Day 105: Week One In the Books

Well, the first of 16 weeks of training is over. Yesterday I dragged myself home after 10 miles, wondering how on earth I’m going to do 12 miles next weekend. Mostly trying to figure out when, since we have tickets to the PA Renaissance Faire for either Saturday or Sunday. We’ll go on the better weather day, though really, we went last year on a misty, light rainy day, and it wasn’t crowded and we had a lot of fun. Something to think about.

As far as the run goes, it took some creativity to complete 10 miles at the farm park. I got to mile 7.5 and had to backtrack through the hospital grounds, but I came in at 10.22 miles. Next week I think I’ll just hit the Schuylkill River Trail, go up 6 miles and then come back 6 miles. Easy peasy, plus I’ll pass the Betzwood Trail Head and refill my water bottle. Water, I’ve come to learn, is absolutely essential for long practice runs. My pint bottle needs to get bigger for the longer runs ahead.

But all in all it felt good. Yesterday after the 10, I kept moving and that helped keep me from stiffening up. This morning I felt fine, but I also let myself sleep a little and I went out to run at 10 a.m. Earlier runs are cooler temperature-wise but this was only 3 miles. “Just 3” felt like a cheat so I didn’t mind doing 3.55. I’ll definitely appreciate them after I’ve done an 18 miler.

Fifteen more weeks to go. It’s funny, I look at the rest days on the schedule and think, “You know, I could just go out and do a few miles.” But I only have 2 running bras. Two consecutive runs means I’m doing laundry again. And again. And again…

So this Saturday (or Sunday) will be the real challenge. Luckily I added a new song to my running playlist. Good pace, the title says it all, and Starz was free for the weekend while “Outlander” premiered so I finally got to see “American Hustle” so I consider the song motivation. 😀

Full Circle

When I was in third grade, I took an aptitude test to see if I’d do well in band.  I passed and chose to learn clarinet, but only because there were no flutes left.  Somewhere in the basement is the clarinet my parents bought for me for $100.  I still have it. 

I played in the school band from  fourth grade through eighth grade.  It doesn’t sound like much on paper but it was five very big years of my life.  The band was a clique all its own.  We even had special classes.  When everyone else took wood shop or home ec, we took typing.  Several times, because it was the only thing we could fit in around our band practice schedule.  It worked out because now I can type 100 words per minute, and for a while there I considered a career as a typing teacher.  We actually had one teacher at IS 61 dedicated just to teaching typing.  These days, that just doesn’t happen, and besides, modern-day kids are practically born knowing how to type.  RIP, Mavis Beacon.

Anyway, band was a big deal then.  We learned the basics with Miss Forsell in fourth grade and Mr. DeTaranto in fifth.  In middle school (aka Intermediate School) we had Mr. Laurenzano, a giant of a man with a booming voice that could span the Grand Canyon.  He scared the crap out of me.  There were actually two bands in middle school; there was concert band (us) and orchestra, which was for the kids who couldn’t cut concert band.  Think “Glee” with instruments.  And we were cool.  To this day I can see Willy Hakim on trumpet, Andrew Terjesen and Dawn Farley on trombone, Robert Powell and William Harding on drums.  There were some flute players too but I never quite got over getting shut out of that and I resented them with all my middle-school fury.  Heck, I had the fingers for it.  I could’ve been great at it. 

There were so many clarinets that we had 3 levels:  first row, second row, and third row.  I was third row, along with Rosemary Moser (my BFF) and Lisa Copeland.  I’ll confess right now, I wasn’t that good at it.  When I practiced at home–and trust me, my mother drilled it into me; I think it had something to do with the $100 they spent on the clarinet which, at the time, was a huge chunk of change–our dog, Shirley, would hide on the back porch and wail in pain for her poor ears.  Our poor neighbors couldn’t get away from it; they got misery in stereo.  I hit “clunkers” all the time in practice.  Play a woodwind instrument and you’ll know that ear-bleeding screech when the air doesn’t quite go in the right way.  I also hit clunkers in practice at school, but I tried my heart out.  

The best times were the concerts.  We’d all get dressed up, and we’d be scared out of our shoes that we’d screw up but we took our places anyway, read the sheet music, followed along when it was someone else’s turn, waited for our chance to play.  Man, we could wail.  We played some tough stuff, too.  Much as I love my son’s school, I’ve heard their middle school band; they struggle to play basic songs, and half the time the beat machine plays more than they do.  Us, we tackled the disco version of “Star Wars”.  We played pop music from our era, not our grandparents’.  But the best of all was Rocky. 

The movie came out in the middle 70’s, when we were in school.  I have no idea how Mr. L got the sheet music but he got it, and we played the sh*t out of it, let me tell you.  To this day, when the movie starts and that music cranks up, I get chills from my scalp to my toes, and my eyes well with tears because that, my friends, was one of the greatest moments in my life, when I belonged to something really, really good.  That was my Glory Days.  The staccato trumpets, the pounding drums, the fire and energy of putting everything we had into making that auditorium ROCK. 

And dammit, we did it. 

Eventually Mr. L realized I wasn’t cutting it and I got moved down to orchestra.  (There was that minor discipline incident where I put cork grease on Lisa Copeland’s chair.)  I hated every minute of orchestra.  We played lame classical music that meant nothing to me, and the teacher was as far opposite of Mr. L as any human being could be.  He was soft-spoken and low on discipline; he couldn’t get the orchestra organized if he used a bull whip, and it showed when we played.  I don’t even remember playing with them onstage.  I think I did, but if I could’ve played clarinet with a paper bag over my head, I would’ve done it.  At that point, I couldn’t get out of middle school fast enough.

I’m 42 and a mom of teenagers now, as you know.  Last night on the drive home from Variety, Alex and I fiddled with my iPod, and I remembered I have my “old” one.  It won’t update any more; it’s got corrupted software or something.  (Use the word “software” to me when I was a band geek and I would’ve given you the same blank look I gave most adults.)  But I figured maybe Alex would want to listen to it; there’s a playlist with songs I know he likes.  He was more than happy to take it, but what surprised me is that of the 900+ songs on it, he found a song on there that really caught his attention.  Last night, before I made him go to bed, he was playing “Gonna Fly Now” from the Rocky soundtrack.  The same song we played in band with the staccato trumpets and the thundering drums and the hard, sharp beats at the end that still raise the hairs on the back of my neck.  The song that still makes me remember how perfect life was when I was 12 and playing clarinet and belonging to something really, really good. 

The funny thing is that he’s playing that song all the time now.  He really likes it.  He even sings it.  I guess he gets that from me.

PS, I’m sitting in the dining room with the windows open as I type this.  It’s a gorgeous early fall evening, and the Eagles, our high school football team, are playing just a few blocks away.  The band is rocking on with “Rock & Roll Part 2”.  I guess they scored.  The Eagles’ band isn’t half bad.  🙂

This sounds a little like us , but this was the one that still gives me chills.  (It was a Rocky Medley we played.)  We had French horns and everything.  We didn’t use violins; our clarinet section played instead of violins, and We.  Were. Good.

5 Favorite Songs on my WIP’s Playlist

You already know how I feel about Bruce Springsteen’s “Working on a Dream” (which I played again this morning).  Here are 5 more I’ve played a lot lately while I’m trying to get a feel for the story.

1.  Joshua Radin, “Brand New Day”.  I “lifted” it from “House” on Monday night; it played at the end of the show and I was at the computer by the commercial break, looking for it.  As it turns out, Fox’s website posts the songs played during the episode.  Mostly not-top-40 stuff but very good.  I like to believe they’re giving new and emerging artists a break.  As far as my WIP is concerned, for Liz it’s a brand new day when she realizes she’s in love with Gabriel.  (I haven’t gotten to that part yet but I’m looking forward to it.) 

2.  Josh Groban, “Ave Maria”.  I can’t put my finger on why this one hit me the way it did.  Maybe it’s because Gabriel is a teacher in a Catholic school, and he’s around nuns most of the day (his “mentor” is Sister Louise, or Lou as he calls her).  That, and I think there’s a spiritual aspect to what he feels for Liz.  Now that I think about it, it’s almost Madonna-like (and I’m not talking about the Madonna with the bleach blonde hair and cone-shaped bustier).

3.  Enrique Iglesias, “Hero”.  Please, this is a romance novel about a guy who writes romance novels.  Tell me that wasn’t a no-brainer. 

4.  Lulu, “To Sir With Love”.  The antagonist is a teenager who’s got an obsessive crush on Gabriel.  Not to mention, we sang this at my high school graduation. 

5.  Van Halen, “Top of the World”.  When Liz is finished restoring her ’69 Chevelle SS, she’s going to take it out on the highway for a spin.  She hadn’t planned on it; her intention is to finish it up and sell it, and then invest the money from the sale in a shop of her own.  But Gabe convinces her to take it out on the road, just once.  She pops a CD in the deck (yes, it’s not factory equipment; so sue me) and this comes on, and with the windows open and the warm summer breeze, and sitting beside a man she trusts, she’s never felt this free.  I got the idea from driving across the PA Turnpike connector bridge on a Friday night, and this came on my stereo as I was at the apex of the bridge.  I.  Loved.  It.  So much so that I wanted Liz to share that experience  with Gabe.  It’s one of her turning points. 

There’s 65 songs on my playlist but I won’t share them all.  Maybe later, after the story is over.  Hopefully by then I’ll be looking around the corner for the next big idea. 

Have a happy weekend!

5 Great Things About Bruce and “Working on a Dream”

Chances are good if you have a pulse, you watched the SuperBowl last night.  (I know some who didn’t; they’re not into sports, period.   That life is as alien to me as cannibalism.)  Hopefully you stuck around through Halftime to watch Bruce Springsteen.  I’ll be honest, I haven’t listened to Bruce in a LONG time; I did as a teenager but over the years I kinda lost my taste for him.  Some of his songs were too down for me, and on occasion it was a little too close to the bone.  That is, until last night.

“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”.  I still have no freaking clue what it’s about but it just sounds so good and rocks so hard that I sang along, dancing on the couch.  What a great way to get the show started.  (It wasn’t lost on me when he slid into the mike stand and the director cut to a different camera.)  It refreshed my memory of what it felt like to be 16 again, cranking up Bruce tunes on the old tinny tape deck in my ’72 Bug or spinning “Born in the USA” on my turntable.  (Yes, I really had one. )  I knew “Glory Days” had to come along but I didn’t know he’d convert it to football.  Way to go, Boss!

Anyway, “Working on a Dream” hit a nerve for me, and here are 5 reasons why:

1.  Just the brief snippet sparked something in my head, and I had it downloaded before the first commercial after the show was over.  Maybe it was a live wire to begin with because I spent the weekend writing nearly 25 single-spaced pages on my latest WIP, but I actually think it had more to do with the fact that the song nailed my heroine’s story directly on the head.  Liz is working on a dream; she’s been working on it since she was 18, and 12 years later she’s about to watch it come true, and it has nothing to do with love.  That’s what she’s all about. 

2.  The song is what I’m all about too.  I came to work today listening to the song for the 3rd time on my iPod because it reinforces what I do every day, between writing and working full-time.  I’m working on my own dream. 

3.  For a little while, I was 16 again, all my dreams ahead of me, all my “glory days” going on around me.  Hearing a new Bruce song tapping into my imagination was just like when “Born in the USA” came out and I learned every word of the lyrics within the first few days because it all meant something to me then.  It still means something to me now.  That’s what makes Bruce so timeless.

4.  A positive message of inspiration.  I needed that.  Some days I forget why I’m doing what I’m doing.  Thanks for the reminder.

5.  The song got me back into Bruce again.  I’m going to go looking for my Greatest Hits CDs (the albums are long gone; pity) and maybe download a few I don’t have.  “Born to Run” will work well into the manuscript when Liz’s dream comes to fruition.  I also have to hear “The Rising” since I know it was played at the inauguration a few weeks ago.  Sure, Bruce has some real downers in his catalog (“The River”; oy) but the uplifting ones really do the job.  And really, it’s all about life and reality and what we’re really dealing with. 

Thank you, Bruce.  That was the best halftime show I’ve ever seen, and they’ll never top it.  Now I’ll go back to working on MY dream.