Sunday, May 31, 2009

Longest Run

My breathing has returned to normal. My hips and knees are regaining elasticity.  My sweat-dampened shirt now feels chilly in this air-conditioned room.  A few minutes ago I completed the longest run of my life. Ten miles. 

I plan to break this record twice during the next two weekends, as I complete my training for the Helvetia Half Marathon on June 13th.  But this run was significant to me because before it, 9.3 was the highest number of miles I had logged in a single run, and that was accomplished when I was about 19 years old.   For two consecutive years, I ran a beautiful 15k race along the Historic Columbia River Highway.  The race takes place at dusk, beginning just above Crown Pointe and winding down the scenic highway to Multnomah Falls.  I had not returned to running faithfully until this past fall.  So over the past 10 months I have been gradually improving my endurance and strength, ultimately surpassing that milestone of my youthful fitness this very evening.

I know my marathon-running friends will still be proud of my 10 miles, even though they ran 26.2 miles yesterday.  And I am still proud of my 10 miles, even if I didn't come close to shattering any speed records.  I averaged an 11:00 pace tonight, but two days ago I ran five miles at a 9:40 pace.  So during my shorter runs I am increasing speed.  In case you don't want to get out your calculator, this means I ran for an hour and 50 minutes tonight!  Sigh. I'm not sure if I can keep up this running gig. It is so damn time consuming! 

Speaking of which, I must resign myself to the fact that my lifestyle is not conducive to being a regular blogger. If I worked full time but had no children, I could fit it in. If I was a mother without a business to run, I could fit it in. Maybe if I chose to give up exercise, I could fit it in, but that ain't never gonna happen.  I actually have copious ideas for blog posts...but for me, writing requires quiet and focus. With a 2-year-old around, those do not exist in unison.  In the limited moments without a 2-year-old around, I have to be a mature adult and put my work first. The good news is, my little munchkin starts preschool this fall! Surely those extra hours of "freedom" each day will afford me a little bit of time to devote to you, my legions of doting followers. I can't believe how quickly that day is approaching, and I am thrilled for her. I think Madelyn will love the experience, and I believe we have chosen an outstanding school.  More on this will likely be forthcoming.

There is something very special about accomplishing something for the first time or breaking a personal record, like my 10.0 miles tonight.  What is your record-breaking story?  

Monday, May 25, 2009

American Idol Finale: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Whether you were pulling for Adam Lambert or Kris Allen, or even if you had never before seen a minute of American Idol, last week's Season Finale was arguably an unforgettable show.  The abundant guest performers came from the top ranks of stardom, proving that American Idol is recognized as a legitimate musical platform.  It was as diverse a group as could have been imagined: from Rod Stewart to KISS, Fergie to Queen, Cyndi Lauper to Steve Martin. The music was unbelievable, set against a backdrop of mechanical sets and flaming pyrotechnics, with a few nicely construed comedic breaks thrown in for good measure.  Before the winner was ever announced, we were treated to a world-class rock concert.

The two finalists announce alongside Queen that "they are the champions"

But it wasn't all pretty.  Here are my favorite moments of the finale, along with some I would have preferred to do without.

Good: Carlos Santana's genius guitar-riffing highlighted in the center of a circle of idols he accompanied.
Bad: Rod Stewart, just a little too old.
Ugly: Fergie and Black Eyed Peas' hardcore duet had to be bleeped for language. This is a family show!

Ugly: Adam's wire-cage black angel wings?!?!
Good: Okay, once KISS was dramatically lowered onto the stage behind him, it all made sense.  What a lucky bitch to get a chance to sing with those guys.
Bad (maybe the cool kind of bad): Paul Stanley smashed his diamond(?)-encrusted electric guitar against the stage until it broke in two.
I wonder what sort of daily tongue exercise routine these guys have to maintain

Good: Allison Iraheta singing "Time After Time" with Cyndi Lauper, plucking along on her lap guitar. 
Bad: Wish Allison would have sung more and Ms. Lauper a little less. Allison's voice was perfect on this number.
Ugly: Cyndi Lauper sitting spread eagle in those hideous pants.

Good: Did you even know that Steve Martin was a musician? He accompanied a song he wrote on the banjo!
Bad: The undeserving contestants selected to perform Mr. Martin's brainchild were Michael Sarver and Megan Joy Corkery. 
Ugly: I could have happily lived my life without ever hearing Megan Joy sing again. 

Good: Nick Mitchell's "Golden Idol" acceptance: dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt, he professed his regret for not preparing anything because he had no idea he would be coming on stage. Then suddenly he yelled, "Hit it!" and stripped off the sweatshirt to reveal his signature sparkly shirt, allowing us to bask in the glory that is Norman Gentle one last time. So endearing.

Bad: Bikini Girl's "Golden Idol" acceptance: the fact that they even allowed that girl anywhere near the show again makes my blood boil.  Her disgusting fake-baked body strutted out in a shiny new bikini, with some shiny new implants to fill it out. YUCK! 

Good: They let Bikini Girl (Katrina Darrell) sing, and she was truly awful. And then. And THEN Kara Dioguardi, the judge whose sing-off with this contestant at her despicable audition kicked off the drama, waltzed down the staircase behind Miss Darrell, microphone in hand.  As Randy Jackson might say, Kara's got some pipes, dawg! Bikini Girl kept her composure and tried to keep singing along (interviews confirm that Kara's upstaging appearance was a complete surprise to Darrell).  But wait. There's more! Along with her final note, Kara ripped open the modest black dress she wore to reveal a set of tight abs in a black bikini, all in a healthy shade of pasty white.  The best part is that Kara exposed herself only because Ryan seacrest dared her with a promised donation to her favorite charity.  After her shocking reveal, Kara quickly covered up, looking embarrassed, showing Bikini Girl and the rest of the world that sometimes a little modesty is more sexy than half an ounce of string wrapped around fake, orange softballs. Sweet, sweet satisfaction.

Ugly: Tatiana del Toro's "Golden Idol" acceptance: Ryan Seacrest feigned being out of time and needing break for commercial, informing Tatiana that she wouldn't be able to sing.  The diva ran on stage, grabbed her trophy, and sang her song with two security guards half-heartedly chasing her around.  This actually would have been hilarious if it were real, but clearly it was a cheesy part of the act and she was in on it.

After 2 hours and 7 minutes of suspense (What am I saying? I was so entertained I practically forgot we were waiting for results!), Kris Allen was crowned the winner of American Idol, Season Eight.  He appeared to be the most shocked person in the room, and spent the next two minutes looking down, shaking his head, and even pointing at Adam as if to say, "he deserves this more." This might have been irritating, except I can't think of anyone whose humility has ever seemed more genuine. 
The good news is that both singers are destined to work in the music industry, at least for the near future.  Kris' win was viewed as sort of an "upset," but I wasn't surprised at all.  I wouldn't have been surprised if Adam had won, either, because they were both incredible performers.  But you cannot underestimate the importance of Kris' universal appeal versus Adam's very outlandish flamboyancy. Even I preferred Adam earlier on, but toward the end people start thinking about whose CD they would actually buy (how dated--I should say: whose singles they would actually download), and who they want to hear on the radio, not just who is fun to watch on stage with all of the theatrics of television.  Plus, I believe Danny Gokey had a strong Christian following.  After his departure, where do you think those votes went?

The results may not have provided any big surprise, but the rest of the finale show was full of them, which made it very entertaining.  An apt conclusion to a very fun season full of talent.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Is there a better way to cure a case of The Funk than a fresh new hairstyle? I suppose an all-expenses-paid tropical escape would do it, or maybe a truckload of new clothes that actually fit me properly and which are not T-shirts.  But for practicality's sake, a wild hair-do will have  
This rockstar color scheme's appeal to me must be another manifestation of my early mid-life crisis.  To be candid, I do yearn for some aspects of my more carefree youth, I miss my 20-year-old childless body, and sometimes I wish I stood out in a crowd.  The Funk was more than just a gray day, and although it's not entirely gone, at least now my hair has electric purple highlights. 
I try not to say things that aren't truthful.  If a friend shows up in an outfit that I find atrocious, I may sincerely shriek, "I love those shoes!" Greeting a customer with a new, unflattering haircut, I might say, "Hey! You got your hair cut! Short hair will be great this summer when it's hot."  When a mother is showing off a baby that I don't feel particularly compelled to coo and cuddle, perhaps I'd offer a relatable, "Aww, aren't babies fun?"  I just don't like to feign sycophantic praise where it's not heartfelt.  I'll either focus my praise where it is genuine, or make neutral remarks. 
Before you think me a black hearted monster (because I don't lie to my friends, I guess), take note: It has been amusing to recognize how many people follow the same principle when encountering my neon streaks of hair.  Between a small handful of genuine compliments, I have primarily heard observational statements such as:
"Oh! You colored your hair! ... Huh."
"Your hair is purple! ... When did you do that?"
"Is that permanent? ... What made you decide to do that?"
No one dyes his or her hair purple unless wanting to be noticed, but weirdos like us have to understand that not everyone is going to like our weirdness.  There is no doubt that my own mother is not a fan.  But I am having fun with it, and needed a way to enjoy my hair while I commit to growing it out--a process I despise. 
The cherry (or grape? ha ha ha) on top of this little story is that I think I have finally found the hairstylist to whom I want to establish a loyalty, after 9 years of searching. I'll tell you why in an upcoming blog post. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

American Idol Top 7 through 3

I slacked off on my very important duty of keeping everyone in the world up to date concerning what happened on American Idol and my related opinions.  Sorry about that, but here is a brief recap of the past 4 weeks. 

First of all, there has been only one error in my prediction of eliminations made in early April: Lil and Anoop were voted off on the same night (after Matt was saved by the judges the previous week), then Matt un-shockingly went home next, exactly as I stated would happen. The top four presented a more delicate challenge, in that every remaining contestant not only boasted worthy talent and star-quality, but each one was recognizably unique. I can imagine singles on the radio from any of this year's top four, and their stark differences in performance-styles made the group very fun to watch.

My error was in previously predicting that Danny would go home before Allison, but in reality the order was reversed.  Otherwise my forecast was spot-on, and we will be treated to a duel between the flamboyant, screaming, often sparkly Adam Lambert and the humble, guitar/piano-playing pretty boy Kris Allen.  Remember Kris is the one who was as shocked as the rest of the country when he was ushered into the Top 13 during the early elimination rounds. 
Several weeks ago, I was swayed by Adam's marvelously distinctive arrangements and sultry, soft ballads.  But I've since boldly moved into the Kris Allen camp. For one thing, Adam has unapologetically returned to screechy rock songs, and while I still appreciate the proficiency of his skills, his screamy voice is not as appealing to me as his dreamy voice.  I was horrified by his butchering of the Aerosmith classic "Cryin'" last week.  In addition, I've decided that I would be more apt to listen to the style of music most likely to be recorded by Kris on the radio than the type that Adam will eventually record.  I imagine they will both be outfitted with satisfying record-deals, no matter who earns the most votes this week.  Lastly, I prefer Kris' genuine dumbfounded humility to Adam's grateful, yet not-entirely-surprised-to-be-in-the-finals demeanor.  Having said all that, Adam will make a better rock star than Kris, and probably any prior American Idol contestant ever.  He definitely possesses a certain showmanship.

After America's Favorite Singer is bestowed his title this Wednesday, we get to move enthusiastically on to the search for America's Favorite Dancer on So You Think You Can Dance, a show that (since watching it for the first time last year) I find significantly more entertaining than American Idol.  Sorry.  Let's get the two remaining AI episodes out of the way before I get too excited about the dancers!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Flashback Friday: Midnight monsters

I love camping. There is something about temporarily living out in the natural world that both thrills and relaxes me.  The omnipresent moist greenery, a crackling fire with smoky ambiance, awkwardly changing clothes in a semi-crouched position inside the tent, a quiet card game by humming lantern-light, s'mores of course, and so many other little bits of the camping experience I hold very dear.

Several years ago, Gary and I joined another couple and their children for an overnight campout in the Columbia River Gorge.  Our friends selected the campground based on its adjacency to the arranged child-swap rendezvous with her ex-husband.  I seem to recall that Lana and Frank had been there before...but after our experience the prospect of anyone ever returning to this particular campground seems unlikely. So perhaps what I remember is that they had been meaning to go there, and our joint visit was the first time for all involved.

The Columbia Rive Gorge boasts abundant options for beautiful, pristine, peaceful outdoor experiences.  On this trip we were destined for Viento State Park.  The campground itself was clean and well-maintained, and also pleasingly small for a State Park.  The sites were nicely spaced and surrounded by lush green foliage.  At first assessment, the only significant drawback we noted was the campground's unfortunate proximity to Interstate 84. 

Clearly, our friends had selected this location based on its convenient location right off the highway.  We, personally, would have viewed that as an automatic strike from the "maybe" pile, but we were glad to be out in a little piece of the woods enjoying some (mostly) fresh air and good company.  We joked a little bit about the noisy semi-truck traffic, but I feel we made the best of the situation and kept a positive mindset.  We were only staying for one night, after all.

And that one night could easily rank among the worst of my life (granted, I've been blessed with fairly limited experience when it comes to nights of suffering).  

I am fully aware that miles of railroad tracks line I-84; I've frequently seen freight trains making their way along the Columbia River in my parallel travels.  I hadn't considered the fact that much of their cross-country journey might take place while the rest of the world sleeps.  Or tries desperately to sleep, as it were. 

The trains that passed by (or possibly THROUGH?) Viento State Park were loud and frequent during ALL hours of the night. I felt as though we were sleeping at the crossing point of six different railroads, and the mighty rumbling created by each train literally shook our unsuspecting tent. Some of them even blew their dissonant horns, in a successful effort to ensure that nobody tried to sleep through their thunderous exhibition.  As each midnight monster faded into the distance, our heart rates leveled and eyes once again grew heavy, only to jerk awake again as the next ferocious growl approached and eventually tore so close to the campground that I wondered if unzipping the tent would put me face-to-face with a giant locomotive. 

Tweet tweet. Caw. Tweet. Vrrooooom. The sounds of morning in the Columbia River Gorge were never more unwelcome.  It would have been lovely to capture our stolen hours of sleep inside our dewy tent surrounded by the calm of nature, but instead we woke to motors rumbling and tires whooshing across the Interstate, a soundtrack only slightly more pleasant than the 3 a.m. freight procession.  Over breakfast, we all agreed it was one of the worst nights of rest we'd each experienced, and vowed never to return to this "best kept secret" of the Gorge. 

Yep, the Oregon State Parks website makes that claim, followed immediately by this apt observation: "Viento almost always has a spot available when other campgrounds in the area are full."   Perhaps the campground's relative lack of use is actually a result of the "secret" of Viento having been poorly kept, indeed. 


Related Posts with Thumbnails