Archive | December, 2010

Running on Empty

27 Dec

I get it. You're fast.

As I stood on a curb in Davis Square, Somerville Thanksgiving morning sipping a Vietnamese coffee in slightly subzero weather, it occurred to me that I am very dedicated to running.  But then, immediately, I corrected myself.  I hate to run, is the truth.  I guess what I really mean is that I am dedicated to runners.

Since the end of college, I have had runners in my life.  Best friends.  Girlfriends.  Co-workers.  Roommates.  And often, I have been enlisted to cheer them on at races of various distances.  5k.  10k.  Half marathon.  Marathon.  This morning, I trekked a mile into town to encourage my roommate Audrey and my co-teacher Rachel as they crossed the finish line of Somerville’s annual Gobble Gobble Gobble 4 Mile Run.  Audrey usually runs a race with her father and sister in Dayton on Thanksgiving, and I agreed to wait for her at the finish line so she’d feel less homesick stuck in Boston.

I’ve done quite a few road races now, as a spectator.  The protocol is pretty much the same.  Look out into the street.  Clap dutifully.  Cheer louder when your runner passes.  Make small talk with the people around you.  This is an important part.  Because as strenuous as running four miles is, it’s almost as difficult to stand still in the cold for forty to forty-five minutes.  So the choices are 1. Get faster friends or 2. Make friends with the folks you’re standing near.

Usually it’s pretty easy to find common ground with your neighbors.  This Thanksgiving I found myself planted next to Victoria a woman about my age who is also a teacher.  It turns out she comes every year to support her partner who is also, also a teacher.  In the past, I have chatted up Mary, a woman from the town next to mine whose son was running a half marathon for charity.  But above all of these coincidences, one simple commonality facilitates an immediate bond amongst spectators at a race: None of us are running.

Now, this fact is fairly obvious, but it carries several implications.  The first being that everyone along the sidelines a. Has no interest in running competitively or b. Can’t/won’t make their body run a race for some other reason.  (For me it’s a combination of both.  But I like to think that I could step in and bang out a 5k course in a respectable time the same way monday morning quarterbacks assume they could fill Tom Brady’s cleats after a Patriots  loss.)  Beyond that, we have decided to convene roadside at 9am in the freezing cold to support someone in our life that we care about/owe a major league favor.  Outside of real serious marathons, road races are not like other sporting events where people attend to cheer for teams they have no personal connection to.  You’re there because someone you know is there.  Or else you’re a weirdo.

Cheering for a runner is a powerful pride/shame cocktail.  Pride in the accomplishment of your friend.  Shame in that you’re watching literally thousands of people in better shape than you pass by at full tilt.  Since only the top few are really in contention to finish first, everyone else just celebrates the victory of completing the race.

And it’s not just the folks you think of being in peak physical condition.  These are not all slender marathon veterans or wiry cross-trained athletes you see.  The field is peppered with dumpy men chugging and wheezing their way to the finish, older women in fanny packs running with a clipped tentative gait, and children.  Literal children.  Ten-year-olds, dude.  The kids are the worst.  So demoralizing.  To watch an actual pre-teen finish a race faster than you know you would.  It must be what Encyclopedia Brown’s father felt when the boy detective cracked another one of the police department’s unsolved mysteries.

The weirdest thing is this:
Normally, the audience of a sporting event is a congregation of average folks who gather to watch a small group of exceptional athletes and performers display their skills.  The key factors there are that 1. The spectators outnumber the athletes and 2. The athletes are more skilled/fit/qualified than the fans.  This all goes out the window with a road race.  Anyone with enough grit and dedication can train him/herself to run three miles.  So the discrepancy between spectator and athlete isn’t talent.  It’s about who wants it more.  Plus, when you are watching a race, you can’t see the entire audience.  They are spread out over a distance of several miles.  But you do see all the competitors.  So there’s the strange feeling of being  outnumbered by the athletes that you never get at a basketball game or a golf match.

Nothing like being awash in people with superior motivation and athleticism to fuel an inferiority complex.  But then I realize.  It’s not about me.  These folks are pushing themselves to their physical limits through competition.  Maybe I do that in other ways.  Like, how many of these so called athletes have eaten an entire frozen pizza in one sitting this year?  Just what I thought.  Suck it, jerks.  Victory, Gondelman.

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A Hierarchy of Places I Am Okay With Sleeping as an Adult

25 Dec

1. My bed.
2. Girlfriend’s bed.
3. Hotel bed.
4. My couch, by accident.
5. Someone else’s couch, ideally a futon.
6. On a plane.
7. On a long-distance bus ride.
8. Sitting up on someone else’s couch at a party.
9. The floor, if there is carpet.
10. Hardwood floor.

Thanks, everyone.

24 Dec

So here’s a thing, guys.

I have a really close friend who’s training to be in the US Army Special Forces.  It seems pretty dangerous.  Like, anytime special is in front of something, it’s more intense.  Special education.  Special victims unit.  Special sauce.  and when I talked to him today, he said that he entered the training because he was willing to take on a greater personal risk given the potential for a broader global gain.  And even though I am not totally on board with everything that the US Army does, that idea really appealed to me.

People give a lot of love to the troops.  And for sure, the military has a really hard job.  And lots of people join because they sincerely want to make a difference.  But there are so many people who do equally important work with far less glory.  So, I guess what I’m saying is…support the teachers and the activists and the construction workers and the pastors and the doctors and the soup kitchen employees and the parents and the firefighters and the writers.  Basically, anyone who is trying to to right by other people.  So, thanks, guys.

Merry Christmas Eve.  I hope this baby doesn’t cry my entire flight.

No Thanks, Mr. Roboto

22 Dec

The real enemy.

There is so much injustice and inequity in the world.  War, famine, poverty, genocide.  The richest zero percent of people control eighty five zillion percent of the wealth, or an equally upsetting statistic.  During the holidays, a time of opulence and excess for many in this country, we should focus on these issues more than ever.  But I haven’t been.  Because there is something far less sinister that has been consuming far more of my rage-attention: Self check-out lines at the grocery store.

Here’s my beef.  Lots of dummies routinely gripe about the influx of immigrants looking to slip into our country and take our jobs under the cover of darkness without our ever knowing.  But it’s happening right now!  Robots are taking our jobs!  Under the guise of convenience!  And we are thanking them for it!  This is nothing new.  Since the industrial revolution, machines have siphoned off work from the human labor force.  Factories replaced piecework and made skilled labor less of a commodity.  But never before have robots been so brazenly inserted into the public sector with such little fanfare or hullabaloo or hubbub or commotion or any other synonym.

If you have the same number of lanes and eliminate four human-manned stations, that’s potentially four less cashiers and four less baggers.  That’s eight jobs.  Let’s say that they would only be employed during peak shopping hours (we’ll say there are two of those a day…I’m not doing research).  That’s ten hours per person per week.  Eighty hours a week.  That’s more than 4000 hours over a year.  I don’t know what that means.  But that is a lot of hours over a year.  There’s a song about it in the musical Rent.  Check it out sometime, if you want to know what people thought about AIDS fifteen years ago, or what high school drama kids think is cool still.

Point is: I have never seen Terminator III: Rise of the Machines.  But I assume there was something about machines taking control from humans.  I have also never seen I, Robot, but I assume if it was worth it then people would have told me to see it.  But with all of our robot fear in movies, we are surprisingly complacent when push comes to shove.  We see only the good in robots, never the bad, like an abused housewife.

Here is one good thing: Lots of high school kids work in grocery stores.  It’s an easy first job to get and maintain.  If they get fired, they will be out on the streets, and the price of drugs will plummet given all the competition.  So, there’s that.

Anyway, I’m about to propose the least popular protest of all time.  Next time you’re at a grocery store or pharmacy, and the glint of the self checkout beckons you like a siren song, ignore it.  Suck it up and wait in line.  Sure, you will inconvenience yourself and the people behind you. Probably also the actual cashier and bagger will be more stressed out as well. But you’ll be making a stand.  A stand that symbolizes a draconian fear of technology and a bizarre unawareness of the rest of the world’s problems.

Stand tall.  Stand together.  Stand in line.

Josh

PS. As far as I know, I am not an insane person.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

16 Dec

Sick burn!

Here is a secret about me: I kind of really like sports.

It’s not something you would guess if you just saw me on the street.  In fact, it’s not something you’d guess if you saw me play sports, even.  I’ve never looked smooth or comfortable while participating in athletics.  But I did as a kid, and sometimes I do as an adult, and it’s fun.  In fact, I always liked it more than Dungeons and Dragons and other nerdly pursuits.

But, here’s the bigger part of the secret: I love to heckle at athletic events.

True.  It’s weird to admit for several reasons.  One is, I in general try to be a nice guy.  I don’t like to hurt feelings or belittle folks who don’t deserve it.  Two is, as a comedian, hecklers are (at best) a nuisance and (at worst) potentially ruinous to shows.  Thirdly, no matter what athlete I’m harassing, there’s roughly a 100% chance that I couldn’t do better.

But I said it.  It’s out in the open.  I have an illustrious history of heckling and sporting events.  At a Red Sox game as a kid, my friend Dan and I drew looks by chanting “Beeeeeeeeeeeee-Jaaaaaaaaay” at Atlanta Braves outfielder Brian Jordan.  That was the beginning.

In high school, our basketball teams were never near the top of the league standings.  We didn’t have a student body of natural athletes.  What we did have, though was an entire gym full of underachieving smart-asses ready to break the spirits of opposing players.  I remember one game at an opposing gym where some die-hard fans had traveled to cheer on our squad, but most importantly cheer against the other team.  The captain from the other school was dating the ex-girlfriend of our team captain.  To rally our troops and rattle the opponents, our fans started a chant of “Chris got her first!”

My sophomore year, I played for the junior varsity team.  Well, I practiced with them and suited up for games.  Career points scored: 3.  For some people, that’s one made basket.  For me, it was an entire season.  Back on topic: The JV team had to watch all of the varsity games when we traveled to other schools.  To amuse ourselves and support the cause, we got really into mocking opposing players.  On one occasion the other team’s point guard had a glued-up, full-head mohawk.  We were nearly kicked out of the gym for chanting: “HAAAIIIR CUUUUUTTT” as he shot free throws.  I still remember the words of the portly athletic director sent to reprimand us.  “Gentlemen, why don’t you show some class…and if you don’t know what that looks like, I suggest you look around you and find an example.”  Of course, that only fueled our giddy spite-glee.

Last week, I had amazing Celtics tickets, thanks to a friend.  (Thanks Tim!)  It was great to root for the C’s up close, but it was just as much fun to quietly mutter: “Scooch” at the refs when they stood in front of me.

Last night, I watched the Celtics-Knicks battle.  The Celtics, who trailed for most of the game, pulled out a dramatic fourth-quarter victory.  The Knicks, looking like a good team for the first time in literally years, kept themselves ahead in large part thanks to a Herculean effort by power forward Amar’e Stoudemire.  He dunked. He blocked shots.  He got away with cheap fouls.  (Though I may be biased.)

While I was excited that the Celtics won, I was nearly as excited to find a new athlete to hate.  Amar’e is talented, he wears glasses on the court, and he plays for New York.  What’s not to loathe?  Hopefully this rivalry heats up, so we can hear what the Garden faithful come up with to torment him come the playoffs.  It probably won’t approach the masterful “WIIIIIIIIFEBEATER” chant that fans used to shower Jason Kidd when he played for the New Jersey Nets, or the unforgettable “NO MEANS NO!” that Kobe Bryant hears in Denver.  But we need something.  Something simple and classic like “DAARRRRRYYYYLLLLL.” (Darryl Strawberry, New York Mets.)

Maybe by June he’ll be implicated in some sort of Ponzi scheme.

I’ve got my fingers crossed.  And my snarky sign-making Sharpie drawn.

This Weekend!

15 Dec

Oh, hey everyone!

This weekend I’m performing at Mottley’s Comedy Club in Boston with Myq Kaplan and Zach Sherwin.

One show Friday at 8.  One show Saturday at 8.

These will be fun and good.  Probably, you should be at them.

Josh

Cute Stuff

14 Dec

Hey Everyone,

Home from Indianapolis.  Nothing much to report about my last night/flight, except at the beginning of my last show, I got introduced to Prince’s “Kiss,” and I ended up singing the chorus the whole way through accompanied by some IU football players who happened to be in the crowd.  You know…like you do.  Anyway, here are some cute stories, because sometimes people like those.

Great Balls of Cotton

Last night was my class’s holiday play.  Every year, I write and direct a little skit to be put on by 20 four-year-olds.  People seem to enjoy it.  This year, all of the kids who were at the holiday party made it onstage, which is a new record.  So that was exciting.  Normally one or two run out of line crying on the way to the stage, but not this year.  Boom!  Good job, kids!

The play was about a town where there was no snow all winter, so the local children tried to make winter happen on their own.  The students did a really good job.  The other teachers decided that it would be fun and cute for when the town finally gets snow, if they pelted the kids onstage with cotton balls.  They also thought it would be fun to surprise the students with it, so they would react more sincerely.

So we did.  But they were so excited by the cotton balls that they kind of forgot to finish the play amidst all of their “snowball” fighting.  We needed to take a second in the middle of the last song, regroup, and rally.  All in all though adorable success!

Do You Looooove Me?

A little boy, age 4, says to my co-teacher: “Krista, do you like me?”

Krista replies: “I don’t like you…I love you!”

The boy furrows his brow: “But why don’t you like me?”

Awwwww!