I guess this is marathon week! I just discovered that my friend and colleague Jeff Eades proposed at the end of the New York City marathon! Here’s the site.
I hit a deer last night. Or it hit me, to be more accurate. I had taken White’s ferry across the Potamac, and was driving up Maryland route 109, which is a small back road connecting the ferry to I-70. I was zipping through a particularly lonely patch, with woods on one side close up against the edge of the road, and a cornfield on the other. Instantly, a doe appeared in front of the car.
It’s true that when you’re target shooting, you know whether or not you’re going to hit the bullseye before you’ve finished pulling the trigger, and I think the deer knew that she wasn’t going to make it. Her neck was stretched out and her gaze was fixed on the far side of the road, and then she vanished with two loud “thumps” and I was busy trying to keep the car steady and slow to a stop. There wasn’t a tremendous impact, just the loud noises.
I rolled over to the side of the road and looked at the car. There was deer fur caught in the hood latches and the headlight covers. It was coarse and white, and looked as if it had been trimmed by a barber. The damage to the car wasn’t too bad; the hood was crumpled and the right mirror was hanging by its control cable, but the engine ran fine and I still had one headlight.
I drove back the other way to see if I could find the doe, but she had vanished. I feel really sad about that; I probably didn’t hit her hard enough to kill her outright, but I’m sure she’s an eventual goner. Occasionally, Kate and I will come home to find Squeaky the Cat tormeting a mouse. If the mouse looks like a goner, I’ll quickly finish it off. I don’t feel bad about that; it’s all a part of Life’s Rich Pageant, and I’m doing the mouse a favor. Cars, however, are not a part of nature, not even “nature, red in tooth and claw”, and I feel bad that the deer wasn’t equipped to deal with big beige American things going too fast on back roads.
On a more cheerful note, Avis swapped the car for me without any complaints; in fact, they were very sympathetic. And they all congratulated me on signing up for the Loss & Damage Waiver. Fifteen minutes after arriving, I was driving away in an Oldsmobile Alero with the same CD on the stereo.
The other thing I’m grateful for is that I wasn’t on a motorcycle. I’ve heard lots of stories from Kate’s dad and his motorcycle buddies about deer materializing out of thin air on back roads, and now that I’ve seen it I’ll never top 45 after dusk. Maybe I’ll take Genevieve’s suggestion and switch to an all-Venison diet!
Oh, and I found a use for the 48 Butterfinger bars that were left over from Halloween. I had them in the trunk (to make late-night depradations more difficult), so I gave them to the BWI Airport Avis car cleaning staff. There were five guys, and they were pretty happy about it. One of them had been mugged on the way to work, and he had two fresh cuts on his face. The arrival of an obscene amount of Butterfingers seemed to cheer him up no end, though.
Kind of a weird night, all in all.
On Sunday, Kate and I went to cheer on our friend Meg in the Philadelphia Marathon. When I was a kid, my mom and I used to cheer my dad on in the Boston Marathon; I particularly remember waiting at the top of Heartbreak Hill, watching runners come staggering over the crest looking grim as death. I also remember lots of men in mesh tank tops with Band-aids over their nipples; Kate’s theory is that non-chafing sports-bra technology hadn’t crossed over to men’s athletic clothes yet.
Meg had (very intelligently) spaced her supporters out over the course, giving each team an assigned spot. Since the course is a loop, our spot was mile 17 going one way, and mile 23 going the other. Kate and I were surprised to see how calm and happy everyone looked. Only about every tenth person looked like a Long Distance Android: everyone else looked pretty normal. There were even some guys there with my build, which was pretty insiprational, since guys with my build are more usually seen wearing a toga in 70s movies. We did see some pained expressions, and some steely-eyed limpers hobbling by, determining to crawl the last three miles if they had to. On the whole, however, everyone seemed to be having a good time. Except for the 12-year old kid assigned to rake up the drifts of empty plastic cups from the water station.
Meg (on the right) and her friends had (again, very intelligently) dressed all in pink, so they were easy to spot. And they had “Pink Ladies” written across their backs, so they were big crowd favorites. Meg said that some of the best cheering came from the toughest sections of Manayunk, where the coffee bars haven’t penetrated yet. One lady with two teeth and a flowery mumu was their biggest fan: “Go, Pink Ladies! Go, GO, GO!!! YEAH!!!”
Meg’s chip time was 5:19, which was a 12-minute pace. Her goal was to run between 5:00 and 5:30 for her first marathon, and she did it! Congratulations!
Kate and I attend Downingtown Friends’ Meeting, somewhat sporadically. Both our families have roots there, Kate’s more than mine — her Thomas ancestors were the first to get married in the building. My best Quaker ancestor was thrown out of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for shipping “Quaker guns” on his China trader. That is to say, he mounted wooden replica cannon in his ship which could be run out to scare off privateers. Later, the boat was commandeered by the American navy, pressed into service, and sunk by the British. Reparation came many years later, by which time the value had deflated enough so that the settlement was sufficient to buy a silver soup tureen. Everyone was irredeemably Episcopal by then.
Anyhow, the third Sunday of every month, meeting is held at the Old Caln meetinghouse. The building is very old — even the grafitti scratched into the benches is in flowing script. Fran Brown (in the picture above, with Kate and his wife Enid) organizes volunteers to take care of the building. There’s no electric light in the old stone building, and there aren’t any cushions on the benches. There’s a big woodburning stove in the center of the small room, which Fran lights early in the morning. This Sunday, with the rain dripping off the roof and the logs ticking in the stove, it was a wonderful place to be.
The Quakers are pretty aggressive about keeping things simple, but Fran recently discovered a 1905 picture of the interior of the meetinghouse, with (gasp!) draw curtains on the windows and (double gasp!) carpet on the floors. So the Caln committee may unbend enough to permit cushions on the seats.
Kate’s selling her Erg: Link to the eBay auction page!
Lah-di-dah-di, lah-di-dah-di, off the hook is how I party!
The past two weeks, I’ve been driving from West Chester down to Herndon, VA a lot. It’s turning into a rhythm: wheels turning at 6AM, turn on Y100’s morning show until they fade out at the Maryland border, catch the traffic reports to see whether to risk the 95/495 Beltway route, or take the safer 695/70/15 end run around Frederick, MD.
The traffic reports make it clear that Baltimore and Washington are a single metropolitan area, in a way that NYC and Boston aren’t. 695 and 495 are the ends of the barbell, and 95 connects the two ends with a turgid mass of bumper-to-bumper traffic. Traffic reports aren’t for the uninitiated, because (I assume) if they had to explain everything to you the report would take an hour. “28 is backed up from Whitemarsh to the JFX, take 1 instead unless you’re left handed, ’cause we all know what that means.” I don’t know what that means, so I’ve been avoiding things by turning west at the slightest hint of trouble. And I spend a lot of time listening to the radio.
The radio is much funnier in the Baltimore/Washington metro area than it is in Philly, New York, or Boston. My favorite right now is the Russ Parr Morning Show Featuring Olivia Fox which doesn’t follow the standard mold of “let’s look up the stories on Yahoo! ‘Oddly enough‘ and make dumb jokes about it. Okay, actually that’s exactly their mold, but they do a much better job of it. I snarfed my coffee yesterday when Russ imitated a beagle getting molested. A beagle getting molested is easy to do, you see, but it’s hard to do well.
Last week, I tried to call into the show for the “white people check-in”, a Wednesday morning feature, (“Hello, caller, how are you? That’s peachy!”) but their phone screener, the “Black Panther Princess”, accused me of faking — I sounded “too white” to her. When I told her I lived in Philly, she said that everyone from Philly is black, told me to work on my imitation, and hung up.
Anyhow, the hip-hop radio stations in Baltimore are much better — newer music, funnier DJs, more enthusiastic callers-in — than the, uh… white people stations, I guess. Viz.: the difference between the “Smoking Stops Here” ads played in Maryland. “Pajama Jammy Jam” is aired on 92Q (“Bangin’ B-more with hip-hop and R&B!”) “Rocktoberfest“, aired on HFS (alternative rock).
See what I mean? HOLLER!
If you’re reading this, go check out the thing I’m working on:
The estimable Will Ronco has risen to the challenge, telling me how much energy is contained in my 66 Butterfinger bars left over from Halloween:
I’ve got some preliminary info about those candy bars (you didn’t think i’d let a challenge like that pass unanswered did you?)
anyway, given the 17,820 kcals in your remaining candy bars, you could boil almost 59 gallons of room temperature water:
17820*1000=17,820,000 calories = 17,820,000 cubic centimeters of water whose temperature can be raised one degree
room temperature=20 degrees c
boiling pt.=100 degrees c
17,820,000 / 80 = 222,750 cubic centimeters of water whose temperature can be raised 80 degrees
222,750 cc / 3785 cc per gallon = 58.8 gallons
Will’s sister Amy Smith developed a Phase-Change Incubator that developing countries can use to perform temperature-controlled water tests without any electric equipment at all. So Will’s family is obviously the authority on how to harness this wasted power.
After several back-to-back brutal experiences on 495, I started taking the back way to Herndon, VA. Rural Maryland is beautiful, especially now that the leaves are turning, and route 70 from Baltimore to Frederick is a pretty fast ride.
I’ve been listening to the radio a lot more, of course, since I get in about 12-20 hours of driving a week. I’ve been splitting my time evenly between the sleepy-voiced Christian exegete who sounds just like Ben Stein (“Beuller? …Beuller?”) and hip-hop radio stations. First hour Washington, second hour Baltimore, third hour Philly’s Power 99 (and vice versa.) Missy Elliot customizes her songs for every market.
Washington: “Cap 93 can flip it and reverse it/All the other stations, they just worthless”
Baltimore: “Jammy 95 can flip it and reverse it/All the other stations, they just worthless”
Philadelphia: “Power 99 can flip it and reverse it/All the other stations, they just worthless”
Boundless enthusiasm, and where it gets ya.
The award I’m proudest of winning in life is the “Most Enthusiastic” pin at Church Farm School Summer Day Camp, when I was 11 years old. I agree with Nietzsche in two things: 1) How you approach life determines, to a great extent, what your experience of life will be, and 2) If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth going totally overboard on.
On the whole, I’m pretty satisfied with excessive enthusiasm as a life philosophy, but it kind of backfired this Halloween. I went to stock up on Halloween candy at Croppers’ market in nearby Downingtown: since I had described the amount to be purchased as “obscene”, I tried hard to live up to it. Croppers is next door to Home Depot, and occupies the same amount of square footage, so it lent itself to obscenity*.
I ended up buying twelve six-packs of full-size Butterfinger candy bars, which made a pleasing cubical shape (see “before”, on the left.) That’s a total of 72 bars, or 19,440 calories.
<Unfortunately, we only got six trick-or-treaters at our house. I had envisioned a Halloween like the ones I remember, where the suburban streets looked like Grand Central station with bulging pillowcases everywhere. Our street is in a corner of the borough, though, and there are only a couple of kids on the street. So, we got the following:
- Three football players in helmet, pads and jerseys
- One Harry Potter
- One ninja
- One adorable flying one-eyed, one-horned spotted purple people eater (age: about six years.)
It was very satisfying to uncork the full-sized candy bar as a treat: “Wow!” said the kids, making me feel like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack when he stuffs the hundred-dollar bills into the valet’s shirt pocket (“Park my car… Get my bags… and put on some weight, will ya?”), but I only got rid of a tithe of Mount Butterfinger. Screw you, Nietzsche! What the hell am I supposed to do with 66 full-size Butterfinger bars?
* Once, leading a junior high school scavenger hunt for FOCUS, I decided that the final item to discover would be a baby-blue 50-pound inert bombshell, filled with candy. The thing about a dummy practice bomb is that, when it’s marked 50 pounds, that means that it can accept 50 pounds of sand or water through the access hatch. I blew FOCUS’s activity budget for like, five years to fill the bomb with 50 pounds of candy. So I have some experience in the obscene-candy-shopping area. Those were some WIRED 7th-graders.