When It Began

I was dreaming about a triathlon. I had missed my swim start, and was scrambling to find another wave. When I finally found a group of swimmers in goggles, wetsuits, and yellow caps, no amount of freestyle was enough; I couldn’t make forward progress through the water.

I woke to a crushing headache, and the ominous sound of a British press conference on NPR. I made out the words “MI5 investigation” (‘What a cool name for an organization,’ I thought), “terrorist plot,” and “averted,” before rolling over and resuming my race.

It’s New York City Marathon training season. For the next eight weeks, Abbi and I are running 4-6 miles a day, four days a week, plus a long run (13-18 miles) on weekends, plus one day of cross-training. Today was a bike day. One problem: my new band, Buckeye, rehearsed last night. Hence the crushing headache.

When I finally stirred from slumber, I got online to check the news. I found the following nonsense scribbled on my desktop:

By the time we pass my stoop, we’re down one guy.

“G’night, beeyatch,” Chris slurs. “Wish this block were longer.”

“Me too,” I say. “Then you tell us that HeadQuarters story again.”

This is the late-night, post-rehearsal banter that drops from Buckeye’s collective mouth.

“Buckeye, huh?” Ryan asks. “What was the original name?”

“Mad Dick,” Chris says.

That — and forty hot wings, four pitchers, a plate of nachos and a quesadilla later — is Buckeye rehearsal in a nutshell: eight songs, and an afterparty.

We made fun of Ryan a lot, primarily because he’s twenty-two. He just graduated college, for God’s sake. But he quotes “Swingers” frequently, so that’s enough by me.

Meanwhile, our set is eigh tunes, only two of which are originals. Which is fine, I think, by all of us. Originality is over-rated, especially when you’re competing with The Dandy Warhols and The Smiths.

So anyway, we repaired to McAleer’s — a random watering hole on 80th & Amsterdamn — after rehearsing in my bedroom. It was, as Ryan pointed out, “skank hour.” Either way, we laughed quite a bit. At leats until I got the hicups. Which counts for something, I think.

Downstairs, I pour a glass of watered down Gatorade, wash down two Excedrin, and check my phone. There are no messages, only a strange new wallpaper: three plates of pub grub bathed in a harsh flourescent glare. I throw my Cannondale on my shoulder, and head for the street. The light is green on 80th & Columbus. I jump in the saddle and start pedalling.

Traffic is backed up at 72d & Central Park West. I ride past Strawberry Fields, weaving through cabs and Town Cars, and spot a pahllynx of police cars. New York’s Finest have barricaded entry to Central Park, and are checking IDs. I roll my eyes, thinking more “Police State” than “Give Peace A Chance.”

I coast onto Park Drive, and lean into my ride. The sky is just waking up. The air is cool and crisp. I round the bottom of the loop and head north. I decide to stand on the pedals through Cat Hill. I push and pump, more Lance Armstrong than Floyd Landis. I count the strokes. My quads burn. The base of my skull throbs. I imagine the Excedrin breaking up and flowing into my veins, then settle into the ride.

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