Monday, June 27, 2011

Snake Infestation

Recently my well-meaning sister Krisanda sent me a link to an article that I never should have read. The article was about a snake infestation in a house in southern Idaho. There are about 300 reasons I never should have read this article. Topping the list are: it involves snakes, Idaho is too close for me to feel apathy, I have enough other terrible stuff to lose sleep over, and I'm so behind on my bar study right now that I should be strapped to an uncomfortable chair and have my eyelids removed with nothing but the giant stack of bar prep books strewn about in front of for the next month if I expect to ever catch up (also meth would help).

But I read it. Not initially, but I read it after about a week of letting it take up space in my inbox. The pressure mounted and finally I popped the sucker open and read all of the horrific details until I lay curled up in the fetal position on top of the highest, flattest, clearest surface I could find while humming songs from my childhood that I thought might bring me back to my "happy place" (which is a tropical beach with no animals). And I know what you're saying to your computer right now as though I can hear you: "Oh jeez. I've read that article and they are just garter snakes. Calm the heck down." To you, antagonizer and unsympathetic close-minded electronic heckler, I respond: "I wouldn't care if it was even just one garter snake that was four inches long and died while saving a family of puppies from a fire. Once even that snake is discovered within reach of a person's property, that person should have a Constitutional right (and I don't hand those out often) to prompt the president to declare a national state of emergency and have the whole town evacuated. Also, I hope you're doing well. I'm sure we haven't seen each other for a while (and maybe we've never met). I love what you've done with your hair."

But once the shock of the possibility of the thought of a snake infestation subsided and I began to see color again in the world (several days later), I was left with one lingering concern. During this snake infestation, the man of the house took the initiative to sweep the property and collect the snakes in buckets in order to protect his family, one time going so far as climbing through the crawl space under the house through a man-covered snake den to survey the extent of the problem. While conceding immediately that if ever I'm on any kind of committee that has a say in this, I will absolutely and without reservation support this man going straight to heaven no matter what he does for the rest of his life, I was left wondering if this kind of gall is a prerequisite for manhood. I've always seen men do things of this nature without flinching simply because (and say this next part in a gruff man voice) "it needed doin'!" Case in point, the dead bird massacre of three years ago where Bob scooped a rotting, once-flying beaked animal off the ground while I lay inside with a warm washcloth over my forehead. And I don't mean to assign this special bravery to men alone. In fact one of the biggest "it needed doin'!" people I know happens to be my younger sister Micalyne who I once saw eat a sandwich made out of cookies, bbq sauce, ranch dressing, lemons, lunch meat, mayo, brownies, and a number of other unidentified substances, just to win a game (she also spent about four years changing adult diapers and showering biting geriatrics in the Alzheimer's wing (another straight-to-heaven candidate)).

So the real concern is whether I can never be a man unless I'm at least theoretically willing to do the snake sweep in order to protect my family and property. If this is a requirement for manhood, I, without a doubt, am at least one requirement short of achievement. If I hypothetically had a home, wife, and children (hypothetically, because hypotheticals are all I have) and I became aware that a snake could possibly be somewhere on the property, I would immediately call the house from a long-distance number (because I would have caught the first flight out of town before doing anything else), tell my wife to leave everything but the children and get as far away from the town as possible, and then pay someone to set the entire property on fire. Twice. Then I would send a tractor to dig up the whole property and this would be followed by a duster plane that would cover the land 12 times with anthrax. The property would be re-burned every six-months for the next decade. Once the ten years were up, I would sell the property (from a remote location) to bad people. Note that never during that explanation did I ever say I would have anything to do with weaseling my way around in a crawl space under the house to survey the problem.

My friend told me over the phone the other day (I've been talking about this with a lot of people) that I just need to wait to buy a home until I can afford to pay people to take care of all of the snake-type situations and then I will never have to worry about having to do it myself or feeling like less of a man for letting the problem fester. In this way, he claimed, I could effectively buy my manhood. If this is true, it may be my only way. Any thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

And I'm really not kidding about the cookie sandwich. I even have pictures.
~It Just Gets Stranger

Monday, June 13, 2011

Utah Valley Marathon

The Utah Valley Marathon happened yesterday. The race organizers did an incredible job and the weather was perfect. This was my fourth marathon and fortunately my best, in many ways. Nonetheless, it was still chuck full of hilarity (the main reason I put myself through these things).

For a dramatic recount of last summer's marathon experience in SLC, see this. You can assume that most everything written there is a pretty accurate description of this marathon as well, with a few differences.

Pre Race:

We had to catch the shuttles in Provo that took us to the starting line at 3:30AM (because, as usual, the race organizers wanted to make sure we were standing by, somewhere up in the dark cold mountains, hours before the gun went off). Most people spent this time standing in a slow-moving line for one of the 3,000 porta-potties. These lines remained 30 people long each, right up until we all heard the sound of a gun at 6:00 when all immediately stopped hoping for relief and sprinted toward the starting line, meaning that dozens upon dozens of people presumably started the race carrying more than they had hoped. Fortunately more porta-potties lined the course throughout the remainder of the 26 mile adventure, although sadly for those in the back, conditions were likely less ideal inside the by-that-time-highly-trafficked-by-tired-and-desperate-people potties.

Miles 1-10:

I ran the race with my friend David, expecting him to eventually split away from me and probably set some kind of world record. But at least for the beginning of the race we stayed together. We also tried to stay relatively close to one of the designated pacers who held up a protest-type sign on a stick for the entire race saying that he was on pace to run a 3:10 (Boston qualifying time for men in their 20s). For this period of the race David and I recounted word for word our favorite episodes of Friday Night Lights.

Miles 10-15:

Somewhere in this space David got ahead of me (never to be seen again) as I ran with the 3:10 pace group. Running with the pace group could be compared somewhat to living a self-help book with a group of strangers. The pacer was possibly the most positive human-being of all time; this is the kind of person you would like to punch on normal days but find yourself trying to stick as close to without touching like a parasite that fees on positive emotion when having to run 26 or so miles. So our parasitic relationship lasted until mile 15 where I stopped to use a porta-potty, only to find that the pace group apparently didn't feel the need to wait for me (and after all that we had been through together). It was probably about time for us to split anyway. Not only was I out of my league with that group, but one of them smelled like he should have used a porta-potty himself around mile 10 but probably didn't want to experience the abandonment that I braved at mile 15.

Miles 16-23:

We saw the mouth of the canyon ever approaching as we climbed a few more surprising inclines (surprising because I never bothered to check out the course before the race to find out that it actually wasn't a 26 mile free-fall like I had originally assumed when I heard we would be running down a canyon, but rather a long road with ups and downs and an overall small net-loss). At about mile 19 an aid station handed out more energy gel packs (our third offering). I accepted (because I was in no position to decline aid by this point) but then desperately asked every runner within earshot whether eating a gel pack that late in the race would really kick in and benefit me in time. As I asked I found myself silently begging all of them to tell me there was no use by this point so I would feel justified in not eating another one of those terrible things that has the texture of your grandma and tastes like your great-grandma. The general consensus was that it was still worth it, and so I sucked another one down, dramatically shuddering and whimpering for the entire 8 seconds that it took to complete one long continuous swallow.

Miles 23-23.7:

Micalyne jumped in after not having run 12 feet in about 4 years (this little girl was once one of the fastest runners in the state and is not shy to admit that baby-raising and a dozen other impressive pursuits has led her to slower pastures in recent years . . .). Typically by this spot in a marathon I'm going at a speed that is slow enough to make my family and friends on the side-lines pretend that they don't see me when I go by so they don't commit social suicide by claiming me through cheering in front of all of the other spectators. So Micalyne probably thought this would be no different. But I was actually maintaining a pretty good speed when I met up with her so our little stint didn't last very long. Nonetheless, her words of encouragement were both motivational and comforting during my time of great need. For that short stint, I heard some of the following (if you read these in a WWF wrestler voice, they are much more entertaining):


Miles 23.7-26.2:

We approached Corey who now jumped in as Micalyne's motivational speech suddenly came to a complete halt and she exited the race without saying goodbye. Corey, being a great friend, immediately took over the role of inspirer, using an approach that differed dramatically from Micalyne's. After pressing play on her phone in hand to serenade me with her favorite collection of Britney Spears songs (just what I always wanted (note: sarcasm); she claimed she had a Paul Simon song ready to play as well but I never did hear it . . .) she began her own string of motivational statements that differed dramatically from Micalyne's:

Corey: Your haircut looks great! Also I really like your running outfit! Most of the people we've seen go by are dressed terribly. You wouldn't believe it! Like, their clothes are really loose. It's like, "hello? You're running a race! Wear clothes that fit you!" Why aren't you responding to me? It's really awkward to talk to you when you don't respond.

Somewhere around this point, the statements turned into self-compliments:

Corey: Guess what?! I didn't eat any chocolate yesterday! So I guess we're BOTH accomplishing big things right now. And my hair also looks super good. And I'm running so fast with you right now!

We then ran through the last of the aid stations where I think I literally took over one-dozen cups of fluids from the 10 or so people holding out water and Powerade (and just so we're clear, the proper use of the word "literally" is the only strict confinement of hyperbole I consistently hold myself to). I felt like a monster running through that line, grasping for everything placed in front of me with both hands, and pouring it onto my face just in time to grab another. I actually took three cups at once from the last guy. As I finished going through the line I heard shocked laughter from the volunteers behind who likely felt like very recent victims of a rapid and violent pillaging. It was at this point that Corey said something in a tone that clearly indicated that she thought this was the most important accomplishment of the day:

Corey: Those people back there think you're so funny! I bet they all want to be your friend!

Shortly after this we approached the final few blocks and Corey disappeared as mysteriously as she came. I realized that she and Micalyne had successfully motivated, distracted, and entertained me during the most difficult part of the race, and I'm incredibly grateful to both of them

I finished with a 3:22. I was pleased with it. It's a 14 minute personal record for me and the first marathon I've run without feeling the need to be hospitalized the next day. As usual it was incredibly hard and for the rest of the day I vowed never to do one again. But the memories of misery are slowly slipping away and I'm starting to wonder if maybe I have a few more left in me. But much of it will depend on whether they can find a way to make the power gel packets edible.

~It Just Gets Stranger

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Way the World Works

Have you ever gone to a road race? There is one thing that is certain to happen at literally every single road race that is ever planned: they will not have your shirt size. This is absolutely the case 100% of the time. No exceptions whatsoever. They will, however, have hundreds of t-shirts that are 2 sizes larger than anyone could possibly ever wear who would be interested in running a road race. They will have exactly 0 smalls, 4 mediums, 75 larges, 2,000 XLs, and roughly 8 million XXL-XXXLs (and this all despite the fact that only 200 people registered to run). And I am absolutely positive that nobody who has ever run a road race has ever wanted anything larger than a large and 98% would prefer a small. This is even more ridiculous when the race is a marathon (although maybe not as I am regularly passed in marathons by overweight middle-aged men who don't seem to be straining themselves--this is depressing for many reasons, not the least of which is that this is evidence that regular exercise is no guarantee, apparently, of anything. Interestingly in last year's marathon the large group of overweight middle-aged men were all dressed as the Statue of Liberty. I never did find out why this was the case but I was embarrassed for humanity).

Races don't have the market cornered on nonsensical order decisions. I am always floored that in every store I ever enter I can find a pretty similar ratio of clothing items. Some have argued that surely the store ordered an equal number of sizes initially and the smaller sizes just sold more quickly because the smaller sizes fit actual people. To this I have two responses: first, this does not explain why the ratios are so imbalanced even when the item is clearly new, and second, if it really is the case that the normal sizes are selling more quickly, then why on Earth wouldn't the store order more in those sizes in the first place?

And these stores have other problems as well: I went to Sears recently. At least I think I did. I pulled up to a large building that looked like it had been shot-out during the Civil War. When I walked in I had the distinct impression that this store had been shut-down in 1985 and they just forgot to lock the doors. I noticed a sign pointing me to the appliances, which apparently were located in the basement. When I got there and asked spandex lady with a Sears name tag where a certain item might be located, she informed me that that appliance was on the third floor with some of the other appliances (all of this amid cackles, the source of which I never really understood). When I arrived on the third floor after walking up the escalator (yes, walking. It of course was not working at the time) I searched for a while until I found butterfly eyelashes girl who was about 40 years younger than spandex lady but equally helpful. Butterfly eyelashes girl nodded and assured me that what I was looking for was located in the basement. Feeling like I was well on my way to getting caught in an eternal loop (and at Sears, the happiest place on Earth), I explained to her what spandex lady had told me (but without the mysterious cackles) to which butterfly eyelashes responded, "well . . . it sounds like you figured out that we don't have any then." I know I just gave one out recently, but I would like to officially award butterfly eyelashes the Tellin'-it-like-it-is-award. She seems like the type who has probably earned it every day of her life.

Because I'm the easiest customer in the world to please, I'm sure I'll go back. Maybe they have a pile of XXL t-shirts I can dig through.

~It Just Gets Stranger