Most marathoners have heard of the Boston Marathon. Not only is it the oldest annual marathon, it's one of the toughest to qualify for. Although I would love to run the Boston Marathon, I'd be happy just to get a qualifying time. Since a qualifying time does not guarantee entrance I know that it will likely take closer to a 3:20 finish for me to score a coveted bib for the 2014 race.
November proved to be one of the months I was most grateful for. I can’t think of a more worthwhile and gratifying way to spend a little bit of my own time than helping those that were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Like thousands of others, I originally planned on volunteering at the ING NYC Marathon. Instead I headed out to Staten Island on Sunday, November 4th with a ferry full of runners and other folks looking to lend a helping hand. That day turned out to be more rewarding than I could have imagined. I was in awe of the number of people that were willing to go into a disaster zone without a second thought.
We didn’t come with a real plan. We didn’t want anything in return. We were simply strangers coming together to help strangers in need. I guess you could say the feeling was euphoric. I definitely wanted to share that feeling with others so for the two next weeks I went out to Far Rockaway in the same manner. Myself and the folks who joined me worked at the homes of complete strangers for as long as we could. At sunset we headed to the bus stop and waited with volunteers and locals to get off of the inlet. The commute back to the train was the low point. Even then we made the best of the 1.5 hour long bus ride, which should have only been twenty minutes.
The smiles and hugs were the only compensation that we accepted. As we lifted floor boards, ripped out drywall and pulled out waterlogged insulation we tried to make light of a really tough situation. One owner joked with his wife that he didn’t want to get the floor dirty as we trudged though muck while clearing his basement. What many people fail to realize is that these were working class people who were simply living the ‘American Dream.’ For many they spent a pretty penny to move to their communities and in a matter of hours everything was turned upside down. Suddenly you are tapping into reserve funds to pay for water removal and electrical rewiring. This was the last thing on anyone’s mind since everyone was comparing this storm to Hurricane Irene, which did minimal damage to New York City.
Beyond the tears and feelings of doubt you could see the light coming back to those that lost almost everything. The people in the homes I went to were much stronger than they realized. I immediately thought of the lines:
Through this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid
-William Ernest Henley
You think about what you would do in a situation like this, but you never really know how you will react until you are living through this nightmare. I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to sustain no damage to my home, but I am even more grateful that I was able to provide an ounce of assistance to a few people in Staten Island and Far Rockaway during some of their darkest hours.
As my flight prepared to land at Tocumen Airport I got my first glimpses of the red soil and a vivid green countryside. From the landscape to the people, everything in Panama appeared to be bright and full of life.There was color everywhere and I loved it.
Even the humidity being above 80% the entire time didn’t stop me from wanting to walk everywhere and take it all in. Of course I stopped to see the Panama Canal, explore the Parque Natural Metropolitano and wander through Albrook Mall. My deeper goal was to travel off the beaten path and find those hidden treasures. One of my first finds was a graffiti park near Escuela Santa Familia in Casco Viejo. The art may not compare to the works of Banksy or Nick Walker in some books, but it is beautiful, and the Pacific Ocean along the basketball court serves as a great contrast. The colors plastered on the surfaces also liven the school that it is adjacent to.
My second find in Casco Viejo were the homes. I should specify that although I liked all of the homes in the area I found that the older homes told a story. There was a contrast that was reminiscent of the tenement buildings during the early 20th century in New York City. The buildings and its tenants were doing everything within their power to withstand the changes around them that would eventually force them out of their homes. In Casco Viejo you see banners on the streets opposing the gentrification that is pushing out the people that have inhabited this seawall peninsula for ages. Some mention that it is somewhat unsafe in Casco Viejo at night, but it is also worth noting that the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, resides there. It’s just as safe as wandering around Paris, Brooklyn, Chicago, or Fes; simply use common sense.
My favorite treat was the cab ride from the Panama Canal. The driver took a shortcut through El Chorrillo, which has been documented as an impoverished neighborhood. Its history includes canal workers, Manuel Noriega, the US’ Just Cause invasion in 1989 and Roberto Duran. I stuck my cameras lens out to capture the streets we were passing through without thinking and I’m glad that I was able to capture a part of Panama that will inevitably go through the same changes that are happening in Casco Viejo.
Cab rides for only a few dollars, ropa vieja meals for just about the same price and the Panamanian version of Walmart, El Machetazo. This city will give you a lot of bang for your buck. I equally enjoyed walking and shopping along Avenida Central in Santa Ana. If it weren’t for the humidity and lack of a winter season I would consider making Panama more of a mainstay. That and the fact that there is a clear obsession with American fast food chains, but with some effort you can find a fonda and enjoy an authentic Panamanian dish. I would recommend anyone interested in exploring Panama City to go for it, there’s more to this city than just the Panama Canal.
I’m not sure why I chose the Rutgers Unite race, but I figured it was as good as any race to run. After a little over four months of training I finally stood at the start line of my first half marathon, but not as prepared as I had expected. The morning started out like an episode of The Twilight Zone. I didn’t have a ride to the start, I hadn’t eaten an actual breakfast and finally, I realized I still had my pants on after I left my stuff with bag check.
As I made it to bag check I heard the one minute warning. Three seconds before the actual start I was trying to push myself up towards my corral all while pinning my bib to my pants and then realizing they would eventually annoy me. Just as the race started I got my pants off, tossed them (they are now at some donation site in New Jersey), and began in the 10:00min pace corral while re-pinning my bib and Gu Chomps. To add to this I forgot to apply Bodyglide to my thighs, which I regretted after Mile 4, and I had to run with cellphone to access my music. Could anything else go wrong? Maybe. Around Mile 8 I scored a Banana Hammer Gel, but held out for almost a mile before I downed. At Mile 9 it began to drizzle. Thankfully the case on my phone kept it from getting wet, but my new headphones were going in and out. The race ended well, minus the fact that there is a decent incline before you make it across the finish line.
There were definitely more hills and inclines than I was told. When I asked at the expo they reiterated that the course was indeed flat. A few friends agreed with my assessment so I knew I wasn’t crazy. My overall goal was anywhere between 1:45-1:59 and I’m glad I stayed within that range. My official time was 1:54:06.5 and while it may not get me into the Boston Marathon, I’m proud of that being my time on my first half marathon. Would I run another half or try a full, I can’t say one way or another, but I respect anyone that does! I think I’ll do a few 10k events before I consider another half.
For years I thought about going to Burning Man so that I could experience this ‘self reliance’ and radical expression’ that I heard so much about. In 2008 I finally subscribed to Jack Rabbit Speaks and lived vicariously through the newsletter and photos. Finally making it to the playa was surreal, for lack of any word in existence that could possibly describe it.
Like many virgins, I thought I was prepared. I mean, c’mon; I read the newsletter for years, I knew the principles, I had signed up to volunteer, I scoured the internet for tips and I checked my packing list twice. I knew I needed a tent (I doubt I would ever RV it, personal preference), food, water and a bicycle. You definitely need those things to survive on the playa. There were still things that I forgot, things I was glad that I packed and things I learned along the way. Here’s my shortlist, in no particular order:
10. Participation. Participate. Participate? Participate! This cannot be repeated enough. Just because you don’t want to join a camp or can’t commit to four hours of work a day as a ranger doesn’t mean that you can’t give back to Black Rock City (BRC). You can spend a few hours at Playa Info, get on stage in Center Camp, support an event or create your own event to share with the other citizens of BRC.
9. Lights At Night. There is nothing worse than literally running into some unlit being on the open playa after dancing it up at Disorient on Tuesday night. Be a dear and put some blinkies or glow sticks on your bike as well as yourself when you head out at night. Mutant vehicles and art cars may not see you stumbling across the playa and we would all hate for you to be that inevitable fatality that we have grown to expect annually.
8. A Vinegar/Water Concoction. Be sure to label the spray bottle that you put this mixture in. After spending hours exploring the playa your sweaty feet will thank you for keeping them from learning what playa foot is all about. Simply spray a little of this on your hands and feet and pat dry. Be sure to finish this ritual off with some lotion or sunscreen.
7. A Backpack. This sounds obvious, but it’s not. Couples tend to bring one bag and share the space. It’s not fun being the designated bag carrier with 2 water bottles, sweaters and other essentials strapped to your back. What would you do if that bag carrier of yours just so happens to wander off? Now it’s getting dark and your thirsty, what are you going to do? Don’t even let this become a potential situation, each person should have a backpack! It also makes it a little easier to get to the things you want when you want them instead of pestering the person holding all of your super cool stuff.
6. Earplugs. I even do this when I go to parties in the default world. Earplugs will help filter out the noise that will cause eardrum damage and it makes it easier to understand what the cute person in the elephant costume is screaming in your ear at Nexus. Want to get a few restful hours of sleep in your freshly pitched tent after a six hour entry queue? Pop in those earplugs and let the playa dreams roll.
5. Baby wipes. Some people feel icky after going seven days without a proper shower, but consider it a right of passage when you live in BRC. You can always head over to Nectar Village for a steam bath if you do not want to undertake creating your owner shower structure and in between make use of baby wipes to get your clean, quick fix. Remember that you’re only going to re-dust yourself two seconds after stepping outside. Save your water for drinking and your energy for playing, baby wipe the dust away.
4. Reusable Cups. It’s easy to just buy a pack of paper or plastic cups, but they’re wasteful and will become MOOP a lot quicker than you expect. Instead opt for a sturdier cup. Pimp out your favorite plastic reuseable cup or invest in a shatterproof thermos that you can attach to your bag for easy access.
3. Chapstick. I like to lovingly call the effects of chapped lips on the playa Playa Herpes. Just like the default world version, this is something that you just don’t want and your friends will probably stop sharing their cups with you. Do yourself a favor and buy a six pack in case you lose a tube. You can always gift an unused tube to someone that appears to be in need!
2. MOOP Bags. There will come the time when you are peddling down 4:00 between Engagement & Divorce (2011 street names) and you come across a half dozen used glow stick bracelets waiting to be picked up. Help keep the playa clean and carry a little bag to collect matter out of place. When you make it back to your camp empty out your travel size MOOP bag into your camp MOOP bag.
1. Your Own Personality. Just because some people choose to dress themselves up with EL wire before hitting the town each night doesn’t mean that you’ve got to do the same. Some folks prefer a simple floral shirt and cargo shorts when they head over to Center Camp for a coffee while you’ve got others that feel incomplete without their hula hoop, yarn extensions and green fur coat. Do what feels comfortable to you and just be yourself. You know the saying, ‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’ Keep in mind that this is also the time to step outside your comfort zone and try something new without the fear of being judged.
Keep in mind that there’s one thing you don’t need on the playa; a bad attitude. We all get tired, dusty and possibly dehydrated at some point during our short time on the playa, but that does not mean that Oscar the Grouch needs to make an appearance (unless that is planned ensemble for burn night).
Whether it’s your first burn or your 27th you’ve got to remember that you make the city and the city also makes you. Don’t forget the bacon. The gate opens in 193 days and the Man burns in 198 days. )’(
Approximately 53,000 Burning Man tickets were sold by July 24th, 2011, making it the first year that the event sold out in its 25 years of existence. In efforts to combat the growing scalping attempts the Burning Man Organization (BMOrg) has instituted a lottery system, which began yesterday.
There are already a few resale sites that are offering tickets ranging for $700-1610 a piece. Keep in mind that the highest price tickets are selling for through the legal portal is $390. Resellers are also showing that tickets will ship between February 1st and August 24th although BMOrg has stated that tickets will not ship until some time after June 1st, without giving a specific date. In Coachella’s attempt to thwart scalper’s buying up all tickets they decided to host identical festivals over two weekends, with the same lineup. Of course burning two men, two temples and cleaning out the city and ushering in 50,000 people for a second week of Burning Man is highly improbable.
There are a couple things that BMOrg can do to try and combat scalpers before they become a cancer to the event.
- Associate names with ticket numbers so you can track the movement of a ticket, even if the names are only virtually paired
- Force purchases to resell their tickets through a BMOrg portal
- Include verbiage to combat scalping in the Terms & Conditions
We first heard of the lottery/random selection system a few months ago and are now seeing if this system will be viable. There are tens of thousands of ‘burners’ queuing for a chance to be randomly selected for one of the 40,000 tickets being offered at the end of this month, potentially including those that did not receive a ticket purchase confirmation during December’s 3,000 ticket pre-sale.
For the next 13 days, at least, it’s a waiting game. Shortly after January 22nd the lucky 40,000 tickets will be randomly distributed to their very lucky recipients. Let’s hope that the far majority actually go to people genuinely interested in attending Burning Man and not looking to make a quick buck off of someone that has been saving up for this amazing place they call ‘home.’
In the early hours of October 28th Jersey City police walked into what was described as a ‘scene from a Halloween bloodbath movie.’ Hours before that Luis Rivera, 39, had an encounter with his roommate, Joseph DeLeo Jr., 28, that left him feeling uneasy. After Rivera returned to his room he was confronted by DeLeo who was wielding an 8-inch serrated knife.
Rivera says that he was pleading for his life, saying, “You’re going to kill me.” to which DeLeo responded, “You’re already dead you f-ggot.” When his third roommate walked out of his room he rushed to the aid of Rivera where he was subsequently attacked by DeLeo. Rivera stated that he pretended to be dead in an effort to save his life.
Rivera noted that DeLeo did admit to being homophobic which puzzled Rivera, who is openly gay.
DeLeo’s initial charge of aggravated assault was upgraded to attempted murder in addition to a count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, numerous weapons counts and one drug count. His $35,000 cash or bond was increased to $500,000 by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Francis B. Schultz. This still seems like a drop in a bucket when compared to the injures sustained by Rivera. He was stabbed 28 times which resulted in lose of a kidney, spleen, a collapsed lung that left him on a ventilator for three days, minimal use of one leg and no use in the other due to severe nerve damage. Rivera will need to partake in intensive physical therapy in an effort to regain use of his legs.
Even after all of this he is now facing attacks from supporters of the alleged attacked, DeLeo. One such post, although not addressed to any specific person said, “…I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE AND HAVE YOUR NAME [sic]…” It appears that this comment made reference to undesired phone calls after the poster publicly advertised their own phone number.
More anti-gay sentiments have been directed at Rivera. One of the comments, in the image below, was made by the mother of the alleged attacker. Please note that the ‘Like’ to the third comment was done by Ms. Loughner.
Follow up responses by relatives of DeLeo did not share the sentiment of Ms. Loughner, thankfully.
You can only hope that in this day that people would understand that spewing hateful messages is impressionable and you may be unknowingly leading someone to think that they have the right to attack someone not only with words, but physically with no repercussions for their actions.
Sending DeLeo to prison will not magically make Rivera walk again nor will it bring back any of his organs, but what we can hope a just verdict will do is minimize attacks on someone simply on the basis that they are not what you would prefer them to be. People should not be lead to believe that this is acceptable or tolerable.
Can we stop the senseless and hateful attacks on our fellow human beings?