I would have stepped out into the great unknown to be with you. Walked over coals. Climbed jagged cliffs. Braved freezing winds. Crossed vast oceans— Oh wait, I did. So. Hmm. At least when I fail, I fail big. “Be afraid not to try” and all that. I love you. Since the beginning I loved you. I just couldn’t say it. I was afraid I’d scare you. I said it somewhere in the middle. But I made it sound light. Or it was too late. I love you still. I never stopped loving you. I just have to deal with you not loving me back.
My eyes pop open and the first thought in my head is an answer to a question. I’m in Chicago. And then the billions of synapses in my brain start firing. Oh yes. I remember. That explains the weight on my chest, the constriction in my lungs. The person who could sleep anywhere—in a public park, on a public bus, on a bumpy speedboat—is having trouble sleeping. I can fall asleep like a switch, but not lately. And when my eyes snap open, the alarm clock’s not gone off yet but I can’t fall back to sleep even though I’m tired. A glass of wine in the evening helps. A small glass. I don’t need much to take the edge off or lull the senses. Plus two drinks a week, maybe three, is my limit. Too much alcohol and it’s tempting my alcohol allergy to kick in. No sleeping pills, thank you very much. I’ve seen what those can do. “I know that pill looks really tiny but I think you should take half,” I said. “Or even a quarter.” But my coworker didn’t listen. It was a very stressful production, but still. So she took the tiny white pill and went out like a light. And I ended up taking her to her room and babysitting her. Seriously. Yes, seriously. (One day I’m going to be the irresponsible creative that producers and account people need to babysit, and not the other way round.) Heck, I don’t even take painkillers. I try not to. And not the ones here. When I have to, it’s the stuff I bring from home. (Because when I first got here, I didn’t understand the dozens and dozens of products on the shelves here.) Headaches, maybe if it’s really bad or if I got a lot of work ahead, I’ll take one. (Most times, if I have a headache it’s at work and it’s at the end of the day and it’s a sign I should go home. Hah.) Cramps, I watch what I eat and drink a week before my period and it keeps them in check. Unless there was some important occasion and I had an iced beverage or something cooling (it’s a Chinese thing) right before, then all bets are off. The correlation is that clear. (People laugh, but it works and I don’t have crazy bad cramps that I have to take painkillers for, so they can laugh all they want.) I bring a couple of boxes of the painkiller brand I take from home, even the extra strong ones just in case, and I don’t even finish it. (I wonder if the extra strong from home can compare to the extra strong here.) I don’t know what the solution is, but it is certainly not sleep aids. The ads scare me. Unless I’m sick, then sure, medication that makes me drowsy so I have a good solid night of sleep. One good night of sleep is all it takes sometimes. And maybe chicken broth. My brain’s in overdrive right now and I’m tired. But even attempts to relax are not as productive as they used to be. I dozed off at a foot reflexology place and someone’s session must have ended because an alarm clock started beeping. My arm almost flew out to swat the alarm off and I almost sat up with a start. There was a serious moment of disorientation there. I was all ready to go brush my teeth and get ready for work. Work. That gets my mind off things. Work works. Hard work works. And then hit the gym or go workout somewhere somehow. If I can’t sleep, I’m sure exhaustion, mental and/or physical, I’m sure complete exhaustion has to work.
I would give anything to be in her shoes. I would give up anything to be in her position right now. Instead I’m in a strange seat somewhere in the theater. Which is kinda a bummer because my regular seat is awesome. Fortunately the theater is small and I can still see the stage. I’m not strong enough. I’m still feeling a little raw. I don’t know if I can bear to see them and I don’t want to find out if I can, but I didn’t want to miss the dance. So here I am, eyes to floor, eyes to architecture, eyes to program, eyes to phone wishing my girlfriend was here to lean on. I would walk around with my eyes closed, I told her, but the theater has lots of stairs so that’s probably not a good idea. And when the final curtain comes down and the standing ovation falls quiet, I heave a sigh and leave. The dance was beautiful. I didn’t want it to end. But I can go home now. And I had a plan. I was going to find a glass of wine to drown the last ten days. Then go home, crawl under the blankets and sleep like the dead. But when I’m going up the stairs to the exit, a crunched up piece of paper thrown from the balcony above nearly misses my head. I look up ready to scowl at the careless litterer and instead see another face I didn’t want to see for a whole different bunch of reasons. I guess it was easy for him to know where I was and find me. Things became a blur but I think I walked around in confused circles, I do that when my mind’s in twenty different places, I walk one way then turn back, then do an about turn again, and again — not very becoming of someone in a LBD and heels trying to appear serene and poised. And then… oh, bother. So I did get my glass of wine, even if not the way I had originally planned, at a bar not far from the theater. And then I got into a cab and went home. As I stood in the elevator alone with my thoughts, pondering the bizarre evening that just happened, wondering if someone up there is having a divine laugh, very randomly a song from a dance, Arcangelo, from an earlier season, popped into my head. That’s what comedy is, isn’t it? Tragedy + distance. Ha. It looped all night like an earworm in my thoughts, even after I showered and crawled into bed. Cain overo Il Primo Omicidio – Voce de Dios
[Update: One friend thinks the other friend is my beau while my girlfriend is not speaking to me because I had wine with the other friend even though she warned me not to fall for it. I didn't fall for anything. I'm just polite. And not mean enough, maybe. And I was going to go have a glass of wine anyway. If it's any consolation, I had a Malbec, which was introduced to me by the first friend. There.]
Beautiful. Simply beautiful. I had to remind myself to breathe every now and then. The duets and quartets were beautiful, poignant, and stunning. I know it’s a melodramatic girl thing to say, but I wanted to cry. It pierces the soul. Or maybe it’s just me, putting my own interpretations and symbolism to the dance. It scours your being and rakes up all the memories you’ve forgotten or deliberately buried, and makes them raw again. A weigh sits on your chest and you find it hard to breathe. Then it lifts you up and your heart beats quicker. Absorbed in the moment, you forget to breathe. But it’s not just emotions of love. It’s inspiring. Uplifting. It’s energy and excitement. The beauty of bodies moving in grace and flawlessness, fluid and intertwining like a group in one mind. Enigmatic, disruptive, confusing. It questions boundaries and piques curiosity. It’s art that stirs the numerous facets of the soul.
And Ana Lopez. Mesmerizing Ana Lopez. Her flawless moves and exacting control draw you in, but you’re not looking at the technicalities. You’re just losing yourself in the story she’s telling. A thousand emotions swirl around my head. I’m thinking a million things and I can’t think at all.
“For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world.” —Marc Chagall
Hubbard Street dance Company was again excellent. Garrett Anderson. Jessica Tong. Penny Saunders. Kellie Epperheimer. Meredith Dincolo. The dance does well to show the skill and physique of this world-class company. There were times when the whole company, all 24 of them, might have needed to be a bit more in synchrony but for most part, the company moved as one mind and one organism. And that’s why I love to watch Hubbard Street dance.
One Thousand Pieces. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago celebrates its 35th anniversary with this new season and it commemorates the milestone with a collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, with America Windows by Marc Chagall. The masterpiece’s unveiling in Chicago coincided with HSDC’s inaugural season so many years ago.
And inspired by the beauty of the stained-glass, Alejandro Cerrudo created his first full length work, One Thousand Pieces. Costumes that were clean, contemporary. Innovative set design that reflected the idea of windows and glass including a water stage which I thought could have held a bit more water to create a seamless plane, and which reminded me of Pina Bausch. And a haunting score by Phillip Glass; if I could go back in time, I would learn how to play the cello. The whole performance was more on the mellow side for a full-length work, but I liked it. No, I loved it. As usual, when the final curtain came down, I despaired a little. I didn’t want the dance to end and me have to return to the mundanity of real life. The standing ovation was well deserved.
You can divide the world* by those who know this line, its origins, its meaning and its impact, and those who don’t. Every copywriter worth his MacBook, certainly every copywriter in America, ought to. Many can recite it by heart. Some because they are fans of the brand and/or its advertising. And some because they think it’s great writing.
Which it is.
But how did the brand anthem, its manifesto, its vision, come to be? Many think Steve Jobs wrote it. (The version of it with the most views on YouTube has Job’s voice on it.) But he didn’t. It was written by the writers at TBWA/Chiat/Day, Apple’s advertising agency, namely Rob Siltanen, who started it, and Ken Segall, who wrote the final version that went to air.
It was the brainchild of art director Craig Tanimoto. Both the images and the line — a perfect example of how creative teams should function. Not necessarily by the role we were kinda trained to perform, but as an organic whole coming up with the Idea.
Like any work in advertising, there were a whole bunch of other people who worked on it. All under the watch of legendary surfer and advertising-type person, Lee Clow (and his beard). (And yes, Jobs does get credit for approving the work in the end.)
How do we know this?
From The Real Story Behind Apple’s Think Different Campaign in Forbes, by Rob Siltanen who was right there in the thick of the work from conception to completion.
An amazing number of advertising creatives love the article. It is incredibly reflective of how the average advertising campaign is created. (Although, mind we’re talking about one of history’s most famous advertising campaigns here.)
Everyone — EVERYONE — gets pulled in when it comes to a big project. The client hates it. (The client lashes out at the agency for it; my colleague actually postulated that Jobs’ rant in the article may have been the watered down version.) Numerous rounds of changes. And no surprises if it goes full circle and ends up being the first creative that was presented in some form or another.
So that’s how writers write — by reading other writers’ writing. It’s assuring to know it’s not just me who does it. Whether it’s Dead Poets’ Society, Aaron Sorkin or Ernest Hemingway, find that piece of writing you like to kickstart your creative juices.
And when writers have to write other writers’ work, which no writer really wants to do, it’s a gentleman’s arena. No one wants to do it but it’s the nature of the job sometimes, such is the advertising beast.
What Ken Segall said is so familiar: “…we’re moving ahead with your ‘Crazy Ones’ script. I made some tweaks. I hope you don’t mind.”
You know, greater than the sum of the parts, and all that.
For those of us who’ve been at this for years, I’m assuming we are half decent at what we do here, we know the times when what we’ve written is a piece of crap. And we know when it is good, even if it’s not going to win a Pulitzer anytime soon. But just as style is objective, not everyone might agree. “Steve, you may not like the piece, but it doesn’t suck.” It’s okay to defend your work.
For what it’s worth, I do prefer the agency’s version with Richard Dreyfuss’s voice over the Jobs version. Siltanen said it right, he would be next to impossible to top.
So, here’s to the crazy ones, the ones with the pens and not the swords. As we all know, the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
*It’s a hyperbole. How typical; I’m a copywriter after all.
I had a plan. I think most of my life, I’ve had a plan of some sorts. Some more concrete than others. Some needed slight alterations. Some needed major overhaul. Go to Plan B. Plan C. Plan Z. Plan EE. Plan FF. Plan GG.
There was generally a big plan. A goal in life plan type of thing.
Finish school. Get work. I was fortunate, I went into university knowing I wanted to ultimately work in advertising. My mother wanted me to get a corporate job, but I was all “my passion lies here” and “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Pause here for ad people to laugh. Oh, the irony.) Stupid, yeah I know. But I kinda like it, even though it paid peanuts compared to corporate jobs. I met my best friends there. So, I wanted to join advertising. Only, I didn’t know anything about advertising, nor did I know how to get into it. But I got lucky. After a short stint at a job that I don’t bother to include on my resumé, I found myself in an ad agency. A good one at that. Couldn’t have hoped for a better place to cut my teeth. I started out in one department and after three and a half years, decided to change careers and give writing a go. (Figured if it didn’t work out, I could always go back to the old career. Or I could take a writing course like I’ve always wanted to do.) (I still haven’t taken that course.) Marketed myself in a clever way. Took a pay cut but got a new job and a new career. Won awards. Changed agency. Took a few calculated risks. Repeat. Not the most highly paid creative around, but I’d like to think I kinda caught up somewhat after a while. I tend to have a plan and it usually scares the bejeebers out of me. So I have a back-up plan to. Plan B to Z to AA and so on. It helps me embark on my first plan.
Finish school. Get work. Meet a guy. Get married at 27. Enjoy the couple life for a bit. Start having kids at 30. (Three, at least, like my own family. But all boys.)
It was a simple plan. But then, I was a simple-minded person. And life is never that simple. Worked my ass off at my first job. (And all subsequent ones, actually.) I’m not scared of hard work. It took a while to get there, but I’d like to think I’m pretty good at what I do. But that plan, heck, if I had a chance all of that would have been adjusted accordingly for that plan. It’s a girl thing, I think. Most girls I know would opt for family over career. Not all, I must say; I know one who left her husband and infant child to focus on her career. I was young and stupid back then but I was thinking, Really?! (I still do today, but then it’s not for me to say or judge. I just know that many of us may not have made the same decisions she did.) So, back to that plan. Work, but maybe sacrifice some of the goals there in exchange for a family. That’s kinda why I changed to writing to begin with. You know, stay at home with the baby and write freelance. I mean, if I get the baby routine down, I’d like to keep busy, do stuff. I don’t apologize for that. Might make for a healthier world view, in my opinion. I don’t think a person is any less a parent if they also had a career. Granted, I admit, I think it’s more likely the mother would stay home for the kids. So. I think I’d still like to write. Anyway, it’s easy to plan when it’s hypothetical, but the plan was to tweak personal goals a bit. Work hard but not as crazy as before. Still strive to win awards, but maybe the drive wouldn’t be as hardcore. Plans need to have wiggle room, especially when there’s family involved. Not sure if that’s an Asian thing or if it’s universal. I guess family is universal. I wanted boys. (As though one can plan these things. You wish for boy or girl, but you get whatever you get, and as long as the baby’s healthy, nothing else matters.) I even had names in mind; this is a very girl thing to do, normally done in their teens. I had a few boy names and only one girl name. (And my good friends named their daughter that, so there goes that idea, not that there is a limitation on this sort of thing.) I’m talking English given names. Chinese names follow a whole different protocol and decision-making process that doesn’t happen until the child is born. Chinese children don’t really inherit their parents’ names. Like my brothers would never give their sons their names; it’s not in our practice. But there was one time, I think I was sixteen or so, I asked my grandmother if I could give my daughter her name one day, just one of the words because I really liked that word (秀) — she scolded me good and then some. But times are changing so minds are a bit more open now, but I think even the Chinese name babies after a personal predilection these days. My mum did have personal requests to my Chinese name, on top of all the traditional methods of choosing a Chinese name, but that story’s too long to tell. My given name was inspired by an English actress. (Thank god a respectable one who didn’t tarnish it all these years.) Not because my mum liked her, but because she liked the sound of the name. I once had a friend that, if we had a son, I know would definitely bear his name no question about it thank you very much. Which was okay; his name was a normal name. Like a Thomas or James or Michael. Not a Cuthbert or Percy or Eadbald or something like that. (Well, unusual names might work. It depends, but I’ll keep my mind open enough to discuss about it.) (But maybe not Cuthbert. Apologies to all Cuthberts out there…) I told him what names I liked, just for fun, and he got all miffed. Too English, Jewish, biblical. Er, I just liked the sounds of them. (Anyway, he doesn’t like anyone or anywhere or anything. I think he didn’t like me all that much either. But I digress.) Daughters would go to the school I went to. Sons would go to the affiliated “brother” school. In a perfectly executed plan, my old man would have come from that said “brother” school anyways. Easy peasey. Otherwise, we can negotiate. I have say with the girls. Hubby have say with the boys. I don’t know. It was a good plan, even with wiggle room.
Family hit a rough patch when I was in my twenties. During the bulk of my twenties, really. But what are you going to do? It’s like riding a bike. You occasionally hit a speed bump, or five years or so of speed bumps, potholes and ditches, but you just gotta keep moving. Got my heart broken along the way. By people outside and inside my family. Didn’t get married. Didn’t start a family.
Finish school. Get work. Get married. Have kids. Never wanted to leave Singapore. Living in USA now.
I tell the story of how I came to Chicago a lot. Brother studied in the area. Got a job here after he graduated. Visiting him, I liked the vibe of the city. Not big and scary like New York, not spread out and plastic like La-La-Land. Chicago was just right. (Someone once asked me why I didn’t try San Francisco. Or Portland. I don’t know either, and I didn’t think I had a chance. Anyway, there are more established agencies in Chicago, I think, compared to the one or two coveted ones in those places.) And I was at a point in my career, after a few global campaigns and regional work, where I wanted to try something “bigger”. Just try. I blame those silly inspirational sayings that I buy into. Like “If you never try, how will you ever know?” So I looked for work here. It was not like I had family and kids holding me back. If I did, my outlook would take on a completely different tack. Any life goal plans would have to be adjusted if I had gotten married and had kids. Anyway, looked for work here. It was around the time the news said was the “worst time to be looking for work since the Great Depression.” Reached out to anybody who knew anybody who had a friend who could connect me to someone or anyone who was willing to grant me an interview. One friend helped put a good word in for me at one agency. Another friend connected me to his friend who introduced me to his colleague in the hallway who was leaving that firm for a different agency. Long story cut short, I got an offer. I was so incredibly lucky. It was like winning the lottery. Leaving Singapore was scary and hard. I’ve worked overseas for periods of time, but never lived overseas before. My family was in Singapore. My best friends and besties and confidantes and support network and shoulders to lean on and teh kakis were all there. And I said goodbye to all of them. Add silly inspirational saying of choice here again. Sometimes I wonder if it was a selfish thing to do, thinking of myself and what I wanted and chasing my dream, whatever that was.
That’s the story everyone knows. There is another part of the story I leave out. I don’t often tell this part. (Except for the time I was standing in front of a microphone and told this to a room of people I don’t know very well, Moth-style. Go figure.)
There was a boy.
I followed a boy to Chicago. A handful of friends know this. It wasn’t a sure thing, we weren’t going steady (who even uses this phrase these days anyway?) or anything, we weren’t even technically seeing each other, seeing that we were on opposite parts of the world most of the time that I knew him. Over a thousand pieces of correspondences. Letters of how was your day to conversations about important things, like there’s a spider in my room help. I have fond memories of Tokyo. And New York. I remember the time he went camping in the desert and messaged me about how beautiful the stars, the Milky Way, were. I was thrilled. It felt like I was there even though the closest thing I could look at was a stock image desktop wallpaper of a nightsky. If he wanted to cycle across the continent or ride around the world, I would like to cycle with him. If I’m not capable, I would drive the pace car. One time, he wanted to design T-shirts and I was like okay… I hoped it was a hobby or a side project (side projects are good, by the way). I work in a creative field; at any one time, 80% of creatives want to start a T-shirt business. (I just tried too, earlier this year.) But he had a plan, that’s all you need. Hit a niche. I know guys who did lucrative sales with very targeted business plan. I could help you market it! One time when he got a job he really wanted, he sounded so excited! Even on chat you can sense someone’s joy. And I was so happy, even though it would take him even further away. Would you peg your happiness to someone else’s happiness? Apparently I do. When he was grumpy, we chatted; I hope I helped him feel better. One time he was really unhappy with his work situation; I knew he wasn’t happy but I never knew how unhappy he was — guys never reveal their feelings. It’s such a guy thing; one of my brothers is like that. I hope I cheered him up a bit. I didn’t just know that bad situation would pass, I was sure of it. I liked him not because of what he does, but what he could do and what he was capable of, and I know he would not fail. People may stumble, but some would get up, brush the dust off and go at it again. He was like that. I saw what’s inside of him, what he was made of. And I came to Chicago to be with him. I liked him. I loved him. (That part earlier about feeling like I had struck the lottery? Now imagine how happy I really, really, REALLY was to be going to Chicago. Everything was going perfectly awesome.) Honestly, if he had said the word, I would have done it even without the job offer, but that’s just me, leaping blindly and full of faith all the time. This blog, it was started the time I stood at the airport and cried my eyes out and messed up his shirt. The time he left Singapore and I wanted to keep in touch with him still. This part, nobody knows except me and the guy with the stained shirt on the plane that day. (Only now, it’s on the Internet. Ha.) So I left home, family, mother, dog, friends, everything, and moved to Chicago. My friends, because they are romantics like me who buy into silly inspirational sayings said you never know unless you try. So I did. I was madly in love. Work, sure. But if he said I want to be a goat herder, live in a humble hut on the Mongolian steppes, I would have said sure too. If he said let’s elope, I’d be in like Flynn. My mother would understand. If one day the phone rings with me saying, “Hi, mum. Guess what?” she wouldn’t hit the fan. (Maybe just the top shelf.) But she’s realized and accepted that her daughter’s strange like that and she just wants me to be happy. Of course we’ll share our happiness with close friends and family. In our own way. And do some of the traditional stuff, whatever the two people, my mother and grandmother, in the world I answer to wish. Without the big frills. (I mean, big frills are nice to have but I’m lucky. Sometimes I don’t need them.) So. Chicago. I thought he liked me too. I guess not. Maybe it was something I did. Or said. I can guess, but I’ll never know. I confessed my feelings to him. He probably knew already — one of my friends said I was like a puppy. Guy I like walks into the room and my eyes light up. Tongue starts lolling and I wag an invisible tail. So I wear my heart on my sleeve. I can’t help it. I know guys don’t dig that, they like the girl they can’t get and stuff like that. I would try but I can’t do games. I fail miserably. I’m a puppy dog. And I told him how I felt anyways. It’s something I do. Besides silly inspirational posters, I also buy wholeheartedly into the whole spiel about “If you love someone, tell them.” I did it regardless of whatever answer I was going to get by doing so. I didn’t pin too much hope on it, but I’m a girl. Deep down, I guess I was still hoping, even if it was “not too much hope.” You know what Nietzsche said about hope. “Hope is the worst of all evils, for it prolongs the torment of men.” (I don’t know if guys realize this but girls generally want to know why. It’s almost like they need to know. It’s not the most pleasant thing for guys to do, it’s not an easy conversation to have for sure, but it gives girls closure. Otherwise girls may hang on to hope, even the tiniest, most microscopic glimmer of hope. And that’s not a good thing.) I don’t know where I’m going with this. “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.” That’s a line from an old John Cusack movie. (Cusack’s a Chicago boy, by the way.) It talks about love. And writing. Sort of. Although in a way that’s completely random and unrelated to what I’m saying. I didn’t get a pen. I didn’t even get a Steelers cap. (I was so sad about that, he messaged me and I responded too late. Some girls want flashy cars and big rocks, I just wanted a Steelers cap from him.) (Don’t get me wrong, the souvenir chopsticks with labbits on them, the ironic T-shirt, the letter in pencil, they are some of my favorite things. But they probably didn’t have the same meaning as your favorite team on earth.) Some time ago, while talking to a friend who was getting ready to go for the trip of her life to volunteer with some conservation type expedition, she said she would have given it all up for her boyfriend. She had just broken up and this trip was consolation, I suppose. I told her I know. Since I was in university, when I started work, when I changed careers, when I was young and stupid to when I’m jaded and stupid, I knew. I’ve traveled the world, learned new things, done fun stuff, but kinda because it wasn’t like I had anything else better to do. It isn’t a competition or anything. And even if it was, I’m not smarter, not fitter, not more able, don’t make more money. I wasn’t trying to outperform anyone. All the things I’ve done, I would have given it up in exchange for it. Heck, I gave up a lot of things moving here in pursuit of it. Really, I would have given it all up for love. I would have given it up for him.
But what’s a person going to do? Just keep moving, I suppose. Like I have a choice. I still love you. I never stopped loving you. I just have to deal with you not loving me back. There, I wanted to say that. I’m still here, working in a different company than the one I started at, oddly enough. I work, ride my bike, go to the gym, come home, cook my own dinner, meet some friends now and then, eat out now and then. Learn Spanish. Try to travel. I get by. I miss and love all my friends back home. My mother offered to fly out here now because I was feeling so down last weekend. (Mothers are the best.) I write. It’s not The Great [insert country here] Novel, but still, there are worse jobs out there and this one pays the rent. But that great plan in life… I’m not very good at getting to it. I guess there’s still a big plan in mind. Sort of. I don’t know what it is. I’m not sure what it is. It gets hazy sometimes. But I guess it’s still there. If only. I have a long term goal. But I’m also taking things day by day.
Sounds like a simple plan.
“They used four F’s,” my art director partner said.
It took a second but I saw what he was referring to. Media, ads and design never look the same anymore. Instead, in addition to just seeing the object in question, we look at the idea, the strategy, the execution, ask what’s the desired response, in the short-term, in the long-term, the big picture. And then there’s language: style and voice, sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation. And of course, the look of the words: kerning, leading, typography. And the overall visual: look and feel, composition, color, photography, the quality of Photoshop. And the media: the quality of print, paper, pixel, production values. And the million other subtle details that a normal consumer would NEVER pick out.
On the top row, the bars of the E’s are aligned with the bar of the G. However, on the bottom row, the bars of the E’s are the same height as the bars on the F’s. Basically, the painter used four F’s on the bottom row and painted the bottom arms to turn two of them into the two E’s. And it doesn’t stop at just noticing this. The mind starts to wonder if the four F’s were the designer/typographer’s intention, otherwise the F’s and E’s will have bars at different height, which may not be as pleasing to the eye. Or whether this is an accident, the result of a shortcut. Or slipshod work. Or…
As you can see, creative types are not normal. (And you thought we only had voices in our heads.) Your honor, the defense rests.
What’s your motivation? Back in school when I had no choice and had to run, it was easy. The boyfriend was a runner so I just chased him. Of course I couldn’t catch up and eventually got lapped, a few times, but at least the attempt at motivation helped me pass my physical fitness test. (And then when there was no test, I rode my bike while he ran. Perfect.)
Also fun is catching the signs along the 26 miles. The inspirational. The personal. The light hearted. The potty. Beer is a motivation. So are cupcakes. Or your favorite ravioli. Or beefcake; who wouldn’t run to Ryan Gosling? I would. Or maybe you’re running away from zombies. Or a creepy coworker. Or a knocked up girlfriend. (Just kidding.) Gotta say some of these are quite clever. These people who may lack endurance sure make up for it with creative juices. With some tweaking, some could be a Nike campaign even.
Last year I was at Roosevelt bridge, one of the rare slopes on the Chicago route, waving a cowbell and telling strangers that they’re almost there, the finish line is in sight, it’s just round the corner, you can do it.
Not that they needed me to; there’s a big sign that says 300m to go. I don’t even know if they can hear me; but if one person could and it lifted his spirit even just a modicum, even that’s good in my book.
This year I was balancing on a railing hanging on to a tree branch, watching people run that last stretch to the finish line. I don’t know any of them. But you can see it in their faces, the pure elation that they’ve made it, that they’re completing a marathon.
It always amazes me how different they all are, yet they share one thing in common. Finishing. Some really struggle. Some make it look like a walk in the park. I don’t know if it’s an in-built thing, that physically, they’re just naturally wired for endurance running. Or if it’s doing the right training program. Or both.
Some people who run sometimes can’t run a marathon. One friend goes for a 5-mile run at 5am every morning, but confesses he can’t run a marathon. Because to run for 26 miles, “it’s boring.”
Some runners can barely stand. A couple of years ago, my colleague collapsed 300m from the finish line; the medics put him on a drip and after a bit, he went back out and completed the race. I saw a man collapsed 200m or so from the finish line; the medics wheeled him off, I don’t know if he finished. Last year, I think around the same area, a man collapsed died.
And then some people run marathons like it’s just a regular hobby. One of my friends is running five this year. Others do it once, check it off the bucket list and are done with it. Another friend took up running because her boyfriend-and-now-husband runs marathons; she’s completed a few now. One friend was in the middle of a marathon when he decided to take a break. He went into a bar and had a beer, then went back out to re-join the race and complete it. A colleague started training for the marathon, changed her mind and stopped, and on a last-minute dare went and ran it anyway, and finished. A friend was training for the following year’s marathon but got a bib from a friend who couldn’t make it, and ran a marathon a year ahead of schedule. I guess they’re all regular runners, so it’s doable for them.
Some runners look all serious. Some run in costumes and other non-runner accoutrements. My favorite outfit was the runner who wore the T-shirt Running Sucks. I love the irony. Happy to see that Chicago seems to be gaining reputaion as one of the marathons; runners bore flags from Germany, Japan, Britain, Costa Rica, and more. Some runners are plugged in to their music. Some whip out their devices to photograph that last stretch. Others work the crowd for cheers. They almost make it look easy. One pacer was holding the pace sign with one hand and texting with the other running while running. Last year, a woman ran the marathon while eight months pregnant; she’s run marathons before, one of them in the early stages of an earlier pregnancy, and her doctor said she could so she did, and went into labor after the race and delivered a healthy baby. (Again, makes me wonder if some people are just naturally wired to run.) My colleague knows one of the fast shortening list of people who’ve run every single Chicago Marathon; that’s 35 of them. How’s that for endurance? Speaking of which, I have a friend who’s done a few (not one, but many) Ironman triathlons. That’s a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile race and then a full marathon after that. What the human spirit can accomplish is simply awesome.
I don’t have the numbers but thousands and thousands and thousands of people have finished a marathon. It may have been daunting 100 years ago, but these days, finishing a marathon almost sounds commonplace. But make no mistake, it’s still an accomplishment. You may be surrounded by thousands of people running alongside you, but it’s still special. Because no one can run for you. Not your parent, your spouse or your bestest friend. It’s your run. It’s completely personal. You set a goal and you met it. If there were obstacles, you overcame it to cross the finish line. And that’s what it’s all about really.
(That’s the awesomest sign, by the way.)
Not strong knees and ankles. Not a well-trained, muscled pair of legs. Not even a highly developed cardiovascular system. Nope, the runner’s most important organ is his/her brain, the source of dreams, drive and determination.
I can definitely attest to that, by a testimony of the opposite — I lack that mind.
The world-class Chicago Marathon is this weekend. The world famous New York Marathon is next month, which prompted this article on running that I chanced on, The Honorable Clan of the Long-Distance Runner, in the Times.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am in awe of runners. The ones who run marathons. Or half marathons. Or 10k. Or five miles on a Tuesday night as part of their workout. Heck, even the ones who run three miles (or two, or one) every now and then when they feel like they should get some exercise.
I’m in awe because I can’t make myself run. The only time I run is when I have to catch a bus. Or to a store before it closes. Or to a meeting. Or to something I really don’t want to miss or some such similar occasion. In which case I make a dash of it, even if I’m in heels. It’s never that far, maybe 300m max. I make the bus, but I also end up gasping for air like the out-of-shape non-runner that I am.
I can’t run long distances. I can’t run a mile. (Yes, sad, but that’s considered long to me.) Okay, maybe I can run a mile if I really have to. I just don’t want to.
Here’s what happens. I decide I should give running another try. I start to run slowly. I don’t know if that old Adidas ad is any way to do it, I don’t know if runners actually do this, but I give myself milestones. To that bench. To that tree. To the overhead pass.
But after maybe 200m, if not less, part of my mind goes, Why are we doing this? The Intention part of my mind: We’re running. It’s good for you. Everybody’s doing it. If everybody can do it, so can we. My mind begins to whine. Why are we doing this? We can’t breathe properly. The Determination part of my mind: That’s because we’re out of shape, idiot. And we’re out of shape because we never run. My mind: No, really. Why are we doing this? We can get in shape some other way. Swim. Ride our bike. Play chess. Anything. At this point, my whole mind, wimp that it is, doesn’t put up any resistance. Before I know it, my legs slow down. And I’m walking again.
Sometimes the exchange isn’t even this long. Why are we doing this? And then: You’re right. Why are we doing this? And I’m walking.
Hence the reason why I say I lack that runner’s mind.
Brisk walking. Maybe I’ll give that a try. Or I’ll just stick to riding my bike. I don’t have the same problem when I’m on my bike. To that tree. To that overhead pass. To the end of Lake Shore Trail. And before I know it, I’m in Evanston.
Or work. I can work. I think I can safely say I probably work a bit more than the average person. A good friend once pointed out: Not everyone gets a workaholic, let alone a workaholic in advertising. Touché. Never thought of it that way, that there was a difference.
I wish I could run a marathon. Or half of one. Or just do a good run one day, however long it turns out to be. A mile, maybe. (You laugh, but it’s okay. I would laugh too if I were you.)
Almost a century ago, the great Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi said: “Mind is everything; muscle, mere pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.”
I concur. All that I am, I am because of my mind. Only my mind likes to read and write and do geek things, or go on a ride on my bicycle. It simply doesn’t like to run. For now.
I hate it when people use the words “I’m devastated” when they have no idea what devastation really means. (Clue: it’s not when Lululemon doesn’t have the design of the yoga pants you want in your size.) Then again, maybe that’s just me. I’m a hater. :p
Picture of the Harvest Moon that does no justice to the occasion. It was unnaturally big. And the color of blood orange. I have to figure out the whole moon illusion thing one day. You could see the details of the moon’s dark patches. Her craters and seas, tranquil and serene, a world away from this mad world. I wish I had brought a better camera. I wish my fingers weren’t so cold. I wish my friends were here to share the sight with me. Like that couple over there who clearly came prepared for this; they brought their camera and tripod. And warm, windproof jackets, folding chairs and a thermos of hot drink. We would have hot chocolate. Or Milo. Or teh halia. And talk about dragonboating or diving in Lake Michigan. Or about life. Silly stuff. Speaking of silly stuff, some 12 hours later…
Watched the Harvest Moon rise above the horizon of Lake Michigan. Wish I had a better camera with me. Wish I could have taken a better picture. But even the best picture I could take would not compare to what I saw, an unnaturally large disc of blood orange hue floating just above the water’s edge against the canvas of a sky stained purple-grey by dusk. Breathtaking.
I watch too much crime programs. Not just drama series like CSI but the ones on Discovery Channel, too. Most times the victim knows the criminal. But there are times when the crime is completely random. It’s these that scare me. One of those “you never know” kind of things.
Early one Sunday morning, a loud and firm knocking on my door woke me up. A look at the clock showed 7.30am. There is no one I could think of that would come to my place, let alone on a Sunday morning. “Who is it?” I asked, trying unsuccessfully to sound like I didn’t just wake up. It was a man looking for someone. He gave a name that I recognized was the tenant who lived in the apartment before I did; I used to get that guy’s mail in the mailbox. I said he didn’t live here anymore. The man asked how long I had been living in this apartment. I replied. I told him I couldn’t help him. I said go look for the building manager. He finally went away after a few minutes.
The man sounded like a debt collector. He didn’t sound aggressive. He addressed me as “Ma’am.” The whole thing wasn’t frightening, but it certainly was alarming. He shouldn’t have been in the building to begin with. He must have gotten in the building front door when someone else was leaving.
I brought the incident up to the building manager but she couldn’t do anything more than shake her head. She regularly reminds tenants to be careful about security, not to let others in when we enter using our security fobs. And not to be offended if other residents don’t want to let us in and request that we use our own fobs, as a safety measure. Yet these things still happen.
A few months later, a non-resident got into the apartment building the same way. He broke into the manager’s office and stole a computer as well as burgled someone’s apartment. Fortunately, only property was stolen and no one was hurt. Security cameras showed that the perpetrator entered the building while a resident/residents were leaving.
That was earlier this year.
I’m lucky. I live in a safe neighborhood. But there was a robbery and assault a couple of blocks from my place this week. Close enough that the building manager put up notices about the incident and reminded everyone to be careful. A stranger followed the female victim into her building, then forced her into her unit where he robbed, beat and raped her. Then got away. No one has been arrested. Sounds random.
Great. So now, not only am I bored and lonely, I gotta deal with fear and paranoia too…
There’s a time of the year when the temperatures drop, but not enough for my building management to start the furnace. My building is old, the sort brochures describe as “elegant vintage living”. It has central heating and I have no control of the radiator in my humble studio apartment. I can’t turn it on nor off, and when it’s on, I can’t control its levels. Or rather, I control it by placing a clothes-rack in front of it to block the heat if it gets too warm. Which works out fine, because I can hang a wet towel there because it also gets very dry. Well, that time of the year is now. I think temperatures might go up still and there’s still a chance of an Indian summer, but for now, I’m walking around feeling cold in my studio. By cold, I mean I’m freezing. And I’m sneezing and sniffling because I think I’m still adjusting to the weather. Or maybe because I’m in denial and walking around in a T-shirt and shorts instead of putting on something warmer. Or unpacking the portable electric heater from the closet. I love fall. Honest, I do. But I do dislike that it comes at the cost of summer. And I dislike this in-between season in my apartment. Bugger.
Our plane landed at O’Hare, and granted that it was past midnight so the air was a bit cooler, but from the moment I stepped off the plane and onto the jet bridge, I was already missing warmer temperatures. I also started sneezing and sniffling even before I got off the jet bridge and reached the building proper, and continued to sneeze and sniffle all the way from the end of Concourse K to baggage claim. By the time I reached home, my nose was red and the skin was raw. I don’t know if it’s something I caught on the flight back or whether it’s just my system adjusting to the shock of a cooler climate. I do know that I’m in denial and didn’t want summer to end, but even the official equinox date has passed. The only bright side of all this was a hot shower and crawling into my dearly missed bed to crash. Crash.
I’m stranded in Rio de Janeiro. But I can’t really say that too loudly. To my friends back home, it’s kinda like hearing a certain someone say, “You don’t have the Bentley Continental GT in Eton Navy Blue? Guess I’ll have to settle for the Yacht Club Shale then.” The same thing could happen and I could be stranded in, God forbid, Newark. The announcement that the plane doors have been closed had been made. We could hear the crew getting ready for dinner service in the galley. We were all settling into our seats and were waiting (sort of) for the safety video to begin, when suddenly, all the lights went off. After a few minutes in darkness, they came on again. Some announcement that clearly contained the phrase “Don’t worry folks, it’s nothing to worry about.” was made. We were told we would get going again soon. And then all lights went out for a second time. Then they came on. Then they went out. Finally, after almost half an hour sitting in darkness with no air, they made a long announcement in Portuguese. We saw people unbuckling their seatbelts and getting up, and taking their bags out from the overhead compartments. And then the English announcement was made. The flight was now delayed until 11am the next morning. If they gave a reason why, it wasn’t in the English version. Guess I’ll be here another night.