Wotta heckuva day. Nov. 4 (2017):
Pre-sunrise a.m. on a sattiday: we had to way-kup! & expected (& affirmed to be considered accountable) at a venue in the neighboring town of Fruita, some 16-miles distant, for a 9 a.m. appointment.
We had a guest at our house the night before from out of town who was to run a MARATHON from G.J. threw the Colorawdough Nashunull Mawn-yoo-mint to finish in Fruita. And we (not the guest) were part of the “crewe” which had to facilitate the TAKING OF TIMES, RECORDING OF PLACES, CERTIFYING the finish statistics of about 500 runners participating in the annual RimRock Marathon (and half-marathon).
Craig (guest) was long-gone when we got up at 7:30. He had to attend a mandatory all-racers meeting at 6:30! We did our morning rituals (pet-feeding/peeing, dog-securing, door-locking) and were at the finish area at Circle Park (downtown) Fruita promptly at 9. While Betty was driving there I would hold up my hands, four fingers extended from each, one hand behind the other, and ask if she could guess what this signified. < Okeh: PIXURE a hand, 4 fingers (not the thumb) held up EN FRONT UV YORE FAYCE, my other hand with 4-upraisd fingers also pointed up. > She didn’t even try to think outside of the envelope, car interior, or whatever confining matrix or partition or device enclosing whatever limited time/space circumstance which might describe our situation as it was, then. And would continue to be valid (hence undecipherable to her) through-out most the day. Shhsh: I’ll tell yew now, it’ll be reeeveald 2 her later: “forty-four”. Quite similar to Hitch-hiker’s Guide 2 The Galaxy: the answer is “42”. What’s the kwestyun?
Downtown Fruita, 9 a.m. (11/04/17)
Marathon finish-line weekend: things were already stirring, the “abuzz” to increase in magnitude, breadth, circumnavigational-bulbitude with each ten-minute interval. The guy in charge of the whole thing, Kiel, from (something with a title like) Grand Junction Events and Sports Commission was somewhat perturbed that Traffick Control hadn’t arrived to set up by 8 a.m. as allegedly promised. (They were present and going thru’ the motions of a semblance of accountability by 9:30, though). The only visible law enforcement person, Sgt. John Coughran of the Fruita P. D. drove up, parked nearby, perused the area, evaluating our set-up procedures for conducting the race, took me aside and said (interpreted as “inquired”) that he needed a harmonica player for a recording session of a song he was going to lay down in a studio in a few weeks. I, of course, readily conveyed that I was not only eminently honored and humbled to be asked to do this, but — what key(s) was/were the song(s) he was recording? “Eff-sharp” he said. That could be a problem. However, I (especially more so at this stage of my life) should be up to challenges. I didn’t know if manufacturers made a harp in that key but John said that he already had one.*
As if my battered ego and desire for recognition needed any acknowledgment, this was a good start. Holding up my hands, with four fingers extended from each, one behind and slightly offset from the other, Betty looked at me like I was stupid. I get that look from her a lot.
In short order she proved to be the master/mistress/dictator (benevolent, though!) of the finish-line runner-handling procedures. The local university track team (Colo. Mesa U.) provided personnel who not only would assist in handing out Finisher’s Medals to each runner as they came through the chute, there were a couple guys in particular who graciously and somewhat skillfully removed the computer-chips from each runner’s shoes after they crossed the finish line. These were gr8 guise. Two fellows on the track team – they knew performing public-duty such as this was an occasional requirement/inconvenience to their schedules, but they troopered-along nicely.
We have a primitive timing-system which utilizes ‘chips’ which are attached to each runner’s shoe – when the shoe crosses a sensitive electronic pad at the finish area, the chip instantly transmits information to the computer – the runner’s statistics (sex, name, age) and most-importantly, the exact finishing time for the race. The computer (if everything is in order and there are no software nor data-entry errors nor extraterrestrial influences) automatically and instantaneously records all this data – which, when prompted, can provide any and all race data output up to that point. This particular race had another variable, in that there were two races being conducted (okay, “run”) concurrently. The half-marathon started EXACTLY one hour after the 26-mile marathon – so that even though there was a “running time” which commenced at the Marathon start – the system “knew” to subtract an hour from the half-marathon finishers, and to segregate finishers into separate groupings.
Sometime soon, we (continue to) hope, we’ll have a system which does not utilize the (cumbersome) re-usable hard chips – but has one-time single-use computer-system identification devices which, when used for a race, have transmitted the finish(er)-information and do not need to be retrieved – the chips are done/dead/un-necessary thereafter. So we’ll retrieve, and re-use, our present bunch of chips for a while yet.
The fastest runners were finishing their races – and so our computer-system recorded the information garnered from the chip from each runner’s shoe – (as stated previously: instantly recording name, place, time, (and age and man/woman data) for storage and printout/retrieval as needed). We printed out the fastest 100 (of more than 400) half-marathoners quickly.
I held out the four fingers of one hand with the other hand’s four-fingers tantalizingly (no, she wasn’t ‘tantalized’ – more like “annoyed”) to Betty a couple times.
The day was still relatively young.
Runners came in — a few – individually — isolated intervals at first, then in groups. We became pretty busy at the chip-removal-from-shoes interval past the finish line. Sometimes — then quite often — then continuously, all the chairs-upon-which-tired-runners-needing-shoe-chip-removal would sit were filled – computer-chips were extricated by the dedicated team of chip-removal specialists for many minutes on end. I came up with a spiel, to the effect of “you’re now going to have the post-race pedicure which you probably didn’t notice in the Race Finish Line Benefits.” Most of the fatigued and very tired people I untied shoelaces (to extricate chips) or merely unwound nylon-ties from their shoes laughed or chuckled, but, as you’d expect, many were either too tired and/or mentally in an adjacent Wacko-Demento- (or Superiorly Much more advanced than I could imagine) -Dimension to even respond.
< another 4-fingers-up episode, (still not registering the “desired effect”). > Looking up at the unchanging but threatening storm clouds in the distance,
I was reminded of a circumstance the previous day. Tony, the best player in our hockey league and I (probably on everyone’s list as a candidate for the worst) talked after the game, drinking New Belgium’s YETI STOUTs in the parking lot. Savoring my beer, free-associating for the better part of an hour, and marveling (quietly, not aloud) at the clouds. Billowy capricious bulbous things — almost as if each was a sentient willful creation.
The best player and the worst player just hangin’ – leaning up against my car. We discussed this, that – the universe held its place, solid-as-could-be-expected in this time of multi-dimensional dynamix. I frequently gazed at the clouds – surreal, borderline psychedelic (no, I was not under any influence save for the stout, and, oh yes, post-game ‘high’/elation) – and just flowed with the go. But maybe I was just slithering along with the flow.
The race(s) wound down. I have been to many running races over the years, the shorter distance ones have some mingling – winding-down – kind of a mass-mind-meld yack-a-thon – but longer-distance races can get HARD CORE. Aided and abetted by beer. The awards ceremony imminent. Press and photographers circling like (not vultures, but) basically pleasant carrion birds. Good weather. A solid tight really-good rockenroll band playing (Navigators). Food. Hot soup. Plenty of porta-potties. (Still clean, even!) The venue (Fruita’s “Circle Park”) roped-off from errant motor vehicles. The mass-mind-meld yack-a-thon intensified.
Awards ceremony commenced. Our house-guest (my former werk-mate) was 14th in the Marathon – a commendable result in itself – but he was “first Master” (first finisher over 39 years old)! After letting Betty and I quaff a couple “free beers to the runners” from his finisher’s mug, Craig escaped. Unfortunately, we were able to continue to quaff more free beers – especially as one of the bartenders was our just-retired former financial advisor.
The finish-line/timing crewe dismantled our equipment – computer (& associated equipment) tent, pylons, flagging, chairs, finish-line computer-chip mats, etc. I wandered off when the heaviest and most cumbersome stuff had to be transported to our waiting trucks and played a couple of songs with the band. Another (un-necessary, but, hey, I’m pathetic) boost to my ego when the band-leader (Brian Gregor) announces after done playing (to the effect of) “it takes a really good harmonica player to jump in on a song and know what to do and fit in with the band.” (I wonder if I’ll be able to do that again with this particular group …) Oh well …
dinner-time! And Betty still doesn’t know it’s our Anniversary Dinner. Conrad and Kim (fellow Timing/Finish Crew members – and neighbors – though we rarely see them in the ‘hood) are easily convinced to accompany. We go to the Hot Tomato (Pizza) a couple blocks away. Betty and I have never actually eaten there, though we’ve been next door and in the vicinity dozens of times over the past few years.
A couple race-finishers were dropped off at the restaurant by the Fruita P.D. (Sgt. John) – as they were considered to be, um, too inebriated to walk there on their own (the park was within sight!). We invite them to sit with us. They remember me as “the guy” who played football-catch with them in the park. (Yes, I tried to intercept their passes to/from each other during one of my porta-potty sojourns). They are from Wisconsin. We all express heart-felt concern about Aaron Rogers.
I whisper to Kim what the “4 x 4” fingers mean as I leave for a restroom break (“and don’t tell her, just yet!”) – but somehow, Betty guesses. Of course she (pretends) to feel bad.
Forty-four years ago, today. Temple Israel, Long Island, New York. L’CHAIM, everyone !
This essay should end with the ‘toast’ (L’Chaim). As Betty and I walked back thru’ the park to the car, the Navigators were finishing putting their equipment away (I had helped a little to set-up). We hugged, cajoled, I had a spare/take-home piece of pizza which I offered them. Alex (the barefoot drummer) had just finished urinating on the Fruita Circle Park Dinosaur, and was really hungry, as he practically inhaled the slice. I don’t know what this has to do with anything, other than it’s sorta funny, and just seemed to be a typical atypical abby-somebody-normal part of this day.
*I should let Sgt. Coughran know that if he could alter the song(s) under consideration slightly, my harps in the key of B might suffice. He wasn’t too forgiving, saying – “(then) get a harp in the key of G-flat”.