Bringing It All Back Home

That’s me hobnobbing with Pennsylvania Governer Ed Rendell. You know how it is for guys like us. Just another weekend shaking hands and kissing babies.

It was to late for me to jump a Metroliner to Philadelphia by the time I was done at the office Friday night. So I maxed out on a few of my favorite things: Hollywood pap (“The Day After Tomorrow” on DVD), comfort food (turkey burger deluxe courtesy of the Shining Star diner), and ice cream (a vanilla milkshake courtesy of the Shining Star diner). It wasn’t what I had in mind (I’d hoped to be goofing around with Ethan at my mom’s by sunset), but it wasn’t all bad.

One yellow cab, Amtrak regional and SEPTA local train later, I was waiting for my brother at Berwyn Station. It was gray. A cool drizzle was falling. And Berwyn, where I lived from the time I was 11-years-old until I went to college, was quiet. I flashed back to running across the tracks with my best friend Sibby, to taking the train to my orthodontist, Dr. Juda, and to my math tutor who lived just around the corner. Every footfall in my home town elicits some kind of memory.

The occassion of my return was two fold: on Saturday we were having a mini-family reunion to celebrate my Aunt Rosalie’s 96th birthday, and on Sunday we were running the Philadelphia Broad Street Run. All wedged in between one of the busiest non-VMA weeks in recent memory, and a last-minute trip to Los Angeles.

Saturday was pretty miraculous. There were four generations under one roof. There were five children between three grandkids (I, of course, am the only unwed non-parent around — the spinster uncle). The children, all ranging between two and five-years-old, were like vinegar and baking soda. They sprawled on the floor before Aunt Rosalie, building towers from blocs and topling them. It was a glorious din. (Apparently, however, my attempt to teach piano to all five kids simultaniously was just a plain old din; my mother asked me to stop.)

Aunt Rosalie was relishing it. She got a bit teary telling me just how much it meant to her that we all got together. I was sitting at her knees as she reached out to touch my hand when she said, “You know, Benjamin, I’m 96-years-old. I cherish every day.” I was kind of dumbstruck thinking about a time in one’s life when the days really are numbered. i try so hard to live my to their fullest, but it’s difficult to imagine that they will actually run out.

After dinner, and after blowing out the candle on her birthday cake, Aunt Rosalie held court as Chris, my cousin Nancy (she of “Ants, Ants, Ants” fame) and I listened. She told us about our Grandfather, whom Chris and I never knew, and our Uncle Neil, who we barely remembered, and our Aunt Jean whose warm smile and apple pies are unforgettable. She told us about Indianpolis in the 1930s, summer in Iowa, and a handful of other scattered memories. My mother called me away to dry dishes or something and I protested: I wanted to hear more.

It was all too fleeting, though. Dinner ends early with five kids under five. And so, in a steely drizzle, Chris and I gingerly walked Aunt Rosalie to her car. I kissed her and told her I loved her and felt just exactly like I felt when I used to visit my grandmother when she was in her nineties. There’s not enough time.

There’s not enough time. Before I knew it, the alarm on my cell phone was ringing. It was 5:45 a.m. Time to run, My brother quietly crept into my room to tell me he and Jen were skipping the race on account of the weather. I threw on my race clothes, jumped in the Miata, and sped through the rain for South Philly, hopped on another SEPTA train crowded with thousands of runners, and headed off for the start. The race was beginning when I reached the start, but I still had to retrieve my race number and drop my bag. I began the 10-mile trek down Broad Street without lubing (chaffing’s a bitch on long runs) and without stretching in the cold drizzle in the back of the pack.

It took nearly five miles to even begin to feel human. The half-way point of the race is City Hall, a fine, old white behemoth topped by a statue of William Penn. Shortly thereafter I spotted aformentioned Governer Rendell, sidestepped some police, and snapped a photo. I giggled as I approached mile six (fully aware that The Daily Journal had a good pic) and, realizing that I had just four miles left, turned on the heat. My early miles were sluggish nine minuters, but I picked up the pace, sailing through the finish in under 1:30:00. (I ran the last mile in under 7:30.)

Now, then, I am home at my desk. My suit bag is half packed on my bed behind me. My car comes at 5:00 a.m. My flight it at 7:00 a.m. I arrive LAX at 10:08, pick up my rental car, and head into the Santa Monica office for a full day at The MTV. I am tired, sure. My legs ache, sure. I could use a few minutes off, a few days without travel. There’s not enough time. But there are memories to be made, so I have to make haste.

See you when I get there …

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