Nov 6, 2013

Runnin' Down A Dream

I broke up with her last weekend.  Sandy.  It was a shitty thing to do, right after our one year anniversary and all.  Tuesday, I quietly went to my lawyer's office and signed the papers.  Signed my Hurricane Divorce House away exactly one year after Sandy came ashore and turned it into a watery mausoleum.  It's up to the bank now, but it's as close to a done deal as anything has been in my life since Sandy.  Until this past weekend.  On November 3 at about 2pm, I conquered the NYC Marathon.

Last year, on November 3 at about 2pm, I was here.

I Am The Dumpster King
Standing atop 30 cubic yards full of the remains of my Staten Island house.  My home studio is in there somewhere, my mementos, my furniture and my appliances, my walls and my ceilings.  My record collection and my record label business.  My past.  Greg T. was there that day, along with a motley crew of friends, family, co-workers and complete strangers.  Helping me dig out of the mud and the muck, helping me salvage whatever was left, and let me tell you - there wasn't much.  I saw a different side of humanity in those days and weeks to follow.  The amount of stuff I had lost paled in comparison to the kinship I had gained.

Greg T. and I were supposed to run the next day - two undersized Angry Young Men approaching middle age who had trained separately for 8 months straight, quietly egging each other on and comparing our progress.  It was friendly competition, and it motivated us.  If Greg did 14 miles on Monday, I had to do 15 on Tuesday.  And vice versa.  Greg and I didn't run a single mile together but we always ran with the other guy on our minds.

The general public, the masses - they know Greg T. as The Clown.  On Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, he's The Stunt Guy, The Jackass.  It is a role he fills quite well, and often times it's not entirely an act.  There is an honesty and a bravery about Greg T. that I have always admired, even while watching him fill his underwear with chili, even if I've seen his junk one too many times.

Greg T's morning show peeps - we also know him as The Jerk.  He can be rude, apathetic, neurotic, outspoken, insensitive, moody.  Shamelessly.  We all have different sides.  Greg just likes to show more of his off than the rest of us do.  I've seen him get into it with others even if after nearly (holy shit) 20 years, he and I have never said a cross word to each other.

But the Greg T. I know - the guy I waited at the starting line with - he's a Real Good Dude.  A genuine person.  He is The Clown and he is The Jerk, but he can get away with it because he is also the guy I know, the caring introspective guy a lot of people really love.  On Sunday, I wanted nothing more than to start the race with Greg.  If anyone can loosen you up simply by being more emotional and insecure than you are, it's Greg T.  He cracked jokes and got sentimental and wore a wool scarf that made him look like Randy in A Christmas Story.

The night before the race, Greg sent me one of his trademark four paragraph texts.  Usually these go out to the whole show, and after some sort of controversy.  But this one was just for me - expressing his feelings over what we had gone thru to this point, what I had gone thru last year.  It was a really cool read.  The next morning, Greg smuggled me into the VIP tent at the Marathon Village.  Greg could have said "Good luck man, see you out there" and cozied up to Pam Anderson in the heated tent.  But he stepped up for me, just as he had a year earlier.  We fueled up and stayed warm inside.  We talked about Sandy and about Boston.   We pumped each other up with words of encouragement and got to enjoy the moment together.

At the starting line, I chatted up another celebrity runner, Patrick Wilson.  I was actually hoping to see Wilson, a dude whose acting chops and sideburns I have often admired in movies like Watchmen and Little Children.  Approaching "famous people" has always been awkward for me, yet at my job and in my industry, it's pretty commonplace.  Like most people, I have often been ill at-ease when meeting people that I really admire.  So I'm generally just quiet, put on my goofy grin and try not to drool.

Derrr...why is everyone taller than me...I gotta pee again...
It was easy to talk to the amiable Wilson as we stretched and shivered atop the Verrazano Bridge, a span I had crossed so many times before, only never on foot.  We wished each other luck.  I felt calm.  Relaxed.  This was a long time coming and I was ready.

We went out with the first wave, with the pro runners.  Against the wind and against the odds.  Greg and I finally got to run together.  Over the bridge and out of the borough I'll always be connected to because of Sandy, because of my failed marriage, because of my destiny.

Two miles in, I turned to wish Greg luck as we crossed into Bay Ridge, and he was gone.  Lost amongst the masses.  I was on my own but kept him in my thoughts the rest of the way.  I passed my post-Sandy Park Slope refugee apartment at Mile 7, throngs of people cheering us on.  At Mile 17, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I saw my Dad giving out water to the runners and hugged him tight.  I stopped for a minute to share the moment with him and I was off again.  When I told my father I had signed up to run the Marathon in early 2012, he told me I was crazy.  Who's crazy now, Pops?  By Mile 18, I started cramping badly.  Maybe he was right after all.  The human body - or at least mine - is not built to endure 26 miles of pavement.  The next four miles, up thru the Bronx and Harlem, were pure hell.

At Mile 23, I was hoping to see a couple of my co-workers from the morning show.  This was the stretch run and I really needed a boost.  On the corner of 95th Street, I got it in the form of a long row of supporters.  My boss was there with his boyfriend, with his people.  My friends.  My people.  They screamed my name from across 5th Avenue and I ran over to greet them.  I wanted to give them all a big hug, to take photos, to share my experience, but I was in the middle of a race.  They sent me off with cheers, a banana, and a big shit-eating grin on my face.

At my job, I'm often the wallflower.  Some of that is probably on me, some of it isn't.  I've spent my entire professional career in radio working at this one place - for different bosses and departments and parent companies.  It has been a volatile relationship, one that, up until recently, has produced more than a little disappointment and bitterness on my part.  But that has all changed these last few years, thanks to where I've landed and who I have landed with.  Thanks to the unmatched generosity of my boss, thanks to the love and help I got from my co-workers this past year.  Thanks to my family and my friends and the volunteers who came to my rescue.  Thanks to all this running.  Thanks to Sandy.

I'm lucky.

Everyone loves a comeback. That was the theme - a deserved one - of this year's race.  50,000 people ran and they all have their story, they all have their reasons.  But the Marathon wasn't my comeback.  It was my test, a rite of passage.  I needed to find out what I was made of.  Maybe I needed to show everyone else what I was made of too.

My comeback hasn't happened yet.  Not yet, not now.  I'm still growing, still learning.  I still have work to do.  Just like you do.  Just like we all do.  This was a great first step but there's still so much to do, higher rocks to climb.  I need to start giving back, to start paying it forward.  You can't be good to anyone else unless you're good to yourself.  This whole running experience has allowed me that opportunity.

And I couldn't have done it alone.  I couldn't have done it without my people.  Sandy proved it.  26 miles' worth of cheering supportive New Yorkers proved it.  Greg T. proved it.  We need each other.

We did it, Greg.  We really did it.  Rest your legs and bask in the glow.  Time for some ice cream.