Friday, June 27, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
So here I am now, in Saylorsburg, PA. Where? Yeah, I know. It's sort of south of Stroudsburg, in the Pocono Mountains. I'm only about 75 miles from New York City, but, as "they" say, really a whole world away.
For example, the other night we had an Apocalypse Now-like thunderstorm. The lights flickered on and off, the outdoor furniture was tossed around kind of like those cows in the movie "Twister," and the lightning felt like it was going to strike me down right in my family room. As soon as it passed, I saw a man on my porch peering into the house through the sliding-glass doors, which in my previous urban life would have been cause for some degree of alarm for a single gal like myself. Here in Saylorsburg, however, it was actually just the neighbor checking in on me to make sure I was okay. Yes, they do that here. They also help you do your yard work out of the goodness of their hearts. I had no idea such humanity still existed.
But no matter where I've lived, like most runners, I've found that the absolute best way to get familiar with new surroundings is by foot. This philosophy has proven useful once again, as I've settled in here. What I've seen while running is very telling so far--a vast array of all walks of life exist here in Saylorsburg--people live in run-down huts, as well as full-on mansions, and everything in between. As far as the local culture, here's a little taste of what I've experienced so far:
1. Some folks are territorial. And really like firearms. A woman who runs a flower market in "town" (believe me when I say, I'm using that term loosely), posted a sign: "Beware of Owner: She has PMS. And a Gun." I also run by a driveway every morning displaying a sign: "No Trespassing. Violators will be Prosecuted. Or Shot." I would've taken a picture of it, but I sort of feared for my life.
2. The local Citgo station convenience store sells a Star Spangled Ice Cream line, from a company that apparently gives 10 percent of its profits to "conservative causes." Flavors include Iraqi Road, I Hate the French Vanilla, and my, um, personal favorite, Gun Nut. According to the Web site, the ice cream is "...NOT Kosher certified. It is manufactured by a small producer, so nutritional information is not available." Is it pathetic that I'm yearning to be friends with the people with the Obama sign in their yard, about a tenth of a mile away from the gas station?
3. The wildlife is unlike that of Central Park or the National Mall. I have been chased by deer while training. Twice. Forget aggressive dogs, I just want to know when exactly deer started to attack?
4. Men driving pick-up trucks don't like sharing the road with small women running. They yell things like, "Get out of the way." I view this as a healthy way to hold on to my cynicism, so that all my overly nice neighbors don't make me too soft this summer. After all, I have reputation to uphold, and a journalism career to worry about, which requires a fair amount of skepticism. I give thanks to all those guys with mullets who try to run me down in their 4x4's. Really, I do.
Everyday is an adventure. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings...
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The short end to a long story is that I made it. For the most part, I'm all settled in here for my summer at the lake house. Those ridiculous movers finally did show up, they threw my worldly belongings in their truck, and now all those things that I thought I couldn't live without are in storage. And guess what? I'm living just fine without them.
I thought I'd be plotting my escape back to civilization by now, craving the buzz of the city and going stir-crazy from the quietness of rural Northeastern PA. So far, I haven't been bored for a second (knock on wood -- which, by the way, is not hard to find around here). I've easily transitioned into the rhythm of the country life without effort or much thought...I think the trick was just to surrender to it. Nobody is more shocked about all of this than I am.
I actually cook nutritious dinners, I visit farmer's markets, I sweep the porch, and water all the flowers. I snack on locally grown fruit. I run on the enormous hills every day, swim in the lake, and kayak to my heart's desire. And I write...a lot. It's amazing how the creativity flows when my head isn't running in a thousand other directions. I hit the pillow hard every night, contently exhausted from it all, and wake up as the sun rises every morning to start my new routine all over again.
Will it last? Who knows. It's not perfect, but it's close enough for now. And I'm a firm believer that I shouldn't try to fix something ever again that isn't broken. I made that mistake once, four years ago. And maybe that, after all, was the lesson learned.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
"Sure. What do you want to know?"
"How many miles do you run every week?"
Ok, definitely not what I thought he was going to ask, though to be honest, I didn't really know what a shirtless street hockey player in front of the White House would inquire about.
"Um, it depends on what I'm training for," I said, as I made a subtle move to continue my run.
But he kept talking.
"Oh. But why would you run? It's not fun."
At this point, the guy is being borderline offensive.
"Well, why do you play hockey? That doesn't seem like very much fun either," I retorted.
"But hockey isn't hard. Running is hard. What do you do for fun?" he persisted.
I wracked my brain. Is it wrong that it has naturally filed running into the fun category?
"Triathlons?" I said, knowing that this wasn't going to be the right answer either.
"How about dating? Do you date?"
Ah, finally, he cuts to the chase.
"Yes, I date."
"Yes, I date guys," I said.
"Do you want to date me?" he asked.
Give the him points for courage. Or maybe he's been hit in the head several times with a puck.
"Why would I want to do that?" I asked, thinking it was a fair question to pose, under the circumstances.
Clearly he wasn't prepared to answer.
"Because I'm going to be famous one day," he said...not very creatively.
"Oh really. What for?" I asked.
"I'm going to write a book about my life," he said.
"Is your life really that fascinating?"
"It might be," he said, handing over his digits, which began with a Northern Virginia area code.
"Ah, well, I'll take my chances--if it's meant to be, I'm sure I'll run into you again one day," I said.
"But I'm not the kind of person who will remember the little people, so you should call me," he said. "Or, you can give me your number and I'll call you."
"I'm moving out of DC tomorrow, but if you ever find yourself wandering through Northeastern Pennsylvania or Manhattan, perhaps our paths will cross again," I said, now not-so-subtly moving away.
"Ok, but I could have made you famous, too," he said.
"How do you know I wouldn't have made you famous instead?"
"I guess we'll never know," he said. "But with all that running you do, I doubt it."
I've run hundreds--perhaps more--miles in DC in four years, but that was the first pick-up attempt I've experienced while pounding the pavement. It reminded me of one thing that has taken me by surprise while living in Washington: how often my love of running has factored into the dating equation.
There was the Coast Guard guy who smoked cigarettes behind my back, but in an act of desperation to spend time with me one fall Saturday morning, tagged along on a 17-mile training run (the farthest he had ever gone before was 6 miles...once). There was the oh-so-attractive guy with the adorable dog, who couldn't understand why I continually chose to rise with the roosters to run before work, instead of getting drunk with him every night at the bar du jour. And then there was the Ironman, who was even more obsessed with his schedule than I.
I reminded myself that part of the reason I decided to move on is to help regain perspective and balance--something I've been lacking for far too long -- and not just on the dating scene. I guess my little street hockey guardian angel was there to hand me some of that perspective I am looking for: running is one thing that makes me happy, no matter where I am. And that's not a bad thought to have when the big moving truck is scheduled to pull up in the morning.
But as I arrived at the door of my apartment building, ending my last run as a DC resident, I began to question whether those movers will ever actually arrive.
To be continued.