Saturday, June 5, 2010

Only in America

Yesterday I ran 14 miles. Yeah, I know. Yay, me. But this blog entry isn't about patting myself on my back. If I wanted to pat myself on the back, I'd tell you about how, during the first leg of yesterday's run, I passed an old veteran nodding off in the sun only to notice that he hadn't moved so much as a single inch when I passed him again more than two hours later. Certain he was dead, I doubled back to wake him up. As you might imagine, he was grumpyyou'd be too if a sweaty know-it-all woke you from a deep sleepbut when I told him I was checking on him, he gave me a weak smile, told me he was OK, and thanked me. I suppose it helped win him over that I chose NOT to tell him I'd thought he was dead.

But this blog isn't about me running 14 miles or saving dead veterans who were neither dead nor in need of my misguided heroics. This blog's about the insanity of the food industry in America.

Somewhere between miles 7 and 8 yesterday, I ducked into a Dunkin' Donuts to buy a bottle of water. It had to have been clear I was in the middle of the run:
  • I was rockin' my tune band;
  • I was a sweaty mess;
  • I literally jogged all the way to the door;
  • I went directly for the drink cooler; and
  • I'd even dropped two singles on the counter and made to turn without my change.
Despite all those clues, the most earnest Dunkin' Donuts employee in Americalet's call him EDDEbecame very agitated when I told him that yes, that was it, and tried to be off.

EDDE: But you know you get a free donut, right?
Me: I don't want it, thanks. I'm running.

EDDE: It's free.
Me (quick smile): I mean I'm running, like, right now.

EDDE (with exagerrated annunciation and patience): But, it's free.
Me (hitching a thumb at the guy behind me): Then give him whatever he wants.
The guy behind me in line tittered, and I moved to leave as EDDE called to me about my change, but I was already gone, gone, gone.

I spent a good half mile all worked up about how this country can ever possibly hope to be anything but an obese nation when the biggest donut chain has taken to giving out free lard wheels with a perfectly healthy water. But then I realized this was national donut appreciation day or some such.

Even so, EDDE's not the ripest tomato on the vine. Only in America would someone try and push a donut into a runner's hand during a pit stop. But, it's free, by jiggling ass.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Why The Next Few Fridays Can Bite Me

Thank god it's what now? Are you kidding? This is the week my long Friday run inches up to 14 miles, then it's 16 for a couple of weeks, then 18, then a very dizzying 20. Do you really think I'm in any mood to thank anyone it's Friday?

You know what? I'm staging a coup. Until I cross the finish line of my marathon on the evening of July 30 (though, really, the smart money's on me finishing somewhere after midnight on the morning of July 31), the acronym formerly known as an abbreviation for "thank god it's Friday" will stand for "tyrannically grueling impossible Fridays."

And with that, I'm off to run 14 miles. TGIF, indeed!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Happy National Running Day!

Today I celebrated National Running Day by running 4 miles in 38 minutes and 32 seconds. That's not only a personal best--it comes on the heels of breaking the hour wall for six miles last night. Go me and all that jazz.

What I don't want to do is mar this beautiful moment by thinking ahead to the 14-mile run I gotta slog through on Friday.


Kidding aside, maybe today's the day you go from thinking about running to actually running. I know running's not for everyone, but it might be for you. Have you ever looked at a jogger and wished you could do that? Or looked at a calories-burned chart and turned green when you noticed that runners can go out for half the time you walk and burn twice the calories (or near abouts)? Or looked back on those golden days when you used to run with nostalgia and wondered what exactly the road back would look like

If you've got the itch, you know it. So why not celebrate National Running Day by starting?. Run for two minutes of your walk today or jog from the door to your car when it's time to go home tonight. Or just cruise over to the National Running Day website for some great beginner tips.

And now that you're online anyway why not celebrate National Running Day by cruising over to my sponsorship page and pledgeing right this very minute?

I'm shameless. I know.

Catherine Elcik is running her first marathon to raise money for a scholarship fund for Grub Street, Inc, and independent writing center in Boston, MA. Sponsor the run at

Monday, May 31, 2010

Grub Tales: Jami Brandli

Jami Brandli’s work has been produced across the country, including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington DC where she was a Visiting Artist at the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive (2006, 2007). She was also a contributing writer for both stage and screen for the Elliot Norton Award-Winning production of “PS: Page Me Later,” a Visiting Playwright for the 2009 ATHE New Play Development Workshop, and a finalist for Disney ABC's 2008 TV Writing Fellowship. Her short plays are published in Smith & Kraus’ Best Ten-Minute Plays Anthologies (2007 and 2008). Her play, "The Sinker," won the 2009 Jury Prize for HotCity Theatre's GreenHouse New Play Series, and has received its world premiere in St. Louis in May, 2010. Her latest play, “Technicolor Life,” was recently accepted into the 2010 WordBRIDGE Playwrights Lab and is currently a semifinalist for The Ashland New Plays Festival. It was also a semifinalist for 2010 The O’Neill Playwrights Conference and a finalist for the 2010 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference. She now lives in Pasadena with her husband, Brian Polak, where she’s at work on scripts for both stage and screen and a novel. For her day job, she teaches dramatic writing at Lesley University’s low-residency MFA program in Cambridge, MA.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did you learn about Grub Street?
JAMI BRANDLI: I first learned about Grub Street in the spring of 1998. I saw a flyer in the Borders downtown, and although I can’t remember the exact words in the flyer, I do remember thinking: This place sounds perfect for me. I took my first fiction class with Julie Rold, and she was really fantastic at making the basics clear. At that point (twelve years ago!), I needed to understand the basics so I could find my voice.

RUN FOR GRUB: What has Grub Street meant to you?
JAMI BRANDLI: Without a doubt, Grub Street has helped shape me into the writer and teacher that I am today. As a student, Grub challenged me to take risks with my writing. As a teacher, Grub (specifically Chris Castellani) took a risk by hiring me to teach. In 2004, I had this crazy idea for a class where the students would write ten short shorts in ten weeks. At first Chris was like, Really? And then he was like, I get it. After about a week of brainstorming class titles, Ten Stories in Ten Weeks was born.

RUN FOR GRUB: What's your most magical Grub Street memory?
JAMI BRANDLI: I have a few:

1. The fiction class I took in the fall of 2000. I met Jane Roper and reconnected with Ellen Litman (we first met in a crazy fiction class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education), and Steven Almond was my teacher. I didn’t know it then, but Jane and Ellen would turn out to be two of my greatest friends in both life and writing. Ten years later, we’re still in a writers group along with two other grubbies, Morgan Frank and Jessica Murphy. These ladies are extraordinary. As for Steve, he's still one of the greatest teachers I've ever had. He literally rocked my writing world with one sentence: Jami, you must love your characters. I’m lucky to say that we’ve been friends ever since (despite the fact that he and Eve Bridburg have taken much of my money at poker games).

2. Every Ten Stories in Ten Weeks class I taught. All those students were truly amazing. Like champs, they were open to everything I threw at them, and then they asked for more.

3. I now teach playwriting and screenwriting at Lesley University’s low-residency MFA program where one of my former Grub Street screenwriting students, Terry Johnson, recently received his MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen. It was amazing to teach him once again. But what was even more amazing was when he thanked me at graduation for helping him become the writer he is today. Now THAT was a magical moment. And without Grub, that would have never happened.

RUN FOR GRUB: Grub Street almost closed in 2001, but--thank goodness--it reinvented itself as a nonprofit instead. What would you have lost if Grub had withered away eight years ago?
JAMI BRANDLI: I actually don’t want to think about that. A good chunk of my writing and teaching life would have never happened, and I would have never met many of my amazing friends. Grub Street has influenced so much of who I am now that it would have been like a parent dying if Grub had died in 2001.

RUN FOR GRUB: How does the magic of LA compare to the magic of Grub Street?
JAMI BRANDLI: It doesn’t compare because there isn’t anything remotely like Grub Street in LA! It’s depressing. However, I do get to come back to Boston twice a year while I teach at Lesley for the Winter and Fall residencies, so I do my best to get in my Grub time. I miss you, Grub!!!