That [insert adjective here] Guy

Earlier this evening we went for a winter holiday walk with a small group of friends. A couple streets tucked away in various places around the city decorate to the nines and attract curious light-lookers to wander and glimpse the decorations.

It wasn’t my idea but I organized it.

I organize a lot of things for my group of friends.

Without asking how would
people describe you in 2021?

I’d describe myself as mostly modest, but if you asked a dozen or so people who like lacing up and running local trails all year long I think they’d probably describe me as the guy that keeps it all together.

It’s a small thing. I set up run plans. I plot summer adventures. I make sure there are occasional social events. I’ve organized snowshoe outings. I’ve ensured that numerous beer nights have seen maximum raised glasses. I have everyone’s birthday in my calendar.

Small things. Itty bitty. Clinging firmly to a tiny group of friends and holding it all together.

Small, but maybe important. At least that’s how I’d like to think they’d describe it.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

Bread, Un-Servable

We had a small get-together in our backyard over the weekend.

Because as the number of new infections drops and more people get vaccinated locally, the restrictions have been eased and we figured a few people over for drinks and food was now not only possible, it was lawful.

Of course, I baked a loaf of sourdough as part of my contribution to the potluck.

I mixed up a nice blend of that local rye flour and some white, rested it in the fridge for an extra-long, extra-souring first proof, overnighted it on the counter so I could bake it the morning of the party as to ensure maximum freshness and…

How am I going to serve this thing? I thought.

My guests and I had been particularly careful in organizing everything to make sure all the local health guidelines were, if not followed to the letter, nodded to in respect.

We had carefully sanitized and bundled out bunches of wrapped utensils.

There were single-serve plastic gloves so everyone could dish up.

The main dishes were brought by the guests and picked to be you-touch-it-you-eat-it type foods like fried chicken, pizza, and samosas.

The beverages were all canned, and single serving.

And even the birthday cake (it was a birthday party) was individual cupcakes where we sat in a big circle and sang to the birthday gal and she blew out the single candle on her chosen treat.

But then I had this loaf of sourdough I had proudly baked. I suddenly didn’t feel comfortable serving it. I’ve been baking loaves of my sourdough for so long, and yet just for us to eat, that I didn’t even consider the high-touch, social nature of this bread.

Usually at a party I set out a loaf of bread on a cutting board with a bread knife. Guests can cut their own slice… but that created a situation where lots of people were interacting with the whole loaf and the knife.

Occasionally, I cube the bread into generous chunks for dipping either in something like a spinach dip or oil and vinegar, but a dip seemed like the kind of communal eating situation we were deliberating steering clear of.

Sometimes I’ll slice it just before I serve it, which would have probably been the best option, but even then I’m the one who is touching every slice and exposing the bread to the air and our house and…

I was being overly cautious, I know, but we’re right now in this moment of time when people are just starting to trust shared spaces again. The metaphor is something like slowly slipping into a icy mountain lake a little bit at a time, or clearing out the clutter of a big mess one piece-by-piece. The road back to normal is slow and careful. And that’s where I am: not quite ready to serve a loaf of bread because I didn’t think anyone would feel safe about eating it.

So I didn’t feel right about serving it. Friendships are built on trust and respect, and when people come to your space put their trust in you to serve them food, to me respect is putting aside your ego – even the pride of a perfectly delicious loaf of freshly baked bread – and sticking with the agreed upon party plan.

On the up side, I do have a lot of leftover bread.

#RunClub : New Season, New Plans

Sunday Runday, and for my #RunClub approaching spring is usually a time of ramping up our training, distances, and intensities for all those summer races.

By mid-March of 2020 we were swimming in a kind of moving goalpost of uncertainty. Races were being cancelled without much warning. There was always a sense of… well, we’ll see how things look in a month or so.

As mid-March of 2021 approaches, nearly a year into the local reaction to the global pandemic, our uncertainty is a lingering aftershock of the past twelve months… mixed with hopeful optimism… sprinkled with a dash of we’re all kinda used to this now, right?

Last summer our “coffee club with a running problem” moved our weekly meetings to the parking lot of the recreation center (closed to general access) where we had been meeting to run for nearly a decade.

A club that was usually twenty to thirty members strong, accustomed to weekly Sunday morning takeovers of the local café, found itself instead quietly gathering in lawn chairs over asphalt drinking take-out coffees near the bumpers of our vehicles while we observed social distancing rules.

Then winter hit.

….and the deep, dark, cold lockdown happened.

Me out there running solo was a thing for at least three months. Coffees were virtual, hugging a mug at home and staring into the familiar glow of my iPad for a visit via screen. It’s only been in the last couple weeks that the weather has cracked through the zero degree barrier and made resuming the coffee club meetings in the local parking lot a real possibility.

Which is the noteworthy thing about today, I guess.

This Sunday last year was normal: races being planned, training being sorted, coffees being shared in close company.

Next Sunday last year was when all that normal-ness shattered.

We sat in our lawn chairs in the parking lot this morning after a ten klick run, wrapped in blankets and huddled in hoodies, sipping take-out coffees. It felt normal… which is the strangest part, because it still is so not normal.

A new season of not normal.

And I don’t know how to plan for that.