Happy Goth-o-ween!

Mars Goth Girl and Rob from the ABC at Lois and Don’s Halloween Party

On Saturday, I revived my Goth Wine Snob costume to attend Lois and Don’s (from the ABC) annual Halloween party. Members of both the ABC and the WhyNot Adventures club were in attendence. Note how I’m in front of all the wine bottles. I polished off a few bottles of (red) zin while talking to some friends.

Now, the real truth about this costume is that I’ve always wanted to dress goth. I guess you can say throughout school, I was a “goth at heart.” I was too good of a kid, too afraid to piss off the parents to go through with the look, but I kick myself now that I’m an adult and can’t really go dying my hair some obscenely unnatural color. Tattoo on my ankle, I can get away with; purple hair (which is the color I always wanted to dye it), probably not so much. I used to want to get my eyebrow pierced too.

Anyway, I love this green hair wig since I bought it for a Halloween party in 2003. Originally, it went with a Star Trek uniform I had — I was playing the part of a miscellaneous starship captain of undefined alien origin. Since buying that wig, I’ve found a dozen of excuses to wear it: a friend of mine’s “Blackout Party” in 2004 (celebrating a year after the big blackout that occurred in the northeast), clubbing (at a goth club, of course) with my friend Grace, and the St. Patrick’s Day festivities at a former job. In fact, I met my ex-boyfriend when I was wearing this wig; he claimed he found it attractive on me. Though, he was into the goth look on girls, having been kind of a goth guy himself in his earlier days (yum!). I can at least claim that he noticed me because of this wig — it’s hard not to notice me in this wig! I’m sure that next I will find an excuse to wear it on a bike ride (it would have been perfect for the Moonlight Madness ride they used to have in downtown Denver…).

My Goth Wine Snob costume was partially inspired by this wig and partially by the wine corker headband I bought at an arts fair in Seattle last year. The wine corker is a head band with each end of the wine corker on each side of the head band, so that when I’m wearing it, there is the illusion that a wine corker has been screwed through my head. It’s such a quirky, funny little thing that you can surely understand why I had to buy it! It’s hard to see in this picture, but it seems to get quite a few laughs when I’m wearing it. The wine corker is a great prop for wine parties, too. I think I’ll use it when I become a consultant for the Traveling Vineyard… =)

I feel like this costume represents my true, Martian self… I would like to buy more wigs of particularly strange colors so that I can have my desired look, if only just for one day a year when it’s okay to look a little strange…

The truth about David and Goliath…

If you believe that everything in the universe is just and fair, you’re a fool. In real life, Goliath will always beat David — even if you believe God is on David’s side (God usually doesn’t take sides, in my experience). The rules of the universe, the way God set it up, is that the best man does not always win. The richer, bigger, “goliath” always triumphs. Nothing proves my theory more than this year’s baseball play-offs. Twice, the little guy got clobbered by the big man, proving ever more that money will get you everything you want or desire. Boston could buy the better players; Boston bought the World Series. Cheer on, happy Boston fans. It’s so hard to be in your shoes. *cough, cough*

My heart was broken twice. First with my beloved Indians. Then, possibility shimmered with the Rockies, who seemed to be on fire with their undefeated sweeps of both the NLDS and the NLCS. I desperately hoped that the Rockies would put Boston in their place, sober their fans up a bit.

The World Series this year reminded me of when I used to play Mike Tyson’s Punchout on my brother’s Nintendo. After much practice, I could defeat all of the boxers the game set me up to challenge. It got to be easy, figuring out the moves that would take out the boxer. But every time I came up against the king — Mike Tyson — the level of the game suddenly turned to an extreme that did not match the slight increase that occurred with each successive boxer I’d challenged previously. No, when you were faced with Mike Tyson, it was like you showed up for your algebra exam and your teacher gave you a calculus test instead. Suddenly, everything is beyond the level of even your most practiced skills.

Boston was the Mike Tyson of baseball this year. When all was said and done, the Rockies’ record in the NLDS and NLCS did not matter one bit. The playing field was drastically altered when the big bad Boston Red Sox stepped onto the field with their Josh Beckett and Hideki Okajima and Jason Varitek and David Ortiz and Mike Lowell (just to name a few and a certain other fielder whose name I purposely omitted because he’s so much of a d**khead that I don’t want to give him more glory by adding his name). A small time expansion team like the Rockies didn’t stand a chance against this all-star line up, bought and paid for by Boston fans with pockets full of gold.

It’s enough to depress even the most optimistic of people. For once, I’d like to see the little man win. Just once. And what depresses me more is that a World Series with the Rockies versus the Indians would have been way more interesting and fun to watch. It quite possibly could have been a real challenge for both sides, an exciting showdown of talent where whoever won was truly the best man. Even if the Rockies defeated the Indians, I wouldn’t have felt as bad because the Rockies needed it badly too. They’ve never been there. When I lived in Colorado, Rockies games reminded me of the Indians in the 1980s. My heart went out to them and I made them my team while I lived there. It’s my lot in life to live in the town of the underdog…

The story of David and Goliath is always a nice thing to tell kids or to give you hope that sometimes justice does prevail in the universe. You’re probably better served in telling your kids to acquire lots of money for success in life, or work in acquiring lots of money. Ignore those things you actually enjoy, but become what society needs — doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers. If you’re an artist, sell your soul to the big machine (as I have done) because you’ll spend your life starving. The world likes artists and actors, but only in afterthought. Tell someone you’re an artist and people scoff. Don’t open your own business either because Wal-Mart will move in down the street and sell your wares for a lower price without the customer service. Lower prices for bigger quantity always sells. And the big guy makes enough money that he can afford to beat your cost at every turn.

Life doesn’t works the way it does in stories (which is why they are stories). I’ve rarely found proof where the little guy actually prevails in every day life. If you know of any good examples that I’m overlooking, please feel free to comment.

In every life some wind must blow… and blow…

Finally… the long anticipated blog entry…

“I Reject Sweetest Day” (aka “Heidi’s Hiram Headwind”) Ride

Rode with: Members of the ABC

Ride Mileage: 40 miles

Start & End Location: Tinkers Creek State Park (not to be confused with Tinkers Creek Road in the Bedford Reservation of the Cleveland Metro Parks)
The brave souls who decided to embark on my ride.
Mars Girl’s shadow is at the bottom of the picture (yes, Martians cast shadows).

Having had such a successful ride in Wayne County on Labor Day, I decided to take the reigns of ride leadership with the ABC yet again on Oct. 20th with the goal being a stop at my alma mater, Hiram College. When I scheduled it back in September, I had no idea what the weather would be like or if the ride would end up taking place. It’s hard to tell in Ohio at this time of year just what kind of weather you’re going to get — it could snow, it could be 80 degrees. I almost couldn’t have asked for better weather, as the temperatures were in the sixties and quite comfortable for fall riding. I said almost because the wind was HORRENDOUS. Thus, the alias title for my ride.

Eight riders enthusiastically showed up for the ride, with two of whom rode to the starting point at the park (which, I’ll admit, I contemplated doing myself, but I didn’t want to wear my hydropack and I couldnt figure out where I would stick the cue sheets). This is pretty decent rider turn-out for a novice ride leader headed into the largely uncharted territory of Portage County, Ohio, where every road encountered may be a pot-hole obstricle course. In fact, this is one case in which planning the ride requires riding the route by car at least once near the date of the event to ensure the conditions have not drastically changed since the last visit. Portage County roads are as unreliable as Northeast Ohio weather. As I once heard an ABCer say, “They don’t call it ‘poor’-tage county for nothing.” (No offense to the residents of Portage County… Its pleasant scenery is why I even attempt to ride out there, despite the hazards of road conditions and impatient drivers.)

I drove the route after work on Friday before the ride since I’d plotted it using mapmyride.com, which has failed me once horribly in the past, turning an innocent 63-mile solo ride into a 75-mile ride from hell. To my surprise, all of the roads I’d plotted on this particular route actually existed and did not appear pocked like the surface of the moon. It was just extra credit that these roads also turned out to be very scenic, many of them lined with trees exhibiting the best colors of fall. I also managed to keep the route off any significant hills (significant, mind you, by Cuyahoga Valley standards). It’s late season bicycling and I didn’t feel the need to torture anyone unless I’d warned them in advance.

The first half of the ride was with the wind. My route took us along Winchell Road from Aurora into cluster of houses, a church, and a cementary at a crossroads that calls itself Hiram Rapids. I have continued to receive the highest accolades about this road. I discovered it on accident during the aforementioned 63-mile ride. Lightly trafficked, Winchell is generally flat and meanders through farm land and tree lanes until it eventually dead-ends at St. Rt. 700. I wish I would have taken a photo at the cementary in Hiram Rapids; the image of the orange, red, yellow, and browning leaves across the gothic gravestones with the golden rays of the sun seeping through the tree branches awakened the excitement of autumn and Halloween in my body.

Why is it that autumn always seem to hold the promise of adventure and fun? Autumn heralds the four-month lockdown of winter — not exciting or fun at all. In pagan mythology, autumn (Samhain) represents the end of the year, time to remember those you lost and reflect on the lessons learned during the past year. It’s a very somber time and the accompanying rite, which I’ve witnessed several times in the past, is just as solemn. Like the leaves falling from the trees, autumn represents the most difficult stage in the cycle of life: death or a change from one state to the next.

Unlike our human lives, the earth’s ending cycling is a lot more theatrical. You cannot dismiss the beautiful blaze of glory in which the leaves depart their short existence. After a spring and summer of green, indistinguishable in color to the leaves on all of the other trees except by shape, each leaf erupts into a powerful orange, yellow, red, amber, purple that sometimes differs in hue even within the same tree. As much as I love the warm weather of summer, autumn’s colorful collage takes my breath away and fills me with an intense adoration for the world we inhabit.

It apparently takes energy to enter the last phase of the natural life cycle. The autumn winds fiercely blow the leaves from the trees and all around the streets and yards and forests. It’s as though Mother Nature is taking part in removing the dead parts of the trees to make room for the new leaves that will grow there in the spring, like cleaning the dead skin cells from a wound so that new ones can begin to take form.

Most of the time, the autumn wind invigorates me. Its destructive force seems to imply that all you need to do is push your problems away forcefully and start over on a clean slate, as nature does each year. The wind moves my hair around me, tickling my scalp seductively, and promises like an inflamed lover to take me somewhere else — to the place where the wind ends, the land where it has blown everything to. The wind is like the people I’m attracted to — impassioned, steadfast, energetic, full with life, and ready to move on to the next great adventure.

The wind is not quite as sexy when you are riding a bike. It becomes a force working against you despite all the effort of your pedaling. I spent the return ride from Hiram, hunched over my drops, trying desperately to become lower than the wind. It was difficult and I had trouble keeping up with the main group who had started to form a small draft line. Michael had tried to draft off me but my erratic movements (swaying with the bike as I pumped the pedals) caused our tires to rub at one point and he pushed out ahead of me for his own safety.

To make matters a little more challenging, the route past Hiram was a little more hilly than the route out. Hills plus wind equals a bit of a challenge. I thought about how much easier the ride would be (because, again, it wasn’t as hilly as it could have been) had I done this on a windless day. Many times on this ride, I felt my whole bike quake and I pictured myself being blown sideways off the road, wheels lifted above the pavement before slamming into the ground, as though some giant invisible hand just pushed me aside.

For the second half of the ride, I took the group from Hiram down Route 88 for about a mile until Wheeler Road. This is the location of the Hiram College Biology field station and a tour of my alma mater would not be complete without a ride past it. Wheeler ends at State Street (Route 82) in the bustling metropolis of Garrettsville (sarcastic snort). I then navigated us to 88 where we took the quieter Freedom Street, which later becomes Hankee. A slight jog onto Asbury Road (the road on which Camp Asbury, the summer camp at which I worked the summer before my junior year), passing the unpaved — boo! — Portage County bike path. We turned down Schustrich, and then jogged up Vaughn to Mennonite. Mennonite goes straight into Mantua and up a pretty intense hill at the center of town. I did get a little cursed out for that one. I remember when driving that portion of the route, I thought, “Oh… that one’s gonna be a little rough!” Especially since it was in a little bit of a trafficky street (yeah, in Mantua, of all places!) and the road was actually less smooth than it was approaching the town. This is probably why our recumbant rider, Ernie, got a flat.

Out of Mantua was a little bit rolling. We stopped a few times to collect our riders. Then, we went down Diagonal for a little bit (this is the same Diagonal I use on my Stow-Streetsburo-Kent loop I do from my house) to Barlett. Barlett to Page, and then basically ending up on Frost Road. This was probably one of my bad routing decisions as Frost is congested and has those annoying rain gutters on each side of the road which a rider can easily slide into and catch a tire on when trying to get back out of it. This is exactly what happened to me in Colorado when I had my first of two bike accidents that required me to be removed from the scene via an ambulance. That incident earned me stitches by my left eyebrow.

Throughout the ride, I worried that my riders would become disgrunted with the route I planned (which I purposely made longer to reach a definite 40 miles). But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves despite the spirited grumbling about the wind. (I can’t control the wind, so that one’s out of my hands!) Some riders offered suggestions for alternative roads to the two busy ones I put us on, so I have room to modify this route for later use. Overall, though the route was pretty easy-going and my riders were really good about making sure no one got dropped.

A good ride is one in which everyone returns unharmed. Despite two chain-popping incidents and the aforementioned flat tire, the ride was largely without incident. It was a sunny day and I got a good workout in… before going home to watch the Indians nose-dive in game six of the ALCS. But I won’t bore you with another diatribe about that!

Wine, Wind, Writing, and Wakeful Wonderings

Amidst work, watching Indians games, mourning the Indians’ ALCS choke, my lively social calendar, and the search for Meaning and Truth that has recently consumed me, I’ve been a bit lax on my blogging. This is a big “no, no” in the world of writing — every book about becoming a successful writer will tell you to WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! You’re supposed to get in the habit of writing at the same time every day. Lately, my “same time every day” has conveniently been at work when there’s nothing else for me to do but look like I’m busy. I have trouble with maintaining consistency. I’m still trying to get myself to crunch a morning work-out into my schedule now that the winds of winter are on the periphery of my senses, their chill just brushing the hairs on the back of my neck.

But, alas, I realize I’ve been remiss in keeping up with what is supposed to be the main topic of my blog: the rides I’ve done. Most notably, I wanted to summarize the PVG Tour, which took place on the beautiful weekend of October 6, and what has become known by its participants as “Heidi’s Hiram Headwind Ride”, which took place last weekend on October 20 (Sweetest Day — I originally called this ride “I Reject Sweetest Day Ride” but it didn’t stick). I apologize for the delay, as I know my cycling audience has been just sitting on the edges of their seats, awaiting my reviews. Right? =)

Pino-Vino-Giro (Covered Bridge & Wine Tour) – Lake & Ashtabula Counties, OH

Rode With: Michael, Diane, and Jeff

Ride Mileage: Day 1 – 65 miles (Me & Michael), 35 miles (Diane and Jeff); Day 2 – 48 miles (Me & Michael)

Start & End Location: The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake

This was the second year of the PVG Tour, coordinated by HubBub Custom Bicycles, so I have to cut them a little slack for some of the items about which I’m about to complain. The ride was a definite improvement over last year in both route, activities, and goody bag. I feel personally responsible for the inclusion of the specially labeled PVG tour wine bottles in the goody bags, instead of just offered for sale as they were last year, because I wrote the suggestion on the survey at the end of last year’s ride. I’m sure there were a lot of other similar requests, but it was nice for once to have something happen that I suggested on an after-the-event survey. Like a prayer answered, my voice was heard by the faceless entities in cyberspace to which I submitted the survey. That almost never happens to me, so I feel that taking the time to complete one of those things finally paid off. I feel like I have power! *evil laugh*

Although, they didn’t listen to my suggestion for improved course markings. If anything, the markings were worse this year as I got officially lost once and thought I was lost another time. First of all, the roads were marked with dark blue arrows, which are nearly impossible to see on 1) black pavement, and 2) in the shining sunlight. Additionally, some public utility company had chosen to use a variant of blue paint — a brighter, more noticeable color — to mark the location of their subterranean lines and these arrows frequently threw me off in confusion. I felt like I was constantly asking myself if that was a PVG mark or some other mark I could ignore. Though, if I noticed it, then it obviously was not a PVG mark.

Secondly, arrows did not appear for turns until you were right at the turn. As experienced riders of even average speed know, turns indicated too late cause you to either pass them or stop abruptly (thus a creating a potential for wiping out). Some arrows ahead of the turn, regularly spaced, would have been much more bike-friendly. I always use the MS 150 as the model of route marking. Since most of the people who ride the MS 150 only ride this kind of mileage once a year (to do the MS 150), the ride coordinators are extremely deliberate with their route markings. All turns are indicated by first a single arrow several yards before the turn; two stacked a few feet later; and, finally, three stacked arrows right at the turn. It’s hard to miss these turn indicators.

Thirdly, a confirmation arrow on long stretches of the same road would have been helpful. When you’re riding along a road for a long time, after having crossed a few roads, and you don’t see anyone else around for awhile, you begin to wonder whether you’re still on the course. An arrow every once in awhile to give you the confidence that you’re still on the route is really helpful. And, yes, the MS 150 does this as well.

To make matters worse, the cue sheet was inconsistent. Sometimes cross roads were marked, sometimes not. There was no map of the overall route, which would have been handy when we fell off course within the first five miles of the ride. We ended up backtracking and getting back on route using a road that was later supposed to meet up with ride. We ended up having about 5 additional miles tacked onto the route for this mistake.

The first day’s route took us across some questionable roads that troubled even Diane and Jeff’s hybrids. I won’t complain much about this because it seems to me that many of the covered bridges we’re supposed to see are not on paved roads. Still, the route was scenic and the weather was perfect — in the upper 60s, which is a vast improvement over last year and last year’s conditions were quite nice (just chillier).

I did enjoy seeing the covered bridges. Last year, we didn’t hit too many, but the first day this year covered about five or six. The Netcher Road bridge was my favorite (pictured left). I like its Dutch design (it looks Dutch to me).

Lunch the first day was on the Mechanicsville Road bridge. We passed this bridge near the beginning of last year’s ride. I thought it was kind of neat to eat lunch ON the bridge. However, I will note that the lunch stop was rather late in the ride, somewhere around 50 miles. I was a bit starving by the time I reached the stop and I really hate being hungry during a ride. I always strive to eat just enough that I never feel hunger pains but I’m not feeling stuffed. Riding is hard enough; doing it on an empty stomach is like trying to drive a car when all that’s left in the tank is fumes. You can still go, but you can feel the accelerator losing its power to move the car. Fortunately, there were almost too many rest stops along the route, so I was able to make myself sick on bananas and carb bars.

We finished officially at about 68 miles. Michael prompted me to ride a few more miles to 70, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Shame on me. Maybe it was the late lunch. I kick myself in retrospect. Uneven numbers are troublesome.

After cleaning up at the Lodge, the four of us grabbed a glass of wine down the street at the Lakehouse Inn and Winery. I stayed in a cottage there last year with three other ABC members (I tried to get one this year, but they were booked). This winery has a beautiful deck seating area right on Lake Erie. Last year, I’d enjoyed a glass of wine, by myself, at this very location, so I was very excited to return since the wine was pretty good (they have a great Cabernet Franc and a lovely dry red they call Red Sky that I purchased at an Ohio wine event last year). A glass of wine is the best way to relax from a long day’s ride.

Tired cyclists enjoy tasty dinner at Grand River Cellars.

Dinner that night was held in the wine cellar of Grand River Cellars. I had ordered the ribs and chicken plate and they were excellent. The ribs were the way I love them — the way everyone

should love them — tender and falling off the bone. The chicken skin was slightly charred with the delectable barbecue grill burn flavor on them that I savor (chicken skin is my favorite part of the chicken). Three samples of Grand River wines as part of our dinner, so it was really the perfect evening.

The second day only had one ride option, a 45 mile route that went mostly through Lake County. This really was the best route of both days as there were enough hill challenges to make my body-abusing heart sing praises of painful joy. The best of it was a scary, windy drop into a river valley on Blair Road (south of Madison) with an immediate ascent after crossing the bridge over the river. The climb was challenging, but not impossible after my rigorous summer, though I had to keep my eyes focused immediately ahead of me because I was psyched out by the illusion of how steep the road was.

Michael, ever the master of hill-climbing, naturally charged ahead of me. He turned around near the top and cycled down a little to tell me that I was almost there. (Smart-Alec! =) I felt great after this climb. The first rest stop was shortly after at Paine Falls Park. We took some time to enjoy the falls before continuing on our way.

The remainder of the ride was pretty nice — not much traffic, pretty back roads, nice “rollers” by the wineries. The weather was even better this day (nearing the 70s) and I was just in my riding groove, enjoying every minute of the ride. The lunch stop was at my favorite Ohio winery, Chalet Debonne Vineyards. (Their Pinot-Syrah is excellent!) The menu was a lunch meat spread with bread for sandwiches, salad, ice tea, and cookies (!!). Debonne is situated among the rolling hills of Ohio wine country and has a cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy lunch and a break from riding. I was content.

The only covered bridge we visited the Harpersfield Road bridge located in a county metro park at the bottom of two sizable hills (as river crossings often are). As soon as I saw the bridge, I remembered it from last year. While climbing Tinkers Creek Road in the Bedford Reservation in the early spring this year, I had experienced a strange feeling of deja vu. Yet, it was my first time climbing Tinkers Creek Road. As we paused to take a picture in front of the Harpersfield bridge, and I took in the surroundings — the park, the steep climb on the other side of the valley, the water — I simultaneously remembered this particular climb from the PVG last year as well as the day I climbed Tinkers Creek with the knowledge that I’d climbed it before. Maybe it was an old age moment. But I realized that this place, Harperfield bridge, was the place that inspired the deja vu on Tinkers Creek. How often do you get to figure out the source of that “I’ve done this before” feeling you’ve had once?

I warned Michael that the hill on the other side of the road was very steep. Recalling how the hill had unnerved me last year (my bike was new to me then) and how hard it had been to me then, I felt a little anxious. So it was with surprise that as I started up it, I thought, “Oh, this isn’t as bad as I remembered it!” It wasn’t that long of a climb and I didn’t even have to use my lowest gear. It’s so cool and inspiring to see noticeable progress in my riding abilities.

About two miles from the end of the ride, I decided to give into my obsessive-compulsive craving for even mileage and I persuaded Michael to double-back a mile and a quarter so that we could roll into The Lodge parking lot at 50 miles. At this point in my cycling career, 40-50 miles doesn’t kill me (unless it’s in Holmes County!). It was such a great day and I chose the point to double back at Geneva State Park — small, but scenic and pretty flat (though the road surface left little to be desired).

We finished the ride around 1:30. After a packing everything up (Diane and Jeff, who didn’t do the second day’s ride, had already left), I headed off to Debonne to grab a few bottles of their Pinot-Syrah (which none of the stores near me sell) and Cabernet Franc. I’m such a lush. But it wouldn’t be a wine tour to me without taking home a souvenir of wine!

Despite my complaints, I still contend that this was a fun ride. It’s still a fledgling ride so perfection is not yet required or expected. You can bet that on my survey this year, I expressed my concern for the cue sheet, route map, and route markings. Last year, the food was a little questionable and the route itself was okay (some parts had had to be rerouted last year due to the flooding of the Grand River). This year was a vast improvement on food, goody bags, and route, so I can only expect the ride to get better and better. However, I’m probably going to take a year off from this ride and try something else. I’m not saying I’ll never do it again… but like a fine wine, I think I’m going to let this one age a little before enjoying it again…

Coming Soon… Review of Heidi’s Hiram Headwind Tour! Stay tuned!

Don’t rip on Cleveland or Clevelanders!

Mars Girl with the Mars Dad during the first ALDS game
in Cleveland, when the hope and promise of a World Series was ripe.

It’s been a rough week.

It all started with the Indians’ nose-dive into oblivion somewhere in the seventh inning of the last ALCS game. I, unlike my father, was still holding out hope that the Indians would manage to beat Boston in the seventh game. My father gave up on our team when they did not defeat Boston on the last night of our home stand. I still believed they could do it. I never give up hope. (I’m pretty stupid.)

At the start of the game, we looked like a team of minor league players. I had to check my channel guide to make sure I wasnt watching a re-run of Major League. Who were these guys? What was wrong with Westbrook? Did anyone know how to hit anymore? What happened to our pitchers? Sabathia? Carmona? Hello, guys, we’re in the playoffs. No joking around now!

It was miserable. Yet, somewhere in the middle of the game, there was a glimmer of hope when Cleveland managed to bring in two runs. You actually thought for a moment — and you could see the same hope in the eyes of the watching players in the Cleveland dugout — that we could pull ourselves out of the deficit.

I think the beginning of the end happened in the top of the seventh inning when the third base coach held Kenny Lofton, preventing him from scoring the tying run. Casey Blake (usually my hero for his game-winning home runs at the bottom of extra innings in the regular season) batted a weak hit that earned Boston a double-play and the inning was over.

I fell asleep for a little bit (hey, these games were starting at 8:21pm and I’m a working girl!) and when I woke up the score was 7-2. I turned off the TV and went to bed. For once, this Tribe fan could not stick it out to the oh-so-bitter end.

I was in and out of sleep all night. When I woke up next morning, I could barely drag myself out of bed. I must say that I was depressed. No, I mean it — I was Depressed with the capital “D” and all.

I swore off baseball. This year alone, I’ve sworn off a lot of unhealthy habits I’ve taken up over the years (excessive drinking, smoking, negative attitudes) in order to thwart my tendence towards depression. It seems my brain decided that it had to find something to be depressed about. And so there I was, Monday morning, just feeling miserable. I drove to work in a dreary haze. When I got into work, the first thing I did was bark at my co-worker. You see, they had been carpeting the office all weekend, but the contractors had not returned our furniture to the desks. A few f-bombs words slipped out of my mouth as I demanded to know where my chair was.

My co-worker, ever cheerful and undaunted by my moodiness, stated, “I know this is a bad day for you. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Had someone died? It sure felt like someone had… The rest of the day, everyone around me seemed kind of deflated. I felt like some people were tip-toeing around me because they’d seen me there all summer in my Tribe regalia, as I had gone to multiple week night games this year. I thought more people would bring up the game and talk about it, but I was really thankful when they didn’t. The pain was still too fresh. I didn’t want to talk about it. Each word stabbed my gentle heart.

At the end of the day, a project manager for about 2/3rds of the projects I’m working on came by. He was as he always is — jovial. He asked me a work question and I answered him quietly and without additional comment.

“What? Are you depressed about the game?” he asked. When I admitted that I was, he replied, “C’mon! We have a great team. If you’d have asked me in July if we’d make it to the playoffs, I’d have said no way. I’m just happy that they got there this year. And, look, they beat New York. That’s all that matters.”

I let his words sink in. He was right. The taste of victory against the Yankees was ever-so delightfully sweet. When it happened, I remember thinking that even if we didn’t make it all the way to the World Series (even though I desperately hoped we would), the season was worth seeing the Yanks get smacked around by us, especially after our pathetic record against them in the regular season.

I decided to suck it up in true Clevelander fashion and chant our Clevelander matra, “Maybe next year.”

Just one year, though, I’d like a professional Cleveland sports team — especially a sports team I care about (ie, BASEBALL) — win a championship. I am tired of being the butt of all regional jokes in the US. When I lived in Colorado and told people where I was from, not a second delay ever went by before I heard one or all of the following phrases:

– Mistake by/on the Lake!
– Cleveland, where the river burned!
– Oh, Cleveland. *make rude face*
– Cleveland Indians? Didn’t they make a movie with them?

– Drew Carey, right?
– Cleveland Rocks, Dude! *sarcastically said* (Okay, that’s the least insulting of all the snide Cleveland remarks.)

Might I remind everyone that the “burning river” and “mistake by the lake” occurred in 1969 — long before I was even born. I’m sure we no longer have enough industry in Cleveland (thanks to all the plant shut downs and our “booming” economy) to pollute the river enough to burn now. But what ticks me off the most about this comment is that I could stand on a ridge near my house that overlooked downtown Denver and I could see a cloud of smog surrounding the city, trapped by the mountains. You accuse my hometown of being polluted; your city ain’t looking all that pristine itself! He who lives in glass houses… well, you know the rest.

Now, it is true that I spent most of my college years swearing up and down that I was going to get the hell out of Ohio when I graduated. I used to want to live in Arizona (because it looks like Mars). But when Mike took me out to Denver for the first time to meet his dad and step-mom, I fell in love with the Rocky Mountains. And ever since then, it’s been an unrequited and impossible love affair.

I have plenty of complaints about Cleveland. Although, when you boil them all down, it pretty much comes down to two things: the prevailing red-winds of the political climate and the climate itself. I can deal with red states and red attitudes (Colorado was a red state in the last election). I can’t stand the lack of sun — that cloud that smothers the Cleveland sky from November until May. It’s oppressive and pulls me into the undertow of lethargic depression (they call that seasonal affective disorder, but I think everyone in Cleveland has it).

The general lack of healthiness with Clevelanders is a little frustrating. The health food section in Colorado was half a store (it also wasn’t hard to find entire health food stores) whereas in Cleveland, it’s one shelf, if that, unless you’re on the east side of town. Exercise is not as fervent a past-time to Clevelanders. For example, a Coloradoan will brave snow and cold to take a hike up some trail in the middle of January; Ohioans, and particularly Clevelanders, just go outside to get to the car where they drive to another warm building and stay there until they are forced to brave the weather again and leave.

I kind of liked the intrepid nature of Coloradoans. But then, they have sun even when it’s cold. I never saw clouds settle on the sky for longer than a week, if that. It’s funny the things you’ll do in the cold if the sun is shining. Even if the temperature is a chill 20 degrees, you’ll still go out if it looks warm out.

Still, I lived in my Promised Land. And I came home.

Cleveland is home to me, no matter what I think of it. I’m allowed to criticize, though. I was born here. When people from elsewhere comment about my home, I have found myself reacting strangely defensive. I never knew I cared so much.

“Hey,” I would say, somewhat angrily, “Cleveland is not a bad place!”

People always scoffed about it as though it were a third world country, some foreign land where the people were less intelligent and savage. Need I remind my fellow Americans that Cleveland has a nationally renown research hospital — The Cleveland Clinc — to which people from other states send their most hopeless cases. We also have several upstanding universities — Case Western Reserve, John Carroll, Ohio State, just to name a few. We have liberal arts colleges everywhere (Hiram, Oberlin, Baldwin-Wallace, Miami U). A friend from out-of-state who attended Dennison in Ohio once remarked, “Ohio sure has a lot little liberal arts colleges.”
We have a great performing arts facility, as my friend, Colleen, who moved to Colorado herself, has commented to me more than once in the last few days. We get a lot of off-Broadway shows. While living in Denver, I remember thinking that the performing arts selection left a little to be desired. It was all right, but the program was still quite infant.

Of course, someone from New York City would tell me that Cleveland’s performing arts programs were pathetic. I guess it’s all perspective.

Clevelanders are in the habit of complaining. As I’ve stated in other posts, all summer you hear, “It’s too hot!”; all winter, “It’s too cold!” It’s a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction.

We’re good at self-recrimination too. The whole, “Oh… Cleveland sports teams never get anywhere” remark that overtakes us as another one of our teams teases us almost to climax, and then stops short of completion.

But we have passion and heart, as my friend, Diane, pointed out to me in an e-mail on Monday. We are devoted to our sports teams and we really care. When our team is up, Cleveland is up in ways I can’t even describe to an outsider. The city awakens when one of our teams is in a winning streak. It’s a beautiful thing.

While waiting at a bus stop for the ALDS game we went to, people in passing cars honked their horns for us. We were all dressed in Indians regalia; I had my foam finger, and Jeff, Diane’s husband, had his face painted.

As you walk around the city, everyone is ever-eager to talk about the Indians. People who wouldn’t normally even be in the same social circle will exchange conversation about the game. The city seems to breathe with excitement. For that one moment in time, our political affiliations, our agendas, and our social constraints don’t bar us from seeing one another. For that moment in time, all Clevelanders recognize the one thing we all share: the love of and pride for our sports teams.

It may sound hokey and superficial to the outside world. It may sound like the typical American experience that causes half the world to become disgusted with us (though, I beg to differ as the World Cup causes a lot of ruckus with its fans). But this is how it is. I’m not sure big money teams such as Boston or the Yankees really know the kind of love we have for our teams. It’s easy to be a Yankees fan and, this year, a Boston fan. It’s always easy to back a winner. Especially a winner with a lot of money.

Anyway, I’m just writing to stick up for my town and its downtrodden folk. We walk around feeling a little self-conscious about where we are from. I’ve felt it when in Denver I would reluctantly tell people where I was from. My pathetic, apologetic response always carried the subtext “Forgive me, I’m from Cleveland.”

It shouldn’t be that way. Cleveland is a good place to live. I have good, loyal, and trustworthy friends here (part of the reason I chose to come back). June through October here is absolutely beautiful. Housing prices are fair. I can still find some nasty and challenging hills to climb (though none of them quite as long as those I enjoyed in Colorado).

It’s not so bad. We’ll be okay. The Indians will come back again next year. For better or for worse, I have sworn my loyalty to Cleveland. Like an unfaithful spouse, I left looking for better only to realize what I had was good. Cleveland took me back with open arms, apology accepted. Cleveland forgives (even most of my friends have stopped joking with me about being a traitor).

Clevelanders have heart. I’m proud to be a Clevelander, born of Clevelanders. So make fun of us all you like, but remember that you can always call a Clevelander at 2am when you need someone to drive your drunken butt home from a bar because we’re as loyal to our friends as we are to our sports teams.

I found this great blog that says it all — God Hates Cleveland Sports — about the toils and frustrations of being a Cleveland sports fan. (I did say that if the Indians won the World Series, it would be unequivocal proof to me that there is a god. But maybe them NOT even making it to the World Series is more convincing proof.)

Winner by default

Wow! For the first time in my life — ever — I’ve won an award for an athletic endeavor and one, I might add, in which I would never consider myself very good: Running!! I apparently won second place for the 30-34 age category in the Run for Grace & Andy at Hiram. Let us not forget that I won this award merely because there were only three 30-34 year old women running. But, I was the *senior citizen* at the age of 32; the other girls were both 30. I was 49 seconds behind the first place girl; I was a whole 6 minutes and 6 seconds ahead of the last place girl.

If only my elementary school gym teacher, Mrs. Meers, could see me now. She used to tell my mom how nonathletic I was. Apparently, I am the opposite of pigeon-toed when I walk and run — my feet swing outward awkwardly. Other people in my life have pointed out that I look a little “different” when I run (though they are kind enough to not specify how). Mrs. Meers was convinced I’d never get anywhere athletically unless my legs were broken and reset so that I could run “normally.” Luckily for me, my mom was a “neglectful parent” and she let me go out into the world, athletically challenged as I was.

Funny thing is, my life has been nothing but athletic. I graduated from elementary school to play soccer throughout middle and high school. I’ve successfully climbed several mountains. I’ve cycled 2600+ miles this year (maybe some 5000+ total since I became a bike freak several years ago). I learned to downhill ski without formal lessons, I never fell much while learning, and I’m still pretty decent. I’ve run more 5Ks than I care to remember. Someday, I’d like to do a triathlon. I’ve done all this with my apparent anti-pigeon-toed disability.

So… I will cherish the plaque I receive for this one run, for it is doubtful it will ever happen again. I dedicate this success to my dad from whom I probably inherited my endurance abilities (since we seem to share the same tenacity to these sorts of sports). And to Mrs. Meers — who, by the way, was overweight and smoked, so she’s probably died of a heart attack or lung cancer by now — :P on you! I’m a winner, imperfect legs and all! =)

The Tribe scalps the Yanks!

This beautiful “ad” was emailed to me by a friend.
Hail to the creative genius who made this!

There is no victory sweeter than that of the Indians–the national “underdogs”–beating the New York Yankees–the rich “big guys” who have bought all the best players. It’s the classic theme of the little guy taking down what would seem to be, at first glance, the guaranteed winner. It’s like all the epic legends: David and Goliath, the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. Victory!

It was especially sweet after having to endure the snide comments of the obviously NY-biased commentators. During all the TBS televised games, I cringed as the commentators said things as, “Cleveland is doing quite well despite [insert some disparaging remark about being a young ball team].” It’s as if our entire year and the huge increase in heat we put on at the end of the season meant nothing. Need I remind everyone that NY was the wild card team; Cleveland made it into the ALDS by having the best record in the Central Division. So there! :P

I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed watching the emotional faces of the NY crowd as the camera panned on them at the end of the game as the Indians jumped into a huge jubilant pile of players. Anger, depression, confusion — the NY fans actually thought their team would turn around and destroy the Indians. Admittedly, I had my own doubts. With the exception of the first game win of 13-2, the games were very close. The series was well-played. A little too exciting for my own health, but just the sort of baseball that is fun to watch. I’d rather watch a tit-for-tat scoring game than a complete pulverization any day. I like to see the losing team at least fight back. Especially since it’s usually the Indians fighting back. But not anymore — my team is hot! If they can keep up this intensity, they may make it to the World Series.

I especially gloried in the Yanks’ loss because that team’s fans are so arrogant. I spent two years traveling every other week to the Long Island office of my former company. Long Islanders generally like the Mets, but there were enough people who gloried in the victories of the over-priced Yankees for me to develop a dislike of the mentality. It’s really hard to pity a team who has made it to World Series multiple times since I’ve been alive and watching baseball. The team is bought because the market allows for an endless pool of funds. It’s really not hard to be a Yankees fan. Sorry, but I pity you not. The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948. That’s before my dad was alive. He’s been a fan his whole life, even when they sucked enough to have a movie made for them mocking their ineptitude (Major League).

As a devoted Tribe fan, I swore I’d never set foot in Yankees stadium and I kept true to that. My coworkers in NY twice offered me the opportunity to see a Yankees game while I was there. I refused both times. I’d seen enough of the fans while talking to them at work. One coworker remarked to me once in jest, “The Cleveland Indians? Is that a minor league team?”

Ha ha. It’s hard not to take that jibe personally. To me, it represents the general attitude of people across the nation towards Cleveland. When I lived in Denver, I heard more remarks about the “mistake on the lake” and “the river that burned” and the occasional other quip I’d never heard that I found I actually did love my hometown in a weird dysfunctional sort of way. I learned that I had boundaries: It was okay for me to make disgusted pot-shots at my home town to another Clevelander. However, hell hath no fury like the one that welled within me when someone from the “outside” made a comment. Cleveland is my home. The Indians are my team. I’m more of a sap than I ever imagined I was.

Clevelanders have a general self-deprecating personality. We walk around complaining about how much we suck or how crappy the weather is. We have a pessimistic attitude about our sports teams, thinking, “Oh, they’re going to lose it all eventually. Cleveland always blows it.” It’s the curse of Ohio.

But, man, when one of our sports teams is winning, it’s the one moment in time when we all band together as one people. Strangers will discuss scores with strangers. In 1998 when the Indians were in the play-offs, I was riding the Rapid (our rail system) to work in downtown. The radio was tuned to the game over the intercom system. Usually on the Rapid, people kept to themselves, reading or listening to walkmans (this was before iPods), or just staring at the floor so not as to be disturbed by the mumbling homeless who walked the isles. This day, I remember, the Rapid was filled with the chatter of people discussing the game and their predictions for the outcome. As each play unfolded, grunts of displeasure or cheers appropriately filled the bus. It gave me goosebumps (I told you I was a sap). I didn’t know any of these people, but we all had one thing in common: We loved the Indians and we wanted them to win.

It doesn’t matter to me what bands us together — even for this brief period of time. At that moment in time, all Clevelanders were hopeful. As we are again, today. I keep thinking if one of our sports teams wins an ultimate championship — and I’m hoping it’s in baseball because that’s my favorite spectator sport — it would do so much to lift the generally pessimistic attitude of my fellow towns-people. At least we could say, “Remember 2007 when the Indians broke their losing streak.”

We loyal fans have earned this year. We’ve come so close before (1997 *sigh*). It’s Tribe time now. I truly believe that. I want to believe that.

How to become an ibuprofin addict

Mars Girl and friend, Ruth, (far left) at start
of the Run for Grace & Andy in Hiram, OH

Step 1: Run a 3.3 mile run after a long period of abstinence. Make sure you do minimal stretches.

Step 2: On the following day, ride your bike 50 miles.

It’s as easy as that, folks. I followed these two simple steps and, in a matter of 24 hours, I’ve become an ibuprofin addict. I am walking around the office like someone twice my age with arthritis and years working as a floor coverer (sorry, Dad). All of you out there who claim that I’m athletic (RUTH) can sit on it. Athletes can’t possibly experience this much pain after relatively minor exercise.

Okay, 50 miles by bike isn’t minor to most people (at 2509 miles, it is to me). Running 3 miles in hilly Hiram is not minor either. All of this would be to an athlete, though!

I haven’t run since what I call “treadmill season” (otherwise known as northeast Ohio winter). But when I read in the e-mail newsletter from my alma mater, Hiram College, that a run had been organized to raise money for the scholarship funds in the names of Grace Chamberlain and Andy Hopkins — the two students who tragically lost their lives to a 10-time DUI offender a year and a half ago — I decided it was time to put on the running shoes, despite the fact that I absolutely abhor running. Well, not bad enough to not enjoy the competition of an organized run. I can’t help it. I love torture myself. TPL and all.

It was a beautiful day Saturday. Everyone was in great spirits for the run. I happily noted that most of the other runners were young, probably college students showing support for a fellow Hiramite they may not have known, but felt connected to simply by the fact that they shared the same campus with the deceased. That’s why I was there. All Hiram students are connected by a kinship with a great school we’re all proud to have attended. When one of us bleeds, we all feel it. It sounds corny, but it’s true.

Anyway, I was happy that most of the runners were younger because I didn’t see a lot of people in my age category, which means I could place somewhere in the middle of the group. It looks like I placed exactly middle, in fact, being that there turned out to be only THREE 30-34 year olds (and I was the oldest one in the category to run!).

The run route followed “Three-Mile Square” — one of the most popular Hiram College traditions. Three-Mile Square follows OH-700 South out of Hiram to Pioneer Trail, turns right on Ryder Road, and then right onto OH-82 East into Hiram. Except, in college, Diane and I used to do it the reverse direction because that hill on Pioneer Trail is a bit nasty. I remembered why we went that direction as I struggled to keep myself at a jog up this hill. I watched a lot of runners next to me stop and walk. I can’t begrudge them that because a few of them still managed to beat me across the finish line.

The Ryder Road portion of the route is actually quite pretty. It starts atop a hill, providing a scenic overlook of the two farms that line each side of the road. It’s really weird, but it seemed as though nothing had changed. Same delapitated shack halfway down the road at the bottom of the hill. I think there used to be a scraggly old tree across the street from the shack, but it was gone now.

The route passes the cemetary. I know it sounds morbid, but I used to spend hours there in college, just looking at the headstones. It was a great place to experience the fall colors. The cemetary has some nice old trees that breathe a sigh of ancient wisdom into the place. In my one and only studio art class, I had created a melodramatic acrylic painting of one of the headstones with colored leaves smattered around it. On the grave, in place of the person’s name, I’d written “Eve Ree Thing” with “Dies” instead of “Died”. Yeah, I was so utterly profound. You can gag. I’m a better writer than I am an artist. And that’s not saying much.

Still, the actual picture was the best thing I’ve ever painted. It actually looks like what it’s supposed to be. I could probably still find the headstone I used as the model. I thought of the painting as I ran past the cemetary and how melodramatic I was in college before I knew any real sorrow in life.

They .3 remaining mile, I imagine, came from the extra bit they routed us to the track at the new athletic facility (by the way, I’m really jealous of this facility — why did my college get all the cool stuff after I left?! I won’t even tell you about the new writing program that makes me salivate.). I sprinted hard the last few meters, as I always do when I catch sight of the finish line. The reader at the finish line beeped as it registered the chip tied to my shoelace.

When I stopped, I realized that my calves and thighs were feeling quite punchy; or rather, as if they’d been punched. I met up with Diane and her husband, Jeff, who had walked the 1 mile route which toured the campus, Diane complained, that we knew so well. I guess she was expecting to discover some new part of the little hamlet of Hiram, but I’m pretty sure we saw it all while we went there. There’s not a lot more to the place.

We waited for my other friend, Ruth, who had also run the 3.3 mile route. (I love how I am roping my friends into all my crazy athletic endeavors!)

The sitting didn’t do me any good. The next time I moved to stand, my legs protested.

But, still, I’m happy that I did manage to get out there to do the run. Do I feel like doing any more runs? Um… no. I still like my bike better.

Which leads me to yesterday when I decided it was a good idea to do a 50 mile bike ride with Michael. He kept asking me, “Are you sure you want to ride?”

“Yes,” I kept saying exasperatedly. You use different muscles to ride, right? So it wasn’t going to hurt the muscles I had made sore the day before, right? Besides, it was a day more beautiful than the last and I just couldn’t let it go to waste without full appreciation of its worth.

Our ride took place in Medina County and the much-ABC-debated Wayne County. We sailed (to my nervous dismay) into the Overton Valley and appreciated the trees and lakes found down there. I was secretly glad that Michael, the fearless captain of the tandem, did not steer us up an “annoying excruciating” hill as I had requested earlier in the week.

The ride was pretty laid-back and not exceedingly hard. Which was good because when we returned to our starting point at mile 50, and I removed myself from the bike, my legs felt like led weights. Each movement brought with it a stiff ache. Yes, I was right — different muscles. Except now, instead of some muscles being sore, all the muscles in my legs were sore. At least I evened it all out!

You just can’t stop a girl with an addiction to cardio. But excuse me, for I need to take some more ibuprofin…