture, I checked the expiration date stamped into the crimpy end of the tube of office toothpaste I bought for myself on my very first lunch hour.

Since I usually have my gym bag Dopp kit with me, I tend to use my gym toothpaste when I brush my teeth at work. Which is why this tube of toothpaste lasted me a full three years. And while it had always left a gross taste in my mouth, I’d noticed the taste had actually gotten worse in the last few months. But buying a new tube of toothpaste involved all kinds of inconveniences, like walking into a drugstore. Then I noticed that the current tube had expired over a year ago, so I was forced to break down and get a new tube.

But, suddenly realizing I had all the ingredients for a high-traffic blog post (as you can probably tell, I’m always on the lookout for ways to entertain and inform you people in a Pulitzer-worthy fashion … and to pump up my hit count with the tougher, more relevant topics that the kids are buzzing about), before I threw the old tube away I took a side-by-side picture with my camera phone.

And then I wrote bulleted captions. Because that’s what separates the dumb, pointless blog posts from the truly poetic and universally meaningful (and full of kid buzz) ones.
Top tube:
• Astringent-y and painful to use
• Leaves mouth tasting like kitten butt and regret
• Requires frequent applications of breath spray to kill post-brushing funk
• Expired in JN08, whenever that was

Bottom tube:
• Fresh and new, right out of the box
• Label printed crooked but who cares?
• Leaves a fresh, minty aftertaste that really does last
• Totally matches the shirt I’m wearing today

My morning U.N. meeting

Working out at 7 am involves a comforting set of rituals: Packing my lunch and my workout clothes and my work clothes the night before. Setting my alarm for 5:45 and hitting the snooze button only once so I can be up and stuffed full of eggs and toast and out the door by 6:10 in time to catch the bus. And hanging out at my silent United Nations meeting, which convenes every morning at my bus stop with the following cast of international representatives:

The white guy. That’s me. I’m wearing my gym clothes with my stuffed-to-bursting gym bag over my shoulders. And even though it’s pretty dark I’m usually reading something.

The blue-collar black woman. She wears a uniform that says she probably works in a hotel or at a restaurant. And she always looks tired.

The yuppie white girl. She’s always in a suit of some sort with her hair just so and her tennis shoes on and her bag that usually goes with her coat.

The Hispanic woman who’s always in a hurry. She runs—runs!—from the cross-town bus that drops her off right across the street from us and arrives breathless at our bus stop. Even though our bus never arrives until well after she’s joined us and gotten her heart rate back to normal.

The Middle Eastern woman who won’t stand anywhere near us. She wears the head covering that hides her hair and neck and the long flowing outfit that shows only her hands and her shoes. And she stands a good 15 paces away from the rest of us with her head down the whole time. She stands so far away, in fact, that she almost misses the bus some mornings waiting for us to get on before she ventures near the door.

The bus driver. He thinks he’s a gruff old man and he tries to stare forward when we board, but I make a point to say good morning when I get on and to thank him when I get off and I think I’ve finally broken him to the point that he realizes he’s never going to escape from my preternatural morning perkiness.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Who's Bad?

That was the theme of my sister’s Halloween party on Saturday night. In Iowa. Where Iowa Hawkeye worship is a beverage and black and gold are condiments.

We road-tripped to Iowa this weekend for the party with the domestic partner’s cousin and his new wife. And we really struggled to think of a “Who’s Bad?” group costume that would work for one woman and three men. We struggled enough that two days before the party we still hadn’t thought of anything fun.


My sister emailed us to say that the undefeated (which is a sports term that means “having three Tony awards and a female lead who knows all the words and doesn’t sing flat like Madonna”) Iowa Hawkeyes would be playing the Michigan State Spartans during the party. Which means nobody would be badder than a group of Spartans fans that night. Nobody.

Now, this is funny on three levels: 1) It would be to-the-second timely, unlike the week-old joke of a balloon boy costume; 2) The four of us are sports fans in the way Rush Limbaugh is a sexy hunk of human relevance; and 3) I tend to look wan and pasty in jewel tones like Spartan green.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to find Spartans gear in Chicago two days before a Halloween party. Because apparently the entire city is working the same costume idea for the Spartans-Cubs game this Saturday. Perhaps.


I found Spartans green T-shirts on sale ($1.97 each! I must be some kind of god!) at Old Navy. And I printed some Spartans logos from the Internets. And we got some giant green fingers and some face paint and some cheesy football hats at a party store. And I personally own every color of electrical tape known to man. Plus I own green tennis shoes. In three different shades.

So for less than $10 each, the four of us went from too-cool-for-sports artsy kids to hardcore sports fans for one night. And we were a hit! And we were allowed to live through the night because the Hawkeyes beat the Spartans in a last-second upset (which is a sports term that means “you’re going out there a youngster, but you’re coming back a star!”). So it was a very fun party. Even though I totally looked wan:

Friday, October 23, 2009

ChicagoRound: Essanay Studios

Most people—heck, most Chicagoans—don’t realize it, but Chicago was an important player in the development of America’s motion picture industry. And the Chicago studio that was once home to early film legends like Gloria Swanson, G.M. “Bronco Billy” Anderson and Charlie Chaplin—along with screenwriter-turned-Hollywood-gossip-columnist Louella Parsons—still stands in Chicago’s storied Uptown neighborhood:

Essanay Studios—founded in 1907 as the Peerless Film Manufacturing Company but eventually renamed Essanay after the initials (S and A) of its founders, George K. Spoor and Gilbert M. Anderson—turned out about 2,000 shorts and features between 1907 and 1917.

Its first film, An Awful Skate, or The Hobo on Rollers, was produced in and around its first studio location at 946 Wells Street (now 1300 N. Wells after Chicago changed its street numbering system in 1908). It starred Ben Turpin, who was then the studio janitor, and it cost just a couple hundred dollars to make. But it grossed perhaps as much as $10,000—close to $216,000 in modern dollars—when it was released. Suddenly flush with money and success, Essanay Studios moved to its giant new location—and into its golden age—at 1333-45 W. Argyle St. in 1908.

Chicago’s weather—and it’s always about Chicago’s weather—along with the growing popularity of westerns, also prompted Essanay to open what they called the Essanay-West Studio in Niles, California in 1913.

The Chicago studio produced many of Essanay’s most famous movies, including:
• The first A Christmas Carol (1908)
• The first Jesse James movie, The James Boys of Missouri (1908)
• The first American Sherlock Holmes (1916)
• And some of the world’s first cartoons, including a popular character called Dreamy Dud

Aside from Anderson, Chaplin, Parsons and Swanson, other notable (to some, but I had to look them up) Essanay alumni include Edward Arnold, Wallace Beery, Francis X. Bushman, Lester Cuneo, Helen Dunbar, Ann Little, Tom Mix, George Periolat, Rod La Rocque, Ben Turpin, Virginia Valli and director Allan Dwan.

Chaplin actually lived in Chicago for less than a month and filmed only one notable movie here: His New Job. But his is the most famous name associated with the studio, and it lives on in the Charlie Chaplin Auditorium of St. Augustine College, which occupies the site today.

Esssanay Studios dissolved in 1918, but the building still stands on a leafy residential street. It was designated a Chicago Landmark with this plaque on March 26, 1996:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My sixth marathon!

First of all, this year's Chicago Marathon logo was once again ... weird. This time it was built around the theme of shoe prints, which is neither original nor particularly attractive, and it had the unfortunate sub-theme of being built around images of unattractive runners covered in shoe prints as though they had fallen in the race and the other runners had trampled them into a state of gradient-colored flatness. And you couldn't escape these ugly, trampled, gradient-colored runners anywhere you went in Chicago for a couple weeks before the marathon:

Thankfully, the images did not make it onto the marathon shirts, which, true to tradition, were another kind of ugly altogether. But more on that later.

Because we must respect the chronology of marathon events. So here is part of our crew at the packet pickup the day before the marathon: Peter and I, who committed to run the marathon and actually did it, and Matthew and Taz, who are big quitters. Except Matthew ran me in from miles 21 to 26 so I officially am not making fun of him. And Taz got up early to volunteer at a water station, so she's a marathon saint as well. The event alert system we're standing in front of was set at moderate because the weather was so cold. Which is better than the moderate-to-severe alerts we got last year because of the heat.

The packet pickup is essentially a massive trade show with billions of booths selling everything from running gear and shoes and headphone holder-in-placers to souvenir posters and shirts to registrations for other marathons. And there are tons of cool signs and things you can use as photo ops:

This year there was also a photo-op sign that wasn't quite as marathon-related as one would expect, but I'm never one to not follow directions:

The marathon was cold. So cold, in fact, that our triathlon friends Simon and Russ lent me their running tights the night before. Which was awesome, but in hindsight I probably should have chosen a different pair of shorts to wear over them because my baggy gray-and-red shorts, though built with nicely deep zippered pockets that can hold all the running gels a fella could need for a marathon, look like they're part of a bar mitzvah clown outfit when worn over black leggings:

Then again, this is me we're talking about here: the vanguard of running fashion. And before the marathon was over, cheap knockoffs of my outfit were spotted on runways (ahem) all over Chicago:
(Yes, that big orange PROOF indicates I stole these images from the Marathon photo site. But I intend to buy most of them so it's more like I'm using them through a borrow-to-own program. In any case, I stole them for you people so please don't call the cops. Because you've already looked at the pictures, which is exactly like wearing a dress to a party and then returning it to the store the next day, so you're just as guilty as I am.)

I have no decent photos of me in miles 0 through 17, which were thankfully really easy and enjoyable to run. Especially because I had disposable layers of clothing I threw away or handed to random domestic partners I encountered along the race route as my body got warmer. So you'll have to imagine this picture is me at mile 2 or so, with a white hoodie, a white throw-away jacket, black gloves and a black hat:

Here I am at mile 5, after I've thrown away the disposable jacket and the hat but I still have on the hoodie and the gloves that I have not told you you can stop imagining yet:

Here I'm going to ask you to imagine that this lifesize cutout of me is actually me. Which will be easy to do because it looks exactly like a lifesize cutout of me. It's wearing the hoodie I managed to hand off to some random domestic partner at mile 7 as he and Matthew and Craig and James met us on their intrepid journey to cheer Pete and me to victory. That's the official marathon shirt that the imaginary me is wearing, by the way. I don't mind the logo on the front, but the color is the kind of turquoise that even a Native American would have reservations (ahem) about wearing:

OK. You can stop imagining now. Here I am around mile 18 (for real!), when the pain started to set in. Ironically, it wasn't the foot pain that had threatened to keep me out of the marathon altogether a week before the race. It was just the all-over, why-am-I-doing-this pain that usually hits me right around mile 18. Plus my head cold had clearly taken up residence in my lungs by this point and I'd begun worrying that if I started to cough I may never be able to stop:

So this is what I look like running in pain. Fashion pain:
Thankfully, Matthew the marathon dropper-outer met me at mile 21 and ran me through the pain all the way to mile 26:

From the Department of Really Not That Interesting Two-Camera Perspectives: Matthew (who brought his camera with him so I could have stand-in pictures for miles 0 through 21) took this picture of me running under a bridge covered with marathon photographers:

Here's what my fellow runners and I looked like from the photographers' perspective:

Neat, huh?

I don't know where this picture was taken, but since official marathon photos are more expensive than a child-molestation payout and priest-relocation fees combined, I most certainly didn't stick my tongue out at a marathon photographer on purpose. It was so cold at the beginning of the run that our Gatorade felt syrupy on our lips and our running gels had taken on the consistency of week-old Play-Doh, so I imagine I'm sticking my tongue out here trying to get the sticky Gatorade/gel goo off my lips:

In any case, neither cold nor foot injury nor fashion humiliation nor sticky lips nor lungs full of snot could stop me from finishing the marathon. And I even managed to stay under my new, revised, slow-old-guy 5:00 finishing time goal, but just by seconds:
(For those of you unfamiliar with the way giant races are timed, my 7:40:14 start time tells you how long it took me to get across the start line in the crowd of runners. I have no idea why they do time splits in 5K increments since exactly nobody knows (without cheating) how many miles equals, say, a 35K, but you can see I was sticking pretty well to 31-32-minute 5Ks until I hit my wall o' pain somewhere around the 30K mark. And I love knowing that exactly 25,201 people crossed the finish line faster than I did.)

So once you cross the finish line and get your medal and get your timing chip sawed off your shoe, you can stop for all the free bananas and water and cookies and bagles and beer (!) you want in the finisher's area ... plus you can pose for one final official photo:

And once you hobble your way out of the finishers' area, if you're lucky your fabulous domestic partner will be waiting for you right at the exit. And even though you feel like death and smell like week-old death, he will give you a big wonderful hug that will make you feel even more proud of the things you've accomplished in your life:

I also took a final victory pose with Matthew, who had left me at mile 26 so I could run the final .2 miles all by myself to the finish line:

And I finally met my ugly-shirted doppelgänger in person and felt obligated to pose with him since he'd spent the day cheering me on all along the marathon route:

At the finisher's party, where my body suddenly realized holy shit I'm not running anymore so I should probably stop pretending it's not freezing outside I put my white hoodie back on and posed with Pete and our fabulous signs that Matthew made for us:

And then all the boys from our running group who actually ran the marathon posed for one last photo op, discreetly keeping our eyes from the fashion freak show going on under my shorts:

And then! The day after the marathon—after a very lengthy soak in our Jacuzzi tub—I commenced enjoying my sweet, sweet marathon reward. In alphabetical order:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy now, Maggie?

And Rush? And Glenn? And Bill? And Michele? And Ann? And Dubya? And Pat? And Carrie? And Newt? And Sarah? And John? And Sally? And Mike? And Mitt? And Rick? And Tom? And David? And "God"?

YOU and your words and your actions told these bastards that it was OK to hate gay people. YOU are responsible for planting the idea in their heads that gay people are punching bags. THIS is what your campaign to "defend" marriage and "protect" families and "fight" a "war" on morality has caused. YOU chose assault imagery to fire the passions of the easily manipulated in your unholy campaign to teach the world to hate gay people. YOU declared us an "enemy" that needed to be stopped at all costs.

And look! You did it! You spread your hatred so thoroughly and so malignantly that now we're being beaten into comas in the street.

There is NO defense for your words and the actions like these that they inspire. So SHUT THE FUCK UP before you open your mouths and try to vomit up some sort of rationale that tries to separate you from what you've wrought. You're all vile and hateful and beneath contempt.

And you'd be wise to keep your distance. Because your work has also taught us to see you as punching bags.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I peed under a bridge today

Oh, and I also ran a marathon. And while releasing myself from the self-imposed pressure of trying to beat 4:00 was incredibly freeing, I still secretly hoped to stay under 5:00. Which I did ... by mere seconds!

I don't have the official numbers or any pictures yet. And I feel like crap. Finishing today was easily the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. So I'm gonna take some NyQuil and knock myself unconscious for a few hours.

But here are some basic updates for those of you keeping score at home:

The foot injury didn't give me a lick of trouble, though the rest of my foot did.

The head cold has traveled so deep into my lungs that I'm afraid to cough out of fear I'll never be able to stop.

The freezing cold was alternately horrible and manageable. Our triathlete friends Simon and Russ lent me some running tights at the last minute, and that completely changed the outcome of the run for me. Triathlete friends rock.

The mohawk didn't happen. Mostly because of the freezing cold. I figured I didn't need frostbite on my scalp in the middle of all my other concerns today. Plus I wore a hat for the first third of the marathon anyway. Sorry to get anyone's hopes up.

Oh, and I forgot to post this pic before I took off this morning. I was going to say something pseudo-clever with it like If you can see this picture, I'm probably still running the marathon:

More pix and details to come. Once I get them. And if I manage to wake up from my NyQuil coma. Thanks for all your good wishes!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Shoe-tying secrets REVEALED!

Of the many forms of running-injury therapy I've received this week—topical anti-inflammatories, icings, ultrasound treatments, push-right-where-it-hurts-most massages, electro-shock somethingorothers—the most intriguing is also the most affordable: tying my shoes in a secret new way that helps relieve pressure on my owie place, which is on the top of my foot right before it creases up to become my shin.

Here's how it works, in poetry and song. Or just in explanatory prose and cell-phone pictures.

I didn't want to take 73 pictures of this process so I condensed the first 70 steps into one photo. You start by unlacing to the spot below the owie place and then lacing straight up the sides to the top of the shoe, leaving loops after you lace the last hole:

In steps 71 and 72, you cross the laces and poke them through the loops and then pull them tight as you tie your shoes like normal:

I step 73, which doesn't photograph in a way that shows you anything useful, you have a shoe that stays on your foot without sagging or rubbing or losing support OR putting pressure on your owie place. It's surprisingly effective, and I'm excited to try it in the marathon.

The owie place, by the way, is healed enough that I feel pain only when I stretch or rub it. So I'm actually pretty confident it won't slow me down on Sunday. Unfortunately, my cold doesn't seem to be responding to NyQuil, Vicks VapoRub, orange juice, vitamins, green tea, warm meals, lots of sleep or Zicam. But it's still just a head full of snot, so it's not like a chest cold or a cough or the flu. So I'm still gonna run with it.

And! Sunday's weather forecast, which had until about noon today included various types of cold, wet precipitation, is currently only about sun and colder-than-ideal temperatures. Which is way better than hotter-than-ideal temperatures for certain 41-year-old gay guys who don't produce a lot of sweat:

All of which means I'm back to entertaining thoughts of running the marathon on Sunday instead of just surviving it. And that's a whole different way to tie your shoes, if you know what I mean.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I’m having Good Insurance Haver Guilt

The marathon is three days away and I’ve had a whopping ten people work on my foot injury this week.

My job works me 50+ hours a week—usually in fast-deadline-full-panic mode—but it rewards us handsomely with some pretty spectacular insurance. So this week alone I’ve met twice with a sports-medicine podiatrist and twice with a sports-medicine physical therapist, which technically adds up to only two health-care workers but they both brought along an unexpected retinue of sports medicine experts in various stages of residency and assistanceship so the size of my medical posse is artificially (though still uncomfortably) high.

If all that attention didn’t make me feel guilty enough, consider the fact that it’s all for a completely preventable injury (don’t run marathons and you won’t get painful Wookie tendons in your feet) sustained in the pursuit of a ridiculously harmful sport that’s almost as much about vanity and bragging rights as it is about physical accomplishment. And yet my insurance and all these doctors and therapists swooped right in to take care of me the moment I indicated I’d hurt myself.

Compare my situation to Thomas’. For those of you just joining us, Thomas is the pseudonym for my domestic partner’s developmentally disabled brother. We’ve been taking care of him since he moved in with us two years ago. And since nether of our company’s benefits plans could be extended to him as a dependent adult, I asked around to get some medical insurance quotes as soon as we found out he’d never been insured. I assumed we’d be paying freakishly high premiums to cover him, but it seemed like an important investment in his medical and our financial futures.

Imagine my shock, then, when we found out we couldn’t get insurance for Thomas. Not because his coverage would be prohibitively expensive. Not because we’re not his legal guardians. No! We couldn’t get insurance for him because nobody would insure him.


So in our current system, a grown man who through no fault or action of his own was born or became clinically retarded cannot get medical insurance. But I, a reckless daredevil who injures himself in an effort to look young and hot and have bragging rights in a bar and another medal to hang on his wall, has the kind of coverage that allows ten medical practitioners to take care of his inflamed foot tendon so he can keep running and keep putting himself at risk.

Which puts me in a quandary when I encounter the morons who insist affordable medical care is best left to the free market that determined Thomas is not worthy of affordable medical care. My quandary is this: I don’t think these morons deserve medical insurance since they don’t want everyone to have access to it. But they may need it if they ever try to defend their vile opinions to me.


So I have declined any more pre-marathon foot care. My foot’s as healed as everyone thinks it will be, and I intend to slog my way through the marathon on Sunday as best as I can. My podiatrist says I should be OK, but my physical therapist still has reservations. Ironically, they both told me I should skip the marathon altogether because of my cold. As if. I’ll run it with my good friends Zicam and Vicks VapoRub if I have to. But I’ve gotten way too much essentially free medical care to just drop out at this point. And I have any trouble pushing myself through 26.2 miles of what’s threatening to be a cold, snowy Sunday, my innate sense of guilt is the most powerful motivator I have.

Monday, October 05, 2009


That's the diagnosis for my foot injury. Well, one of the diagnoses. But it's the one that's easiest to understand in a google search: the inflammation of the fluid-filled sheath (if you know what I mean) that surrounds a tendon.

The sheath is called a synovium, and in my case, my inflamed synovium is connected to my Extensor digitorum longus, the muscle on the top of my right foot right where it bends up and becomes my shin. I think. Or else it's just an excuse to say "inflamed" and "longus" in the same sentence.

But if that weren't bad enough, I was also diagnosed with a congenital Cavovarus deformity, which google shows me is a cartoonish-looking club foot with a high arch and a big ball (I totally just said I had a big ball!) and a distinct victim-of-foot-binding appearance. The Cavovarus pictures I found on google look nothing like my manly, never-been-attached-to-a-10th-century-Chinese-princess-in-tiny-tiny-shoes feet, so I think this last diagnosis was just a typo and the doctor meant to enter the code for "sexy foot model."


After my foot doctor (who is ironically named Chin) and three people doing rotations from physical therapy clinics looked at my foot, I was given the green light to run the marathon this weekend. Woot!

The good doctors also prescribed four things:

1. A topical anti-inflammatory gel that I have to rub on my Extensor digitorum longus area three times a day. If you know what I mean.

2. Physical therapy twice this week. But the therapist I was referred to is booked until after the marathon. Which means I picked a bad week to have an inflamed sheath. Ahem.

3. A complicated new way to lace up my running shoes that takes pressure off my inflamed sheath (that never stops being funny!) while still holding my shoes in place in a secure, not-gonna-injure-me kind of way.

4. Repeated icing. And not, I was disappointed to discover, the delicious, usually-found-on-a-cake kind of icing. Instead, I have to do this six to eight times a day:

But after just half a day of icing and vigorous gel-rubbing, my foot feels noticeably better, my limp is gone (these jokes just write themselves!) and I've lost the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I've spent a whole summer training only to have to sit by and watch other people run my marathon.

I had asked the doctors if my foot was still hurting on Sunday and I stupidly ran on it anyway would I be looking at a few months of recovery or a lifetime of being crippled. The doctors assured me I'd have at the most a few months of recovery. Followed by a lifetime of being a 10th century Chinese princess in tiny, tiny shoes. Which seems like a fair trade-off.

And which also means I'm back to trying to decide whether or not to get my marathon mohawk.

The cost of baking hubris

I’ve been using my long-dead grandmother’s cookie sheets to do all my cookie-sheet-required baking for probably as long as she used them. They’re scarred and scratched and burn-stained with more than a generation of home-baked-with-love-just-like-in-the-Norman-Rockwell-paintings goodness. But they’re also gross-looking and this-can’t-be-hygienically sticky in a few places.

So in a gross floutation of my dear grandmother’s home-baked-with-love-just-like-in-the-Norman-Rockwell-paintings memory, I went out and bought some brand-new, high-tech, non-stick, nothing-like-you’d-ever-see-in-a-Norman-Rockwell-painting-which-makes-me-a-wasteful-and-ungrateful-capitalist-commie cookie sheets to replace hers, which I planed on unceremoniously leaving in our building’s Dumpster, thereby completing the break-Grandma’s-heart cycle that I started in grade school when I told her I didn’t want to take piano lessons anymore.

But one look at this side-by-side juxtaposition of old vs. new should tell you that I’m making the right decision, especially because the new cookie sheets match the toaster so well:

A second look at this side-by-side juxtaposition, though, should also tell you that the new cookie sheets—which I’ve already taken out of their packaging and washed and thereby rendered them unreturnable—are significantly wider than Grandma’s cookie sheets. Which also makes them taller when they’re stored on their side in our little baking-utensil cupboard. Which is not called a “little baking-utensil cupboard” for nothing. Because the new cookie sheets don’t fit. Which I don’t have to tell you is the cosmic equivalent of my sweet grandmother spitefully cursing my wasteful, family-tradition-disrespecting, memory-spitting-on, why-do-you-hate-Norman-Rockwell-so-much hubris from the grave.

And all I can say is this: Grandma, I love you and I still miss you. And it’s too bad you’re never going to taste how awesome your Christmas cookies turn out on my fabulous new baking sheets. Which I’ll probably have to store under the bed or in the furnace room or in the trunk of my car.