Tuesday, December 25, 2012

In Honor of Christmas Break


Top Ten Ways I Will Have Culture Shock In Tennessee Over The Holidays

10. Dinner does not cost as much as a car payment
9. People at cash registers are actually nice to me
8. People have houses. With yards.  And driveways.
7. Everyone roots for the same sports teams
6. Everyone has the same accent
 5. My social plans will not be altered by protests, motorcades, or security threats
4. There are parking lots. With multiple spaces. For free. And I can park my car in any of them. At any time of the day.
3. People will not honk at me if I hesitate at a green light (ha! Like I ever do that, but still…)
2. I will at no point during the week be wearing a suit or ID badge
1. Big. Trucks.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jingle All The Way 8K

I'm just now getting around to posting about my last race of 2012 -   The Jingle All The Way 8K

Why has it taken me weeks to finally post? Because work is busy. So busy that the other day I caught one guy on my team being dragged away from his desk to answer yet another client question and as he passed my desk he whimpered "I just want to eat my lunch!...."

it was 6:30pm.

So yeah, things are a little hectic in life but I did want to share the ridiculousness of this race.

I hadn't planned on doing another race this year, but my friend Rebekah (the one I ran my first half marathon with without training HERE.) had done this 8K before and said it was fun.

I mean, they tie jingle bells to everyone's shoes. It's either going to be fun or I'm going to lose my hearing. Sure! Let's find out!

The start line was fantastic. Most everyone was at least wearing a Santa hat or reindeer antlers. Some much more:

I also saw Green Man:
(I can't remember where I got this photo so if you took it, THANK YOU.)

That's not the first time I've seen Green Man. I guess this is some kind of spoof from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia but I did not know that the first time I saw someone wearing one of these things. As they were running down a street on Capitol Hill. At night. Yes, I thought I was hallucinating....

But back to the race. Rebekah and I take off and are immediately passed by several hilarious characters. In fact, we got passed a lot throughout the race. The rundown went something like this:

Mile one: we are passed by Santa and his reindeer:
They looked similar to the pic above and ran while all tied together. And still passed us.

A few steps later, the entire nativity scene also passed us:

They. Were. Awesome. The men's head scarves flapped in the breeze, one of the wisemen carried a gold box the entire time, Baby Jesus rode in a jogging stroller, and The Star was complete with a sign on her back saying "follow me!" Which is just what I did, as if I too was one of the Wisemen....until The Star stole the stuffed sheep that one of the shepherds was holding, causing the shepherd to chase her through the crowd and leave me in their dust.

Later, I heard a bunch of voices behind us and turned to find a group of Christmas....bunnies:

Yeah I didn't get it either, but they made me laugh. Especially when they kept yelling at the other runners who we'd pass on some of the out and back stretches through the city.
"Yay Santa!"
"Yay Penguins!"

And on it went. Until they too passed us.

Did you catch that? We were passed by bunnies. New low.

But one of my favorite racers of all was a guy who started playing Christmas carols before the race started -

on a tuba.

He then jogged while carrying that thing through the whole 5+ mile race, stopping to walk and play more carols every mile or so. He played We Three Kings as the nativity set passed us all. Appropriate.

Tuba guy was one of the few who never passed us. This was good news for two reasons: one, because I would be really embarrassed if I couldn't run faster than someone playing a giant brass instrument; and two, because I loved hearing him start up another tune behind us. Everyone within earshot started cheering after each carol. So fun.

Somewhere around mile 4, the nativity set pulled off to the side, apologetically announcing that "Baby Jesus is crying!"

So they too ended up behind us and after they rejoined the race, they started singing carols, so that was another fun addition.

In fact, I barely heard the jingle bells on all our shoes. There was so much else going on I got used to the incessant ringing and just got into the zone.

We were so in the zone that during the last mile, Rebekah looked around and noted, "Huh, seems like we're actually passing quite a few people!" I also then looked around and reminded her that we were passing people wrapped in lit Christmas tree lights, so we really couldn't count that as a huge score....

But we definitely did score just by being a part of this ridiculousness. More photos are below - enjoy!

The Juggler was there! He's in most all the races in this city and I even ran with him during part of a race once -- so fun to see him as Santa....

We had no idea why this guy was wearing a suit but we didn't need to know. Awesomeness.

We had initially wondered if he could keep that cookie head on...smart choice.

Just try to improve this photo in any way. Not possible.

My happy feet when it was over.

(Most of the photos on this post are from: http://swimbikerunphoto.zenfolio.com/jingle_all_the_way_8k_2012)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stories from the Campaign Trail finale

I did nearly get chased while knocking on doors as well. It was one of the last houses I knocked on and the lady that answered saw my Romney sticker and immediately began yelling at me so much her young son had to be the one to point out that she "shouldn't be rude!" Even as I started backing away, making it known that I got it! She wasn't voting Republican! - she continued to yell about how would I feel if she knocked on my door, blah blah blah. 

And I'm sorry, yes - I knocked on your door. I didn't strangle your cat or key your car. You have a doorbell on your house - I rang it. Sue me. You have the option of not answering your door at all. (Next time, I'm totally keying her car... JUST KIDDING!) 

But choosing to exercise the option of just not opening your door did not occur to the people in this area. Other folks campaigning with us said they encountered everything from a man opening the door in nothing but a speedo, to a woman sticking her head out the 2nd floor window from her shower to yell down that she couldn't get the door right then. 

Just ignore the bell, folks. Trust me, I'll happily just leave a door-hanger and jump right back in my clown's pocket and move on.

There was one house, however, where I was glad the person (we'll call him Hot Guy) opened the door. ...for a second, anyway. Rebekah and I switched off all day on who would do the talking, and would jot down the person's answers. (we had to ask questions about their intent to vote. It got to the point where I felt like I was saying "yes and what time do you plan to vote on election day? What are you planning on wearing? Do you believe you will have anything stuck in your teeth at the time of your voting experience?....." I got tired of hearing myself....)

I also just got tired, period. Which brings us back to Hot Guy. Hot Guy opens his door and I was trying desperately to ask "can Governor Romney count on your support" but I could not get it out. I stammered "Can Romney.." then I got tripped up in my head about the fact that I just referred to a presidential candidate as "Romney" as if we are frat brothers. Meanwhile Hot Guy keeps staring at me with an amused look on face. I try again "Can the support...governor....can I count ...support...." finally Rebekah has to jump in and explain that it had been a long day....


But I wasn't the only one having trouble staying coherent. At another house, the person I was with blurts out "we are here for the Ryan/Romney campaign!" then immediately shoots me a look like, "did I really just demote Mitt Romney to the Vice President portion of this ticket?" So we all had issues.

I had other issues as well. One house we stopped at had a man wearing a baseball cap with writing in another language on it. He was super friendly and at one point he pointed to his hat and asked, "Do you know what language this is?" And I've traveled fairly extensively and I've definitely seen that writing before but in my tired state, couldn't figure out where, so I guessed - "Arabic?"

It was Hebrew.

Yep. If you are trying to win friends, you definitely want to mix up those two groups of people: Arabs and Jews. I am awesome. The man's face agreed.

Anyway, we move on to another neighborhood and this one. is. niiii-eeece. I'm so busy looking dreamily at these huge houses that I barely realize how cold I'm getting. But it was getting super cold, so much so that I finally breakdown and put on the big headband thingy I brought just in case. I never wear headbands, I don't think I look very good in them, so I ask Rebekah if I look stupid. She cocks her head and surmises "No. You look like a rich skier." Which, given the neighborhood, we agreed was probably a good look. Here's the final outfit:

Pointing to my campaign sticker

I posted that on my Facebook and my friend - a prominent Democrat - posted something about how much I looked Republican in that photo because "ain't no one in the Democratic headquarters dressed that well." 

Ha! At least we could continue to joke with each other through the election. You know, instead of ending our friendship in a fiery crash of political dissent -- which I feel like probably did happen to some people.

All in all, the campaign was a fun experience. Even the dreaded bus trip back had bright moments, like when they showed the movie Elf, or when the guy across the aisle asked to borrow Rebekah's phone because he had somehow accidentally dropped his in a cocktail he had apparently made himself on the bus ride up. (That happened to be the same guy who nearly fought a man wearing pajamas while door knocking -- makes sense, right?)

In any case, I'm just glad the election is over and I have four long years to decide whether I ever want to go door knocking again....

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stories from the Campaign Trail Part 2

After a long day of knocking on doors, we would go back to the campaign office to make phone calls. So while it was hard enough to talk to strangers all day face to face, you then get to "rest" while speed dialing more strangers. I sat there trying to read the names staring back at me on the automated phone screen and stuttered out hesitantly a "Good evening, is ...Brian Jones there?" "...Mary Smith?" "...Ah-neeesh Chop...too..tur...todo...doo..reee? o? ee? there?...." (It was those types of incidents when I hoped the person wasn't actually home and thus spared my horrific pronunciation.)

Then we'd get the people who would just cheerily state that if they get one more call like this, they were just not going to vote at all, thank you very much!

I'm really feeling good now!

We finally went to bed and woke up the next day to start knocking on doors and ride in some interesting stranger's car all over again.

Thankfully, the stranger we got this time was not as chatty, and not as crazy. I.e., he didn't say things like "Yeah, the Democrats are early voting because they'll do anything they can to cheat!"

Ummmm, sir, I understand you believe the Democrats are always wrong and because we are both Republicans, you believe I'll agree with you on anything you say whether illogical or not, but early voting is not actually cheating in any way...

But I couldn't say anything to him because he held our lives in his hands. And in his Clown Pocket car. So I just made a weird face and continued to stare into the blackness that was my window in silence...

I will miss the Clown Pocket car a little though. I fondly remember the time we pulled over for a second just to check our maps and the elderly gentleman inside the house we were in front of saw those giant Romney posters and promptly flipped us off....

I had heard, before this trip, stories from other people who have done this in the past. Stories about funny things that would happen, or ways in which our two major political parties would fight each other on the trail. Like the time, years ago, when supposedly Party 1 rented up every single rental van in an area just so Party 2 wouldn't have any rides to go door to door.(The unused vans then just sat in a parking lot....where Party 2 allegedly proceeded to slash the tires....)

Sounds mature, right?

But I have to say, I was all fired up for some fun competition so of course when we ran into some Obama campaigners on the sidewalk, I have to say I was very disappointed that they didn't want to engage in fake friendly combat.

Even after I initiated football tackling motions towards them.


But onto my stories about the actual door knockees we encountered.

For the most part, people were friendly. Like I said, we already knew which people were likely voting Republican and which were undecided but leaning that way. However, there's always a chance you get it wrong and end up yelling to an angry man from the other side of the street to "go ahead and come get me in your PAJAMAS, mister!"

That thankfully did not happen to me but it did happen to another guy on our trip. At the time of him telling me this story, he was sheepish for taunting the man about his pjs but the man did come out of his house - in pjs - to chase our campaigner for knocking on his door....hilarious.

I did nearly get chased as well, though. I'll explain in the next post.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Stories from the Campaign Trail

I hesistate to even bring up politics given the intensity with which my friends all fought during our recent Presidential election. Can I just say to everyone:

If your guy lost, move on.

If your guy won, move on.

No one ever said "you know, that last meme that made fun of my political party really changed my mind."

No one.

Ahem. And my guy lost but I still thought it'd be fun to share the funny parts of my brief stint campaigning for him in middle America. It started with a seven hour ride.

On a bus.

Actually, it started with me running from work, to the bus, and getting stuck in the metro doors, dropping one of my bags outside the train and tugging helplessly at the other one stuck in the door until strangers helped me pry the door open and toss my bag back to me. But I digress...

Which reminds me of one of my favorite metro stories that my friend Rod, the other Goldfish Poodle, witnessed. One day, strangers were all standing around inside a metro car when it stopped and one of them got off. But a random bag was still lying on the floor of the train. So all of a sudden, a startled passenger yells out to the person who just got off and says "You forgot your bag!!" then before anyone could register what was happening, that person flung said bag OUT of the train as the door closes. ...then, one of the other passengers looks down then yelps "what did you do with my bag!?" and had to jump off at the next stop and catch a train back to where their bag was. Ha! People's misfortune is funny....
Anyway. So I show up outside the Republican Party's headquarters, and there are masses of people and several giant tour busses loading up and we all go to different places and of course my bus has the longest journey. Overnight. So we are supposed to sleep on this bus where our knees are up in our chins and that doesn't happen so we arrive at our destination sometime around 3am and then have to wake up at 6:30. And knock on doors. And be friendly.

I'ma need quite a bit of coffee for this, friends.

So we head out to one of the campaign centers in this town and we get paired up with a local volunteer who will drive us around while we jump out and knock on specific houses that the party has already determined are either undecided or voting for our candidate. And we get a script and some materials to leave behind if no one answers, and we get maps and are unleashed on neighborhoods 7 hours away from where we live. And both parties do this. And we all do it for free. In fact we clammor to make sure we GET to do this for free, in the cold, over a weekend. Silly politicals...

Anyway, my friend Rebekah is with me and we join another DCer and all jump in the car of a local man who will be a driver for that day.

And he's chatty.

And he's uber Republican. Like enough to annoy me and I'm obviously also Republican (see: my years working for President Bush. like HERE). And he has plastered giant black  Romney/Ryan signs across both back windows of his car so that when Rebekah and I get in, we can no longer see out.

It was like that Frasier episode where his neighbor put a giant American flag over his windows and Frasier couldn't see outside and finally yells "I feel like I'm living in a giant clown's POCKET!"

That's how Rebekah and I felt trying to look out our windows. Like we were living in the pocket of a giant black shirt. It made for easy spotting from the outside though. After we'd been walking around random neighborhoods for a while we'd hear "looks like your ride's here!" as those giant signs and car attached would round the corner...

But of course, we couldn't help find addresses from the inside, yet the driver continually would ask anyway. "Hey, do you guys see 2214?..." Me and Rebekah look at each other. "Yeah - nope! We really can't see anything back here...." But he was too busy talking to ever realize.

The other thing it took him awhile to realize was that his car automatically locks its own doors once you start driving, so every time we'd try to get back in, the doors would be locked. Every. Time.

So we spent all day jumping out of the clown's pocket, knocking on doors (of people whose names Rebekah couldn't be bothered with so I'd end up saying "this is the house of Mr. Vaclovas" and Rebekah would repeat "Baklava -- got it" and on she marched to ring the doorbell....), and walking back to the car, trying to open the door, being denied, then finally getting back in.

But we haven't even gotten to half the stories yet. I'll  have more in the next post but I'll leave you with a pic of my favorite sign from the campaign headquarters -

I should probably note that Rebekah and I never were given yard signs...

Sunday, December 2, 2012


You'll be happy to know, nothing disastrous happened during my class presentation. But there were some close calls:

Right as I was leaving work to head to class, I look down and realize -

I'm wearing two different shoes.

(I keep several pairs of shoes under my desk -- it's like a DSW down there.)

Already off to an excellent start.

I narrowly avoid that disaster, get to class, and am told one of our team members has kindly made color copies of our presentation and that we'll all be splitting the cost of those copies. The other team member looks at me and says "the copies were ninety dollars."

I'm sorry, what?

Ninety? What did we print the presentation on, Kobe beef?

I try to shake that off and regroup in time to settle in to the first part of class which would entail listening to another group present before my group's turn. As if that wasn't enough to set me on edge, it turns out one classmate was sick in Florida and was attending class virtually through another classmate's iPad.

If you don't believe we are living in the future, just try sitting next to an iPad face that talks and responds and is propped up on your own purse all during class. I kept having to check and make sure my elbow or waterbottle wasn't blocking class from the face. Very unsettling.

Then, right as our group was up to present, the fourth member of our team - a girl who has proven a bit challenging every step of the way- shows up looking harried and mutters something about not having already printed off her notes. We spent the next 10 minutes trying to get those notes printed somehow, while our professor and our fake potential clients waited.


Finally, we start the presentation. And I, as expected, have trouble remembering to exhale but I do manage to get through my part and hand off to the next person. We continue through until I realize we are on track to go way over time. So I, in my typical impatient fashion, simply wait for a second where the professor and client seem distracted and I walk up to the podium and quietly state that "we need to wrap it up" to my teammate, while giving the universal "wrap it up" motion with my finger.

So subtle.

It wasn't until the end of class that I remember the professor has been video taping all the presentations so we can see how badly we all are at public speaking. And that camera totally saw my subtle "get a move on, already" move. So professional - ugh.

At least we got through it and I think we'll pass. Can't wait to watch the video footage next week....