Archive for November, 2008

November 30, 2008

Halfs of a Marathon

I just finished the Seattle Half Marathon (with my brother Frank, and his his wife, Suzanne). We had a pretty good race: It was much warmer than last year (whew!) and if we don’t have to count the unexpected pit stop near mile 5 or so –we ran faster than last year, which is always nice.

It’s not an especially pretty course, nor fast. There are a LOT of turns and enough hills that the course record is pedestrian by 1970 standards (that was the year when US men all over the country were knocking back 2.10 hour marathons like chugging a beer).

But it was fun. I took a look back at my race log to see what’s changed for me since my first marathon – and it’s a lot!

My first half marathon was also local – the Mercer Island Half, where I ran a 1.30 marathon – not bad given it was my first one and has plenty of rollers.

By then I was hot with marathon fever, though – and while I ran Vancouver that same year in 1.23 – most of my effort was devoted to running the whole marathon, and I haven’t really aimed for a speedy half since then.

Along the way, though, I have made a habit out of running the annual Super Jock and Jill race (run that one 5 times with the speediest being a 1.30 and the slowest a 1.41. And when I look back at the half marathon’s – most of them hover in the 1.30 to 1.45 range – not bad, considering that 12 years have passed since my first one!

All told, I’ve run one marathon for every half marathon – so my next race at either distance will likely dictate another, to keep things in balance!

November 22, 2008

You’re Playing Godspell Again?

I am – two nights only, and we’ve performed the first night already. Not much to the sandwich between opening and closing nights this time, but it does have me thinking.

I first heard the music from Godspell as a kid – my mom or dad must have picked up the record – and while I don’t remember for sure, I also think that some of the tunes were on the radio – imagine that!

And then in high school, I probably saw a video of the production a pair of times – and by then – I was also turning into a guitar player – so – it’s no wonder that by the time I arrived at college and settled into both a Jesuit education and a musical community that Godspell would become a pretty big part of both of those stories.

Back then, it was just the music – with few exceptions (especially then) musicals catered to an orchestra – so having a still popular musical that looked like a rock combo (drums, guitar, bass, keys) was fun. And – with the convergence of that Jesuit school and a musical based on the Gospel of St. Matthew – it’s no wonder that by the time I graduated, I’d learned to play most of the music.

It got really fun after, though: I’d just finished playing for Man of La Mancha – one of my first on stage musical parts. A few months after the show, I was riding my bike home from work and spotted one of the cast members at his new house. Richard had played a small part in Man of La Mancha, but has a great singing voice. He mentioned that he was auditioning for Godspell in general, but wouldn’t do the show unless he got to be Jesus. I let him know that I wanted to play the show – but a few days later he called to say that they were going to do the show with just a trio.

I was some disappointed – the show has some exceptionally fun guitar parts. So you can imagine my surprise several weeks later when Richard phoned to ask if I could play the show after all!

Turned out – it was a brand new theatre company(I think my mic cable is still buried underneath the stage there) and Godspell was their first show. I had 3 days to meet the cast and rehearse with the band before we were up for a 7 week run –5 shows a week!

It was something, all right. Small theatre (100 seats) very talented cast, hot band (if I do say so), and huge energy. I grew up hearing those stories of Jesus, had even spent my first few post college years working for a church. So while the stories weren’t new – they way I heard them sure changed – not because the words were different, but because the people sharing the story were.

It’s funny – here we were – a talented, but nevertheless rag-tag group of just around a dozen. And in a 7 week period, we forged bonds of a lifetime. Oh, I know that sound s a little silly, but it’s, not, not really. Imagine – 5 shows a week in 4 days. When you add in the getting there early, cleaning up, and hanging out afterwards – you start to get close to a 30 hour week. Toss in the odd kayak trip, the post show cast party, the extra gig, the move from one rental house to another – and in a 7 week span – you’ve lived a lifetime.

About a year after that production, we did the show again. Some of the same cast, but some new folks, too. Richard was back as Jesus – and – was moving to Virginia on closing night. Literally – he’d packed his house and all of his stuff and was starting the drive after the show closed.

So – there’ s a good-bye scene in the show Jesus where says farewell to his friends. And here’s the power of a great story, great friends, and theatre:

Richard makes his rounds while we played a tune – and it was obvious to anyone watching that there was more than acting going on – those individual goodbyes’ were a layer of great acting and everyone saying goodbye to their friend Richard – but also – in the context of the show – the person that they thought was God.

After his last goodbye, though, Richard kept moving –he interrupted the drummer, the bass player, the keyboard player, and came my way. By the time he got to me, I was a wreck – by then we’d performed together close to 50 times, kayaked, wrote music, cooked meals – and he was off for Virginia – AND – his character was off for crucifixion.  Even in the midst of a teary goodbye, I remember feeling the intersection of many things – Richard, my friend; Jesus, the story I learned as I kid; knowing that I might not see him again (I haven’t); the enthusiasm for a great performance; and much, much more.

So – yep – playing the show again. It’s different, because, well, the world is different, and so am I. The cast is different, the band is different, we’re playing some of the music differently – but – still:

I’m reminded that actors can make community out of almost nothing, that art and music reveal new things, and that things can change but remain steadfast all at the same time.

November 9, 2008

Hopeful about the election

I’ve been reading "the economist" lately – and while it comes once a week, has a lot of text and only a few pictures – it has been well worth the read. For starters, it’s expanded my grasp (still fairly tenuous) on what the REST of the world is doing.

I mean – I’m reading about the Congo, about the Chinese economy, in depth about countries in Asia, the Baltics, and more. PLUS a lot of information about what is going on in England, Germany, France, and, of course, the United States.

On top of that – the magazine is decidedly focused on economic items- so I feel like over the past two months, I’ve also started to develop a sense for what is really happening in the global economy. That’s never been a strong suit of mine – so I am appreciating the exposure (understanding is also tenuous at best!)

The writing is dense but clear, and often quite pointed. When they have an opinion, they state it clearly and then argue their side – it’s quite refreshing. No "he said, she said" no attacks – just lots and lots and lots of information and data. I think it’s made me a marginally more informed human.

It’s no surprise that they’ve been following the presidential election, and they’ve articulated the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate. Still – I was pleased and surprised to see Barack Obama on the cover the week prior to the election, with the headline "It’s Time".

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It was a simple black and white photo, and the text inside was transparent, too. They argued for his sense of integrity, for his inquisitive nature, for his capacity to manage a vast campaign, for his vigor and enthusiasm. And they noted that he has less experience, hasn’t bucked the Democratic party much and so on. Still. In the midst of articulating the risk – Mr. Obama received their thumbs up endorsement.

I’m writing this post election, so we all know that he is the president elect. But I didn’t have time to read their article until after the election. It was nice to see that some of what they wrote resonated with my sense of things, too:

I’m happy that he is a strong speaker, that he knows how to organize and mobilize large groups of people, that he seems authentic (more than sincere) when he talks about hope for the future. And yet, I also understand that he doesn’t have a ton of experience. That’s okay with me – I’ll take curious and smart almost any time.

So -I’m pretty hopeful. I know that we have terrible budget troubles, that our economy is shaky, and that the level of rancor we’ve seen here at home and abroad has reached unbelievable levels. And yet – in my life, I’ve also seen:

  • The Berlin wall come down
  • The Soviet Union collapse
  • The end of apartheid in South Africa
  • The end (mostly) of the violence in Northern Ireland
  • Lake Washington become clean enough in which to swim
  • A black man elected president of the United States

That seems like a fair bit of goodness in not that many years. If Mr. Obama can add just one thing of that size to the list – I think I’ll be exceptionally well pleased.