Tag Archives: New York City

Run for your lives. The enthusiasts are coming.


Picture 2I certainly could be in better shape, I suppose.

If, say, the Head Gladiator were to hand me a scroll and tell me yon Ancient Roman Battle depended on how fast I could run 26 miles from Sparta to Marathon, I’d be looking up at him, skeptically, as I lighted my Marlboro, casually tossing the dead match onto the dirt.

“Yes, really,” he’d say, imperiously to my stunned question. “Our fate lies in the swiftness of your journey.”

“Um,” I’d begin, dragging a toe of these AMAZING silver ballerina flats I just got on sale two weeks ago – comfy AND cute. Not TOO silver, either; they work GREAT with jeans. Which is what I’m usually wearing, making the prospect of a 26-mile run even less appealing, and the idea of a successful 26-mile “Beat the Clock” touchdown? Less and less realistic by the second.

“Um, you want me to RUN?”

 

The Amazing Silver Ballerina Flats

The Amazing Silver Ballerina Flats

“Run, as fleet-footed as the gods permit,” Head Gladiator would intone. (Somehow, I picture him “intoning,” whatever that actually means Like when writers say “he SPAT the words” How does someone “spit” words?)

 

“And you’re not setting, say, DOGS, or dingos, or big cats to CHASE me, right?”

Head Gladiator shakes his head. No,of course not, you’re our last hope.

Me: Big, fat, internal sigh of despair for these metal-plated folk. No chariots? Poor sods. 

“Give it my best shot,” I’d say, but I can imagine the by-standing, iron-masked Roman battalions peeking awkwardly at their leader: Are you kidding? Really, I mean, are you kidding? We’re SO doomed. Get my papyrus, I’m writing my will.

Off I’d saunter, giving them a jog or two, just to show I had the old Roman spirit, but once over the nearest hill, I’d go for that good old New York City fast-paced stride.

That’s about all I’m good for.

That, and stopping to light cigarettes, if the wind from walking makes it too hard to light one on the go. Don’t you HATE it when the lighter keeps going out? Or just lights a tantalizing tip of the cigarette, and you end up hotboxing the filter to try to get the end lit all the way? (It’s always the LITTLE things, like your cigarette won’t light, or you’ll NEVER make it to Marathon in time…)

Today is National Running Day, where all the wonderful winged-heel specimens of superior cardio-vascular good health celebrate their hobby of running without anyone chasing them.

It’s a hobby I do not understand, but fully respect.

Myself? I keep in shape the same way I train my dog. It’s a lifestyle thing.

Instead of carving out precious hours – and spending precious pennies on space-age “wick-away-moisture” fabric that makes people look remarkably like superheroes, except with corporate sponsors – I get exercise every day just as a matter of daily living, to wit:

  • I scrub floors. I learned from my grandmother that this is a stellar exercise for your abs. It’s true. Ever see a 1950s housewife with a tummy? Nope.
  • I live in a four-story house. Stair-stepping? All day, every day. “Mooom?” Three flights, at least, at any given time.
  • I made a deal with myself to stop asking people: “Would you get me that?” I get up and get it myself. In the same way the Twinkies add up, so does the calorie burning. Once you make that one small decision, you’d be amazed at how many times you get up the minute your butt hits a chair.
  • Folding laundry. This builds arm strength, especially if, like me, you have a lot of people in the house, and you let it build up a day or two.
  • Gardening. Pull weeds and tell me YOU haven’t hit your target heart rate when you’re done.
  • Mow the lawn. No, not with the motor kind. The PUSH mower. That’s what I have. Why? My mother always had a gardener, and she insisted on a push mower. “Cuts the grass nicer,” she said. I use one because (a) I’m more familiar with how one works, (b) I could use it unafraid w/ a baby strapped to my front, and (c) it’s greener. No gas. Plus: exercise.
  • Build a patio. I just did. It’s not hard; the people at the local home store will tell you what you need to do. All that lifting builds muscle, and muscle burns fat faster.
  • Get a dog. The best way to instill obedience in a dog is to walk him or her every day; the more you walk him, the better he is. Ever see homeless people with dogs? They’ll sit, patiently waiting for their master outside a convenient store shootout, all because they follow their homeless master, walking with him, all day long. You, in the meantime, get the same benefits as running without all the potential impact injuries.One caveat about the dog: If you have a nice, big black one like mine, it’s kind of nice to feel safe walking him at night. I always know when someone’s up to no good when they ask: “Does he bite?”My stock answer is: “Only when I tell him to.” They usually cross to the other side of the street.
     
  • Park the car far away and walk. The kids hate it, but it’s usually faster, and every little bit helps.

Hey: I’m a size four, but it’s not like I’m naturally skinny. It’s not like I’m even light, as the annoying people who try to pick me up (who picks up an adult, anyway?) find out when they attempt to lift me and discover that I am very muscled, and muscle weighs more than fat.

(One reason those stupidly general BMI index calculators online can be very misleading – they go by weight alone, not by what you look like, or what jeans you fit into.) I’m practically an anvil. Dense as kryptonite, but I personally don’t give a fig anymore what the numbers say.

I could be 300 pounds, and if I can still comfortably zipper myself into my Tahari little black dress, I’m guessing there is NOT going to be a weigh-in at the gala I’m headed for.

I used to be obsessed over the numbers, and carefully watched every morsel that went into mouth – or rather, didn’t. I watched the numbers come creeping down, until my 6 and 9-year-old together weighed more than I did, and could get me into the air on the seesaw.

I fainted, I felt crappy, and I STILL felt fat all the time, and while everyone I knew, and who loved me, kept telling me to eat a sandwich for Heaven’s sweet sake, I denied I had a problem until my doctor finally threatened to put me on Cyprexa – a medication that swells you like a balloon no matter what you eat or don’t eat.

So I started eating again – this time, paying attention to actual portions – not the leviathan proportions they give you in restaurants these days, where one serving would feed my whole family for a dinner and lunch the next day.

And I started MOVING.

So simple, really: eat less, exercise more.

But the hardest thing in the world.

Some people really DO have to make it special: make it a SUPER Special National Running Day. An event, a celebration, an hour or two of their day.

But fitness, like anything else that’s good for you – hey: I’m thinking it should be part of the fabric of your life. Every minute, every day.

Honestly, though – whatever works for YOU. Different strokes, as they say. If you need to run, run.

If you need me to chase you though, you’ll have to wait till I quit the smokes. That’s next on my list.

Speaking of which, any of you runners got a light? Didn’t think so.

Good luck, everybody.

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Blue hair. Big deal.


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Anita Renfroe makes every mother feel normal, and for that, I am absurdly grateful. Her Mom Song, featuring lyrics she’s written, set to the William Tell Overture, is racing around the world via the Internet and YouTube now, with over a million viewers and counting.

When my nine-year-old brought a box of blue hair dye to me in Rite-Aid, I took it from her, looked skeptically at the box, and handed it back to her.

“Put this right back where you found it, darling,” I said. Reaching for the box next to it, I explained: “Your hair is much too dark for this to work. You need to bleach your hair out first. Otherwise the blue won’t show.”

I consider myself a – mostly – typical mother. But later, strolling down 82nd St., she attracted attention. One little girl pointed, and stage whispered, “Mama, that girl has blue hair.

I began to wonder. Who pays attention to anything in New York City?

Blue hair. Big deal. My older daughter, at eleven, sports a rather unnatural shade of red. I’ve been letting them create their own personas since they were old enough to want their own looks.

My nine-year-old still can’t quite match her clothes reliably. Any blue in her closet: print, plaid, Pucci – combines with any other. It’s truly dazzling, but delightful.

It works: she’s always had to beat back the admirers. Not one kid in her class razzed her for the blue do, either.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it occurs to me: there’s no autopilot, but like pregnancy, despite attempts at control, this is a natural process, ongoing before we hopped into the generational stream, continuing long after we jump out.

Take pregnancy: you certainly can’t ignore it. Eat right, keep in shape (wait, hang on, that’s kind of funny), lay off alcohol and caffeine, sleep when you can (until the last furlough when sleep is impossible, because of the torpedo trying to fight its way out), and obsess over your stack of gestational books. (“What To Expect When You’re Carting Around 25 Pounds of A Kicking Stranger.”)

Still, pregnancy marches on; nature takes its course. The laissez-faire pregnant people seem to do just as well as the uptight ones do. Honestly, babies are lucky we’re not in charge of the whole complicated mess.

Same with mothering. We’re sort of wired for it. Anita Renfroe is a writer and comedian – certainly not your average mom – and yet her lyrics resonate with every living mother on the planet, typical or not.

My kids’ dad looked at me last night when I said: “I’m a typical mom,” as though I’d said: “I’m an anteater,” with an indulgent look over the top of his eyeglasses.

“Um,” he started, flailing for tact, “ya think? No.”

Having sworn a vow to avoid “Because I say so,” I have gone to near-ridiculous lengths to explain things to my kids, and to allow them freedom of choice whenever possible. Don’t want the cough medicine? Okay, cough all night. Don’t want the Tylenol? Unless your fever’s out of control, okay – suffer.

But when one of them had pneumonia, and needed antibiotics, I accessed the Internet, a medical encyclopedia and a small sketchbook to show her exactly how the lungs, the alveoli and the bronchioles were filling up with fluid and she would drown in her own mucus if she didn’t cave in and swallow the tasty bubble gum liquid.

Still, I say – more frequently than I care to admit, but hey, if Anita Renfroe can do it, then so can I: “Because I said so, that’s why.”

I have also said: “If Alexis/Rachel/Sierra jumped off the Empire State Building, would you?”

Of course, the response was: “Was she bungee-jumping? Then maybe.”

I have said: “Pick up this pigsty.”

“Don’t give me that face.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to?”

“I said no.”

“Do you know how lucky you are?”

“No one appreciates a darn thing I do around here.”

“Try cleaning toilets, then get back to me about how tough you have it.”

“Of course I’m not your friend. I’m your mother. That’s better.”

“No, you can’t call me Elizabeth.”

I have had that shuddering experience of hearing my own mother’s words come out of my mouth; words I never thought I’d say.

Once, my friend saw me beating potatoes with an electric beater. “No masher?” she said. I showed her my bent masher; she laughed, and exited the kitchen, wine glass in hand.

My mother came into the kitchen next. “Beaters?” she asked, innocently. My entire body stiffened.

“What’s wrong with beaters?” I asked defensively.

Years later, my older daughter, having just learned to scramble eggs, was at the stove.

“You know, you might have better luck with a different spatula,” I suggested.

“What’s wrong with this spatula?” she asked, defensively.

I flashed back to my own mother, and thought of all the words flowing in the generational stream, of the power a mother has over a daughter. Those words we have wired into us, that we pass onto our daughters and sons have enormous power – to hurt, to heal; to encourage or to dismay.

“You know what?” I backpedaled. “Actually, you’re doing great. They smell good – would you mind making some for me?”

She brightened up. “Sure,” she said, with the same excitement you save for a question like, “Want to go to Great Adventure?”

Best breakfast I ever ate. Full of love, life, and the history of a hundred thousand mothers and children.

Thanks, Anita Renfroe, for telling us that story in less than three minutes.

View this delightful video:

The Mom Song.

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The Trouble with Vincent


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Vincent VanGogh's The New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art is not the best place to have an abscess in your mouth, especially if you’re nine years old, and you also have new shoes that are making you have to curl your toes to keep them from pinching.

This is a good thing to keep in mind.

It also doesn’t matter that your mother warned you that new shoes are a terrible idea in New York City; they were SO colorful and pretty you just HAD to wear them.

It also doesn’t matter that you just WOULDN’T bring your jacket, because it was warm when we left. Mom will hand over hers, even though all Mom is wearing is a little black tank top and low-rise jeans that she only just realized barely covers her belly like a teenager’s; she can tell by the little breeze that keeps giving her goose bumps.

Mom is also thinking she is very grateful that since Peter’s been away, she’s lost about ten pounds missing him, or else that belly might be hanging over said blue jeans, making this not only uncomfortable for her, but also for onlooking museum-goers. When Peter comes back, and we all come here together, she will get Peter to hold all the jackets.

Because it will be a cold day in July before Mom lets anybody go anywhere again in new shoes and no jacket, that is for DARN sure.

Still: Mom got to see six Van Gogh paintings in person, and that was worth being cold. Sort of. Considering that Mom lost about 600 calories shivering, and Vincent lost his mind and an ear for the sake of those painting, Mom made out lucky in comparison.

:: – :: – :: – :: – :: – :: – :: – :: – :: – ::

The painting you see pictured is Vincent VanGogh’s Cornfield with Cypress Trees, and it was my favorite of the lot. The reproduction here, like all reproductions of the massively, endlessly reproduced VanGogh images, does scant justice to the painting.

Everyone in the entire universe has seen VanGogh’s work by now, which is interesting, considering the man was considered – and actually, he kind of was – a total flake during his lifetime. He never sold a single painting, although now they’re worth zillions. Not to him, of course. Now he’s dead as a doornail, poor earless thing.

Even now, as talented as he is, if he were someone I knew, he’d probably be one of those friends who, when they call, you kind of go: “Listen, Vincent, I gotta run, can I call you back? No really, this time I WILL call… No, don’t drop by, the kids are… they’re sleeping. Daytime? They’re – they’re napping. No, don’t drop by then, either. Why? Um. Why, that’s a good question. Oh, I’ve got it! Because the principal of their school is coming by, that’s why. Listen, Vincent, can I call you back? I really have to run…”

And you wouldn’t want to even ASK him about his ear. He’d get all started on how in love he was with that girl. He’d go on and on. and you’d be rolling your eyes at whoever was with you in the room…

“Is that Vincent again? Hang UP, for Heaven’s sake!”

You’d be mouthing: “I can’t, I feel SORRY for him…”

Your friend would walk away, shaking his head and muttering.

If you were lucky, though, Vincent would SO appreciate you as his only friend that he’d send you paintings – which, since he was still alive, you would TOTALLY not appreciate. You’d look at the weird, vibrant colors, the thick layers of paint – and like everyone else who saw the radical departure from the sedate, perfect realism of painting back then, you’d force a smile onto your face and say: “Gee, thanks, Vincent, you REALLY shouldn’t have.”

You’d let him sit at your kitchen table and mope, though and probably watch him cry. You’d feed him, because he never had any money. Then, after he overstayed his welcome, you’d send him on his way.

If you were a goofball like me, you’d probably shove the painting into a closet, where one of your kids would decide to “improve it” with crayon or lipstick.

Either that, or your spouse would give it away behind your back to a keener-eyed friend who offered to take it off his hands, even though it meant something to you, because Vincent, as annoying as he could be, was, after all, your pal.

Then, a few years after Vincent died, you’d learn that he was declared a genius, and, thrilled that you had one of his works, you were now set for life, and your kids could go to any college they wanted, you’d go to dig out that painting you’d stored safely in that closet…

Only to find that your husband had sold it to his more savvy friend for a handful of magic beans.

In which case, the only thing to do would be to plant the magic beans, grow the beanstalk, send said husband up after the golden goose, and once said husband is out of sight into the clouds, chop down beanstalk and look for another painter friend.

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