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Preview: Bill Crider's Running Blog

Bill Crider's Running Blog

The story of my life as an inept but enthusiastic runner.

Updated: 2018-03-08T09:03:55.411-06:00


Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition


Nobody ever expects the morning runner (or in my case the morning shuffle-alonger), either.

Today as I was motivatin' over the hill,* I neared a house with a front door that had two big panes of glass in it.  I could see a woman standing there, but she didn't see me.  She didn't even look.  Instead she opened the door and released a small cha-wow-wow dog.**  This dog's name, as I soon learned, is "Precious."***

Unlike the woman who opened the door, Precious saw me and took an immediate and intense dislike to me.  She charged across the lawn in full cha-wow-wow attack mode, yipping all the way.

"Precious!  Precious!  You come back here!" the woman in the doorway yelled.

Precious either didn't hear her or didn't care.  She had her target, and she wasn't going to be dissuaded.

At one time, I would simply have increased my speed and left Precious in my dust, but that was then, and this was now.  I have one speed, slow, and that's all there is.  I do, however, have persistence.  I figured I could outlast Precious, or maybe another dog would come along and distract her before she could nip my ankles off.

And sure enough I could. Eventually the cries of "Precious, come back here!" faded behind me, and Precious gave up the chase.  I don't know if she got back home safely.  I guess I didn't really care.

*There are no hills in Alvin.  I just can't resist a gratuitous Chuck Berry allusion.

**I can never resist a gratuitous Twin Peaks allusion, either.

***"Precious" is also the name of Pam Crider's animal companion.  Her Precious is small but is not a cha-wow-wow.  Her grandson persuaded my brother to buy Precious at a flea market some years ago, but that's another story.

Morning Stroll


This morning when I was out for my usual run (or, more accurately, my old-man shuffle-along), some guy standing on his front porch called out, "Taking a morning stroll, I see." Now the rule that we runners (or shufflers) follow in Texas is, never make a rude gesture or comment because the other guy is probably armed." So I just said, "Sure am," and kept on shuffling.

I'm Gaining. Or Not.


Every morning I go out for what I like to call “a run.” It’s not really a run. It’s not even a jog. It’s more like shuffling along. But anyway, I go out, and for a man of my advanced years, that’s not too bad. (And don't go telling me about Ronnie Ward and all his Iron Man trophies. He's younger than I am, and Acree-trained, besides.)

Some mornings, I see other people out getting exercise, and today was one of those days. The person was too far ahead of me to make out much about him (or her), and in cases like that I like to test myself by seeing if I can gain any ground on her (or him). So I start shuffling a little faster, although “faster” isn’t exactly the right word to use in this context. Today it was a struggle, but I found that after a while I was gaining a little bit, not much, but enough to encourage me. I tried to pick up the pace, and eventually I found that I’d gained some more. Still not much, but at least I was gaining. The old guy still had it! Or so I thought until I finally realized that the person was walking toward me instead of away from me. I knew I’d slowed down a lot, but this is ridiculous.

Things I Find on the Run


Unfired shotgun shell.

Staying on the Left Side, which Is Right


It's about time for my annual update to this blog.  You probably thought I'd forgotten about it, but I haven't.  I'm just lazy.

In the little town where I grew up, my grandparents on my mother's side lived only a couple of blocks from us.  We'd go to visit them just about every day.  When I was a little kid, probably around eight or ten, my grandmother would occasionally take me and my sister (and maybe my brother, too. I'm not sure about him.  I think he was too young) for a walk in the late afternoon.  We'd walk just a short distance, though it seemed pretty far at the time, from her yard to a spot near the railroad tracks.  There was a concrete square there, with a low concrete wall on three sides, where someone, probably the railroad, kept piles of gravel of two or three sizes.  

We always walked on the left side of the street.  When we reached the gravel piles, my grandmother would let us mess around in them for a while, and then we'd cross the street (after looking both ways) and walk back to her house.

There were two things she'd say to us every time.  One was about crossing the street.  "Always look both ways before crossing the street," as you might have guessed from the parenthetical comment just above.  The other was, "When you're walking and there's no sidewalk, always face the approaching car."  I can still her her saying it even now.  She must have said it every time we went for the little walk.  Anyway, it stuck with me.  Something similar was even on the book covers that they gave us each year in grade school.  With a handy illustration in case you needed help figuring it out. (Do people use book covers anymore? Probably not.) 

People could use those book covers now, though.  The little rule that I learned so young seems to have been completely forgotten.  I must be the only person in the world whose grandmother laid down the rules for him or who saw those book covers because every single person I see walking or jogging is on the wrong side of the street.  Every single one of them.  This bothers me, and not just because I'm OCD.  It bothers me because it seems dangerous, especially on narrow streets with no shoulders, which is just about every street in Alvin, Texas.  It's scary enough to encounter a car on them when you're facing it.

There's nothing I can do about it, though.  I'm not going to tell people that they're in the wrong.  This is Texas.  They might be armed.

What's Going On?


Here's something that happens all too often.  So far this year, three times, I believe.  

I'll be shuffling along at my usual old man's pace and I'll see a car stopped at a stop sign on a side street a block or two blocks away.  

I keep shuffling.  

The car doesn't move.

I can guarantee one thing, however.  As soon as I get just about in front of the car, it will move forward.  Until then, the driver is completely unaware of me, or of anything else as far as I know.

Because of my experience in these matters, I've avoided being hurt, mainly because I turn and go around the car.  Or I would if it just stayed put.  It never does, though.  It invariably takes off when I get there.

So the question is, what's the driver doing until I arrive?  If I were paranoid, I'd think he was waiting for me, but I'm not paranoid.  What does that leave?  Texting?  Talking on the phone?  Daydreaming?  Napping?

I don't know, but today there happened to be a car coming in my direction down the street I was on.  I thought sure there was going to be a collision, but the driver on the cross street woke up or quit texting in time to stop the car.  I went on around and on my shuffling way.

New Word


My jogging pace has inspired me to create a new verb: to tudball, as in "Today I tudballed for about 40 minutes."

Two Things


This morning while out for my little jog, I saw two unusual things.  

The first one was something I'd never seen before, though I'm kind of surprised I hadn't: a kid texting while riding a bicycle.  The bike was coming toward me, and I saw it from some distance away.  It was weaving quite a bit, and when it got a little closer, I saw that the rider had only one hand on the handlebars.  The other hand held a cell phone, and he was texting with his thumb.  I wasn't surprised.  I expect I'll see this again.

The second was something I hadn't seen in years: a man mowing his lawn while smoking a cigarette.  He had both hands on the mower handles, and the cigarette was clamped in his mouth.  I was a lot more surprised at this sight than at the other one.  Both of them told me something about how much things had changed during my lifetime.

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie


In my long career on the road I've encountered lots of beasties. I've frightened a flock of wild turkeys, I've come upon more than my share of rattlesnakes (my share = none), I've been buzzed bombed by a hawk, I've been chased by mockingbirds, and I've of course had dealings with dogs without number. But yesterday was a first.

I was cruising along at my usual speed (.0000001 mph) when I saw a young cat, maybe about three-fourths grown, stalking something in the grass. The cat saw me, too, and it didn't like what it saw. (Not that I blame it.) It crouched back down and went into stalking mode again, but it kept glancing my way. Finally it decided that whatever it was stalking wasn't worth meeting me for, and it took off for parts unknown. I kept going, and when I got to the spot where the cat had been looking, a mouse popped out of the grass.

It looked just like a Disney mouse, chubby and happy (no wonder), and it scampered along the street beside me for a couple of steps. Then it veered off and slipped through the grate of a storm drain.

I went on home, and when I arrived, I saw an earthworm squirming on the pavement of my driveway, just about to cook in the sunshine. I picked it up and put it in the grass by the driveway, where it immediately started boring into the rain-softened ground. Two minuscule lives that will go on a little longer.

In Aurora, Colorado, a crazy man had killed twelve people only hours earlier. He'd wounded dozens more and left hundreds with psychic scars. It doesn't balance, does it? It doesn't come within a million miles. I guess you just do what you can.

40 Years on the Run


It just occurred to me this morning that this month marks an important anniversary in my life. I don't know the exact date. If I'd known it would be important, maybe I'd have written it down. But I didn't know, and I didn't write it down. Maybe it's today. Not that it really matters. What happened is this: One day in October 1971, 40 years agone, I went out for a run and never came back.

Okay, I came back, but I've been going out regularly, five or six days a week ever since. If moderate exercise will keep me in good health, I should be pretty dang healthy. I've been pounding the pavement for 40 years now. If nothing else, I have sturdy calf muscles.

I can remember exactly what I was wearing that first day. The first cool front of the fall had come through, and I had on a pair of wheat-colored jeans that there's no way I could squirm into now, a paisley shirt (long sleeves), and a pair of rubber-soled canvas shoes that I'd used to play handball in when we lived in Austin.

My plan was simple: I'd run as far as I could, then turn around and walk back home. I took off from the end of my driveway, turned right and ran down Ninth Street to Indian Creek Road. I turned left and ran until I couldn't run any more. I figured I'd gone at least a mile. Maybe two. I was quite pleased with myself as I started the long walk back.

When I got home, I got in the car and measured the distance. I was amazed. One-fourth of a mile? How could that be? Surely something was wrong with the odometer, or maybe I'd just looked at it wrong when I started out. I turned around and drove home to check it again.

Sure enough, I'd gone one-fourth of a mile. Not exactly the heroic effort I thought. Oh, well, now I knew there was room for improvement. I'd go out again the next day and do better.

I did go out the next day, but I didn't do any better. I didn't want to strain myself. I'd wait until the next day to improve, but I already knew there'd be a next day. What I didn't know was that there would be a next day for 40 more years.

And there'll be another one tomorrow.

Today I Met Alonzo


You never know what might happen when you're out for a little run. Today, for example, I met Alonzo. He lives about half a mile down the street from me, but I'd never seen him before this morning. I probably wouldn't have seen him today had I not heard someone yelling for help when I passed his house.

I had on sunglasses, and Alonzo was standing back under a carport in deep shade. I didn't see him at first, and I might have gone on had he not yelled again: "Sir! Sir! Please help!"

I saw him then, and I went into his yard to see what was going on. As it turned out, he'd had trouble starting his old pickup and had raised the hood to check the battery connection. The hood had slammed down on both his hands and latched. He'd been yelling, but nobody could hear him. Everybody in the neighborhood was inside with the doors shut, the windows closed, and the air-conditioners humming. Alonzo was in a pickle and in pain, and I was his only hope. I felt a little like Luke Skywalker, only more incompetent.

When I tried the hood release, it wouldn't work. I tried getting my fingers under the hood and lifting. No dice. Meanwhile Alonzo was using colorful language, and his little chihuahua was barking like crazy, straining at his chain and nipping at my naked calves.

Then I saw a child's toy broom on Alonzo's front porch. I was able to cram the broom handle under the hood and pry it up just enough for Alonzo to pull out his hands. I thought he was going to pass out from the sudden relief, but he managed to stay upright and thank me for helping. I'm just glad I happened by and was able to do something for him. My good deed for the day.

New Poem about Running


It's here.

It's Not the Heat . . .


Well, okay, that's not true. If you live in Alvin, Texas, it is the heat. But it's the humidity, too. Put them together and you have some interesting running conditions.

When you go outside in the morning around 7:30, you can kid yourself along for a few seconds. After all, it's only 80º. How bad can it be? So you start out, and before you've gone a block the humidity has wrapped itself around you like a succubus. It inhales your breath. It adds 20 pounds to each shoe. The t-shirt that had lain lightly on your shoulders flaps around you like a wet shroud.

Since Alvin is only a few miles from the Gulf, you'd think there'd be clouds. You'd be wrong. It's like the sky was imported from Death Valley

You'd think there'd be a soft sea breeze, too. Once again, you'd be wrong. The only breeze is the one you create for yourself as you jog. At the speed I jog, that's almost no breeze at all.

After ten minutes, you start to wonder why you started out in the first place.

After twenty minutes, you hope you remembered to wear the visor with your name and the emergency phone numbers written on it.

After thirty minutes, you begin to think about the G2 that's waiting in the refrigerator, and you hope you live long enough to open a bottle and slug it down.

After forty minutes, you stagger into the driveway, take off the t-shirt, wring it out, and pinch yourself to make sure you've really survived another day.

For some reason you can't stop thinking about tomorrow. Damn Fleetwood Mac.

For the Birds


In my last post, I talked about jerks. Those were human jerks. I’m not sure birds can be jerks. They’re just being birds. But I’ve had a couple of memorable encounters with them.

Everybody knows about mockingbirds. They’re territorial, and they’re fearless. Just ask my cats. Or, for that matter, just ask me.

One afternoon in Brownwood, I was jogging down the street, such as it was, that passed bedside the junior high building when I was dive-bombed by a mockingbird. I don’t remember the time of year, but it must have been nesting season. Fool that I was, I’d intruded on the mother mocker’s territory, and she didn’t like it one bit.

I wouldn’t have minded if she’d given up after the first swipe at my head, but she didn’t. She chased me all the way down the street, shrilling and flapping. It was embarrassing.

Even worse, she did it again the next day.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I should have run a different route, but I’m as stubborn as any bird, by golly. The next day I went back, and, sure enough, the bird attacked. This time I was ready for her. I had a long piece of red cellophane ribbon that I waved in the air. The bird was so startled that she flew away and left me alone. After that, I tied the cellophane to my headband. The bird would swoop down, see the cellophane fluttering behind me, and fly back to wherever it was that she came from.

So the ribbon did the trick. Either that, or the bird thought I was crazy and didn’t want to have anything to do with me.

Mockingbirds might be territorial, but they aren’t dangerous. Hawks are another story.

Sometimes I’d run down Indian Creek Road. I ‘d run exactly 2-1/2 miles, ending at the top of a very steep hill, turn around, and run home. One day on the home leg of the run, a screaming came across the sky. I had no idea what it was. It sounded like a jet plane. The scary part was that it was headed right for me.

I looked up over my shoulder and saw a huge bird (okay, maybe not so huge, but it looked huge to me) falling like a rock, and it had taken dead aim on my head.

As you might recall, I teleported once when a rattlesnake surprised me. I didn’t do that this time, but I discovered that I could run about ten times as fast as mortal man is supposed to run. You know those legendary 9.0 hundred-yard dashes you’ve read about? If only someone had been timing me that day! I’m pretty sure I broke the nine-second barrier.

Even at that I almost didn’t elude that hawk. I felt the jet stream as it whooshed by me.

To this day I don’t why the hawk was after me. I hadn’t done anything. There was no nest around. There wasn’t much of anything around. Maybe the hawk was soaring so high above me that I looked like a bunny to him. Or a fieldmouse.

You remember the Peanuts cartoon in which Snoopy says, “Birds find me fascinating” (or something like that)? They don’t find me fascinating. They do, however, seem to find me.



Not you, or course, but there are a lot of them out there. Runners seem to attract them, for some reason.

The other day I was jogging sedately down Lee Street when I heard the sound of a motorbike and a lot of yelling. I looked to the right and saw the bike speeding down Herring Drive. There were two riders, a boy and a girl. The boy was steering. The girl was hanging on tightly.

They flew past the stop sign at the end of Herring as if it hadn't been there, zipped across Lee right in front of me, and sped onto the gravel road that wends its way through a small trailer park. I could hear the yells as they hit the dips and bumps.

I kept on going, and not long after I was past the trailer park, the bike came roaring out. I'm not a mind reader, but I knew exactly what was going to happen. I've been running for years, and things like it have happened before.

I always run on the left side of the street, and I moved over as far as I could, running along the edge of the lawns. It wouldn't have mattered if I'd been ten feet farther off the street, however.

The motorbike zinged past me at about 50 mph, so close that if I'd stuck out my elbow, I could have cracked someone's skull. It must have seemed hilarious to them if their laughter's anything to judge by. I'm always glad to brighten someone's morning. The riders swerved back into the proper lane and turned left at the next corner. They'd stopped laughing by then, but I knew the memory of brushing past the geezer would warm their hearts for days to come.

Neither rider was wearing a helmet, but I have to admit that I was tempted to stick out that elbow. I didn't, though. After all, I wouldn't want to be a jerk.

Snakes Part 3 -- You'll Believe a Man Can Fly


Or teleport. I'm not sure which.  I report, you decide.This happened in Brownwood, Texas, like my other snake encounters.  I had just arrived at the bottom of a small hill, and I was thinking about Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Why?  Why not?  Does a man need a reason to think about Reese's?To tell the truth, though, I did have a reason.  A week or so before, in just about that very spot, I'd found a package of Reese's lying in the road.  Not just one little double pack, but a big one, with eight or ten of the smaller packs in it.  I have no idea what it was doing there, but I've found stranger things while out running.  Naturally I picked it up and took it home with me.  Judy wasn't sure about it.  She thought the candy might be poisoned.  Even when I pointed out that the big package was still wrapped, as were all the individual packages inside, she continued to have reservations about my eating any of the candy.  She said that someone could have injected the poison with a fine needle, although there were not obvious holes in the wrapping.I wanted to be cautious, but I love Reese's, so I eventually ate it all and didn't suffer any ill effects as far as I know.But that's not what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about the snake, which I didn't see because I was thinking about the Reese's.That's not entirely true.  I did see the snake.  Eventually.  I was in mid-stride, the point at which neither foot is touching the ground.  I'd just lifted off my right foot, and my left leg was stretched out in front.I looked down and there was the snake, a rattler as thick as my arm.  Admittedly I have skinny arms, but still. . . .The snake was directly beneath me.  I don't know how I'd missed stepping on it.  I think he was as surprised as I was by the situation.  Maybe he'd been thinking about Reese's, too.  I didn't ask.Anyway, that's when it  happened, though I'm still not sure what it was.  All I know is that when my left foot hit the ground, and I swear I'm not making this up, I was twenty yards down the road.  It sounds impossible, but it's true.  One instant I was in mid-air above the snake, and the next instant, when my foot touched down, I was nowhere near it.  For you SF fans, I'll just say that I felt the way Gully Foyle must have felt when he jaunted.  It was one of the strangest feelings I've ever had, but I didn't question it.  I just kept on running and left the snake far behind.  I've thought about that event often over the years.  I can still see the snake below me as clearly as if it had happened yesterday, and I can still feel the oddness of landing so far away from it.  It was a great feeling.  I'd love to do it again someday, but without the snake.[...]

Snakes -- Part 2: A Close Encounter


The first time I ever got really close to a rattlesnake in the wild, or in the semi-wild, was in Brownwood, Texas, on a warm spring day when I was jogging down one of the concrete roads in the old Camp Bowie area. This road connected Milam Drive to FM Road 45, and so it was clear, open, and often used by drivers. Not to mention by me when I was jogging.

As I was zipping along, a pickup passed me. I looked ahead and saw it pass over something lying in the road about thirty yard ahead of me. The pickup kept going, but the thing it had passed over raised up its head and looked around. It looked at me.

The thing, as you've no doubt guessed, was a rattlesnake. It had been taking the air and enjoying the warmth of the sun-baked concrete. The pickup had disturbed its contemplations, and it wasn't one bit happy about it. It must have blamed me, or maybe it just decided that since it couldn't catch the pickup, I'd do. It shook its rattles and started slithering straight for me.

You may have heard that once you hear the sound of those rattles, you never forget it. I know I never will.

Another thing I'll never forget is how fast that sucker could slither. It was really moving on.

After my initial shock, so was I. I probably never ran faster, and the amazing thing is that I was running backward. You didn't think I'd take the time to turn around, did you? If you thought that, you don't know me very well. When it comes to snakes, I waste no time.

I backpedaled for all I was worth. I was going so fast, I was afraid the suction I created might be helping the snake catch up, not that he was doing such a bad job of it that he needed any help.

There was no doubt about who he was after because he never wavered. He was coming for me in an absolutely straight line, as if he were following a laser beam.

Another truck passed me. This one, however, stopped. I didn't. Neither did the snake.

The truck backed up, fast, and ran over the rattler. Then it drove forward and ran over it again. I kept going.

The driver in the truck moved so that he could see what he'd done. The snake looked flat, which was fine by me. It must have been fine by the driver, too, because he gave me a cheerful wave and drove on.

As for me, I slowed down enough to turn around, and then I headed home. I wasn't going to take any chances with that snake. Maybe he looked smushed, but you can't trust snakes.

It was a long time before I ran down that road again.



Maybe you like snakes. Some people do. My brother, for example. He can tell you how good snakes are for the ecology of a farm pond or a barn.

That's not convincing to me. I don't live in a farm pond or a barn, and snakes aren't good for my personal ecology. And don't talk to me about poisonous or non-poisonous snakes. My intention is never to be around a snake long enough to question it about the potency (0r lack thereof) of its venom.

The sad fact of the matter is that the sight of a snake triggers an immediate "flight or fight" response in me, except that you can forget the "or fight" part. For me, flight is the only option. Let me tell you how bad it is.

When we lived in Brownwood, Texas, I often ran in the area that had once been occupied by Camp Bowie during WWII. It had been a huge training camp, but now it's mostly gone. The part nearest my house was overgrown with weeds and mesquite trees. Not the roads, though. Those concrete roads were solid as ever, and I'm sure they still are. I'd jog up and down them nearly every day.

The junior high school wasn't far from my house, either, and some of the students walked home down those concrete roads. You shouldn't get the idea that the roads were used by cars. Most weren't, and they often had mesquite trees overhanging them and big rocks lying around on them. One road in particular had a big block of stone right in the middle of it. One day as I ran by the stone I noticed that someone, probably one of those junior high kids, had scrawled a message on it: "Snake under rock."

A pretty harmless message, you might think, and it might not bother you or my brother a bit. Me, it bothered. Brownwood was far enough west to be the home of plenty of rattlesnakes, and in fact the city had an annual "rattlesnake roundup." (Apparently it still does.) Camp Bowie was far enough away from town and houses to have more than enough rattlesnakes on the loose. I admit that one is more than enough for me.

Now that rock I mentioned was flat on the bottom. It sat right on the concrete, and there was no way a snake could have been under it, not unless it was dead and squashed. That didn't matter. Instantly, nerve cells fired all over my body. Adrenaline squirted into my blood stream by the gallon, and I started breathing as if I'd run a hundred miles instead of only four or five.

What's worse is that exactly the same thing happened very time I passed that rock. For years. That's just the way snakes affect me. Not spiders. I passed by a couple of saucer-sized tarantulas in my daily run, and I thought they were cute. Snakes aren't cute.

So that's how I feel about snakes. If you like them, that's fine. Just don't bring any of them around me. Thanks.

I'm Not Invisible -- Part 4


About 35 years ago, I had to have hernia surgery. In those days, back when people had to walk 8 miles to school every day, uphill, through snow, hernia surgery wasn't done the way it is now. It required big slices and a lengthy hospital stay (four or five days; I can't remember now). Not only that, I had to stay in the hospital the night before the surgery. Insurance coverage these days wouldn't stand for any of that.

So there I was in the hospital, surgery scheduled for the next day, and suffering all kinds of indignities. The prep for one thing. The anesthetist, for another. She had a severe speech impediment, and I could hardly understand a word she said. I was afraid I might never come out from under the anesthesia because I wasn't sure I answered any of her questions correctly.

Then the big day came. The rolled a gurney into the room. The orderlies told me to lie on the gurney. I did, and they covered me with a sheet and told me to remove my gown, which was easy enough. I untied the knot at the back of my neck, and pulled the gown right off.

Now that I was naked under the sheet, they wheeled me down the hallway. I'm not sure, but I think there must have been another gurney beside me because we must have been racing it. I mean, we flew down that hallway to the elevator. Soon we were in the operating room.

There was a nurse who explained to me that when the anesthetist slapped the thingamajing on my face, she (the nurse, not the anesthetist, thank goodness) would tell me to count backwards from one hundred. I said I wasn't good with numbers, but I'd try.

The doctor came in, told me everything would be fine, and said that he was ready. The nurse whipped the sheet off me. There I lay in all my glory, and she said, "Aren't you the guy who runs down Ninth Street every afternoon?"

"One hundred!" I said. "Ninety-nine!"

She got the hint, hit me with the ether, and I was gone. Believe me, I was never so happy to pass out.

I'm Not Invisible -- Part 3


A few years ago, Kroger opened up a big new superstore in Alvin. One of the innovations was a self-checkout system, where people can run their own items over the scanner and get out faster than they can if they're in the so-called "Express Lane," which in my experience is unquestionably the slowest-moving lane in the store. It's the one where the woman in front of you has only two items, which make you think you're going to be out of there in a jiffy if you get behind her, but it turns out that she wants to pay in pennies that she keeps knotted up in a handkerchief. With knots that she can't untie. And neither can the checker. And when you offer the Alexander the Great solution with your pocketknife, the woman looks at you as if you wanted to kill one or two of her cats, of which you're convinced she has several dozen at home.

You know the line I mean.

But I digress. I was there using the self-checkout, which isn't as easy as it appears because if you have vegetables, there's no barcode on them. You have to look them up and then let the machine weigh them if they're sold by the pound. If they aren't, you have to punch in the number of them that you have.

Anyway, things were going pretty smoothly, so I wondered when the woman at the next station was staring at me. I hadn't made any blunders that I was aware of. I hadn't set off any alarms. I wasn't trying to sneak out without scanning the bread or the milk.

I ignored her and finished up my little transaction. I tore off the receipt and picked up my bags. As I was leaving, the woman said, "Don't I know you?"

I'm unfailingly polite, so I said, "I don't know. Do you?"

She looked at me again. "Do you run down Hill Street every day?"

"Yes," I said, "I do."

She smiled. "I thought so. I almost didn't recognize you with your clothes on."

This last comment got a great reaction from the other customers. I'm just glad that Judy wasn't there to hear it.

I'm Not Invisible -- Part 2


Back in the early '90s Judy needed some pretty scary surgery. We had to go to St. Luke's hospital in Houston to fill out the admittance papers, along with those scary forms you have to give them. You know the ones.

We located the hospital and found the office we needed. It was a busy place. While Judy talked to someone at a desk about the forms, I sat down to wait. I had a book with me, so I read a little, but I was too nervous to concentrate. So I closed the book and looked around. I noticed that down at the other end of the waiting room there was a guy who was really giving me the eye.

That wouldn't have bothered me if the guy had been someone like Mr. Peepers. However, he looked a lot less like Wally Cox and a lot more like Dog the Bounty Hunter. And he used the same fashion consultant.

I turned to see if there was anybody near me he could be looking at, but there wasn't anybody sitting on either side of me. I opened my book again and hoped I was imagining things.

Surely he couldn't be looking at me. I mean I don't hang out with guys who can change tires with their teeth.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guy get up. He started in my direction, but he stopped near a table, picked up a magazine, and sat down. When he opened the magazine, I could see that he was looking at me over the top of it.

Judy was still filling out forms, clearly oblivious to what was going on. It was cool in the room, but I was sweating.

The guy got up again and came over to me. I looked up at him. I don't know how tall Dog the Bounty Hunter is, but this guy was around seven feet. Okay, maybe not, but that's how he looked at that moment.

"Hey," he said. He had a voice like Jesse Ventura's.

"Hi," I said. Or something like that.

"I think I've seen you before," he said.
"Uh," I said.

"Aren't you the guy who jogs past Alvin High School in the afternoons?"

"Uh, maybe."

"I see you nearly every day when I come in from work."

He sat down and we talked a while. He was a pretty nice guy. I never asked him what he was there for. I hope it wasn't for anything like Judy needed to have done.

I'm not Invisible


When I'm out pounding the pavement, I rarely think about who might be passing me in a car. Even if I did think about it, I usually can't see who's behind the wheel. For one thing, I have poor vision. And for another, windshields these days tend to be pretty dark and do a good job of whoever's driving the car.

The drivers can see me, but I never think about that, either, until somebody mentions it.

A couple of days ago, I was in the post office. I handed the postal clerk the package I wanted to mail, and she said, "Do you run every day?" It turned out that she drives to work every morning about the time I'm sweating it out on the streets of Alvin, and she sees me all the time. I told her that I run six days a week if I can, and her next question was the same one everybody else asks. "How far do you run?"

I used to be able to answer that one, but not anymore. There was a time when I ran eight minute miles. Those days are long gone. Now I have no idea how fast I run. I don't want to know. Maybe I'm in denial. At any rate, I used to run five miles. Now I just run for forty minutes. Maybe I'm going only three miles now, but if I am, don't tell me. As I said, I don't want to know.

So I told her that I didn't count the miles, just the minutes. She thought that was a good idea because she does the same thing. Every morning she gets up, has her coffee, and walks three minutes on the treadmill. Every little bit helps.

Weather Report


This morning it was 22° when I frolicked out the door to run. You folks who live Up North, and those of you who dwell on the plains and the mountains, might regard this as a mild and temperate spring day, but those of us who live a little closer to the bottom of the U. S. map think of it as (to use a technical term) mighty damn cold.

Even at that, however, it was better than yesterday when it was 29°. That's because yesterday it was overcast and a 10-20 mph wind was blowing down from the North Pole. Today, the sun was shining and there was only a light breeze. I could probably have worn my shorts, but I went with the longies instead. Well, I had the shorts on over the longies, if you want to get picky about it.

Not a bad run at all, and in fact I was sweating by the time I got home. I'd rather run on a day like this any time than to run during a Gulf Coast summer.

Days Like This . . .


. . . can fool you. The forecast high for Houston is 96, and the humidity will be brutal, too. But when you go outside at 7:30 A. M., you think, "Hey, this isn't too bad." You can feel a little bit of seabreeze drifting up from the south, and you're standing in the shade, and you think, "I can do this."

So you start to run. You can even kid yourself along for the first half mile or so. You stick to the shade, you don't try to break the four-minute mile, you think cool thoughts.

But then you start to sweat. After which you start to sweat a lot. Pretty soon, your socks weigh as much as your shoes did when you started out, but not as much as your shoes do now. They're soaked, and they're as heavy as concrete blocks.

Before long, you start thinking about how good some cold water would taste, how good a cold shower would feel. When you look at your watch, you see you're not even halfway done.

You sweat some more. When you swing your arms, drops of sweat fly off your fingertips. If you weren't wearing a headband, your eyes would be stinging with sweat. A little bit gets in them even as it is.

Eventually you get home. You don't even bother to go inside. You just take off your shirt and shoes and hose yourself down in the driveway. Feels good.

After an hour or so, you've almost forgotten what it was like.

Tomorrow is another day.

Being an Old Guy


Sometimes when I'm speeding* along the sidewalks and streets of Alvin, I wonder what people think of me.  Maybe they don't even see me, as I've found I'm practically invisible in restaurants when I need a server or in a mega-store when I need help finding something.  Assuming they do see me, though, what do they think?  Do they think an old guy shouldn't be out there running?  That I should be inside sitting quietly with a shawl over my shoulders?  Do they worry that I might fall and break something?  Would they care if I did?Let's face it: I didn't plan to be old, and I never dreamed that I'd still be running this long after that first attempt way back in 1971.**  In the years since then I've seen other old guys -- some of them as old as I am now, some even older -- out on the run.  I never identified with them.  I just admired them for keeping on.  Now I see there's nothing particularly admirable in it.  You just keep doing it because you've been at it for so long that you're afraid to quit.  Or at least it's that way for me.  I'm scared of what would happen to my body, which by now must be used to the almost daily pounding of the pavement.Somewhere there's a picture of me in the early '70s, all decked out in new running gear.   New shoes, new shorts, new top.  All blue.  The shoes were Saucony, I think.  Maybe I can find that picture somewhere.  If I do, I'll post it here.  Young guy.  Skinny.  Black hair, and plenty of it.  Those were the days.Now?  Gray hair, thin on top and almost gone in back.  Not so skinny, and definitely not young.  I don't have any recent photos of me in running gear, nor are there likely ever to be any.  Who'd want to look at them?  Certainly I wouldn't.The funny thing is, I don't feel much different from the skinny guy in the photo.  On the inside, I'm still young, which I'm sure is true of all old guys.  I still think of myself as the dark-haired kid in the new running togs, ready for anything.I can remember the routes I used to run, even some the exact quirks of the pavement, the rocks beside the road.  I could go there tomorrow and feel not a thing had changed in 35 years.  I don't think I will, though.*By my definition.  Probably not by yours.**More about that later.  If I get around to it.[...]