Monday, July 18, 2016

Notes from Our All Day Visit to The Bronx Zoo

Notes from Our All Day Visit to The Bronx Zoo

By
Martin Bodek
We arrive at the Bronx River Gate at 9:45 AM. Park opens at 10:00 AM. We have never been this early for anything.
We’re eighth in line, and we’ve already created a traffic problem for cars trying to enter/exit the Bronx River Parkway.
They let us in to the gate. There are five gates. It’s a lot like the Old City. This gate doesn’t have a “Welcome to the Bronx Zoo” sign that you can stand in front of without being murdered by a passing car. Nice.
It’s me, my wife, the boys, and Ross, who’s treating us to the park today. We sunscreen up, the boys get Polaroid cameras (they’re popular again! Whoda thunk!) from Ross, and off we go.
First, a bathroom stop before we head in to the park. It’s an eco version. Oooh. The urinals have no water, just gravity. The faucets are manual! Ha! San Diego Zoo had the same ridiculousness!
Okay, into the park.
Chipmunks and robins welcome us as we walk in, but we’re here to see animals we don’t see every day.
We pass World of Birds. Nobody’s interested. We see birds every day. Our backyard is a practical aviary. We have strarlings, mourning doves, robins, cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, and more. Quite gorgeous, and we don’t take it for granted. Here? Meh.
Now bison are cool. Bison remind me of David Oritz: hulking, but gentle, with interesting facial hair.
What else this place got?
Peacocks. Lots of peacocks. Peacocks everywhere. Did you know that’s the name for the males? And that the females are called peahens? And the babies are called peachicks? I didn’t until today!
We come upon the sea lion enclosure. How do we know they’re sea lions and not seals? Um, something to do with the ears, I think. I can’t really tell from the signage, which seems to be written by idiots for idiots (example: “This animal likes to hide from predators.” No, seriously?).
The baby sea lions look like they want nothing to do with the water, and the mommies are nudging them in for training. Awww. The dominant male is barking his brains out at everybody. Stupid male. This one wouldn’t look out of place wearing a wifebeater.
What else we got? Ooh, the Madagascar exhibit! Let’s see what we have in here: ooh, lemurs. Lemurs are cool. Do they blink? And what else? Ooh, Nile crocodiles. Yikes, scary. The water refraction makes ‘em feel like they’re an inch away. My wife’s camera can’t get a view from both above and below the water line. Shucks. Woulda been a cool snap. There’s a bird species flying about in here that we don’t have in our backyard: a fody. Gorgeous, and red. This exhibit is fantastic for inquisitive children, and has the first tortoises of the day. The one thing this place has that’s more plentiful than the peacocks are tortoises. Also here: da foosa!
Bathroom stop for the boys.
Next stop is the Children’s Zoo, which stinks like a…children’s zoo. I don’t know how the animals can stand it, much less the humans.
They have animals here not typically in petting zoos, like an otter. This one is messing with a sewer pipe. I think he knows the way out.
Ooh, look, turtles in a pond with a buncha cute ducks, and squirrel monkeys bounding about with babies on their backs. This strikes my wife’s fancy, and she takes tons of great pictures.
Because the petting zoo smell is not enough, they rigged a weird feature where you can lean over a vent and smell what a skunk smells like. Ugh, who wants that? I can do that any time I step out of my house for a run, thank you very much.
Another interesting feature of the Children’s Zoo is in the bathroom, presumably designed for kids, where the soap dispenser is approximately nine feet above the sink. Explain this to me.
They do have one neat amenity though: an artificial tree, scaffolded by a neat treehouse platform, with a slide built inside. Neat, but it’s next to the owls, who (pun intended), when they look at you, make you feel like prey.
On the way out, and away from the smell are more tortoises. In one enclosure, one of them, looking for love the wrong way, is ramming against another enclosure-mate, repeatedly. I call him Chris Brown.
Time for lunch! Where has the day gone? Park staff is very chill, and gave us no problems at the entrance, or in their café, where my wife unleashes the torrent of food she’s prepared. Yummy. Boys get “small” refreshment soft drinks. By “small,” I mean “huge.” I get an iced coffee, but the cashier needs coaching on exactly how that’s built.
Wheels up! More park to see!
Ooh, the Komodo dragon enclosure, which a child can easily climb into, if he wanted, but they’re hiding, the dragons are. That’s the thing with this park: their enclosures are built so the animals can find hidey-holes. No fair. Right in front of the dragons? More tortoises! Giant ones!
Bathroom stop for the boys.
Ooh, The rhino house! Gotta go see. Rhinos are awesome.
They’re not inside today. Outside. Ooh, let’s go see them outside. There they are, a million miles away. That’s the other thing with this park: not only can animals hide, but they’re very set back and apart from visitors. Very distant. That has pluses and minuses.
Anyway, we find the rhinos, and one of them takes a Guinness-record whizz right in front of us. That must have been like a minute and a half.
Onward!
Boys want on the Bug Carousel, because what’s better than things that give you the creeped-out willies at a tiny level, than to have them blown up to 1,000 times actual size. Yick, but we ride with them.
World of Reptiles is awesome. Alligators! Feisty kiddy ones! Trying to drown each other! Interesting!
Also, Verdi! (google “Verdi book”)
We skip Butterfly Garden because butterfly habitats freak out our boys. Some are scared of clowns, some of heights, ours can’t stand butterflies in close quarters.
Bears! Bears freak me out. If you understood their strength, they’d freak you out too. Bears are believed to be the only animals who’d shred a human like a hefty bag just because they looked at them funny. Other animals, would have, oh, I dunno, a reason, like defending their cubs or their turf or because they’re insanely hungry. Bears are practical gang members. They don’t need a reason to pick a fight except to show how tough they are.
Go ahead and see The Revenant. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
Doesn’t stop us from taking a pic with one of them in the background.
Bathroom stop for the boys. They need to stop drinking.
Baboons! Our little one has been begging for them all day. At first I thought he said bamboo, and happily showed him, when he said, “Not bamboo! Baboon!” Oh! Sure! Here you go!
Giraffes! Surrounded by gazelle and thousands of peaanimals! Giraffes are freaky and awesome. I think I’m a fan of any creature that weighs a ton or more. I think it’s respect for their ability to still lug themselves around. This zoo has every animal that generally weighs a ton (elephant, rhino, hippo, giraffe, gaur [pronounced “gaur”], buffalo) except for one (walrus).
Bathroom stop for the boys.
To the Congo! I came here about 15 years ago with my kid sisters, when this exhibit had just opened – for the price of four installments of $399.99 or something like that. Today they’ve come to their senses a bit more.
The gorillas are amazing. My wife snaps away at the mommy cradling her baby. Awwww.
The heron enclosure is fascinating, and you might think they can’t be in my backyard so it has to be a big deal to see them.
You’d be wrong. Heron populate the parks of Montclair, where I see them when out on my long runs, and every time I do, I feel I’m in Jurassic World, and something big is going to eat me.
Okapi are crazy cool. They’re like, ungulate platypuses. Ya know, thrown together parts. Nuts.
Bathroom stop for the boys. Seriously, they have to stop drinking.
We check out Rio movie in 4D. We get spritzed, vibrated, and have wind blown in our faces for ten minutes while observing birds trying to get back to the wild. I recognize most of the voices. I’m a voice recognizer. You watching a car commercial, and you could swear you know the voice from somewhere? You give me a call.
Dippin’ Dots and Icee break! Because the boys need more sugar and water. What are we doing to ourselves?
African Plains is awesome. They have wild dogs next to the Whoopi Goldbergs. Um, I mean hyenas. I never realized they weren’t the same thing, or rather, from the same family. The signage here seems to have been written by grownups for grownups. Finally.
Ooh! The Carter Giraffe building! I remember staring straight up at these magnificent animals when I was here 15 years back, and I was dazzled. I hurry inside to repeat the experience, but nope, they’re outside today, far from our reach and our view. Beh.
The Chris Rocks are really cool too. Um, the zebras, I mean.
On to Asia! You know you’re there because it’s themed like…Asia.
Now I see something in Jungleworld I’ve never seen before: everybody knows certain monkey and ape speeches groom each other, right? Everyone’s seen that. Know what we see here today? One gibbon carefully grooming another’s hindquarters, with the recipient thrusting the object of the grooming out and up into the air. It’s hilarious. They get more pictures taken of their activity than anything else on view in the zoo today, I promise.
Bathroom stop for the boys.
Onto the Wild Asia Monorail! This is fun. The animals, in their impressive enclosures, are set far back, as I’ve mentioned, but at least they’re not hiding here, and the tour guide is lively, friendly, and explains a lot (I’ve learned a lot today!). The tiger is awesome, and he sticks his tongue out at us. The Master Shifu is cool, even though he really isn’t a panda (so much learning today!). The hippo is wallowing. Hippos are incredible. Up close, they’re even incredibler.
We disembark around 5:00 PM. The park closes at 5:30, but the staff scurries all the animals away from view at 5:00, as a way of disinteresting visitors and ushering them out of the park. I get it, but I’m not a fan.
We hop on the shuttle, and ride on out to our parking lot. We see nothing along the way because there’s nothing to see anymore. Feh.
On the way out, Ross spots an injured bunny that she reports to the staff, who proceed to help.
Bathroom stop for the boys at closing time.
As far as I can remember, this is the first time we’ve ever arrived somewhere before opening, spent the day, and left after closing.
A fun, full, great day. Thanks for the treat, Ross!
Maybe I’ll be back again in 15 years. I’ve got to see those giraffes up close.



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Monday, July 11, 2016

Notes from Our 2-day PA July 4th Vacay

Notes from Our 2-day PA July 4th Vacay
by
Martin Bodek

Sunday, July 3rd
5:30 AM, 7-mile run, because every vacation has to start with one. It’s the first official run of my marathon training season. Here we go!
Off to Sesame Place with the boys!
Crossing over PA border, it’s very clear that this state really, really, really wants to sell you fireworks.
One of the first towns over the border is Fairless Hills. What isn’t fair about them? Google reveals that it’s a census-designated place (CDP), which I still don’t understand despite rereading the definition repeatedly.
We spend the day at Sesame Place surrounded by water that’s too cold, people in questionably tasteful outfits, nary a tattoo-less human, and frightening surgery scars on display. Our little one gets more love for this Minnesota Vikings cap (having gotten some recently at a Yankee game we attended).
Fully roasted by the sun, and frozen to death by the water (I hear this would be the experience of a astronaut in space sans suit), we head to Philadelphia for dinner.
Judah Mediterranean Grill is quite delicious! Very pleased with the food and service.
On the road again, we pass New Life Church, which has a menorah on its façade. Interesting.
We also pass an Egypt Road. More on that later.
The neighborhood around Philly isn’t so pretty. I think this is precisely where The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was born and raised. There’s a reason he left.
At our hotel, we have the experience of experiences: as we’re headed to our room with our baggage, a guest informs the front desk that he smells smoke. Uh oh, we wait in the lobby for all this to blow over.
Two ladder companies show up. One brings a disco truck. He-Men with massive medieval weapons emerge, fill the lobby and stairways. The boys are dazzled.
The all-clear is given. My wife asks the warriors if they mind if the boys take a picture with them. They oblige happily, switch hats with our Vikings fan, and brandish their weapons. If I was them, I’d freak out from happiness.

Then a frolic in the pool and Jacuzzi, playing catch with deflated beach balls that we found (what, are YOU going to blow them up?).
Vayehi erev, vayehi boker…
Monday, July 4th
Happy birthday, America!
Breakfast in our hotel room.
Off to Scott’s Run Lake, where we spend three hours fishing under the guise and tutelage of Katie, an employee of PA’s Parks Department. PA, in a tourism push, has courses all over the state today, plus permission for anyone to fish without a license.
We catch nothing, but we have the time of our lives, because fishing is interesting, and the boys cast like champs! Big boy is most successful. He gets two nibbles, but no bites. We’re definitely going to try this again.

Giving it our first try.
Two interesting sights when we’re done:
1) A small field, still in the quiet day, but in full motion, because hundreds of fingernail-sized frogs are hopping across it. Fascinating.
2) A strawberry patch, one foot by one foot, in middle of nowhere, probably planted by accident by a single strawberry drop by a hiker, or whoever.
Off to Hopewell Lake, for motorboating – or rather, rowboating with a motor. Darn things maxes out at .2 knots. Still, nice. Boys take turns driving – er, steering.
Wheels up!
We pass a town called Limerick. I take a pic and send to a friend. Inside joke just for him.
We pass Lebanon Road. Now looking for a Jordan Avenue.
Turkey Hill shows up on WaZe. We reroute, because we gotta see, maybe entertain the boys on this long stretch.
During reroute, we spot baby deer, still with the spots on them. Just kids. Venturing too far from home. They’ll probably get a good scolding from their parents.
We then spot baby corn, and show the boys what that looks like.
Turkey Hill is just a gas station, that has some Turkey Hill ice cream. Boring, but we’re not leaving without that ice cream. My wife and I share a Klondike. Not as impressive as the classic commercials make them sound.
We pass Fairview Village. What’s up with all this fairness?
We pit-stop at the mid-point of trip home at Kids Castle, a four-story playground constructed of wood. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a playground that goes this high. It’s fascinating, and intricate, and fun. My wife barbecues while all her boys play, then we get the call when dinner’s ready.
Likely the most awesome playground structure ever.
Some more horseplay in the castle and it’s time to head home.
We pass Burnt House Hill Road. We didn’t get Jordan. We got Ticho House instead.
We pass a scareCOW. Never seen that before.
We pass Street Road. Huh? They have an Avenue Boulevard and Way Drive too?
Aaaaaand home sweet home. Boys conk out before they can watch the fireworks.

Monday, May 09, 2016

My 41st Birthday 41-Mile Run

My 41st Birthday 41-Mile Run
By
Martin Bodek

How did I come to run 41 miles with a bunch of friends, through the night, and the cold, and the wind, and the responses to calls of nature, for ten and a half hours, you might ask. You might also ask this whilst thinking you’ve asked a complicated question. You would be wrong, as the answer is exceedingly simple: I did this last year, for my 40th birthday, with most of the same friends, through the night, and the pot-smell, and vomit-puddles, and past the drunkards, and those nature calls, and when I do a thing once – that I obviously enjoy, which you can judge from the descriptions above – then obviously, it’s a chazaka (tradition), and I’m in for life.

I kept all weekend-with-family and race logistics nearly the exact same from last year to this, except that I had to add a mile to the course. I did so by subtracting Sunset Park (don’t need to do that giant hill twice anyway), and adding Crown Heights (burnin' up all through till twilight!).

Our starting crew was twice the size it was last year: me, Elik, Jamey, Adam, Kalman, Shmuly, Judy, Moishie, Esther Leah, and Sheina. And…

Mile 0, 10:03 PM, Midwood, East 27th/Ave. I: …we are on our way. Three minutes late. Unlike me, which is why I’m forgiven on the spot. Immediately, the wind asserts itself for the evening. I’m forced to remove my birthday hat, but manage to stick it to my chest creatively (my Scott Jurek Ultimate Direction vest makes this easy). The forecast: we’re just below freezing now, and the temperature is going to steadily tank from 1-4 AM to just above 20º with the wind chill. Oh boy. My last-minute decision to take sweatpants is going to save me.

Mile .3, ~10:06 PM, Flatlands, New York Ave./Ave. I: Our first right-angle turn of what are going to be many. How many? 51. That’s about average for a marathon course, so this number is not as crazy as you think. Also, I’m not so crazy to count them. I’m like that anyway.

Mile .7, ~10:11 PM, New York Ave. bet. Ave. L/M: Mike was supposed to pop out of his house and give us water, mostly as penance for his tree knocking my birthday hat off my head last year. He’s nowhere to be found, though. His excuse? He hit “dismiss” instead of “snooze” on his alarm clock. Next thing he knew, it was 10:20 PM. Nu (oh well), next year.

Mile 1.06, ~10:15 PM, New York Ave./Kings Hwy: We make our second right-angle turn onto Kings (no, silly, I’m not going to number them all!) and pick up David and his son Yossi, at the same spot they jumped on last year. Yossi also has a friend Leiby come along. Welcome aboard!

Mile 1.13, ~10:17 PM, East 32nd/Kings Hwy: David’s wife is here with the rest of the family. They have approximately 23 children, if I’m not mistaken. They hold up a sign and everything. It’s really sweet. Thanks for coming out again, guys! In this cold, no less!

Mile 2.3, ~10:31 PM, Midwood, East 14th/Kings Hwy: Yisroel jumps in. Loudly. Like he was trying to scare me or something. It almost works, but my Spidey-Sense is in the on position.

Mile 2.5, ~10:34 PM, Coney Island Ave./Ave. R: Aaron is waiting at the corner. He snaps a pic as I approach. I pull up to a stop to fish out and deliver the Virtual Jerusalem Marathon & Half Marathon, Powered by JRunners race medal that I owe him (how ‘bout *that* for a product placement!).

Mile 2.6, ~10:36 PM, East 13th/Ave. R: Matt jumps in. He was confused about the route, and actually bumped into my wife in her car (in the social sense). She rerouted him, then he confirmed via the Location Sends that Yisroel was plastering all over WhatsApp. All aboard the choo-choo train!

Mile 2.9, ~10:40 PM, Ave. R bet. East 18/19th: Nachi was supposed to be here with water and a camera (that thing you take a picture with from your smartphone)! Where’d he go? I get the excuse later: a shiva call. Perfectly reasonable. Auf simchas (for happy occasions)!

Mile 3.0, ~10:41 PM, East 21st/Ave. R: I fall back a drop, and Esther Leah and Sheina pull ahead. Then, for some odd reason, because she must have been distracted by something or other – though I have no idea what, Esther Leah goes splat directly into a fence. Just like that. One second she’s running. The next second: bonk. She bounces off though, and rejoins Sheina. She’s okay, but that was…noteworthy.

Mile 3.1, ~10:42 PM, East 23rd/Ave. R: I’ve now fallen back to the back of the pack, with a certain other person who mooned me last year as a birthday gift. Well, with the girls way ahead and out of ungentlemanly view of the proceedings, he strikes, because hey, this is a chazaka now too. Aaaaaand there we go. Happy birthday to me!

Mile 3.55, ~10:48 PM, Ave. R/Haring St.: I turn half the crowd left, whilst (I use that word a lot. If Bane can use it and sound cool, so can I) the other half keeps going and makes a left on Gerritsen. No biggie. They’ll add .05 to their trip, but if I do that, I’m on my way to being way off, along with those going the full distance. This course was done with precision, and I intend to finish it without having to tack on extra yardage, as I had to last year – or finish short, and have to walk to breakfast anyway.

Mile 3.6, ~10:49 PM, Marine Park, Ave. R bet. Gerritsen Ave./Stuart St.: After some big turns, crossing Flatbush, and a reshuffling of runners, I find myself solo on the sidewalk with the rest of the group on the Avenue. I take the occasion to count the runners with me: 17, and also to count my blessings. These folks are happy to join me for this outing, and I feel grateful for their company and enthusiasm. It is cold, let me remind you.

Mile 3.8, ~10:51 PM, Marine Pkwy/Ave. R: We make a right-angle turn (#7, but who’s counting?) onto Marine Parkway in the Marine Park area and head towards Marine Park (follow all that?). I see an orange plastic fence ahead, covering the spot we’re supposed to take into the park. Uh oh, we’re gonna hafta reroute. I hate reroutes. Matt tells me he’s got this, though (he wins races here weekly – no exaggeration – and he knows every inch of the terrain). In Matt I trust.

Mile 4.0, ~10:53 PM, Fillmore Ave./Playground 278: We enter Marine Park, having added .04 to our trip. These things add up, especially over 41 miles. We go clockwise, though in the outside lane, when I meant to go inside. This adds .0001. You can see I get obsessive. Now what is it about parks that make people urinate? The trees? The water fountains? Plenty in the pack take advantage, and play catch-up to the rest of the peloton (I’m officially stealing that word from cyclists and using it for runners).

Mile 4.4, ~10:57 PM, Parking Lot on Marine Park oval: Last year, at this spot, we saw several teenage MOTs smoking cigarettes. Not a soul is here this evening, nor has there been all along the way. Why not? The cold? Likely. More on this hypothesis as the run progresses.

Mile 4.6, ~10:59 PM, Stuart St./Avenue U.: Daddy David, son Yossi, and friend Leiby bow out here, having clocked 5.5 miles with us. Thanks for hanging!

Mile 4.9, ~11:02 PM, Sheepshead Bay, Gerritsen Ave bet. Avenue U/Avenue U South Fork (look at a map): Yisroel starts taking photos and vids of me, taking advantage of some good light at a gas station. He then plasters it all over WhatsApp. He’s all over that, but not Facebook. Mah nishtana ha-social media hazeh?

Mile 5.45, ~11:08 PM, Knapp St./Ave. Y: We smell the same exact putrid smell that we smelled at exactly the same point as last year. Oh em gee, it’s rank. Just the Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, though. Can you faint from a bad odor? I just googled it. It’s complicated, but it’s possible. I don’t think they ever tested this on Mythbusters.

Mile 5.9, ~11:13 PM, Knapp St./Harkness Ave.: The UA! Many stories of hooky are shared.

Mile 6.0, ~11:14 PM, Knapp St./Shore Pkwy: Yisroel starts flirting with the locals.

Mile 6.05, ~11:15 PM, Knapp St./Emmons Ave.: We hit the water. The Russian crowd has spilled out of La Vue Restaurant & Lounge and is trying to get into each other’s pants. We take the road to give them room to do that. The corner restaurant has hotels on both sides of it, and an ATM out front. Coincidence? Ahahahaha, no.

Mile 7.03, ~11:25 PM, East 19th/Emmons Ave.: Problem. The pretty blue Ocean Ave Pedestrian Bridge is open! Last year, I plotted the course through it, but it was closed, and had to reroute. This year, I plotted the course around it, but it’s open, and I can’t reroute! No fair! I want to run it, but I’m not recalculating again. I’ll stick to the route. Next year, I’ll plan for both options.

Mile 7.48, ~11:30 PM, Manhattan Beach, Shore Blvd/Amherst St.: We spot a couple in their car at 1st base. Nothing we haven’t seen before.

Mile 7.58, ~11:32 PM, Shore Blvd/Dover St.: We spot a couple in their car at 3rd base! Cue Phil Rizzuto! Aside from that interesting find, we notice an insanely ornate house across the street. You have to see it to believe it. Check out this (rather insulting and kind of racist) article: http://observer.com/2014/11/nazdarovye-tomb-like-manhattan-beach-mansion-sells-for-7-75-m/. See those columns? Matt, who had a part in its construction explains that the Mrs. of the place wanted them converted into fishtanks, and had to be talked out of it by people who understand science. Sounds like a Queen of Versailles if you ask me (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Queen_of_Versailles).

Mile 7.9, ~11:37 PM, Shore Blvd/Kensington St.: We turn right (I’m not counting turns anymore. I’ll leave it to you if you want to) on Kensington, in Manhattan Beach, towards Manhattan Beach, in Brooklyn (confused yet?), and head towards the Atlantic.

Mile 8, ~11:38 PM, Oriental Blvd/Kensington St.: We hit the water again and turn right. I force us across the street, because I need the bathroom. Maybe Manhattan Beach Park can help. They have facilities I used to use back in the day.

Mile 8.2, ~11:39 PM, Oriental Blvd, bet. Jaffray St./Irwin St.: Manhattan Beach Park cannot help.

Mile 8.65, ~11:43 PM, Oriental Blvd/Coleridge Ave.: Things are moving along swimmingly (is runningly a word?) in the cold, cold night, but we get a scare for just a few moments. Most of the pack is on the road at this point, when we hear a yelp to our left. We see Esther Leah face down on the sidewalk, with Sheina checking on her. I call a stop to the run, and we all rush over to help. She looks okay, but we ask her to stay down for another beat to assess her injuries, if any. It appears that she tripped. The lip that clipped her is two full sidewalk squares away from where she landed! Quite the aerial trip she took! Sheina helps her up. She looks to be steady. I have basic first aid in my backpack but it doesn’t look like she has any scrapes or road rash. Lucky gal, but also quite the trooper. She’s ready to walk it off, and we do so, all together, slowly. A block later, she gives us the all clear, and we’re running again. She’ll be alright (and will PR a half-marathon a week later!). Pshew!

Mile 9.15, ~11:48 PM, Coney Island Ave./Boardwalk: We hit the (2.51-mile-long Riegelmann) Boardwalk, after taking a right turn from Coney. The wind is now whipping up, and the temperature is dropping. Hooboy, it’s about to get tough. When the running get tough, the tough get running (how about *that* for an office motivational poster?!).

Mile 9.15-10.65, ~11:48 PM-12:03 AM, Coney Island, The Boardwalk: As we parade along 60% of the boardwalk’s expanse (I googled to find out what the total mileage of U.S. boardwalks is, and was surprised to find how small the actual boardwalk list is and where they’re concentrated!: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_boardwalks_in_the_United_States. Interesting road trip idea, no?), I have some observations and adventures:

1)      No water fountains are functional. I took full advantage last year, but it’s too cold for the city to have turned them on yet. Perhaps this won’t be such a problem in the future: http://patch.com/new-york/prospectheights/its-final-lake-ness-monster-freeze-proof-water-fountains-coming-prospect-park
2)      No bathrooms are open. Arrrgh.
3)      It’s too cold for couples to make out outdoors. They’re holding hands and hanging out, but little else. It really is that cold. Perhaps they’re scared they’ll get stuck together, and emergency welders aren’t immediately available at this time of night to blowtorch people apart.
4)      There is no pervasive pot smell like there was last year. Sensible people are keeping indoors. Present company excluded.
5)      The girls pull ahead again, and I fall back again, so guess what? It’s another full moon!

Mile 10.9 ~12:04 AM, West 15th/Surf Ave.: After making a right turn onto 15th and a right turn onto Surf (have we made any left turns yet?), I spot a porta-potty! Woohoo! Wanna know exactly how I feel? I mean, exactly? Observe 0:52-1:22 of this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjNQLXXwYfw. That’s how I feel. Apply all metaphors. Also, I don’t drop my phone into the abyss. The more I don’t do that, the more I think – and hope, and pray – that that event was a once in a lifetime experience.

Mile 11, ~12:07 AM, Stillwell Ave./Surf Ave.: I exit to find the group chilling (literally) in front of Nathan’s Famous. Kalman is stretching, as he’s closing in on the farthest he’s ever run. Sheina and Esther Leah take leave. Mike jumps in, having stalked us for a while using Yisroel’s WhatsApp Location toy. After downing some refreshments, we’re running again. Compliments from the pack about having the wind at our back stop here. Guess we took one right turn too many.

Mile 11-13.9, ~12:07 AM-12:43 AM, Gravesend, Ocean Pkwy: We go wee wee wee all the way down OP to Avenue R and make a right. Along the 3-mile way, we get blasted by the wind. Blasted! Jack also joins us here.

Mile 14.2, ~12:46 AM, Midwood, Ave. P/East 15th: Kalman hits the high point of his running career so far, but he’s in for more. Awesome.

Mile 15.5, ~1:00 AM, Marine Park, East 34th bet. Ave R/Quentin Rd.: We arrive at Yoni’s house, Elik, Jamey, and I. The rest have run ahead to scare the bejabbers out of Yoni by waking him from his couch-slumber. We all refresh ourselves, grab some cake, refill our water bottles, make use of the facilities, heed Yoni’s repeated warnings to keep our voices down, and after a 12-minute break, we’re back on the road.

Mile 15.5-17.4, ~1:12 AM-1:40 AM, Midwood, Ave. P: We hemorrhage people all along this stretch (Shmuly, Judy, Moishie, Matt, Yisroel, Mike, Jack). Some because they’ve hit their physical limit, others because they’re frozen popsicle sticks and they desperately need shelter, while one special case has to moon me just one more time. This time, I see a bit too much. I’m surprised those things didn’t draw further up into his body once they hit the cold. I also hit the Subsational head (0:06-0:09: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSE5YulUeEA) on Coney Island Ave. We are now me, Elik, Jamey, Adam, Kalman, and Yoni.

Mile 17.9, ~1:45 AM, Ocean Pkwy, bet. Ave. N/Ave. O: And Joe!, who comes running in like a freight train, rip-snorting with energy. He’s like another running-friend of ours named Joel, only Joe is about 100 lbs. yuger.

Mile 17.9-20.5, ~1:45 AM-2:30 AM, Parkville/Kensington, Ocean Pkwy: Just when we meet Joe and all his energy, we kind of lose ours, pretty collectively. I don’t think anybody’s fatigued, but we have been whipped around seriously by the cold, which has dropped to just above 20 with the wind chill, as predicted. Nevertheless, we hit the halfway point at about 4:30:00. Plenty of time to spare, and on a good pace to be perfectly on schedule for our french toast stop, followed by our morning breakfast. Joe starts to threaten to take his clothes off if we sustain a long stretch of running.

Mile 21.4, ~2:45 AM, Flatbush, Ocean Ave./Parkside Ave.: At this corner of Prospect Park, we hit the start and first exchange of the world famous Jrunners Relay Race. I figured, if I’m cutting out of the course the one piece of the New York City Marathon, then I gotta toss in something else that’s of interest. Badabing. Ms. Rassy Hott and Mr. Effie Shaw will be getting married in the park today. Mazel tov, you guys!

Mile 21.4-24.1, ~2:45 AM-3.25 AM, Crown Heights: we loop through half of the neighborhood. Lots of things happen along the way:

1)            We cover the first 2.7 miles of Relay Leg 2 (we’ll be back in August!).
2)            Kalman does lots of stretching, having gone well – well! - past his lifetime best.
3)            The unbelievably dulcet aroma of a bakery draws us towards it, but the door is closed. I yell into the crack that it isn’t fair to be such a tease. This is kind of a tikun olam (repair of the world) for the Coney Island stench. The neighborhood is apropos for that.
4)            We pass 770. Yechi!
5)            We say hi to the friendly cops.
6)            We piss Joe off with our abundant walking (doesn’t he know rule #4?: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/10956220/10-things-no-one-tells-you-before-you-run-an-ultra-marathon.html), and he threatens to disrobe again. He considers it a reward for a sustained run that’s long enough to make him happy.

Mile 24.1-25.1, ~3:25 AM-3:40 AM, Bedford Ave.: We turn left, instead of right towards Williamsburg (next year?). During a misstep, I slam my right forefoot into the ground. I pull over for an examination. I’m alright. On this stretch, Elik, Jamey, Kalman and I pull ahead, while Adam and Yoni fall behind. Lucky for them two, because they hurry to rejoin us to tell us that they just witnessed a hair-pulling girlfight in front of a club. I have to say, that would have been interesting to see. Oh well. Shortly after, Kalman takes off towards his car. He’ll finish with 27.2 miles, nearly doubling his high. Fantastic. We turn right onto Parkside. Combined with Fort Hamilton (no longer in danger of being renamed Tubman; har har) Parkway, this is a 5.4-mile dead-shot as-the-crow-flies ram-rod stretch. No turns; no hollering instructions; just straight on to New York Harbor. It’s more than one-eighth of the course. It’s on purpose. Here we go.

Mile 25.1-30.5, ~3:40 AM-4:50 AM, Flatbush/Windsor Terrace/Borough Park/Dyker Heights/Fort Hamilton, Parkside Ave./Fort Hamilton Pkwy: Many events worth noting, and several hilarious and/or interesting things happen along this way, which I present in the order of their occurrence:

1)            I get mooned again. That’s four moons from two guys.
2)            We take Parkside to Fort Hamilton via on overpass. I’d never traversed this on foot, so I didn’t know if it was possible, but I checked Google Maps and sent forth scouts (thanks Aba and Mommy!) when I was doing the planning. Everything worked out perfectly. I couldn’t find a proper name for it, but upon the earth, it’s 40.649742, -73.975485.
3)            We hit the marathon point as we step off the bridge: 5:50:00.
4)            Joe continues to threaten to disrobe. He now begins bargaining. He’ll take his clothes off if we run for a full sustained mile. No? What about a half mile? No?...
5)            Eventually, we start a program where we run a half mile, then walk a quarter mile. This makes Joe happier.
6)            At 44th, we meet a homeless runner (no seriously: bedecked in rags, but striding like he’s been doing this for a half-century), who’s amazed to see us, and starts stalking us, and asks a million questions. It feels, to us, like he’s never seen a group of runners before. We wish him well as he takes his turnoff.
7)            I start needing the bathroom again at around mile 28. I won’t expound on the urgency, but I’ll explain it thus: I learn the phrase “Prairie Doggin’.” I’m going to leave it at that.
8)            Adam announces that we have only a half marathon to go. He does that a lot.
9)            Elik reminisces about last year’s events along this stretch. There’s little human interaction this year because of the cold. No choppers overhead or police accidents or hollering drunks or vomit puddles. Adam does mention that he saw one of the latter.
10)        John J. Carty Park won’t open its bathroom to me again.
11)        After 2.5 miles of finding nothing, we arrive at John Paul Jones Park – the terminus of Fort Hamilton Parkway - and I answer the call of nature in a most undignified fashion. I have no choice. Gosh it’s cold. I should mention that my mates were most tolerant and accommodating. Anyway, let’s carry on.

Mile 30.5-33.25, ~4:50-5:35 AM, Dyker Heights/Bath Beach, Shore Pkwy: Some notable events as we run along Gravesend Bay:

1)            We take a selfie beneath the “Welcome to Brooklyn” sign, even though we’ve been in Brooklyn all this time. We have a Millennial with us, so this behavior is, apparently, standard.
2)            Joe finally disrobes. This makes him happy.
3)            Elik and I are running together, with our heads down, as we were blinded by the sight. When we raise them, we see Adam seated on the ground. Something wrong? As we approach, we note Adam’s seriously bloodied knee. Perhaps he was blinded as well, and took one for the team. We admire his sacrifice. He refuses aid (what’s with us runners?). He’ll be alright, though the mess isn’t pretty.
4)            I get mooned again. Guess who?
5)            The weather is finally tolerable here and rather pleasant. It has warmed all the way up to just below freezing.
6)            More makeout couples in cars along this stretch. Something about the water? We notice steam on several windshields and swear the rocking of one car can be measured at 1.2 on the Richter Scale.
7)            Elik finds another TGNY100 arrow. Vehamayvin Yavin (tough to translate, but: and the knowers will know).
8)            Joe robes. This makes us happy.

Mile 33.25, ~5:35 AM, Shore Pkwy/Bay Pkwy: Five miles too late, we finally find a porta-potty, the same one we found last year at the end of this stretch along the bay, still in the same place. I’m not gonna bother checking if it’s open, because if it’s closed, I’d have to chuck it in the ocean.

Mile 33.25-36, ~5:35-6:35 AM, Bensonhurst: We go down Bay Parkway (and make a pit-stop for some liquid refreshments), make a left on 65th, a right on 20th, a left on 52nd, and go all the way to momma’s house.

Mile 36, 6:35 AM, Boro Park, Momma’s House: The french toast stop (I learn the Hebrew word for it from Elik: armarita [sp?]) everyone’s been waiting for, to the delight of my mom as well, who can’t get enough of the compliments being slung at her. While the crew wolfs down one slice after another, I make another bathroom trip, refill my supplies, and do lots of recalculating. See, this is mile 36, but according to the course I plotted, this was supposed to be mile 35. What did I say about things adding up? Our wandering and meandering added an entire mile! With five miles to go, I have to figure out how to shave an entire mile off, so that I don’t over- or undershoot the finish. I finally get the calculations set, grab my french toast, give my mom a kiss, and after a twenty-minute stop, we’re back on the road. I get a g’morning text from my wife a few minutes after I exit the house.

Mile 37.3, ~7:10 AM, Sunset Park, 52nd St./9th Ave.: We kiss the edge of Sunset Park, but we’re not doing that hill again. We make a right turn…

Mile 37.5, ~7:12 AM, 48th St./9th Ave.: …and another right turn onto 48th, for a memory lane run.

Mile 37.5-38.4, ~7:12-7:25 AM, 48th St.: This is it for me. This mile-long stretch is the one I grew up on. Nearly every valuable memory of my youth is from here and its tributaries. Movies from the 80s trigger recollections along this way. This is my Thunder Road. We start at the top:

1)      At 10th Ave. is Maimonides Hospital, where I - and lots of friends and family - was born. Also, I realize, it’s where many friends and family have passed on. Something to think about.
2)      At 11th is the synagogue I ran around in as a child: Ziditchoiv. I have no idea how to write that out in English.
3)      At New Utrecht is G & Sons, where I got all my G.I. Joes (I still have a box with 70 of them somewhere in my house. When I dig it up, I can probably name all of them). G & Sons is actually gone, though. Now it’s Albert & Sons.
4)      Between 12th and 13th is my old house. It’s still there. Almost everything else: not so much.
5)      14th is the first corner I crossed by myself.
6)      At 15th Elik points out the Beth-El “mosque,” which – I inform him – is actually Young Israel of Beth El. Did you know it was once the tallest building in Brooklyn, before zoning laws changed drastically? You did? Impressive. Bet you can’t name the current tallest! Did you say The Brooklyner? You’d have been right if this was 2013, but four more taller buildings have risen since then. I can’t keep track anymore.
7)      Between 15th and 16th is Bobov, where I played off-the-wall (nobody knows what this game is), tap-tap-trio (more blank stares), endure-the-beating (this one people seem to know), and received a kindergarten-level education for seven straight years. I’m shocked to find a parking lot next to the yeshiva where at least five houses used to be. The cost!

Mile 38.4, ~7:25 AM, 48th St./17th Ave.: We turn off Memory Lane onto Old New Utrecht. We’ve lost sight of Adam, somewhere ahead of us. We spot his skinny legs in the distance. We’ve been doing that all night.

Mile 39, ~7:35 AM, Momma’s House: We’re back. We ponder stopping again, but no, we gotta roll to the finish.

Mile 39.6, ~7:50 AM, Dahill Rd/Ave J: We arrive at the beginning of Avenue J. From here to where we’re going, it’s 1.6 miles, dead ahead, no turns (I’ve already used up my perfectly-straight metaphors in an earlier paragraph, if you recall).

Mile 39.6-41.2, ~7:50 AM-8:24 AM, Midwood, Ave. J.: Adam and Yoni move ahead. They want their breakfast already. I finish with Elik and Jamey. My recalculations are almost perfect. We did it again! I joke to Adam that we have to do another half mile. He doesn’t buy it. I observe that everyone is in much better finishing shape than they were last year. Let’s eat.

Breakfast was excellent, and filling, and it was a treat for me to treat my friends. Many joined in, and there was lots of rotation. Some dropped by just to say happy birthday before continuing with their day (dad, Mordechai, Yaakov, Steven). The fellas surprised me again with birthday cake. I closed up breakfast, and was left to absorb and reflect upon my happiness.

I ambled over to my dad’s house and conked out on his couch for two hours. My wife then fetched me and brought me back to my mom’s house, where we had pizza. Then we went back to my dad’s house for more pizza and birthday cake for our son. He got a drone!

Three appendices, for your amusement:

Miscellaneous Interesting and Curious Observations:

§  The pic of my 10:23:29 run got 49 likes on Facebook.
§  I’m eligible for 25 donuts according to The Chart (http://www.hungryrunnergirl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/IMG_1034.jpg).
§  I’m partaking in a “2,016 miles in 2016” contest with some friends. I posted this to the Facebook page: “We Are Groot was, again, a little behind everyone else in the standings, so I ran as many miles as the age I'm turning, Yoni Meiri did a marathon, and we caught up a little bit. Our combined mileage covered 3.3% of the annual obligation. We ran a marathon together in February, and we'll just keep doing it till we catch all the way up. There's a method to our madness.”
§  As mentioned above, those who went all the way were in very good physical shape at the end. We weren’t wind-sheared or –beaten. We were properly nourished, hydrated, and layered. I’m very proud to have run with a group of professionals who took the elements seriously. Our reward was not feeling like ground-up dirt at the finish line.
§  This was my 34th run of marathon distance or longer. The numbers are starting to get a little crazy.
§  The actual furthest I’ve ever run is 41.5 miles. I had a faint thought about running .31 more to eclipse that, but I dispelled that quickly. I’ll have another crack at it soon.
§  After joining me for this year and last, Elik said he’s done, as he doesn’t like to repeat races. I must convince him otherwise.

Breakfast:

Coffee
Milkshake
Water
Veggie soup
Eggs
Three slices of toast
Big-ass cookie
Israeli salad
Birthday cake

And I was starving at the end of it.

Total Mileage of Run Participants:

Martin             41.2
Elik                  41.2
Jamey              41.2
Adam              41.2
Kalman            27.2
Yoni                26.2
Joe                   20.5
Shmuly            19.2
Judy                19.2
Moishie           17.8
Matt                17
Yisroel             15.5
Esther Leah     11
Sheina             11
Michael           10
David              5.5
Yossi               5.5
Leiby               5.5
Jack                 4.1


Thank you all for joining me!


I’ve heard that some of my friends and family don’t actually own at least one of my books. This is an oversight that must be remedied: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/mbodekatgmaildotcom, http://tinyurl.com/BodekKindleBooks