Too Beautiful To Live

Somehow it has happened that I never made a post about TBTL, which seems a shame, since it is one of my favorite things in the world. What is TBTL? It is a podcast, formerly a radio show, hosted by former NPR personality Luke Burbank. To describe it any more than that is really hard to do, but I’ll give it a shot.

You know those morning drive zoo shows? It isn’t that, but people who don’t like TBTL have compared it to that. They have also compared it to your typical “hot talk” talk radio show. And while there are comparisons, it isn’t really that either. And it isn’t really a news show, although they definitely cover news, and it isn’t really a celebrity gossip show, although they do that as well. It isn’t a call in show, although they have had call ins from time to time.

What it is, I guess, is the ramblings and mind dumps of Luke Burbank and his friends and coworkers. There will be episodes where all they do is talk about what they did over the weekend, or episodes where all they do is talk about how much of a screwup the previous episode was. But they will also have interviews with people from Fran Lebowitz to Patton Oswalt to Ira Glass to a random guy talking about Scientology. They will solve mysteries and do radio cooking shows and break the news down into two categories for you: awesome or not awesome.

I’m doing a terrible job of selling it. And I would say that over the two and a half years of listening, I’ve only managed to get one person to agree that it is any good, and she is married to me, and probably has no choice but to agree with me. But I love it, and it is really the only thing I listen to.

There are around 1250 episodes, going back to the start of the show as a radio program in January of 2008. I started listening in August of 2010, so I missed a lot, which I have been working my way through for the past two years. I would say I’ve heard probably 800 of the episodes, so I still have a long way to go, but I’ll get there probably in the upcoming year. That will be a sad day for me, and yet also pretty exciting to know that I’ve listened to everything that these people have to say.

Yeah, that sounds really lame. And at times it definitely is. But the show has become a really important part of my life. It is a huge part of my daily routine. I almost don’t know what to do in my car when I don’t have it to listen to, and when I’m cooking at night with no TBTL on, things just seem off. I would say that one of my proudest “boxes” that I put myself into is that of a “ten”, which is the term given to listeners of TBTL. As the claim goes, they have “tens of listeners.”

Anyway, if you want to get a taste for what the show is like, may I humbly suggest listening to episode #850. In it they talk about sun damage, the book Go The Fuck to Sleep, oh, and they interview this fellow from St. Louis who is really into artistic roller skating.

Episode 850

Bronze Medal

Of all the ridiculous things that I chose to spend my time on, I think that my roller skating probably tops the list if that list were to be ordered by ridiculousness. I am a grown man, and I spend many hours and many dollars roller skating around in figure eights, and doing silly little dances in outfits that are covered in rhinestones. That is pretty damn silly.

Still, there is a large athletic component to it, and there is competition, and if you can look past the silly outfits and the preconceptions that most people have about roller skating, I think that you can come to the conclusion that it is just as valid a sport as anything else adult part-time athletes do. Then again, that could just be me trying to rationalize this crazy thing that I do.

Anyway, the National Championships for Artistic Roller Skating were earlier this month, and I qualified in one of my events, and even though I told myself I would only go if I qualified in both of my events, I ended up going. And so Kelly and I found ourselves driving up to Fort Wayne, Indiana a couple of weeks ago so that I could put on a spandex leotard thing and skate around in figure eights.

If any of you remember, I went to Nationals last year, and sucked big time. I don’t know if it was my nerves, or just a fluke, but I really messed up one of my eights really bad, and came in 17th out of 24. Not a great showing, and it kind of left me feeling down for the whole year, at least in regards to my skating. I was determined to do a better job this year. Even if just slightly.

And so on the morning that I was to skate, I was super nervous. Not only was there the pressure of doing better than last year, but I had been interviewed on my favorite podcast about this thing I do, and I didn’t want to let all of the listeners down. I was shaking, and shaking is a very bad thing to do when the goal is to be as precise as possible. But nerves and shaking are kind of par for the course for this event, so you soldier on.

Without getting into too many details of the actual skating, after the first round of competition I was in 2nd place. A good deal better than the year before. I had qualified for finals, which was my goal, and so no matter what I was going to be happy. Out of 25, they took 8, so I had done as well as I really felt like I could have hoped for.

And then something happened. As the day went on the nerves started coming back. While I originally figured I’d be happy just making finals, now it was feeling like I’d really only be happy with a medal. And even though I was in 2nd, that didn’t mean anything, because the scores are erased. And the figures that I had to do for finals were different than the ones that I had done for eliminations. And they included the figure that I messed up on last year. And I hadn’t practiced them in a couple of months. Things were not looking good.

But I got out there, and skated as best as I could. And something pretty damn cool happened – I came in third. I won a medal. I got to go stand on a podium with music playing and have a medal put around my neck. And while it isn’t the Olympics, for me it was as close as I’ll probably ever get, and it felt damn good.

I’ve kind of been riding this wave of excitement for the last two weeks. I might never medal again. Skaters in my club who have been skating years longer than have never won medals. And since I came in 3rd, I can no longer skate in that event and have to move up to a much harder one.

But all that being said, for now I can enjoy the fact that I did something pretty cool.

Happy End Of Year

As promised, a year end letter. But as I have mentioned in the past, it is getting harder and harder to write these things. I did the “completely absurd” a couple of times, but you can really only go so far with those. And then I tried sort of a mix, and that kind of worked out well. But I really don’t like doing the same thing over and over each year, just for the sake of having an end of the year letter. So I don’t know what this will be. Probably crap.

So like I said earlier, this was actually a really good year. This is a year where I saw Paris. PARIS! I went to Bruges, which is the single most amazing place I’ve ever been. With the possible exception of Paris. What is there to complain about in a year when things like that happen? I should reiterate how good my trip to Europe was. Despite the fact that I missed out on Amsterdam, I saw a lot, and had a really good time. I was thinking about the soccer game that I went to the other day. That was a trip that I will probably think about for the rest of my life.

And right after I got back from Europe, I got engaged. How can I complain about a year where I got engaged? And then just a few months later, I got married. MARRIED! I still can’t believe that I got married. And got married to someone who is really damn awesome. Someone so awesome that it almost makes me feel bad when I read or hear about stereotypical bad marriages and bad wives. Because I don’t have that at all. I’ve got it really, really good. And I’m pretty sure that we had the best wedding in the history of weddings. Rollerskating, cake, and deer. I don’t know what else you need.

Speaking of roller skating, I got first place in my event at Regionals. Again, it would feel wrong to write a bitchy letter when I had a year where something like that happened. And even though I totally tanked and sucked at Nationals, I still went and competed, and made a comeback at my next event by taking two second places.

Oh, and somewhere in all of that, we remodeled our bathroom and have the most kickass bathroom in the world. If you had ever been to my house and seen the old bathroom, you knew how bad it was. Well the new one is probably a million times better than that one.

But since people like the bad stuff, I guess I can throw some of that in as well. Mom and Dad still haven’t sold their house. So that means we won’t be going to Disney World anytime soon, which is a pretty selfish way of looking at it, but I know that I’m not the only one with that view of the situation. And Kelly and I found out that her house is worth significantly less than she owes on it. So we’ve had to rent it out, which has been good for money reasons, but not so good for stress reasons.

And I guess in the process of ripping out the bathroom, we destroyed the kitchen, so we’ve basically been living without a functioning kitchen for close to a year now. But you know what? That is about to get remodeled too, so it is hard to complain too long for that.

So yeah. This has been a really damn good year. I know that things are hard out there for a lot of people. I know that the world isn’t a terribly happy place. And if you follow the links I post on Facebook, you’ll see that I’m getting more and more frustrated with our government, and even our system of governing. But still, I think all of that is pretty inconsequential in light of all of the good things that I’ve had happen to me this year, and so at least for the last little bit of 2010 I’m going to choose to focus on those things, and not so much on the bad things.

Double Second Place

So at that skating competition a couple of weeks ago I came in 2nd place in both of my events. And I’m pretty happy with this, considering that I had not put in much effort towards getting read.

I think that it was even more impressive because before my dance event, while warming up, some guy accidentally tripped me and I fell hard on the concrete skating surface. Let me tell you, it hurt like hell. I ripped a hole in my outfit, and really banged up my knee, elbow, and wrist.

But despite that, I was able to come in second, and the girl who came in first is a friend of mine, so it is all good. Especially considering the last time I had competed in this event, I came in 7th, against many of the same people.

So that was all good, but now I have to figure out to do with my poor little outfit.

Skating Competition

I have a skating competition this weekend, and I’m actually not very excited about it. It is just a little local competition, and I’m a little burnt out on skating right now.

Oh, and I have to skate at 6:00 in the morning. So I have to be there at like 5:00. Which means I need to leave my house around 4:15. So I’m gonna have to wake up at like 3:30.

Anyway, I’m sure that no one on here is going to want to come to it, because even I don’t really want to go. But it is an opportunity to see me in rhinestones. So if you want info, let me know.

You Know What Sucks?

I had basically worked for 8 months on getting ready for Nationals. Which isn’t really THAT much time, but it feels like I had been preparing for a long time. For 6 or more hours a week I would focus on doing the same thing, over and over, to get it to the point where I was as good as I was going to be. And then I practiced some more, trying to make it even better.

And then it was time to compete. To show what all of this work had done. To show how good I was. And you know what I did? I screwed up huge in a way that I never had before. I did a combination of two things that had never happened to me, and combined they sent me to a lovely finish of 17th. It hurts to type it. I did that badly. THAT badly.

The pain has subsided a little bit in the 6 days since I competed, but mostly because I’ve been trying to think about other things. But I was driving home the other day and some music from my “get pumped up” playlist came on, and there is was. Failure.

So really all there is to do now is get back to practice and start over. I’ve got a year before I can make amends, but I also have a year to get better and fix things. And get mentally stronger.

But for now I’m taking a few weeks where I’m going to try to not think about skating at all. I think maybe I’ve had too much skating for a while.

Nationals

Tomorrow is Nationals, basically the culmination of what I’ve been working towards for 7 months. So wish me luck. I should be back with more regularity after this.

Nationals

Remember all that talk that I had going on about Regionals? Well the whole point of Regionals, really, was to qualify for Nationals, which I did halfway. So in a couple of weeks I will be heading out to the untamed wilds of Lincoln, Nebraska to be competing against that best beginners that are over 18 that the US has to offer.

And truth be told, I’m not really nervous. This year Regionals was my thing. I was aiming to do well there, and anything above that is just a bonus. So I’m going to go, have fun, watch some other people skate, and go out and do my best without stressing out too much about how well I do. If I make finals, great, and if I don’t but I skate my best, then that is great too.

I do have a few things to do to prepare for the competition, though. Well really only one thing. Putting rhinestones on my outfit so that I’ll be even prettier. I started last night, and it was really tedious, and frustrating, and I got glue all over my fingers. But I have to say, it does make the outfit sparkle. So that’s a bonus.

Finally, Nationals are going to be streamed live over the Internets. I’m not sure if my event will be one of the ones streamed, but if it is, I will post a link so that you can all watch me precisely go around in a circle. Which I know is what you all want.

Married

So I haven’t posted since regionals, but there is a good reason. I’ve been getting ready to get married, and now I am. And to be honest, it doesn’t really feel that different than before I was married. But that is probably a good thing, because I was happy then, and I am happy now.

It is a little weird, when I think about it. I think it is mostly weird because it feels like something SHOULD be different. Life there should have been some big revelation or something. But that hasn’t been the case. Today was just like any other Sunday, including going to skating practice in the morning.

But then I think about it a little more. “Whoa, I’m married.” I think a big part of me never really expected that to happen, and yet, here I am.

So we’ll see. Day one has been good. Hopefully the rest will be pretty good as well.

The Recap

3:20 – Sunday morning.

I woke up.

Puking.

Nerves.

Panic attack.

As bad as I had had in a long time. I was terrified to go out there and have to compete. And I had no practice time on the floor. And everyone the day before had told me how they all slipped. And slipping was my biggest fear. It had been for months.

I tossed and turned for a few hours, but didn’t get any real sleep. So around 6:00 I got up, got ready as best I could, packed, met up with the rest of the team, and headed to the rink.

I was a mess.

I got dressed and put on my skates. The nerves built up, but it also felt good to get my skates on. At least a little bit of a familiar feeling. I thought I had about 40 minutes to relax and get ready. They called my name in about 20.

So I went out onto the practice figure circle. I was shaking, but my coach Sherri was there, and my other coach Keith was on the side, and the rest of the team was standing there for support.

I started warming up. And I was shaking. Bad. No food in me. Dehydrated. Terrified. But the practice went okay. I didn’t do terribly. I didn’t do great. But I made it around. I stayed on my skates.

And then they called my number. So I went to the referee, and he told me what I had to do, and wished me luck. And I skated out to the circle. Three judges were waiting for me. And I started. And they followed me, staring at my feet. And my leg was shaking. And my arms were shaking. But I guess my practice took over, and I made it around. One down, two to go.

So after I was done I went over to Sherri, and she told me that I had done well, Keith told me to just improve on the next two. But the next one was the figure that I was dreading. The figure I was most afraid of slipping on. And it was onto the practice circle to try it out. And I slipped. And then I slipped again. And then I started, but I slipped halfway through. And on top of that, my form was completely thrown off. I couldn’t concentrate because of the slips.

Sherri saved the day. She had powder for my wheels. It made them grippier.

And it was back to the referee, and back to the judges. I started the figure. I didn’t slip. Downhill from here, I thought. Nail this, and you’re home free.

And I made it through as best I could, considering the circumstances. One more to go.

Back to the practice circle. And I warmed up, and then went again. The last one was a little too fast. Not my best. But I finished. I did it. I made it through, and gave Sherri a hug.

It was time to wait. An hour until the results were announced.

I just sat there, nervously waiting. I was glad it was done, but I really wanted to do well. Four of us competed in my event. I wanted to come in third. To at least beat someone. But I have only been skating seriously for about 7 months. There were guys in my event who have been doing this over a decade. So I was scared.

Courtney (another team member) told me she thought I did well. But mostly people didn’t say much. Superstition, maybe.

And then it was awards time. So I waited while they announced all the other awards. I stood there thinking “Third would be good. Second would be really nice. And I know it will never happen, but how cool would it be to hear my name called first?”

“And now the results of Novice B Mens Figures. In first place, skater #117, Nathan Halley.”

Flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to do. My eyes definitely got a little watery. I skated out, got my medal, and gave Pat (another skater from the team who was helping people up to the podium at the time) a big hug, and got up on the podium. With a big dumb smile on my face.

The rest of the day wasn’t quite as great, but I did my best, and came away with something that I’m really proud of.

As a sort of epilogue, in writing this I realized how… lets say “emotional” I came across. And I have seen figure skaters on TV and seen them cry and stuff and go to their coaches afterwards. And I always thought it was a little… fruity. Not fruity=gay. Fruity=fruity. You know. But then I got out there and did it, and for some reason, it is a really emotional, and emotionally trying sport. So I totally understand. After you’re done, you totally want a hug from your coach and to just sit and not think about anything for a while. I get it.

Regionals

So this weekend is it. The event of the Century. Actually, no. It is the event of the weekend. Regionals! All the way up in glorious Minneapolis. There will be fun! Festivities! Frivolities. Actually, likely not much of that. Probably a lot of roller skating. And some sitting around.

Anyway, I guess I’m prepared. I have more practice tonight and tomorrow, but let’s be honest. At this point I’m not going to make any great strides or anything. At best I can hope to fix a few small issues, and get my various steps a little more ingrained.

What I am not prepared for, and I don’t think I can be prepared for, is the mental aspect. The things I’m doing aren’t that physically complicated. It is difficult to do them well, but they aren’t insanely tricky. But mentally, they can actually get you. There are a ton of things that you have to remember, and in the end, it is a mental game. This has been reinforced to me the last several days by my coach and several of my fellow skaters who keep telling me that you have to be mentally tough.

Well here is the thing. I am not mentally tough. I am the absolute king of psyching myself out. I can psych myself out of anything. And it has already begun for skating. I’m already convinced myself that I’m going to screw up a takeoff or something, and that will surely make it a reality, which only convinces me more, which only assures it even more. It is a vicious, vicious cycle.

So I’m going to do my best, but I really don’t have any clue what my best is. But hopefully I’ll have some fun, and it’ll be an adventure regardless. And honestly, I don’t really care what position I come in. I mean, after all, it is just roller skating.

Vacation

I am on vacation right now in Lake Tahoe. Right now I have a couple of thoughts about it. One, the area is really pretty. Two, it is high up and it makes it really hard for me to breathe. I’ve been having a hard time for the last couple of days, which isn’t a lot of fun. Three, I do not want to go back to work. I really like this extended vacation that I have been on. And it has been quite a joy to get to ride on so many different airplanes and go through different airports. And luckily I still have a bit more of that to do before the end of the month.

Anyway, like always, I have been neglecting this. And as cliche as it is, life has been really busy lately. It should calm down pretty soon, though. Regionals are coming up in 2 weeks, and after that I should have more free time to devote to other things. Then again, there are so many other things, that perhaps it is wishful thinking to think that after Regionals things will calm down.

My Insulin Pump

I wear an insulin pump and it keeps me alive. If I didn’t have it, either I would die, or I would have to give myself a bunch of shots during the day. So it is pretty much the most important possession that I own, in a lot of ways. It is a really good friend. And yet, I don’t treat it very well. What I mean by this is that I don’t like for it to be known that I have it. I don’t really go out of my way to hide it, but I also don’t go out of my way to flaunt it. I keep it in my pocket and all of the tubes tucked away as well as possible. I’m not ashamed of it, but I also don’t really want people to know that I have it. It is just sort of a strange mental thing. I like to appear “normal”.

So in this spirit I ordered my skating pants with some special inside pockets. That way I can wear my pump and keep it on the inside, so that no one will know that I am diabetic while I am skating. I don’t want to be judged differently because of it. And I don’t think that I would be, but you never know.

And then over the last couple of days, I changed my mind. I think that I’ve decided to compete with my pump clipped to the back of my pants, on display, for everyone to see. Why? To get favor from a judge? To make people feel sorry for me? No. It is because maybe at the competition there will be some little kid, or some young teenager who has diabetes. Someone who is really embarrassed that they are “different.” Someone ashamed or scared or just having trouble with their diabetes. And it isn’t silly. It is really hard for kids and young teenagers who have this disease, from what I understand.

So maybe if they see someone out there, someone a little older than them, who has the same disease that they do, and is still able to do things, like compete in an athletic event, that it will make them feel a little better about themselves. Or maybe just let them know that they aren’t such a weird total freak.

Who knows? Chances are that I won’t be competing in such a situation where someone would notice. And maybe they wouldn’t even care. But based on the chance that maybe there is, I think I owe it to them, and especially to myself, to own this disease and show that it is okay. That it isn’t the end of the world and that we can do anything that people with working pancreases can do.

Tests Completed

So for everyone who was wondering, I passed all of my roller skating tests, which means that I am able to compete at Regionals, so that is exciting news. The tests went well, and it was fun to be judged and have a sense of validation of all of the work that I have been doing.

Now I just have to get ready for Regionals, which is going to be a huge task. I am nowhere close to being able to compete at a high level, and I really only have a few weeks left, and I’m going out of town twice before the competition. But after a lot of thinking and worrying, I’ve decided to go ahead with it. What is the worst that can happen, right?

In other news, life is extremely busy right now. House, wedding, skating, life. So it has been hard to find the time to write things on here. But I haven’t forgotten about this. No worries.

Regionals

So I roller skate, and as embarrassing as that was for me at first, I have finally come to terms with it. And really, I don’t just roller skate. That sounds like I just go every once in a while and skate around in circles while listening to music that I don’t really like. No no.

This is much more serious. I artistic roller skate, which is the figure skating equivalent of roller skating. I don’t do jumps, although I have tried and if pressured could sort of do one. And will possibly learn more in the future. But I do other things, like dances and these things called figures which are basically tracing patterns on the ground. And I’m still very new to all of this, and learning a lot, and not particularly good at anything, but I’m getting better.

I spend between 5-8 hours a week skating, which isn’t enough, really. It is just enough for me to keep up my current skills and learn a little bit more. I’d probably skate about twice as much a week if I could, but I have work, and a house to work on, and I’m trying to learn French, and plan a wedding.

Why am I going over all of this? As a setup for this. I’d be perfectly happy just hanging out and skating on my own, for my own happiness. But apparently one of the things that you can do with some of these skills that I’ve acquired is compete. And I guess you can win things. Hopefully cars or money, but probably not. At first I was very apprehensive about competing, for one reason. Under no circumstances did I want to wear a figure skating outfit. I figured that if I could wear jeans, or my track pants that I usually practice in, then great. But no, you have to wear a little… “outfit”. But I finally broke down and ordered an outfit. And I actually haven’t seen it, but I’ve been told that it looks “athletic”. That could mean anything.

But since that is out of the way, I guess I’m going to compete. And in particular, I’m going to compete at something called “Regionals” and it is happening in July in Minneapolis. And then if I do well enough there, I get to go to something called “Nationals”, where presumably the cars and money are. So if you are going to be in Minneapolis June 18th-20th or so, you should definitely come by and see me look… different than anyone has seen me before.

Anyway, as a last note, I realized the other day how horribly unprepared I am for this competition. Because this is actually pretty important to me, and I want to do well. So I’m going to be preparing pretty hardcore for the next 3 months. At least as hardcore as one prepares for this sort of thing. I might even possibly be going as far as working out outside of skating.

Yeah… What has become of me?

Roller Skating Update

So I’ve kind of become a little obsessed with this whole roller skating thing. Kelly and I are taking two classes a week, and I’m thinking about going even more. Most importantly, it is actually good exercise, and I hadn’t really been getting any of that. With my condition, exercise is definitely something that I could use more of. So that’s good.

But I’ve also found out that I’m pretty good at this, for some reason. I think that in part it is because I spent many, many hours playing hockey on skates when I was younger. So I’m pretty comfortable being on skates, and skating around. But I don’t think that is all of it. I think, as scary as this is to admit, that I might have a little bit of natural talent at this. *shudder*

So yeah, I can already sort of do some spins, and I can do some jumps, including a toe loop, which anyone who has watched the Winter Olympics knows about. I also suddenly care about posture, and knee strength, and bone density. These are things that I’ve never cared about before.

And then I think about all of it, and I write a post like this, I get this kind of queasy feeling inside myself and wonder what the hell has become of me.