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Sunday, March 29, 2015

     The race was at ten a.m. and even though the drive should only take about forty minutes Shawn had insisted that Taylor spend the night. At first I had protested, the kid lives less than five miles from our house for pity’s sake, but then I got the message. Her excuse was that we’d all be getting up early Sunday morning to head down to Iowa City to participate in the four mile ‘Warrior Challenge,’ an urban obstacle course that was held at the university each year, but what she was really doing was trying to get us together. -Maybe bond?- In any case I knew she wasn’t suggesting it so they could have wild sex in my basement, Taylor has his own condo so they certainly didn’t need to have the distraction of my presence in the house if they were going to make whoopee. The plan was to head out Sunday a little after 8:00 following a decent breakfast; we’d need the fuel and we’d also have two hours for our stomachs to empty before we started exerting ourselves.

     The race had been Shawn’s idea. In the past the five of us, as in Eileen, Shawn, Max, Jamie and I, had gone up to the Minneapolis area and participated in the ‘Warrior Dash,’ not just once, but twice. We’d driven the van, the one that Eileen would be killed in, both times and the first time we’d gotten a flat tire of all things. The flat had been in 2011 and the last time we’d done the race had been 2012.

     Eileen and I had trained for the event, hoping to do well, while Max and Jamie just did it for a new adventure and some family fun. Shawn hadn’t really trained but she had just graduated from high school the summer of eleven and her soccer drills and games must have come in handy. Hers was by far the best time of our little quintet and she beat us all handily. Even though both Shawn and Max had been on the Cross Country team all four years of high school he’d never raced Varsity. Shawn had had been bumped to Varsity her freshman year and had really enjoyed racing. Max was more of a Marching Band kind of an athlete, not that there’s anything wrong with that!

     When my little girl asks to do something with her old man that is fun and healthy she might just as well flash the knot she has me tied up in as though she were showing an engagement ring that sported a rock the size of Gibraltar to her girlfriends. My life has long been a case of whatever my little girl wants I’ll do my best to give her. Plus, it really was time for me to do more than just grunt at the little runt, I mean, her lovely young man, Taylor.

    I had thought to take Shawn and Taylor out to dinner on Saturday night, maybe some Italian at Naples Ristorante or at least Johnny Zio’s, to carbo load for our sixty minute or less fitness foray on Sunday, but when I submitted this plan to her royal highness on Saturday morning Taylor explained that that just wouldn’t work. “Oh, no, Daddy! Taylor is in RHCR’s twenty four hours in a play! We’ve got to go see him!”

    “Who is RHCR and what in the name of the almighty is twenty four hours in a play and where do we have to go for this great event that you’ve told me nothing about before this morning?” I asked.

    “I did! I told you I was going weeks ago when Taylor said he was in it! Last night he went over to Westdale and all the actors and writers and directors were there. The writers got their assignments, were paired with directors and the actors’ names all got put into a hat. They met early this morning to rehearse and tonight Taylor’s in one of the shows. I’m going and I thought you could too?”

     “So the play is at Westdale? I thought they’d razed the place.”

    “Dance Sensation,” she had answered. “Over where the movie theater used to be? That’s still there, along with some Mexican Restaurant and maybe a hair salon? And it’s not a play, I think it’s seven or eight.”

     “Seven or Eight!?” I had said with great calmness. “How long will this take!?”

    “Oh, I’m not explaining very well. Okay, Listen. Matt Ford has a Theatre Company called RHCR, okay?”

     “Fine by me. Who’s Matt Ford?”

     “I don’t know,” she screeched pleasantly. “A Realtor? He does some shows and this is one of them, alright?”

     “And he has this RHCR Theater over by where Westdale used to be?”

    “No. He doesn’t have a theater, he has a theatre company. They don’t have a building! This is very common, Daddy! Lots of theatre companies don’t have buildings!”

     “If you say so.”

     “I do, and it’s true. The show will be downtown Rapida Cedro at First Congregational Church on 17th Street on the South East side. Is that clear?”

     “As much as you seem to want to make this complicated I’ll have to say yes. Some theatre company that doesn’t have a building is putting on a play tonight down in the south east part of town, Taylor is in it and you want me to go. Have I got that right?”

     “Almost. They are putting on a show tonight with multiple plays. Short ones. Taylor calls them ten minute plays. They do that a lot,” she answered knowingly.

     “Not at TCR they don’t.”

     “This isn’t TCR and you are just trying to be difficult!”

     “No, I’m not!” Shawn just turned her head down and rolled her eyes up so she was looking at me from the tops of them and I said, “Not just. So we’re going to a show downtown tonight. It consists of a bunch of ten minute plays and Taylor is in one, and there are a whole bunch of them. Is that it in a nutshell?”

     “Pretty much except that the shows were all written between nine o’clock last night and nine o’clock this morning and the actors only have till seven to learn their lines. Exciting, isn’t it?”

     “Sure? Certainly not something I’d like to try to do. Memorization’s hard for me.”

     “It keeps you young,” she replied with a smile.

     “Too late. So when are we going and when are we eating?” I had asked, trying to get down to brass tacks.

    “The doors open at six, the plays start at seven, there’ll be some food there, and thank you.”

      “Don’t thank me yet.” Was my cryptic response, “wait until after I’ve eaten.”


     I went to 4:30 Mass at Our Lady of Sarto. We commemorated the welcoming of Jesus with new palms and I thought about his upcoming torment come Friday. I said prayers for Eileen, my parent’s, Eileen’s folks as well as a list of deceased that was getting too long to remember. I got back to our house where Shawn and I had a light dinner and then we left the house at about six forty five, making our way downtown via the Interstate. The section of town that plays host to the First Congregational Church isn’t the best and we parked in a fenced in lot that doubles as a playground for McCardle School of Fine Arts. I paid for our two tickets and we were told the show was down stairs in the basement. We followed some printed signs that led to the space and in the back of the room was a buffet line that included some hot and cold food and, wonder of wonder, wine!

      Circular tables ringed with padded chairs were set up along the back of the room and in the front were three taped off ‘stages’ that had chairs on three sides. I didn’t know a soul in the room except for Shawn but most everyone seemed to be acquainted with one another. Shawn had multiple people she introduced me to but as I felt like an outsider at a family reunion all of the names went in one ear and out the other.

     Taylor appeared around 6:45 dressed in sweat pants, a long sleeve T-shirt and running shoes. “Nice look,” I said to him. “Nobody told me this was formal.”

     He just smiled at me, kissed Shawn’s cheek and said, “Hey! Thanks for coming!” and offered me his hand. I took it in mine, remembering not to squeeze too hard.

     Taylor is a tiny man. Not extremely short, though I’m sure he doesn’t top five eight, probably not even five seven. Shawn towered over him in her high heels but as it seemed to matter to neither of them I granted that it really wasn’t important. “When is your play?” she asked.

    “Last,” he replied with a grimace. “And I really don’t know my part. I’m going to take my script up with me, otherwise I’ll just get lost. It’s allowed, but it’s frowned upon,” he added.

     The master of ceremonies was a woman who was dressed as if she were in a movie about the absurd. She sported cat stockings that went to her knees, fingerless gloves, a faux fur skirt and cat’s eye glasses.

     “Hi everyone. My name is Jen and I’ll be your M.C. tonight. This is Matt Ford, founder of RHCR theatre and tonight’s host. We have six shows tonight, and each of the taped off areas represents a stage, so please respect the fourth wall and stay outside the tape, otherwise the actors might pull you into the play. We’ll do three shows, have a fifteen minute intermission where you can grab some more food, bid on our gift baskets and have a drink or two.”

    Matt spoke some words, Jen took the microphone back, introduced the first show, naming the writer, director and cast and then most of the lights went out in the room with the exception of those directly over stage number one. It was all pretty simple, no elaborate lights, costumes or set but the three women and one man did a good job of making me laugh at the driver’s ed instructor who died, or was murdered? –and I clapped appreciatively in the end.

     This was repeated for the second show except that I liked this one even more. It had a very strong lead actor, a man Taylor said was named Matthew James, and the writer did a great job of presenting a play about memory, heroism and rewriting our own personal history. The first show had been good, the second better and the third was a delightfully creepy tale about a murdering thug. Taylor told me the thug’s name was Nick Hayes and that he taught science at Fitzgerald High, where Taylor had gone to school. During the intermission I spoke to him, telling him that my wife had been a teacher in the neighboring Marlin school district and how much I’d enjoyed his performance.

     The next two shows after the intermission didn’t resonate with me as well as the first three had and when it was time for Taylor’s troupe to go on my expectations had been lowered. Jen introduced the three players and my expectations were immediately thrown out the window as Taylor striped off his T-shirt and sweat pants, put on a pink sweat band and entered the stage behind a grown woman and a child and in front of a man dressed in a Hawaiian print shirt.

     Taylor was sporting spandex workout shorts, pink socks, the afore mentioned pink headband and what must have been a little girl’s pink spandex running shirt that left half a foot of his midriff exposed. He sashayed on and proceeded to become the most comical character of the night, though not the most prepared. His delivery was as funny as his costume but he was the only person in the show who relied on his script, which he glanced at repeatedly throughout his ten minutes of comical fame. He and the older bald man, John Knopick, were a hoot as a spatting married gay couple.

     After they took their bows and quit the stage I stood in line to congratulate him on a job well done. Shawn was ahead of me and their celebratory kiss was far more genuine than the little buss with which he had greeted her earlier, as was my genuine hug of appreciation and words of praise. I had no idea that Taylor could act, let alone take on the persona of a gay man who was wife to another.

     After things had settle down Taylor introduced us to the other cast members and the writer. It turned out that the adult woman, Gregga J. Johnn, who was on stage for most of the show, was his director and the young lady, Ava LaSalle, wasn’t a high school aged child but rather middle school. I added my congratulations to the kudos they were all receiving and the night ended with the hero, Matthew James, the Thug, Nick Hayes and Taylor’s team all receiving plaques of recognition, decisions that I agreed with whole heartedly. It seemed to me that those three plays had managed to create the most entertaining episodes of the half dozen that were performed.

     Taylor and Shawn were not finished for the night and after praising him one more time I said goodbye and goodnight to my daughter and her diminutive beau. As they walked toward Taylor’s car and I mine I heard him reply to a compliment from Shawn, “Yeah. I just wish I‘d had a little time to get off book.”

     I was starting to like this Taylor Maden.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

     At seven o’clock I figured it was time to get the kids up. I had been up for hours, working a little on the novel I hoped I was writing, making coffee and making sure Shawn was alright. What the last really meant was that I had done a tiny bit of surreptitious spying on my little girl. Her room was in the northeast corner of the house and mine the southwest but I had somehow managed to check and see if her door was unlocked. It was and I found her in her bed sleeping. Alone. Which was what I wanted to find.

     I would not have made a scene if it had been otherwise. At least, I don’t think I would have. Shawn had indicated that Taylor would sleep in our basement guest room and I was pleased that the room directly across the hall from Shawn’s was empty. Taylor’s car was in our driveway, the upstairs held just Shawn and me and logic dictated that Taylor had indeed slept in the basement guest room. Good. I like it when people do what they are supposed to, especially young men dating my little girl.

    I started a pot of steel cut oatmeal, adding two cups of milk and a cup of water to the ¾ cup of oats and set the burner to four and the timer to thirty minutes. I had figured out how to cook the oatmeal with a minimum of pot watching and self-cooking breakfast was a lovely gift from the breakfast gods. I had made a pot of coffee, half decaffeinated half regular, but I started another. With everything under way I went back upstairs and knocked on Shawn’s door. After knocking again I stuck my head in and said, “Morning, Buttercup. Time to get the Pinafore underway. Coffee’s brewing, breakfast is cooking and it’s time to rise and shine. Will you get Taylor up please?”

     “Yes,” came her answer but this was only sign of life I noticed.

     “Hey, Angel May, this was your idea. Let’s go please.”

     “Yes, Daddy. One minute.”

     “Fine,” I said and walked back to my room leaving her door open.

     I heard the toilet flush from her end of the hall and then footsteps going down our stairwell. It wasn’t long after that Taylor’s voice filtered up to the second floor and I went down to the kitchen to get breakfast. “Oatmeal is ready. There are walnuts, blueberries, blackberries and raisins to add to it if you’d like. Oh, and sugar, but I suggest you use the fruit to sweeten it. Much better for you.

     “It is cold out, hovering around 33 degrees, but the rain has moved east. And yes, children, it was raining heavily while you slept, I’m glad it didn’t disturb your slumber. I’d like to be out of here in about thirty minutes so let’s eat, use the bathroom and go. Their webpage says we can wait inside for the race to begin so we should have a great race; no shivering on the start line for the gun to go off for us. Good morning, Taylor. Have some coffee,” I said pouring him a cup. “Cream? Sugar?”

     “Morning. Both. Please.”

     “Here you go,” I said placing a cup in front of him. “Eat, it is a long time until we’re done and we’ll need fuel,” I added, scooping up oatmeal and adding everything I had listed previously save the sugar. I’ve got to save something on the computer I was working on and then I’ll be back down.”

     I needn’t have worried about leaving so early. Had I read the emails the race director had sent me a bit more carefully I would have noticed that the race had eight separate waves and that each wave was separated by ten minutes of time. I was disillusioned when we got to the race site a little after nine o’clock as I thought we were supposed to. We each got our race number and were referred to a chart that clearly showed I was in wave five and the kids in wave four. I was scheduled to go at 10:40, not ten o’clock and Shawn and Taylor would start racing at 10:30. I hate being stupid even more than looking it bit I took the time to again congratulate Taylor on his previous night’s performance.

     I suggested we all stretch and as we did I said how comical and fantastically engaged he had been as Bet the night before and he thanked me. “Yeah, I was really torn about the whole script thing. I just didn’t want my ego to get in the way of my performance and I figured looking at the script occasionally while delivering my best was better than going out on stage and stumbling through half prepared. It was tough though, I really had to put my ego in the backseat and let my love for performing drive.”

     “Well, as I said, well done. Really impressive.”

     “Thanks, John.”

     “Don’t mention it. How you think you’re going to do today?” I asked.

     “Not much of an athlete, I’m afraid. I was in Marching Band at Fitz but I’ve never been much for running. I just hope to finish.”

     “Kind of how I feel,” I said. “I just want to finish and not hurt myself.”

     Shawn sneezed a ‘bullshit,’ smiled at me and asked, “What?”

     “Why ‘bullshit?’” I asked. “You think I’m in shape to run this thing?”

     “Yeah. I think maybe. What? You think I haven’t noticed you taking better care of yourself since you got back from Las Vegas? And how you’re back at the gym and swimming? You met someone there and you’ve been talking to her on the phone and emailing her. Admit it!”

     “There’s nothing to admit, but yes, you’re right. Jodi, Jodi Flower. She’ll probably come and visit here about this time in May. I was going to let you know.”

      “Cool. Very cool, Pappy. What do you think your time will be?” she asked.

      “I have no idea. It’s what? Four point three miles? An hour?”

      “An hour! You can walk it in that!” she exclaimed.

      “Not with the obstacles. I don’t know! What about you?”

     “Thirty three minutes. That’s eight minute miles, give or take. I won’t know till we see the course I guess.”

     “Well,” Taylor said. “You guys have fun racing. I’m just going to chug along and try not to have a heart attack.”

      “You’ll do great,” Shawn told him. “We’ll all do great.”

      At nine twenty eight Taylor and Shawn stepped out into the blustery, cloudy, end of March day and joined the four or five dozen competitors that were part of their wave. The M.C. did a countdown and on ‘go’ they disappeared out of sight. Ten minutes later I had taken a last potty break and stood in the middle of my group listening to the same, On your mark, get set, go!” and then we were off.

     The first obstacle was to climb down and up the stadium stairs at Kinnick Stadium- twice. I have never been one for climbing stairs and I was relieved to find that the confined quarters meant that I had no chance of passing anyone on the stairs themselves so I just got in line and trudged along. Fortunately for me the steps were not particularly long and I was out of the stadium pretty quickly.

     Obstacles included climbing under tires, vaulting over concrete hurdles, carrying forty pounds of sand bags 250 meters, climbing up a cargo net, carrying car tires on a balance beam, and slithering through a cat’s cradle. We ran, slithered, climbed and laughed. The only obstacle that gave me trouble was trying to clear an eight foot tall wall that I ‘mastered’ with a hand up assist from another player.

     It was glorious fun and I realized I was doing fairly well when I passed a group of youngsters who wore T-shirts that read “Marine Corps Officer Training.” I had just passed kids who were training to be Marines! Of course, even as I did so I realized they were moving as a unit so each members’ weakness was what held them back, while each soldiers’ strength did not allow them to proceed faster than the weakest. It was a rigged game, an exercise in teamwork, I knew it but the little thrill of passing youngsters in uniform gave me the extra momentum I needed to do my best.

     After the last obstacle my group had about three quarters of a mile to go to the finish when I spied Taylor running ahead. Heart pumping, feet hurting but spirits soaring I commanded myself to go, and I went. I caught the man thirty five years my junior, said “Good job, Taylor! Keep up the good work!” and tried to lose him in my metaphorical dust. That was the plan, and he wasn’t having any of it! We ran side by side, he took the lead, then I did and we crossed the finish line with less than half a second between us, he first, but me ahead of him by nine minutes and fifty nine seconds with a time of 41:55.

     I was exhausted, out of breath and euphoric. Shawn was waiting for both of us looking calm and collected. I motioned for her to follow and Taylor and I walked around the indoor track collecting our breaths. When I finally stopped for a minute she asked, “Nice race?”

     Taylor and I looked at one another and we both broke out in huge grins. “Amazing,” I said. “This boy’s got spirit. Good job!”

     “You too, John. You too.”

      I really like that Taylor Maden boy.

    We stretched in the stadium and once we were home and had showered and changed I cooked veggie omelets, adding four slices of bacon and some cheese to the mix. They were delicious. When we were done eating I took my leave and then took a nap! Those two went out to a movie.

     Two thirty I woke up feeling as though I had run a great distance. Well, I almost had. I had run a distance greatly. Refreshed and excited I wrote Jodi a detailed email telling her what had transpired and that our love affair was out of the bag, at least with Shawn. Now I just had to share the news with Max and Jaimie before Jodi arrived on my doorstep the middle of May.

     I could hardly wait.