marathon training day 1 : a change of shoes

So, this happened to my Skoras:

phase

I’ve had them for five weeks.

I’m told it was a manufacturing defect, and am waiting for replacements in the mail. But that means the five weeks I spent breaking in the shoes I planned to run my November marathon in are…gone. Which left me somewhat at a loss, because I knew from my half-marathon that my Vibrams wouldn’t cut it. So what then?

sandals

Yup. Lunas.

Not an official model, though, because I’d just sunk all that money into the Skoras–much as I now wish I’d put it into Lunas, I can’t undo it. What I could do, however, is pony up the mere $25 for Luna’s DIY kit. I went for the 6mm neoprene sole, because I run mostly on roads and because I wanted the eventual foot conformity, and the traditional ribbon laces. I meant to try them out Sunday just for a quick six miles, and ended up running nine and a half.

Because, love.

I’ve read posts that warn minimalist runners not to go the Luna route if they mind weird comments while running. I have to assume these posters are men talking to, they assume, men. Because as women we’re always going to get weird comments while running. Tits, ass, or general mockery. That’s what we get. So people switching their bitching to my sandals instead of my boobs was hardly a dealbreaker for me. I took most of Saturday afternoon carefully measuring, hammering and cutting away at these sandals, and they fit like a dream. I used Trish from Barefoot Monologue’s method of tying, looping the first pass round the ankle under the heel strap first, because I have flat heels (that is, they don’t curve out at the back much; it’s pretty much straight down the leg to the ground), and like she promises, tied this way the strap doesn’t budge. I was a little leery of the strap between my toes, because while I love having my toes separated as they are in Vibrams, actual thick objects between them, like in flip flops, tend to cause a great deal of discomfort very quickly. But again–nine and a half miles of bliss here! I suppose the very glaring fact that these aren’t flip-flips, and that it isn’t up to that mere toe strap to keep the hole thing adhered to my foot, had a large part to do with the lack of discomfort. Also the puppy-soft, super-flat laces. But whatever it is, I am a fan!

These Lunas are 2mm thicker than either of my Vibrams, and 2mm thinner than my Skoras (sans insole, which I never used). Since the replacement Skoras will be coming back to me, and moreover since my race is in chilly November, I don’t know that it would make sense not to run in the Skoras for at least part of the training. (Can I knit and felt my own tabi socks? Yes. Do I want to? Yes. Can I justify that in the face of all that money I spent on the Skoras? Well…) But I am certainly loving the Lunas so far. I don’t know that I will love the 6mm at 20 miles–yes, I know, I’m still a minimalist noob–because I definitely did not love the 4mm at 13.1 miles. (“My feet fee like I’m walking on pontoons…” *removes Vibrams* “Oh…that’s ’cause I am. Pontoons of blood…”) But today’s training run was a paltry three miles. Tomorrow’s will be the same, and the day after that, and the weekend is only six. So for the time being, I will be rocking my self-made Lunas proudly. Sandal-haters be damned.

on actually watching into the wild

When Into the Wild came out in 2007, I didn’t run out and see the movie, though probably 3/4 of my college town did Instead, I read the book, and left it at that.

But that wasn’t my first exposure to the book. That would have been when it first came out, in 1996, when my mother read it, looked at me with my growing obsession with books like My Side of the Mountain (and its female-starring, and therefore more attractive to me still, sequel The Far Side of the Mountain) not to mention my teenage-before-its-time abject loathing of the place our family moved to that year, and became a dispenser of warnings: Do not do this. I was too young to explain rape to explicitly, but I didn’t need details to understand that when she said it would be different for me, and for any woman; that people died doing this all the time but that truly awful things would happen first–I understood that she was talking about some baaaaad shit. So when I perked up when she finished Into the Wild, asking her how it was, she told me flatly that McCandless died, alone, of starvation. When I ogled, on innumerable family road trips, at the firebreaks cutting through forests like butter, mentioning that “the girl and her dog” had followed just those trails up through Appalachia in Far Side of the Mountain, she made me swear never to do it. In my perverse childish way I of course then came up with all sorts of alternatives to compare this wish of hers against–“would you rather I swear than do that? would you rather I buy a motorcycle than do that?”–but her sincerity was unnerving and unshakeable. There is nothing worth going off into the abyss like that for, she insisted. You will get hurt, or die, or wish you’d died by the time you’re done being hurt.

Okay then. Crossing “striking off into the wild” off my preteen bucket list.

I don’t remember much of my initial reaction to Into the Wild, other than the aspects I blew up into a huffy response afterward: disdain for this kid’s arrogance, resentment on behalf of his parents (whose more violent episodes I’d completely forgotten by the time I’d watched the film; I took my privileged and safe childhood in the same geographic area and superimposed it onto his), and a general dislike for a mentality that seemed to surround me in the latter part of college–the “stick it to the man” business–and that seemed to be going nowhere.

Then, a few weeks ago, I watched the film.

I wanted to hate it. Especially after reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which remains my favorite book of this year so far and whose main character, and especially her relationship with her mother, I connected with far more than arrogant, adolescent McCandless–I wanted to hate this movie.

But I was wooed. By the country I’d seen myself, from my own car, if not in the exact spots in the movie than in places just like them. By the guitar noodling flickering like the light on the water whose montages it plays over. By Hal Holbrook, whose character’s abandonment by McCandless always filled me with a particular rage toward the boy. And by all the people I’d met since then, who could’ve easily shared McCandless’s fate had things just turned out slightly different for them. Had they cobbled the money and courage together to strike out. Had their new job or scholarship never come through. Had they never made up with their loved ones after that one big fight.

Most of all, though, McCandless’s realization–and they way they gave it to us, written out, by hand on screen by a cadaverous, living person–that “happiness is only real when shared.” I’m sure it was in the book. It’s too big not to have been. But Krakauer didn’t present it in a way that made me remember to forgive McCandless. My copy isn’t with me, and anyway I read it in the final stages of my religious avoidance of marking up books, so I doubt I’ll have any clues left as to my thought process while reading the book. But the film made me believe his conviction, and forgive his arrogance the way I forgave Cheryl Strayed’s adolescent fuck-ups almost before they occurred. Reading the book, I didn’t see a young man deserving of as much leeway and understanding as anyone else. Watching the movie made me see him.

Of note, I had a similar reaction to the book vs. film versions of both The Horse Whisperer. Maybe I’ve overdosed on descriptions of natural places to the point where I can’t be brought into them properly anymore, in text–you have to actually plant me there visually, and shut up for a second so I can appreciate them, and the characters that move within them. Or maybe Emile Hirsch and Robert Redford just make me care more than Jon Krakauer and Nicolas Evans can. Whatever the case, I take back my explosive resentment of this actual, real person who died, and whom I never met, and who yes, did hurt a lot of people by disappearing the way he did, but who didn’t mean to be gone forever and managed to get to some better emotional place than almost anyone ever reaches before he went. And who managed to leave enough proof of that to let his loved ones know. Plus the rest of us.

a drawdown of things

Typically, if you want an impassioned diatribe against the onward march of technology, I am not your girl.

True, I may possess (and continue to add to) an inordinate number of books that invariably make moving a hassle at best and a nightmare at worst. True, I may have retreated from the journalling apps I downloaded with such gusto, in favor of more traditional, pen-and-bound-paper methods. But I am wary of the pulpit that preaches these things are the only way. There are always other ways, and often better ways, and my personal preference one way or the other should in no way stand as a bearing for the course of R&D here or anywhere else.

But.

But, just now, gleefully cobbling together the last thing I ever thought I’d be making in my adult life, a casserole, in this glorious pseudo-fall weather, I bumped into a shelf and knocked down a plastic object which I thought, at first, to be the cap to a film canister.

filmcanister

You may remember these, if you’re over 20 and/or had a parent particularly devoted to photography. My trials and travails with print film are another tale in and of themselves, but these canisters: they were to cardboard boxes as Legos were to houses. You could do anything with them. My sister and I used them as hidey-holes for small fuzzy creatures the likes of which you could always find for 25 cents or less at Jo-Ann Fabrics. We made houses, boats, hats, armor and even other creatures out of these. We painted and stuffed and cut them. They were physical objects that abounded in our home–our dad was and remains an avid railfan–and, once they had served their original purpose, they became our playthings. Dad would have to wait until he had two to hand out, lest we bicker over who got dibs on the canister. And they are just one example of the kind of physical conduit for creative forces that have disappeared.

Lest we limit this only to talk of digitization–the upbraiding of which does not sit easily with me–look at teaboxes. Or rather, what used to be teaboxes. This teabox, or one just like it anway, held what was the first tea I ever drank, when I was maybe, six? But the important part was this awesome painted, sliding-wood-panelled box you had leftover after you’d drunk all the tea. I hoarded these boxes. My best friend and I used them as secret message compartments, as (again) houses for various play critters (animals similar to these were a huge deal in elementary schools in the 90s, let me tell you), as treasure troves, you name it. We painted them, glued things to them, lined them with multicolored felt, etc. etc. Workaday physical objects became creative outlets we devoted whole afternoons to improving upon and putting to new uses.

And those aren’t so common, now. Tea comes either in flimsy cardboard boxes of less substances than cereal boxes (if not in larger plastic bags, like coffee), and film…well, we all know what happened to film. And these aren’t the only things by far–big cardboard monitor boxes, Mondo plastic caps, mop buckets (you know, from the time before Swiffer). We’re experiencing a draw-down of things. And I don’t know that we’re getting new things to replace them–the creative outlets are still there, of course, but they are increasingly ephemeral and intangible. Who’s going to boot up the flash drive full of your kid’s Paper drawings in ten years? (Well, no one, because flash drives themselves will be a thing of the past, but my point remains.)

There are advantages to the drawdown of things, of course. It’s arguably better for the environment to be sourcing renewable fast-growing trees for cheap cardboard than for courting older, slower-to-be-replaced softwoods for things like teaboxes. And while I have no numbers comparing effects of print cameras and film (and all the chemicals related to them) versus the effects of digital cameras (and all the chemicals related to them)* on the environment, one imagines that at least at present usage levels, with large swathes of the world on the cusp of, but not yet devoted to, mobile devices and the cameras they come equipped with, the numbers are at least comparable. For now.

But the fact remains–and completely anecdotal evidence provided to me by friends who actually babysit/care for/in some way interact with children in this day and age supports this–that kids don’t make as much tangible stuff anymore. Not ad hoc, not from materials that are just lying around. Because there are fewer materials that are just lying around. And while that’s good for a number of reasons, it’s also bad. Or could be. Maybe I’m just not exposed to enough kids making forts out of iPad boxes and discarded laptop cases to know better.

* My attempt to google “the end of film is good for the environment” brought, as the second hit, the Wikipedia entry for the film Koyaaniqatsi, which, gah. If you ever want to feel bad about yourself, the world and everything your species has done to it, watch that movie! And then don’t sleep for 36 hours, because, nightmares, people.

emo batman isn’t emo enough

You know what I would like to see? The interior monologue of a Bruce Wayne struggling with whether he has abandoned his integrity; wondering if he is enjoying this pretty boy front a little too much, and if he has lost something important as a result.

Because there isn’t enough doubt there. Maybe that is a superhero-wide problem–likely not; as I understand it the comics are written, at least most recently, by those who are in a position to understand self-doubt and a whole host of more insidious ailments–and maybe it differs by version and author/artist. I’m not exposed to enough superhero lore to know. But I was listening to A Dark Knight, the last song that plays in the middle movie of the trilogy–because yes, I love Hans Zimmer’s work for these, but I also get to feel more of the movie going back and listening through the music written for it; replaying scenes in my head without the distraction of voices and visuals. And I loved, loved that ending. Loved Inspector Gordon’s speech. More, even, than scene in Dark Knight Rises, of which I was also a fan, its flaws notwithstanding. And listening to it, knowing the Joker’s speech that came before and the pariah-status Batman is now adopting for the sake of an idiot population in need of a scapegoat, I don’t understand where Batman sees enough of the good in life to continue defending it. His parents died when he was young. His one true love is dead. The hope of the city is dead, too. Sure, children across the city admire him and think he’s great, and maybe draw bat symbols on benches or took comfort, once, in the light in the sky. But is that enough to overcome the shit you end up seeing–the terrible people and the terrible things they do? If that was enough, why wouldn’t PTSD be cured just by a quick cuddle with your loved one when you get back? Or just seeing that person’s gratitude for your existence on a daily basis?

And what does he DO all day? When he’s not strutting around with two Russian ballet dancers on each arm, or (one assumes) putting in a significant number of hours working out? Somewhere in there he ought to be brooding. He’s clearly a brooding kind of guy. And no, I don’t mean staring moodily off into the distance, or at a portrait of Rachel, and glowering bleakly. I mean wondering why he ought to keep doing what he does. He never doubts. Not his cause or himself. Maybe he quits for awhile out of depression when Rachel dies, but his depression comes from the loss of someone else. Not a perceived flaw in himself. (No, I don’t think it’s “I should have saved Rachel” either, because he makes the choice he did and he knew what he was doing when he did it and says so. And he’s not dumb; whether Dent died in the fire or later at the docks he, Batman, would still have had to become a pariah, and dating Rachel would also have been a no-go under those circumstances.)

So I would like to see Bruce Wayne doing something stupidly Bruce Wayne-y, doing coke off a stripper’s belly or something, and saying something slick and stupid to some rich dick friend of his and then having some moment, in the bathroom mirror maybe, where he wonders if he’s caved or crashed; if he’s buying too much into this rich moron role; if these losers outside partying are really all society has to offer in one form or another and whether he was foolish to think he had a place protecting them from themselves.

Because I don’t care how great his childhood was–would its golden aura really burn that fiercely all throughout his adulthood? Could one successfully superimpose one’s own loss, repeatedly, over decades, onto millions of potential unknown others, and fight to prevent them from having to experience that loss themselves? Doesn’t he waver? Doesn’t he doubt? Sure, we see him sometimes dip into the brutish thuggery of Wayne when he’s supposed to be making clear-headed decisions (the stubborn disarming of the underground cave and gunning the motorcycle off into the night, in street clothes, is one such example), but those are just occasional juvenile flashes. If he’s not doubting because he’s afraid to give himself space to doubt, well, someone should explore that and remedy it.

Unlike a solider, surrounded by fellows and dogma to support him when he is down, and a support network to support him (ideally) even after he has left the conflict, Batman is one guy. One. And while he may have a support crew, they don’t plumb his mind. They certainly don’t remind him why he does what he does. (At least, again, in my very limited experience. If there is a Batman who doubts, show me to the comic and I will read it.)

When he has quit being Batman in DKR, and Joshua Gordon Levitt’s cop shows up and tells him about Gordon’s near-death experience and the decline of the Wayne Foundation money to the orphanage, that is posited as enough reason for Wayne to snap out of his stupor, get some bionic cartilage replacements and get back to work. But, okay. One friend? The hope of one friend is enough? What about Alfred? Alfred is is friend. Alfred wanted him to come back to the world for years. And Wayne didn’t do a damn thing about it. If I were Alfred some tiny part of me I’d try to keep silent beneath the joy and relief would be hurt. “I supported you and encouraged you for your whole life and you’re willing to get out of bed to help Gordon? Come on.”

Was the decline of the Wayne Foundation written in (in the comic) because it was thought that, yes, just Gordon’s being in the hospital wouldn’t be enough? Was it thought that both Batman and Wayne had to be shown to be in decline for Wayne to do anything about either? And why, once the physical barriers are overcome, does he just waltz back out convinced that he’s the man for the job? Where is the self-doubt? Is the line that “well, someone else will do it” supposed to be suddenly rendered shallow for him? He has met this cop. He knows he has a heart of gold, etc. etc. He can read these things in people. So why not let super rookie angel cop do it? Why decide you’re suddenly capable and whole enough to take on the world’s bullshit again?

So, batman people: please write more than just an emo Batman. Write a guy with some depth. He has been alive for decades and has a lot to think about. Let him think it, instead of just bouncing from bad guy to girlfriend to the occasional combo of both. Let him doubt.

memory warrior, with strings

When I was a teenager looking for something to write about, on more than several occasions my mother suggested I write about a family dealing with Alzheimer’s. “But I don’t have it yet. I don’t know what it’s like,” I said, because I wanted to draw out this suggestion of hers; I wanted to hear her say she wanted me to articulate something for her. But she meant something else. “Do it from the perspective of a granddaughter, then.”

I didn’t. Not then, or ever, even when I gained the closer perspective.

When I was a teenager, too, and even I suppose before that, when dreaming up fantasy stories I was always the smart one, the one who could recite in several languages, or conjure up familiars with an incantation and a complicated twist of my hands. The one who went to some arcane institution for close on a decade before graduating with full honors. The one who gets loyal meat to protect her, because she’s too thoughtful and fragile to kick ass on her own.

I have since tweaked that particular preference.

I tire of the cleverly fragile, and even of the sneaky. I would be the loyal meat. A great Warder, if we’re talking Wheel of Time. A guardian, if we’re talking FFX (and I rather doubt anyone is, let’s be honest).

Recently I received Remember Me as a gift, and I am careful to play it only when reliably alone, so as not to be interrupted. Because it presses, with its gnarled, tattooed French hand, all my buttons: sexist sons-of-bitches who must be punished for their violence against women, whirling strings-heavy orchestral pieces at the most climactic points of the plot, and disintegration of memory as, not just a theme present throughout the story, but as a cause. Something against which to raise up arms.

And you do, as Nilin, a British-accented, believably-proportioned ex-terrorist who, robbed of her own memories, is stalking their return, albeit led by the nose by someone with clearly ulterior motives. I wanted to wait until I’d finished the game to mention it, and I have not finished it. I am only halfway through, I think. But I have reached a point where something must be shared. This song:

Or rather, the first minute of this song. It plays–to be vague, in the interests of protecting from spoilers–during a scene of immense motion, in a cerebral location. It’s also a fight scene. During which you are fighting for the keeping-together of memories, against those who would shatter them.

When people used to express befuddlement at my fondness for voiceless, clearly-soundtrack music, and I didn’t have an erudite, musically-educated explanation for them, I used to remind myself not to mention it again. To kick it sheepishly under the rug when meeting someone for the first or second or tenth time. People expect and want to you to invest in the lyrics and in the voices of singers. But this little snippet of voiceless music slammed into a game where I am placed fighting against forces I very much would, if they existed in a form in which I could fight them, makes an explanation clear: I don’t trust the voices and the words of these people I don’t know to tell a story I can claim a part in. And why should I? They are very much divorced from my experience. Instrumental arrangements, though, can be invested with as much meaning as you can summon for them. And while I’m jamming buttons and hissing expletives at the screen during the fight against a set character with a set past, it’s not really that fiction I’m fighting against, as the strings soar around me. It’s a reality I’m much more familiar with. And if I follow the story the music tells me, I win. For once.