July 1, 2009

On My Block (the Laurel Street Remix)

One of the better ideas Joe and I have had on our lunch breaks was a Laurel Street version of Scarface's 'My Block'. Now that I've been on the street for exactly one year, I finally had enough material to put a ditty together. You have to know the song to get it, though.

♫ ♫ Since last July it's been the same ol' thing on my block
You're either out on bail or a young professional on my block
Friends in SUVs "have to be fucking crazy" to park on my block
Bedraggled moms ask for bread on my block
Multigrain or white? They'll take whatever you got

On my block
Where half-way and century homes co-exist
My block
The 'I need two dollars' guy is usually pissed
My block
There's a rotten old creek with shopping carts in it
On my block

♫ ♫  Weekday mornings it's the same ol' thing on my block
I walk to work while people work to walk on my block
Last night's blood in their veins, but they're up early to hustle my block
Ducks cross the road; I hope they're not breakfast on my block
It's the start of another day on Laurel, whether its residents like it or not

On my block
Where Winnebagoes hide from the cops
My block
Cabbies talk of a brothel where you can get whatever you want
My block
A hairy man leers out a window that never shuts
On my block

♫ ♫ Every weekend it's the same ol' thing on my block
Profane lovers' quarrels spill onto the streets of my block
'Jerome' yells "Fuck welfare!" as his girlfriend kicks him off of my block
Someone jumps out a third-floor window and the cops are back on my block
Some of them wave to me now because they're here a lot

On my block
The men are usually shirtless
My block
There's a free bottle return service
My block
But strangely I no longer get nervous
On my block

June 22, 2009

Lame point-form update

What I’ve been up to in the past month or so since I last posted:

- Helping my dad and step-mom move. In all fairness, this is what started my online exile, being stuck out in Balitmore with no Internet access for a week. With my sister’s help we pitched out 5,000 pounds of refuse, salvaging some important family photos and heirlooms along the way (notably my father’s 40-year-old Finnish cross-country skis). While it was sad to say goodbye to Baltimore after 17 years, I look forward to visiting the new place – a quaint little house on the outskirts of Cobourg.

- Reuniting. Mike Brown came back from Sierra Leone, so we saw fit to spend the better part of an entire weekend catching up over tomfoolery. Then all the old Cord guys got together and we had our fourth annual Guys’ Day, complete with 16 oz burgers, a mini-keg of Red Baron and road hockey. Highlight of the summer so far.

- Getting ridiculously excited about South Africa. The guidebook I ordered arrived last week, coinciding with the start of the Confererations Cup – the warm-up tournament held in the World Cup host country one year prior to the real thing. Between reading about 3-day wilderness treks through Kruger National Park and witnessing the atmosphere in the stadiums, I’m beginning to think this might actually be worth travelling across the world for. Now if only I could find one more person who agreed with me… (see previous post)

May 21, 2009

Wanted: one World Cup travel partner

This past weekend I had a ridiculously good time in Toronto with Mike Li, an old friend from Laurier, and his roommate Jane. Though significantly hindered by tomfoolery, we started planning our trip to Southern Africa next year.

There’s the Kalahari Desert, wine tours on the Cape, Table Mountain, cage diving with Great Whites, Kruger National Park, beaches on the Indian Ocean, the Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls – and, of course, the small matter of attending multiple World Cup games.

With all of that on the table, combined with the complications of traveling to/within South Africa, it’s good that I have faith in Mike and Jane as travel partners. The only problem is that I need to find a companion of my own to occupy my extra seat at the games (Mike and Jane have their own tickets to the same games I do).

As such, I have thought up some criteria that will hopefully help me identify and rate potential candidates. If you think you’re up to it, don’t hesitate to let me know – this is going to take some serious planning and I’d like to know who I’m going with as soon as possible.

Anyway here’s what I’m looking for, in order of importance:

1) Someone with the time and money.
I’d like to be in-country for the entire tournament, which runs from June 11 - July 11. Including travel time to/from South Africa, the total trip would last close to five weeks, and cost $5,000 at the very least. Obviously without the potential cash and vacation time (which is all I have at this point), coming along is a non-starter.

2) A seasoned and adventurous traveller.
A very close second to having the time and money is your attitude towards travel. South Africa isn’t a Caribbean all-inclusive or backpacking through Western Europe; it’s going to be intense, exhausting and dangerous, and I need to trust that who I’m going with can handle that. At the same time, I’m not going half-way around the world to be overly cautious – you should also be willing to take calculated risks in the name of experiencing something truly unique.

3) A passing interest in soccer and Africa.
I don’t expect you to be as football- and Africa-obsessed as myself, but I don’t want to spend the month explaining the Offside Rule and the history of South Africa (I couldn’t do the latter very well anyway). A general sense of curiosity about the two is enough, as this is clearly the least important qualification – I’m sure spending thousands of dollars can generate a passing interest quite quickly.

(Photo credit: Cape Town's Table Mountain, courtesy of Wikipedia)

May 15, 2009

Happy (very belated) Mother's Day

For the fourth year running, a brief phone call had to suffice to wish my mom a happy Mother's Day in Mozambique. With the annoying 'speaking via satellite' delay and egregious price of international long distance calls, the conversation was typically short and not always to the point.

There once was a time when this wouldn’t have bothered me at all. My mother’s evangelism, if not shared, can be incredibly alienating in large doses. But surprisingly, after picking up and moving to Southern Africa to be at the centre of a worldwide Christian revival, her outward expressions of faith have moderated to a point where we can have a mostly rational discussion about our lives, God included. Clearly, our relationship has improved as a result.

On the phone last week, I actually would have loved to hear more about the work she’s been doing since returning to Pemba in March. Every year, she seems to take on a new role on her project – an outpost of Iris Ministries – and with each passing year she gets assigned to something that seems more ill-suited to her skill-set as a health care professional and evangelical missionary.

When I visited the project in 2007, she was designing the first phase of public health improvements to her ‘base’ – the centre where over 500 orphans, missionaries and students live and work on a daily basis. While she knew nothing about building latrines, her project management skills had the task completed on time and under budget. This landed her the unenviable position of being in charge of constructing an underground septic system for the entire base in 2008.

Though nominally related to public health and stopping the spread of cholera (which invades the base every rainy season), to see pictures of my mother in a hard-hat and steel-toed boots, standing proudly in front of what amounts to a massive concrete shithole, was illuminating.

And she was so good at rooting out corruption and eliminating waste in that project that, this year, they’ve put her in charge of the notoriously corrupt kitchen (though thinking back to my mom’s equally notorious cooking when I was growing up, it may also become infamous for the food).

But in all seriousness, this Mother’s Day I was happy just to have the opportunity to tell her that I’m incredibly proud and supportive of her mission – and that’s not something I’ve been able to say until recently. But I’ve seen the difference she’s made and how hard she’s worked to answer her calling. Whatever our theological differences, I’ll always admire her for that.

May 6, 2009

The last self-indulgent running post for a while

In case you haven't inferred as much already, my lack of post-marathon posts has been caused by my re-discovery of pre-marathon life. Concerts, Stag n' Does, baseball and throwing myself into an online conference at work have taken the place of my former training regimen.

For the first week, at least, getting reacquainted with my old friend Excess was an exciting novelty. I could barely locomote for the first few days after the race, so plunking down in front of the TV with a pile of Red Barons and the vape seemed like the natural thing to do. The thought of running anytime soon was laughable when I could barely get out of a chair unassisted.

Then my first non-training weekend: a whirlwind of partying in Elmira, watching my beloved Barcelona demolish Real Madrid to clinch the Liga title, gorging on lamb chops and finally replacing my fat clothes with more size-appropriate garments.

But with my lower-body pain subsiding and gorgeous spring weather outside, I was desperate for a light jog on Sunday. And I probably would have if it were not for my equally desperate need for new running shoes. But the price tag on a new pair of Saucony Hurricane XI's is prohibitive - close to $200 after tax.

I went for a walk - to the office, sadly - instead. It was what I imagine a shot of methadone feels like to a heroin-addled junkie.

By Tuesday, I was getting seriously restless. Cooped up for two days in the stuffy e-Conference 'nerve centre' (a meeting room at CIGI where we're running the event from), all it took was a light baseball practice to push me over the edge into full-blown endorphin withdrawl.

In an excercise reminiscent of the Bad Old Days when I'd cave and hit up a convenience store for a pack of smokes on my walk home from work, I marched into the Running Room and was home with a new pair of Hurricane's within 15 minutes. As quickly as I could lace them up, throw on my gear and get out the door, I was back pounding the pavement for gloriously liberating 10k.

Having no schedule or set distance, I could go anywhere I wanted at whatever pace I felt like. For the vehicularly challenged such as myself, new running shoes are the only thing I'll be taking for a joyride anytime soon, so I generally ran my guts out to see how the shoes and my body would react. Some very minor pain in my right leg was easily overshadowed by the temporary satisfaction of my new (and much healthier) insatiable addiction.

April 27, 2009

Marathon by the numbers

4:21:57.3 - time in hours, minutes and seconds it took to cover the 42.3km

>1000 - kilometres run in training

35 - pounds lost in the process

300 - dollars raised in support of St. John's Ambulance

51 - minutes it took to run an overzealous first 10k

12 - kilometres into the race when I hit the first 'wall'

3 - times I broke down and cried during kilometres 39 through 42

7 - senior citizens that breezed by me

71 - songs listened to on iPod during the race

2600 - approximate calories burned

81 - runners who finished ahead of me

35 - runners who finished behind me

12 - bottles of beers consumed post-race (estimated)

26 - days until I'm 'allowed' to run again

.009 - percentage of general population that have run a marathon

April 23, 2009

Lifelong dream, here I come

Dear Brandon Currie,

Further to your application for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ Tickets, your Ticket request has been entered into the Random Selection Draw and processed by the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Ticketing Centre (the “FWCTC”).

We are delighted to inform you that the Tickets shown below (and also as reflected within your FIFA.com customer account) have now been reserved by the FWCTC for your exclusive benefit:

Match 9 - E1 v E2 - 14 June, Johannesburg 13.30 (2 tickets)
Match 23 - C1 v C3 - 18 June, Cape Town 20.30
(2 tickets)
Match 35 - B2 v B3 - 22 June, Durban 20.30
(2 tickets)

April 22, 2009

Wind at my back

Tonight was my last run before the race. There must be something to this 'tapering' business as I absolutely devoured the 10km.

The weather was crap, but it didn't matter - the wind always seemed to be at my back. Even the normally annoying traffic lights conspired in my favour as I glided through every intersection without having to break stride. I caught myself singing k-os' 'Follow Me' out loud as I came down the homestretch of my route, pleasantly surprised I had enough breath to bleat out the chorus in the midst of running five-minute kilometres.

As I reluctantly slowed down to a stop, I got the amazing (and rare) feeling that caused me to want to run a marathon in the first place - simply that, if I had enough flat road laid out before me, I could just go on running forever. Your legs, lungs and heart don't even matter any more. The energy of your being is an unstoppable force moving in a forward direction, and only your mind can limit how far that momentum can carry you.

Suffice to say, I'm as sure as I've ever been that I'm ready for this. That, or the latest New Balance ads have got me so amped I'm going to have an out of body experience on Sunday.

April 21, 2009

The longest job I've ever had (since high school)!

As you might have noticed, I like milestones. Well today I thought up another one - it's been exactly a year since I started at CIGI. Provided I go to work tomorrow, it will be longest job I've had since high school (with everything since being year-long contact positions).

It's been a good year, too. From baseball (obviously pictured above) to interviewing some interesting people
and now getting to design an e-Conference, it's been an enriching experience. And in this economy, engaged and sustained employment is something to be commemorated.

April 13, 2009

I'm peaking?!

I completed the last of my tortuously long Sunday runs yesterday. I feel less bad than I have some other Mondays - including one when I could barely walk to work - but even still, I have shooting pains in both legs, an aversion to anything resembling stairs and a trademark limp that I'd like to coin Runner's Hobble.

Yet my running Bible says this is me in peak fitness; I now have to 'taper' my training program to less than half its previous intensity so I'm rested for race day. Apparently:

A good taper will make you feel like a horse in the gaits at the start of the Belmont... It is the feeling of peak fitness; use it to your advantage.

Wow, I feel sorry for those horses. Admittedly, I'm only in day one of the taper, but I hope this isn't what peak fitness feels (or looks) like. My body and I still have a long way to go after this race is over.