The Words

There are so many words inside of me right now. They are fast and slippery and hard to catch hold of. Or maybe they are fluttering and flapping, strewing feathers everywhere. Or maybe they are less frenetic and wilier, like an octopus carefully camouflaged. And because of this, their vast, vast numbers, I can’t seem to get them out of me. There is no room. Every inch of space to be used to escape inside of me is blocked. Blocked and blocked by more and more words. The cute little tails of “q”s and tumbling “x”s intertwining with capitol “A”s and “w”s. Forming an unreadable, un-writeable alphabetical dam.

This is why I am writing without entirely being sure what I am writing about. Yet, I am still writing. That just seems inherently wrong.

I can say that over the past week I have just been in a really good mood. I would even potentially go as far as calling it happy. That is not a mood I associate with myself frequently. Although, if I had to guess, other people do. I find that odd. And wrong. But who am I to judge.

Maybe it is because I am not feeling squashed at work by emailed questions regarding health care reform. Maybe it is because I seem to have actually gotten through the 475 pages of health care reform rules that were published last week. Maybe because it is Thursday. Maybe because I did the sliding alligator walk five times across the workout floor today when I used to barely be able to do two. Go ahead, look it up, it’s a thing. And a really hard thing at that. Maybe because the unused desk that was taking up space in my son’s room is gone. Maybe it is because I actually went to Wal-Mart to buy one banana today. That was actually quite amusing. It was forty cents and I could feel the people on either side of me in line thinking, a banana? Really? I felt very ten about the whole thing (Doctor Who reference – “always bring a banana to a party”). Have I mentioned how much I dislike Wal-Mart?

Maybe it is just that I have an appropriate hormone level going at the moment. No dips or spikes. Or maybe it is because I am going to have my teeth cleaned in two weeks. When I called my dentist to make the appointment, my dentist actually answered the phone. It completely threw me off. It was like calling a legislator’s office and having them answer. Freaky strange. I said to him, “so you answer phones now” and he said, “I do everything.” I like my dentist. We go way back.

And the writing seems to have eased the passage of the words. The letters are coming together and not fighting any more. They are joining hands and singing kumbaya. I appreciate their willingness to get along and leave my head. I think that their way was eased by the final dregs of cold brewed coffee swigged directly from my Whole Foods growler. Swigging from a growler seems so decadent that it can only be done in the privacy of one’s own home.

I have moved onto beer which, is likely to staunch any further abhorrent word blockages. It is a large chocolate stout beer. It is delicious. And has come at the exact right moment of my evening.

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Beards and Beers

After writing about my time spent at Borders last week, I was thinking about some of the people that I met while working there. Many, many of them honestly seemed to exist only at the store. Maybe only in the downstairs backroom where the books came in from the loading zone. They were bearded and quiet, back before hipsters were hip. Sometimes forced into managerial roles which may or may not have suited them. They were younger than me and older than me. I mostly liked them. They were a genial bunch. I worked many different shifts so I got to know the old time day guys and the younger closers. It was a good gig for me and I loved the discount.

When I worked at Borders, it was definitely a transitional time in my life. I could have easily left Hawaii and never come back. I was never one of those people who always wanted to come here. I do not have wanderlust. But sometimes things just happen. While at Borders, my then boyfriend had returned to Korea where he was studying through a program at UH. I knew when he went back that our relationship was in trouble. He had received a card from a Korean woman when he came back. He asked me to marry him and I said no. And then he left again. And he left me in this limbo. Stuck in this near seven year relationship, separated by distance, all the while knowing, in my heart that we were finished. And ultimately, as far as I know, he has never returned.

Working at Borders, I was hanging out with a younger bunch. We would drink a lot. We would go to strip clubs because they were the only bars open late enough for our tastes. Me & G (2)One of the guys was shortish and stocky. And bearded. He was damaged and creative. I was untethered. Living the most selfish of selfish lives. I shaved my head. Waiting to be broken up with. But before that happened, the definitive break up, which did happen, I kissed this boy. He was shy and local. I was brass and New York. We would have never worked. And maybe he was just my move to spite my ex. For the Korean woman who had the balls to send him a card. To our apartment. Which I could not read. Because it was in Korean. So this incident. This toe dipping experiment. Does it make me a cheater? And what is it they say on all of those yelling day time shows, “once a cheater, always a cheater.” And in the actual and true sense of the word, then yes, I am a cheater.

But I would like to think that I was not the cheater. Likely had been cheated on. That technically speaking, I was already dumped. Just that he had not yet told me. And maybe when feeling dumped, or neglected, or taken for granted, people just want to feel acknowledged. They want to know that they still exist. That they matter. That someone sees them. The real them. So maybe I just wanted to be seen. Wanted to be acknowledged. And that’s all. Not a cheater. Happy to be seen. Even if for a moment.

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I Miss Borders

I used to work at Borders bookstore back in the day. It was a time in my life when I short on confidence and desperately needed work. I remember being taken into a backroom, talking to a manager and feeling very nervous that I would not get hired. I must have agreed to work just about any shift because before I knew it, I was closing every Friday and Saturday night. This was back in the heyday of Ward Center. The store had a coffee shop upstairs where people (mostly non-book buying people) would spend literally the entire day and night camped out at a table. It was a place where there were stacks of books as tall as I was left in the children’s reading area every night by the time we closed. Where there were tons of people hanging out in the magazine section browsing. We, the closing crew, were responsible for returning the abandoned merchandise to its rightful place. To straighten out the magazines. Although aggravating and tedious, I worked with really great people. And got a fantastic discount.

Many years later, I am still close friends with two of those people. One is my running buddy who I see every Sunday, very, very early in the morning. And the other is a friend who, although we see each other infrequently, we tend to spend important holidays together, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although closing both weekend nights seemed like it put a dent in my social life, I think that ultimately I gained more than I lost.

There were many weekend nights spent traipsing up and down the stairs. I always loved trying to find that one book for a customer that they were looking for. It was like winning. The old time closers, we tried to have fun when we could. Sometimes we dressed up. I frequently wore my vintage clothing. On more than one occasion we did 80s night. Me & DavidWe sometimes went out and sang karaoke. We frequently drank quite a bit. Brew Moon, when it was still open, had a late night happy hour that we often took advantage of. We knew the waitstaff, fellow service industry sufferers.

Now that Borders is Bed, Bath and Beyond, I have a really hard time shopping there. I find it difficult to use the stairs that previously featured local artwork. And winding my way through the second floor often reminds me of a single themed garage sale. All kinds of stuff that somehow made sense to someone to all be sold from the same place. It seems too packed and too disorganized. Like someone’s bad dream. And maybe it is. No more books. Hardly any place to get one anymore. So despite the fact I complained about the people who left the stacks and stacks, at least there were stacks that had been looked at. Maybe spilled coffee on or nibbled or drooled on. Touched and browsed. My family and I were dreadfully sad when a long time bookstore holdout was turned in to a Ross store. We do not go there. We yearn for the days when there were more opportunities to touch the books. Hold them. Peruse them. And buy them. We have our fingers crossed that one of the final bookstores, located at the mall, does not meet the same fate. Maybe its diversification into games and Starbucks can help save it. One can only hope.

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Timey Wimey

Lately, I just feel done with Hawaii. Collective gasps can be heard from all the people who have dreamed of coming here. Dipping their toes in the blue, blue waters of Waikiki. Sipping Mai Tai’s at Duke’s. Lounging poolside. Viewing the volcano. They are all cursing me collectively at this moment. I don’t care.

I have lived here long enough to realize that, generally speaking, everyone leaves. Maybe that is a misrepresentation. Maybe if I had bunches of money and I could fly back and forth between here and NY whenever I wanted to, there would be no issues. If I could fly in my family, along with my mom’s dogs (it’s the only way she would come and it would have to be a private jet since she would never put them in the bottom of the plane) and all for Christmas every year, maybe then it would not be so difficult. But I think that for most individuals this is not an option so instead, we go without. Go without spending Christmas and Thanksgiving with our families. Go without blowing out birthday candles together and giving hugs on Mother’s Day. And maybe when you are young, and foolish, you think that there is a lot of time for these things. There is so much time that if you miss some, or a bunch, or over a decade’s worth, there will just be more time. More time, that is some time later than now.

And then, at some point you realize that time is really a stingy bitch. She sometimes arbitrarily decides that certain people just get no more. They are cut off. Their time is done. And in many instances, there is not much to be done for that. The time that was supposed to be, that some time in the future time, just vanishes. And you are left with nothing.

I have tried to do things that make this work, this yearning to be with my mother. I am not going to lie. It is mostly just my mother. It is why I quit and moved and lived her in her tiny cold house and even shared her bed since there was no place else for me to sleep. She just keeps getting older. And while she is the most stubborn healthy seventy something I know, I realize that her time is not as long as it used to be. No matter how you slice and dice it.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers when one parent’s family is all here and the other’s is very far away. In fact, there are no answers. And I think about this because a friend of mine has been mulling over the same issues. And she put out some feelers, just to see what would happen and bang, she is out of here. She has a job and will be leaving in two weeks. Her husband will stay behind for a bit taking care of the odds and ends. But she made it happen. And I can’t lie. I am jealous. Yes, it is easier because they are going back to where both of their families are. So the decision was mutual. It is where they both want to be.

I continue to try to make it work better for me. I have an ambitious summer plan that was approved by my ever-supportive boss who I am ridiculously thankful for. In the end though, I don’t know if it will be enough. I don’t know what will ever be enough. I just continue to hope that time is on my side.

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Have I ever written about how competitive my mother is? You can practically goad her into participating against you in anything. Pie eating. Clam digging. Hula hooping. Running. Biking. She is always in. I think that she takes any comment about her potential inability to compete as an underhanded way of saying she is too old to do something. She is very wary of telling anyone how old she is because she feels like they hold that it against her. They treat her differently and she doesn’t like it.

I am only a little like my mom when it comes to competing. So it is kind of funny that I have developed a personal vendetta against a fellow runner. I know this woman slightly because we used to both do volunteer work for the same organization. She is also a runner and I frequently see her at events. She is shorter than I am and does not look particularly athletic (yes, very judgey judgey). I know that she runs faster than I do because I always pass her still going out while she has made the turnaround. Generally speaking, I have never really cared. That is until last week.

That is because after last weekend’s 10K I found out that she is in my age division. I kind of wish a pox on all the women in my age division. When I am running I find myself trying to determine whether or not I am running against them. I look at my fellow runners. Are they younger than me? Older? A man? Who cares. But it is very concerning if you may be in my division. Especially if you are in front of me.

This past 10K, I realized that this woman, this perfectly lovely and nice professional woman had not only beaten me but placed second in our age group. And, let’s be clear, she beat me soundly. It wasn’t even close. She was probably home drinking coffee by the time I crossed the finish line (OK, that may be an exaggeration but you know what I mean). So now, instead of a time goal, a goal of say cutting my time by a certain amount or running consistent times per mile that are faster than today, I just want to beat this woman. I probably have an opportunity to try at the beginning of March at the Hawaii Pacific Health 10K (which for all intents and purposes is still called “the Straub” by many of us old timers). Part of me sees this as petty. To target a specific person to beat. But really, it is just trying to best her time and in order to do so, I would need to shave three minutes off of my overall time. This seems potentially unattainable. But I have a month so I will give it a go. So give me a hand by thinking speedy thoughts. And maybe just a little about pox.

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A Small Piece

I am not good with goals. I never have been. Things just kind of go along and that’s the way it is and that is OK. I even have a hard time coming up with something at the end of boot camp on Mondays. Our coach asks all of us what our goals are for the week. I truly struggle with this. Maybe it’s because I want to say something meaningful and something that I can actually accomplish. I don’t know. She thought it was really funny when once when my goal was to eat a piece of fruit every day.

So the fact that I sort of set a goal for myself for the upcoming all women’s 10K is sort of surprising. I have been running for a long time. When my weight is down and I am fit and feel like a runner, it is great. Other times, not so much. I have been using my Nike app to set a training program for myself. It tells me to do intervals and fartleks and to cross train and to tells me how far to run and when. I have been pretty dedicated for me. I have put in a lot of miles. I wish I could say that every day I felt like a runner but I don’t.

On the spur of the moment last weekend I entered a 10K. I wanted to see if I was running any faster. My strategy, since I had no idea how to even have a strategy, was to run fast at the beginning because my thinking was that I would be able to stay in front of my competition after that. Coach says that is not the best strategy and she may be right. Anyway, I really felt like I ran my heart out and it was the fastest 10K that I ever ran. That is a good thing. I managed to shave five minutes off of my time in the same run the year before. Kind of impressive. By the end of the race, I felt like I had given my all, that there was nothing else left. I suppose that’s how it should be.

I ran today, mid-morning during work. Our fitness center in the building is now open all day instead of just peak times so I like to take advantage of it. It is nice being out at odd times. Less traffic. Less people. When I started running today I was a runner. I wish that I could bottle whatever it is that makes this happen. But I really don’t even know. A good meal the night before? I ate Taco Bell so maybe not. The perfect weather? Maybe, it was not too hot today. Whatever it was it was pretty good.

I have been off my training program this week due to being busy at work so I followed Monday’s workout of three miles comfortable and one mile fast. My three miles felt fast so by the time I hit the fourth I was really moving. I approached the intersection of King and Keeaumoku and noticed an ambulance and fire truck up ahead in a parking lot. I was hoping that it wasn’t a pedestrian or fellow runner. I thought that it might be the very bedraggled, potentially mentally ill, possibly drug user woman who seems to always be in the neighborhood. She has a dreadful habit of just walking across the street whenever she wants to. I have seen her almost get hit numerous times and I have been in my car waiting for her to finish crossing. Thankfully it was not her. Getting closer they were just putting a woman on a stretcher into the back of the ambulance. She was older and seemed to have scraped up her knee. In the middle of the sidewalk next to where the ambulance was were semi balled up sheets of what looked like paper towels dotted with blood. Next to that was a fairly good sized puddle of blood. It was bright and slick and red and surreal. Right in the middle of the sidewalk. It fairly took my breath away. This not-small-amount-of-liquid that had come from the woman on the stretcher. My stomach seized a bit at the sight. And then I wondered who was responsible for cleaning that up. That bright red blotch. I took a wide turn around that section of the sidewalk.

That blotch of red. Left behind for someone to clean up. Sometimes I feel like that is where my goals will lead. Being led off in a stretcher metaphorically speaking. Leaving behind vital parts. Or maybe I am just being overly dramatic and really all I need is to set more goals. And not just about running.

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As far as I am concerned, the holiday season is officially over (in other words, New Year’s, whatever). Thing is, my son’s birthday is exactly one week before Christmas. Because of this, it is difficult for me to begin Christmas preparations, like buying a tree, until the birthday stuff is done. That then leaves me with one week to do all I have to do for Christmas. So when that is over, I am pretty much done. The eating too much bad food, the not exercising, the lying about and the spending of money that I don’t really have. It is easy to be finished with the holiday season as soon as Christmas is over since I have always held a special loathing for New Year’s Eve. I actually think that this is pretty common for women of a certain age (mine). Women who grew up watching When Harry Met Sally. That last scene when Billy Crystal realizes that Meg Ryan is his true love. Of course it’s New Year’s Eve and, not being able to get a cab, runs to her side for the countdown to midnight. And he gets there, all out of breath and tells her that he loves her and then they are kissing. A completely and utterly unattainable bar set for this holiday. Hollywood promises of holding hands and skipping off through a field of daisies. The reality has always been much more banal. Filled with excessive drinking which sometimes culminated in kissing a random waiter at midnight so that there was kissing (this has happened). So New Year’s, I would like to pretend that it doesn’t even happen.

My significant other’s family hosts a large gathering every New Year’s. Before the ban, there were displays of fireworks on the basketball court in the park. These days, not so much. I have been attending this gathering for many years. Back when my son was small he was terrified of the loud noises from the fireworks and we were often forced to beat an early retreat back into town where sometimes it was better and sometimes it was worse. These days he loves to be “down the park” running around with all of his cousins just like his dad did when he was the same age. It is nice for him. Ultimately though, I usually am ready to head home earlier than the rest of my family. And then no one is really happy.

So this New Year’s I will probably be curled up in bed, sleeping well before midnight. The thought of this makes me happy. I will miss my family for sure and the madness of the giant down the park gathering but this set up will give everyone in my family what they want on New Year’s. And it is OK that it is not the same thing because we will start off 2015 in a happy place. And really, what more could you want?

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