Sunday, February 27, 2011


I am so glad this month is over! Not only do I have to make a special attempt every single year to figure out exactly how many days I have to wait until March 1, but I get a bunch of grammarians (perhaps they would more accurately be called pronunciationists, but I’m pretty sure that is not really a word) telling me, “That’s not the way you say it.”

Sure it is. February. I’ve been saying it that way since I was a kid.

“You’re saying Febuary,” they say.

I know. February.

“It’s pronounced ‘Fe-broo-ary.’ There are two Rs.”

I know how to spell it, for goodness sake. I also know how to say it. February.

“You’re still saying ‘Febuary.’”

Febuary. It is how most of us say it, unless we are trying to be one of those effete elitists. FebRuary. Ugh.

Never mind all that. Let’s talk about something else. How about the fact that the whole leap year trauma, when I wake up and have to figure out if it is February 29 or March 1, will enjoy an unfortunate twist just before my 138th birthday in 2100 . . . which I do plan on being around for.

Taken from the Internet without proper attribution: “Years that are evenly divisible by 100 are not leap years, unless they are also evenly divisible by 400, in which case they are leap years. For example, 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. Similarly, 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600, 2700, 2900 and 3000 will not be leap years, but 2400 and 2800 will be.”

Great. Just great. I have to trust the printers of 2100 calendars to remember not to include February 29. 2100 will be the first leap year not to actually be a leap year in two hundred years. This is Y2K all over again. Traffic lights will go on the fritz; elevators will plummet from the tops of skyscrapers. All because we will be inundated with inaccurate calendars. Maybe that’s why the Mayans didn’t make calendars after 2012. They were just sick and tired of worrying about the leap year nonsense and went back to building temples out of shoddy construction materials that would eventually turn to ruins and committing ritual acts of animal sacrifice and bloodletting.

Go Mayans!

And while I complain about the lack of uniformity when it comes to the month of Febuary, excuse me, February, I don’t know why we have to make a list of which years include twenty-nine days for the second month. To make the statement that 3000 will not be a leap year means that you think someone is jotting down right now what is being discussed and that note will be found in the back of some futuristic kitchen drawer just in time to remind everyone.

Trust me, that’s not going to happen. If there is anyone still alive in 3000, I’m pretty sure they will be too busy flying around on their cloned pterodactyls to care about leap years. Daily information (date, weather, historical fun fact, plus that evening’s TV programs) will be automatically uploaded to their iBrain™ upon waking, and the global economy, like global warming, will remain an unfulfilled prophecy.

Until that time, people born on any given leap day will have to wait four years to throw a legitimate birthday celebration (except for the poor saps born on February 29, 2096: they’ll have to wait eight years for their first party). February is just one big messed up month. (Except for daughter Kelsey’s birthday of course. The 23rd. If you haven’t sent a present yet it’s not too late. Hallmark makes plenty of belated birthday cards.)

February is to the annual calendar what Ringo Starr is to the Beatles. Really! See: February has the fewest days, and Ringo wrote the fewest of the Beatles’ songs. It makes perfect sense. Of course, at this point Ringo is quite possibly going to be the last Beatle standing, and will happily be the winner of their unexpected musical tontine.

Ringo can be a shining example for February. It just has to outlast the rest of the months. By 3000 February could be the name of the entire calendar.

Or Febuary.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Some folks take their daily exercise on a treadmill, while others would rather perambulate on nearby neighborhood sidewalks. Both help improve general fitness levels, I suppose, but the former is just slightly more passive than the latter. I mean, the treadmill actually takes each foot backward for you as you throw the other foot forward to break your fall.

The stair climber at Club Expensive doesn’t do any heavy lifting for you, but a duller machine I cannot imagine. If I am going to climb stairs for fifteen or thirty minutes, I want to get somewhere. The viewing platform in the Statue of Liberty’s crown (if it was still open to the public) or the top of the Eiffel Tower (if someone is willing to pay for my flight to France). You know, somewhere that is actually up.

In June I hope to combine the real world alternatives of the treadmill and stair climber as I take part in my fourth sixteen-hour exercise regimen known as the Night and Day Challenge. Starting at four in the afternoon on a (hopefully) mid-temperature Saturday, my teammates and I will move ourselves around San Francisco to find as many of the sixty mystery locations as possible.

San Francisco, you’ll recall, is not a flat place. Sure, every once in a while you can walk there for five minutes without heading uphill, but generally when you take a step your forward foot is above or below the one in the rear. The wear and tear factor is thusly increased.

Doing this for sixteen hours probably seems foolish. It certainly does to us, my teammates and I, especially around one a.m. when we are just past halfway done. It seems like the morning will never come. But after a few months the pain is a distant memory and the next adventure beckons us as though it were a siren on a craggy ocean shoreline and we were scurvy-ridden buccaneers.

The first time I did the Night and Day with my brother. Then twice with a friend. As we put together our impressive 2011 team, either or both might be joining me, and I am working feverishly on adding team member #4.

D— thus far is unimpressed with the notion. He has been known to walk around San Francisco for hours at a time, but always during daylight hours. He knows his way around the city, but he is uninterested in doing so all night long, and he definitely has no desire to do any amount of running.

I thought there had been a time when D— expressed mild curiosity at the possibility of participating, but he has assured me that I am woefully mistaken. At no point had he expressed mild curiosity, and he is now on record as stating that he is considering a restraining order. Some might cower in fear of his emphatic speech, but I keep asking.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have brought it up, however, as D— and I recently approached the Filbert Steps in San Francisco. We were strolling around the city—not competitively—looking for beer and dim sum, and found ourselves near the 1300 block of Sansome Street, in the vicinity of the Embarcadero as it approaches the shopping mecca that is Pier 39.

The steps rise from just about sea level and eventually reach Coit Tower, a famous SF landmark that you can learn more about elsewhere. There are approximately 400 steps and they climb near 300 feet up, in a distance as measured by an overhead map of only 0.2 miles. That, my friends, is a 25% grade.

“Hey,” I said to D—, “I remember these steps! We had to run up them back in 2009!” Then I made the mistake of mentioning that we couldn’t find the mystery location situated about mid-climb, so we had run to the top, back down to the bottom, before going up once more to find what we were searching for.

It wasn’t the best way to convince D— that we were the team to join. It might seem like we were easily lost and that our map-reading skills might be sub-par. I could argue the point that we came in first place in 2009, but that was only when the point totals were broken down into subcategories. There were groups on bike, groups on foot, and groups using both. There were groups of men, and groups of women, and groups of both.

Yes, we came in first place out of all foot-based mens teams. Of which we were the only one. If I have to spell it out for you, that’s first place out of one; no other competition. That’s like still being in the pool when all of the other swimmers have already finished their race and gone home and spent the weekend sharing their various awards with friends and family.

Out of all foot-based teams in 2009 we came in third place, and there were only four. That’s like not losing, but only beating the losers.

Perhaps D— will end up competing in the 2011 Night and Day Challenge after all. On a more impressive team that doesn’t get lost on a staircase.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


“I gave my love a cherry without a stone
I gave my love a chicken without a bone
I gave my love a ring that had no end . . .”

. . . I gave my love a footrace and made her run it by herself.

Okay, that sounds worse than it really is. At least from my perspective. You’ll have to ask my love what she thinks about it. Or read her nonexistent humor column.

Kristin has participated in a few footraces since my obsession began in 1999. She’s completed a number of 5Ks, and even ran a hilly trail 10K a couple of years ago. Okay, she didn’t “run” the trail race, but neither did I. Did I mention it was hilly? We finished together, as we often have. If I participate in a race with Kristin or one of the kids and the point is to do it together, I stick with ‘em through the end.

On occasion, if she has other company, I’ll run my own race, like we did in San Carlos a long while back. I run, finish, rest, eat, drink, rest, pace around the finish line, and here she comes! Of course I cheer loudly for my wife, being very proud of her and her accomplishment.

Last year I heard about a race in Oakland that we couldn’t assimilate into our busy schedule. It’s called a Couple’s Relay and is run around Lake Merritt. It intrigued me because in ’09 I spent twelve hours running around Lake Merritt and racked up 54.2 miles. This year this particular Sunday morning was open, so I signed up Kristin and me to participate in the Couple’s Relay. The only problem was I didn’t tell Kristin.

We are scheduled to run on Sunday, February 27. Consider it a late Valentine’s Day present. We have to get up to Lake Merritt by 8 a.m. and then Kristin will run around the lake, I believe in a clockwise direction. Hopefully I send her off facing the right way. When she completes the approximate 3.1 mile distance (the standard equivalent of the metric 5 kilometer) we will tag off in some manner and then I will run the same circuit.

Judging by our recent running, and the results of other teams in the same race last year, we won’t come in last place. That’s always Kristin’s concern. She doesn’t want to come in last. On January 1 we started the new year out right with a 5K in Palo Alto, and Kristin was worried that she’d come in last.

She didn’t, naturally, because she is determined. She even thought all of the 10K runners, who only started fifteen minutes earlier than we did, would beat her. Some did, but certainly not all.

If you think of this as a Valentine’s Day gift, you might think me daft, inconsiderate, sophomoric, or just plain cruel. Certainly unromantic. Which is fine with me; I don’t think I have ever been particularly romantic. Not like the Latin lovers in those movies I’ve never seen. I don’t take Kristin to the latest romantic comedy every mid-February. Usually I am trying to convince her to go see the latest Sylvester Stallone shoot-a-thon.

Not to say I’ve never done anything nice, I just don’t want to catalog them here. I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

Meanwhile, I am making post-race plans. We will either go to a movie theater to see “Just Go With It” starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston (which sounds horrible) or maybe eat at Chez Panisse in nearby Berkeley (which sounds expensive) or, barring either of those because I’m too sweaty for public interaction, we’ll go home and I’ll sit on the couch for the rest of afternoon.

Hey, what can I say? It will be nearly two weeks after Valentine’s Day. Surely I can be forgiven some selfish behavior at that point.

So I say she is going to run the footrace by herself, and this is true. To a point. She will run without me, but Kristin is well able to make friends everywhere she goes, and I have no doubt she will find someone of a similar pace and will be able to complete her lap at a rate that does not preclude a little friendly conversation.

Perhaps Kristin deserves a true valentine in advance of our sporting spectacle. If only I was still a classroom teacher I could regift a box of chocolates or little stuffed animal I’d get from a student.

Wouldn’t be the first time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Nothing says love like going behind your wife’s back. Trust me. I speak with authority on this topic. If you can go behind her back with solid faith that it won’t all blow up in your face . . . that’s love, baby!

In 2006 Kristin went out of town for a couple of weeks. Something about visiting her parents in Las Vegas. I don’t know. I wasn’t really listening. All I know was she was gone and she wasn’t back for dinner. Nor the next dinner. I kept cooking and putting it on the table, and eventually she was there to enjoy it. She said, “Thanks!” and told me about her trip.

I was smart enough not to say, “Oh, were you gone?”

Walking into the garage for the first time since her return, Kristin was startled to see a motorcycle. I had one when our matrimonial union was sanctified by good ol’ Reverend Scotty of the First United Methodist Church of Campbell (he who soon after left town with a new wife of his own) and Kristin and I had spent a goodly amount of time on it. Even made it to Canada in 1986, where I learned I could no longer apply for Conscientious Objector status.

We’d sold the bike, however, in the mid-90s. It was no longer practical with three small children needing constant chauffeur service. I was willing to take them on the bike but their feet didn’t reach the back footrests and their tiny heads just banged around inside the large helmet.

Now I had gone out and purchased a new one without any discussion with She Who Should Be Involved In All Major Decision-Making (she gave me that title to use for her, I didn’t make it up). Surprise! It could have ruined the mood of her homecoming, if only I wasn’t so clever in my surprise-making. There are many women, I am sure, who would browbeat their husbands if they brought home a motorcycle.

My wife is great. She said, “Let’s go for a ride!”

Of course, this was to be expected. She had dealt with other surprises over the past twenty-five years similarly. When I said, “Surprise! Let’s have Kyle’s six month picture taken in the same dress as his sisters when they were the same age,” Kristin went along with it. When I said, “Surprise! I hung up a dart board in the family room,” she just made sure to duck every time she entered the room.

Back in the garage, she was admiring the sleek lines and the shiny parts of the new motorcycle and I waited for the other shoe to drop. Because the motorcycle was the first shoe, and there was another shoe in the garage. Not the ones that were on our feet. And this mysterious second shoe was about to drop. Am I making the metaphor painful to read?

Well, then, let’s move on . . .

Turning to go back into the house she realized there was something to her right. A large something, and yet the Mazda was in the driveway. She looked and the next half-second stretched out in slow motion. Then she screamed.

The new Subaru scared her. Surprise again!

So yeah, I bought a new motorcycle while my wife was out of town, but the day before that I bought a new car. No input or advice or opinion from the spouse. And she didn’t kill me, which means I still stand in good stead. I am the kind of husband who can pull this kind of thing off and live to tell the tale. Many men are jealous of that fact.

This is no testament to the wonderment of Matt, however, it is the beneficence of Kristin that allows us to survive in a relationship where clearly one of us cares little for the feelings of others. I’ll leave you to figure out who I am talking about.

Of course, Kristin moves the household furniture around all the time without consulting me, which is sort of the same thing. Unless you consider how easy it is to move a couch from one wall to another and how easy it is for me to move it back after I stop yelling.

It is slightly more difficult to deal with a 4000-pound behemoth—not that Kristin was ever going to return the car once she found it had seat warmers.