Tuesday, September 30, 2008
But as you know, I hit the treadmill each night and participate in the occasional 5K race.
My goal time of 30 minutes has been out of reach for years. I realize that this is not a fast time, coming in at around 10 miles an hour. But it’s a target.
I’ve found some Web sites that post results, and I’ve found a high of 38.43 minutes in 2005, and I hit a best time of 31.21 minutes this past May.
So I was looking forward to this year’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a 5K fund-raiser for breast cancer research. I’ve been keeping up with my running and I’ve lost weight.
The downside is that this is an emotional race with many, many people who are not serious runners, or even quasi-semi-serious runners, like me. Let’s just say there are a lot of strollers and dogs.
Which is not a bad thing. Many of these people are running in memory of a person they’ve lost, or supporting someone battling the disease, which is the point of the event.
Lining up Saturday morning, I saw that organizers separated the community walkers from the 5K racers, which is a good thing, since it means fewer people clogging the streets.
Then I learned that the race results would be based on “gun time” instead of “chip time,” which is a bad thing. Gun time is the period between when the race starts and when the runner crosses the line.
But all racers had a little computer chip attached to their sneakers, and chip time is the period between when the individual runner crosses the start line and then crosses the finish line. This give you a better time if there is a big crowd at the start.
But I was pumped. When the gun fired, I hit the start button on the iPod and took off. Serious runners scoff, but the music is important to me. It helps me keep a pace and provides some distraction and inspiration. Here’s the new race playlist I made for the Komen:
1) “Pressing On,” Relient K
2) “Never Going Back to OK,” The Afters
3) “Time Has Come,” MercyMe
4) “God Will Life Up Your Head,” Jars of Clay
5) “Hold You High,” By the Tree
6) “Life is Good,” Stellar Kart
7) “Awakening,” Switchfoot
8) “Something Beautiful,” Newsboys
9) “Must Have Done Something Right” Relient K
Good stuff. So I hit the button and heard only crackling – an unexpected headphone malfunction. The cat is the main suspect right now. As I ran I tinkered with the wires, and was able to get some sound in some of the speakers some of the time. So I was already out of my comfort zone as I headed up the big hill at the start of the race.
This event places volunteers at each mile marker reading out times as you pass.
I was surprised to hear the person yell out “8:40” as I ran past. That’s way faster than my usual pace.
I hit the second mile, and heard “18:10” and thought that was my typical pace between miles and showed I was slowing down. And I was feeling it, too. My calves were barking, and other runners seemed to be passing me. And the music was crackling instead of providing inspiration.
Heading through Grandville High in the final mile, I decided 30 minutes was probably lost, but I’d give it my all.
With the finish line in the distance, “Something Beautiful” came crackling and I thought about its message. It was a beautiful day, and people all around were wearing the pink shirts signifying they are breast cancer survivors. The race goal was nice, but the true meaning of the day was to raise money in hopes of creating more people in pink shirts in the future.
Then I was close enough to the clock to make out the digits – and the first two were “28.” The goal was in sight! In the May race, I was able to sprint out the final several hundred feet, weaving through traffic like a running back.
I tried to do the same here, but there was very little in the tank. I was able to pick it up a little, but not much. I crossed the line at 29:10. That’s gun time, so I figure chip time would have shaved at least 10 seconds off – I was able to beat the elusive goal, and beat my previous best by more than 2 minutes.
That sure made the Panera Bread pink ribbon bagels at the end of the race all the more tasty.
I wore my low-profile Mets cap during the race, trying to bring some good karma to the team. Johan Santana threw his gem later in the day. Everything all was good in the world for at least one more day.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday I kicked butt in a race, saw what's left of Tiger Stadium, met Scott Kazmir and enjoyed a night at Comerica Park -- learning about Johan's big day along the way.
They'll be time share all those things.
But today, thanks to TBS, I'm focused on this game and this building and all that it means to me.
Friday, September 26, 2008
No, it’s true. I was doing "The Twist" at a Lansing Lugnuts game. They gave bottles of Sprite to people dancing the best. I was pretty proud of that.
So when my wife wanted me to take an adult education dance class with her, I figured it would be pretty easy.
After all, I can do "The Chicken Dance" and "YMCA," even did the special Florida Marlins version of "The Macarena" during Game Six of the 1997 World Series.
However, I learned at the first class that there is a big difference between ballpark dancing and ballroom dancing.
It’s pretty tricky stuff. There’s a lot of backward walking, and the girl has to do what the guy wants, and my wife is not familiar with this role. We keep stepping on each other’s feet.
They started to introduce some trickier steps in the second class, which was bad because I had not yet mastered the first step. I wasn’t the only guy having problems. When they turned us loose, the room looked like the plastic players scattering around one of those old electric vibrating football games.
The basic steps where hard enough, but the instructors then introduced sort of a twist-around move. I could see right away that someone was going to get hurt, and we called the instructor over when we just couldn’t get it.
Finally, he said I should try it without my wife. I nailed it on the first try. The move was instantly familiar — then I figured out why. It was just like being a baserunner, trying to run past a fielder and avoid being tagged. It clicked instantly.
So excitedly said this to my wife, expecting her to understand immediately. Instead she shot me a "How the hell am I supposed to know that?" look.
So I tried to explain, and demonstrated several times, even pretending to be the fielder waving the glove and asked her to walk by and avoid the tag.
Let’s just say we’ll need to practice some more.
Then I was following the Mets-Cubs game on Thursday on the Crane Pool Forum, and read the guys going nuts about Ryan Church amazingly avoiding the tag to score the big run. I later saw the video and recognized the move instantly — he was doing the waltz pivot. And very well, too. Ryan Church would pass my dance class.
We all know this is the final weekend at Shea, and there will be much weeping, even more if the Mets don’t make the playoffs. I’m confident they will. But let’s use this week’s Deezo Friday Five to look at some of the cool souvenirs of the Shea’s final season.
1) I snagged a sweet Johan Santana jersey with the Shea patch on eBay, and was even able to wear it to see Johan pitch against the vile Yankees. It didn’t bring him much luck, but I looked great!
2) My friend Greg went to see Billy Joel’s Last Play at Shea. And because he is kind and knows I’m a Billy fan, he snagged me this sweet pin.
3) I saw this cap on the Mets Web site earlier in the season, and figured I’d grab one at the Big Game. But then I saw the awesome "Final Subway Series at Shea" caps and grabbed one of those. A month later, MLB.com had a sale, and I was able to get the original desired cap shipped home for less than what it cost at the game. I’ve been wearing it all week.
4) One of my proudest moments in home design was creating a wooden rack to hold my official baseball collection. I made two of them, actually. One holds balls from each of the All-Star Games, and the other has some of the balls commemorating special events. Naturally, I pounced on this ball that the Mets are using all season. Well, "pounced" meaning I bought it with the above cap in the sale. Items in the Shea gift store seemed to be marked up a bit high.
5) Christmas is not too far away, and we’ll need to honor Shea with this special ornament. The Baseball Room has a special tree after my wife banned all baseball decorations from the main tree in the living room.
Monday, September 22, 2008
This started with a visit to the doctor on Friday morning because my company requires annual health screenings. I bounced in there proclaiming that I was fit, but just needed them to fill out the company’s form, which requires blood work to check cholesterol glucose and some other basic things.
But it’s never going to be as easy as that, and I knew it. After getting poked in both arms to draw four vials of blood, the nurse had me lay down while they used a new machine that taped electrodes to my right foot and right hand. Somehow that would allow them to take all kinds of readings about my insides.
Doc soon came in with the results. And despite being somewhat on the pudgy side he pronounced me to be fit and in good health. Except for one thing.
I’m going to spare you the details. But he said, “Lucky for you, it’s the weekend.”
He informed me that I would not be eating anything for three days, but instead be drinking these concoctions.
“Don’t worry,” he assured me. “They’re filling.”
He also made it clear I’d need to stick close to home, especially on the second day, when the Desired Effect would be at its strongest.
I went home and downed the dose, which was powdered wheatgrass, which tasted like liquid seaweed. I later followed with the main course, which is a blend of powdered carrot, powdered okra, cooked soybean powder and powdered passion fruit. The box said this was coca flavored. No, did not.
My goal was to head to work without anyone noticing this, so I slipped my box of packets into my lunch bag. Before long my head was pounding from a lack of Diet Coke. Doc said I shouldn’t eat anything, but didn’t say anything about not drinking anything.
I drink too much Diet Coke. I’m aware of this. I don’t smoke, drink or gamble. My vices are limited to drinking Diet Coke, obsessing about the Mets, hating all things Yankee, and grumbling that Twisted Sister is not given the respect it deserves. I am OK with this.
I allowed myself a Diet Coke.
Work was tempting. One co-worker brought in a batch of brownies, another had a big bin of donut holes. I avoided by getting another Diet Coke late around 7 p.m.
Around 8 p.m., Jimmy John’s called. “Where’s Dave? Did something happen to him?”
Following the Mets winning and Phillies losing to jump back into first place proved to be a worthy distraction.
As we know, it takes strength to be a Mets fan. I sought to prove this Saturday morning by volunteering to get bagels and Starbucks for the rest of the family. The Big Apple Bagel folks were stunned and possibly a little hurt that I didn’t also ask for two poppy seed bagels, as is our routine. I didn’t explain.
They were delicious.
I sought distraction by scanning slides into the computer, rearranging the Mets bobbleheads in the baseball room, and making some additions to the Glorious Wall of Cool Stuff. The wall will be entirely devoted to the Mets at some point. But it’s huge, so some neat artifacts from other teams are there. Some Tigers and Padres bumper stickers and pins were removed for the Mets Uno game I picked up from the Ford Museum and the mini Jose Reyes McFarlane figure I grabbed at Shea in June, both still in their packages, which only happens to items destined for the GWCS.
The Desired Effect has yet to occur, at least not as promised by Doc.
My daughter decided to watch a Food Channel program that picked out the 10 best McDonald’s in the world. I thought this was safe, since I don’t like McDonald’s I bet haven’t had anything other than a Diet Coke or ice cream from a McDonald’s in years.
I was craving a Big Mac by the time they got to the Mickey D on Broadway.
Showing more strength, I picked up shakes and a snack for my wife and kids at Arbys. I was so hungry that the new “Mac and Cheese Snackers” that on any other day would appear dreadful actually looked good.
I picked off the rest of the pizza pan, then washed it to remove all future temptation. It was delicious.
Following the Mets on the net proved equally frustrating. When Pedro drives in the only run of the game, it’s not a good night. I showed great strength by not running in circles on the lawn and screaming. Mets’ loss and the Phillies’ win push us back into second place.
Sunday was destined to be tough. My caring wife sensed this, got up early and made breakfast for the kids, knowing that I would be struggling.
Panera Bread called. The staff is worried because I haven’t been there in two days. They fear they’ll be next in line for the government bailout if this keeps up.
I spent the afternoon staying out of trouble, following the Mets, again without the Desired Effect. Because nothing goes better with a wheatgrass drink than watching Scott Schoenweis blow another game.
Maybe, I thought, watching ESPN’s wretched coverage of the demise of Yankee Stadium II would be enough to push me over the edge. I hopped on the treadmill, but with the lack of fuel could barely muster the energy for 3 miles, about half what I usually run.
Monday morning I crabbed to the doctor’s staff that their wheatgrass and powdered okra were worthless and proceeded to Panera for what was possibly the best-ever chocolate chip muffie and sesame seed bagel, followed at lunchtime by the best-ever peanut butter and jelly sandwich and later by the best-ever half-portion of chicken and broccoli.
I enjoyed every bite, and thought back to Friday’s Mets game that put us back into first place. I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as I should have, especially after the following two games. We need to enjoy and celebrate each victory as it comes, especially as this season winds down and we face fall and beyond. Even if they make the playoffs, there won’t be many days like that again.
With this new-found state of mind I intended to enjoy Monday night’s game against the Cubbies. And I did so, until our pitcher allowed the rival pitcher to hit a grand slam.
On the bright side, it seemed to induce the Desired Effect.
Friday, September 19, 2008
2) I might be joining my daugher as a squished penny collector.
5) I was pretty happy with this Favre kid in Week 1 and not as happy in Week 2. Let’s see what he can do on a Monday night, a spot where the J-E-T-S usually shine.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I know this because I was there – just in case.
Some assignments, like covering the actual town hall meeting, are kind of glamorous. My role on Wednesday was not so glamorous, but still fun, especially for a presidential junkie like me.
We call it “death watch,” because, in theory, nothing newsworthy happens unless it’s the unspeakable. And if it’s the unspeakable, we need to be there.
But some things that are not necessarily newsworthy are still fun to watch.
Typically, we head to a remote area of the airport where the cargo jets park, which is much easier to secure than your basic terminal -- though it makes it harder for the candidates to stock up on postcards, $3.50 bottles of Diet Coke and $3 bagels.
The Secret Service is at the gate, and the level of security depends on the person arriving. For McCain, we needed to show identification and submit to a metal detector. For a sitting president, ramp that up about 10 times with all kinds of prior approval.
Waiting at the arrival spot is the entire motorcade, and police escort and a flat bed truck on which the media stands – close, but not too close.
There also are a group of official greeters, who usually are campaign volunteers, donors or party honchos.
Sen. McCain's blue and white jet arrived and taxied to a spot on the apron, and two of the movable staircases were pulled into place. The one in the rear of the plane opened first, with staffers and members of the traveling media, some of whom scrambled to the other staircase near the greeters to get photos of McCain stepping out of the front door and waving.
McCain then met with the greeters and posed for snapshots for a couple minutes as the motorcade moved into place when rushed away.
About 15 minutes later, the jet carrying Gov. Palin arrived. Her plane was smaller and not as colorful, though it did say “McCain Palin” instead of just “McCain.”
The same greeters and two mobile staircases pulled into place, and Palin walked out with her husband, Todd.
One of the greeters was a GOP volunteer with Down syndrome, and I noticed that Palin spent a great deal of time with her, giving hugs and posing for many photos. It was a nice moment, the kind of stuff that makes hanging around on a flatbed truck worth the time.
Talking to the woman later, I pointed out that she had more one-on-one time with the candidate than the entire press corps during Palin's visit.
Palin and staff then moved into an SUV that was part of a smaller motorcade before it, too, rushed away.
After talking to the greeters about meeting both candidates, I phoned in the details so we could post the information on the paper’s Web site.
Later in the afternoon I walked down to Grand Rapids Community College, the site of the event.
I found about 10 vendors selling campaign pins – more than I’ve ever seen at a political event – and even several tents selling T-shirts, bumper stickers and stuffed bears with the campaign logo.
After picking up some sweet pins for my collection, I found one vendor who brought his Obama pins along, too. Score! One-stop shopping is a good thing.
Remember, these vendors are businessmen, not partisans. The same people will be back when the Dems are in town, too.
The protesters also were already in place. I’ve never quite understood the whole protest thing.
They are absolutely entitled to stand there, yelling and carrying signs. But they’re not going to change the minds of anybody standing more than an hour in line to see the candidates.
I think some of them like to argue and some like the attention. When I interview them, I look for the ones who appear to put a little effort into their signs. They tend to be a bit more passionate, and can give an answer better than “Bush sucks.”
I love covering these events, even a small part like deathwatch. Barack Obama came to town during the summer, and I’m hoping he or Sen. Biden will make another swing through the area at least once before Election Day.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I did not get seated in a jury duty during my stint this week. We were only called for one trial — a nasty criminal case — but I did get to sit in the gallery with the other prospects while attorneys asked lots of questions in a process called "voir dire."
I think that’s French for "Are you related to a police officer?"
That seemed to be the question most asked, but there were a couple others, too, including whether the potential juror had been a crime victim.
But I sat there stunned and amazed that the most obvious query, the one that allows us to look deeply into a person’s soul, wasn’t asked once. Clearly, that question is: What is your team affiliation?
But if a potential juror answered, "New York Yankees! Twenty-six world championships! Jeter! Jeter! Jeter! Twenty-six world championships!" you would know immediately that he embraces evil in all its forms and should probably be seated alongside the defendant, but just hasn’t been caught yet.
If a person answered, "Duh, of course I root for the Mets." you know he or she is intelligent and fair. He knows good times and bad. He knows that good people, like, say, Carlos Delgado, can start out bad and then turn good, usually after two months of constructive criticism coming in the form of deafening boos.
Would you place your fate in this guy's hands?
Next time I’m called, I’ll make sure to wear my Mets tie so we can telegraph such important information.
In all seriousness, anybody related to a police officer seemed to be quickly thanked and excused. The guy who turned out to be a Secret Service agent was even more quickly thanked and excused.
We started with 50 potential jurors, and there were only a dozen of us left by the time they found 14 people — a dozen jurors and two alternates — who were acceptable to both sides.
I never got into the box to be questioned. But a newspaper reporter who counts police officers and a prosecutor among his closest relatives was not going to last long anyway.
Other people who where thanked and excused were crime victims at one point, worked for a law firm that was consulted by someone connected with the case or made it very, very clear that they didn’t want to be there.
But there were a couple of people excused for reasons we couldn’t determine. Maybe they were Yankee fans.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
I came to this realization: Defendants do not get a jury of their peers, they get a jury of people who can’t get out of jury duty.
I vowed that if called, I would proudly serve.
And this week I might get my chance. The summons to appear for jury duty recently appeared in the mailbox. I have a secret juror number, and call the court each night this week to see if I am needed.
But I should be ready for action. And practice makes perfect.
Let’s try some sample cases.
Defendant: Derek F. Jeter
Defendant: Rachael Ray
Defense: Um, Photoshop maybe?
Verdict: Appears to be guilty. No tampering with the ingredients, please!
Defendant: Alex Rodriguez
Charge: Exceedingly bad taste
Prosecution: Caught slinking out of Madonna’s Manhattan pad.
Defense: "Open Your Heart" and "Like a Prayer" are decent songs.
Verdict: Guilty! Date people your own age and with hits in the last decade.
There you go! This shouldn’t be that hard. All I request is to have cupholders in the jury box for my Diet Coke and WiFi should the Mets play an afternoon game.