BOTASTIC!

Last weekend was the Cooper River Bridge Run. Let me whet your appetite on how it went. It involved a man named BOTASTIC, hitting mile marker one at exactly the 57 minute mark, and the three wolf moon t-shirt.  (If you are unfamiliar with the three wolf moon t-shirt I’d advise reading the product review comments on Amazon.)

Previously, BOTASTIC was known only as Bo. This was before I renamed him. BOTASTIC is so much more descriptive. Here is a list of things BOTASTIC did for me and my cohorts for the Cooper River Bridge Run:

  • Booked us a lovely hotel room with his Hilton points
  • Picked up our run packets
  • Checked us in advance
  • Lovingly placed run packets in the room
  • Along with a darling drawing by his daughter
  • Met us at the hotel as we arrived
  • Made fabulous dining recommendations
  • Escorted our entire party to the shuttle
  • Generally held our hands through the entire process.
Cooper River Bridge Run

Imagine if they were all brain eating zombies.

And let me tell you, it’s a process. With 40,000 runners and who knows how many people running bandit, the Cooper River Bridge Run is, in many ways, an ordeal. To the credit of the City of Charleston, things ran smoothly. That said, with so many people, had it not been for BOTASTIC I am sure we would have run into plenty of headaches.

One thing BOTASTIC could not shield me from was the mind numbing cold. It was so. unbelievably. cold. I don’t know what the temp was, but it was a long, slow, cold walk to the start, and a long, slow, wait at the start for the race to begin. And I was dressed to run. I was to later learn I was destined to be cold the entire day. Little did I know the dreamed of warmth was never going to happen for me. Oh, Charleston, land of a million blistering suns, why the surprise freeze?

The other thing BOTASTIC couldn’t shield me from was my own stupidity. I woke up feeling dehydrated, so I drank tons and tons of water. When the clock finally struck 8am, I had to go. BADLY. Like a herd of cattle the crowd bumped and pushed and plodded through the start. About a half mile down the road, BOTASTIC spotted a gas station. “Let’s duck in here!” he suggested, and we saw a couple of other people doing the same. We told the rest of our group we’d catch up and ran over to the store.

It was blissfully warm. And jam packed to the gills. I got in line. It was moving at a glacial pace. BOTASTIC suggested getting some coffee. That sounded fantastic. And then we saw some Hostess. BOTASTIC went for a fruit pie, and I had my eye on some cupcakes. I hadn’t had Hostess Cupcakes in years (they’re hard to find in the South), so let me add this to the bullet list:

  • Treated me to a coffee and Hostess while waiting in line at the gas station

BOTASTIC and I noticed the gal in front of me was wearing a Clemson shirt. I was wearing a Clemson hat. I discovered she lived in Clemson and worked in the admissions office there. “Oh,” I said, “you must know GOOCH!” I would explain who Jennifer Gooch is, but it would take a whole ‘nother post. Let’s just say she’s an icon. The gal, whose name I never did get, exclaimed, “I LOVE GOOCH!” I said, “who doesn’t love Gooch! Did she tell you about the time we almost burned her house down last Christmas?” The gal laughed. “Oh, you must be a poker girl!” As I took a sip of coffee and a bite of Hostess I said, “indeed I am!” Why, this was turning out to be the most pleasant race I’d ever been in! Just then the girl looked at her phone. “Somebody just won the race,” she told us. “A Kenyan in 28 minutes.”

Finally, we made it to the head of the line. As we rejoined the “race” a stab of fear hit us. There was the straggler van. On an empty street. Frightened we’d be forced to ride in the van of shame, we hustled our bustle. But we didn’t run. We had beverages, man. We reached mile marker one. It had taken us 57 minutes to get there.

Three Wolf Moon

A gift fit for a king.

We upped our pace dramatically. In fact, we started catching people and passing them. By the time we reached the bridge we were back in the thick of the race. Along the way, BOTASTIC kindly took my empty coffee cup and carried it a couple of miles, until we reached a trash can. BOTASTIC is a true Southern gentleman. At the end of the Cooper River Bridge Run I set a personal best in terms of my mile times. No, I never actually ran. I beat my personal best running time. At a walk. Awesome. 

Later that day I discovered the three wolf moon t-shirt, of which I knew BOTASTIC to be a devotee, and of course got it for him. Not an extravagant thank you, to be sure, but one I knew he’d appreciate. Luckily, he did not already have it.

Next year, my plan is to actually run. But, you know, that’s assuming I don’t hear the siren call of a bathroom, coffee and a Hostess cupcake again.

From Whence I Came

Shatner

When CBS picked up Sh*t My Dad Says they cast William Shatner in the role of the dad. And, without knowing it, in a way, also in the role of my mom.

My parents. They are a delight. And I mean this most sincerely. I got lucky in the parent lottery. Like Evan, I grew up with a lot of love and support. My dad, a fan of The Power of Myth series, found the phrase, “follow your bliss,” and both my parents used it often. They even meant it when they said it. My dad likes to call us all up and say, “I want you to know I love you, I’m proud of you, and here’s your mommy.” My mom does the heavy lifting part of actually holding a conversation with us. Which isn’t to say my dad isn’t sincere. He is. He just doesn’t have time for the details. (Followers of this blog may remember how much patience my family has.)

This pattern holds true elsewhere in my parents’ lives. My dad is a CPA and is extremely good at what he does. After being a special agent with IRS for 21 years, he has a unique perspective on the tax code and is especially adept at dealing with tax controversy. Plus, who wouldn’t want an accountant who radiates the message, “I love you and I’m proud of you”? Of course, he still tags on, “and now here’s Irene.” Because at the end of the day, it’s still my mom who does the details. She runs the office, and she’s very, very good at it. Growing up I always used to say, “my mom should have been the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” I have no doubt she could have done so and excelled, but then I wouldn’t have had her for a mom (or at least not in the same way), so it worked out well for me.

Because it is tax season, and one of their employees is moving, I have been recruited to help out. My mom has a special brand of what I will call comedy that I find endlessly entertaining. During my first day back, it occurred to me that it is remarkably similar to the Twitter sensation, Sh*t My Dad Says. There are some important differences. Primarily, Irene is never profane. And I mean to say never. I have a nickname for her that she has mixed feelings about – Queen Irene. But hey – it rhymes and it’s descriptive. My mother holds herself with all the dignity and the authority of a monarch. So, while she would not engage in the profanity, the ode de, “I can’t believe I have to explain this to my semi-retarded child,” is identical.

A couple of examples.

During a lull on the first day my mom looked at me. I was wearing corduroys and a long sleeved cotton t-shirt. She said, “I feel like I need to take you somewhere and get you some professional clothes.” I looked at me and said, “is this not professional?” The rest of the women who work there were standing around us. “What do you want me to wear?” I ask. “Take a look around,” my mom said. “Get a visual.”

I have subsequently repeated, “get a visual” about 500 times since then.

The next day she said, “can you mail some things for me?” I, of course, say sure. Now, this is not my first rodeo. And by rodeo I mean tax season. I know where the outgoing mailboxes are. There is a row of boxes for UPS, US Mail, and FedEx. Quite reasonably, I think, I inquired as to what box it should go in. My mom fixed me in her steely blue stare and said, “mail it. US Mail.” I took the envelopes, which I now saw were affixed with stamps. “Okay,” I said. She continued to stare at me. “It’s the blue one,” she added. For the record, I am 33 years old.

In my mother’s defense, later that day I went out the office mailboxes and got the mail. I brought the mail back in. Upon arriving home (30 miles from the office) I discovered a frantic voicemail and a frantic e-mail. She wanted to know where her keys were. The mailbox key is on a ring with her car key, house key, office key and many other keys. I sent her an e-mail back. The answer, “in my pocket.”

ATTENTION!

I have important news for everyone who lives in Los Angeles, locales that are Los Angeles-adjacent, or who have frequent flyer miles/spare cash to burn: Peter Exline will be a very special guest at this year’s Lebowski Fest!

If you have the opportunity, go hear his stories live and in person. It’s worth the drive/time/money/what have you. It’ll be better recreation than driving, bowling, or even the occasional acid flashback.

This year’s Lebowski Fest is April 2nd and 3rd. In other words, coming up soon. For more information, go to Leblogski.

As a P.S., Jeff Bridges, God bless ’em, plugged Lebowski Fest in the media room immediately after winning his Oscar. And as an additional aside, was anyone else surprised to see just how Dude-like Bridges is in real life? I thought he’d really been acting in The Big Lebowski. Turns out, he was really acting in every other movie he’s ever been in.

In Honor of the Shamrock

For most everyone, St. Patrick’s Day means wearing green and pinching those that don’t, it might mean corned beef and cabbage or perhaps green beer. And while St. Patrick’s Day means all of that to me and more, it is also the day I pause to remember Charron’s Shamrock, also known as Rocky, the greatest 14.2 hand Arab Quarter Horse cross that ever lived.

I’ve written about Rocky before, but in deference to my sister, Rocky’s human partner for 20 plus years, I have written about him from a neutral perspective. I’d like to put down some personal recollections of the horse with a million nicknames, including, but not limited to: Roo, Rooster, Roo-ger, Charron of Shamrock, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

blue ribbon

The God given giant blue ribbon.

When I was three years old, I began competing with Rocky in lead line. Lead line is an event where someone leads the horse on the ground while a child rides the horse at a walk. They are judged on their equitation. Equitation meaning, how pretty you look in the saddle. I was a fierce competitor. Heels down, eyes up, elbows in, my little heart dreaming of nothing but blue ribbons. I felt Rocky was the prettiest horse in the ring, giving me a leg up on the other children, who, likely as not, didn’t realize that lead line was a matter of life and death. It was upon Rocky’s back that I made my first deal with God. I had noticed in the show office a giant blue ribbon, a blue ribbon almost as big as me. I had my suspicion that this ribbon was intended for the lead line class. As we awaited the judge’s decision the ribbons were brought out, and lo! There it was! “Dear God,” I prayed, “if you give me that giant blue ribbon I will never ask for anything ever again.” And then the angels sang! The blue ribbon was mine! Rocky and I had scored the victory! It would not be our last.

Rocky was a phenomenally intelligent horse. Sometimes, on the way home from school, I’d cut through the horse pasture. On one occasion I paused to tie my shoe, my belongings piled around me. Rocky sneaked up and grabbed a construction paper art project I had rolled up like a newspaper. He went galloping away, the paper in his mouth, his tail flagged up over his back, tossing his head left and right, each time catching my eye to taunt me, “I have your art project! I have your art project!” On a later date he recreated this episode, this time snagging my lunchbox. I, of course, found his antics delightful. Even when he bucked me off – and let me tell you, if I fell off Rocky once, I fell off Rocky 100 times – it was funny. Despite the fact he had a special knack for making my face slam into his neck as I bounced my way towards the ground, invariably causing a bloody nose. Somehow, with Rocky, this was just entertaining. 

Once I reached the 3rd grade I started showing Rocky in the regular classes. The day of my first show dawned and I was petrified. Ms. Thomas, my teacher, showed up to root me on. I entered my first walk, trot, and canter class and spent the entire time talking to Rocky at mile a minute. So many horses would have taken advantage of a small, freaked-out-of-their-gourd human on their back, but Rocky did the exact opposite. He took care of me every step of the way, and I won a sixth place ribbon. (I didn’t deserve it – the judge was giving Rocky a merit badge with that one.) Once I exited the arena Ms. Thomas came up to me, her face perplexed. “You know,” she said, “I’d thought to myself, here’s the one place Carrie can’t talk. But you never stopped.” I shrugged. It’s not like I didn’t have someone to talk to out there. I had Rocky.

That year at the King County Fair the monsoons came. Again, Rocky took care of me. In bareback equitation I almost fell off in the pouring rain. But this was no novelty – the entire class was coming apart at the seams. I looked to the stands and my sister and mom were waving me on. “Keep going! The judge didn’t see you!” they yelled. The best that could be said of that year was I survived, thanks entirely to Rocky. The next time the Fair came around it was a different story. Rocky and I were now a well-oiled machine. Nothing made me happy but championship ribbons. Not even Reserve Champion would suffice. Rocky had spoiled me.

In the sixth grade I got my own horse, a chestnut Quarter Horse. Charron’s Shamrock he was not, and the well of gaudy ribbons I had come to take for granted ran dry. I still competed Rocky occasionally, and together we won a bronze medal. It was something I had worked towards for ages, and it was a joyous occasion. It was the last thing Rocky and I won together.

While still in his prime, Rocky was aging and he had been shown a lot over the course of his life. Being a horse who knew his own mind, he decided he was done. His show career was over. It took us a little longer than Rocky to realize it, however. I took Rocky into a huntseat class and as soon as they asked for a trot Rocky bolted, bucking and rearing up a storm. He was letting me know where he stood, and while I respected that, I also couldn’t help but laugh hysterically. As I went flying past on my bronc I saw so many concerned faces. I wanted to announce, “So terribly sorry! Just having a bit of a tiff, here! We’ll be through in a minute!” But all I could do was hang on and laugh. We finally came to a stop in the center of the arena. The judge came running up, thinking I was crying. I got off Rocky and gave him a pat on the neck. It was our last class together. Somehow, it was perfectly apt.

Rocky

Rocky, during his retirement years in South Carolina.

Not long after that Rocky moved to Georgia with my sister. Then came back to Seattle. Then he went back, this time to South Carolina. I was living in L.A. and didn’t get to see Rocky much, but I reveled in each visit. He survived bladder stone surgery and subsequent sepsis, founder, and the onset of Cushings Disease. He was an old horse now, but still himself, still glorious.

It was Christmas time when Rocky reached the end stage of life. We tried to put Rocky down before Christmas. I remember driving up to the barn with my sister and feeling such a raw sense of horror and panic. I think I kept it well covered – I needed to be strong for my sister. I had lost pets before. But Rocky was more than that, Rocky was an institution. I was greatly relieved when they decided to put off euthanasia. He had seemed so vibrantly alive, even the vet couldn’t handle the idea of him dying on that day.

During this time Rocky was struggling with his feet and it was important they be kept picked out. We all took shifts with Rocky to tend to his needs. One cold, December night I went out to the barn. I asked Rocky for his hoof – the easy one first – and he gave it to me. And then I asked for his other front. It required Rocky to shift his weight on to his painful left front. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t give me his hoof. I just stood there petting him, telling him it was okay, he didn’t have to do anything at this point. After a few minutes of petting, Rocky walked over to his stall wall, leaned his left shoulder against it, and lifted his right front hoof.

The next time the vet came out there was no raw horror and panic, just the knowledge that it was time.

Over my life I have known some great horses. But above them all rises a little bay Arab cross gelding by the name of Charron’s Shamrock, who came into the world on St. Patrick’s Day.

Shaping Young Minds

The seventh grade was a good year for me. Or so I thought. It had a notorious reputation, as you left the safe haven of the elementary and entered the dangerous world of lockers and sevy hating eighth graders. As I received my yearbook my feeling was I had escaped the curse of the seventh grade. I was heading into summer with friends and a staff of teachers who liked me. This assessment was not correct.

Mrs. Ladwig, my math teacher, wrote the following in my yearbook:

Carrie – Should I write what is true or should I make you feel good? No, really, you are more capable but you are very charming. Remember, mediocrity is for gas station attendants. See you next year, E. Ladwig

Somehow, the “you are very charming” part doesn’t feel like an actual compliment in this context, but maybe that’s just me. Mrs. Polley wrote this:

Carrie – Have a good summer + do the best you can do next year…for a change! Mrs. P.

 In my defense, I have no memory of slacking off in that class. There was very little in the way of opportunity for class clownery or the various other forms of performance art I favored. It was first period and I do remember being sleepy a lot. Mr. Johnson, known universally as KJ, wrote this:

Carrie – Somedays, grrrr! Best wishes, KJ

Now, I do fondly remember an occasion wherein KJ began bragging about cheating on his taxes. As soon as he lit into this lecture I raised my hand high and kept it there while he boasted about how smart he was and how dumb the IRS was. Finally, annoyed, he called on me. “Do you have something to add to the conversation, Carrie?” I responded simply: “My dad is a special agent with the IRS.” Which was true, btw. Somedays, grrr, indeed, KJ. Somedays, grrr, indeed.

Mrs. Giles

The incomparable Mrs. Giles.

After this, I got wise and stopped asking teachers to sign my annual. With one exception. Caroline Giles had been my science teacher. I knew at the time it was a special learning experience. What I didn’t know was that it would never be surpassed. Mrs. Giles was a profoundly gifted teacher and when we ate up the curriculum she kept going. At no point in my science education did I come to a class that was anything more than a review of what Mrs. Giles had taught us–in the 7th grade. One day she came to class dressed as Mrs. Mitochondria. She also appreciated performance art. Under Mrs. Giles tutelage we instituted a recycling program at our school, despite the school’s odd reluctance. We formed a Science Club and went to elementary schools and performed experiments (more performance art!). We memorized the Periodic Table of Elements. I named a stuffed dog I got for my birthday Dmitri Mendeleev. To this day I remember, “Na, I don’t want any salt,” and “A! U! You took my gold!” We had a stupid little phrase for every element. And they worked. (Obviously.) Mrs. Giles gave me my favorite assignment of all time. We were to create a fictional animal that made evolutionary sense. My creation was an amalgmation of hippo and whale characteristics that lived in the Amazon 30,000 years ago. Hippo-shaped, it had the whale-like trait of sifting out smaller animals through its peculiar jaws and eating them en masse. Years later, I was gratified by the discovery that hippos and whales are in fact close cousins . Mrs. Giles and I were way ahead of them.

Mrs. Giles did not stay long at Cascade Junior High. Only one year. She went back to where she came from – teaching teachers as a college professor. Although she was very professional about it, I could tell she was ostracized by the rest of the staff. They didn’t like her recycling campaign, they didn’t like her Mrs. Mitochondria costume, or the fact our classroom was always so loud. She had to start keeping the door shut. I knew she was glad to leave when she did. This is what she wrote in my yearbook:

Carrie – You’re a great thinker and you have fabulous ideas! I’ll really miss you, but if you become a teacher I might see you again. Mrs. Giles

A simple message, but one that meant a lot.