Monthly Archives: March 2006

Running and imagining

I ran a 5k yesterday. Well mostly. I walked a couple of the hills, trying to protect a groin muscle that gets strained easily. It was hard, but not as bad as I was expecting it to be, seeing as how I haven’t been running too much lately. I got to Chestnut Hill right around 8 am, to meet up with my friend Una, with whom I would be running. It was very cold, a big shocker after last weekend’s 70 degree temperatures. We checked in, got our tee-shirts and packets of throwaway information and tried to stay warm in the cuttingly windy field.

As we waited for the race to begin we warmed up, bouncing up and down on our toes, and half-heartedly stretched. We talked about the last 5k we ran together, the one last fall where she bumped into her ex-boyfriend, and I realized just how out of shape I was (sadly, I was struck again today with a very similar understanding of my endurance). We talked about how we recently both committed to some friends to do the Broad Street Run, and what the last date to back out could be in case we aren’t ready. We talked about dating, how our attitudes towards it continue to shift and flex, but how we both would like to meet men who could be right for us.

Talking about men, and our hopes for future partnerships, I looked around the field near the porta-potties where we were standing, thinking about how many people were there, all of them strangers to me. And my imagination started to go wild. I started thinking, maybe, in just a second, I would accidentally bump into a guy, and as we both stumbled over an apology, a spark would light between us. The conversation would flow easily for a minute before they called runners to the start, and we’d have to return to our separate groups of friends. We’d run the race and he’d watch for me at the end (because I would have let it slip that I was a very slow runner, averaging just around 12 1/2 minutes per mile), and cheer me on as I ran through the finish. Just the scenario for a good romantic comedy. Of course this fantasy did not play out. The only words I exchanged before the race with a stranger were with the woman who handed me registration packet, and told me very specifically how to pin my number to my sweatshirt.

As a child, I had a theory that if I could imagine a scenario before it happened, then it wouldn’t actually occur. For instance, if my parents were going on a trip, I would play out all the bad things that could happen to them, because if I thought it, then it couldn’t possibly occur. This childhood superstition has carried through to my current life, but instead of preventing me from experiencing tragedy, I feel cursed by this expectation. I assume now that whenever I have an actively imaginary moment, that by letting the scene play out in my head, I’m preventing these creative things from actually taking place in my real life. My brain battles on this front, both enjoying the trip and feeling defeated by the presumed understanding that I’m thinking situations out of existence.

What brought me back from all this internal exploration and self-flagellation was the actual run. As my body slowly covered the roads of the race route, all I could focus on was moving forward. There were no imagined scenes or situations, no interior voice telling me that I had now cancelled out a potential existence for myself by thinking it. I was intent and present in my body, conscious only of how I was feeling, what was happening with my muscles and how it felt to be inside of me at that moment. I realized in a flash that this was the perspective from which I want to observe my life. I foresee more running in my future.

Let Peace Prevail

This weekend is the 3rd anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and all across the country, people are marching and rallying to try to make their voices of peace heard. My connections to the peace movement are stronger in Portland, OR these days than in the city I live, as my dad has reclaimed his roots as a peace activist (those roots were firmly planted in the 60’s during his years as conscientious objector and radical hippie) to help start a non-profit called People of Faith for Peace.

There’s a big march and rally in Portland today, starting at 1:30 pm at Waterfront Park. My dad has sweated buckets over this event, and has sacrificed much of his own inner peace to help this thing happen. He will be singing a song he wrote, called “Let Peace Prevail” from the stage, to share with all who attend the dream of peace that he holds. I wish I could be there in body, as I’m already there in spirit.

Random Friday–Happy St. Patrick's Day

I wish you all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, despite the fact that (according to the Writer’s Almanac) St. Patrick was singularly responsible for co-opting the pagan holidays and celebrations of Ireland and turning them into Christian holidays. I don’t feel so warmly towards him now. I’m sure that my sister, armed with this knowledge, would proceed to curse his name, but I’m just not feeling that vehement today.

Why am I here? Oh, that’s right, to deliver unto you all my Friday Random Ten. You know the rules, but I get a kick out of repeating them, so here they are. Set your pod/digital music devise a’shufflin’ and report back the first ten songs it churns out. No skipping, omitting, rationalizing or spinning allowed. You put that music on there in the first place. Now, on to the list…

1. Be True, Carrie Newcomer (Paste Magazine Sampler)
2. Still Crazy After All These Years, Simon and Garfunkel (The Concert in Central Park)
3. Gravel, Ani DiFranco (Little Plastic Castles)
4. Always on My Mind, Willie Nelson (Willie Nelson*Songs)
5. Peace is a Tree, Raina Rose (Despite the Crushing Weight of Gravity)
6. One More River, Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers (Sam Cooke with Soul Stirrers)
7. Madonna, JUDE (Sarah)
8. Ticket to Ride, The Beatles (Help!)
9. Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde)
10. You Should Be Dancing, Bee Gees (Saturday Night Fever)

and the bonus track, just to round out the eclectic nature of this set…

11. Scampering Away, Mason Darling (Secret of Roan Inish Soundtrack)

Favorite Song: Ticket to Ride by the Beatles. I remember watching Help! over and over again when I was 11 and 12, and being just totally transfixed by it. The only song I love more from this movie/album is You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.

Favorite Album: Despite the Crushing Weight of Gravity, Raina Rose. I would pick this one even if she wasn’t my sister, because it really is a great collection of music. That she is my sister just makes it even better.

General Thoughts: This set doesn’t fit real neatly into any of my normal categories. I’ve seen Raina Rose and Ani DiFranco live. Other than Raina I have no connections to any of these folks, and there aren’t any Portland connections (again, other than my lovely sister). But it’s a good set, and for me defines why we shuffle, to get a full experience of many different types of music.

If you need more Random Friday than I can give you here, go check out some of the other usual players:

The bike room

I got a call on my cell phone this afternoon while at work. It was my all-purpose ring (as opposed to the specific ones assigned to family and friends), and I took a look at the number displayed on the caller id before answering. It was not familiar, but I took a chance and picked up.


“Marisa, this is Margie, from the building’s office.”

As soon as she identified herself, I started to worry. The management staff in my building don’t call unless there’s a problem or you’ve done something wrong. There are a lot of rules governing our lives in under this communal roof, so it’s easy to do something wrong. Before I could get too worried, or come out and ask what the problem was, she continued.

“I’ve had your name on the waiting list for a spot in the bike room for a very long time, and today one opened up. Would you like it?”

Would I like it? Yes, please!

About six months after I moved into my apartment, I discovered by chance that the building has a bike room. I was taken aback by this knowledge, having felt totally sure that I knew everything that there was to know about the building (after all, I spent a whole lot of time around here while I was growing up). With this information in hand, I got the key to the bike room and headed down there. As I worked the key into the lock and pushed the reluctant door open, I was sad to discover that it was not the usable storage room I was hoping for, but was instead stacked three bikes deep and smelled like someone had been using it as a restroom.

I returned the key, took my bike back up to my apartment and thought about the mess of the bike room. An idea started to sprout in my head. I decided that the board should clean out the bike room, replace the light and really make it a functional space. I let the idea tumble around my head for a while, but eventually wrote a letter to the board, outlining my plan for the bike room. The gist of my plan was that I wanted them to let building residents rent a spot in the bike room for an annual fee, and limit the number of bikes allowed in the room. I turned in my letter and didn’t think about it again for some time.

Several months later, I got home from work to a memo tucked under my door. It seems that the board was adopting my proposal (they actually used large chunks of my letter verbatim), and was asking people to go to the office, to sign up for spots in the bike room. I went down the next day and signed up. Soon after, my boyfriend and I broke up, and I spent some time a little disconnected from the rest of the world. When I finally came to, I realized that I had never heard back about my spot. I stopped by the office, and they had no record of me ever signing up. What’s more, the bike room was filled. I was so disappointed (and just a little frustrated), because it had been my idea in the first place, conceived when I determined that I needed to get my bike out of my living room.

I was thrilled to receive Margie’s call today, because I finally get my spot in the bike room, after almost two years. It was just a small event that made my day.

Lunch on a bench

Today was warm enough that I could head outside to eat my lunch. The morning at work had been kind of emotionally trying, and so I needed to get away from my desk for a bit and let some of the stress trickle off my body and onto the sidewalk that edges Market Street. I plopped down on a bench with some recently washed strawberries, and the leftovers from a veggie/egg/cheese scramble I had made as lunch for my sister and her friends on Sunday morning. I sat in the sun, picking the green tops off the strawberries and talking to my mom on my cellphone.

She listened as I described the morning, and the manner in which I was handling it. I remarked on how much better my perspective was than it would have been in the past, and how I thought I was doing well at not letting the situation dissolve me into a messy puddle of tears. As I was sitting there talking, I gradually became aware of a slowly moving elderly gentleman shuffling down the sideway. He got even slower, approached my bench and eased himself down. It seemed kind of odd, because there were three other empty benches up and down the sidewalk, but I decided to be polite and not say anything.

I started to think that maybe this strange man was sent there by the universe to tell me something. Maybe this was one of those moments where by being polite to an unusual stranger you find yourself enriched by the experience. Maybe this was even one of those moments where the person you’re kind to turns out to be an angel who heaps blessing upon you (remember, I had had a hard morning). I glanced up at him, and he started to speak. The words that came out of his mouth were garbled and almost incoherent, and so I asked him to repeat himself. He said, “Do you know anyone who lifts weights?” With that, all my fantasies of miraculous encounters and life changing moments were dashed, and I realized that he was just a weird old guy, who had come to sit on my bench in the middle of a large city, and probably it would be best for me to move away. I said “I’m sorry, I’m on the phone,” picked up the remains of my lunch and walked to a bench just a little ways away. I felt a moment of sadness as I surrendered the hope that he was an angel in disguise as well as a little bit of embarrassment that I had entertained the fantasy at all.

I comfort myself with the thought that even if my work life isn’t so great, it seems that my imagination isn’t suffering a bit.


I got in a conversation today with a friend about a couch she’s been trying to get rid of. It’s a denim couch she bought when she was 20. It was her first big ticket, independent purchase. She still loves it now, ten years later, even though it no longer fits in her house. She and her almost-husband recently bought a new couch, and took the old one out to the curb this weekend. It sat there for ten minutes, before she decided that she wasn’t ready to say goodbye to it, and everything it represented for her. She and the almost-husband went right outside and brought it back. This, to me at least, shows just how much he loves her, as he didn’t even flinch when she said that he had to help her carry the thing back into the house. (Remember, I’m not a traditional romantic).

Her story got me thinking about couches, and what the things they represent to us. I have a brown loveseat that I bought about three years ago. The cushions are filled with feathers, the fabric is soft, and it is immensely comfortable. I bought it used at the Uhuru furniture bazaar one afternoon. I had spent several hours shopping post-Christmas sales with my ex-boyfriend and we were walking past Uhuru on our way home. I spotted this couch, and instantly knew I wanted it to be mine. We sat on it and debated the pros and cons. I came to the conclusion that it was perfect, and the right price to boot.

The next night I was at a Unitarian potluck at the then-ministers’ house, talking to a young couple I had just met. I mentioned to them excitedly that I had gotten a great deal on a used couch the day before. They exchanged a look, and asked me to describe the loveseat just a little more. I detailed it in a few more sentences, and then Tracy couldn’t hold it in anymore. She said, “that’s our couch!” It turns out that just a few hours before I had walked by Uhuru and fallen in love with the couch, the Uhuru donations truck had stopped by their house and picked it up. In a few short seconds, my second-hand couch had gained a source, a history and a sense of synchronicity. I imagine I would have just as hard a time getting rid of this at this point as my friend is having with the prospect of being separated from her’s.

Raina's departure

I woke up today to rainy skies and the knowledge that this was my last day with my sister. Neither reality made me very happy. Raina was still asleep when I got out of bed, and so I went into wake her up, knowing that she needed to be at the Unitarian church no later than 10:30 am to set up her equipment for the morning service. I gently tickled the leg that was sticking out of the comforter. She mumbled a few words back to me, in the same half-sleeping voice she’s been using since she could talk and then gracelessly thumped the patch of bed next to her. It was a ploy to get me to let her sleep a couple more minutes, but I was happy to play along and get a couple more moments of sister-snuggles in. I climbed inĀ  and she flopped her left hand across my chest and said, “Heal my hand.” The fingers on her left hand sometimes get numb after she plays a lot of music, and a couple of nights ago, I dreamt that I had been able to heal it. For the next fifteen minutes, we lay there silently, and I focused all the love and energy I could directly into her fingers, hand and heart.

I spent the first fifteen years of my sister’s life wasting a lot of energy trying wish her away. She was difficult, demanding and impossible to reason with. I would often tell her friends that I wanted to trade her for one of them. Of course I did and said all these things with a core of love, but the day-to-day living with her was challenging. The actual thought of somehow losing her terrified me. All those years, what really I wanted was a friendship with her. I remember once writing in my high school journal and crying, filled with the fear that if we were not related, my sister would not choose me to be her friend.

During this trip, everything changed. I don’t know if it was because we were interacting on different ground, because we’ve both spent the last couple of years really growing up or even if the absence of our parents helped, but somehow, a friendship, the exact one I always craved, has grown. It’s one that we both appreciate and value with our entire beings.

This morning we sat next to each other in church, Raina’s curly pink and blond hair in two braids, mine hanging straight and brown-ish. Everyone still could guess that we were sisters in one look. She sang Peace is a Tree, and managed to rock the church in the space of single song. After the service, people swarmed around her, and I stood back, watching. Some complimented her on her performance in her show last night, and others raved about the song they had heard this morning. She sold some CDs, got a hug from the other guest singer in the church that morning and talked to a couple of little kids. As the last churchgoers trickled out the doors, we packed up her stuff and loaded the van. I stood and watched her start the engine, Amber in the front seat, and Lauren lounging in the back. My throat was bursting with the missing of her as the van pulled out of sight. I went back to my apartment, devoid of the explosion of stuff that has marked it all week, and wondered for a second what’s so good about neatness and clean surfaces.

Rainy, I can’t wait for November, when you’ll come back, to take over my apartment again.

Mullica Hill

I almost made my sister miss her gig tonight in Mullica Hill, NJ. Heading over to Jersey, exiting off the Ben Franklin Bridge, I got over-confident, and sent us off on a wild ride. We got to the coffeehouse with five minutes to spare, but only after I spent half an hour torturing myself, completely sure that I was in the process of destroying my sister’s career. Fortunately, she and her friend Amber are a flexible pair, and the folks at Stir It Up were accommodating and totally welcoming. Raina gave a great show, despite the fact that at it’s highest point, the crowd numbered eight, and that included our step-uncle, Amber and me. I’m looking forward to seeing her tomorrow night in front of a larger group.

Of course I took pictures, as I can’t help it. I’ve put together a set of 45 shots (I took over 100, which is totally obscene). Have a look.

Random Friday–The leaving work at noon edition

I’ve always loved Friday evenings. They always felt to me to be a gift of time, a little pocket of space where the regular rules governing the minutes and hours don’t apply. The weekend has yet to really start, you still have a full two days to spend in the manner of your choosing, and you are already free. Today, I’m starting my Friday evening a little early, sneaking out (okay, so I’m taking the afternoon off, but it makes me sound cooler to say I’m sneaking out. Like I’m a rebel or something) of work just past noon to spend a little more time with my sister (who, by the way, cooked an incredible lentil/veggie curry last night. She made the contents of my spice rack reveal themselves in ways they’ve never done for me).

Enough already, time for the Random Friday Ten. You know the rules, but here they are again, just for ‘scuz. Set your iPod or other digital music devise a’shuffling and report back the first ten songs that pop up. No ignoring, omitting, justifying, hedging or rationalizing allowed.

1. Eat for Two, 10,000 Maniacs (Blind Man’s Zoo)
2. Rustle in the Wind, The Gypsy Moths (The Gypsy Moths)
3. Was it Candlelight, Adrien Reju (Reju EP)
4. Never Letting Go, Phoebe Snow (The Best of Phoebe Snow)
5. Here it Comes Again, PLEASE (Empire Records Soundtrack)
6. Wait, Sarah McLachlan (Fumbling Towards Ecstacy)
7. Smackwater Jack, Carole King (Tapestry)
8. Paper Bag, Anna Nalick (Wreck of the Day)
9. Across the Universe, Rufus Wainwright (I Am Sam)
10. Love Will Come to You, Indigo Girls (Rites of Passage)

Favorite Song: It’s a tough one today, because that’s a damn good set. But I love the song Across the Universe above most others in life. I even wrote about it here just a couple of days ago. So it’s not the Beatles version, it’s still a terrific song.

Favorite Album: That award has to go to Carole King’s Tapestry. There is no album in my life that I’ve listen to more than Tapestry. I played it in my bedroom in middle and high schools. In my college dorm room. On airplanes. With my whole family, in the kitchen, everyone singing alone. In cars. In my current apartment, it lives in the kitchen, the cd in the player and the case tucked behind. It is a vital part of my life’s soundtrack.

Personal Connection: The Gypsy Moths was my sister’s first band. That album was recorded in my dad’s basement studio. He did all the editing too. Their harmonies were incredible and there was sadness all around when they broke up. But Raina wouldn’t be where she is now had they stayed together, and I like where she is now (in my apartment). Ah, the circle of life.

If you need more Random Friday sets than I can give you (and I’m pretty sure you do, as this one is rambly and non-sensical), check these folks out:

Delightful Chaos

Having my sister in town has been wonderful. It’s also been chaotic, distracting and destructive to my regularly scheduled program (in the best way possible). I hate that she has to leave on Sunday, although I am looking forward to getting my living room back. The picture above is how it’s looking these days.