Clueless begets unafraid

9 10 2005

Jack: What are your legs?
Archy: Springs. Steel springs.
Jack: What are they going to do?
Archy: Hurl me down the track.
Inspirational running coach Uncle Jack, discount cialis pilule from the film “Gallipoli”

Here I am in a foreign land, cialis sale within a foreign land. I’m in the enigma state. Riddles and mysteries a’wrestlin’ on a Rubbermaid floor. Without the correct ear protection.

This state is called New Hampshire.

Here you live free or die.

The ‘free’ they speak of on their license plates is not related to nudism. The ‘die’ could be spelt differently and have something to do with textiles. But it doesn’t. This ‘die’ is 100%, prescription bona fide death, deadybones, doornail type stuff.

Mix the ‘die’ and ‘free’ with ‘live’ in a stainless steel cooking vat and it can be interpreted thusly:

“If you wear a Yankees baseball cap in our backyard on the day when that bunch of overpaid fat chats with manicures are playing the Red Sox, today is the day of your death. Oh, and if you try to drive normally here—you know, obey traffic rules and that malarkey—well, you might die too.”

I wish we’d known this before we went.

You’re confused. We? Who is ‘we’? Where the hell are you? What’s that about a Yankees cap?

Woah. All will be revealed. Sit still. Patience is a Gertrude, as they say in some circles.

‘We’ is not the Royal we. Nor is it related to urine. We’re a trio of freewheeling chicks—Noodle, Katie and Magali. Out for adventure. Out for hi-jinks. Out for trouble on the high seas of the road.

We are in, as I said earlier, New Hampshire. And we’re on a mission. A mission to leg it in a half-marathon relay.

And now. Now we begin.

But hold on. To begin, we must first go back. And in order to go back we must turn down the lights in the theaters of our minds, and conjure up a performer or three. Introductions. (The crowd suffocates itself into a hush with a duck-down pillow.)

Performer No. 1: Noodle
That’s me. Sharp of foot, flat of mind, numb of wit. Knees like wooden joists i.e. not made for running.

Performer No. 2: Katie
A Blackberry addicted, firecracker of a lass. Has particular skill yelling insults out car windows. All-round good sport.

Performer No. 3: Magali
Spry. Feisty. French. Enjoys it immensely when I butcher her chocolate éclair language.

“Yes, Magali. We will go over it with a fine-tooth peigne!”

Now. Now we can really begin.

So, months and months and winding-clock months ago, I badgered Katie into joining me in a half marathon relay. Badgered. She was to be Simon to my Garfunkel. Batman to my Robin. Captain to my Tenille. I neeeeeeeeeeeded her.

She seemed a little hesitant at first, but I won her over with two things.

One, the team name—Sharks with Laser Beams.

Two, that most critical of elements—PIE. The event was the Applefest Half Marathon and Relay, and part of the joy is the apple crisp at the end. And crisp is just like pie. And everyone likes pie, right? Mmmmmm, Pie. Mmmmm, I can taste it already.

Katie’s will buckled like knees at a Brad Pitt sighting. Boy, this story is going somewhere fast! (Applause light flashes)

Team t-shirts were printed. Days took flights to the past. Excitement built.

Now stop.

If you have a violin, break it outta the case, whack that puppy in tune and get ready to bow a mournful melody in the key of D. ‘Cause this’ll break yer heart in pieces faster than a Patsy Kline song.

Katie’s ankle was in cahoots with dastardly swell. A week before the event, it expanded like Elvis. It ballooned like Brando. And then it swelled some more. It had the girth of a small Class C planet.

“What did you do?”

“I don’t know!!!”

She hobbled and complained and hobbled and kvetched and swore and complained and hobbled and limped. Mostly limped actually. Her disappointment was obvious. She had some crazy idea about doping up on Advil and running anyway. I didn’t know what to do, except lecture her about going to the doctor. Which is rich coming from me.

Our Sharks with Laser Beams, chariots-of-fire dream team looked scotched on the rocks.

But by this stage we’d wrangled up a spectator to cheer from the sidelines. Enter Magali from the upper hall. (bows) The plan was to enjoy a girls-only road trip. Thelma and Louise and…um, Thelouise. Out on the road. Staying in a hotel for two glorious nights of girlie things. Oh, the hi-jinks! Pillow fights, painting each other’s toenails, and gossiping about boys!

But that ankle was a rusty tack in the fleshy foot of our plan.

I sidled up to Magali on a Monday.

“So…. Um…. There’s a chance you might have to run this Saturday.” Grin madly. I was half joking. Only half. Just seeing if she’d take the bait.

“Croissant!!!” she said. (I wish she’d said.)

But she seemed most pliant. A little sweet talk and a trip to Nike Town and she swallowed the plan. Lapped it up like a plate of stereotypical escargot. All it took was a pair of Nike Shox, a quick jog around the store, and she totally started believing she could run 6.4 miles right off the bat, no training.

Crazy mad joy. The trip was still on.

Now stop again. Fast forward.

Pretend you’ve read about the trip up to the hotel in Nashua in the dead of night. Pretend we sang songs and ate candy and played eye spy till we balloon-burst. Pretend we didn’t get lost twice because I can’t follow Mapquest directions. Pretend I told you about the room balls-up that left one of us sleeping on a rollaway in a chilly room. Pretend I wasn’t glad it wasn’t me.

Yes, let’s fast-forward to the race itself.

We head out to Hollis all dressed up and champing at the bit. It’s a beautiful day, filled with mischief and the smell of imminent failure. Well, that’s what it smelt like to me. Does failure smell like apples? I have the second leg of the relay. The hilly section. I don’t do hills.

Where’s that crackling emanating from? Oh, that’s just my knees reminding me I don’t do hills.

Still, it is a beautiful day, and nothing can detract from the joy of taking my first trip in a gen-u-ine American school bus. It chugs us to the start line with a lumbering grace. Ah, the aroma of cheap vinyl seats! The lingering ghosts of homework not done, relentless teasing of unfortunates, and prepubescent feet tripping in the aisles.

We spill into the gym/marshaling area.

Quick straw poll.

When asked what percentage of competitors assembled in the gym were supremely fit, an overwhelming majority of people responded “99%. Easy.”

Oh, I get it. When you live up here, in nature, you have nothing to do but keep fit. I feel like I’ve fallen face first into a ‘we’re fit and don’t we know it’ convention. I’ve got a bad feeling. Magali wears a nervous grin. Katie wears a…Yankees cap in the depths of Red Sox country?!

She’s brave wearing that cap. We all know that now, because a few people mentioned it politely (ha!) in passing.

We pick up our number. 1476. I tie the electronic jigger to my shoe. An air of uncertainty and ‘what the hell are we doing here’ forms a protective barrier around us. Fitness is doing its best to avoid contact with the Sharks with Laser Beams. It knows when it’s beaten.

Katie takes a photo of the team, and I toddle off to get on the bus that will take me to the halfway point. Not long now.

People are running to warm up. Running before the race. I’m tired just watching them. Why waste all that energy before you need to?

Damn it. I’m destined to come in last, I can feel it already. And you can say all that crap about ‘it doesn’t matter, just be proud that you finished’, but you can take that sentiment out behind the wood shed and shoot it. Last is last.

One more thing that’s irritating. The leaves are green. On the trees. The leaves. Green. They’re supposed to be a fiery blaze of orange, reds and yellows. An autumnal orgy of color. But they’re green. This annoys me. The leaves are green. Height of the foliage season my derrière! I don’t want to take photos of green trees. Seen it already.

Anyways…. Races are boring unless you’re in them, so I won’t get into too much detail. This is the view from 50,000 feet.

Gorgeous sunny day. Magali ran 6.4 miles in 1 hour and 10 minutes. As she ran toward the changeover area, she spotted my bright green shirt and started waving. Grin a mile wide. She had done no physical exercise in 2 years. I ran 6.7 miles in 1 hour and 15 minutes. I have now decided to stop training and take up social smoking because it obviously does you no harm.

And for the record, hills suck.

As I approached the finish, I decided to treat my lungs and let them go out in a blaze of wheezing glory. Remember, my legs are steel springs. They will hurl me down the track. My knees click into a gleeful inferno of action.

Then Magali appeared next to me, fresh as a frickin’ daisy and yabbering away with supportive comments. For a nanosecond, I wanted to kill her. Just a nanosecond. But I couldn’t speak, let alone murder.

We survived. Afterward, we sank our teeth into apple crisp and plump bagels. The food tent had snacks and apple goodies, and winners and runners up received boxed pies. Pie is good. I vote for a new motto for New Hampshire. Live free or pie.

That night, I picked up Roger in a CVS pharmacy in Nashua, NH. (Woah, unexpected turn in the narrative!)

Our eyes met across a crowded aisle. Well, one of his eyes. The other one was pointing wildly in another direction, which was part of his charm.

“Mum,” I said. “Can I keep him? Can I?”

It took Katie a second to realize I was talking to her, but we both agreed he might bring a new level of excitement to the trip. We’d totally missed the tour of the Budweiser brewery and now had to go sulk in our hotel room with a bottle of wine and a movie. So we needed to get the party started. My new gentlemen friend could be just the ticket.

Roger was just hanging out there; he had nothing else to do that night. Later, I cradled him in my arms in the front seat of the car. Boy, the life he was going to lead. No hanging out in someone’s front yard for him. He was gonna take life by the throat and shake it for all it was worth. And we were going to help him.

Stop. What?

Ok, Roger is a Mummy. A Halloween decoration. I changed his name. It was ‘Mr. Mummy’ on his packaging which, hello, isn’t very imaginative.

Next day, we took Roger on the ride of his life.

We’d been moseying around a Hollis tourist trap and had just purchased some sweeties for later. Our goal before leaving this district was to pick some apples. Directions received, we were on our way out of the parking lot when the trouble started. It was a busy road—difficult to pull out onto—and Katie didn’t want us to die. She preferred the ‘free’ part of the equation.

So we were waiting patiently. Sitting on the right hand side of the driveway. That’s not only right, that’s correct in this country. It’s the lawful side. The non rule-breaking side. But then a giant SUV got impatient and pulled to our left, in order to sneak out in front of us.

“What the hell does he think he’s doing,” asked Katie, looking thoroughly perplexed and well irritated.

Luckily, a woman in the SUV cleared things up nicely.

“Well, you’re taking too long!”

This is where things get hazy. The air was fairly crackling with rage. A break in the traffic flashed open and Katie peeled out in front of this clown. We were a tornado of dust and gravel. Her arm hoisted itself out the window in that international gesture involving a finger somewhere in the middle of the hand.

“Flambé off, Redneck!” she yelled with a voice borrowed from a stranger. Flambé is a close approximation of the actual word used.

“Go back to New York!” was the enthusiastic reply. Gusto bursting into the air.

I cowered in the back seat. Katie yelled something again, finger waving like a proud flag for NYC. Roger gave me a look that said ’stick me out of the sunroof so that I may glare back at them for effect’.

“No Roger,” I whispered. “You’re too dead to die.”

I turn around and peer out the back window as we dust bowl our way down this apple orchard lane. Part of me is expecting to see their growling beast of an SUV on our tail, but they’re not following.

As we get out of the car to go pick apples, we’re laughing about how bizarre the whole episode was. So aggressive. So unnecessary. Roger looks expectantly at us. No words are exchanged. His expression is pure excitement.

Listen.

There are apples ripening and squealing at us from nearby trees. Gala and Delicious and Grannies and Fuji.

“Shuck us from our trees,” they say in unison. “For we yearn to live free, away from our branchy captors.”

Now that, that we can do.

In summary:
An American, a Frenchwoman and an Australian drive into New Hampshire.
A friendly local yells out a car window.
“Go back to New York!!!”
We do.

But not before we steal their apples.

A girl’s life spirals on. Ticky tocky ticky tocky hoi hoi hoi.

Toodle Noo. Here endeth the missive.

Noodle

More Photos: See Roger’s Road Trip


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

©Janeen McCrae 2005




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