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And I’ll Bet He Doesn’t Even Wash His Hands

I’ve been running from the new building for about a year now and things are mostly the same. The scenery is different but the battle is the same: convenience of lunchtime miles vs. coworkers seeing my bare legs. I keep my head down a lot. If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.

My new building is nestled inside a knot of hilly, narrow, curvy roads. Thick Pennsylvania woods crowd thin shoulders and sightlines vanish as soon as they appear. If your car breaks down, your only option is to leave it there and wait for someone to smash into it. When coworkers ask how I can run on these roads I casually raise my eyebrows and shrug. It makes me look cool and masks my fear of getting killed, be it by a distracted motorist or a wayward bear.

There’s a college about a mile away with a couple stress-free campus roads and I was excited about the possibility of lunchtime speedwork on the track. The roads and paths are a welcome change of pace from the surrounding streets but, although they have a track team, the college has no track. Things aren’t perfect.

The new building does have a huge advantage over the old building, however – the fitness center and locker room. I don’t use the fitness center, on account of how lame it is, but I was thrilled to trade in my handicapped stall for the elbow room and appropriateness of a bona-fide locker room. When I sit down to put on my shoes, or hang up my pants in a locker, I can almost forget about the time I returned to the old building after a run to find a running toilet and a quarter inch of water on the bathroom floor.

The locker room has showers as well, which is great because when people see me running at lunch they assume I take a shower afterward. I don’t. After stretching in front of a fan for five minutes, I’m pretty much good to go. Also, I’d rather squeeze in two extra miles at lunch than squeeze into a shower stall that the hairy guy from logistics just dripped out of.

So I’ve settled into a tired routine, which is my favorite kind. I dart down to the locker room to change a little before noon so I can slip out of the lobby before the lunchtime crowd leaves the building. I can easily bang out 6-7 miles before the lunchers get back, and then stretch and change and be back at my desk in an amount of time bordering on reasonable. This is how I live my life. It’s always the same.

And then it all changed.

A month ago I walked into the locker room and saw a sign:

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What kind of a jerk puts trash in a urinal?

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Oh, it’s probably the same kind of jerk who puts urine in a trashcan.

You don’t see a sign like that without immediately visualizing a grown man urinating into a trashcan. If you then head out for an easy 6, you’ll pretty much visualize it again and again during that, too. The worst part was that I likely knew the guy who was doing it. At the very least I must have seen him around. But then I got hung up wondering if I would have preferred that it was a stranger. It would certainly be worse if, for example, a homeless guy was sneaking in and peeing in the trash. Wouldn’t it? It was a long 6.

I was back a couple days later for another lunchtime run and paused for a moment outside the door, hoping the sign would be gone. It wasn’t. It stared blankly at me while I walked past as if to say, “I might have pee in me right now.”

The sign began to haunt me. Everyone was a suspect – other men in the fitness center, men sitting across the table from me in a meeting, the guy who kind of hops when he walks. The only place I felt safe was in the bathroom because, you know, he wouldn’t be in there. One day I was alone in the locker room and a guy I’d never met or even seen before walked in and boomed “All right! This party’s gettin’ started!” which, aside from being a totally fucking creepy thing to say when you walk in on a stranger getting changed, made me immediately wonder, “like, a peeing in the trash party?”

Time passed.

Now, a month later, the sign is still there so it must keep happening. To be honest, I hardly notice it anymore, which is kind of a relief but also kind of awful. What kind of life am I living where regular workplace trashcan urination is no longer noteworthy? Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and the more I think about it, the more I want to pee in that trashcan.

It must be incredible. Otherwise, why would someone do it? And then do it again and again? What am I missing out on? Also, let’s be honest… they’re kind of asking for it. The sign looks more and more like a dare every day and the trashcan is right there at pee level. I wouldn’t even have to stand on my tiptoes. God, it must be so great.

Furthermore, there’s little chance I’d get caught; the other guy’s already on their radar. He’s who they’re looking for. Even if I got caught in the act, I’m sure I could talk my way out of it. No, no, no… look, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not that guy. Okay, okay. Yes, I pissed in the trashcan. But I’m not the guy who’s BEEN pissing in the trashcan; I just did it this one time. Look, I don’t piss in trashcans; that’s the other guy. See?

Yesterday the sign was gone. Just like that. No fanfare, no “Thanks for putting it in the toilet, guys!” It was like no one had ever looked at that trashcan and thought, “Well, here we go.” I was never going to actually pee in the trash, but at least now I know that nobody else is having all kinds of fun while I pee in the toilet like a sucker.

Girls Rule, and Pink Hearts and Glitter

My new running buddy and I headed to the track on Saturday morning for a workout of uncertain length and intensity. The weather was breezy and delightful. Since I had no idea how far she would run, the track was ideal; regardless of when we stopped we’d be no farther than 200 meters from the car.

We arrived at noon.

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Back at the house, Little Bacon spent several minutes carefully selecting her running clothes and insisted on approving my own outfit before we got into the car.  Her hair was well thought out.  Mine was recently slept upon.

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“Which lane do you want to run in?”
“You run in six, I’ll run in seven. GO!

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Remember the last time you had this much fun on the track?

 

 
Sorry, that was a trick question. Nobody has ever had this much fun on the track.

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The first time around, I pointed out and explained what the different lines meant. The second time around, naturally, we raced.

Lining up for a 200:

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Taking the lead in a 200, which is easy to do when you start in Lane 5 and finish in Lane 4:

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Her perfect form is equal parts preternatural talent and hysterical bliss. It works.

“What’s this one for, Dad?”

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“A 300. That’s three quarters the way around the track. … Because the whole thing is 400, so if the whole way around is 400 then what’s three quarters of…”
“Okay, GO!”

She had migrated in to Lane 2 by the time we got around to the finish. I finished in Lane 4, as directed.

We lined up again.

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“Baby, wait. That’s the finish line. You wouldn’t line up there like that. If you want to run a 400 you have to – do you see the next line up there around the curve? That would be for a 400, which, like I said is one time all the way around. Well, it’s one time around if you’re in Lane 1. That’s why the line is up there, because it’s longer if you run on the outside of a curve. But you’re not in Lane 1 so…”

“GO!”

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Zoom.

When I run myself to exhaustion on the track, which happens just about every time I’m there, I still have a mile and a half run back to the house. When five year-old Bacon gets exhausted on the track, she gets picked up and carried to the car.

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At the beginning I was keeping count of how many laps we did but started to lose track with all the racing (I think we did 6 or 7).  Even though I lost every race, I still had more in the tank at the end.  Plus, she cheated a little.  So there.

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Begins and Ends with Blueberries

A good rainbow lunch begins and ends with the blueberries. They’re only good for a few months and what else are you going to use for blue? Reds are easy – strawberries and raspberries travel well and are fine even in January. In a pinch, you could go slumming and pack an apple. Orange? Carrots or clementines. Please. And so forth.

A summertime rainbow lunch is a slam dunk; you can spend an hour outside and come home with this:

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Those are the best blueberries you’ll ever eat.

I’ve given up on wintertime rainbow lunches. February blueberries just can’t be trusted and I’ve spent five dollars on a tiny container of Chilean blueberry garbage one too many times. But I’ve been having a tough time lately and figured that a week of rainbow lunches might be just what I need. So last weekend I swallowed my pride and decided to give it another try.

Timber came on the radio while we were driving to Whole Foods and I had to listen to it, again, because my kids adore both Pitbull and Ke$ha, a nonsensical love I attribute to their underdeveloped brains. It’s science. Timber is a bit of an intellectual stretch for an eight and five year-old – probing complex themes such as taking shots and twerking in one’s bra and thong – but they’re bananas for it, in spite of good taste and common decency.

When a song comes on the radio that they like, one or both of them will immediately mumble “yuh” which means I am not to change the channel. A “nuh” is my cue to search for a better song. Despite the fact that it is impossible to differentiate a “yuh” from a “nuh” in a moving car, I’ve managed to compile a mental catalog of the terrible songs they prefer. They happily listen in silence while my aging accelerates and I undergo the joyfulness of fatherhood.

This time, however, the song had hardly begun before a rhythmic and melodic accompaniment sputtered forward from the back seat in the form of snapping and whistling, “talents” that my children have just discovered. The one that can snap can’t keep a beat and the one that can whistle can’t really whistle. It was breathtakingly awful. I dreamt of rainbow lunches, transcended the din, and aimed the car at Whole Foods.

We walked in and the kids skittered through the produce maze trying every free sample they could get their hands on while I gathered my weekly fruits and vegetables. I decided to save the blueberries for last. I knew in my soul they would suck, but guessed that an additional five minutes of hope might be the difference between taking it like a man and sobbing gently into my hands. One of these days, it’s all going to come crashing down.

I was bagging apples when the eight year-old appeared in front of me with manic pleading eyes and fiercely pursed lips. He was anxiously pointing at his cheek. “Mwmwmmmh!”

A free sample mishap. His sister will eat literally anything – we’ve taken her out for sushi – but he’s afraid to try a cheeseburger. I was surprised, and a little impressed, that he would have tried something that he wasn’t sure he’d like. There was precious little time for pride, however, since his maw was filling with saliva and he was turning green.

“Just swallow it, dude. You’ve got to swallow it.” There’s no way he’s going to throw up in Whole Foods.

“Nnh unh. Uh cahn whallow uht.” His words jostled the contents of his mouth out of equilibrium just enough to make him gag. Dominos began to fall. He heaved and made a sickening, blurpy retching sound with his throat. Shit. He’s going to throw up in Whole Foods.

Time slowed and I discovered myself ill-equipped to handle the situation. I looked around for a trash can or a discreet place for a hysterical eight year-old to eject the contents of his mouth, but only saw heaps of shiny produce and judgmental ladies in pretentious leggings.

In moments like this some parents will hold out their palms for the child to spit into, in an act of what I can only imagine is grim resignation. I can’t imagine ever doing this; nothing could possibly suck more. Rock bottom is having a human spit masticated food onto your body. I’ve resigned to a lot in life, but I know where I stand. I looked into his eyes and took a step back. Here we go.

And then he was gasping for air! In the midst of my introspective panic he must have swallowed it!

“You okay, buddy? What did you eat?” He led me over to a Plexiglas orb of cheese cubes. I read the card. “Cave Aged Gruyere??”

“I think that’s the kind of cheese cave men ate” he whimpered with tears in his eyes.

We doubled back for the blueberries and I grabbed a container without even looking at them. I felt invincible. Surviving an ordeal like that gives one the confidence to manage even the softest, lamest blueberries. The boy cleansed his palate with a plain tortilla chip on the way out. The five year-old was snacking on polenta.

That night I assembled my lunch:

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A good rainbow lunch can really turn around your day. At the very least, it gives you something to do for an hour at work. If at all possible, I try to eat my rainbow lunches in private. If I have to eat at my desk, I try to hide it from coworkers and passersby. What is it about a three-pound rainbow lunch that invites so many questions? And why does every single answer make me sound like a psychopath?

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, the order in which you eat a rainbow lunch is important. No, you cannot eat it in rainbow order. It all hinges on the blueberries. In the summer, you can eat them any time – they’re that good – but in the winter they usually taste like smush, so you can’t eat them after something flashy like strawberries or grapes. You’ve got to eat carrots or green beans first to sadden your palate.

After the main course (sandwiches, pea soup, whatever) I start with the banana. Nothing else makes sense. Then green beans followed by the blueberries. I eat the carrots before the strawberries, but you could just as easily reverse them. I never do. Grapes are last. Well, last before the yogurt, granola bar and something crunchy (Goldfish crackers or pretzels).

Today’s rainbow lunch was: uneventful. The beans weren’t as good as they looked. The blueberries were lenient and tasted cloudy.

Timber came on while I was driving the five year-old home from school today. We listened to it, again, but when it was over she sighed, “I’m getting kind of sick of that song.” Now, apparently, she likes that Are You Going to Stay the Night song, with the “come pour yourself all over me” part. It came on immediately after Timber and she gleefully wheezed along on a harmonica she found on the seat while my eyeball backs began to cook. Goddamn Chilean blueberries.

It’s Come to This

I know a lot of you have it worse, but this morning in BaconLand it was 8 degrees with 15 mph winds out of the northwest. It was bad enough that there was a Weather Advisory on the internet last night, something about wind chills and exposed flesh, and it quickly whipped my anxiety into a lather. Admittedly, that isn’t terribly difficult to do, but it did seem pretty serious – there was a lot of red text. Also, I really wanted to run this morning.

On the menu for today was a long hill run (a hard run up a 3-mile hill). I have a pretty good hill right by the house and ordinarily would simply set the alarm for something that starts with a 4 and get it done. But… exposed flesh and wind chills (11 below, or whatever). The solution, of course, would have been to do it on the treadmill at lunch. Treadmills are perfect for long hill runs; they’re great at it. But… I kind of somehow managed to get myself wrangled into a sociable lunch with a coworker today. She even sent me an invite in Outlook. People are the worst.

So it had to be outside. In the past I’ve experimented with wearing clear sunglasses on windy mornings to protect my eyes, but if it’s really cold, like Weather Advisory cold, the lenses fog up immediately and then the fog freezes, leaving the lenses clouded with ice. I guess it’s better than nothing, but I’m not sure how.

I had no choice but to mope around last night, grumbling about frozen fog and exposed skin. I finally decided that I’d bite the bullet and just go out anyway, even though there was a decent chance that my eyeballs would freeze in their sockets. I imagined the cold gradually infecting my brain and guts and freezing my body from the inside out. I’d resigned myself to an agonizing crystalline death halfway up a 3-mile hill when Mrs. Bacon piped up, “You could wear ski goggles. Ski goggles won’t fog up.”

Ski goggles?? Ridiculous.

But then again, it would be dark. And ski goggles solve both the exposed skin and death by frozen eyeballs problems. Oh what the hell, how much craziness could ski goggles possibly add at this point? I’m in.

The alarm went off at 4 something this morning and I tiptoed down the stairs to suit up.

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I think we can all agree that Mrs. B hit this one out of the park. I might be biased, but I believe this is the coolest anyone has ever looked. I could wrestle a bear on the moon in this getup.

I couldn’t have been more comfortable as I began running up the street. I could feel the wind against my body but wasn’t cold at all. There wasn’t a square millimeter of exposed skin on my body, and my eyeballs and cheeks were perfectly toasty. I coasted down to the bottom of my hill and then turned around to charge back up.

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It was a challenging run. The entire climb was into the wind and it didn’t help that the air I was breathing behind my facemask was recirculated and oxygen-depleted. But I wasn’t cold at all. In fact, I could have probably worn a short sleeved base layer under my jacket; obviously my warm face top was making my arms hot.

I was right around a 7:40 pace the whole way up, which is as fast as I’ve ever run this route. It was the goggles, you guys. Well, the goggles on top of my inherent magnificence.

Epilogue, one hour post-run

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Little Bacon absolutely killed the game she was playing on Club Penguin here.  I solved the polar vortex.