Sunday, May 18, 2003

I was just 34 years old
and I was still wandering in haze
I was wondering why everyone I met
seemed like they were lost in a maze

I don’t know why it seemed like I should have
some kind of divine right to the blues
It’s sympathy not tears people need
when they’re the front page sad news…

There is always a wind outside my apartment. All around me could be still, and there would still be a wind. It’s from the tollway. The movement of the passing cars pushes the air up and over the noise barrier fence (which should be fired for failing at its only purpose in life). The moving air then gets forced between the two apartment buildings, creating a wind vortex that is non-stop.

It’s always ten degrees colder, too. It could be 90 degrees on my balcony, but out the front door it’s 80. And windy.

Such were the conditions this morning when I stepped outside for my first outdoor run since March. And that run had been a disaster. Seeking to take advantage of a fifty-degree day in a string of below-thirty weather, I’d decided to run along the sidewalks on Washington Street instead of in Herrick Lake Forest Preserve, my usual outdoor running path. Mistake. Big mistake. I’d assumed that the sidewalks would be clear of snow, but they weren’t. And the warm weather just turned what snow was there to slush. The low sections of the sidewalk were either deep piles of slush, or deep puddles. Before long, my feet were soaked.

And then it happened. Tired of running through slush and puddles, I had seen what I thought was dry ground below me at street level. The only problem was navigating down a steep slope to get there. But since the ground on the slope seemed dry as well, it wouldn’t be a problem. You should take note of the word ‘seemed’ in that sentence – because although it seemed dry, it wasn’t, and I took a nice, public tumble down the slope. Covered in mud, I walked the rest of the way home, and spent a good hour trying to clean the mud out of the Sports Walkman and the stopwatch.

Wake up, stop dreaming
The sun is in the sky again
There’s a hole in the ocean
The water’s pouring through

Wake up, stop dreaming
Wipe the sleep from your eyes
Are you frightened of heights?
Are you falling?

Today, however, was different. Although it was cloudy, it hadn’t rained in a few days, so the ground was dry. The wind was still there, and still cool, but not as frigid as that day in March. I walked to the Herrick Lake entrance, and WXRT did me a favor by playing Pete Townshend’s Slit Skirts, a nice start to an early-morning run. It was followed up by Bruce Springsteen’s Brilliant Disguise, and when XRT went to commercial, I went to tape.

When I got to the entrance of the Herrick Lake Forest Preserve, I clicked the stopwatch and started running. My best time ever was around twenty-four minutes, but since I really had done little running the last five months, I had no illusion that I’d be approaching my personal best. Still, I hoped to clock in under thirty minutes.

I ran the short distance to where the entry path t-intersects the main path, and turned left. To me, this route is harder, since it requires you to climb three hills – one at the beginning, one near the middle, and one smaller one at the end – all of which are fairly steep. Go the other way, and the hills are more gentle and sloping. By going left, you also have to endure the tenth of a mile that is nothing but uncovered open space at the end of your run, instead of the beginning. This makes it harder, because there is no shade, and usually no breeze, depending on the time of day you choose to run. Or, conversely, there could be quite a stiff breeze. Today was a no-breeze day.

It’s also nice to run early; the trail can be heavily used by runners, walkers, bikers and horseback riders. Running early means that the only scenery you’re likely to see is that provided by nature, but it’s an even trade.

Wake up stop dreaming
There’s more than just two steps to heaven
Oh, if you want to go to heaven
You’d better wake up

I clocked in today at twenty-six minutes and twenty-eight seconds. After cooling down, I went to church, then to Bob Evans for breakfast. I sat where all the single people sit – at the counter – and read the Chicago Sun-Times. Rain clouds threatened to the south as I entered church, but by the time I left Bob Evans, they’d all but gone, replaced by a late morning sun. All around me, people were getting into the summer mood, driving with windows open and tops down, even though, at sixty-five degrees, it was still a bit cool. I thought briefly of hopping on the motorcycle for a ride, but decided to wait until I could actually get the license plates renewed, which is likely Tuesday or Wednesday. And that lingering thought of those tax returns on extension, my pig-sty of an apartment, and getting ready to leave for Europe means that this week is going to be one busy week.

I’d better get started.

Pretty little hairdo
Don’t look what it used to
Can’t disguise the living
All the miles you’ve been through

Looking like a train wreck
Wearing too much makeup
The burden that you carry
Is more than one soul could ever bear

So sad
Don’t look so sad Marina
There’s another part to play
Don’t look so sad Marina
Save it for a rainy day

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