Big things

This month, I ran a marathon and saw my little girl turn 2. How’s your October been?

I told Mrs. Blocletters recently that I still can’t believe I can run 26.2 miles. I find it surreal. Four years ago this fall, I hadn’t run longer than a half mile. Now, I’m a marathoner three times over and counting. Not trying to brag, but I have trouble believing it myself.

Also in the disbelief department, our girl is 2. How does time travel so fast?

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Girlie, on the warming table minutes after she joined the family.

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Girlie, a few days ago, dressed up as an ice cream cone for a Halloween event. She won a little trophy for funniest costume.

At 2, she:

  • Responds to most directions with “No!”
  • Still isn’t fully potty trained, but whatever.
  • Loves to sing and generally make noise.
  • Likes swings. A lot. And slides.
  • Could probably watch YouTube videos for hours.
  • Has only broken 1 iPad.
  • Has a bigger vocabulary and more sass than I would have thought.

My wife and I are truly blessed to have such a bright young lady in our lives.

Back to running, I have no idea yet about a next goal. I know I want to keep running marathons, and expect to do at least two in 2012.

The biggest goal for next year: run without injury. I got over that pesky stress fracture in time to race Detroit, but a week later have an unexplained pain running through the top back of my left leg. No idea. I don’t think it’s running related. I just woke up a week after the race with an odd pain. It didn’t bother me to run with it Sunday (5 miles, 8-minute pace), but it does hurt like hell to bend at the waist.

Meh, walk it off.

Aside from marathons, I’m intrigued by ultramarathons and triathlons. Running marathons has left me wondering what else is possible with this body of mine, and amazed at potential I didn’t know was there until I looked.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying what life holds, from family to fatherhood to running to whatever. Thanks for reading.

Cat called out

I got cat-called about six miles into a nine-mile run yesterday. A quick whistle, followed by an “Ooh, baby!” slipped out of the window of a passing car as I plodded down Coolidge.

Surely, the outburst must have come from a sarcastic place. When it’s 80 degrees, I run with my shirt off — baring my pale, skinny, sweaty glory to the world. I doubt I’m impressing anyone. But, if it was earnest … um, thanks.

Guys don’t wear “outfits”

Occasionally, I get into a mood where I shift from jeans and T-shirts to slacks and button-ups. Jeans, to me, wear more comfortably than anything but my own skin. If I have a dressing fault, over-wearing jeans may be it.

One day last week, I stepped it up a bit, though not much: cream-colored linen slacks and a striped polo. On the way out the door, Mrs. Blocletters says, “I really like that outfit on you.”

Outfit? I had to reminder her (again): Guys just throw on some clothes; they don’t have “outfits.”

I offer as evidence the number of times I’ve gotten dressed for this or that event, only to hear, “You’re not actually going to wear that, are you?” Or, my personal favorite: “What made you think those match?”

Breaking the Man Rules

Don’t touch another man in a public restroom. It doesn’t even have to be said.

The men’s room at the Dubliner in Tampa ranks low on the square-footage scale. Think of a box with half of it walled off into a stall. A urinal and a sink snug themselves into the other half. When I walk in, both facilities are occupied. I pause near the sink.

The man at the urinal finishes. He turns around, and I attempt to edge around him. As I pass, he taps me on the elbow.

“All yours bud,” he says, before pulling the door open and leaving without washing his hands.

Okay. Backup. Let’s review the facts. He has his back to me. I have no idea which hand he uses to handle his affairs. He finishes, and touches me on my elbow.

I proceed to my aim, thankful for the long sleeves on my shirt. Man Rule: Never make physical contact with another man in the bathroom.

Manliness mocked

I just returned from the St. Petersburg Main Library empty handed. I didn’t have the identification to get a library card. They require, in lieu of a properly addressed drivers’ license, a utility bill or lease, and silly me just took a paycheck and two other bills addressed to me.

Anyhow, something I saw there bothered me, and I wanted to vent. Thumbing through the newspapers, I found a copy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from this week. The centerpiece focused on the Little League World series.

(I would link to the article, but that’s a seperate rant. “Please tell us a little about yourself,” my butt. They could’ve gotten some ads in front of me – and whoever followed the link, but they chose to pry into my privacy and farm for my email address.)

The main photograph was a close-up of the face of a young Columbus, Ga., player. He was crying. It moved me, no doubt. It told the story of Columbus’ loss to a Japanese team. Fine. But was it really necessary? I’m not so sure.

I lay out pages for a living. I see a lot of photos, and this one had a candid power to it. But, as a designer, I might have tried to put myself in the cleats of this young man. How do you think his friends treated him after thousands of copies of him “fighting back tears,” as the caption put it, circulated. Do you think his friends consoled him? I doubt it. More likely, he got clowned. Big time.

Whether it’s right or not, tears equate with weakness for men. That’s just the way it is. I pity this young man, who was publicly humiliated at an age when kids are just learning what being a young man means.

Wait, it gets worse. The AJC, no doubt thinking it clever, put that quote from Tom Hanks’ character in A League of Their Own in prominent type about the photo.

“There’s no crying in baseball.”

I really can’t think of a more insensitive thing the newspaper could have done to this kid. He’s shattered after having lost a series that obviously meant the world to him. In his lowest depths of disappointment, they snap his photograph. Then, they top it with a snarky, taunting quote about crying from a movie about girls playing baseball, and print 300,000 copies for posterity.

How, as an 11- or 12-year-old boy, would you feel?

Men, believe it or not, are sensitive creatures. Their fragile, stoic façade means the world to them, and that should be respected.

Boy crisis

I’ve been thinking a lot about the current Esquire issue on the state of the American male, in particular Tom Chiarella’s piece “The Problem With Boys“. He posits that school dropout rates (for both high school and college), low reading rates and high suicide rates among young American men belie a crisis. This generation, and possibly the next, have issues.

People disagree, but I see an iota of truth. I can’t speak to the dropout or suicide rates, but the reading deficit struck me as true (and addressing a reading deficit might dent the dropout rates).

Chiarella relates a story about a boy he knows shrugging at having to read Jane Eyre for a school assignment. I would too. It reminded me of when I shrugged off The Scarlet Letter in 9th grade. Boring! I read three pages, and put it down with glazed eyes. It didn’t matter to me that I got an “F” on the assignment. Books about nuanced interpersonal relationships numbed me to tears in school, and still do for the most part. That’s not to say that I don’t read books. I still read more than your average American (okay, that’s not saying much). But, as in movies, this boy finds more interest in action-packed subject matter.

I chewed through Macbeth. I devoured Beowulf. I must’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy three times between ages 12 and 16 — without being prompted by a school assignment. All have carnage or swords or fights or whatever. All still rank high among great literature.

The women’s movement added value to America, as it tends to for the economies and societies of countries that embrace women as equals. That movement fostered the idea that, ultimately, women are no different from men in capability. In theory and practice, that’s true. A woman could rise to the presidency

Macho expressionism

One aspect of American* culture that constantly amuses – and occasionally frightens – me is the macho display.

I draw a special smirk when the display in question seems utterly pointless. For example, take automotive detailing. The prevalence of such items as spinning rims and boastful decals illustrates my point.

Don’t even get me started on those &%@/^# rims. But, I wanted to touch on decals for a moment.

Driving to the laundromat today, I got behind a blue Ford F-250 with “Big Daddy Romance” announced in script-type decals on the rear window. Impressed? I know I am.

Last summer, on the boulevard running through town, a low-end monster-wheeled pickup followed me for a stretch. The decal emblazoning the top of the front window read “My Dick’s Enormous,” backwards so it couldn’t be missed in the rearview mirror. I don’t know about you, but that’s the first thing I want to know about people tailgating me.

What causes these vulgar displays? They’re not meant ironically, are they? What goes on in the mind of a man who’d put phallic boasts on his pick-up truck? Aren’t the four-foot high tires enough?

Mankind may never fully appreciate the humor and paradox of the actions of man. These questions may never have answers

* I say “Americans” from my own frame of reference; these types of displays likely outstrip borders and ethnicities.