When I was in elementary school, my friend Mike and I pitched a small orange tent in my backyard and camped out one night. I’m sure we stayed up late talking about Star Wars or playing cards by flashlight or something.
I woke up in the gray light before sunrise, surprised by how many birds were singing. It was a little chilly, with mist hanging over the cornfield behind the house.
We’d brought my dad’s old Boy Scout cooking set and some stuff for breakfast – although we were only a couple dozen steps from the house, at most – and I poured myself a bowl of Apple Jacks.
I went for a run before sunup today. The smell and feel of the air, the chattering of birds, and the color of the sky brought that long ago morning almost back to reality.
1) Household Tech Tip: If your vacuum cleaner motor continues to provide suction power, but the roller brush stops moving, before removing the entire bottom plate looking for something jammed in there; then borrowing your mother-in-law’s vacuum; then driving yours all the way to the repair shop – you should perform this simple step: Look for a button marked “BRUSHROLL ON/OFF.” If you own the same vacuum cleaner we do, you’ll find it cleverly hidden right on top of the vacuum, next to the main power switch. In the event you have already reached the local repair shop, you and the helpful repair person may share an enjoyable laugh at your own expense, which is still miles ahead of a vacuum cleaner repair bill. (In my defense: I’ve never used this particular button. Why the heck would I?)
2) That voice in your head you hear when you’ve returned from a trip to the store that says “You know, you really should take an extra two seconds and set down the gallon of milk to unlock the front door rather than try to juggle everything and risk dropping that milk and making a ridiculous mess of the door and sidewalk.” Yeah, you should listen to that voice.
3) Holy shit, The Legend of Korra is even better than I expected – and I expected a LOT, given the enthusiasm for this show. Binge-watched the first season on Amazon over the past few days. It’s gorgeous and well-written and amazing.
Twenty-five years ago this month, I started my freshman year of college at Bowling Green State University.
Tonight, I drove a few miles out on some of the narrow, field-lined roads here in Lake Township. The sun hadn’t completely set, and there was an unusual (for early August) bit of coolness to the air, even though the corn is tall yet. Perfect night to put the windows down and crank the CD I burned a few years ago and labeled BG 89-91. It’s a mix of songs that take me back the most powerfully to my favorite years at BGSU. The songs are not all from those years, but they’re definitely among those that I listened to the most, and which still dig up the deepest memories and impressions of the friends and the places and the times.
My drive wasn’t long enough to get through the whole CD, but I had a few in particular that I wanted to hear, and as always, they mixed heartbreakingly well with the smell of the fields and the lingering pink-orange clouds.
Here they are, in the order they appear on the CD:
New Order – Blue Monday
Real Life – Send Me An Angel
Depeche Mode – Strangelove
Pixies – Dig for Fire
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Depeche Mode – A Question of Lust
Yaz – Only You
Don Henley – The Boys of Summer
The Cure – A Few Hours After This
Spent about five hours gaming on Saturday, in celebration of International TableTop Day.
Started off with a three-person game of Love Letter –
– which we followed with Tsuro.
After that, another friend showed up, and the four of us took on Forbidden Island –
Alas, victory eluded us.
On to Pandemic – another first for me.
Another cooperative game – really enjoyed this. (And we were so freaking close to winning this one!)
Another gamer arrived, and we played a five-person game of Tsuro, and then something none of us had tried before: We Didn’t Playtest This at All.
I think we played three complete games in about 12 minutes. So bizarre and odd and chaotic and fun.
Back on March 20, our department at work got together for a good chunk of the day to talk about storytelling. We had lunch, saw one of the short film programs at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and then hung out for awhile with the director of one of the movies we’d seen.
Here’s what we watched:
I enjoyed the program. All the movies were entertaining, and it was a nice mix of subjects and tones and length. Thoughts on a few:
Real Change – a nine-minute documentary about four homeless men who sell the Real Change newspaper Seattle – led off the program, and its director, Adam Michael Becker, shared his time with us after the screening. As a former journalist, I was incredibly impressed with the stories and personalities he put on screen in such a short amount of time without the movie feeling rushed.
I’m a fan of rock photography, so it figured that I enjoyed Who Shot Rock & Roll, although compared to the rest of the pieces, it felt a little long at 37 minutes. Some parts dragged or seemed repetitive while others were too short.
The Pledge for Mr. Bunny: This is such a bizarre and offbeat little movie, and I loved it, even if I can’t quite explain why. I can see where it wouldn’t be for everybody, but if you want to give it a try, it’s available in its entirety on YouTube:
My earliest memories trace an elliptical orbit around two places: Lima and Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
If you ask me where the first place is that I remember living, my mind goes to this house on North Main Street in Lima:
That picture’s from sometime in 1972-73. (Here’s what the house looked like in summer 2012.)
But I also have many memories of the farm and house in Upper Sandusky where my mom grew up, since we lived there while my dad was serving in Korea in 1971 and ’72. While I can remember several things about being there, I can’t say that I recall having a sense of home in those memories, the way I do about the house in Lima.
That’s me and my maternal grandfather, Reuben Schoenberger. Here’s another one:
The pieces I remember from the farm and the farmhouse are mostly sensory snapshots: The smell of dirt and wood and oil in the barn, and the pile of gravel behind it where I played; sitting on the metal cover to something in the yard (a well, maybe, or a cistern?); the place under the front porch where I crawled with the family dog, Alfie; the pattern on the kitchen floor; the yard and the long driveway tucked into the cornfields.
That’s me and my grandma Joan and Alfie. I can remember that tricycle seeming huge – it had a double-decker step on the back! and needing those block-and-band accessories to reach the pedals. (Those things had a long life: after I outgrew needing them on the tricycle, they went into the box of toy blocks that lasted through me and my brothers.)
Now let’s go back to Lima.
I seem to think this area was just off the kitchen, at the back of the house. I still remember exactly how that rug felt under my hands and knees, and beneath the wheels of my toys. The wooden toy box in the background? My grandpa made it, and I still have it. And I remember taking everything out of it and making a complete mess of the room so that I could sit in it.
This was my parents’ second car (according to the back of the picture). Again, I can remember the texture of the seats. At some point, the Bug developed a hole in the backseat floor, and I wasn’t allowed to ride there. I loved two things in particular about the car: riding with the top down, and pushing the button that made the windshield washers squirt. This latter activity was most fun when carried out unsupervised with my best friend, Alberto – he’s in the middle of the photo below:
Alberto and his family lived next door, and it seems like every interaction I remember between our families involved laughing. Also, I could eat his mom’s homemade tortillas by the dozen. Man, they were good.
Finally, a trio of seasonal pictures, starting with me and mom in winter:
Summer. (I don’t know who that guy is, but I loved that swinging pole thing, and I love the ’70s feel of this picture.)
And fall. Me and my trike and our dog, Punkin.
Punkin got lost for a couple days once. I think I remember dad saying he found her out in a field by some railroad tracks.
Larger versions of these pictures – and a couple others – are in this Flickr photoset.
Growing up, I heard the term “tornado slide” used to describe this piece of playground equipment, and I’ve always loved it. This one’s in Harrison Smith Park in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, and I’m pretty sure it’s The Best One In The World.
I mean, look at it. All metal. Three full revolutions. Angle of descent: Approximately badass degrees. Turns tight enough to cause right-leg friction burns on the center pole. An ascent that includes a landing, for Pete’s sake, presumably so you can acclimate to the altitude and get even more scared. Look at the bottom of the slide: I’m pretty sure that kid was kissing the ground out of his thankfulness for having survived – Oh, God, no, wait! Look closely! I think there’s another kid down there. THE SLIDE WAS BAITING US INTO COLLISIONS AND TRYING TO KILL US ALL.
Yeah, I loved this thing. I’m pretty sure it was installed in 1976, in tune with the nationwide bicentennial celebration, and that around the time of this photo, it was brand new. Check out that line of thrill-seekers. I’m one step up from the halfway landing, five years old. That’s my mom – also an adventurous type – right behind me.
Playgrounds have changed a lot in the three-plus decades since this slide was installed, including the park in Upper Sandusky. But the World’s Best Tornado Slide lasts. My daughter’s tackled it. Maybe my nephews, too. Last I checked, it’s still there – visible on Google Maps, even. Waiting.
My running goal for 2013 was to reach 365 total miles. In a year with no scheduled race training, the challenge was to make myself get out enough to average a mile a day, even without the incentive of a “Race Day” circled on the calendar. (I did wind up running a race a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t the kind that required weeks of highly-structured training for what I wanted to get out of it.)
Here’s how the last few weeks of December shook out:
The weekend after the Ohio Outside Trail Series race, I did two four-mile road loops. The following weekend, we had bizarre warm & wet weather: Steady rain and the necessity of Christmas shopping kept me from running on Saturday, but I got lucky with a late Sunday morning where the sky was mixed, but things stayed dry and about 60 degrees during my run, which I stretched to six miles. That left me with seven miles to go before the end of the month.
I did four miles on the road Thursday, Dec. 26, and on Saturday the 28th, we had sun and a high in the mid-40s, and my youngest brother finally had the chance to come join me at Quail Hollow for a trail run.
We hit the three-mile mark – and my goal for the year – around 11:35 a.m. (My official Forerunner total, which includes all the extra fractions of a mile from the year, is actually almost 366 miles. Just a bit of cushion.)
A few more notes/stats on the year:
- I ran all but January in my new shoes, after retiring my first real pair.
- I ran 96 days, which means I averaged just about 3.8 miles per run.
- I was most active in August (42 miles on 11 days), in large part to make up for a weak July, when I ran just 17 miles over 5 days.
- My longest run was 8.25 miles, back on April 21. Five other days (March 31, April 7, Aug. 10, Oct. 20 and Nov. 3), I passed the seven-mile mark. One of those was a 7.5-miler that was almost entirely trail.
- I didn’t manage to get in any double-digit mileage runs, since I didn’t have any long races to prep for. Whatever my running goal is in 2014, I’d like to crack the ten-mile barrier at least a few times, if not regularly.
- I’m glad I finally decided to give trail running a serious shot. While I still put in most of my miles on the road, I really enjoyed my time in the woods and the meadows and the swamplands. Maybe I’ll set a trail mileage goal for 2014, since I’m hoping to return to the Ohio Outside series in the fall.
Given the rollercoaster we’ve ridden in our house this year, I’m happy that I managed to hit my target, even if it was less ambitious in some respects than what I was shooting for the past few years.
Still: I ran new paths and new roads; I ran a lot of streets that I’ve driven on – or past – for much of my life and saw how different they are on foot; I fell way behind my goal and scraped to make up the miles (this was a big personal hurdle); and I made more than a few spur-of-the-moment turns, not all of which turned out to be wise, but every one of which I’m glad I took.
Postcards from Christmas vacation, 1983:
A Christmas Story came out in November, but I know it had been out for awhile by the time I saw it at the Gold Circle Cinemas. My parents had seen it already, as had this kid at school who told me how it ended after I asked him about it. Seems likely I went to see it over the winter break.
I was a big Bloom County fan This is my best “Bill the Cat” face:
So, if you recall, Return of the Jedi had come out earlier that year. This meant Star Wars gifts were pretty popular at Christmas. My brothers got a a bunch of Jedi toys and stuff: Speeder Bikes, the Ewok Village, action figures, big Presto Magix kits. It was really the last big Star Wars Christmas of the original trilogy era.
As a newly-minted teenager, I had pretty much taken Star Wars toys off my wish list. The last Kenner Star Wars toy I specifically asked for was the Y-Wing. As I wrote in Collect All 21! –
Couldn’t help it. This thing was light years ahead of the old X-Wing, armed with not only that squealing laser cannon, but a rotating top turret and a plastic bomb to drop from its underbelly. And it had a socket behind the cockpit for Artoo units. I may not have actually role-played with my figures anymore, but I did send that ship on many a run over card houses in our living room, and somewhere in our family albums there’s a snapshot of me using the ship to dive bomb my little brother and his Knight Rider-inspired remote-control black Camaro.
Now, for years, I remembered that Y-Wing as a 13th birthday request: But this picture was clearly taken on Christmas, judging by my sweet striped sweater and cool brown corduroy pants – the same outfit as in that first shot. And the Y-Wing box is in the background of another Christmas picture, so while I may have asked for it in November, the evidence suggests I got it on Christmas. I think the only other Star Wars toy I got that year was the Vehicle Maintenance Energizer, which paired up nicely with the ship.
And with that flash-forward, I wrap up This is Me in ’83.
Big thanks to my mom, who kept and organized shelves full of photo albums that held a lot of these pictures.
I’ve really enjoyed this project. I didn’t wind up writing as much as I thought I would when I started, but I also dug up and rediscovered things I didn’t have in mind a year ago. I also found some other pictures and photos and memories that I want to share and write about.
I hope you’ve had a good year. Thanks for visiting 1983 with me.
Like a Spin̈al Tap amplifier, my streak of running at least one race per year now Goes To Eleven.
When I started out this year by setting my goal of 365 total miles, I thought for sure that somewhere along the way I’d be training for another race which would make that goal pretty easy. Then I lost a big chunk of summer, and found that I didn’t want my 10-year race streak to end.
I started trail running on September first, really liked it, and mixed it regularly into my schedule. And a day after turning 43, I registered for the final race in this year’s Ohio Outside Trail Series.
So last Saturday, Dec. 7, I bundled up and drove to the Munroe Falls Metro Park, arriving just after 8 a.m. for the 8:30 race. It was 22 degrees, but not too windy. A good layer of snow & ice on the ground. By the time I checked in, returned my race goodies to the car, and used the restroom, I only had to stand around for maybe six or seven minutes before the race, which was good.
I had been dealing with a hot throat and clogged sinuses for a couple days, but it was just a cold – not flu – and dammit, I paid for this race, so I was going to run it. And it’s been my experience that the effort of running clears my head, and can usually push aside minor illnesses for awhile.
There were fewer than 200 runners taking part in this 4.7 mile run, but even so, things were crowded on the trail for most of the first mile. It was odd, at the start, hearing the muffled footsteps of runners on snow-covered grass instead of pavement, but once we got into the woods, I felt very much at home.
I’m glad I did as much trail running as I did at Quail Hollow, because it prepared me for the reality of slower times compared with road running, and for the climbs and descents, and the focus and energy and effort it takes. I wish I’d spent more time in the woods, in fact.
Based on the course photos and the trail description, I was expecting a wider and more level run – but the mostly narrow two-lap loop was very reminiscent of the wooded trails of Quail Hollow, with hills and drops and uneven footing. All the stuff I kind of love about trail running. What was different today was the snow and ice, which factored into the running mostly on the downhill stretches, since it kept me from freewheeling.
The temperature was also a factor in my lung power, and kept me slower than I can manage on the roads – but again, I’d anticipated that.
I did manage a nice kick toward the end – helped by about a two-tenths stretch on a park road during the final seven-tenths of the race – sprinting past a guy with whom I’d been swapping spots over the final mile and a half or so. When he crossed the finish line shortly after me, he tapped me on the shoulder and said “Nice finish.”
Here’s my Garmin data from the race:
My official time was actually 47:57 – I forgot to stop my Forerunner when I hit the finish mark, which is why the results above are slightly more – which put me in 80th place out of 159 runners. (Which, of course, made me think I could have worked a little harder and passed the woman who finished two seconds ahead of me, which would have put me in the top half. Dang.)
Despite being nowhere near placing, and with an average pace of 10:19, I’m really glad I did this run, and I think next year I’ll see if I can get my brother Adam to run all three with me. In the meantime, I’ll work to wrap up my goal of 365 this year, put in more time on the trails, and enjoy a frosty beverage or three in this:
Speaking of that Running 2013 goal, with the race behind me, here’s the recap for the two previous weeks:
Week 48 – Two nearly identical four-mile road runs Nov. 30 and Dec. 1: Same route, same overall 9-minute pace. For no discernible reason, I felt better after the second one, though.
Week 49 – 4.7 miles on Saturday, Dec. 7, as detailed above. After I got home from the race, I stopped being in denial about the cold I was nursing, and I didn’t run any more.
That brings me to 344.2 miles. As of today (Tuesday, Dec. 10), there are 21 days left in the year for me to run 21 miles – which would put me just one-fifth of a mile over my goal.