Friday, September 25, 2009

The tragedy of the Nipsey Russell

As mentioned previously, the Indiana State Fair had as its theme the “Year of the Tomato” – and naturally, this made the fair the equivalent of Mecca for me. You see, I’m not sure how many of you know this, but being that I’m multi-talented, I’m known far and wide as not only Tasha the TriathlonGoddess, but also Tasha the TomatoVixen. I think there are other nicknames too, but we won’t get into that now.

Suffice it to say, I was in my element. Checking out the tomatoes that were planted all over the place, critiquing the entries for the Canstruction contest, scoffing at the tomatoes entered for judging.

At the same time, I had told Stan about the tomato-tasting contest I was planning to enter at Café Ba-Ba-Reeba later that week. Mickey found out about the contest last year, and was so irate at the fact that the girl who won brought a farmers’ market tomato (!), that she convinced the rest of us Tomatoettes to enter this year. Sadly, my own tomatoes were a bit lackluster, but I was hoping to enter something in the “Celebrity Look-alike” category. But what to enter? Decisions, decisions. I told Stan to be on the lookout for a likely prospect, as my opinion was that the best-tasting and biggest tomatoes for the contest should come from one’s own garden, but the other categories were a free-for-all.

So there we were, strolling the grounds, when we came upon the section where they were actually growing stuff, in a hothouse and outside. This is what’s so great about the Indiana state fair – unlike at Wisconsin’s, where basically all you get are a lot of opportunities to buy a ShamWow, here they have actual crafts, a settlers’ village, old farm equipment, etc. I’m looking at the tomato plants inside the hothouse, mentally comparing them to my own specimens at home, when suddenly I hear Stan’s voice yelling to me from outside, rather urgently, where he’s looking at the rows of plants.

Stan, pointing at something within the plants: Tasha, come quick! NOW! You have to see this!
Me, walking over: What’s u.....oh my god. Oh. My. God. that what I think it is?
Stan, awed: You see it too then.
Me: Well, it’s obvious! I mean hello, what am I, blind?

We both gaze in silence and wonder at what we see before us, nestled carefully within the jungle of tomato plants. It must have gone unnoticed so long due to the leaf cover – what other explanation could there be? Yes folks, it’s a tomato that looks exactly – EXACTLY – like Nipsey Russell. It’s startling, in fact, the resemblance. Who would have thought?

Me: I should take it with me, for the Celebrity tomato contest. I mean, there are billions of tomatoes out here – they won’t miss one.
Stan, solemnly: I think you have to. It would be a shame to come across something like this and not share it with the world.
Me: So true.

So I carefully pick the Nipsey Russell and coddle him through the ensuing monsoons until we go back to the car and the hotel, where he’s gently placed on top of the mini-frig. Then, as we’re watching Letterman, the next miracle occurs. You see, Letterman is doing clips of past guests or stars or something, I’m not sure – I just know that the next thing you know, he’s showing a clip of Nipsey Russell! Yes, I swear this is true. It seemed a true sign from the heavens that this was all meant to be.

The next day, the electronic devices get shunted aside so that Nipsey can travel safely and securely in the car – no sense taking foolish chances at this point. And with the contest looming ahead for that Saturday, I get feverishly to work coming up with a poem that will showcase Nipsey to his advantage – since we all know that Nipsey was known for not just game show appearances but also fine poetry:

The opposite of 'pro' is 'con'
This fact is clearly seen
But if 'progress' means move forward
What does 'Congress' mean?

And so on. I show up at Café Ba-Ba-Reeba that Saturday, Nipsey carefully transported, hopes high among his fans. I check out the competition in the Celebrity category – puh, nothing to speak of. One woman has thrown what looks like a Brillo pad on a tomato and is calling it Julia Child. Please. Could we be any more unoriginal? The bitch who won last year with her farmers’ market tomatoes is back, but luckily she doesn’t win for tastiest, though she does win for biggest. Then, the celebrity judging. I sit with anticipation, waiting to hear my name called. We start a chant: “Nipsey, Nipsey....”

But....what’s this? JULIA CHILD wins??? Oh, the humanity! Apparently arts and crafts are more highly valued than is the idea of true celebrity look-alike-edness. Plus I think the judge had to go with the easy choice rather than the more complex one –such is the nature of such things. Thus thwarted, Nipsey and I leave, with me already thinking about what to enter next year. Not sure yet, but I’m pretty sure a diorama will be involved. Oh yes.

The excellent codicil to all this is that the week after the contest, one of the judges was talking about it on his talk show – Lou Manfredini and his show on WGN radio. And Stan is listening to this as he’s driving, when suddenly he hears Lou mention.......not the best-tasting tomato, or the biggest, or the ugliest, no....but rather the Nipsey Russell! He calls me to tell me this immediately, and I’m now happy, basking in the glory of Nipsey getting the recognition he deserves, albeit a week later, thus lessening the tragedy of his not winning the actual contest. Next year though....

Friday, September 18, 2009

Losing Nemo

Fresh from my victory at the Wisconsin State Fair, it became obvious that I needed to raise the stakes. Up my game, so to speak. Go for the PR. Clearly, state fair-hopping is an integral part of any serious triathlete’s training regimen, what with how it so eloquently mimics any long-course event: being on your feet all day, eating whatever strange food people thrust at you, dealing with the whims of the elements, potentially winning valuable prizes, etc.

So my friend Keith, aka “Stan”, and I decide to head to the Indiana State Fair, which coincidentally has the Year of the Tomato as its theme (more about this aspect in a later post). Of course, I bring Salome along with me, so that when Stan is doing actual work in Indy, I can get some of my usual hardcore training in. We get there, and the next morning after a restful night’s sleep fueled by a hearty meal from Culver’s, I head out to the Monon Trail, which is Indy’s answer to Chicago’s lakefront bike path. For those of you who haven’t been to Indy, that answer is “Screw you, Chicago, ‘cause how much better are we??” Yes, whereas Chicago’s bumpy path has everything from bikers to people on Segways to rickshaw-like contraptions (seriously), leading any traversing of the path to become a near-death experience, the Monon is uncrowded and smooth, pure cycling joy.

Once on the path, I decide it’s a good time to get in some interval training. For those who don’t know, interval training essentially consists of going fast, then slow, then fast again. Some people like to do this by using speed or power readings to measure exertion and effort; me, I prefer a less technical approach, in which I use natural obstacles as my cues. And sure enough, there I am speeding along when obstacle #1 comes along: a serious need for coffee. Therefore, I slow down so I can scout around for a place to stop, and lo and behold, find a cute little bakery, of all things.

A little later, glycogen stores replenished via a chocolate croissant and 2 cups of coffee, I set off again. Blazingly fast, as usual. Then, what’s this? A fruit and veggie stand? See, another interval opportunity. Luckily I had the foresight to bring along a little drawstring backpack, so I buy some tomatoes and peaches and set out again. After passing the State Fairgrounds, I cruise past the murals painted on the nearby buildings, and marvel over the raccoon getting amorous with a watermelon.

Creative people, those Indy-ites. And so it goes, as I take advantage of these built-in features (bakeries, fruit stands, scenic views, pretty rocks, sparkly things, etc.) to get my interval training in, which proves a key point: you don’t need fancy equipment and the like to become a triathlon goddess such as myself.

Later, I meet up with Stan at the hotel, and finally, we head to the fair, which is a marvel of Yankee ingenuity in so many ways, not least of which is its approach to fried food. Deep fried cookie dough? Check. Deep-fried brownies? Yep. Deep-fried-everything-else-you-can-imagine? Absolutely.

As always, I am cognizant of the need to follow a strict athlete’s diet, so after a corndog, the aforementioned cookie dough, some ice cream, flavored milk, and a fried tomato-and-pork sandwich, I was ready for a break. Naturally, we headed to the poultry barn to see the pretty chickens, and then off to the carnival game section, where my athletic abilities come into play. Alas, with the water-gun game, the Carnie (though I have to say, at the IN fair even the carnies look clean-cut) gives Stan the win, since we had him double-fisted with 2 waterguns so that there were enough people to play. It was tough picking out a toy, but then I saw him: NEMO!! Oh boy! Such excitement and rapture! I’ve never been SO HAPPY to win something! Nemo Nemo Nemo! Ah, life is complete when you have a stuffed Nemo. Joy!!

Within about 5 minutes one thing became clear: the fish had to go. I had tucked Nemo under my arm, and every time I turned around to gape at yet another fried-food wonder, his tail would whack someone, causing me to have to use my winsome charm to get myself out of one sticky situation after another. Plus, toting him around was putting a serious cramp in my ability to carry a shakee lemonade (no alcohol at the IN State Fair!) and the bounty of fried food that I felt it was my duty to continue to sample.

So we start looking for a likely urchin to give Nemo to –I decide it has to be an only child, as we don’t want to start Nemo Wars, and there should be unmistakable enthusiasm and adoration of Nemo. How hard could that be, right?

Apparently, very hard. I thought I had a contender early on, as a little girl was walking towards me with her own little Nemo, and I pointed out that I had BIG Nemo, but before I could pawn him off on her, she was walking past, eyes on a corndog or something. Damn. I keep looking. Nada.

Finally, it’s getting late, and we’re headed for the exit to make it out before the rains hit. I’m desperately looking around for a child, any child.

Keith, I mean Stan: “Hey, how about that little girl up ahead of us? She looks like a likely prospect.”

Sweet! There IS a little girl, just her and her parents, and she looks like a potential Nemo-worshipper. I use my considerable core strength and cardio abilities to run up to them, and then come to a screeching halt so that I can walk alongside, swinging Nemo back and forth, dryland training essentially, hopefully in the little girl’s line of vision.

Me, a study in nonchalance: “Yep, just me and Nemo, walking along here, strolling on by.....”

Swing swing swing. I peek over – the parents are looking at me as if I’ve lost my mind, but the little girl is gazing at a firefly or something. Damn. I step it up, swing Nemo more such that his orange-and-white splendor catches the light from the carnival rides. This has to work....

Suddenly, I hear it: that unmistakable squeal a little girl makes when she sees something she wants.

Adorable little girl: “NEMO!!!!”

I pounce.

Me, to ALG: “Nemo? Did you say NEMO? You’re a fan, huh, you like Nemo? How would you like this big Nemo ALL to yourself? How awesome would THAT be?”

Me, to parents, babbling: “My friend won the Nemo playing a game and then we realized we had no idea what to do with him so we’ve been trying to find a small child to give him to but haven’t had any luck so please, take the Nemo, PLEASE, for the love of GOD, TAKE THE DAMN FISH!”

Or something like that. Though believe it or not, in spite of my occasional use of “salty” language, I do try to refrain from swearing in front of the wee ones, so I probably went into Amish mode and used the word “durn” instead: “TAKE THE DURN FISH!”

The handoff worked, and after many thank yous and waves, we went on our merry way, with my last sight of them being the little girl with her chubby little arms wrapped as far around Nemo as she could get them. A beautiful thing.

Of course, shortly thereafter the skies opened up and the monsoons came again, so the parents probably got stuck with lugging a big sodden fish around. But hey, that’s not my problem....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tasha to the rescue

This morning I was pleased and delighted to find the following comment on the blog:

“oh please.......get out and run, swim or wonder you can't improve on your PR. I want trinews not some wimpy story on the dog.”

Now, normally I would dismiss such frippery, thinking “buck up there, kiddo, I won’t always be around to tell you what to do and how to train.” But there was something about this plea, perhaps the hint of sheer desperation, the clear subtext of “please, PLEASE, for the love of god, give us some of your triathlon wisdom to go on! Something, anything! I’ve been sitting around eating Fritos, totally unable to train, because I’m like a babe in the woods without your guidance. Oh PLEASE, save me from myself! We’re dying out here!”

I foolishly thought I had thrown out enough to get you young grasshoppers going on your way towards triathlon independence – what with the Thighmaster 30-day Plan, the pictures on how I have Salome set up with Dino in his aero position on the back, even the nutrition advice, for god’s sake! – but apparently there are some who need to suckle at the teat longer than most. Granted, they’re normally clad in purple and thus have their own coaches advising them on how to walk-stop-obstruct their way to a marathon finish – but for those without that safety net, I will say this: I am here for you.

So from now on, all of my blog entries will be couched in the form of “trinews” – and while you’ll still have to do the work yourself, I’ll strive to give you enough to go on, to haul yourself out of your sloth and ineptitude, to get off the couch BEFORE we have to call Geraldo or Jerry in to cut a hole in the wall to get you out. I know you’re on the edge there, gentle reader, and to this I say: courage. Courage, my friend, help is on the way.

Hockey season - finally!

I go into Starbucks this morning, post-dogpark as usual, and the first thing that Diane says when she sees me is this: “They’re back.....”

I of course immediately knew exactly what she was talking about. Like the swallows to Capistrano, or the sea lions to the SF Bay shores, or lemmings to a cliff, the first harbinger of hockey season finally arriving is when the hockey players start showing up at my local Starbucks.

And I’m not suggesting that we stood around plotting and strategizing while other customers were waiting for their skim mocha lattecinos with a twist. Oh no. And I’m not saying that we discussed how Brent Seabrook usually has a skinny vanilla latte, but before game time ( 2 ½ hours before, not to be too precise or anything) he comes in and gets just a black coffee. Nor am I saying that we discussed ANYTHING at all that involved chairs and duct tape and the concept of “stalling” certain hockey players when they stroll in for their beverages. Nope, never. I’m just sayin’.

Go Blackhawks!

(Though don’t think you’re off the hook – I’m still bitter that to date, NOT ONE PERSON from the Blackhawks organization has replied to my email regarding the Fuck Cancer game. Hmph. So, other than the games that Deanna and I plan to go to and my stalking of players at Starbucks and making sure I’m home so that I can watch the games on tv – I’m totally shunning the Blackhawks. Totally.)

(I'd also like to add that based on the comments from my last post, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with a "What the hell is he into NOW?!" kind of pooch. Though I have to say - JoJo, you win.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sometimes, it hurts to laugh so much

So for some reason I still get Glamour magazine, even though by now I’ve read every article they could ever think of and it’s all just variations on a theme. Still, hope springs eternal that eventually they’ll reveal the secrets to the cosmos or something along those lines. And indeed, what should I spy on the front cover the other day? Yes, an article on the secret to DRASTICALLY reducing your chance of breast cancer! Wee, just what I’ve been waiting for!

Though actually, before I flip to the article, I’m just taking bets with myself. Hmm, what are the chances that the #1 thing they’ll mention is.......exercise?! Unless it’s something completely wacky like heavy doses of the acai berry, which I also hear is the latest chi-chi thing in cancer prevention. Probably why they have it in yogurt, orange juice, and I think even in my Cheez Puffs – which makes them even MORE healthy, if such a thing is even possible.

So, cutting to the chase here, as I’m sure you’re all as eager to hear this revelation as I was. I flip to the relevant page, start reading....drum roll.......#3 on the list is reducing alcohol. When you’re not drinking more, that is, in the case of red wine. Okay, I don’t drink anyway, next! Oh. Don’t smoke. Okay, never did that anyway. #1? Survey says...........exercise! Gee, thanks. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week, or try to average a couple of hours of week over the long term. This is why even my oncologist giggles a bit when we talk about things like this: “Well, one of the best things you can do to prevent a recurrence is to exercise, but (giggle) I guess I don’t have to encourage YOU to exercise, now do I?”

Well, no – training for long-ass triathlons kind of takes care of that.

But the article does say long-term exercise, so one might wonder if I ever did anything before I took up the pursuit of triathlon goddessness. And to that, I’d have to say – not really. I was a bookish child, with a lazy eye (okay, no lazy eye, but I like the way that sounds), so exercise just wasn’t something I did. Lots of lazing about reading Watership Down and other fascinating books, while I wasn’t off spelunking or corn-shucking or partaking in some other odd Midwestern activity, as those of us from this part of the country are wont to do.

In retrospect, I guess I did start taking ballet lessons when I was 3 or 4, followed shortly thereafter by Ukrainian folk dancing lessons. Then within a couple of years, ice skating. So there was all that. In junior high I added track, and rode my bike miles and miles everywhere. College, took up rugby, and still took dance classes every day. Business school, started playing hockey. Then and only then did I start triathloning.

So it’s easy to see why cancer decided to take on my lazy ass, really. As I keep telling myself, I really have to try that whole “exercise” thing they keep talking about, one of these days.

In other random yet exciting news, I got a subpoena today, yay! Yes, soon I’ll get to travel back to the bucolic, semi-peaceful town of Eagle, WI, to testify against batshit-crazy Perp with the renegade pickup truck. Effective immediately, I will begin practicing what I plan to say: “Your honor, dat yoot over there thinks the laws of physics do not apply on HIS stove!” Not sure what that has to do with almost getting plowed over by a runaway truck, but hey, I think I can make it work. I’m just that good. I wonder if it would be frowned upon if I brought by bike up there and just, say, made a day of it?

Friday, September 4, 2009

My million dollar baby – the sequel

Those who knew my last dog Hudson know that he was the light of my life, my sweet little man, my best friend, and I still miss him every day.

He was also about the biggest money pit there could possibly be.

Yes, if there were a way to get into a scrape of some sort or injure himself, he was all over it. Eating tape from a cassette and having it lodge in his intestine, requiring surgery at the circus in Kiev after I managed to get all the necessary drugs and supplies on the black market? Check. Finding whatever sticks are poking out of bushes so he could run into them and injure his eye? Got it. Breaking off part of a marrow bone and having THAT cut his intestine? You betcha. Jumping over a log and tearing his ACL? Of course. Getting bladder cancer that turns out to be treatable, when is usually isn’t, prompting my vet to note that Hudson is on his 10th life? We’re so there.

You get the idea.

Based on the fact that paying for all of this would have bought every cream puff at the WI state fair in any one particular year prompted me to nickname Huddy my Million Dollar Baby. And in case it’s not clear, I didn’t mind the money – I would have paid any amount to keep my little guy healthy and happy. And if there had been treatment options for the cancer that finally got him at 13 ½ years, I would have gladly paid for that too.

Enter The Kone. Perfectly healthy young dog, so I’ve just had to take him for the usual annual shots, check-up, heartworm pills, etc. Okay, and one time for goopy eyes, though that seems to be a kind of chronic thing with him. And okay, I did have my current wonderful vet Dr. Luke at Becker Animal Hospital run a thyroid test on him, to see if a sluggish thyroid could help explain his chunkiness. Because I’m quite sure that the loaves of bread that he steals on a regular basis have absolutely nothing to do with it. Or the petite scone from Starbucks that he gets every morning. It’s truly a puzzle.

Wednesday night I get home from the monthly Tri Club meeting, during which I was on a panel discussing the topic “So you want to do an Ironman. What the hell?” In my usual magnanimous way, I doled out some gems of wisdom regarding training, those that have been key to my triathlon greatness, like sleeping 5 hours or less a night, and ramping up in the week or two before races. The crowd was enthralled. And I had even managed to find a parking spot WITHOUT a meter (who knew they even still existed in the city?), so all in all it was a good night. I get home and am puttering around on the computer, composing my most recent artful letter to the city of Chicago (“Dear Property Tax Assessment Board: In your recent letter, I noticed that, all evidence to the contrary, you seem to think that property values have sharply risen within the last year. Hence I must ask you: are you all on crack?”), when Kona comes tottering up to me, holding up a paw. Lo, what fresh hell is this?

Kona, in his infinite doggy wisdom and dexterity, has somehow managed to get a rawhide stuck on his paw. Yes, a rawhide. On his paw. You see, they sell these twisty spiral rawhides (I think they’re actually tendons of some sort) called Flossies, and the end of one was completely wedged on Kona’s paw, kind of wrapped around the biggest pad. I keep trying to get it off, and he cries and whines and runs, but then comes back to me holding up his paw. And it finally occurs to me, rather incredulously: I need to take Kone to the emergency vet. For a rawhide. Universe, are you kidding me? I wish I had taken a picture of this phenomenon, but when your baby is crying and in pain you don’t really think to grab a camera to document the moment – or at least I didn’t.

So off we go, and $163 and some sedation later (for him, not me), the Kone and I walk out, him lurching around like a drunken sailor, me still just shaking my head. And thinking about the fact that he’s 1 ½, will live another 20 years or so god willing.......and is another little money pit in the making. Sometimes I wonder, how do I get so lucky?

On a separate note, at YSC we lost another young woman to BC yesterday. I didn’t know LisaP, but the loss is still great, and it seemed like a better day than most to finally put the appropriate bumper sticker on my car. Rest in peace, Lisa. Could someone please find a fucking cure already?