Thursday, September 22, 2011

Here We Go Here We Go Here We Go

My first impression of England was that it really wasn't England at all but rather South Carolina.

I was eleven, jet-lagged in my uncle's apartment in Putney looking out at a common garden with nondescript flowers blooming. The plane trip was a distant blur and this was just like being in a warm, wet part of the South other than my idiot cousin bouncing off the wall suggesting we play something like Hold Your Breath Until Treacle Comes Out Your Nose.

My uncle was in the diplomatic corps then, posted to London which is funny in that he is the most undiplomatic person I know of. Astonishingly, Great Britain did not declare war on Pittsburgh that year which just proves how restrained and civilized they are.

My second impression of England came thirty years later in the form of a dog sticking his nose in my crotch at Heathrow as I walked down a narrow corridor off the plane with the laughing goat girl who had kept me awake from her seat behind me for half the flight watching comedies and laughing, well, like a goat girl.

But that was all right. The dog I mean, not goat girl. This was Europe and despite it being pre-nine eleven security considerations were different here. People were getting off in Heathrow from all corners of the world trying to smuggle penises under their clothing. Pooch had a serious job to do.

I was there for a good friend's wedding. She was English, marrying an American and they agreed to have dual ceremonies in the States and back home. I had been to the U.S. ceremony where I was enlisted upon arrival to fix their car or the day would be otherwise shot since nobody felt like tying tin cans to a bicycle.

Here in England, once the formalities were over, she had promised to take me around to her haunts like her favorite pub, her parent's garden and out to a real football match.

I was excited, she was excited, England was excited and responded by pissing with rain for the next four days it was so happy. That was all right, the English cope and generally ward off the inclement weather with pints of ale, proportional to the general shittiness of the weather.

That year was the coldest, wettest April on record so I'm astounded I can piece enough together for a short story.

For the football, we hopped a tube ride to the north of London for a long walk to the stadium to watch her team, Tottenham Hotspur, play Wembley, Woolsley, Barrington, Thurbridge or Bird In Hand, I really can't remember.

As I say, it was cold and wet.

The Spurs, as they were known since alternate nicknames like the Tots, the Hams or the Hots didn't carry the same or for that matter, any cachet at all, were in the championship league. That was the second most exclusive league in English football, the highest being the premiere league. They had been premiere league but had not kept the points up for continued membership so they got into the "gold star anyway just for turning in your homework" league.

In the States, no such thing exists. You either win it all or go home a dog. Ok, there's the Pro Bowl; football's special olympics but its an exception.

We have the NFL and the AFC, the National and the American League (who play the same game with different rules) but those aren't ranked by performance. Mostly they are a reflection of our independent settling and development of our nation and our inability to organize anything sensible at all.

First thing I remember about the game was that the gates to the stadium were about half a human wide. That was to prevent rushing and stampeding which was fine but my only thought was if we have to get OUT of here in a hurry I'm not looking forward to being squeezed out like so much toothpaste.

Then I remember that the fans for the opposing team, let's call them Bird In Hand, were isolated into a second storey gallery with police posted at every sixth seat. Football's something else here.

Then of course there were the pitch level seats we had, the great game, the beer, the dash to the souvenir shop for a blue and gold Holstein Pils jersey. It was euphoria which settled just as quickly as the cold, wet bus we got onto for the ride to the tube for the ride to the hotel and ultimate collapse.

Caught the plane home the next day and a week later when the pick up soccer team I played on met, I had me a Tottenham Jersey to stand out it. Mostly along the lines of "who's the uncoordinated idiot in the blue shirt," but you take what you can get.

Go Spurs.

Bunny on.

The Promise

Post race euphoria usually lasts a few days after the run. You're memory is now associating the sights and sounds of the race with the physical sensations of sitting in a recliner, so like a minor childbirth, the living hell of pain you ran through is forgotten by your sense memory and, sure another race sounds like a good idea.

You're like a dumb puppy, head hanging out the window of the car getting whomped by phone pole after phone pole and you pull inside, shake some more dander on the back seat then wonder why your not hanging out the window catching the breeze.


And so it was that I thought an 8.25 mile trail run in the springtime with the guys would be fun both for old time's sake and fun to do. After all, it was only 5 something more miles over hilly and river-snaked terrain, more than I had just barely completed over city streets with EMTs no more than a few feet away at any time.

So when one of the Circle suggested we sign up, I made the promise to and now I understand that I might have better promised to hold off the rebels while Ghadafi got on the plane. Both are stupid and both will result in a lot of physical suffering.

But I promised.

And a promise made is a promise kept. Its an iron vow that you only break when you're incapacitated as in dying or being held hostage by the North Koreans.

The run is around Easter. I don't want to look at a calendar 'cause I've got other things to dread just now. But stick with me. I'll be posting regular updates on how the training's going under the headline of Woodsy the Running Moron.

Bunny on.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Race Day

Being a friend means more than just hoisting a beer and toasting good health to the guy or guys you've shared a few dirty jokes with. There are times when sacrifice is called for, laying down your prevailing interests for the good of others.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

I'm just trying to figure out what need my friends at The Knitting Circle had for me to drag my ass out of bed at an hour one usually associates with returning vampires, only to slog through my leg of a relay race some three hours later. I could have met them at the hand off point after a nice sleep in, hot shower and one or two bloody marys. Believe me, you couldn't hinder my performance any more than a summer full of "I'll do double laps tomorrow" already did.

There were two choices: get up at 3.30 am and jump in the car to get there in time for the start, or stay with a friend and get up at 5 to make the 15 minute drive to the start.

I opted for the latter.

Big mistake unless having one beer and being shushed off to bed at nine thirty is your idea of what an adult male should normally expect his Saturday nights to consist of.

There I was in a nine year old's bed, some sort of fish tank aglow in my eyes and a floor full of Lego to circumnavigate at the risk of foot lacerations in case that one beer caught up with me.

I couldn't sleep.

I tried to let the fish soothe me but they made me have to pee. Not a good idea with the "Achtung Lego Minen" field all around me. I counted sheep. I counted tits. I counted all the times I had made just the right impression but that stopped at two.

Finally I jumped into Legoland and built a fissionable reactor just to get sleepy.

Got up at five, got out on time and got to the starting line, meeting up with the rest of the usual team and this year's substitute, the old flame. I didn't recognize her at that hour because when we were a number she was always gone by that hour. If she'd have worn an indented pillow on her head I'd have spotted her right away.

The national anthem was sung. If you can imagine the quietest place you've ever been, do so. Then imagine it quieter still.

When a uniformed police officer sings the anthem on September 11, 2011 you've got to assume hands are over hearts with intent and we're all in a silent space nobody is sharing.

The relay consists of five roughly equidistant legs that each member of the team covers while the rest of us pile into a car to chase to the next handoff point through city streets, poorly worded directions and infinite barricades. When the car owner is dropped off on the course to do his leg, we take advantage of his social profile and consider committing bank robberies while we've got his car.

As I said, I had the later, indeed, final leg of the race which was re-routed because of some recent flooding. In times of flood, the bottomlands are wet and the high ground stays dry. The only problem with high ground is that you have to go up a hill to get there and so it was that the flat, flooded, runnable bottomland was foresaken so that we could race up a damned hill!

At the crest of which we were promised "its all downhill from here."

This is Pennsylvania. We've known that for years.

Then it was over. The finish line was crossed. Congratulations on not dying en route were issued, chocolate milk was drunk with impunity and it was revealed that my car keys were missing.

'Scuse me, let me borrow the Subaru for a while and pay no attention to the bank alarm.

Bunny on.

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