Saturday, November 28, 2009
This a word cloud I created using Wordle. I grabbed my book – the whole tamale – tossed it into worlde and this is what came out. The more often a word appears in my book, the larger it will show in the cloud.
If you take a look at the cloud, you’ll know there are games, soccer, parks, friends, and beer in the book. There’s also plenty of trying, things are hard, there are plans, and there are Pirates in New York. And there’s home – the finding of it.
Here’s what’s going on: I’ve written a book and now I’m in the early stages of the torturously slow process of finding an agent. It's going well, but the book business moves at a snail pace.
I’ve queried. I’ve gotten rejected. Twice. But I’ve also queried and gotten requests for more. Twice. I’ve sent more and now I’m trying not to tear the skin off my thumbie as I wait to hear back from them.
I also had an amazing meeting with someone who works on the other side of this – on the book buying side – who gave me great advice and offered me some candy. I grabbed onto the promise of that candy like it was the last helicopter out Saigon.
But I haven’t heard back about that candy and I don’t know when I’ll hear back. I’ve been busy following her advice and working on getting short pieces published and on developing the blog, but I need to move beyond that and start getting things done.
Rejection is hard, but I need to stop being such a wimp, leave the comfort of my couch, and get out there. Rejection is good. Rejection puts me in great company, as this post I read today points out. Getting a rejection doesn’t prove anything but if I’m not getting rejected, I’m not querying enough. And I have to query if I want to find an agent.
The holidays are looming and the publishing industry breaks away from their computers and goes caroling. Which means I need to get my ass in gear.
On my to do list for this week: re-work query, send queries out to agents (at least three), finish a first-person essay that’s been lurking in my computer, and run faster.
My objective for December: to get rejected more!
Friday, November 27, 2009
Yesterday I ran the Turkey Trot at a pace that was at least one minute and thirty seconds faster than my recorded pace with NYRR, which is a ton faster that I've ever run before.
As I mentioned earlier, I was running with six friends. One of them wasn't sure what her pace was but it sounded she'd be a little faster than me so I decided to try to keep up with her. Turns out she was a lot faster and though she was gaining on me I was able to keep her within view for most of the race.
It helps that she was wearing a bright top, but what matters is that I challenged myself. When I realized how fast I was going I got scared and slowed down a little but since nothing was hurting or feeling like it was about to break I kept going.
Today my quads and my back are achy but only in that nice way of sore muscles that have been asleep for a while. Not a single complaint from my ankles.
Maybe it's time to stop cruising. Maybe it's time to leave behind the fear of getting hurt, the fear of failure, and reach out for what lies just outside my comfort zone.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Here’s a turkey for you! Happy Thanksgiving!
This is my Turkey Trot medal from last year. It was my first and I’m off to try to get my second one.
Running the trot last year was a friend’s idea. I had never in my life run that distance and didn’t think I had it in me. But I decided to give it a try anyway, mostly because I knew it would make Thanksgiving dinner taste even better.
My friend ended up hurting herself a week before the race and I ran the turkey trot alone. I managed to complete the five miles, had so much fun doing so, and felt like such a champ that I decided to become a runner.
After the Turkey Trot I joined the New York Road Runner’s club. My new year’s resolution: to run at least nine qualifying races in 2009. Done. I’m thankful for that, but that was mostly under my control.
It has now been a year of running; a year of heart pounding heavy breathing as my feet strike the pavement. A year of pursuing strength and finding it in running. But best of all, it’s been a year of friendship.
Somehow, as the year went by, friends collected around running. I ran a half-marathon with one – the first time doing that distance for both of us. A dozen friend have cheered for me as I pass them. And a few more have run random races with me and others keep meaning to run races with me (you know who you are). There's one who has gone on Sunday morning runs with me even though he barely breaks a sweat keeping my pace. Another has waited by the runner's path on Ocean Ave with a glass of water to help me complete long distances.
I’m heading out to try to get another turkey medal. But the best part about today’s race is the company: I’ll be running with six other friends, and I didn’t bribe them to run this.
Thank you for friends. Thank you for running. Thank you for being there. Thank you for feeding me turkey.
And thank you, friends, for supporting this blog. Thanks to all those of you who know me, and thank you too, anonymous readers in Canada, Norway, India, and Japan! And thank you, google analytics! You make my day everyday!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
There’s nothing worse than the smell of freshly baked bread when you can’t have any. It’s the kind of smell that can drive you insane as you sniff the air trying to locate its source, until you track it down not to a bakery where you can go in and buy some, but to some building where some inconsiderate bastard has baked himself some bread for his personal use and isn’t sharing with you.
But that’s just me. I hope my downstairs neighbors are not like that or that they slept through it, because yesterday morning I woke up early and baked an upside down pineapple cake to take to work for an early Thanksgiving.
It got me a share of looks during the commute. The walk to the subway was uneventful. I took the R all the way so I could remain seated with the warm cake on my lap. Safer for the cake, but not for me – people near me seemed to be trying to figure out what was in the not-quite-clear plastic carrier.
But most people in the morning subway are still half asleep, tucked in their own worlds and barely acknowledging the presence of others. It was when I got out at Union Square that I noticed there was something about carrying a cake: I was drawing lots of attention and it wasn’t because of my skirt.
These were not the kinds of stares you get when walking past a firehouse or a construction site. Or the kinds you get when you go down the street dressed like a cat. This was a double take. First they would notice the carrier, get a frantic look in their eyes as they tried to figure out what it was and how it fit in their worldview of possible things, then as they got close enough to be able to smell it, they’d look at me with a hopeful smile.
I’d smile back trying not to look too smug. Sorry, this cake’s not for you, random commuter. But you, dear readers, you get a picture of it. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
As part of the Celebrate Divorce festivities, I spent the day yesterday undergoing name reduction surgery. It took four and a half hours but it was painless and I have no noticeable side effects.
The procedure took place at the Kings County civil court. It involved repeated shuttling between the 9th, 3rd, and 11th floors, plus visits to the bank, kinko's, a deli/notary, and the Downtown Brooklyn offices of the Brooklyn Papers.
I got to see female mullets and mu-mus in numbers I hadn't seen since last time I went to Six Flags, but the weirdest sight was this:
All the meters were taken when I first noticed it, but as I stopped to stare a car left the parking spot in front and another pulled in.
The meter was running.
Monday, November 23, 2009
For my last birthday a friend of mine – same friend whose boyfriend ran the marathon this month – arrived carrying a very large and heavy package. If it had been anyone else I would have worried, but this being Tim, I was pretty sure it would be fine.
I unwrapped it to reveal a tower of drawers made of dark wood, delicately carved, and looked like it had been part of a larger piece of furniture. The style of the piece matched my furniture. When I protested against such an extravagant gift, Tim defended himself by saying that when he had seen this at Housing Works it had my name all over it - and it's true.
In drawers I trust. Drawers keep objects with wayward tendencies from wandering to the dark corners where they tend to hide. Unfortunately, drawers can’t do this by themselves
Yesterday a friend was coming over for brunch and I wanted to go for a 6 mile run before then. I was ready but I could not find the iPod shuffle. It was not in its home drawer. I remembered leaving it on the window ledge by the door last time I used it, but it wasn’t there.
The apartment was a little messy so I started hurriedly putting away stuff, throwing things into drawers to make it easier to spot an errant shuffle, but it wouldn’t come forth. Could I run without music? Not today. Could I run with the nano? I’d have to change into the shirt with the bicep pocket if I were to do that, but it wasn’t cold enough for that shirt. Should I just ditch the run? No. I needed that run: the Turkey Trot was coming up and that was probably my last chance for a run before Thursday. I was running out of time, the apartment was now tidy, my shoes were laced up, and I needed to make a decision.
I took one last look in the drawer where I keep all the going-for-a-run accessories: a $5 bill, a health insurance card cut to fit the pocket of my running tights (yes, I run in tights – more on that at some other point), small tubes of disposable eye drops, a miniature chap stick, and the shuffle.
Drawers can be your friend if you treat them well, but over stuff them and they turn against you hiding what you need when you need it the most.
I had already checked there but it was when I took most things out that I saw the shuffle: resting at the bottom of the drawer, covered with red eye-glass wipe, with only an ear bud sticking out from under the blanket.
Do your drawers ever hide things from you?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
There are those who like milk with their cookies. I prefer them straight up. What’s more, I don’t like milk.
I’ve always hated its taste. My brother loved it. There was nothing better than a glass of cold milk for him. Me? I wanted mine warm and with a small scoop of instant coffee to kill the milky taste before I could head out to face the second grade.
When I finished high school and moved to Bogotá for school, I graduated to brewed coffee with some milk and my life greatly improved. I've followed that course and now what I have is a shot of espresso with a dash of milk.
I will give it that. Milk is good with coffee and it’s also good for cooking. I generally buy a quart at a time. When it’s running low, I buy another one and keep it in the back of the fridge because there’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning and not having milk for my coffee.
But this week has been rough at work with year-end meetings with accountants and such.
Yesterday morning I noticed I the carton was almost gone. I used as little as possible and made a mental note to buy milk on the way back home. Unfortunately, by then I had lost the mental and which is how I found myself with only about a teaspoon of milk for my coffee this morning.
I stared at the meager line of white in the bottom of cup and felt that sinking feeling in the stomach that comes from knowing that no good will come of this day. And then, like dark clouds suddenly giving way to blue skies, I remembered there was some heavy cream in the fridge.
Heavy cream + water does not milk make (in fact, don’t try this at home, kids – it’s kind of disgusting), but it saved my morning. And in spite of what the following video is trying to suggest, I did just fine in school.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Though legions of zombies were ready to welcome my thumb into their ranks, I am glad to report that after fighting for its soul my thumb is back in the land of living and healing nicely.
It doesn’t hurt but the skin over the cut is pillowy like the skin left over a drained blister. I’m not sure what happens next since I’ve never had the patience to let one heal properly.
Right now the thumb just looks surprised or, as a friend who was begging me to remove it from her sight pointed out, like it was attacked by a 1-hole punch.
Thanks you all for your sympathies and wishes of speedy recovery.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
There’s nothing like music to set the mood. Last night, after The Grates were finished with their set, a happy bouncy feeling lingered over the crowd. Just the thing to encourage incautious smiling.
One of my smiles landed on a guy who was standing about 30’ away from where I was with my friends. He smiled back. A little while later I looked his way again. He was still looking at me. He smiled, I smiled. He nodded and started walking towards my group.
Since it seemed rude not to, once he reached us I disentagled myself from my friends and said hello to him. After making me repeat my name a few times, he asked me what I was drinking.
I looked down at my empty hands and curled one as if holding a glass.
“I’m having an invisible Stella,” I told him.
“Can I buy you another one?” he asked.
“But I’m not done with this one,” I pointed out.
“When you’re done with that. An invisible one. Or a real one,” he said.
“Ok. I’ll chug this one then,” I replied, and he watched me gulp down half a glass of invisible beer.
“That was good. Don’t go away. I’ll be back with a Stella.”
From 30’ he looked cute. Mid to late twenties. Maybe. Hopefully. Once I saw him up close I noticed he was still cute, but closer to mid-twenties. Perhaps.
He came back with a beer. We were talking about the bands that had already played when someone else joined us.
“I remember you now,” he said by way of interruption. He was tall, good-looking, and more age appropriate. I had said hi to him earlier. He was a music journalist and fellow fan of The Grates I had met a few months ago when they had played at Pianos.
“How was your show yesterday?” he asked.
I hesitated for a moment. “It went very well, but how did you hear about that?” On Friday I had participated in a shoot for an upcoming episode of Party in Your Mouth. Not too many people knew about that and I couldn’t imagine how Guy #2 could have heard. Some of the band members from The Grates knew about it, but I couldn’t imagine their talking to Guy #2 about it.
“It was your debut show, wasn’t it?” Guy #2 confirmed.
Guy #1 leaned closer to me and gently placed his hand on the small of my back in a she’s-with-me move. He kept it there for only 2.3 seconds, but it was enough for it to register with Guy #2.
“You’re confusing me with someone else. You’re talking about a music show, right? Mine was a cooking show. Sort of,” I clarified.
“What kind of cooking?” Guy #1 asked, taking the opportunity to participate in the conversation which continued as it was tugged in different directions: from cooking to music, to fame, stardom, and world domination as both of them dueled for my attention.
In the olden days and Bridget Jones, girls got treated to the thrill of duels and having men go at it in fisticuffs. Now, in the music halls of New York, this is as exciting as it gets.
Out of attrition, Guy #1 won. After some minutes of this the last set started and group conversation became impossible. Guy #1 stayed by my side and occasionally tried to whisper in my ear comments about the music and Guy #2 dropped out.
It was a long set. We bobbed to the music. We danced a little. He asked me for my phone number. I gave it to him; I was enjoying his company even if he seemed a tad young for me. Besides, I wasn’t triggering a flight response in him with my weird replies.
“Do you live in the area? Can I see you next weekend?” he asked almost in one breath when the last song was almost over.
“Sure. Give me a call and we’ll figure something out. I live in Brooklyn,” I told him.
“I have to go now. My friends and I are going to a place on Bleecker. If I call you, will I get to see you next weekend?” he repeated.
“Yes. I’m not sure when. Can’t remember what I have going on next weekend, but give me a call,” I reassured him.
The last song was building up to a frenzy. It would soon finish. They would turn on the lights and we’d all get kicked out of the main floor of the Bowery Ballroom and be spit out onto the drizzle falling on Delancey.
“So. See you next weekend?” he insisted.
“Yes. See you next weekend,” I agreed and he leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.
And then it was over. The bright lights came on and I saw how smooth his face was. It was born-a-whole-decade-later-or-more smooth.
By then he was already stepping away, going back to his friends, smiling and waving at me.
A friend of mine placed her arms around my shoulders, “He was wearing a bracelet so he’s over twenty-one. You’re good.”
I wasn’t too worried. Guys sometimes seem to ask for phone numbers just to see if they could get it. Once, at a party where I was wearing a particularly fetching feathered hat and a fifties style dress, three different guys had asked me for my number. Not one of them called.
Perhaps that would be it. A sweet inter-generational interaction at the Bowery Ballroom aided by Grate music.
Except that my phone is ringing and it’s a number not in my contacts.
Friday, November 13, 2009
They told me not to bring anything. They had food, they had beer. Since I have shown up empty handed for dinner too many times – usually after having invited myself like a poor relative who just happens to knock on the door at dinner time – that day I arrived at Reiko’s with flowers.
Though I love flowers I don't often buy them. Compared with what's available in Colombia even fresh ones looked wilted to me. I usually add a few drops of Clorox and some sugar to the water, tactics which helped, but flowers here never lasted as long here. Some managed to look sad for a week before hanging their head in shame. But flowers still make a nice gift.
“Thanks! You didn’t have to,” she said taking them from me. Reiko walked back to the kitchen were her boyfriend, Ming, was working on the meal. She traded places with him and gave him the flowers.
Ming trimmed the stems, selected a vase, filled it with water, topped it with mouthwash, and placed the flowers in it. By then I was already swept in conversation with Reiko so I just filed away that information.
He’s a man of many talents. Besides having a successful career, he practices aikido, knits, makes beautiful pottery, and wears the coolest scarves and hats I’ve ever seen a straight man wear. I would never question his knowledge on flower handling.
A month ago, I was at Southside working on my book. I looked up and the barista was standing holding a bunch of cut orchids someone had just given him like they were a cat trying to scratch him.
“Here! For you!” he said.
“You don’t want them?” it seemed polite not to seem too eager.
“Nah. Take them. I don’t know what to do with them,” he shrugged.
At home I placed them in a vase with mouthwash, ready to try Ming's trick. Almost three weeks ago they made a cameo appearance in my Naked post. They were about a week old then. Last Sunday I removed the ones that had turned brown. Yesterday, in honor of a friend who was stopping by, I changed the water and removed the pond scum that had formed around the water line.
They’re not perky and there aren’t too many left, but they’re still purple. And I love purple. Besides, now that they've become a science experiment I owe it to them to take care of them in their dotage.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The cashiers at the co-op tend to be curious about fellow members’ purchases. It starts out innocently. “What kind of mushrooms are these?” asks the cashier. On lucky days I end up dispensing cooking tips and recipes, other days I get lectured.
A few weeks ago, after inspecting my lebne and my corn cakes, the cashier swiped my six-pack of beer and asked me if I had ever had kombucha. I prepared myself to defend my beer. I’d heard of kombucha. It sounded healthy.
Now. I don’t have anything against healthy, but healthy and good are not enough for me, which is why I don’t practice yoga regularly.
It’s hard to argue against yoga. Whenever I take a yoga class I can feel its benefits. I’ve limped into a yoga class unable to straighten out much-abused hip flexors and walked out with an easy stride. After a month of bikram yoga and no running, on my first race back I was able to shave almost a full minute off my pace.
I wish I liked yoga and was able to keep up practicing it for more than a month at a time, but for me most yoga is like that would-be suitor: very nice, but too boring to hold my attention. It would be lovely, I think as I cover my mouth to stifle a yawn,
What’s worse is the holier-than-thou company it often keeps.
“I’ve had green tea with kombucha.” I replied, tightening the hold on the beer and moving it away from her.
“No. This is a cold drink. When I get beer I usually swap out a few beers for kombucha,” she volunteered.
“Why?” I couldn’t imagine what beer had to do with kombucha.
“It’s so good! I love it!” She said as she scanned the rest of my items.
“You love the taste?”
“The taste is ok, but I love the way it makes me feel!” she replied, and I could see she was already looking forward to finishing her shift and buying herself some kombucha.
“Feel?” I wasn’t getting this.
“It’s kind of like I’m buzzed, but alert, relaxed. And it’s good for you!”
I filed that away under things from the co-op I might to try someday. Thanks to Veteran’s day, this morning I was able to shop in a relatively un-crowded co-op and look for kombucha. I started in the beer aisle and was redirected to the yogurt case.
It’s with the yogurt because it needs to be kept refrigerated. It has probiotics, B vitamins (my favorite!), is naturally effervescent, might have trace amounts of alcohol due to fermentation, and may have floating, living cultures in the bottle. Also, please avoid shaking. I’m guessing you don’t want to disrupt those living cultures.
I was skeptical, but I tried to keep an open mind when I tried it. I’m not sure how many bottles of the stuff you have to drink to feel its effects, so I will only report on the taste.
It was a little sour a little fizzy; light, almost citrusy. Refreshing. Kind of like a slightly flat seltzer mixed with leftover juice from the olive jar. The bottle contained two servings. I meant to have only one, but the whole bottle was gone before I noticed. I loved it, but unless you like to drink the vinegary liquid that olives come in, you might not like it.
I almost went for the fridge to grab a second bottle, when I had nightmarish visions of myself buying goji berries (I hate them), and alfalfa sprouts (they tend to go bad in my fridge – not sure why). Thanks Anna, for sharing this video and helping bring me back to my senses.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
This morning I woke up feeling the effects of last night. There were the usual ones that come after a good dinner party. I was both still full and hungry again, thirsty, craving coffee. But there were other troubling signs: my wrist was stiff and achy, and there was a dull throbbing pain in my thumb.
Thanksgiving is upon us, and with it, the perilous holiday season starts. For many years I have been systematically attempting and failing to holiday-proof my life. Though I have been able to avoid the worst of it by not going home for Christmas, I still find myself listening to jingly tunes and baking cookies around mid to late December.
But Thanksgiving is much more dangerous, and it started last night with round one of turkey centric let’s gorge ourselves and celebrate gatherings. The danger is that after eating good food in large amounts, everyone is happy, and things can take a mushy turn. Last night, with two new babies in attendance, the risks were even greater.
Careful planning was on my side. I wore an outfit without a waist and I packed my plate in such a way that I successfully hit that sweet spot where you’ve eaten enough to make motion difficult, but not enough to make you feel sick in just one serving.
But even the best-laid plans can go wrong. I volunteered to do the dishes. They had already been soaking for a while and were easy to wash. I thought I’d do a dozen or so to make way for more soaking. The plates were stacked on the left. I grabbed the sponge and soaped them as I stacked to the right, planning on rinsing them all at once before moving them to the drying rack.
The sponge slid smoothly and I was enjoying making quick progress. I was holding a plate in left hand, scrubbing it with my right, when the unthinkable happened. The plate cracked as I was holding it, attacked my left thumb and killed it.
Rescue workers rushed to the scene trying to stop the blood that now flowed from my thumb and spilled on the plates. They assessed the situation and dashed in search of emergency supplies. After leaving blood on several paper towels, I was able to apply antibiotic ointment and make butterfly stitches to place on the flap of skin that was left on the cut.
I thought that was the end of that, but this morning when I woke up to the pain in my hand I realized it was just the beginning. The pain in my thumb, hand, and wrist were symptoms of something larger; something my mother had not prepared me for. My thumb had turned into a zombie.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Willem Dafoe has a great pair of legs. I had never noticed. Last night he slowly hiked up his skirt to reveal the male garter socks he was wearing. The skirt kept going up – dramatically raised until I could see his thighs (which were lovely) – and up and up.
Because I like to watch men’s legs, I like to see men in skirts. They are more flattering than shorts and I wish I got to see more. The sight of a good pair of legs in a kilt always makes my day.
Or my movie. Even if I hadn’t liked the grand battle scenes – though I did – the abundance of kilts would have been enough to keep me interested through a dozen viewings of Braveheart. Without Achilles’ mini, Troy would not be the same. And my only complaint about Gladiator is the length of Russell Crowe’s skirt: it should have been shorter.
Last night’s skirt was long, but it got hiked up often enough to keep me happy and it was my favorite thing about Idiot Savant, which a friend with an extra ticket had invited me to go see.
Playing at the Public Theater, according to the Village Voice it is “a sprawling meditation on the power of language, the perils of desire, and the practice of interspecies golf.” It has no plot and features giant ducks. A booming voice talks to the performers and to the audience in a fatalistic “game over” tone.
I didn’t understand it, but I’m not sure there was anything to understand. It all seemed random: the golf clubs, the spilled fruit, the boats, the mute chorus of men in skirts, the loud noises and blinding lights. In the middle of it all, Willem Dafoe retained a commanding presence on stage, even as he played the idiot, writhed on the floor, shook his butt, or performed stiff puppet-like movements.
It was a very interesting play, but for me the best part was Willem Dafoe’s legs in a skirt.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
One of the advantages of having a uniform is that you don’t have to worry about what to wear. When you are the poorest kid in the school bringing homemade popcorn for lunch, that’s a relief.
To make things worse, my mother used to sew most of my clothes and I hated having to wear a purple jumper made just for me when all the other kids were wearing balloon skirts.
But I didn’t hate everything I wore. I also had hand-me-downs.
I have a cousin who is very close to me in age. Her father worked in fashion, her mother loved clothes, and every few months I’d get to rifle through huge garbage bags filled with my cousin’s discarded clothing. Things I had coveted a month ago and had seen her wear only once or twice were there. Piles and piles of almost new store bought and even imported clothing up for grabs. For me! Skirts, dresses, bows, ribbons, pockets, all the extra details my mother didn’t bother sewing were there. And I didn’t have to share with my brother. The only thing better than those bags was when the school library received book shipments.
But all that ended when we hit puberty and my cousin stopped growing. I didn’t. At almost 5'4 I'm the tallest woman in my family by at least four inches and now I have no cousin giving me hand-me-downs.
Sometimes I get them from friends, but it's rare and often awkward. It’s hard to explain that I’m not being sarcastic – I’m really that excited.
Fortunately for me, Brooklyn is a great place for hand-me-downs from strangers. A walk down the brownstone belt is better than a trip to a mall. Clothing on railings better than on racks. I’ve gotten cashmere sweaters from boxes by stoops and three weeks ago, just as the weather was starting to turn, I picked up a J-Crew black wool pea coat.
Last Monday I was riding my bike back from an early co-op shift. I was tired – still recovering from Halloween excesses. I passed a black lump on the road. It was wet from the rain and it looked like it might have been run over by a bike or two, but it was still recognizable.
I checked for oncoming traffic and circled back to take a better look. It was a pair of elbow length black gloves with jeweled wrists – the kind of thing I would never buy, but have always wanted to have. Without hesitating I placed the limp wet gloves in my basket and sped off, hoping no Audrey Hepburn would come out chasing after them.
She didn’t. I hand washed in the tub and it took them about a day and a half to dry before I could try them on. They fit like a glove and I can’t wait for an excuse to wear them.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s brunch party anyone?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
It turns out Paula did struggle, but she kept it quiet so no one would notice and overtake her. She looked strong at mile 6, leading the tight pack of women at the front of the race.
The previous night's Halloween celebrating almost made me miss the elite runners. When I got to 4th Ave there was already a small crowd waiting for them. I had missed most of the wheelchair racers but the women were still about twenty minutes away.
The closest I had ever gotten to seeing elite runners in action had been during the Brooklyn half-marathon in May. The course was designed so there were lanes marking the different loops in the park before bounding off to Coney Island. For those of us at the back of the pack, it worked out so that the elite runners were starting the second loop right as we were leaving the starting line area and entering first the loop.
Even though they were passing me on their lane on the right and were running much faster than I could ever hope to run, it felt like they were running with me and that if I hurried just a little I'd be able to keep up with them. Not the case.
And not what I'm hoping for either.
Getting to watch them from a greater distance was awe inspiring. But I was cold from standing around clapping, so I went for some coffee and thought I'd come back to watch those with a more similar pace to mine. I wanted to see what they looked like and get a little of the if-they-can-I-can feeling.
By the time I got back to the course a larger crowd had assembled. There were some very loud people cheering from a balcony above me. They were enthusiastically calling out runners' names so I didn't feel as much of a need to cheer at the moment. Many runners seemed to delight in getting called out, others barely acknowledged it.
Some runners seem to hate every minute of the marathon. They run with a very focused look and don't seem to enjoy themselves. Not only do they look like they're in pain, but they look like they want to be in pain. Others seem to be having fun and enjoy the party the street becomes.
As runners heard the names of people from the balcony, many were confused - unsure as to where the calling out was coming from. Many looked up and seemed amused. Others annoyed at the break in their concentration.
I had only been back on 4th Avenue for a couple of minutes when I remembered I had forgotten to ask a friend if his boyfriend, Keith, was running. Then I heard the people above me start calling out "Go, Keith!". A very handsome runner looked up, his face lit up with almost child-like wonder as he looked around trying to figure out where his name was coming from. When he found the balcony he smiled and waved, happy and grateful to be cheered.
It was him! Keith! Dear Keith! So I went crazy calling out his name. He found me, looked happily surprised and came over and gave me a quick sweaty hug before going on his way, still smiling.
And that's the kind of runner I want to be in next year's marathon.