Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tall Tales From A Wanna-Be Mousekateer

When I was seven, I tried convincing my neighborhood friends that I had been invited onto the Mickey Mouse Club to dance and play piano. I borrowed an ugly pair of white, patent-leather shoes from my sister and I gave them a show in our foyer. Then, I led them to our piano where I played Fur Elise.

My friends, much to their credit, were not convinced. Even as I tried to "prove" my lie by showing them the Mickey Mouse ears I got from Walt Disney World, they refused to believe I was ever on television, let alone on the Mickey Mouse Club.

This lie was wrong on so many levels. First off, this was a few years before the "new" Mickey Mouse Club, starring Lisa Whechel (otherwise known as "Blair" from The Facts of Life), so the only Mickey Mouse Club shows that were on the air were the black and white re-runs from the 50s, with Annette and Cubby. Second, I did nothing more than scuff my mother's foyer floor as I bumbled my way through a self-choreographed dance routine. But I could play Fur Elise as well as any seven year-old with no formal training could.

I have some theories as to why I concocted such a lie. I actually DID learn how to play Fur Elise, by ear, from watching one of those talented Mousekateers play it on the Mickey Mouse Club. But I think the main reason for my lie was that there were a lot of kids in my class who got to be on a local show called Wonderama, and I was green with envy.

Wonderama was a three hour-long variety show that aired on Sundays. Part game show, part exercise show, part American Bandstand-esque, it was a show made especially for kids, hosted by a guy named Bob McAllister who assured us with his closing song that kids were people too. Every Monday at school, it was obvious which kid got to be on Wonderama the day before, from their personalized, shellacked Lenders Bagelette necklaces. And even if they didn't bring in their goodie bags, we knew they had been rewarded with Fruit Stripe gum, RC Cola, Twinkies, an Oral B toothbrush and an issue of Dynamite Magazine. I figured, in my little seven year-old brain, that if I had told my friends I was on Wonderama, I'd have to pony up my Lenders Bagelette necklace. But since I had Mickey Mouse ears and saw that guest Mousekateers didn't receive any lovely parting gifts, I was safe in telling my fib.

I think seven year-olds are the world's worst liars!

I leave you now with a clip from Wonderama. C'mon, take a look, and tell me you're not convinced YOU'D have wanted to be on that show!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Falling Down, Getting Back Up

I was pretty eager to get out of bed this morning and go for a run. I hadn't run since the Mercer Island half marathon on Sunday, and I was ready to jump back into the saddle. I'm hoping to be able to pace the inaugural Seattle Rock 'n Roll Marathon, but that's entirely up to this guy. Since it's a new race and he's dealing with a new organizer and their pacing structure is vastly different from the other local marathons we pace, there are fewer slots available. In any event, I'd like to train for it, even if I'm not chosen to pace. I may just run the damn thing if I don't pace.

I am pretty stoked since I found out this week I got into the Nike Womens' Half Marathon in San Francisco this October. I haven't received official notice yet but they charged my credit card the $110, so, um, I'm assuming that means I'm in. If not, they certainly have a lot of explaining to do.

Anyway, so getting back to my run this morning: the sun was out (miracle!) and I put on my new Asics Gel Nimbus 10 (they were free and THAT is why I pace!), leashed up the pooch, and set out toward Green Lake.

When I made it to the paved part of the lake, I kicked it up a notch and began my tempo run. Scout dutifully followed suit, and we were going a good click when I passed a man walking his dog. The dog was on the man's left, but as soon as he spotted Scout, he lunged out past the man and right in front of Scout's path. This caused Scout to jump right in front of me and I tripped. For a split second I thought, "I can recover. I won't fall." But alas, my reflexes failed me and I went down, HARD on my knee. I think god I was wearing tights because I would have ripped the shit out of my leg. I sat on the ground for a moment, gathering my wits and listen to the man bumble an apology ("He lunged forward, I didn't even see it!") I figured I was ok since I didn't rip my tights (damn those are good tights!), and I walked it out for a little bit, eventually breaking into a stride. I could tell I hit the same spot I injured two years ago, but I wasn't about to inspect the damage. Besides, I couldn't unless I pulled down my tights and...well, I'm not into public exposure, ya know?

It wasn't too bad, actually. I mean, I have a skinned knee, but luckily, it's not too deep. I'll live to run another day. And my kids will be grateful.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Little Boxes Made of Ticky-Tacky

Growing up, I lived on a cul-de-sac located in what my parents referred to as "the development". It was about as vanilla as it sounds, with 50 colonial-style, split-level homes built in 1970, each sitting on a half acre of land. Despite its mundane, tract housing features, growing up in the "development" did have some advantages. The biggest one was that there was only one way in and out of the grid, keeping traffic down to a minimum; and each house had at least two kids who were all roughly the same age, give or take 5 years. This made for having a lot of built-in friends and places to ride bicycles safely, or hold an impromptu game of kickball. It was a quiet place to live, save for the obese Sicilian lady who lived across the street and would throw open her bedroom window to fight with her husband down below or call her son Anthony in for dinner.

Of course, living alongside 49 other neighbors occasionally had its disadvantages, too. Aside from the fat lady, neighborhood gossip was abound. We knew when so and so's husband committed suicide or when such and such's wife had an affair. Given that it was the swinging 70s, my parents heard of miscellaneous "key" parties, where the men were invited to drop their keys in a fish bowl so at the end of the party, the women would randomly grab a set of keys and take the owner home.

As a family, we weren't without our share of gossipy activity, too, since my older sister had a penchant for inviting boys over for beer and pot parties by day; and by night, someone would almost always catch her climbing out of her window. But I had a solid group of friends so long as, upon their parents' insistence, they stayed outside of my house or I went over to theirs. Staying outside was easy to do, too, since we had lots of room to roam even beyond the grid. Behind my house was an extra five acres of woods that butted up to a reservoir. The woods were a magical place where pine trees created canopies for clubhouses and forts, and hills made for perfect sledding in the winter.

My neighborhood friends and I didn't always get along, and sometimes, someone would inevitably stomp off in a fit, swearing, "I'll never be your friend again!" It was especially hard at times because I lived in-between a large, Italian family whose children were cousins. Oftentimes, I would get insanely jealous when the two girls would go off and play without inviting me along, or I'd hear them in the swimming pool next door when I was outside playing in the sweltering heat. But we had many great memories, too, and played endlessly from the time we got up in the mornings to the time my friend's mom turned on the lawn light signaling her time to come inside.

Today I live over 3,000 miles away from the "development" in a funky Seattle neighborhood. The houses here are 100 years old, and while they have similar bungalow qualities, each one is unique and built to last. I love my neighborhood as it's easy to walk up to rows of shops and coffee houses, but it's far from kid-friendly. My street is noisy with traffic and the occasional crazy person walking up or down, muttering profanity. While we don't have a large lot with an ample place to play outside, we do live close to a playground where the kids can swing and slide and the dog can chase his ball. But the one thing I miss the most is that my children have no "neighborhood" friends. Even though Mr. Na's school is close by, there aren't many children living within a few houses in any direction. Oddly enough, we tend to "live" at the playground nearly every day during the summer months, but I rarely ever see Mr. Na play with the same kid twice. In my opinion, scheduling playdates, takes away the spontaneity I had as a kid, living in kid-grid-ville. If Mr. Na is bored, I don't have the luxury of sending him outside to see who's around to play with. And even if I pack everyone up and walk to the park, there's no guarantee that anyone else his age will be there.

Given the option, though, there's no place I'd rather live. Mr. Na and Lady La live in an area rich in cultural diversity, unlike any other place I've lived. And though they can't step outside and take a stroll through the woods, our city provides panoramic views of mountains, lakes, and the Sound--all within reach by car.

It'll be interesting, someday, to hear their take on growing up in this house, in Seattle. Will they gripe about their "old house" with it's postage-sized lot and surrounding hills that make it almost painful to ride a bike? Or will they recognize that their childhood home has one aspect any newly-built tract home lacks: a soul.