Sue and I got up Saturday morning and ran thirty minutes with some hill strides at the end. Despite the strain of moving this week, my body did not feel terrible. That meant the Sycamore Pumpkin Run 10k was not out of the question on Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day for running at fifty-two degrees and a fresh wind out of the Northeast. Sue threw on her kitten cap from the Catwoman outfit she wore for Halloween (meoowwww…) and her sister Julie borrowed some bunny ears from Sue’s daughter and we were ready to go. I also painted their faces to match their respective costumes. They made a pretty cute pair.
The Sycamore Pumpkin Run goes back quite a ways in my personal history. I placed second in 1984 at 32:24 and there were several other top five ot ten finishes if I recall correctly. But that was years ago. So the experience of running the race these days is considerably different. At 7:20 pace I could see the lead police car with its flashing lights rolling along through two miles. Somewhere ahead the leader was taking the pace out to finish at 35:00 and the victory. So it’s some small solace that in my younger days I could easily have won the thing.
That’s been the case every time in recent years. Gone are the days when I ran 32:30 and placed ninth in a crowded sub-elite field. It hurt back then but now it feels like a salve.
I even ran faster last year, managing a 42:00 10K on 10-15 miles per week. This year I’ve run a bit more, but the last three weeks have all been about moving homes. The only running I did last week was between the dumpster bags and the house. And that felt good, because it kept me sane. But I finished in 47:00 flat. 7:30 pace. Not too bad.
Because moving is a crazy thing in many respects. In my case, it was the equivalent of having my life flash before my eyes. The pace at which I was making decisions on keepsakes and junk was like watching one of those old cartoons where the characters flash in and out of view. Everything takes on a herky-jerky quality with memories alternating in color and black and white. Then it all got surreal by Friday morning when I was so tired I could barely function. Y
et there were blessings mixed in with the curse of the time crunch and closing date. I’d filled four Waste Management Bagsters and was desperate to have them moved on Friday morning. I called the company and literally begged them to guarantee a pickup. But the service people held to company policy and could only tell me that I was on their schedule.
So imagine the relief when I came up the side street and saw the WM Bagster truck pulling away at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. I said a little prayer of thanks and proceeded to the house. Nature called thanks to the thick draft of Coke I’d quaffed to wake up. My body kicked into gear and a quick trip to the bathroom was in order. Then it was time to pack and toss for another two hours.
At 8:00 a.m, I heard some footsteps creaking on the floor upstairs. I called out “Helloooo!” and then heard a door slam shut. When I went upstairs, no one was around or waiting in the yard. It would not have been entirely unexpected. All week I’d been collaborating with a series of metal pickers who stopped by my house every day to carry away all sorts of objects that could be recycled. I’d taken their cell phone numbers and even hired a man named Flavio to help with some hauling in his truck.
But there was no one there. Just a slight rise in the wind as the day broke. So I went back to work loading up cans to take to the Ace Hardware for recycling.
When it came time to leave, I went into the house to grab my computer bag and it was nowhere to be found. It struck me that someone could have entered the house and stolen the bag. But who? In any case, I called the police and filed a report. I was a mess of torn emotions. All my writing and work is on the laptop I use for work. And now it was gone.
Life has its scary moments and this was one of the worst as far as modern terrors go. I’d already had one laptop stolen two years ago and it’s not a fun experience. All that personal data and possibility of identity theft makes a nightmare of unknown consequences. The world is full of scary clowns who are all too happy to turn your world inside out just because they can. What felt really terrible was that the police asked me to consider who might have had knowledge of my computer bag in the first place. I was forced to consider whether my newfound metal-picking friends had possibly betrayed me.
Fortunately, my nightmare turned out to be only a twisted daydream. Because that morning when I’d rushed into the house to use the bathroom, I’d sat down and sloughed the computer bag off my shoulder behind the toilet. That was exactly where I discovered it later that morning when I returned to the house after the trip to Ace and used the bathroom again. The relief in finding that computer was immense. I bent over the sink and cried a little.
So the scary clown of theft and loss and stolen identity was averted for the moment. All that remained were the challenges of time and deadlines to meet. A Permission Agreement had been granted that gave me time to finish off cleaning out the house by 5:00 p.m. Friday. Otherwise, there were serious costs to be incurred.
That was fair because some things in life are absolute. Taking possession of a house is a right granted by its purchase. I’d missed one deadline thanks to the fact that twenty years of accumulated stuff is a tough job to tackle. I’d have s0me help along the way, but many of the decisions had to be mine, and mine alone, lest something of great value be thrown away.
I wanted to avoid tossing things that might have meaning to my two children. As it turned out, a set of photo albums was buried deep in a downstairs closet. It contained pictures of my late wife that my son and daughter had never seen. Most were from a time period that my wife largely avoided in discussion with her kids. Her “party years” you might say, but the photos were precious and I handed the album along to my daughter.
For me, the balance of clearing out a home in which I’d lived so long was both a wrench and a relief. It was like Nightmare Before Christmas in which the world turns inside out in real time.
Flavio to the rescue
I finished the job at exactly 3:00 p.m. Friday thanks to assistance from a guy named Flavio, one of the metal pickers to whom I took a liking. He came by with his tools to disassemble an old stove that was lurking like an evil thug in my basement. It was still hooked up to the gas line as it had been since I don’t know when. The stove was there when I moved in, and it was too big to haul up the stairs intact without taking off railings and doors, so the Junk Genie guys waved their hands at that one.
But Flavio tore up that stove in twenty minutes. We carried it out in parts laughing at the miracle of practicality. I paid Flavio $40 for his help and he gets to recycle the metal on top of that.
And now the move is done. So it felt good to turn my attention to something a bit less daunting like running a 10K race on a semi-sunny morning in late October.
The Clown Factor
So we showed up at the race and wouldn’t you know it? One of our close triathlon friends, Maxine Franck-Palmer, was dressed up as a Scary Clown. It was all too fitting, you might say, for her to lampoon the fears life can throw at you. In fact, she haunted the whole race, photobombing selfies and generally having a disturbingly fun time. She’s a great runner of her own accord who decided to give over her own performance to provide a bit of Halloween spookiness.
There was a time when clowns were considered counterculture reflections of life. There were happy clowns and sad clowns, colorful clowns and mimes on streetcorners. But then it was discovered that a few clowns had a very dark side to them. These clowns turned the entire clowning world upside down, and Lord knows they did it to the max. We learned that some people hide perversions or murderous intents behind the clown outfit, and scary clowns became a “thing” that the public embraced because it was too true. Some clowns are just scary.
So it was with that bit of twisted joy that Max roamed the race and haunted post-race activities with her colorful costume and crazy clown makeup. It was all in good fun. Or bad fun. Whatever. It seemed to fit somehow, and I used my phone to record a video of Max tossing a muscle roller given out by the physical therapy people. But the video is so disturbing I don’t want to leave you with that image in mind. The world has enough haunting specters of people with bright hair and garishness. Some of them are even running for office. Let’s hope we can avoid some of these scary clowns together, and the people that support them as well. Because they’re just as crazed and scary as Max in her garish gear.