23 September 2010


Sometimes, we need to look for the transformative moments in ordinary life.

This morning, Mike came out to the morning run I lead for NBR.  I told him a bit about what I've been going through, with my grandfather's recent death. I began explaining the difficulty I've had - including seeing the dead body hanging from a tree (covered with a white sheet) in Central Park and the funeral procession, and he said, "That's your samskara."

Knowing quite a bit of this from some Buddhist study I have done I realize I have been stuck in a rut of so many ways - the past many months have been about pulling myself out of it, and I've been tripping on the way out a bit. I don't want my life to keep cycling the same negative energy. I hope it isn't my karma to end up in these complicated, cyclical, directionless relationships, but I am working to ensure that doesn't happen again. I hope this suffering ends. I want to break free of this constant cycle of negativity, of death, of pain, of crying, of confusion, of indecision. Unfortunately, it's not always as easy as we would like it.

I'm not sure what I'm doing next. I'm trying to not jump ahead too much but enjoy each day, to live in the present moment. Run some races. Stay in love. Enjoy my family. Return to a more regular practice. Embrace the good people in my life. Distance myself from the bad. But what else must I do to break free from this?


This week has been a return to my youth with a Superchunk Sunday and a Pavement show tonight! My friend Jamillah who I met at Lollapalooza (where I also saw both of these bands too!) just moved back to NY - and I'm going to get my keys from my friend Joe who I also met at Lollapalooza today. 

21 September 2010

I Run the Neighborhood...Or Ghetto Runs Much Preferred to Running Through Riches

Just got back from an amazing run where I ran past several projects throughout Brooklyn. Some people I know are scared or shocked; "You run through the projects?" Yup. It's not those fears you have; it's full of yes, low-income housing, poor people, but full of friendly faces, hellos, smiles at me singing while I'm running, cute boys winking, little kids squealing, fire hydrants blasting. I'm welcomed, mostly. Sure, sometimes I get the stares, the "whatcha doin here, white girl?" but mostly, it's just accepted - another person doing their thing.

I've run through rich neighborhoods and hate it. I've asked for directions in wealthy Long Island towns to get that snotty-look-down-the-nose. People see a sweaty runner and shudder. "Darling, just looking at that runner made me sweat. Off to the spa now - must deep cleanse myself." Running through the Upper East Side and Midtown East on forty-plus mile runs never is fun. Running through Harlem before that, yes.

And the music's better - I heard "Just a Friend" by Biz Markie at 6am in projects in Williamsburg. I've danced in splashing fire hydrants with ten year olds. I've blown kisses, given the finger, asked for cups of water, screamed with delight, moaned with pain, just felt more alive.
City running's nothing like trails but I must admit, when I'm forced to do it (which is most times I run), I enjoy the diversity of some of the less wealthy neighborhoods - and the diverse reactions.

18 September 2010

Burning Man 2010 Recap

It was amazing. It was wonderful. It was thought-provoking, it was art, it was life, it was death, it was love, it was self-exploration, it was an ultramarathon. It was all of these things and more. How could it not be? It was Burning Man.

It was an amazing week - I camped with one of my best friends ever, Rachelle; Rachelle and I had a playa wedding (How could we not? She hammered my rebar, built me a shower, and didn't mind the explosion of sparkles everywhere.); I saw some amazing art; I rode around on my kick-ass fuzzy hot pink fake fur beach cruiser; I directed my first race ever, The Burning Man Ultramarathon; I PR'd in the Burning Man 50k with a time of 5:34 (woohooo!); I once again danced to Madonna while drinking Pickle Juice Martinis; I ate lots of pickles; I dealt with sunburnt lips; I ran around in next-to-nothing but not nothing because next-to-nothing is much more interesting; I danced at DeMentha while drinking mojitos; I saw old friends; I made new ones; I fell in love.

Decompressing is always hard, but this year it was the worst. Monday afternoon, upon receiving phone reception, I learned that my beloved grandfather had died the Thursday before. As I was falling in love, dancing at Burning Man, he was dying/had already passed. I cried inconsolably on the car ride home. My mom told me the other day, "I think he would have been happy that you were dancing. He always loved to dance." Good friends told me, "Maybe your grandfather is the reason you fell in love...maybe he instilled his spirit into Burning Man to ensure you found love." Whatever it was, I am trying to hold onto his beautiful memories while going forward with the amazing ones that I will continue to create with my love.


14 September 2010

I should hope he is now a star...

From the rather lovely sympathy card my boss sent me after my papa died:

In one of the stars
I shall be living
In one of them
I shall be laughing
And so it will be
as if all the stars
were laughing
when you look
at the sky at night.
--The Little Prince, Antoine de Saaint-Exupery 

12 September 2010

Burning Man Ultramarathon - Race Report and Results!

From a dream to reality...the Burning Man Ultramarathon actually happened, and with only a few hitches!

From what started of a dream of mine turned into a reality. At least 37 runners started the race, and 31 finished! The race results show how people worked together across the playa. I ended up running much of the races with Michelle and Jeff, and it was Jeff's first ultra! Others ended up making new friends, while some simply tore across the desert like it was any other ultra - not one in the middle of one of the wildest weeks of the year.

Burning Man is an annual arts and music festival of radical self-reliance in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. From a desert surface (aka "the playa") where nothing exists a city is built, art is installed, and absolute freedom of self-expression rules. Indulging in drugs and alcohol are not abnormal, though many of the runners said, "Why do drugs when you can get the ultimate high - runners' high?"

No money is exchanged, gifts are given freely, nudity and costumes are the norm, and you can be whoever you truly are. Hosting an ultramarathon was only natural; you'd have to be crazy to spend a week in the harsh uncomfortable desert, covered in body glitter, but to run an ultra in that climate? You'd have to be truly insane! So of course we needed an ultra!

The original email sent out via the Burning Man "Jack Rabbit Speaks" list started, "Are you batshit crazy?" I got a lot of emails from people who said, "I'm batshit crazy! Sign me up!" With about 100 acceptances on Facebook and 60+ via email (many of those duplicates), a good field of runners was assured.

Despite amazing parties the night before, most runners headed to bed to snag a few hours sleep (difficult at a place where "art cars" loaded with speakers and hyper participants keep the noise levels up). Runners met at The Man for a 5am start.

The weather was rather chilly at the start - probably in the upper 40s/very low 50s. However, as the last runner finished, temperatures were in the upper 80s/low 90s. There were no dust storms (a concern when planning the race, as dust storms can make visibility impossible and breathing difficult) and everyone was delighted with conditions. Footing was a little uneven at times, with flat alkaline sand as the terrain.

The first loop was quite dark as runners headed out from The Man to the Perimeter Trash Fence. Runners hit an aid station just after mile 1, and hit the aid station again once each 6+ mile loop. Runners ran straight along the fence, turning at a marked spot (that some runners missed, especially in the early morning dark - next year we'll put glow sticks here!), then hit the edge of Black Rock City. Runners ran past popular dance clubs, into the city, past the Medical Station, and then along Esplanade, Black Rock City's Main Street. People who had not gone to bed yet were shocked and amazed and impressed at what we were doing: "You're running?" "You're getting enough exercise for both of us!!" "You're doing that ultramarathon? You're insane! Insane!" "Stop running! Start drinking!" "You are awesome!" The cheers and offers from the crowd (for water, alcohol, and hugs) kept the runners smiling. After the Esplanade ended, runners headed straight back to the fence to make a loop of the course, and repeat.

The first runner, Ben Merchant, ran the race in a tutu with a giant smile. I also ran in a homemade tutu, and other runners ran in codpieces, capes, tiny briefs, and lots of body glitter. The attire was a mixture of ultrarunner and Burner.

There were some minor complications and confusions with the course; next year, we hope to have additional volunteers to point out directions and glow sticks to mark the course. Overall, it was an absolute blast. Many runners completed their first ultra, or got a PR on the course.

The race will definitely happen again next year - attendees simply need to come at 5am on the Wednesday during Burning Man (September 1st next year) to run 50k. Start training now, but most importantly, start preparing that fabulous running costume!

08 September 2010


I am coming off the most amazing week at Burning Man to a real shocker and some horrible news - my grandfather has died. Papa was an amazing, wonderful man who I loved very dearly. Before I left, my mother hinted at her true worries. Not only did I miss saying goodbye to him (although no one but my grandma was with him at the end), but I missed the funeral. My parents, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles, everyone was down in Florida. They all toasted a shot of O'Doull's which he used to drink - he thought it was real beer which we didn't give him because he'd get drunk too quickly.

Oh, Papa.

One of the best things about him was his love for my grandmother. It would've been 62 years of lovely marriage - and they were so in love all those years. I can only hope that I could have the chance to be in love like that for so many wonderful years..

Decompression will be especially hard this year. I've done most of my laundry (piles of sparkles and tutus and fake fur dot my apartment right now, both clean and still dusty), have a few small piles of things to go through. I have many memories to deal with, some photos to process. Like all years at Burning Man, I find myself questioning the future of my life. Is this is? Is this what I want? Where am I going? Shall I hold his hand and close my eyes and jump straight in? (I'm going with yes on this one.)

I don't know anything. Tomorrow I'm going to head out for a long run to clear my head - maybe I'll go twenty miles, maybe fifty. I don't know. And then I want to cry out all the pain. On September 11th, overwhelmed, unable to contact Jessica, I ran. I ran. I run to deal with the pain sometimes. Right now all I want to do is curl up in a ball with my furball and cry into her fur. And because she's the only one around, and that seems like the best option right now, that's what I'm off to do.

I love you, Papa.


07 September 2010

In Memory of My Grandfather, Who Died Thursday

“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”

—Harry Drummond

Foreign servicemen held no interest for Elizabeth Schmiko. In 1945, a friend invited Betty to a dance for foreign servicemen at the Museum of Modern Art. Betty declined. However, she called back her friend to reverse decision on the condition that another friend, Peasy could come to the dance as well.

At the dance, a young handsome soldier named Charles Russell found love with Elizabeth Schimko. A gentleman, Charles saw her home.

She told Charles that one of her beaus smoked a pipe. The next time they met, he was smoking a pipe. He later remembered, “It was disgusting. I smoked for about a month and that was all I could do.”

Charles was immediately smitten with Betty. Betty wasn’t so sure. Charles offered, “I love you,” to which the callous Betty would reply, “I love you like a brother.”

During their courtship, they would go to the movie theatre at Grand Central Station. They probably didn’t watch much of the movies, since they spent much of their time necking, which was “terribly fun.” They spend their lunch breaks together, talking and eating.

Prior to asking his love for her hand in marriage, Charles had to ask permission from Betty’s mother. Her mother didn’t particularly approve of the poor sailor with an accent she could not understand. He was excited to spend extra time at her house, but when he arrived to ask permission, Mrs. Schmiko had sent Betty out shopping. Mrs. Schimko was questioned him if he was making enough money to support Betty in a lifestyle similar to the one she was currently living (He wasn’t.) and questioned his intentions. Finally, she relented.

On New Year’s Eve December 31, 1946/New Year’s Day January 1, 1947, as the clock struck midnight, Charles proposed. She accepted.

An old sweetheart pursued Betty, even while she was engaged to Charles, and he was engaged to his fiancĂ©. The old beau called Betty one last time. “If you want to break it off, say the word, and we can get married.” Betty declined.

They were married in September. They moved into the 3rd floor apartment of her mother’s house in New Rochelle.  He began to work for British Airways, and eventually, they moved out of the maid’s quarters to their house on Long Island.

They had four impossible children, and nine even more impossible grandchildren. They traveled, spent winters in Florida, and found the best Early Bird dinner specials.