It's Gettin' Hectic - Gang Starr
Yesterday I mapped out my course in a foreign land. Albany, New York. I'm here visiting my folks. This means I spend my days grazing lazily on whatever is in the refrigerator and chatting about odd popular culture facts from 1983. Things like Family Ties come up or constant quoting of John Hughes films ricochet around the kitchen, tried and true family bonding around the television we all watched together. Sometimes we even discuss the good old days of the Steelers, before free agency and expansion morphed the league forever. I digress. Here we speak of running.
Well, after boarding the redeye in San Francisco on Friday night, and after a nine hour day at work, I dozed on two flights, even though I treated myself to a soy latte in Detroit at Starbucks, the Green Beacon. I never go to that place unless I'm traveling during which the ubiquitous logo transforms itself from an eye roll to a ray of hope for me, a green beacon along lonely stretches of highway and beckoning on long moving walkways in terminals. Nonetheless, I fell right the hell back to sleep as soon as the wheels left the ground in Detroit. I figured after so much success with unconsciousness in flight, I would arrive at the homestead, do some power joshing with the folks and then have a small nap. I would awake refreshed and don my sausage attire in time for a long run and then a shower before dinner.
Of course, my subconscious understanding that I was on vacation took over and my power nap stretched its arms into a four hour stint and left me barely enough time to hose down before dinner. My brother and I plowed through a small mountain of sushi and no running was had. Sigh. So I forced myself to turn in at nine, which is only 6pm California time, thinking I might be in a little trouble what with all the sleeping I had already done. But the great beyond has gifted me with a few Very Important Skills, and sleeping through anything is one of them. I put in another eight hours on the pillow, not to brag, and hauled it out at 5:30 am, on to my normal schedule and ready to rock.
I mapped out a ten mile-ish route and hit the road. Something about running a route I've never run before is more psychologically draining than the training I have been doing at home around the marathon course. I have no landmarks to picture, no visual cues to provide comfort. I simply have the meditations and pace-counting tricks with me. And also, I have no bathrooms memorized. Now, did I mention my Dad made me a cup of coffee before I set out? Well, he did. This was so nice. Also it was strong.
Do you feel a sense of impending doom?
Off we go then.
The weather here is gorgeous. The clouds are of the cotton candy variety, huge puffy hunks peppering a clear aquamarine ocean of space above. The trees are springtime lush after rains and flowers are screaming all over the pace like unruly children. Lilacs, roses, lilies... the air is alive with amazing scents and landscaped yards show off at every street corner. I particularly love looking at the brick houses, as earthquake land doesn't showcase a whole lot of the architecture I grew up with. Something about being here, even though this has never been my hometown, provides a kind of joy, I guess is the feeling. Is it joy? It's a quiet thing, but bright. Whatever it is.
Meanwhile, I have no idea about anything on my route like I do at home. I've been doggedly staking out the marathon course and while doing so have made strides in memorizing friendly bathroom stops, drinking fountains, and combination locks for various Green Beacon loos throughout the city. Not here. All I know is that after 4.5 miles, I will come upon a hospital on my left, Albany Medical Center. It has become clear that this will be imperative to my well being. Imperative.
Hark!!! Yonder lies the clinic of angels and indoor plumbing! Somehow in this economy, the hospital has secured funding and is under a great deal of construction. So much, in fact, it takes me a little while to find the side entrance to the emergency wing. Once I am through the door I am met with not the hullabaloo of an emergency unit, but silence. Because I am not in a position to care, I wander off in search of a women's room which is, but by the grace of the goddess, right in front of me! And by a cruel twist of fate, it's locked. I try to turn it a few more times out of a dull sense of denial and of course the onset of panic does nothing to help my state. When I turn to exit the ghostly expanse into the morning in order to seek out more promising and populated fare, the door through which I came has now closed in a way matching that of the bathroom. I begin to hum Hotel California just to retain a link to my sense of the absurd while simultaneously wondering if all the sweat in my soaked bandana is simply the sweat of a slowly jogging middle aged lesbian, or if now it includes the universal sweat of elimination desperation. And ultimately, who cares?
So I focus my energy on solving my problem. A little further along the deserted wing, I stumble upon an elevator instructing me to follow it to the third floor where I will be able to to connect to the "A" wing of the hospital. The doors slide open into yet another deserted section of offices, the entryway bearing a plaque from roughly 1942. "Anesthesiology". It occurs to me that maybe some of the interns have been dipping their pens in the company ink and perhaps everyone is sleeping. Regardless, I find the bathroom, it's open, it's so deeply empty and peaceful that my experience is truly all that it can be. Triumph!!!
And now I cannot find my way out.
I wander around and around seeking the infamous "A" wing the sign spoke of, a girl in a soaked pink bandana, head to tow black spandex, red-faced and disheveled. Eventually I spy an obscure ramp down into a dark place with a tiny sign for the "A"wing. Poor advertising to no one, from a wing of nowhere. I emerge into a bustle of a massive laboratory. Huge. Every color scrubs and a legion of masks parading around in a hurry measuring blood and pathology samples and what not. No one seems to notice me at all, which in Albany is a minor miracle. The grocery store is an exercise in zoology for me in which I am gaped at like a rare marmoset, kind of friendly and cute, but curious and belonging in a cage. Arms covered in tattoos, even the palm of my hand, the folks here aren't quite used to the ink volume, while in San Francisco, I look like a Gap ad, but pudgier. Here at Albany Med, the patients should know: you are getting your money's worth. The people backstage are hard at work, crunching numbers from glass slide results and spinning bodily fluids. You are in good hands.
Finally I stop a woman in her tracks and ask how to get out. She is sporting a pink flowered shirt and solid blue pants pulling the highlights out of the flower pattern. She stop to focus on me, a stranger in a strange land and her face goes sideways. The way Gus knocks his neck to the side when I propose something he doesn't understand. Aha. She's got me registered.
And finally, I am sent out the front of the building, another labyrinth journey through hallways and past single minded medical professionals working long hours in a poorly lit structure. I emerge into the sun, a sad lady sitting on the grass crying into a cell phone. She tries to smile at me in my weird look. I smile back and begin the run home, retracing steps now a little more familiar. It's nice to have everything work out.
And a second cautionary bathroom tale of the running woman.
Maybe I should cut out the coffee in the morning?