Sunday, February 28, 2010

The long-ago death of the album - and what we're missing as a result

So I was driving down to Denver Saturday to pick up some awards from the Colorado Press Association listening to Judas Priest's "Screaming for Vengeance." (I mean, duh, metal is pretty much AWESOME stuffy award ceremony music.) And I was thinking, "Wow, this really is a great album."
And it hit me. I rarely listen to those anymore.
(By the way, did you like how I subtly snuck in the bragging? Pretty sneaky, huh?)
We download singles if we like it. We don't buy the album any longer. And if we do, we chop it up and shuffle it on our iPod.
I don't know if this really is a bad thing or not. I'm not here to rant against the death of the album. That's been done a lot, and quite frankly, I'm as responsible for that as anyone. I bought five albums in the last two years. I love singles. I love my iPod. I love making my own mixes. And more than half  of the albums I've bought in my lifetime - and that probably numbers into a thousand - mostly sucked, save for the one or two good songs I heard on the radio.
But I am here to mourn what we're missing.
• The opening track - Metallica's "Death Magnetic," my last favorite album, features a classic, "That Was Just Your Life." There's a great lead-in to the song, a slow heartbeat, followed by the opening chords, followed by a message that this is going to take you back to the good, old, fast days. You could always count on Metallica to open with a blister, and you could always count on the first song always being one of the best on the record. It's the tone setter. It's the fun joke or random thought before the boring speech. And sometimes it's not the best song, but if not, it usually is the perfect setup to it, i.e. Ozzy's "I Don't Know" bringing you into "Crazy Train" on "Blizzard of Oz" or "So What" carrying you to "All Blues" on Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue."
• The opening of the B side - This was more of an issue when we weren't buying CDs. Yes, kids, there were things called albums and cassette tapes (my choice), and there was a B side, or the side you'd listen to after that kick-ass first couple of tracks. And almost without fail, that first track on the B side was usually awesome. "Modern Day Cowboy?" "Screaming for Vengeance?" "Hot For Teacher?" "Blind in Texas?" Those all were B-side openers, not opening tracks.
• The surprise second-sider - On even some of the best albums, the B side was generally littered with fillers, experimental (i.e. usually crappy) tracks or just plain awful stuff. "Feel Your Love Tonight," for instance, is a B sider on the undeniably great "Van Halen I." But as you waded through them, occasionally, you'd find gold (Olympics analogy alert!). "The Last Command" by W.A.S.P. "Ice Cream Man" on that same "Van Halen I." "I'll Wait" on VH's "1984." These tracks were the best simply because you looked forward to them. You could get through a guitarist noodling a bit too much, for instance (or playing yet another ripoff solo of "Eruption") because the magic was coming.
• The closer - "Damage Inc." is the closing track on "Master of Puppets." 'Nuff said.
• The desert island debate - Hardly anyone debates the SONGS they would take if they were stranded on an desert island. They debate the books, the movies and the dessert (yep, I know how to spell the two words). And they debate the albums. (Personally, I would take a cell phone so I could get off the damn island). And yet you don't hear those fun debates as much any longer. 
I really kinda miss these things. 
Then again, maybe it's up to me to follow these rules on my own CDs.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Icy milestone

My alarm threatened to go off at 6 a.m. It was 5:57 a.m. I turned off the alarm and peeked outside under the warmth of my covers.
It looked kinda nasty.
Saturday was what my veteran marathon friends call "the breakthrough day." It would be the day that I would run farther than I've ever run in my life. In this case, that was 16 miles. I hadn't run more than 13 in three years. A big day.
Of course, a fresh blanket of snow awaited me. Friday, a day I ran 8, I ran through snow, but it was nice. As I debated about what to wear, Saturday's snow did not look nice. It looked awful, in fact.
The sleety, sticky stuff stuck to my windshield like Superglue and seemed to giggle at my defroster as I tried to peek through the small hole the warm air created. I had a 15 minute drive to the start of my run. I played W.A.S.P., thinking it would help. It didn't.
The treadmill was not an option. If I wanted to run in place, I would come back in my second life as a hamster. I've run more than 3 miles on a treadmill once in my running career. The wind was 40 mph, the snow was sideways, and the temperature was -18. Even then, I considered it - in fact I was heading out the door - when one of my friends saw me and suggested I wear an avalanche beacon so they could find my body on the trail.
We met inside, ready for action. We debated how many layers to wear. It honestly didn't seem too bad. It's all relative.
Sometimes I pick the route, and other times, I'm just a lab being pulled along for the ride. This was one of those days. Saturday's route included a long, long hill - "Heartbreaker's Hill" in the Boston Marathon looks like a gopher's mound in comparison - and by mile 8, facing a stiff, cold wind that cuts into my face, I'm a little cranky. 
"This sucks!" I yell, and two of my running mates turn around. It's really not like me to complain too much. They see I'm not injured, grin and turn around.
Around mile 13, my jacket is coated in ice, and my legs start to feel wooden. I somehow catch a second wind - it must be the Cliff Bar chew Blocs, which taste like gummy bears - and pick it up a notch. I've got to get used to running hard tired. 
At 15.1, I can see my car, only we've already passed it. We're tacking on a small road so I can get my 16. It sounds anal, but you won't increase your long miles by more than two in one week, so it's actually fairly important to get that last mile in, as I think you earn more in that mile than any other.
My legs are tired, wooden and even a little painful as we approach the driveway. 16.2. I feel good. I'm in good spirits. But I don't want to go another mile. I'm really cold, I'm slathered in ice and my body's barking at me a bit.
I'm proud, really proud, actually, and this is the unspoken joy of a marathon. It's not just the event itself. There are a lot of milestones along the way as you train for it. 
Still. Two thoughts. The first is obvious. Please, God, let it be a nice day on that day. And second? Hmm. 16 miles. I'm really supposed to run 10 more?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fire and Ice

I'm sitting here watching the women's downhill skiing, rooting my ass off for Lindsey Vonn, knowing how much pain she'll be in, and the last two women have crashed.
Their bodies looked like rags attached to spandex as they slammed down the crusty surface. I would imagine rolling out of a car at 30 mph wouldn't look much worse.
They walked away, but I watched each run a little bit harder after seeing those.
If the Summer Olympics is about power, speed and maybe a little grace, it seems to me the Winter Olympics is about danger.
Power, speed and grace, too, but definitely far more danger than the summer games. And that's part of their allure too.
That was apparent even before this year's opening ceremonies, when Nodar Kumaritashvili died on a juiced Luge track. I hate to admit this, but it made me watch Luge a bit more, too.
One of my favorite events is the short track skating. I love the speed, the passes and the elbow-throwing, but I also love the fact that they're racing on blades that could be used by Jason to hack up teenagers during one of the Friday the 13ths. American JR Celski won the bronze just months after one of his blades slashed his leg in a crash. It took 60 stitches to close it, and an inch or two deeper, and the cut kills him.
Holy Cow. Another ski crash. This one by one of the top skiers (so I'm told), and she just destroyed one of the gates after flying a football field down the hill.
She walked away too, though that one had to hurt.
(Man, they're tough. Are they all like Vonn? And I think distance runners are tough? I'll have to remember them Saturday, when I run 16, farther than I've ever run before.)
I know what they're feeling. I've done a few climbs with knife edges and long miles and a more than a couple moments where my heart was in my throat. I will probably not do a few of them again. People love danger, and yeah, I do too, in some ways. One of those climbs was Capitol Peak, one I did this summer for the second and probably last time, and my article on it got more hits and reads than any other story I've done on my climbs.
But then again, I don't know the intensity of a downhill, a luge or even a short-track race, and that's a big reason why we watch, I think, even if we don't want to admit that. What is it like to stare a scare like that and dominate it? We'll never know. But we can't turn away, even when the course wins. Because the course may win.
I'm watching as Vonn just let out a scream as she tore up the course and crossed the finish line. It was not of pain. It was of joy, and maybe, a little bit of relief.
Yeah, I hear you, girl, and I'm with you.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mr. Mom's live blog. The Saturday edition, 2010 version

Friday is my first day with the kids. Kate flies off for a four-day Vegas vacation (well earned, by the way). It goes smooth. I almost get cocky about it. Hey, maybe this won't be as bad as last year, I think to myself.
And then Saturday comes around.

2:03 a.m. - Jayden sneaks into the bed. The 4-year-old still loves to climb into bed with us, but he's usually good about waiting until 5:30 a.m. or so to do it. Sometimes I can even sleep when he does it, though half the time I think sleeping with a pile of ferrets would be easier. I honestly wonder if that kid ever holds still. Actually, I really don't wonder. The answer is no.
2:05 a.m. - Jayden plasters himself against me. It's nice that Jayden likes to cuddle, except when you're trying to sleep.
2:33 a.m. - Jayden is, no joke, sleeping on my head. Is he part housecat?
3:25 a.m. - I peel him off me - he has a lot of room, after all - and push him over into that space.
3:33 a.m. - He plasters against me again. This goes on all night. At 7:05 a.m., I sigh and get up.
8:15 a.m. - After a quick shower, it's time for a trip to the zoo. We should be out of here by, say, 8:25 a.m.
8:55 a.m. - Um, yeah. Well, OK, at least I didn't forget anything.
8:57 a.m. - We're filling up at the gas station, and I realize the kids have not hit the potty. The zoo is an hour away.
That math won't work with two 2-year-olds. We go by the house again.
9:05 a.m. - OK now we're on our way.
9:07 a.m. - Forgot juice boxes.
9:35 a.m. - I answer, for the 55th time, that yes, we are, in fact, going to the zoo.
This is one of the hardest things about having this many small kids, and yet it's almost never talked about. Not only do you never really get a break, but when you ARE somewhat at rest, like you're driving, your MIND never, ever rests because it's constantly bombarded with inane questions that you answer over and over and over and over and...get the idea?
10:30 a.m. - We make it to the zoo. I strap on the girls' leashes. Yes, leashes. You try corralling toddler twins and a 4-year-old.
Most of the day is me telling me not climb up on something, for Jayden to come here, not to try to pet the Tiger, please keep their jackets on, quit climbing up on something, please don't get out of the wagon, eat your french fries and to stop climbing on something.
I honestly wish I had more moments where I was just holding their hand or hugging them or laughing at the funny things they say and a lot less moments where I'm being stern. But at their age, and at their numbers, I can either be stern or I can probably leave the zoo with one or maybe two less kids. They prove the law of physics that states a body in motion must remain in motion. Right now honestly it's hard to enjoy them on days like these.
12:05 p.m. - We're eating lunch, and Andie tells me she needs to go potty. The clock is ticking at this point. About three months ago I made the mistake of thinking Andie could wait a few minutes when she told me she had to go at Target, and that few minutes later I was cleaning up a puddle on the floor with some paper towels.
We just went potty, so I've got a little time, but not much. I tell the kids to hurry and eat, and I start to gobble my chicken fingers. Andie grimaces a couple minutes later. I can tell she really needs to go.
We wrap it up, practically sprint to the building next door and hit the bathrooms. Andie makes it. Good girl!
4:10 p.m. - We're home. Time for dinner. They start to play and scream and run around.
5:05 p.m. - We're eating a simple dinner. About three-fourths of the way through, Allie tells me she just pooped (in the potty, at least). This is the third time this weekend I'm getting a meal interrupted for a chance to wipe someone's bottom. This is probably the best example of what it's like to be a parent of three young kids. When I go in the bathroom, the seat is smeared with poop. I'm not sure what Allie was doing. I don't think I want to know.
Here's the other example of what it's like to be a parent of three young kids: It doesn't even bother me. I clean up the poop and wash my hands. Hey, most of it was in the potty. FTW!
6:30 p.m. - After their baths I'm utterly exhausted, both physically and emotionally. This is, ironically, my "rest" day in my marathon training schedule. Long runs are much easier than this. I've still got an hour to go. I have to constantly remind myself not to yell at them or treat them harshly. We're all tired at this point.
8:05 p.m. - Olympics. Rush Poker. And I'm recharging for tomorrow, when I get to do it all again.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Old/Young Man

The world seems to spin a little faster these days.
Subjects from stories I wrote five years ago wave at me, and they look older. My running coach is 57 and beats men half his age, including me, but he doesn't have much hair anymore. I went to get a haircut today, and I think this was the first time I saw more gray hairs than brown or black. 
Most NFL players are considered graybeards at my age (38) or have long since retired with a limp. Most baseball players not on steroids are in severe decline. Playboy won't even consider a playmate my age.
Yet my obsession with age comes at a time when I haven't felt older. I've felt younger. In some ways, I've never felt younger.
Now don't get me wrong. I've noticed the training. The biggest change I've noticed is I can't do anything else that's even remotely taxing to my system. I went to the KU game Wednesday at CU's campus in Boulder, and I got home at 11:30 p.m. I know, right? LATE.
The next morning I was shattered. I could barely function for two hours before lunch. I felt as if I was hungover. Sad to say, I've been to bed before 10 p.m. both Friday and Saturday lately. 
This marathon training is turning me into a senior citizen.
Yet I went 8 miles Friday and for 14 Saturday. I've run more than 13.1 once in my life. I did not go for 8 the day before. But today, Sunday, I not only felt great, I ran a 5K. My legs felt tired in the first mile, and I took it slow - my time was 24:57 - but that was, I have to say, easy. I remember just a few years ago when 24:57 would leave me gasping and wrung out for three days. I wasn't even remotely sore.
It only gets harder from here. I've got a fallback week - in runner speak that means I only have to run 10 for my long run - but this is also the week Kate leaves for Vegas starting Friday, and I'll be raging solo until Monday afternoon. That will be sure to wear me out. I'm also battling a bit of a chest cold that my wife swears might be swine flu (I ain't buying it).
Then I'll be running 16 for my long run the next week, and the miles will only go up from there. I can only hope I stay healthy.
But Monday morning, around 6 a.m., I'll head out the front door to start another training week. I'll start it with a tempo run, though it's really a race, trying to do my part to outrun Father Time.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Something to ponder

Saw my Jayhawks last night at CU's basketball arena. After I sweated out an OT win for the Hawks, I saw members of the basketball band walk away dejected, and it reminded me of my time in KU's basketball band.
Wow. Did I really look that young and geeky then?