25 February 2014

Papa, My Dear

My Papa died three and a half years ago. I still miss him.

I went down to visit my Gram and it's funny how pain recedes, but often flashes so fresh in certain instances. 

Gram still keeps his sweater hanging off the back of the chair. Greg, their neighbor, who died last year after a long, painful struggle with bone cancer, used to call him "pinky" because of it. Gram also has his ashes in the house, and his leopard-print Snuggie that my sister and I bought him because he was always cold.

Three and a half years ago, I talked to my Papa the day before I left for Burning Man. He was in the hospital, but moving to a rehab center. He sounded in good spirits. I told him to feel better, and that I loved him.

And then I went to my favourite week of the year, to Home. I thought of him, but I wasn't worried. He was getting better.

Thursday morning, while I biked with my good friend Rachelle to the Black Rock City Farmers Market, to much on carrots and pickled cauliflower and laugh and flirt and smile and be free, my dear Papa died. 

Gram was woken in the middle of the night, "Come quick; he's doing poorly." She sat by his side, watching her husband of so many years, of so much love and adoration, pass. He was unconscious, but she held his hand, whispering, "I love you." In reply, he squeezed her hand.

That night, while my Papa rest in a funeral home somewhere, and my family members suffered, I biked deep into the playa, shimmering in sparkles. I went to the temple and wrote on the wall. "Papa, I don't want you to be in pain anymore. Please get stronger and happy. I love you." It was impossible for me to know that he had died. He was already gone. Without cell phone service, reality was lost.

I left the playa, full of love and light. While Rachelle was driving, I called my mother.

"Is everyone okay?"

"How was it?"

"Is everyone alive?"

"Did you have fun?"

"Mom - did anyone die?"


With that, my world collapsed. My beloved Papa...The pain ripped through my whole body as I began bawling with a force that left me feeling ill.

I texted my boss, who was so understanding and told me to take all the time I needed. I went home, and cried, and washed my clothes, and cried. My sister flew to NY and we drank and I cried and I cried.

I flew to Florida to visit my Gram; she was holding up well. I slept in my Papa's side of their bed but couldn't really sleep. I'd wake up at 4 or 5am every day and head out for long runs,  five, six hours. I'd stop and fill my water bottle in parks along A1A, and cry. I'd hold it up in front of her, and play Rummicube, helped her go through his stuff. It was just so sad how much love she had for all his items, when I knew it would go to a thrift store where no one would care about it or know what a sweet man he had been. I hugged my Gram and tried to keep in most of my tears as we threw away medication, old shoes, and rearranged things. She was keeping busy.

When I got to the airport, they told me my flight was cancelled. I had to get back to NY the next day; I had a presentation at work. More than that, all the pain began leaking. I bawled at the ticket counter. Somehow I got on a plane and got home.

"My papa died," I told the guy on the plane next to me.

"I'm sorry about your father."

"No, he was my grandfather. And he was wonderful."

And he was. I miss him still, every day. I wish I could get a sloppy kiss on the cheek from him, give him a hug, hear his thick British accent. Even in death, love still doesn't die.

I love you, Papa.

23 February 2014

Can I bottle up moments like these and savor them at a later date?

The subway was made for dancing.

And meeting strangers.

And being completely overwhelmed by the music.

Enjoying the moment.

Trains flying under your feet.

And my feet never skip a beat.

Michael has been putting on the amazing Silent Disco Parties for a while. The idea is brilliant - everyone wears wireless headphones with two channels, and dances. No one else is subjected to noise, so no one is disturbed, conversations are easy - thus leading to the mobile silent disco parties. Brilliance.

After dinner and wine with Menachem and Beth, Beth and I hopped in Colin's car and headed over to the loft to pick up our headphones. It was a smaller group, full of amazing people.

The music was amazing. My feet ache from dancing. On the subway, passengers would watch, amused. We'd share our headphones, and they'd bop along, loving the music. I felt so free, dancing, letting the music invade my soul. I was nearly sober (Just had a small bit of alcohol, not enough to make my tipsy.) but the music was infatuating and overwhelming me. It was taking over. I was music.

I danced, arms lifted, embracing the strangers, the love, the energy, the view from the bridge. It was beautiful, only in a way that the unexpected can be.

If life isn't about dancing late at night on subways, then I don't want to hear about it. This is my life.

A Slice

Covered in sparkles, re-reading William S. Burrough's The Yage Letters. Waiting for the G.

"Excuse me, I didn't think angels walked on earth," mumble mumble mumble.

He was so young - maybe 17. With shyness, and an awful pickup line. He told me I was beautiful, asked me my name, my age. And suddenly, for the first time ever, the G arrived on time. I ran to the front, with my book, and thought, "These moments won't happen forever. I'm not sure what they are, but they are temporary."

And, feet aching from dancing, I sat and I read.

17 February 2014

Iron Horse 100k: A Good, Painful Kick in the Butt

Tears. Pain. Suffering. Agony. Swollen feet. Sugar sand. Palm trees. Friendship. Getting lost.

And that sums up Iron Horse 100k!

I went into the race, thinking it would be my kick-my-butt-back-into-shape race. When I was in Colombia, I ran daily but minimally; I ran generally around an hour a day. I ran 90 minutes once or twice. Then I flew back into NYC winter of snow and ice and cold cold cold - so training was greatly reduced and miserable. Very sad.

I headed down to FL to visit my Gram, see some friends (Jessica & Chris) and help with a Chaos Cooking

As Jessica and I drove to the race, it began to downpour. I could barely see the road; I didn't want to run in it. Ugh. Luckily, the rain had stopped by the time we began running.

Jessica was to crew me and pace me at the end and chill out with the runners; she hadn't been running for a while so was looking for a bit of inspiration. Chris let me store my gear in his car during the race (so it wouldn't get soaked on should it downpour again) and was also the Medical Director of the IH100.

The course was different this year. You head out and run 1.75 miles on a paved bike path, then turn around. You arrive back at the start and run about 2 miles on the same paved bike path (but in the opposite direction) and then turn and head onto a sandy trail. Then you do two different lollypop loops in the woods, and then head back out on the sand trail to the paved path - and that is a total of 25 miles. If you do the 100k, you have a weird turnaround but everyone runs the same race.

The aid stations are pretty basic, the volunteers uber-polite high school kids ("Can I get you water, ma'am?" Ma'am? What?! I'm such a New Yorker.), the trail pretty and a little static scenery. It was a nice race; I did it last year and I wouldn't mind doing it again.

I started out feeling good. It was a little chilly, but not bad. I had arm warmers on, and a long sleeved tee that I took off after a few miles.

I felt good and then after around 20  miles, I was running with a girl named Megan in the 100 miler. We saw a pink ribbon on a tree on either side of a gap, so we assumed we entered and ran on in. After a while, we saw some other pink ribbons so figured we were on course. Not so. According to my watch, we ran over 2.22 miles extra. Ugh. It took us a while to figure it out, and the ribbons I saw were faded pink - so probably up from last year or another event. UGH.

After getting lost, despite having led the 100k that entire way, I felt mentally defeated. Being a lollypop course, I saw how many people had passed me in the time I got lost. My head was lost.
I really was miserable but Chris made me smile.

I got back to the start/finish in tears. Jessica and Chris cheered me up and I was pretty low. I headed out for another loop.

I started to perk up. This wasn't so bad. I'd pick it up. Maybe even get my 100k lead back if I really felt good? Unfortunately, I crashed into the second loop. I had my ipod in my pocket for "emergencies" such as this. I slipped my headphones into my ears as tears pricked the corners of my eyes.

I ran. I stopped and stretched. I walked a baby hill. I stretched. I ate a gel. I ran, walked, stretched, cried.

And then Major Lazer came on with "Watch for This" and I began dancing. Why the hell not? My race was shot. Why not have fun? 

I came into the aid station again with just 12.5 miles. I asked Jessica to please pace me the entire rest of the way. "I'm run-walking. Please. You can keep up."

And she did. We talked, told stories, chatted about Burning Man, about running, love, families, work, life. The moon rose in the sky as we plodded on and I felt sick. Thank you, Port-a-Potty-Gods (or the RD, Chris) for placing a port-a-potty right by the aid station.

And then I stumbled into the finish. I was so relieved to be done. I think I was second woman? Another buckle (yep, this 100k gives you a buckle), some food, and of course, a mandatory stop at Dairy Queen.

What did I learn? I'm out of shape. I'm going to use the next few weeks to gear up, to train myself as hard as I can. Also, when it sucks, blast Major Lazer. And dance when you can't run.

Winter Misery Land

Some people love winter. They love snow, they love skiing, they love the cold.

I am not one of those people.

I hate the cold. I hate snow and ice. I hate winter. I don't like skiing - I've never tried it but I know I won't like it because it's in the cold. Ever since I got frostbite nearly three years ago, I especially hate running in the cold. My feet turn numb and everything becomes painfully cold rather fast - within an hour - so racing in the north during cold temperatures are pretty impossible.

I missed the "Polar Vortex" of cold in NYC when I was in Colombia, but we've still had some cold temperatures. And snow. And ice. And yes, NYC normally gets some of it, but not all of it at once, and in such a miserable way.

My training has gone to hell. I hate the treadmill and don't understand how some of my friends can do things like set records and run for 12 hours on a treadmill. I'd rather run 24 hours outdoors. As much as I hate the cold, I curse the treadmill.

On the super cold days, I layered up. Dress tights, running tights, thick wool socks, a sports bra, t-shirt, three long-sleeved shirts, a running jacket, buff, hate, super warm mittens. I feel puffy and find running difficult. But I do it anyway. Slowly. Ugh.

Icy days are the ones I must head to the treadmill. I do a max of an hour on the treadmill (I tried 90 minutes and only made it 85), and then will hit up the rowing machine and the elliptical too. Time on your feet, I tell myself.

When I run outside, even when the sidewalks are clear and I'm running, I'll get to an intersection and there will be piles of snow that I'll have to slow down and navigate. Sometimes I'll run to McCarren Park where I can run mostly uninterrupted, as they plow that pretty well.

What can I do? I do the best I can. But right now, it's not enough. It's too miserable. I know there are many worse place to live (Alaska? Yukon? All those northern places where the snow keep falling in depths of FOUR FEET and schools are closed because "it's too cold.") for me - I'm sure they are lovely in summertime, but I really don't like winter. If I did adore NYC as much as I did, I would be out of here in a second. But still, I'm pondering escape routes from the cold.

What We All Need in Life

Thanks to Pomsey for sending this quote:

"There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living."

--Jose N. Harris

10 February 2014

What Sexual Harassment Really Is Like

The men in my life don't really get what sexual harassment is like. They never can. Sometimes they get a taste of it - like when my dad and I were chatting on the phone as I walked to the library and he heard me curse out someone. Or when they see me upset and hear the stories after.

This video really upset me. I have been in places like this - not had a knife to my neck, but I have been taunted, followed, teased. And when I reject advances, I've been called ugly, stupid, bitch, whore, slut, cunt. 

So men, if you don't really get it, watch this video. You may start to understand the everyday hell that many women experience.

02 February 2014


I'm under the light, believing

How to Buy Burning Man Tickets

People have been asking me about how to buy Burning Man tickets, and as the RD of the Burning Man Ultramarathon, I've answered this question many times. Here's what I hope is a slightly-easier-to-understand explanation.

Directed Group Sales
Are you a core part of a critical theme camp or some other important project on playa? If so, you received an email to invite you to be a part of these from your group leader (camp or project). You'll know if you are a part of this. After you created your Burner Profile, you will be able to buy tickets at noon PST on the 12th of February.

General Ticket Sales
First, create a Burner Profile.

Next, between February 20 and February 23, you have to REGISTER to buy tickets. Not buy, but register to enter the sale.

Then, on February 26, starting at noon PST, you can then buy tickets - if you did everything.

Read the full ticket information very, very slowly. And then hold your breath. Let it go because you may have to wait. You may wait in virtual line for over three hours. It is a little overwhelming, but once you get the ticket, it's only seven or so more months of waiting. Woohooo!

Note, everyone needs tickets - even if you are just running the ultra. Even I buy tickets as the Race Director.

"I'd Like You to Meet Amanda."

My bursitis grew. I could feel the lump in my knee, and knew it was bigger, despite Wayne saying it wasn't. But Wayne would probably not notice if I shaved my head, so I didn't trust Wayne. I made an appointment with the awesome Dr. Marci Goolsby, and because I was afraid perhaps I couldn't run after, I ran to my appointment. I drank three glasses of water after I entered her office, and she confirmed my thoughts that it had grown bigger.

She told me they could drain the bursitis, but they didn't need to. "You have a 70% chance of it not coming back. So even if I drain it, it might re-inflate. Oh, and you have to take some time off of running?"

"How much?"

"Not long. Maybe a couple of days."

"Um, so I wouldn't be able to run home?"

"I really wouldn't recommend that. It might re-inflate sooner."

"And it hurts?"

"Not that much."

"Hmmm...I want to run home. Maybe I won't get it drained."

"You don't need to - it's annoying and the appearance are the main reasons people get it drained. But if you're fine, keep it. Name it."

I say the first thing that pops into my head. "This is Amanda."

"Nice to meet you, Amanda."