Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Safety Seat

A few days ago I went, for the first time, to the new incarnation of The Lyric, a funky, artsy, local movie theatre. The new building features an industrial-looking lobby where you can buy food and drink along with your movie tickets. You can eat at stand-up tables or take your goodies to enjoy in one of three small theatres. Once inside, you can relax on a comfy couch or choose a more traditional seat to watch the movie.

As it happened, the small theatre that was showing The Darkest Hour, was quickly filling up at noon (!) on a day between Christmas and New Years. A theatre employee encouraged people entering the theatre to forget about “the safety seat” and fill in each row.

I’d never heard the seat that so many of us often leave vacant when it is possible to do so when we enter a movie, concert, or church service referred to as a “safety seat.” It’s the one we subconsciously perhaps, protect ourselves by, leaving the seat adjacent to an occupied one vacant. We choose instead to sit down leaving a vacancy next to us.

Safety seat, I thought, interesting term.  I gave it no more thought. But it must have been in the back of my mind when I went to a Martin Luther King-inspired church service this morning.  Ordinarily I  would have chosen to create a “safety seat” next to me, but today I plunked down in the first empty seat I came across.

The service included several powerful readings by people of color, giving the basically all-white congregation an uncomfortable glimpse into the reality of another world. 

Perhaps it wasn’t logical, but it dawned on me that eliminating “safety seats” and sitting down--or standing up--close to people in one way or another different from us, might be a small gesture toward achieving racial justice. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Reliving the running life

It started off as nothing more than a vague idea. Between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2016, I contributed to a weekly column called The Running Life for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, my local newspaper. Four of us runner-writers each wrote a piece once a month for the Explore section of the paper. It was great fun and all of us enjoyed hearing from our readers. The paper liked it because we did it as volunteers and we obviously had readership.

Then the newspaper powers-at-be announced a change of format. For a reason I don’t understand, they got rid of the Explore section, its talented editor, and the four of us. It wasn’t really as if I’d been fired, I reasoned. After all, I didn’t get paid in the first place. About that time I began to blog more frequently, quite often on the topic of running.

By the end of 2017, I’d finished writing a novel, White Shadow, mostly probably the only work of fiction I will ever attempt. I was ready for a new challenge. Compiling and revising the 53 pieces I wrote for the Coloradoan seemed like an interesting idea. It wouldn’t be too tough, and it would put me back into the world of non-fiction where I belong.

A few weeks ago, I began reviewing the articles, sorting them into sections such as people, events, advice, accessories and personal experiences. I began with the articles about people I’ve gotten to know through running.

Before long I realized that these people were still around, still running and that I’d need to update the articles about them. I have been truly amazed by their responses. They’ve been climbing mountains, riding bikes across the country, running up to 100 kilometers at a time and are full of plans for 2018. It has been a delight to add to each of their stories.

I am on number 13, so it will be a while before I finished this project but I am not sure I want to. It is so much fun!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A history with hair

I just got the haircut of my life—and it got me to thinking about my history with hair— defined in my antiquated Merriam Webster as the slender threadlike outgrowth of one’s epidermis—also described as the pigmented filaments that form the characteristic coat of a mammal. I am one.

I didn’t give my hair a second thought until sixth grade. Up until that time, all I remember is my mother sending me off to school with two long braids down my back. But all that changed when the braids got whacked off and social dancing after lunch in the gym at John Hay School every Tuesday afternoon became a high point on my social calendar. My hair HAD to look good.

The only way I figured out how to accomplish this was to have my mother cover my head with tiny pincurls which I went to bed with on Sunday nights. On Monday mornings my hair was a frizzy mess. By Tuesday, social dancing day, the tight curls had simmered down and my hair was, I thought, at its very best. Of course, that only lasted for a day.

Fast forward to high school and college which I proceeded through with medium short, medium curly hair which I enhanced myself using no longer existent bobbie pins.

Later, when I was a young mom and had no time for such frivolities, my hair got shorter—and shorter. So short that it would have been impossible to improve it with a bobbie pin or even a curling iron. And it stayed that way for eons until, about four months ago, I decided to let it grow.

Even though I have this wonderful and talented neighbor who cuts my hair, the growing out period was, well, just plain awful. But I persisted. I could make it look okay for 15 minutes or so before it resorted to the wild old woman look. I hung in with it through Christmas, but then, one morning the next week, after I’d washed it and messed with it and it looked as bad as ever, I was done.

I called my beloved haircut lady and said so. Okay she said, tomorrow morning 8:15. By 8:45, I was back to my old short-haired self and life was good.  I’m glad I did it, but no more experimenting.  It is what it is.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Kung Fu dancing, Christmas 2017

Have you seen the shirt that says: Everybody was Kung-Fu dancing?

Well. Probably not everbody was, even back in the day, but on Christmas night, after the presents; after the turkey cooked outdoors in a big green egg followed by a wildly competitive corn hole game in the basement, it was time to blast up the tunes and dance.

And dance they did, those kids and grandkids and in-laws of mine, ranging in age from 19 to 58—they danced for all they were worth. Song after song blared over a speaker attached to one or the other’s cell phone. They knew every word to every song. The set of random moves they performed ranged from extremely skillful to well, to “active.”

On and on it went until Jeni got warm enough to take off a layer—her baggy overalls. Adam picked them up slid them on and became a dancing farmer boy.

He’s the oldest of the dozen grandkids and the only one with definite plans to get married—just not quite sure when—but soon.

“Tonight we’re building a play list for the wedding,” Amy says.

That event, whenever and wherever it is, will be the scene of the next coming together of this simpatico bunch, and they are all counting on it.

Me too.

 corn hole winners

Monday, December 18, 2017

Encumbered Running

I read this to my writers' group last week. I'm thinking about including it in a book about running experiences I'm starting to work on. Why is it that anything about underwear tickles people's funny bones?

In early May, a young woman from the Boulder Daily Camera contacted me and  conducted a brief phone interview about my long-time participation in the Bolder Boulder 10k race, held on Memorial Day each spring. The event marks an unofficial start for the running season and attracts as many as 50,000 runners from all over the country. We had a pleasant visit and then she asked about a photo. I offered to send her one but she said the paper would send a photographer. I was a little surprised as I live 50-plus miles from Boulder.

We set a date for the photographer to be at my house at 7:30 a.m. I was to run my “normal route” and he would follow along and take pictures.

I decide to wear my new Bolder Boulder age-group champion shirt. It’s a little small and not too comfortable and it looks pretty bad without a bra. I never wear a bra when I run.

The day before the planned photo shoot, I learn that Go Lite, a company that makes great clothes is having a warehouse clearance sale. My 16-year-old granddaughter and I decide to check it out. We have a fun time looking through the racks of shirts, pants and underwear. She chooses an exercise bra. Hmm, I think.  Maybe I should “shape up” and have one of those.

I try one on. It’s tight—they all are. They’re supposed to be. That’s why I don’t like to wear them. “Okay. Get over it,” I tell myself.” I buy the bra.

The next morning I put it on under the Bolder Boulder shirt. As I do, I wonder if ‘m going to be able to run in this uncomfortable get-up. I get a little nervous waiting for the photographer. I go outside and sweep the porch. The fellow shows up. Seems friendly enough.

He tells me to start running and he jumps in his car to get ahead of me. He pops up a couple of blocks away and starts snapping. This goes on for four miles. Now and then I make some inane comment. He keeps on snapping, hopping in and out of his car. Once he surprises me from behind a bush.

Back at my house, he shoots me warming down, taking off my shoes, in my living room surrounded by my old running shoes and in my garden. By the time he’s finished, he’s shot more than 600 photos and my smile muscles are more tired than my legs.

The first thing I do after he leaves is take off damn bra. I take a deep breath.