Monday, October 31, 2011

Amazing Race 19 - Leg 6 Recap!

(Justin and Jennifer perform "Who Got Paid for Driving To The Pit Stop?" from their sibling cabaret act for the locals in Malawi.)

Episode Six Fake Title: That Wacky Tobacky or Good Golly, Malawi!

Starting City: Bangkok, Thailand
Pit Stop City: Kumbali Village, Malawi
1st Place: Team Tricky   Reward: Trip to Private Island
2nd: The Squabblings
3rd: That Other Dating Couple
4th: Team Nemo
5th: Team Bert & Ernie
6th: Team Out-To-Pasture
Last Place: Team Footballers Lives - Not Eliminated!

Roadblock: At a giant tobacco warehouse, one team member had to put on a workman's uniform and transport ten 200-pound bales of tobacco leaves through a maze-like path to a drop-off zone using only a hand-cart,one bag at a time. That's 10 trips! This seemed like an incredibly physical task. Throughout the path, there were many workers blocking their way, cheering and shouting and dancing, perhaps because there were 14,000 pounds less of tobacco they had to move themselves that day. Once completed, teams got their next clue. It must have been extremely hot in there because whenever someone finished they looked absolutely wrecked in the taxi afterward.

Detour: Teams chose between "All Sewn Up" and "Not Grown Up." In ASU, teams went to the White Horse De-Sign Tailor Shop in an old packed-crazy market and used a manual sewing machine to finish the suit of a customer in order to receive their next clue. In NGU, teams went to Lilongwe LEA School where they use provided everyday materials to build toy trucks. Once it was properly constructed and functional, the headmistress would receive their next clue. I cannot imagine the nightmare of trying to sew on one of those machines. I still have anxiety flashes about trying to sew scrap pieces of fabric together in Basic Production Techniques for Theater Studies at Wesleyan. Still, I guess if you can sew this seems like a no-brainer. Most teams chose the school and had a delightful time building toys for the children there and interacting with them.

Also of Note This Week:

The flight path from Bangkok to Malawi had to be one of the longest in race history. The Amazing Yellow Line bounced around the globe through Singapore all the way to Johannesburg and then up to Malawi. It looked like a day of flying at the very least.

Half the legs so far this season have now ended in non-eliminations. Producers, I like this cast too, but eventually you are gonna have to start letting people go. I'll give you a pass this week, because the team that would've gone home was Team Footballers Lives and I just said last week they were my pick to win. So naturally they had a close brush with elimination.

Team Out-to-Pasture and That Other Dating couple are getting increasingly lopsided in their Roadblock distribution. I'm pretty sure no team member can do more than 7 throughout the race. They are already at 5-2 in favor of the men. Cathi and Sandy are gonna have to start taking some challenges for their respective teams. Especially with the threat of an upcoming eating-large amounts-of-strange-things challenge looming on the horizon. Neither of these ladies look like they could pack away a lot of exotic cuisine.

Team Tricky didn't mention God once this week and I didn't miss hearing about Him one bit.

Team Footballers Lives got added character depth by talking about a daughter with unspecified "special needs." I think she's basically okay though since they're alright with separating from her for the weeks required to run the race around the world. It seems like the show is trying to manufacture some family drama that might not really be there. Regardless, Marcus and Amani have been conducting themselves throughout the race that would make all of their children proud. I dig these two.

After the detour teams raced to the R-K Furniture Shop, where they had to pick up and transfer two handcrafted wooden beds to Kumbali Village, by vehicle and then physically carry the beds to the Pit Stop map.Teams would use these beds for an overnight stay at the village. I was just thinking to myself earlier in the day that they hadn't done a pit stop camp out in a while!

The clue at the Furniture Shop also told them they could ask the shop owner to call a truck for them to move the beds. So of course Team Nemo doesn't read this and tries to have their cab shove the the beds on top or inside their tiny cab. The cab driver sanely declines. THEN they read the full length of their clue. Guys, read the effing clues in their entirety! Useful information is provided all the way to the end!!!

Team Tricky wins their fourth leg so far out of six, but it's their THIRD where they won thanks to penalties faced by teams who got to the mat ahead of them. This time it was The Squabblings neglecting to pay the truckers that took them to the village that caused a last second reshuffle of the order. Team Tricky are strong competitors. The other teams can't afford to let these late-in-the-leg stupid mistakes give the snowboarders these freebie wins.

On the march to the Pit Stop, Cindy of Team Bert & Ernie tried to balance the bed on her head as she was walking. This was... ill-advised as it was way too heavy for her to walk that way. Ernie was too far away carrying his own bed as she collapsed to the ground - uninjured, thank goodness - but rather hilariously she wound up completely flattened by the bed frame. Both Cindy and Ernie laughed about it which was endearing to see.

Less endearing was the increased bickering of That Other Dating Couple. The bickering is increasing. Tempers are high. Nerves are fraught. They are still using the Race to decide the future of their relationship. If that's the measuring stick they want to go by (and I don't think it's a good one) then it looks like they should split up. They both seem nice, but The Race seems like a more intense experience than their relationship is ready for. Sorry! :(

Phil mentioned via voiceover how Team Bert & Ernie still has that Express Pass in their pocket allowing them to skip one task. They haven't needed it yet, but I wonder if they will actually get out of Malawi without using it since Phil brought it up. If i was them, I'd be holding it for that aforementioned Food Challenge that by looming. Skipping food or a needle-in-a-haystack challenge would be the best use of that Pass. They'll have to play it sometime soon though. I don't think they get to keep it past Leg 8 or 9 per the rules.

Next week: More Malawi. More bickering for That Other Dating Couple. Racers work as Bicycle Taxi Drivers. The shoe is on the other foot now, Racers! A Speed Bump task for Footballers Lives that will probably take 15 seconds to complete. Onward, Racers!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Daria Returns?

I've walked past the following billboards in Times Square several times in recent weeks.

Somehow, when I catch this out of the corner of my eye, my brain processes this as a billboard promoting the return of Daria.

You can understand how that's possible, right? I mean, Daria is basically a cross between Zooey Deschanel and that odd cartoon baby character voiced by Jonah Hill.So if you are rushing by fast your brain just smooshes the two together.At least mine does. So there's a moment where I think "Daria, is coming back!" and get excited, but then I look again, and catch my mistake. It's too bad. Daria was such a fun show. As far as I know, there are no real plans to bring her back, but Beavis and Butthead made their way back to the small screen so never say never. :)

A Year Without Cookies - Week 43

(A Birthday Week Without Cookies.)

My birthday was Wednesday! I took a page out of the Parks and Recreation play book and spent a week celebrating "Treat Yo Self 2011" style around my birthday. I took in a bunch of shows, hung out with friends, bought myself some fun gifts, but still did not indulge in cookies or soda. I did have a wonderfully delicious mint chocolate cake for my birthday. - Thank you, Gracie! - and that more than made up for the lack of cookies. From a small party with friends at my place, I am left with about 3 liters of soda in my fridge. Sigh. Maybe it'll keep for 9 weeks. Then I can go CRAZY!

9 Weeks to Go! 2012 is so close! But in the way stands the greatest test of all... A Christmas Without Cookies. I am note prepared...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Amazing Race 19: Leg 5 Recap!

(Operation Dumbo Droppings - The Doublemints have the time of their lives cleaning up after the cutest baby elephants you ever did see.)

Episode Five Fake Title: I'm Gonna Get You on a Slow Bus to Bangkok...

Starting City: Phang Nga Province Thailand
Pit Stop City: Bangkok, Thailand - M.R. Kukrit Heritage House
1st Place: Team Footballers Lives (they were thrilled like they won the whole race) Reward: Trip to Bali
2nd: Team Out-To-Pasture (also thrilled like they won the whole race and they didn't even win the leg!)
3rd: Team Bert & Ernie
4th: The Squabblings
5th: Team Tricky
6th: Team Nemo
7th: That Other Dating Couple
 Last Place: The Doublemints - Eliminated!!

Roadblock: Surprise Double Road Block! In the first Roadblock, one team member had to search in the jungle for a man playing a traditional Thai flute. They then had to search underwater in the pond in front of him for a bundle that contained a ceramic carp. There was a clue in the carp that led the teams to a nearby location where they had to take apart a traditional spirit house which they then delivered to Wat Chalong. The second Roadblock saw the team member that sat out the first Roadblock rebuilding the spirit house they picked up after the first Roadblock. Upon assembling it exactly, a monk would give them a bag of food and their next clue.

Speed Bump: Liz & Marie had to shovel elephant dung and wash an adorable baby elephant before they could proceed to the first Roadblock. The Doublemints were over the moon for both tasks, screeching with glee upon seeing the elephants. If they had to be eliminated, at least they didn't miss out on the elephants. 

Also of Note This Week:No Detour on this leg!

Teams did not start exactly where they checked in from the last leg. I'm not sure why they moved off the floating soccer field, but they did.

Teams got to ride elephants to the first Roadblock. This was fun for some (Tricky, Doublemints) and stressful for others (That Other Dating Couple.)

The clue about the Spirit House did not tell teams they would have to reassemble the Spirit House when they brought it to the next location. Some couples thought to take notes or pictures (Footballers Lives, Out-To-Pasture) while others had to go back and look at the proper placement for all the decorations (Nemo, Bert & Ernie). I find it amusing that while so many teams have difficulty reading their clues, on this task mos of them intuited the twist that they ha to reassemble it. I am sure if the clue actually SAID they had to reassemble it, somehow more teams would've missed that info and lost time. :)

Team Tricky out of nowhere suddenly got the Super Religious Christian Edit. I don't know what that was about. I firmly believe God doesn't care where you end up in a reality competition. I like when they are more fun and taking it all in and not praying to God to pull them through to victory. That's just me.

Team Nemo is having some communication issues based on the power dynamic of the relationship. They made two big blunders this leg - first when Dad-partner Laurence dismissed Son-Partner Zac's idea to take notes on the Spirit House before taking it apart, and then Dad getting mad at him for having to go back and take notes, and then later Zac wrongly convinced his dad they had to get off the first class bus they were taking to Bangkok for a local bus instead, forcing them to go back to the bus station and lose several hours of travel time on other teams.  They don't really fight, but they don't listen to each other in stressful situations, which is weird to me given that they are experienced sailors. You'd think they'd be strong communicators, but they seem increasingly out of their element - even last week when they were lost in the boats! Even at the mat this leg, Phil was like "you can't win racing like that."

Getting to Bangkok by bus proved crazy for almost everyone. Most teams took regular buses that travelled overnight and took FOREVER. Then they had to cab a million other places. Cabs were ripping people off left and right. Except for the Doublemints who had ZERO money and were given charity rides seemingly all over the country. They were very humble and grateful for it though, so that was nice, but clearly it was their time to exit. Ernie & Cindy  had the sweetest deal by taking the (not forbidden by the rules) express bus while everyone else had the local.In Bangkok, teams went to Noi Canal, and fed fish at the canal using the food they got from the second Roadblock, before they got the clue to the pit stop. this struck me as a pretty random task, considering it was still another taxi ride to get to the pit stop, but I guess they had to do something before ending the leg in Bangkok. Maybe it was a cooler experience in person.

The Doublemints were very gracious in their exit. They obviously had a very tough year with the passing of their father, and while they were not the strongest racers, I enjoyed their positive adventurous spirit and their expressed understanding of the special opportunity the race is to see the world. They will be missed.

Team Footballers Lives continue to be lovely and awesome and strong and smart. They are my current pick to win! Hopefully this doesn't doom them to be eliminated in the next leg!

Next week: Racing through tobacco fields? Does next week's episode come with a warning from the Surgeon General?? Onward, Racers!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 42

(Were they really sold out of coconut or did they not even bother to stock them since everybody wants chocolate chip?)

Have I discussed the Subway Dilemma before? I feel like maybe I did. It's been 42 weeks of this, so it's more than possible it's come up before. It's hard to find new territory 40 entries in. Just pretend like it's new to you.

So I enjoy getting myself a subway sandwich from the show down the street from my apartment every now and again. Their 5-dollar foot long sandwich offer is a good deal, even on the occasions where the sandwich maker tries to cheat me on tomatoes or green peppers. But occasionally I get it as a meal which comes with a gigantic drink and a snack on the side. There are many snack options but my favorite one of course is the two (sorta) fresh cookies option. I have not been able to partake in this option all year and it creates a unique sense of sadness in my heart. I like the subway cookies. The chocolate chip, the double chocolate chip, the white chip macadamia nut, the chocolate chip with M&M - you can mix and match to your heart's content. There are also oatmeal raisin and peanut butter and a couple other flavors, but... eh. The whole point is the chocolate!

So instead I get sun chips. The sun chips are fine but they're not as good as cookies. I will not be missing them for much longer though as there are only 10 weeks left in the year! That's right! Only 10 weeks!! It's crazy. Maybe I will do a countdown of fond cookie memories for the next 10 weeks until the self-imposed ban is lifted. Man, life is about to get sweeter....

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amazing Race 19: Leg 4 Recap!

(Even if The Race don't last forever, The Doublemints know they've still got each other. They can lounge under their umbrellas. Ellas. Ellas. Hey Hey Hey.)

Episode Four Fake Title: Phuket Doesn't Rhyme with "Bucket"

Starting City: Borobudur, Indonesia
Pit Stop City: Koh Panyi, Phang Nga Province Thailand (Floating Soccer Field)
1st Place: Team Tricky, Again!! Reward: 5K in cold hard cash
2nd: The Squabblings
3rd: That Other Dating Couple
4th: Team Bert & Ernie
5th: Team Nemo
6th: Team Footballers Lives
7th: Team Out-To-Pasture
 Last Place: The Doublemints - Non-Elimination!!

Detour: A choice between Coral Reconstruction and Beach Preparation. In each task, teams first road on speedboats to another island's beach. (The boat chase was gorgeously shot. Well done, Show.) In "Coral Reconstruction," teams built a coral nursery out of pipes. Once it was built, they had to use a kayak to take the structure and a bunch of coral out to a buoy to create an underwater nursery. Once complete, a marine biologist would give them their next clue. In "Beach Preparation," teams would have to set up 20 beach chairs and 10 umbrellas in a replica of how an existing set was arranged. Once they were set up correctly, teams would receive their next clue.All chairs and umbrellas had to belong to the same set which was specific to each team and they started out all jumbled up and packed into a small storage area, so sorting them out became a time-consuming ordeal.

Roadblock: Teams traveled to Koh Yao Noi Island, where one team member would have to climb the island's sheer rock wall until they reached a bird's nest that held their next clue. It seemed like later teams might have had to climb higher to different bird's nests once the lower ones were snatched up. This task was not as much of a challenge as it might sound in writing. No one was shown having a problem with the wall. The detour was the tougher part of this leg by far.

Also of Note This Week: Teams could not fly directly to Phuket, which meant stopovers in Jakarta where the top two teams on an earlier flight became the bottom two teams when they got screwed in the changeover. But then it became a moot point because all the teams got bunched up for a night sleeping outside waiting for the area holding their next clue to open for business in the morning.

Several teams mispronounced Phuket, so that it rhymed with "bucket." I wonder if Standards and Practices considered bleeping it considering what it sounded like, even though it was clear they were not trying to curse. It still made me laugh to hear it. Heeheehee!

I would've picked the Coral Detour, because it seemed much cooler, but it was also deceptively a lot harder. The frames of the nursery did not want to stay together in the water, and the tides made it almost impossible not to drift away from the bouy. 6 teams initially tried the coral, but only two teams completed it. Everyone else had to double back. The Doublemints had a terrible time with the umbrellas despite all the other teams stopping to give them advice.

The Squabblings had their best outing to date. They only fought with each other a little bit, and actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. The clue given to the teams after the Detour was just a compass and dubloon with holes in it. They were instructed to travel north for 13 minutes until they reached the island which you could see through the holes in the dubloon, called Soap Island. This can only be scored as a total shout out to Goonies, and I love the show more than ever because of this. The Squabblings also get extra points in my book for correctly identifying the Goonies shout out and for delightedly quoting the movie as they sped along on their way.

That Other Dating Couple had some communication breakdowns this week. It was bound to happen. I think it came mostly from stress and lack of sleep and not either of them being total assholes. Still the fatigue is only going to get worse. They are gonna have to dig deep in order not to fall apart completely.

Team Nemo somehow got lost in their boat after getting to Soap Island. This is extra hilarious since they had a map AND they are trained sailors.

The Doublemints were not eliminated at the end of the leg. I'm okay with that because I still like all the teams and don't feel the need to say goodbye to any of them soon. I'm still kind of amazed that there's no one on the race this season that I actively dislike. Team Tricky continues to impress, finally winning a leg without another team incurring a penalty. Everyone else seemed to really appreciate the beauty around them and treat the locals with courtesy and respect. Where have all these people been hiding during casting previous seasons??

The Pit Stop was a floating soccer "arena" which seemed to be a floating dock that was set up as a soccer pitch. I was confused. If the ball went out of bounds - as it tends to do A LOT in soccer -  wouldn't people have to keep jumping in the water to retrieve it? It seems like that would slow a game down considerably, no?

Next Week: It's a good thing all the teams loved Thailand because we are hanging around for another week. The Doublemints will have to face a Speed Bump and the challenge of getting along with no money, since they never got theirs changed into Thai currency.  As if they needed to make the next leg harder on themselves, they certainly found a way! Onward, Racers!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 41

(Like Eve tempting Adam with the apple from the Tree...)

It is Week 41 of no cookies and soda. This was a pretty straightforward week, so not much to say. It just flew by with the usual temptations and longings. New this week, was my co-worker Tony literally putting a large, warm-from-the-oven, chocolate chip cookie directly into my hand as a gift. He got it for me as a treat thinking I would enjoy it. My response was kinda "You do realize I haven't been eating these for 40 weeks and I've been talking to you about not eating them for all of those 40 weeks, no?" But his wife just gave birth to a lovely baby boy. He gets no sleep. So perhaps A Year Without Cookies just isn't registering for him. I forgive him. I respectfully gave him back the cookie.No offense taken by anyone involved.

Next up it's Week 42... and thus the 10 Week Countdown to the end of the Year Without Cookies!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Amazing Race 19: Leg 3 Recap!

(Guess who wasn't eliminated this week?)

Episode Three Fake Title: Legends of The (Previously) Hidden Temple

Starting City: Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Pit Stop City: Magelang, Magelang Regency (Borobudur), Indonesia
1st Place: Team Tricky, Again! Reward: Trip For Two to Dubai
2nd: Team Nemo
3rd: That Other Dating Couple
4th: The Squabblings
5th: Team Bert & Ernie
6th: Footballers Lives
7th: Team Out-To-Pasture
8th: The Doublemints
Last Place: Team Nomi - Eliminated!!

Detour: Teams chose between "Rice Field" and "Grass Fed." In RF, teams carried lunch to rice paddy workers, and then got down and dirty planting 300 rice seedlings before receiving their next clue. In GF, teams had to fill two bags with freshly cut grass (to the very top!) and then pick up two (super adorable) sheep from a shed and drag them along to their pen. After delivering everything, they had to dump six buckets-worth of water they got from a well into a trough for the cute-ums sheep. Teams were only allowed to use two buckets at a time. Once the trough was full, they would receive their next clue.

Roadblock: One team member had to walk around the top tier of Borobudur, an amazing formerly-hidden Buddhist temple, counting the statues of the Five Dhyani Buddhas, while also paying attention to the positions depicted in the statues. The racer would have to give the correct numbers of Buddhas by shape and also a demonstration of their hand gestures to the nice expert guy who was waiting for them. Once they got the numbers and positions correct they got their next clue.

Also of Note This Week: No airports this week!

At the start of the leg, teams had to join a group of Dutch colonial-era reenacters on a bike ride from the Kraton through the streets of Yogyakarta to Fort Vredeburg to get their next clue. Team Tricky takes the opportunity to perform all kinds of moves on their bikes like they are in Pee Wee's Big Adventure. On Team Bert & Ernie, the pedal falls off of Ernie's bike causing Bert to freak the eff out as all the teams pass them as a dude tries various remedies to get the pedal back in place. Bert is so intense, but Ernie never loses patience with her or tells her it's a big character flaw. She's definitely the complainiest of all the Racers (outside the Squabblings, natch) but I still like her and both of them as a team.

The baby sheep in the detour were so cute. They were not very much in the mood to go where they needed to go. They should've been more helpful! They were on their way to food and water! Still of all the disagreeable animals to drag from Point A to Point B, i'd choose baby sheep over oxen, or camels or ostriches any day.

So many people fell on the slippery slopes of the Detour that it felt a little like Wipeout. Fine by me! Falling is hilarious as long as no one gets hurt. And it looked like everyone survived unscathed. Props to Cathi for keeping a positive outlook despite many a pratfall. I have no idea why Footballers Lives changed detour tasks midway through. All they had to do was stuff their bags with a little more straw. Why  start an entirely different task? It seems like they panicked. It almost cost them dearly. Also Footballers Lives? If someone gives you the answer to a riddle, try to remember it for 10 minutes and then think about how it might APPLY to the riddle once you're asked to solve it. Team Tricky was so nice to them and they didn't capitalize! So strange.

Dearest Teams: Read your clues! Team Nemo would've come in first had they not gotten a penalty that Team Tricky even WARNED THEM about. Team Tricky is really growing on me fast. Honestly, this might be one of the most overall likable casts I've seen in a while. I'm not really sold on the Squabblings, but everyone else I find easy to cheer for.

It was an interesting twist that the Roadblock and Pit Stop were at a location that prohibited the teams from running. Borobudur looks like such a stunning location. All the teams seemed really taken with it. I can't believe it was at one point hidden away by surrounding jungle. It seems like it would take A LOT of jungle to hide something that size. But in terms of hurrying to the Pit Stop, teams had to remain respectful of the site and walk at a brisk pace. Another interesting reshuffle right at the end occurred when some teams had to go pack to the parking area to settle with their taxis while others had done so before entering the Roadblock. This helped save Team Footballers Lives and sealed the fate of Team Nomi.

People should never go on Reality Shows to win the money! Especially this one. You go on Amazing Race to see the world. That's it! If you think you could really use the prize money to ,as Melissa McCarthy might say, "get me outta a couple of jams." you're in the wrong place. You try to go as far as possible to see as much of the world as possible, and then at the end - if you make it that far - try to come in first for the prize. You don't plan on the TAR money prize money to provide for your family. Just like you don't play lotto instead of working a regular job to provide for them. I mention this because Team Nomi seemed particularly upset to miss out on the chance for the money, And I'm sure it would be helpful in their lives! I would like a cool million too. It would help in my life. But Kaylani seemed really upset that her daughter would think her a failure for not winning, which seems crazy. She'll be proud of her mommy regardless... unless her daughter is like that little girl who plays Will Ferrell's landlord in that Funny or Die video.

Next Week: Phuket all, we're headed to Thailand! Onward, Racers!

A Year Without Cookies - Week 40. Yeah, that's right. FORTY!

(I am not responsible for those bite marks. Geez, how often do I say that in a week?)

40 weeks. Can it truly be?? Only 12 weeks to go. I really feel like I'm going to make it to the end now.

This past weekend at the Mud Run, I almost had a moment where I completely forgot about the Year Without Cookies. While waiting for my race to start, I went over to the free snack stand where they were giving out bananas and oranges and Oreo cookies. I was looking for a little energy boost right before the race and almost scooped up a cupful of cookies without realizing. Thankfully, a little red alert went off in my brain right before I popped them into my mouth. It was like a scenario in one of my soda dreams where I don't realize what I'm doing until it's too late. If I break the rules of the Year Without Cookies, I want to do it with some premeditation. I don't want some silly accidental slip up. I had the bananas as a pre-race snack instead.

Also this week, something that never happens. I went into Equinox downstairs from where I work to get some chicken soup from the cafe. That's not the thing that never happens. That happens often enough. (I've had a bad cold/fever all weekend that started late last week and it continues to do a number on my throat. I currently have no voice. It's not pretty to listen to.)  What was rare was that the dude behind the counter had a half dozen freshly-baked jumbo-sized chocolate chip cookies that he was just giving away for free! "It's a promotion!" he said, trying to get me to take one off the tray. "You don't want it?" I DID want it! But I did not dare take it. The cookie vultures on line around me swooped in with their greedy little claws and snatched them up very quickly so it wasn't a long torment I suffered. But passing up a free freshly baked chocolate chip cookie? Such a test of strength.

Week 41 is on it's way. We edge ever closer to the end of the journey...

Here Is Mud In Your Eye! (And Everywhere Else!)

(this is the one official picture of me that I can find. I love that I look like The Living Dead. Braaaaiiins!)

So last Sunday was the New York Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run in Orchard Beach. Along with tennis lessons, the mud run was the new physical challenge set for myself for 2011. It's your basic 10k race with an extra abundance of mud and several physical challenges along the way. It was great! Here is my recap of the event.

It started with a ride out to Pelham Bay Park on the 6 train. It didn't take as long as you might think considering it's the last stop in the Bronx. From here, shuttle bus service was provided by the race to Orchard Beach. "Shuttle bus service" turned out to be one school bus going back and forth in a loop picking up hundreds if not thousands of people. The line to wait for the bus was a long one. Luckily I left with plenty of time as a buffer. When I finally got on the bus , the driver claimed there were two buses doing the loop, but it sure didn't seem like it.

(me at almost the front of the line to get on the bus. I started waiting where the line currently ends. You can see it went on and on behind me.)

The set up at Orchard Beach was very nice. There were lots of stations set up with different sponsors and they gave out bananas and oranges and cookies pre-race so the runners had a little bit of extra fuel. There were military tests of strength, places you could buy race-themed gear and a well organized baggage area away from (most of) the mud. Race organizers played fun music by the race corrals and there was also live music by the lunch area. It was a very festive atmosphere. I thought it was very well-designed. The end of the race finished right in this main meeting area, which added to the excitement. You could see the finishers from the earlier 5K races making their way through the final mud pits.

It was warm and sunny that day, but it had rained the day before which meant the field itself was naturally muddy in some places and it was funny to watch runners who had not yet raced, delicately trying to step around the puddles and not mess up their shoes, while those who had already completed the course just stamped around regardless of what the ground was like. It just seemed funny that we were about to dive headfirst into mud, but beforehand, we tried to stay as neat and clean as possible.:)

The course went like this: 

(Course Map! Click to embiggen!)

They started the race in waves a few minutes apart. I was lucky enough to wind up in Wave 8 with my co-worker Fabby and a theater buddy T.Caine. We were right at the front of our wave when the start gun went off, and though we put ourselves in the 10-minute/mile range, we all took off much faster. T.Caine especially shot out like a bullet. The first leg of the race was right on the boardwalk along the beachfront. It was such a nice view to take in, but we couldn't lose focus that we were off and running!

The obstacles went: ladder wall, tube tunnels, military hurdles, low crawl (under netting, no barbed wire was on hand. A relief!), more tube tunnels, cargo climb, mini-mud pit, low walls, hay bales, climbing wall, water run, slippery wall, and then the main mud pit for the grand finale. In between all those obstacles were some really beautiful (and muddy) trails through the woods around Orchard Beach. It was a unique kind of race for me for a couple reasons. For one, it was an entirely new course. All of my longer races have been on paved roads and mostly in Central Park and this course one is definitely not like that. You have to be a lot more aware of what's ahead of you and where your feet are landing. It reminded me a lot of my days in junior high and high school running cross country. It would be very easy to roll your ankle out there if you spaced out. Another big difference between this race and others was that due to all the mud and the obstacles, I couldn't run with my ipod. This meant running without music, which I pretty much never do. So it was an interesting challenge to do the run without any uptempo beats pushing me along.

(The Slipper Wall was one of the last obstacles on the course which you could also see from the Welcome Area. The dude climbing while standing up is not following directions. You're supposed to do it on your knees or your stomach so you don't slip and kill yourself. I found it was really painful climbing on my knees so I had to pull myself up with just my arms. I'm so strong!)

ALSO, there were no mile markers or clocks along the course, so nobody really knew where they were in terms of distance or pace as we were running along. All the obstacles were staffed with workers to make sure no one got hurt and to help people along, and supply water, but no one seemed to know how far into the race they were posted or at least they refrained from telling us when questioned. I figured that by the time I got to the mini-mud pit I was halfway through, but it was tricky to pace my energy without knowing for sure. Also a lot of the second half of the race seemed to be running uphill which was killer!

From the very first obstacle I realized I didn't have any problem climbing things, but getting over them gracefully was more difficult for me. I had a tendency to get to the top and then fling my leg over the side with a bit too much momentum, thus launching myself over without a way to really stop myself from toppling off the other side. This was most evident on the military hurdles, the first of which I totally fell off of going over. Luckily I just landed on my butt and quickly got up with an "i'm okay! i'm okay!" (note: no one around me was concerned at all. I was talking to myself.) and launched myself over the next one and got through it fine.

(Post-race. Still attractive. I used the bottle of water they gave me after the race to try and wash off my hands so I could get into my bag. Still it was a really messy endeavor.)

So obviously, from the pics you can tell I got very very muddy. The run advertised that there would be rinse off stations on-site. In my head I pictured... I don't know, showers? Not like they would create some spa out in the woods... but I don't know. What we got instead were a bunch of hoses with minimal water pressure hooked up to ice cold tanks of water. Trying to rinse off this way was more of a challenge than anything faced on the run. It would've taken me hours to try and rinse off in this fashion. Plus it was FREEZING. After trying for about 10 minutes and getting nowhere, I realized most people were abandoning this method to just walk back up the beach and rinse off in Pelham Bay. This was much more effective and the water temp was much more tolerable.Oh, and did I mention that even though I picked a giant bag worth of clothes to change into, I forgot to pack a towel? Yeah, that was really not good planning on my part. It made drying off a very creative process. Thank goodness it was an unseasonably warm October day. 

(nice and clean after my swim! I had to use my clean shirt as a towel, so I'm just wearing my wind breaker without a shirt underneath. Just like Rafa after a tennis match! Vamos!)

I have to give props to the race for their delicious hamburger lunch provided after the race. It was a decent sized burger with fresh, lettuce tomato and cheese along with a bottle of water and assorted bags of chips. They tasted great. The whole atmosphere of the event was really a lot of fun. It was also very nice that Very Pregnant Co-Worker Suki who lives close to Orchard Beach stopped by to cheer on me and Fabby. How I refrained from giving her a big muddy hug, I'll never know! Even if I mentioned a few negatives here, overall it was a fantastic day and I'm happy I took this physical challenge. The obstacles were fun. The company was great. I would definitely run through the mud again!

Come See My Play "Processing" At the Abingdon Theatre Benefit Tuesday Oct. 11th!

Hello friends! A new short play I wrote called "Processing" is being produced this week as part of the Abingdon Theatre's Moral Dilemma Comedies Fundraiser Series. There are two performances tomorrow night - Tuesday at 6:30pm and 8:30pm. All the info is below. The cast is a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing them tomorrow night along with the 5 other plays showcased. I hope to see you there in support of a great theater!

Abingdon Theatre Company
312 West 36th Street, just west of 8th Ave. 
Dorothy Strelsin Theatre, 1st Floor 

6 playwrights + 13 actors + 5 directors = 6 new plays 

Six playwrights take on the challenge to write a 10-minute play 
inspired by Abingdon’s current production, 
BLAME IT ON BECKETT, by John Morogiello.

$10 suggested donation at the door. 
There are no reservations. Only 55 seats per show!
Box office opens 30 minutes prior to curtain. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 6:30pm & 8:30pm 

Will Arbery ● Josh Krigman ● Dara O’Brien 
Owen Panettieri ● Jack Rushen ● Bara Swain

Kim Allen* ● Gail Merzer Behrens* ● Danielle Bourgeois Sue Brady* ● Peter Brouwer* 
● Chris Davis Gus Ferrari ● Michael Hardart* ● Tom Lacey* ● Martin LaPlatney* 
Tony Neil* ● Doug Rossi ● Jennifer Rubins* 

Heather Arnson ● Jessica Creane ● Benjamin Shaw 
Catherine Siracusa ● Bara Swain 

Stage Manager: Ashley Nicole Zednick 

All participants are donating their talent to present these staged readings as a benefit for 
Abingdon’s New Play Development Program.
 * Member, Actors’ Equity Association

Thank you for supporting Abingdon Theatre Company, whose mission “to develop and produce new plays by American playwrights” has driven the development of more than 300 original plays since 1993. 

For more information, visit our website @

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tea Without Sympathy: The Single Guy's Complaint about the Common Cold

(Not Pictured: Anyone Else Who Cares)

Taking care of yourself when you are sick blows. Right now I have a bad sore throat and an up-and-down fever. Also my TV is broken. Could it get any worse? Yes. Of course it could. I count my many blessings daily. Need it get worse for me to complain about it? No.

It seems perfectly normal to want someone to be there to take care of you when you don't feel well. Is that so much to ask? Being single and living alone and being your own caregiver is not fun. You can't tuck yourself in. You can't go out and buy chicken soup and Tylenol and tissues while you're asleep in bed and then surprise yourself with the supplies when you wake up (believe me. I've tried. It's called dreaming.). You can't ask yourself if your head feels warm or if you'll please go out and buy another thermometer while sit slumped on the couch because you don't think the old one still works because it really feels like you have a fever and this stupid thing beeps that it's done at 96.2 and that just can't be right. None of that stuff feels right when you're alone!

Someone should be around to make a big deal out of the fact that you are kind of unwell. In the marriage vows when it says " in sickness and in health" most people tend to think of that as BIG sicknesses - like you pledge not to bail if your spouse gets cancer or suffers a debilitating injury or comes down with Alzheimer's (well, some people don't think that one counts.) But I think it also means that you pledge to be over-the-top in the sympathy and care giving department if your mate comes down with something not-so-major-but-still-uncomfortable during the annual cold and flu season.Year in, year out, that's when they count on you the most. And you shouldn't be all snippy about it.

Single loners like me don't have that. I've told several people today I'm not feeling well and their reactions have been non-plussed to sympathetic. (For the record, actors tend to have the strongest emotive responses because they are naturally dramatic and usually live without health insurance so the idea of sickness scares them more than most. Their "get well soon's" are very appreciated.) But are they running over here to take charge and tell me that if I take a shower maybe I'll feel a little better? No. And should they? No it's not their problem. It's my problem. I just wish it WAS someone else's problem. (Also, current FB comments to my status updates about not feeling well? Zero. 625 "friends," indeed!)

That's why I think there should be some kind of care service for those people who are sorta just not feeling well and don't have anybody around to complain to. I would gladly pay a small hourly fee to have someone come over and pretend to care that it hurts when I swallow, and agree that Dayquil gelcaps really aren't that effective after all, and simply ask, "Is there anything else I can do to make you more comfortable?". It's like combining hospice and an escort service but you take out the dying and the sexual favors. Lots of people babysit kids, are there no caring souls out their who will babysit the germ-infected for a fee?

This seems like a truly fantastic idea. A real moneymaker. I can't believe no one has introduced it into the market yet. You have the sniffles, you dial 1-800-I AM-SICK, you tell the customer service rep, "I'm siiiiiick" and you give them your address, and someone comes right over and sets stuff up so you're more comfortable. They are like, "oh no! oh no! are you okay? It's because you are working yourself too hard. Get back in bed!" and then they call work for you and tell your boss you are NOT coming in, nor will you be answering work emails, and then they make you tea and toast and find a good game show on TV if it's not time for Price Is Right. Or they bring you a magazine. I will call this business Tea AND Sympathy. And I will start planning the rest of the business model as soon as I feel better...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Amazing Race 19: Leg 2 Recap!

(The Doublemints and Bert & Ernie prepare to descend into a Cave of Wonders.)

Episode Two Fake Title: Give Us Your Money! All That You Got!

Starting City: Martyr's Shrine Taipei, Taiwan
Pit Stop City: Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Yogyakarta, Indonesia
1st Place: Team Tricky! Reward: Trip For Two to Ireland
2nd: Team Nemo
3rd: Team Nomi
4th: Team Bert & Ernie
5th: The Doublemints
6th: That Other Dating Couple
7th: Team Out-To-Pasture
8th:  The Squabblings
9th:  Team Footballers Lives
Last Place: Team Survivor AND Team Domestic Flight - Double Elimination!!

Roadblock: One team member had to descend down into Goa Jomblang, a giant beautiful whole in the Earth,  where they had to search for a traditional Javanese mask and dagger (they weren't hidden, it was just really dark) before returning to the surface via hella-large wooden ladder to exchange them for their next clue.Nobody complained about being afraid of heights (though a few mentioned it in passing.) Everybody took a moment to enjoy the view.

Speed Bump: Apparently somehow different from last week's "Hazard," Team Out-To-Pasture had to unravel a big rope that stretched across a yard. This looked super easy and seemed to be located about 100 feet from the Roadblock so it wasn't really a big obstacle for them to overcome. Why do they even include these as a penalty?

Detour: A choice between "Shake Your Money Maker" or "Be a Ticket Taker." In SYMM, teams had to dress up in costumes with one team member dancing in the streets, while the other played a gamelan in order together earn some money.  In BATT, teams had to go to the Mal Malioboro and park motorbikes to earn the money. I would have parked the bikes. It seemed like a more certain way to make the cash. People can either tip you for your dance or not, but they have to tip you for parking their bike.

Also of Note This Week: All teams knew from the beginning it would be a double elimination and were particularly nervous that they had to be ahead of two teams instead of one.

After completing the Detour, teams had to make their way to the Aisyiyah Orphanage to donate the money they earned in exchange for their next clue. HOWEVER, there was a visible sign - in English - on the table where they handed in the money that instructed teams to donate all of the money they had on their persons. Teams that did not donate all of their money were not allowed to check in at the Pit Stop and had to go back to the Orphanage to complete the task before their leg was done. How many of the teams read the sign? ONLY THREE OUT OF ELEVEN! This created quite a reshuffling of the teams right at the end of the leg. It was very intense. I liked this twist. I hate when teams just run around in a panic and don't read. I like that in the past few seasons the Race has really tried to force the teams to pay attention to what they are doing and to READ THE CLUES!

The Dating Couples continue to treat each other with respect and support and hopefully that trend will continue since they seem to be not going anywhere anytime soon. Over on Team Bert and Ernie, Cindy freaked out about losing 1st place when they had to go back to the Orphanage, but her freak out was not directed at Ernie and he in turn did not lash out at her or tell her to shut up, so it's cool. Over on Team Squabblings, the brother and sister continue to fight about nothing other than their entire lives of knowing each other. They have got to learn to breathe or they are gonna MELT. DOWN. 

Unfortunately, with the elimination of Team Survivor and Team Domestic Flights, my predictions for the season are shot to hell. I like Ethan and Jenna and Ron and Bill. They raced pretty well, they didn't attack or blame each other when they made mistakes and they would've been safe had they read the sign at the orphanage!!! Alas, it was not meant to be for them. They were very gracious in their exits. I will miss them!

Next Week: Bert and Ernie have broken bicycles, Out-To-Pasture does multiple face plants out in a pasture, and the secrets of ancient temple cause problems and mental breakdowns for all. Plus elephants! Onward, Racers!