Saturday, December 27, 2008

Time to embrace a keyboard

Okay, I'm officially tired of shopping, cooking, wrapping gifts, and playing host. Good-bye to the tree, the decorations, and all that calorie-rich food. A good 10 or 12 hour hit on a keyboard is what I need right now. When do you take your tree down? Mine's outside on Boxing Day. My husband says I'm brutal, that I should leave it up until New Year's eve, but I'm all about pre-Christmas festivities. After the big day comes and goes, I'm done.

A new year looms and that means it's time for a new look on my website (check) and a new routine where writing comes first, and everything else follows. Each year, snow and cold weather aside, it's this shift alone that makes me love January!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Getting physical (in a good way)

My husband began running in 2006. Since then he's completed three marathons and six half-marathons. I think it's great, even more so because my oldest, now twelve, began following his lead last year, running 3 km, 5 km, and recently a 10 km run.

This past Saturday, my youngest, now ten and recently diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, ran his first 5 km run, the Santa Shuffle, which raises money for the Salvation Army. I watched with my sister, who was visiting, and our dog Sully. (No, I don't run. At least not yet, though I've been spending time on my treadmill and elliptical machines 5 days/week for the last ten months).

Anyhow... my oldest finished Saturday's 5 km run in 28 mins, running across the finish like a deer, barely breaking a sweat. My youngest (paced by his dad) finished in 41 minutes, blinking and twitching so badly as he crossed the finish line I almost cried. (His Tourette's, which often occurs in bouts where he'll twitch/blink involuntarily, is worse when he's stressed). He was worried he wouldn't be able to do it, so worried he'd had trouble sleeping the night before, and yet when he ran up to me at the end, winded and red-faced, he was clearly riding a euphoric high. You could see it in his eyes.

Later, I watched all kinds of people struggling across that same finish line, some taking 60 mins, others 65 or even more. There were parents pushing kids in strollers, couples running with their dogs, groups of elderly who'd walked. Some were robust and healthy, others overweight and out of shape, but they all finished and for that they deserve a high-five.

Running has exploded over the last decade. I think it's great because you don't need talent to do it, you can run as a family, you compete against yourself, and anyone can do it. Anyone.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wonton soup & the measure of a man

I know a restaurant that sells amazing Wonton soup and each time I go there I'm reminded of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer patiently wait in a long line-up to buy a bowl of soup from the infamous "soup guy" at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant in New York that draws crowds of people from all walks of life.

Same thing at this restaurant. There's always a line-up, never enough tables, and the same broad mix of customers. I love going there, because its not pretentious and it speaks to the soup's ability to cut through the invisible social barriers that so often divide us (like how much we make for a living, or the kind of car we drive, or how big our house is).

That said, last Friday I made an impromptu trek into the city to buy take-out soup, a reward for completing a chapter I'd been working on and (more importantly) finishing the last coat of paint on my basement-wall-from-hell which had been ripped apart ten days earlier to accomodate a plumbing repair.

When I arrived, there was the usual line-up. I took note of three businessmen obsessively checking their blackberries, a teenage girl texting, two construction workers and a man who looked like he was homeless given the Safeway cart he'd just parked outside with all manner of bags tied to it.

One of the blackberry-obsessed businessmen stood out more than the others. His suit screamed money and he kept talking on his phone in a too-loud voice. He also wore a fistful of garrish rings that he kept playing with as he tapped one foot impatiently, and a Rolex watch that clearly wasn't made on a production line focused on less-is-more. But what I noticed most was how often he glanced back at the homeless guy behind him, a look of disgust on his face.

When the businessman finally made it to the front of the line, he placed both hands on the counter and ordered his soup (loudly) then flushed red when he realized he didn't have his wallet with him. (Insert an awkward pause here while he pocket slapped for his missing wallet).

And then the most wonderful thing happened.

The homeless man stepped around him, walked up to the till, and withdrew a handful of small bills. With more class than the businessman would ever have, he then spoke to the teller in a polite, hushed tone, and paid for the man's soup. "Oh, no!" the businessman said, mortified. "You don't have to do that."

"I know," the homeless man replied. "But I want to."

The businessman thanked him and left with his head down, jumping into a Lexus and tearing off like his tires were on fire. Not long after that, it was my turn to order. I was distracted, smiling to myself as I watched the homeless man steer his Safeway cart across the icy parking lot outside, cradling his soup. I handed the teller my money, but she waved it away and nodded at him through the window. "He paid for yours, too."

"Mine?!" I said. "Why?"

The woman shrugged. "He said he wanted to pay for the homeless lady's soup behind him."

My eyes about popped out of my head. Homeless lady?! It wasn't until then that I glanced down and realized how I looked: hair sticking up everywhere, minimal make-up, a too-large but incredibly warm winter jacket, paint-splattered pants and a beat up pair of comfy clogs. In some ways I guess you could say the only thing I was missing was the Safeway cart!