Working class boys dreaming of girls from faraway points

Whenever I hear Further Seems Forever’s wistful “Snowbirds and Townies”, it reminds me of the time I spent in Boca Raton, Florida. It’s funny how a song can remind you of a moment in the past, even if that song was written long after the event. The song evokes strong memories for me because the band is from Boca Raton and also the lyrics remind me of people from Florida. I remember the winters when all the snowbirds from points North would arrive and all the sudden everything was crowded from the resturaunts to the roads. I remember the “bridges, and traffic, and inlets, are locked in their fight.” I remember the “townies,” those people who lived in Florida year-round. I remember people in Florida forming brief romances with visiting snowbirds, only to part ways as they returned home.

When I went to work for IBM in Florida for the first time after my freshman year of college, I arrived neither a “townie”, nor a “snowbird.” I was there in the dead heat of summer, when most snowbirds had fled home and when Boca Raton became a sleepy retirement community again. Tying this all back to my posts about dating, I had no interest in starting any short-lived, soon-to-be long distance relationships with any Florida girls. After the end of my last relationship, I was just fine with being single for a while. In fact, after the way things ended, I had boldly declared that I was done with high school girls for good. We all know what happens when I make bold statements, right?

In 1994, I had e-mail, but most of my friends did not. Long-distance phone calls were still relatively expensive. So, exiled from most of the people I knew back in Atlanta, I did what people used to do before all this technology to keep in touch. I wrote letters. Many of my friends were gracious enough to write back and I got all sorts of great mail during the summer, which was a great encouragement when I felt lonely. (I roomed with two of my fraternity brothers during this summer, which was great, because I had friends to do stuff with and talk to, but we were all heading in three different directions in our lives and sometimes it was hard to all be on the same page.) One girl in particular, entering her senior year at my old high school, wrote me the most often. The more letters I got, more I thought, “uh oh, I think someone has a crush on me.” I had no idea what to do, because this was definitely new territory for me. My suspicisions were confirmed when she call me and caught me by surprise by asking me to her high school homecoming dance. Like the arrogant, “educated” college person I was, I politely said no! I was done with high school and it was time to put that part of my life to rest. I wonder if that only made her more determined.

I grew up a little in Florida, having to live on my own with no parents and no dorms. My car broke down while I was there, and I had no one but myself to figure out how to find a mechanic and get it repaired. I learned a lot about being self-sufficent. So, the hot, tropic summer wound down to a close and I returned back to Georgia Tech for my second year of college The headlights of snowbirds filled the freeway in the opposite direction as I left the townies and as I headed back the thought in my mind was “what happens now?” I thought I had closed the door on dating anyone from high school, but someone had managed to wedge her foot into the door before I slammed it shut. All I could think of was “…better things. Like winter flings. And longing after spring has sprung.”

Sleepers Awake

In a week where I have essentially worked 10 and 11 hour days each day, I have mostly been in a daze the whole week. When I get home, my brain is already used up from staring at code for far too long, and I haven’t been able to much other than sit on the couch and zone out. All sorts of things have happened around me, but I’ve been too numb to react. The whole week seems like one long smudge on my calendar.

Well, the time for that has come and gone. I can’t afford to sit on the couch and let the television suck my brain out one more day. It’s time to address the world that’s proceeded without me. There is a house to be cleaned. There is a trail waiting to be run on again. A yard to be landscaped. Plans to be made for upcoming events. Business to be taken care of. A wife’s feet to be swept off the ground.

The time for slumber has come and gone. The morning has come and there is work to do.

The Achilles Heel

In one moment, my biggest weakness with women had been exposed. I snapped at a girl and made her cry. You see, I have a temper, and a bad one. People who don’t know me well may not know this about me and be surprised. People who know me very well know this, and know it all too well. It’s all well and good to snap at a guy, because a couple hours later you can say, “hey man, I was a jerk. Sorry about that” and y’all are cool and can go to a baseball game, work on a car, drink a beer or whatever. You can’t do that with a girl. If you snap at her, she will cry and she will remember it forever. Any chances you had with her are sunk. Time and time again, this has torpedoed my relationships with girls and amazingly, it has not chased off Adriene yet.

So it was in the nebulous non-relationship that I had with this girl my freshman year of college. The funny thing is that everything seemed to be going so well. We had gone on a couple dates and had a good time and there was no pressure for commitment or obligation yet. As a part of our “deal”, she had gone with me to my fratnernity formal and so now I was obligated to go to her high school prom, which was fine by me. A couple weeks before the dance, I was having a conversation with my old friend Ashley Smith, who I’ve mentioned here before, and she said she was looking for a prom date as well. Since she went to a different school and the dance was on a different night, I told her I would take her if she was unsuccessful in finding a date (I was a “backup plan” if you will) After re-assuring my friend David that was not trying to make a move on his ex-girlfriend, I was now set for two proms in two weekends. Boy, did I think I was the ladies’ man.

The dance with Ashley had a humorous twist because I would be doubling with the girl that she had set me up with earlier in high school. Even better, she would be going with a good friend of mine. This all sounds like it would be awkward, but it wasn’t. We had a great time. At the end of the night, we all went back to Ashley’s house where we watched movies until late in the night when we all fell asleep on the floor. I remember waking up in the morning and the first thing I saw was this same girl that I had gone on a blind date with some several months ago asleep on the floor across the floor from me and thinking, “Now here’s a situation I would’ve never pictured just a few weeks ago.” The whole weekend was a very positive experience and I’m glad everyone had a good time.

All of the good feelings however, evaporated in the next week when I went to the second prom. We were going with three other couples and for one reason or another, things got off to a poor start for all of us. By the end of dinner, everyone was in a less-than-festive mood. When we got to the dance all the girls disappeared, I guess to regroup, and the guys were left hanging. Perhaps I didn’t enjoy getting left alone, perhaps the food wasn’t sitting well in my stomach, perhaps I was disappointed that after six months this relationship had seemingly made no progress, perhaps I was just tired. When my date returned, I guess I had reached the tipping point and I snapped at her that no I was in fact not having a good time and tears and arguing ensued. Within that one moment, I had undone six months of work and my greatest weakness with women was exposed for everyone to see. By the end of the night, we were on friendly terms again after I had apologized for my temper, but there was no need to say it. The relationship that had no definite beginning would have no definite end, because after that I never asked her out again and she never brought up wanting to go out with me again. We still did stuff together, like we did before the dance, but it was clear that this would be a friendship and nothing more.

This was all just as well I guess, I had accepted a summer internship in Florida with IBM and she was going over to Germany to be a nanny for the summer. I don’t think either of us were willing to put forth the effort for a long-distance relationship, but it was coming to a head and something was going to have to give before we left. Over the summer, we exchanged letters across the ocean and still kept in touch for years after she returned to the States and went to college. She was even kind enough to come to my wedding many, many years later.

I’ll never forget that night when I lost my temper, though. It’s threatened to undo me more than once with women and it’s only by God’s grace and a patient wife that it hasn’t ruined my marriage yet. In my dating life however, this wouldn’t be the last time I was my own worst enemy.

New section: concert reviews

A couple years ago I wrote up the Top 15 concerts that I’ve been to and it was so much fun that I’ve decided to expand it a little and write up something on just about every concert I’ve ever been to. Since I’m an obsessive historian, I’ve kept notes and articles and such on just about all of the 108 concerts that I’ve been to and it would be nice to have them all in an organized location.

Like my notes about my dating life, I will probably start in the deep, dark, murky past and work my way forward. It should be obvious that my musical tastes have hopefully improved over the past 13 or so years, but even back then, I got see some landmark concerts by incredible bands that are, sadly, no longer with us. Some of this should inspire some wistful nostalgia. Some of it will be more factual accounts of what happened during the show. Some of it might be some memories surrounding the show. Some of it may have been already documented elsewhere and I’ll just link to it.

Regardless, it should be a lot of fun and it will give me plenty to write about when I hit a writer’s block.

Peachtree Road Blog

Team Holland had double coverage with Adriene at the finish line with the digital camera and me running with a disposable camera. Here are Adriene’s pictures at the finish line.

I completed the Peachtree Road Race on July 4 along with 55,000 other runners and thought I would give some mile-by-mile thoughts about the race. The Peachtree Road Race is billed as the largest 10K race in the world and it is an Atlanta institution. The t-shirts that are given out at the finish line are worn like a badge of honor around the city.

I arrived out of the MARTA station along with the crowds of people and as we walked down Peachtree Street, the wheelchair racers, the first to start the race, zipped by. I can’t tell you how much admiration I have for these racers. The arms on these guys and girls are chiseled out of stone and they have amazing upper body strength. You couldn’t help but applaud as they zipped by.

Overheard at the starting line: “OK, the strategy is to start off slow … and ease up.”

I was in Time Group 4. After the wheelchair group and the elite runners, the first two time groups are released from the starting line. The elite runners carry microchips which activate when crossing the starting line and save their time when they cross the finish line. I’m not fast enough for the microchips (but looking at the results later, I see I’m only a couple minutes behind the last timed runners), so I’m in one of the groups behind that. The Road Race has 9 time groups. The last made famous by radio talk show celebrity Clark Howard who embodies the non-serious side of the back of the race. This year, the Peachtree Road Race also added Time Groups 10, 11, and 12 for soldiers in Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Iraq as they ran their own race and received t-shirts overseas. I have nothing to complain about in this 74-degree heat when the runners in Iraq completed their 10K in 95 degree weather. We’re released at regular intervals underneath a gigantic United State flag. I’m starting off at Lenox Mall surrounded by tall, luxurious hotels. I’m amused to find people watching us from the balconies, including some with race numbers! How do they plan to get down to the starting line? Parachutes?

The first mile is always so crowded that it’s a half walk-half run. I start off not quite shoulder-to-shoulder with other runners, but not much more spaced out. The first mile is a mostly level cruise where everyone is starting to figure out just how they feel? Do the knees hurt? The ankles? How is the weather? This year the weather is incredible. It’s very humid, so I’m sweating like crazy, but it’s overcast and under 80 degrees. Very pleasant.

The second mile begins as you turn into the bar district of Buckhead. Even at eight in the morning, the bars are open and people are sitting on the front decks and cheering for you. Here I pass the ESPN Zone and The Cheesecake Factory. I also pass places that were favorites of mine in college that are no longer there, such as Swinger’s and John Harvard’s Brew Pub. There’s also the infamous Lulu’s Bait Shack and Fado, an Irish pub that I’ve been to a time or two. I also pass “Jesus Junction” an intersection of three churches on Peachtree and Andrews Dr where the priest of the Orthodox church Cathedral of St. Phillip sprinkles holy water on us as we pass by. Holy or not, it’s very welcome.

Somewhere around here I saw a sign that says, “The Kenyans have already finished”. True enough, by now the winner of the Peachtree Road Race has already been crowned. No matter,I’m not here to win this. Cruising down towards Peachtree Creek, the adrenaline and endorphins have me thinking I can conquer the world at this point. This is what it feels like to be alive. Now I’m passing by the expensive condos of the Atlanta noveau riche. Elton John apparently had the top floor of one the buildings here at one point, but I believe has since sold it. It’s hard to resist kicking the pace up a little bit, but I’ve got to save some energy for what comes next.

Cardiac Hill” Anyone who runs the Peachtree Road Race knows exactly what you are talking about. Some people fear it. There’s no reason to fear it, you just drop it a gear and chug away. After crossing Peachtree Battle Creek, you begin a slow uphill climb that at first seems a gentle grade. However, it just keeps going and after a half-mile, the slope increases and taunts you as the gauntlet is laid down. I pass a group from a local bar running together with a sign that says “Water = Bad. Beer = Good.

Appropriately, the top of Cardiac Hill is crowned with Piedmont Hospital where runners joke you can carry them off. The Sheppard Spinal Clinic is also located here and the staff brings the patients out to cheer on the runners. I’m sure the wheelchair racers must be an amazing inspiration for them. They’re an inspiration for me right now as they cheer me on. Once at the top, I say, “the hard part’s over now!” and I’m picking up the pace again. Here, I pass memorable places, such as Cafe Intermezzo where Adriene and I first decided we were on to something more than a friendship. We’re now approaching our fifth anniversary of our terrific marriage. After crossing over I-85 past the chiming bells of Peachtree Christian Church playing “God Bless America”, I’ve left Buckhead and entered into the skyscrapers of Midtown.

Entering into Midtown and crossing 17th Street, I can start to count the streets down to 10th Street where the race will turn to the east. The crowds on the sides of the street start to swell and the cheers and bells and noise keep me going as strength starts to fade. I pass the High Museum of Art and Colony Square. Then, it’s time for The Turn. The only part of the race that turns off of Peachtree Street, the race now turns onto 10th Street and begins a downhill race to Piedmont Park and the finish line.

The last section of the race is deceptive. When I ran in 2003, I was fooled and thought the finish line was closer and started my sprint to the end too soon. I almost fell for it again as I crossed Juniper Street and cruised down the end. I saw Adriene on the sidelines cheering for me as I neared the end. Finished! I crossed the line and went to pick up my t-shirt. My final time was 67 minutes, a slight disapointment from the goal I set in January, but not bad at all. I was very pleased with the run. I felt good at the end. No pain. No heaving. I had achieved a six month goal and lost some weight along the way.

As we walked back to the MARTA station to go home. Two runners were now celebrating their run with cigars and beer. They stood on the sidewalk of the racecourse near the finish line and raised their drinks to the runners and puffed on their cigars, “think healthy, y’all!”