Spring Fling

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Every year, the law firm I work for takes us on a day trip.

It’s called “Spring Fling.”

Last year we went on a boat ride through the Palm Beach intracoastal, drank wine on deck, and had lunch.

This year we went kayaking on the Jupiter inlet, drank mojitos on shore, and had lunch.

Do you notice a theme?

Since I’m no expert kayaker, I decided to ride in a two person kayak with my friend, Joanna. I don’t have the best luck with kayaks. The first time I went kayaking, I was 10 and got stuck in a clump of reeds for 45 minutes. The second time I went kayaking, I was 20 and I got stuck in the Palm Beach intracoastal because I was too tired to paddle against the current. The third time I went kayaking, I was 20 and six months and crashed into a tree which unleashed a cacophony of spiders into my kayak. The fourth time I went kayaking, I was 21 and crashed into another tree.

Do you notice a theme?

Joanna doesn’t have much more kayaking experience, but she has more common sense and better luck than me, so I figured with her at the helm I’d be ok.

You may be wondering why I would make the claim that Joanna had better luck. I can easily back up my former statement with another statement: we saw dolphins.

Not only did we see the dolphins, they swam alongside us.

Let’s do a quick comparison, shall we?

Gyasi + kayaking = mass destruction and vicious spider bites.

Gyasi + kayaking + Joanna = dolphins.

And that’s just my first piece of evidence. To further support my case I offer into evidence the second part of this tale.

When we were approaching the deck, we waved to one of the attendants to help us dock the kayak. He was busy, so he called over another attendant. In order for me to properly articulate what I felt when I saw attendant numero dos, you will have to play the song “Wild Thing” in your head…or pull it up on your Ipod.

I’ll wait.



Ready?

With that song playing in my head, I saw a 6 foot, dark-haired, perfectly tanned, and tattooed Adonis walking towards my kayak.

I nearly dropped my paddle in the ocean.

He grabbed our kayak with one hand and pulled us to the deck.

“You can hop out now,” he said, in a very husky and masculine voice.

Joanna proceeded to do just that; she hopped out of the kayak. It was a very light and spritely hop. She didn’t wobble or try to get her balance before she got out. Her hop was very neat and put together.

Then it was my turn.

I braced my arms on the edges of the kayak to try to stand up.

I realized that I could not.

I tried to find my center of gravity.

I realized that I could not.

I tried to hold onto the deck for support.

I realized that I could not.

“Um…Joanna, could you lend me a hand?” I said.

“Oh sure.”

I tried to use Joanna’s hand to pull myself out of the kayak.

I realized that I could not.

I tried to quell the shame that was rising up in my throat.

I realized that I could not.

I tried to think of another option to lift myself out of the kayak.

I realized that I could not.

So I rolled onto the deck.
In front of God, Joanna, and the Adonis, I put my butt on the soaking wet deck, and then proceeded to roll the rest of my hulking mass onto it.

And I definitely grunted as I did it.

Shall we compare again?

Joanna: kept her cool and looked like a Disney princess as she quickly hopped out of a kayak.

Gyasi: lost her fakaka and looked like a manatee as she rolled out of a kayak.

Who do you think has better luck?

Running the Shelter Island 10K (Part 4)

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I haven’t actually told you anything about the race, have I?

When I started writing about the 10K I had every intention to tell you how I felt while I was running, but I get sidetracked quite easily.

And to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t all that funny while I was running.

For some reason I thought it would be cool to wear a bright orange day glo shirt during the race.

At first I felt cool.

And then I just felt like a bombastic jerk.

But that’s an entirely different story.

Onto the race.

For those of you that don’t know, my sister, Kira, is currently 4 months pregnant. However, she was still able to run the race. As long as you were an active runner before you got pregnant, you can still run while you’re pregnant. Of course you should always check with your doctor first. Don’t take my word as law.

My family has no problem leaving one another during races, but since my sister is a faster runner than I am, I try to keep pace with her. This time around that wasn’t going to happen because she’s carrying an extra human inside her and can only push an 11-12 minute mile. I was hoping to stay between 9-9:30.

Within 2 minutes, I left my pregnant sister on that trail.

That’s just how we roll.

When the tables are turned I expect her to do the exact same thing.

Some people from Kira’s job were running the 10K as well, so we hooked up with them at the start line. She figured that I could keep pace with them and finish in 54 minutes like I had planned. Unfortunately, my sister put way too much faith in my abilities.

Her coworkers are capable of running 7 minute miles.

I’m not even capable of a 7 minute mile with roller blades.

Do you see where this is going?

About 30 second into the race I lost track of her coworkers and proceeded to keep pace with an elderly Jewish gentleman from Boca. How do I know he was from Boca? He was wearing a hat that said he was from Boca. He eventually passed me and that was when I noticed that he had pulled his socks up to his knees.

I think this was the source of his power.

I should have tackled him and rolled the socks back down to his ankles.

That probably would have slowed him down.

That and the broken hip he would have sustained from having my heaving girth barreling down on him.

Either way I would have beaten him.

However, I did not do these things and he ran right by me.

Instead I had to content myself with running behind a man in a shirt that said “NYAC” and trying to figure out what “NYAC” stood for. That kept me well entertained during my run. At least it kept me entertained until the hills came. Then I started hating life and hurling down Old Testament style curses on the Shelter Island landscape.

You have to understand that I had been training on a flat Floridian plain. Hills are not in my running repertoire. As it is, when I said to Kira, “Good Lord those hills were difficult!” She said, “Hills? Those aren’t hills. Those are minor inconveniences.”

I almost told her where she could put her minor inconvenience.

To say that there were a lot of hills in the course is to say that Saddam Hussein was only misunderstood. The entire course was full of hills. I started to get motion sick from running up and down so many hills. With each passing hill got angrier and angrier until I eventually started to think that the hills had a personal vendetta against me.

You know you’ve lost it when the race course you’re running on develops feelings…

And you start pleading with it for mercy.

But that’s an entirely different story.

I ended up finishing the race in 58 minutes. My orange day glo running shirt was completely soaked, two women in their sixties passed me in the last 400 meters, I couldn’t feel my pinky toe, and I had sweat in my eye.

He-Man finished it in 54. His face with lightly misted with sweat when I found him.

After the race Chris, one of Kira’s coworkers, asked me how I did.

I wanted to be polite and cheerful, but at that moment I was displeased with myself and wallowing in a bog of social ineptitude.

Running the Shelter Island 10K (Part 3)

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Shelter Island is about a 2 hour drive and ferry ride from my sister’s house in NY.

He-Man was fine with sitting in his own sweaty filth for the car ride home, but Kira and I were not. We decided to make use of the showers they offered at the race. They were indoors, there was an enclosed changing area, and they handed out free cups of shower gel. What more could one want in life?

Less nudity.

Much, much less nudity.

You may be saying, “Gyasi, you idiot, you were in a public shower. What did you expect?”

To that I would say, “I expected less casual nudity and more business like nudity.”

Let me explain that phrase because now that I have read it I realize that it sounds incredibly scandalous.

What I mean by “business like nudity” is that I expected all the women to come into the showers with their clothes on, stand in line with their clothes on, wait for a shower to become available with their clothes on, go to the next available shower with their clothes on, shower with their clothes off, put on a towel, and then put fresh clothes on.

That’s what I assumed went on in a public shower. I assumed that you tried to spend little time stark raving naked because other people can see you.

Oh how very, very wrong I was.

Apparently, the code of conduct in a public shower is this:

Come into the shower with your clothes on, begin to undress while standing in the line, finish undressing while standing in the line, wait for the next shower to become available while standing naked in the line, talk to your equally naked friend while standing naked in the line, shower naked in the public shower, finish showering, air dry your nakedness, ask a friend if she likes your shoes while you air dry your nakedness, and then put fresh clothes on.

Please do not think that I’m a prude becau- ok, never mind I’m a freakin’ prude.

Don’t ask me why or how I became the way I am, but I really like to wear clothes. I don’t judge the nudists, but I still wonder why on earth they would want to be so very naked when there are so many pretty things to wear. There are pants in the world! There are button down shirts! There are maxi dresses with stripes!

Why on earth would you want to be naked?

I’m practically giddy when I get dressed every morning.

I think of all the possibilities and I practically faint from excitement.

This is not to say that I am the snazziest of all snazzy dressers.

My dear friends can attest to that.

I’ve often been told that I look like the embodiment of corporate America.

Anyway, I’ve seen enough naked ladies to last me a lifetime. This is uncomfortable for me because I have to be a naked lady at least twice a day. I may have to wear a blindfold whenever I shower to avoid seeing another naked lady. Or I could just paint all my full length mirrors black.

There were way too many bare behinds in that room.

Running the Shelter Island 10K (Part 2)

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An alternative title for this post would be “The He-Man HemHaw.”

Here’s why:

My father is turning 60 this year. He’s been running since his 20s, so he looks very good for his age. Running keeps you young. Unfortunately, all that running has taken a toll on his knees and his hips. He doesn’t run as much as he used to, but he still manages to get in 1-2 runs a weeks. He used to average 2-3 races a year when my siblings and I were kids, but now he goes years without doing a race. Whenever my sister mentions a race she plans on doing, He-Man always says, “That sounds great. If my knees would let me I would do that race.”

He winces and stretches and ices his knees and then winces and stretches and ices his knees again after every run. We would all feel really badly for how much his knees pain him except for one thing:

He’s full of crap.

This is what happens every time I run a race with my father:

4 weeks before the race

Me: Dad, are you going for a run today?

He-Man: Naaaaaawwww, my knees are in such bad shape now. I can’t even run the same way I used to. My hips are killing me too. You know, I never should have signed up for this race. I don’t think I can make it, the way my body is acting up lately.

3 weeks before the race

Me: Dad, you want to go for a run with me today?

He-Man: Not now, but I may go a bit later. My knees are killing me today. I need to run, but my knees give me so much trouble. I don’t think I could even make 2 miles the way they’re feeling. You go ahead. I may have to ice them and then try tomorrow.

2 weeks before the race

Me: Dad, did you run today?

He-Man: I got 3 miles in, but then I had to turn back because my knees were giving me so much trouble. They just started singing and I tried to keep going, but I didn’t want to push it. I don’t know if I can do that race. I may start running and then walk the rest. With all that heat and those hills I’ll never make it. I won’t even be able to do a 9 minute mile.

1 week before the race

Me: I’m going for a run.

He-Man: Good for you! I wish I could run today, but the way my knees are feeling…I used to be able to push a 6 minute mile on a good day. I don’t think I could even do a 10 minute mile now. Make sure you stretch when you’re done running; not stretching enough is what killed my poor knees.

The day of the race

Me: Ready?

He-Man: Oh I don’t know. I think I’ll run the first few miles and then walk the rest. My knees can only handle so much. I don’t want to make them any worse than they already are. I’m just hoping to finish the race.

2 miles into the race

Me: Where the heck did He-Man go?

The end of the race

He-Man: You know my knees held up much better than I thought they would! I’ll have to put lots of ice on them, but I was able to keep a 7:30-8 minute mile the whole time! How did you do?

Me: …I’m going to get a banana.

He-Man: Bring me some orange slices! Citrus is good for your knees.

I think my father gets a schadenfreudic pleasure out of beating my sister and me in every race we do as a family.

A little piece of my runner’s soul dies every time my father (who is nearly thrice my age) beats me in every race.

I’m hoping that by the time he’s 90 he’ll only be pulling an 8:45 mile.

Then I’ll totally own his nonagenarian behind.

Running the Shelter Island 10K (Part 1)

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When I finished the Disney Princess Half-Marathon I figured it would be a while before I ran another race.

Alas, that was not to be.

My sister called me about a month ago and said, “We should run the Shelter Island 10K together.”

To which I replied, “Screw you.”

In Kira’s universe “Screw you” means “My, my, my! That sounds perfectly lovely! Do sign us up right away!”

So I started training for a 10K.

I started training for a 10K in the middle of summer in South Florida.

I have been one angry monkey for the last month.

Even though a 10K is only 6.2 miles, about half the length of a half-marathon, I had gotten into a 2-3 mile running streak. I would do 4 if the weather wasn’t terrible, but since I didn’t have anything to train for, and the Florida skies are capricious, I wouldn’t feel badly if I went 3 days without a run. Once I went a whole week and felt nary a care in the world. Despite the fact that I love running, when it’s raining outside, I love sitting even more.

I grow especially fond of sitting when it’s 87 degrees outside.

On my personal “Levels of Suckitude” chart, training for a 10K in the middle of summer is a well-established ten. Florida summers are not nice by any stretch of the imagination. They are hot, muggy, and unpleasant. When you’re not sweating off layers of skin you’re drenched to the bone with rain. Nothing else on my “Levels of Suckitude” chart compares with training for a 10K in the summer. Take a look:

Level 1- Getting a hangnail on your big toe.

Level 2- Your roommate leaving a dribble of milk in the container.

Level 3- Emmalyn farting on you in her sleep.

Level 4- Standing in line in front of someone with no sense of personal space.

Level 5- Breaking a heel while walking up a flight of stairs.

Level 6- Having the crotch of your pants rip open while doing crunches at the gym.

Level 7- Realizing five licks too late that you’re allergic to the main ingredient in your popsicle.

Level 8- Being stood up on a date.

Level 9- Not being able to find the source of the draft in your house.

Level 10- Training for a 10K in the middle of a South Florida summer.

Since I am an Olympic gold medalist complainer, let me exercise my skills and tell you how much it sucks to train for a 10K in the summer.

Imagine that every Monday-Friday you have to wake up between 5:30-6am in order to get to work on time. Sundays you have to wake up by 7:30am in order to make it to church. Saturday is the only day you get to lounge in bed. On Saturday you get to wake up whenever you want, stay in bed and read for an hour or so if you choose, and then slowly roll out of bed and start your day.

When you have to train for a 10K, this is what your Saturday looks like:

6:30am- Wake up

6:31am- Cry

6:32am- Stop feeling sorry for yourself

6:37am Get dressed

6:37am- Drink aloe vera juice mixed with pomegranate for energy

6:37:08am- Gag on aloe vera juice mixed with pomegranate

6:37:10am- Curse Chi-chi and her cockamamie schemes

6:38am- Warm up

6:45am- Start running

Do you know who’s awake at 6:45am on a Saturday? Me and crickets. No one else. When I run at 6:45 on a Saturday there are no cars out on the road. The dogs in the yards I pass aren’t awake. They bark at me because I’ve ruined their sleeping in day. Even the birds in the trees aren’t up yet. Running at the crack of dawn on a Saturday is the most depressing thing you will ever experience. Unfortunately, you have to run at that time during the summer. If you run once the sun is in full sun mode then you will have to be scrapped off the sidewalk about 5 minutes into your run.

Because you will melt.

Or spontaneously combust.

Either way you’re gonna die.

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to run in such humid heat. It’s entirely possible for people who are not me. However, I am me; therefore, it is impossible. As it is, I had to do my long runs on Saturdays because I didn’t get out of work in time during the week to run more than 3 miles. Every Friday night I would go to bed and start prepping myself for a 6-7 mile run.

Every night I went to bed angry.

Sometimes I like to pray during my runs, but I couldn’t while I was training because the first time I tried my prayer came out something like this:

“Dear Lord, thank you for this blistering hot Saturday morning. Thank you for the birds that are sleeping in the trees and the mosquitoes that have not yet come out because it’s 6 o’clock in the morning. On a Saturday. Thank you for my quad muscles that are in the process of cramping and that squashed frog carcass that I didn’t see in time. I love scraping amphibians off my shoe. Thank you for that lovely storm cloud looming in the distance which I will most likely encounter. Thank you for the rain that will soak me to the bone and then go away in five minutes. Florida is a blessed place, is it not, Lord? Thank you for Florida!”

That kind of sarcastic praying will earn you a one way slingshot to Hades.

How to work yourself into a frenzy

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Every summer I discover something new about myself.

Gummi Bear Wheel

Gummi Bear Wheel (Photo credit: BlueRidgeKitties)

This is because I now have time to think about something other than school work.

Unfortunately, these moments of self-discovery usually leave me forlorn and depressed.

About two days ago I discovered that I really, really, really like to worry. I knew I was a bit of a worry wort, but I didn’t realize how much of a worry wort I was until I legitimately created something for myself to worry over. My life has become so dull and uneventful (save my regular Words with Friends battles) that I actually created something in my head to worry over. It all started about a month ago when my sister said she was going to give me some gummy bears. “Give me some gummy bears” is code for “situation I’m not ready to discuss on my blog yet.”

To this I replied, “Oh, gummy bears would be really nice. I haven’t had gummy bears in forever and a day.”

She said, “I think you’ll really like the gummy bears.”

I said, “Don’t get all confident now; they’re just gummy bears.”

Two days went by and my life was going along at its usual summery, lackadaisical pace. The days were long, the nights were humid, and I had time to sit in bed and read in the evening. Life was glorious. Life was grand. After months of sleep deprivation, stress, anxiety, peevishness, and mental breakdowns, I was finally able to relax. I could go for a run if I wanted to and not have to worry about the stack of student papers waiting to be graded. I could go to lunch with a friend and not think about the 50 pages of theory I had to read for class the next day.

I should have been happy, right?

Wrong.

Apparently, I’m not happy unless I’m miserable.

When my sister told me, “I’m going to give you some gummy bears” I should have mentally added “gummy bears” to the “List of Things That Are Finally Going Well In My LIfe.” At first I did, but then TOO many things were going well in my life. I was TOO relaxed and happy. I was TOO at ease with how things were playing out. So I took “I’m going to give you gummy bears” off the list and proceeded to hang myself with it.

If I have nothing to worry about, I will create something to worry about. This is what I started doing with “I’m going to give you gummy bears.”

“Well, why is she giving me gummy bears now? Why does she think I would want those gummy bears? What if I get the gummy bears and I don’t like the gummy bears? She knows I only like red, green, and clear gummy bears, what if these gummy bears are orange and yellow? I cannot handle orange and yellow gummy bears! If the gummy bears are orange and yellow then why would she think do give them to me? I’m so stressed out about these gummy bears. Gummy bears bring you nothing but trouble. I should never eat gummy bears ever again. Why do people even like gummy bears? All that sugar goes straight to your thighs! Ugh, that’s it, I’m not taking the gummy bears no matter how hard she tries to give them to me… But what if I really like the gummy bears? What if they are red, green, and clear? What if there is nary a yellow and orange gummy in sight? Ok, fine, I’ll take the gummy bears. Everyone could use a gummy bear now and then. Everything in moderation. Then again, I could like the gummy bears too much and then where would I be? Back in the land of “Crap, my pants don’t fit” that’s what’ll happen! Oh good Lord is it 2am?”

That’s what I did for about 2 weeks.

And because I’m a Christian, I asked my friends to pray about the gummy bears.

Me: I’m really stressed out about these gummy bears. Would you guys mind praying for me?

Friends: Sure! Of course! We love you, Gyasi!

3 Weeks Later…

Me: I’m just so stressed out about these gummy bears. Would you guys pray for me?

Friends: Whatever.

That’s not to say that my friends are callous and uncaring. They’re a wonderful bunch and I love them dearly. Part of how they love me is by giving me a swift slap over the head when I get into worry mode. The thing is “gummy bears” is also code for “a situation that is not all that important and really does not need to be discussed for 3 weeks straight.” Gummy bears is not a situation that deserves so much time and energy. Instead of worrying like there’s not tomorrow (and if there weren’t that would be something to worry about) I could be revising a paper to send to submit to a scholarly journal, working on my thesis, taking up folk dancing, admiring myself in a mirror, reading classic novels and then acting like a pretentious douchebag (aka being myself), or teaching Emmalyn how to send sarcastic text messages. She’s already learned how to take video on my iTouch. By the end of next week I could have her playing Words with Friends.

She’s only 2, so I could probably beat her.

No I couldn’t.

I really suck at Words with Friends.

I Have a Ton of Words, But I Need Dumber Friends

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About a month ago, I discovered Words with Friends.

This discovery was much like Columbus’ discovery of the Americas.

Everybody else knew about it but me.

Despite the fact that I try to keep up with the times, I had no idea a game like Words with Friends existed. Even though I’ve had an iPod touch for almost a year now, have friends with iPhones, and talk to people, I didn’t know what the heck Words with Friends was. I found out the day my cousins, Rachel and Ariel, graduated from college and grad school. With a 2-3 hour graduation looming in my near future, I took out my iPod and started browsing free apps. I found Bejeweled (one of the creepiest yet strangely addicting games ever), downloaded it, and started playing. I was on level 13 when Nigel said, “Download Words with Friends and we can play each other.”

“What the heck is Words with Friends?”

“It’s like Scrabble with Friends.”

“Fair enough.”

About ten minutes into our game I was freakin’ hooked. Suddenly I had a use for all of the asinine words I had taken great pains to learn in an effort to appear learned and educated! One of the words I had taken great pains to learn was “asinine.” Who doesn’t love that word? It’s like your cussing but you’re not.

Delightful.

I felt great pride in the fact that my useless vocabulary was serving me so well in the real world. After I beat Nigel at Words with Friends, an old school chum challenged me to a game. You must understand that I am incredibly self-absorbed and in love with myself. Any sort of accomplishment causes me to incur a great deal of pride and vanity. Upon receiving the Words with Friends request, I thought to myself, ‘Oh silly boy. Does he not realize that I am a word god among insects? Well, he could probably do with a good verbal thrashing…’

And then he completely owned me.

He was playing words I didn’t even know existed in Modern English. I studied Old English for a semester and I had never come across any word he played. However, they must have existed in English at some point in time because Words with Friends knew them all and gave him a ridiculous amount of points for each of them. Did you know that “nth” is a word? Did you know that “dado” is a word? Did you know that “qi” is a word?

I was still under the impression that “Q” always needed a “U” after it, but apparently the rules have changed.

When the score was 428 to 245, he stopped playing.

It’s been six days since his last move.

I’m starting to think he’s given up on me.

Currently, I’m playing seven other games of Words with Friends and losing miserably in five of them. The only reason I’m winning the other two is because I’m using a dictionary and I’m playing against my brother and sister.

That’s not to say they’re dumb, but I know for a fact that I know more words.

That’s because while Kira was out playing baseball and Tim was playing DragonBall Z Budokai I was being bookish and unpleasant and ill-tempered.

It was all done for the cause.

Also, I know as soon as the two of them read this they’re going to join forces against me.

Oh well, at least I can revel in a brief sense of victory…

Part of my problem in playing Words with Friends is that I keep challenging other English majors. On top of that, I keep challenging other English majors who have been playing Words with Friends for longer than four weeks. They know the ins and outs of the game. They know that a well-placed “qi” will earn you twenty points at least. I did not know these things when I started, but I’m quickly learning.

I have to learn quickly because I haven’t a shred of dignity left.

Also, the following conversation with my friend, Cristine, did not help.

Me: I don’t know if I can play Words with Friends with you anymore. My self-esteem is really starting to suffer.

Cristine: No! Don’t give up! You’re the only one I can beat!

Cristine and I are on our 3rd game of Words with Friends.

I have awesome friends.

Reading Roots During Summer Vacation

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Every year I make a hearty summer reading list for myself. Usually it’s composed of books I didn’t have time to read during the school year, classics I always wanted to read, and friends’ suggestions. This summer my reading list is wonderfully diverse and also includes a few books I’m thinking of using in my thesis. One of those books is Roots by Alex Haley.

For those of you that have been living under a rock for the last 30 or so years, Roots is the story of Kunta Kinte, an African man captured into slavery shortly after his 16th birthday. He survives the Middle Passage, is sold to a plantation, tries to escape, but eventually marries and builds a family in America. Roots follows Kunta Kinte from his life in Africa and through the generations of his family all the way to Haley himself.

Roots was smash hit when it came out and was eventually turned into a miniseries. Like the Godfather and Schindler’s List for white people, Roots is a HUGE FREAKIN’ DEAL for black people.

Unfortunately, because of the miniseries, not as many people pick up the book anymore which is sad. The book is a wonderful, it may even be better than the series. However, I’m an English major so my opinion may be somewhat biased.

Take it with a grain of salt and then go read the book.

The only problem with the book version of Roots is the length.

It’s 888 pages long.

It has 120 chapters.

They’re short chapters, but there are still 120 of them.

When you read a book that long you start to become emotionally invested in it. True, those of us that are passionately in love with literature will become invested in any piece of well-written fiction, but the circumstances are different when the book is 888 pages long. You’re invested in characters and the story, yes, but an 888 page book becomes Everest. You feel as if the book as thrown down the gauntlet and you must finish it or be proven a coward. If you’re like me, you accept the challenge and you take the book with you everywhere. The book comes with you to work, the gym, the shower, your lunch break, the couch, the bed, the car, etc.

Now, books that are 888 pages are usually not light-hearted fare.

This is the case with Roots because it’s about SLAVERY.

Imagine, if you will, sloughing through 888 pages of chains, slave auctions, beatings, rape, more rape, maiming, verbal abuse, the N word, more beatings, tears, anger, vengeance, and more slave auctions.

That does something to a person’s psyche.

What sucks is that Roots lulls you into a false sense of security for the first 200-300 pages.

Even though you know it’s about slavery in America, the books starts off in Africa. Kunta Kinte is born, his father, Omoro, takes him outside, holds him up the sky and says, “Behold, the only thing greater than yourself.” It’s a very touching moment. The book chronicles Kunta’s early life, his childhood friends, his relationship with his grandmother, Yaisa, his manhood training, and how Kunta plans to live out his days in the village.

Then he gets captured by white people.

And it all goes downhill from there.

He spends months on a slave ship, watches a man get beheaded, has to sleep in his own excrement, watches a girl get eaten by sharks, gets beaten to a bloody pulp, and then has his one friend on the ship die.

You guys know I suffer from anxiety right?

So reading Roots caused me to shake.

All the time.

I’m still shaking and I finished it two days ago.

Here’s a brief description of my mental state while reading Roots:

Pages 1-300: Calm

(“Oh wow! This book is wonderful! Such details! Such depth!”)

Pages 300-350: Nervous

(“Kunta, don’t go into the woods by yourself. What did Omoro say about going off into the woods by yourself?”)

Pages 351-352: Nervous and scared

(“They got Kunta! They got Kunta!”)

Pages 352-400: Concerned

(“Kunta’s gonna be ok, isn’t he? He’s the main character, he has to live.”)

Pages 401-425: More concerned

(“Watcho doin’ Kunta? No, Kunta, no!”)

Pages 426-500: Depressed

(“Did massa jus’ sell Kizzy? Aw Lawd de massa jus’ sol Kizzy!”)

Pages 501-600: Despondent

 (“Lawd, why is I still readin’ dis here book? I don’t know what I’se goin’ do if sumtin’ else go wrong.”)

Pages 601-700: Confused

(“Why is my inner monologue in the voice of an 18th century southern black person?”)

Pages 700-800: Determined

(“You are going to finish this book. You have been reading it for three weeks. I don’t care what else happens; you are going to finish this book.”)

Page 801: Depressed again

(“I can’t finish this book…”)

Page 802: Conflicted

(“Finish the book and you can have a cookie. Then again, you’re getting kind of fat; do you really need the cookie? Who are you kidding? You will ALWAYS eat the cookie.”)

Pages 803-887: Euphoric

(“I’m almost finished!!!!”)

Page 888: Furious

(“WHEN IN THE HECK DID WE RUN OUT OF COOKIES!”)

Big Grey

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On Saturday afternoon, I went horseback riding with my friends, Mikaela and Ashley.

Knowing me as you do, you know that anything concerning Nature usually gives me agita.

Nature and I have a love/hate relationship in that we love to hate each other. Whenever I interact with Nature, something goes horribly wrong. In Africa, I got mauled by safari ants aka SIAFU! In Bolivia, I fell into a hole while weeding a yard. At the Palm Beach zoo (which is supposed to be contained Nature) I got chased by a peacock. In Jamaica, the goats followed me. I’m still not sure why. It was not my goal in life to be the goat whisperer.

I figure it has something to do with my Sharpe genes because my cousin, Rachel, a Sharpe cousin, always gets attacked by birds. (That’s not a lie. You can ask her yourself. Rachel’s life is a continuous reenactment of Hitchcock’s The Birds.) We were terrified to take her on safari in Kenya because we were convinced that baboons were going to steal her and make her their queen.

However, I like Mikaela and Ashley and I want them to like me. When they said, “Let’s go horseback riding!” I said, “Heck yeah! That’ll be fun.”

In my head I was thinking, “AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”

At 11am on Saturday, we arrived at the park and met a woman at the stables. She asked if we had riding experience. Mikaela has been riding for several years, but Ashley and I only know what horses look like from episodes of “My Little Pony.”

Woman at the ranch: You’ve got riding experience?

Mikaela: I rode horses for a few years.

Woman: Ok, we’re gonna put you on Cajun. And you’ve never ridden before, right?

Ashley: Not at all.

Woman: We’ll put you on Hershey. And you?

Me: I think I rode once when I was a kid.

Woman: We’re gonna put you on Big Grey.

Me: Big Grey?

Woman: Yeah, he’s like a Cadillac. Everybody loves him!

What about me screams, “I wanna ride a horse named ‘Big Grey’”?

Not only that, but what about me screams, “I wanna ride the Cadillac of horses”?

If anything, I want to ride the Honda Civic of horses. Give me the Prius of horses and I’ll take that out for spin…or a trot. As it is, to say that Big Grey was the Cadillac of horses was an understatement.

Big Grey is the Ford F-250 of horses.

They saddled us up and a guide took us on a trail. Cajun and Mikaela were in front, Hershey and Ashley were in the middle, and Big Grey and I were in the back. We were moving along at a steady pace, our guide was friendly and talkative which helped to relax my nerves. She warned us at the beginning that we would have to duck often because the trees were low. That plan worked well for Mikaela and Ashley, but I was riding an 18-wheeler with hooves.

Ducking did absolutely nothing.

To give credit where credit is due, Big Grey was a very sweet horse. He didn’t jerk or walk hard on the trail and he kept a steady pace…most of the time. Big Grey’s one flaw was that he was a tad impatient. The guide stopped us on the trail at one point to tell us some interesting factoid and Big Grey decided that he’d had enough of being in the back of the line. He walked past Ashley’s horse and headed to the front.

Apparently this act of treason is unforgivable on the trail.

Our Guide: Ma’am, you need to rein in the horse!

Me: Ok (pulling on the reins). That didn’t really do anything.

Guide: Ma’am, you need to rein in the horse! He cannot walk up here!

Me: I’m pulling on the reins.

Guide: REIN IN THE HORSE! YOU NEED TO REIN IN THE HORSE!

Big Grey: Why is she calling you “ma’am”? You’re only 23.

Me: I know, right?

Guide: HE CANNOT BE UP HERE! YOU NEED TO CONTROL THE HORSE!

Me: I’M TRYING!

Mikaela: Gyasi, just give it a good tug, you won’t hurt him.

Me: (pulling on the reins) Like that?

Big Grey: I don’t want to stand at the back of the line.

Me: You think I like it either? I’ll be smelling horse for days.

Big Grey eventually went back to the end of the line and I gave him a scratch behind the ears for being so compliant. He then walked me into low hanging branch to show that he could not be so easily bought.

At least I tried.

As we moseyed along the trail our guide decided it was time to give trotting a try. Trotting is much like walking only faster. When you’re trotting on a horse, you’re supposed to put your weight on the ball of your foot and move with the horse as he trots. You post and stud which is basically lifting yourself slightly out of the saddle and sitting back down with each of the horse’s strides.

Mikaela did this like a champ.

Ashley got the hang of it in 10 seconds.

I looked like a fish flopping about on dry land.

For some reason I could not get the hang of posting and studding. Every time I tried to move with Big Grey I nearly fell out of the saddle. I had to hold onto the reins and the saddle for dear life every time we trotted.

First Trot

Our Guide: Ok, let’s give trotting a try!

Me: What the heck does that mean?

Our Guide: Ready? Go!

Me: AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

(2 minutes later)

Our Guide: How was that?

Mikaela: I feel good.

Ashley: That was fun.

Me: I think I swallowed a filling.

Big Grey: Wuss.

Me: Shut up!

And it continued from there.

Third Trot

Our Guide: Wanna trot again? Ok, go!

Me: Oh hell.

Big Grey: Yeehaw!!

Me: AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

(2 minutes later)

Our Guide: How are you doing back there on Big Grey?

Me: (spitting out foliage) WHAT?!

Fifth Trot

Me: Ok, Big Grey, you and I are going to get the hang of this.

Big Grey: What are you talking about “you and I”? I already got this. Just hold on.

Me: Not again! AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!! Wait, I think I just posted! I’m posting! I’m posting!

Big Grey: Watch out for that tree.

Me: What? AHHHHH!!!!

Big Grey: That’s why you’re supposed to stud.

Me: I hate you.

By the end of the ride, Big Grey and I finally came to an understanding.

Me: If I let you do whatever the heck you want, will you stop walking me into trees and branches?

Big Grey: Those are agreeable terms.

We finished the ride in relative peace and the guide didn’t yell me at me again. We did however, pass by some peacocks, but Big Grey turned his steely eyes on them and they didn’t chase us. Perhaps I have become the horse whisperer.

Stable hand: You’re going to need to swing your leg over, lay down on Big Grey’s back, and then slide off.

Me: Like this? (Falls off horse)

Stable hand: No, not like that at all.

Then again maybe not.

Lactose Intolerance

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Do you kids of the 90’s remember All That?

Do you remember the super hero that Kenan Thompson played?

Do you remember his weakness?

Lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance is when your body is unable to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk, cheese, yogurt, and a variety of other dairy products. There are three types of lactose intolerance: primary, secondary, and congenital. Primary lactose intolerance is genetic, fairly common, and only affects adults. This means that a child who has been able to drink milk, eat ice cream, and have grilled cheese sandwiches without any adverse side effects could become an adult who experiences several adverse side effects when she put sour cream on a quesadilla.

My body has recently become lactose intolerant.

This means two things: 1) My body is intolerant of dairy and 2) I have become completely intolerable because I CAN NO LONGER EAT DAIRY!!!!!

I cannot express how angry I am at life.

Even though it’s fairly certain that I’m lactose intolerant, I still want a second, third, fourth, and fifth opinion.

Do you understand how empty my life will be without cheese?

As a child I could drink an entire gallon of milk on my own! That probably accounts for why I was a rather portly youth, but I was happy and fat. Now I’m slim and angry.

Now that I can no longer eat dairy, I’ve discovered just how much dairy I consume on a regular basis.

What I used to eat for breakfast:

1 egg scrambled with cheese and 2 pieces of turkey bacon or 1/2 cup of oatmeal with milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

What I eat for breakfast now:

Raisin bran with soy milk

What I used to eat for lunch:

Greek yogurt with almonds and cranberries, an apple, and a smoothie or lean cuisine 5 cheese rigatoni.

What I eat for lunch now:

Salad… or 5 cheese rigatoni with a Lactaid, pepto bismol, and tums chaser (there are some things I just won’t give up).

What I used to eat for dinner:

Chicken with parmesan quinoa or grilled cheese.

What I eat for dinner now:

Chicken…just chicken.

Apparently my life revolved around dairy.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve started weeding dairy out of my diet, but I’m still very much in denial about the lactose intolerance thing. I know I’m in denial because the other day I ate half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream for dinner. When I woke up the next morning I felt like my small intestines were trying to claw their way out of my body. I was pretty sure they were going to burst out of my body like the baby alien from Alien…except they would then try to strangle me for eating so much dairy.

After that they would probably take some pepto and rest on the couch.

Possibly make themselves a ham sandwich.

Even though I don’t eat ham.

Sorry, where was I?

My friend, Joanna, who has a milk allergy, has been a huge help throughout this whole endeavor because while I can spot the obvious milk products, I always miss the subtle ones.

And then I get angry.

For example:

Me: I don’t think I’m lactose intolerant. All I had for breakfast this morning was a bagel and I still feel sick. It must be something else.

Joanna: What did you put on the bagel?

Me: Butter. I avoided the cream cheese even though I wanted it.

Joanna: Gyasi, where does butter come from?

Me:…the store?

Joanna: Wow, really? Butter comes from milk fat, Gyasi.

Me: Crap.