Saturday, June 30, 2007

What Lies Beneath

Today we worked on the house from 6:30 in the morning until 10:00 at night. I put some pictures up with some detailed captions if you have any interest in seeing the progress. I am so horrified by some things the previous owners left for us, though, that I can hardly celebrate our forward motion.

We pried up the maroon carpet in the living room to find all sorts of goodies beneath. A razor blade, some cheerios, a green plastic dog bone, pennies, even a quarter. Some of these items made their way into the air vents in the corners, too.

Now, we have already noted that these owners were trashy inbreds who brag about it. We are also quickly discovering they were sloppy and didn't enjoy a job well done. All the switch plates are installed crookedly. They never took the masking tape down when they painted the bedroom. They dripped puddles of paint on the floors in the hallways. And they were contractors by trade!

But by far the most egregious breach in behavior code came from their treatment of the air vents. While I was removing staples this morning I peeked in the gaping hole. I spied small white crescents. They were toenails. Piles and piles of toenails.

I remember looking at the house when they still lived there:
Take note the man-chair positioned next to the air vent. Now envision the owner sitting in that man-chair for years, slowly peeling off his disgusting toenails and DROPPING THEM IN THE AIR VENT! The vent that pumps the air his children breathe.

We stopped what we were doing immediately to swear to one another this would never become our habit. We might fart and laugh about it, we might forget to put on underpants when we walk in the kitchen with the blinds up, but we will NEVER rip off our toenails with our bare hands and make a mountain in the air vent. And if we do, we have permission to save humanity by slicing each other's throats with the offending talons.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Things are Expensive

Do you know how much it costs to buy blinds for 8 windows? $500. I feel it was worth it. We spent a large chunk of our wedding booty so I could rip down the lacy curtains and those solid colored window coverings that look like movie projector screens from high school. Now, we have delightful honeycomb, cordless, cellular shades that are "attractive and appealing way to dress up windows and filter natural light."

I like them because they can be adjusted to the precise height that I want, let in light AND air, and aren't made of cheap plastic. Plus, when I close them I am still invisible to the outside world, so I can continue to run around my house naked after GW moves out (or possibly before he moves out if I get really drunk and forget he's there). So I'm very happy with the blinds. But $500? That's so much money. That's half a trip to Peru. That's my portion of our rent AND cable AND cell phone for one month.

Other things are not very expensive when you would expect them to be. Like I just spent more on blinds than I will on a washer or a dryer. Think how long I will have my washer, how many wool purses it will felt, and it costs less than blinds. How do these things work? Who is in charge of the pricing around here?

I cannot help but remember high school econ class, where Mr. Rohrbach talked about supply/demand and diamonds/water. Then I realize I am full of crap and really just irritated that I spent half a grand on window coverings when I could have just slapped up some aluminum foil and been done with it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Headquarters: The Before Shots

This is our basement/bathroom. We aren't really going to do any work in here other than fill it with things. This is where bicycles and Christmas decorations will live happily with excess paper towels and laundry detergent. (Once we purchase a washer and dryer)

This is our contractor, GW, assessing the hardwood floors. "Hmmmmm," says GW. "These look pretty good!" He'll be spending the next segment of his life fixing our home because he's nice to us. He's wearing overalls and a red hat, like Mario.

This is my office, cleverly painted in latex paint, and crappily. I will be spending many disgusting hours with a razor blade peeling 704 cubic feet of poorly applied latex paint from the walls before I can paint the room Pecan Sandie with Wood Cabin trim.
It's cool to peel my office, though, because Allie says she likes to peel things and will peel the whole room! Okay!

Here's the hardwood under the upstairs hallway carpet. Looks to be in pretty nice shape! I feel excited about that. Why would anyone cover this beautiful wood with maroon carpet?

This pretty pink room has darker hard wood floors. As you can see in the corner, the wood is kind of stained. GW can fix it. This will be his bedroom/the reading room and one wall will be Pumpkin. The pink curtains are gone already.
Here's the living room! That big old mirror will be gone and this whole room will be Asparagus. It's hard to tell right now, but the stained glass windows have some lovely greens in there that will look so great with the Asparagus paint. The lacy curtains and the maroon carpet will be gone, gone, gone before this weekend. I'm thinking Ikea has a great area rug just for me somewhere.

Here's the dining room. More maroon carpet, gone! This room has some really lovely stained glass windows. I'm painting it a shade of undetermined blue to bring out the purples and blues in the stained glass.

The kitchen is awesome. Just awesome. No maroon in there at all and there is ample cabinet space for all my cooking needs. There is another whole wall of cabinets to my left, which you cannot see in this shot. AND! we have a side-by-side refrigerator with an ice cube maker and a water dispense. Corey will never, ever again put empty ice cube trays back in the freezer or leave the water pitcher compeltely dry on the top shelf. Ever. Life is good.

Additionally, the pantry has roll out shelves. So when I put tomato paste in the way back of the top shelf, I just need to roll it front to reach it. A short girl's dream!

Here's the other half of the basement. The man space. Corey plans to hang bicycles from the wall down here and set up tool areas. The nook in the rear left will be my rugby space. Tonight, I will fill it with cleats and jerseys and balls and bags! Hurrah!

This is Corey's office. The owners left a rolly chair and a filing cabinet, which I think is cool. It looks sort of depressing at night in the lights, but it gets pretty much light during the day. It's like a cubicle, where Corey belongs. Bwahahaha

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dogs on the Bus

Today there was a lady on the 71A with her dog. I got on the bus and saw a little old lady in the front seats, the ones for passengers with special needs. She had a dog on her lap. There are often people with seeing eye dogs or every now and then someone with a tiny dog in a purse, so this didn't seem odd.

The dog sat with her and she petted it and even pulled out a dog brush and began to groom it a bit. Each time a new passenger would sit next to her, I'd hear the same story: "Oh, this is my collie. I named her Lassie. I have lots of dogs. At home I have a beagle and even a lab." She talked about grooming her pets, how they are the light of her life in her old age. It was very sweet. I hoped to some day love a pet like that again. But I didn't get involved in the conversation.

I was engaged in my people watching. There was a cute toddler with braids in front of me. I was sticking my tongue out at her and not staring too closely at the dog lady. It was only when I got up to leave the bus that I looked very closely at her and her pet.

There, sitting on her lap, representative of her brood of canines, was a stuffed dog. A toy animal. Like a pound puppy, but a little more life-like. Plastic yellow eyes and all.

New Team Headquarters

We did it. We bought a house. All of it! It was a very strange experience in many ways. For starters, the sellers spent a great deal of time at the closing bragging about their inbred relatives. "My great grand parents were first cousins!" said the lady, launching into a long story of feuds and secrets.. Corey and I just looked at one another and tried to melt into the floor.

While all this was going on, our realtor was shoving heaps of papers onto the floor. Another realtor had made Corey-piles on the closing table. She was just sweeping armfuls of crap off the glass surface. It was like my dream. I was too jealous to concentrate.

When it was all over, everything was very anticlimactic because Corey had to go to class and we couldn't exactly move anything in to our home and enjoy it. I put some wedding gifts in some cupboards. Nobody carried me over the threshold. I basically stood in the living room dripping sweat and watching the sun set against the tall apartment building by Highland Park.

This morning, motivated, I got up at started driving carloads of stuff to put in my new closets. I met Valerie, my German neighbor who greeted me by saying "You look German!" and ended the conversation by declaring "You look like a strong German girl. You'll have good babies."

It's so unfair that I have to work today instead of measuring my windows or purchasing a washer/dryer set. I am very distracted by the need to fill my new home with my stuff. In just under three weeks, I will be fully installed in my new headquarters. A spouse, a homeowner, and a graduate student all in one year. I suspect I may indeed be a grown-up on paper.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


The sense of community and neighborliness in Pittsburgh continues to astound me. Each day makes me more happy to have moved here. Last night showed me two neighborly qualities unique to Pittsburgh: private BBQs and communal help.

Several of my friends and I went to the Pittsburgh Passion game to watch them stomp Erie in the playoffs. We showed up early, secured a sweet parking space on a street of questionable safety within one block of the stadium, bought our tickets, and sought some dinner. Right outside the stadium, a family sat outside with some lawn furniture and a huge grill. They had coolers and racks of chicken. It eventually occurred to me that they were selling the chicken and iced tea to boot! Three bucks for a half chicken that smelled delicious seemed like a good deal to me. They also had three dogs for two bones, so the writers and I took residence with the family for a bit and bought dinner from someone's house.

I actually heard of this happening before. My friend lives in Bloomfield and says she walks by these sorts of "stands" daily. Just men and their kettle grills on their stoop. Why not? It's just neighborly to stop by and eat some chicken. It's also very strange, because mothers with cigarettes shoo children out of the lawn furniture for us, the company. It was more fun than tailgating, though with less beer.

After the "game" (I use quotations because the Passion won 63-7, had 34 dressed substitute players and competed against a team who brought 15 players spending 60 minutes charging both sides of the grid iron) we discovered the Maxima had a dead battery. Not just a little dead. The clock didn't turn on. The windows wouldn't slide down. The "check engine" light did not illuminate. It was hopelessly dead. For the next hour, people kept emerging to help us. A man in a fancy car stopped to give us a jump for almost twenty minutes. Another man in a Cincinnati Reds jersey wrangled our corroded jumper cables for us as smoke and sparks flew through the air.

The Reds guy told us we could pour Pepsi on the battery later and get that corrosion gunk off of there. He kept checking back on us to make sure things were ok as we waited for AAA. I have never lived in a place where strangers would stop what they were doing for so long to help people in distress. Not even a AAA Plus membership can provide instant supervision and continued communal assistance. Eventually, Ed from the Marriott hotel drove the Marriott van over and gave us a jump with functional jumper cables. I was beside myself.

I feel I owe a karmic debt to the city of Pittsburgh and its people. I need to finally let go of the road rage and head-down-while-I-walk grumpiness that seeped into my skin working in New York. I want to be a neighbor.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Awesome 80s: A Tale of 2 Parties

Sophomore year of college, I convinced Corey to attend an 80s-themed rugby party with me. We squeezed him into a vintage soccer jersey by way of costume and trotted off down the blizardy street with my sister Betsy. Corey, as usual, stood motionless by the keg, silently enjoying the party in his own way, without conversations or dancing. Many hours later, Betsy was too drunk to walk in her little jean jacket and skirt and my pal Corey carried her over a mile to my dorm room. In the snow. He dumped her lifeless body on the couch and I just looked at him, this wonderful person who would carry my sister for me when I provided her teenaged self with illegal intoxicants. I decided I loved him. Even though we were just good friends. Even though I wasn't brave enough to tell him about my revelation for six months.

Six years later, I dragged him to another 80s party, at Belvedere's in Lawrenceville. This time, his friends were there and he was able to play competitive ping pong with several poets from my grad school. We rode bicycles and drank PBR from cans as the awful music blared over break dancers. And a strange thing happened. Corey enjoyed a party. He started to dance. First a little wiggle here and there. Then, full blown gyrations, head thrown back with laughter and jubilation! He even dared a PDA, my husband who gets uncomfortable holding hands. Corey!

I had to beg him to leave at two in the morning, when I was so sweaty and tired I couldn't hold my body upright. He was still laughing and joking with his friends when we headed up the ginormous hill on our bicycles. My heart filled with love when, yet again, he helped a Rank girl get home. Tipsy as he was, riding his fixed gear, Corey pushed me up that hill on my bike. One hand flat on my back as we both pedaled, he shoved me into Garfield at 230 in the morning.

I think 80s music brings out the best in Corey--the selfless acts of kindness and overflowing love for good friends. 80s music makes me love him and I will remain forever in debt to Michael Jackson's Thriller for showing me the best thing to ever come from New Jersey.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dirty Cyclist

I just rode my bike home in the pouring rain. It made me feel dirty and tough. I liked it! I had two heckling incidents earlier this week (The first on Monday: "Get on the sidewalk, bitch! Get the f^@k off the road!" Followed by lengthy honking and hand waving from a gold Altima. The second today: "Hey, baby. I'll teach you how to riiiiide." followed by hip gesticulating and air humping from a gross man at a gas station) that made me hate riding my bike. Almost made me throw in the towel, in fact.

But then I got to whiz past idling cars at rush hour as steam rose from my overheated body and that was awesome! Plus, other cyclists chat with me through Shadyside when I'm not panting. I feel like I could get used to this, enjoy it maybe!

We'll see if I still feel that way later tonight after Corey and I ride to and from Belvedere's for 80's night. Does a helmet go with a side ponytail?


Yesterday I rode the 500. I have said before that I think the 500 is more filled with babies than the 71A. Wednesday afternoon was no different. There was only one available seat: in the very back in between 2 toddlers yellowed with Cheez-it. They were super cute. They each had little Yankee hats and matching polo shirts. The older one stared out the window and picked at his Band-aid. The younger one burbled and kept pointing at my arm.

I was smiling so much my face hurt, because this kiddo was so cute. He thought my watch was really interesting. He kept trying to play peak-a-boo. He kept clapping his hands and then laughing hysterically, as if to say "I know you wish you were covered in Cheez-it, too. You're silly!"

Then, out of nowhere, his grandmother spanked the crap out of him. "Don't you bother that lady!" she said. The kid, being 2, forgot and started poking my watch again. I had the timer running to see how long my journey was taking in the traffic. I think he liked the flashing seconds. But the grandma kept spanking him each time he flirted with me.

I got so uncomfortable. I wanted to move seats, but I didn't want the grandma to think I was upset with the kid and spank him more. I didn't know how to indicate that it was her corporal punishment and not the Cheez-it crumbs making me antsy.

I just sat there judging her, old and gray taking care of three children under 5 (she had the third baby asleep on her lap) after a long tiring day. But she was spanking that little boy who was just bubbling over with child joy. Should I have said something to her on that crowded bus? Should I at least have said "He doesn't bother me at all"?

When they got off the bus, I saw the two toddlers holding each other's hands to cross the 4-lane street because the grandmother's arms were full of the sleeping baby and the diaper bags and packages. I know I have absolutely no comprehension of their difficult life. But I don't think I'll ever understand the amount of despair it must take for someone to hit a small child like that.

Monday, June 18, 2007


My fingertips are on fire. I blame wedding season. My cousin played the flute beautifully in my wedding and says I now owe her for hers. I am picking up my violin after a 6-year hiatus. It's amazing to me that I played that sucker for 15 years and didn't think twice about my rock hard fingertips. I must have been walking around with little pebbles on my left hand. How did I ever sense temperature or feel texture?

I discovered on opening my violin case that my bow had exploded. When I took it to the fix-it man, he told me I had mites in my case. Tiny creatures living in my violin case snacking on the horsehair in the dark for half a decade. "Just vacuum your case and leave the whole thing open in the sunlight," he told me. You better believe I vacuumed that case. Now the whole getup sits on the floor beneath my office window. I am never closing it ever again.

I never thought I would want to play the violin again. I assumed I would begrudgingly practice for Meredith's wedding and then close it all up tight. It's amazing, though, how comforting it feels. Perhaps because I'm a rugby masochist now the finger pains give me joy? Something happens where I feel the music coursing through me and I just want to go, go, go until I am out of rosin. And then I notice that the strings are in fact causing my fingers to crack and bleed so I have to stop.

While Corey was in a wedding this weekend, I spent some time schmoozing with his friend's dad, who is a violist. We talked about my finger pains. He gave me advice, like don't practice more than 20 minutes at a time until I get my callouses back. He had nothing to offer about the mites, though.

At the reception later, I danced with all of Corey's friends (because he does not dance) and one of them had baby-smooth hands. A bike rider! Where were his rhino hide hands? As my pebbles sprout to the surface of my left hand, the palms of both hands are starting to get a bit course from my commute. It seems I am destined to enjoy only those activities which make my hands and feet feel as if they have been soaked in battery acid. Maybe passionate people weren't meant to have soft skin.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cars Are Coffins

My co-worker came in to work today with some road rash. She had crashed her bike on the cobblestones down town. This started a whole barrage of car accident tales from my co-workers and all the students. I heard the following stories:

Student 1: Dude, I got hit in a hit and run before. This car hit me so hard, and the driver just...he or she just took off. It took me like five minutes to find my boot! It knocked me right on out my Timbs!

Student 2: I was walking up DeSoto you know, outside Children's Hospital? I checked both ways and there was no car. Then I started text messaging and a car hit me! Like in the movies! I rolled up onto the hood and hit the windshield. I was just laying there thinking "Oh my God, I just got hit by a car." Everyone started laughing at me.

Co-Worker 1: I was riding my bike in Colorado and I got drive-by Super-Soakered. It knocked me right off my bike! Have you ever been Super Soakered? If they pump it hard, that can be like a garden hose.

Co-Worker 2: I got drive-by paint balled! I was walking along at night time and they just started shooting at me from the car. Those suckers hurt.

What made this sharing session even more wonderful was that at its conclusion, we tutors helped the students compose cultural analysis essays about Flavor of Love. I love my job.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Red Beard the Savior

This is a pirate's tale of risk and danger, thrill and rescue on the high seas. It ends in romance and involves an attack by a barracuda, I kid you not.

Once upon a time, Red Beard the Pirate took his captive princess on a treacherous voyage in the rocky seas, amidst a fiery hurricane. The sea was rough that day, my friends. The wind roared and the watercraft, the USS Sunfish, galloped across the waves. Red Beard laughed into the gale and told the princess to open up the sail. "Let out the sheet!" he bellowed.

Red Beard grew addicted to the speed of the craft. He chased the wind with abandon and, noticing a shift in the breeze, shouted "Coming about!" The boom jerked to starboard and the princess, pale and frightened at her first sailing misadventure, was not quick enough. The craft capsized, spitting the princess and the pirate into the ocean.

The princess remembered the warnings of the snorkling instructor the day before: These waters are infested with barracudas! Look out! She clung to the bow and screamed as the keel floated away from the ship. Red Beard's reflexes kicked in and he acted in a flash.

He threw off his pirate hat and pirate sunglasses and dove into the depths to save the keel. The princess shrieked as he coerced her from the bow, where she clung like the prow of a ship. He grabbed the keel, heaved a mighty grunt, and righted the vessel. As the sail popped into the sky, the boat bobbed happily again on the water.

Red Beard clambered into the ship and secured the sail. He retrieved his tri-corn hat and glasses and reached out to the princess, who was near death with fright. Barracudas began to circle the ship, waiting to sink their teeth into the delicate flesh of the princess. With one arm, Red Beard pulled the princess aboard and grabbed the rudder. As she swooned in the bottom of the boat, he looked into the sun and turned the boat for shore. The foamy sea splashed after the lovers as they sailed into the sunset, headed for paradise together after their near death experience.


We went sailing on a sunfish one day when it was really windy. I didn't tack fast enough when we came about and the boat capsized. I was scared of barracudas and forgot to hold onto the keel. Corey swam after it, fixed it, and righted the boat with one fell pull. He yanked me aboard and sailed me to safety before the Sandals rescue boat even got out there to check on us. My hero!

Back to the Bus

I rode the 71A the other day because it rained. I am supposed to be a bicycle commuter this summer, so you can imagine how it pained me to miss a day of riding and aggravating my raw buttocks and quads. Because it was raining so much, the bus was very full. And there was a wheelchair-bound lady on the bus.

When we got to this lady's stop, nobody would get out of her way so she could wheel out of the bus. They all refused to step out of the aisle and into the rain, instead squeezing onto the elderly people sitting in the front seats. The poor lady had to Austin Powers turn her way around the feet and bookbags. It took six minutes. Then, she reached a standstill. She could go no more.

Blocking her freedom were the feet and thighs of an enormously tall man. He sat staring ahead looking irritated, as if his long bones were not the cause of our delay in moving onward. Finally, the driver said "Stand up so the lady can get past you!"

The dude looked around, like "who, me??" and stood up...right in front of where she needed to roll. He kind of leaned into the fare box a little, as if she could just scoot right past his crotch, which was right at eye level. This woman was so polite. She didn't say a word or get angry or anything. She kept making hairpin turns and beeping in reverse.

Finally, the other passengers started to revolt. A man behind me was very red in the face. He banged on the stability bar and shouted "For the love of Christ, get out of the lady's way!" This set off a whole chorus of "We want to go home!" and "Move it, asshole!" It was like I was in New York again. I secretly enjoyed it. I wanted to start banging on the bars and chanting something, or maybe dump tackle him into the street.

The man never did move. A total of 14 minutes after we stopped, the poor woman finally wheeled down the ramp. The passengers who had been waiting to get on the bus were drenched. We were on a narrow part of Centre Ave, so none of the traffic behind us had been able to move. It must have been a bottle neck from hell. (The bus had no rear windows, so I cannot verify this) By the time I got to my stop, it had ceased raining and I walked home late, dry, and irritated. All because one man doesn't pay attention to his surroundings.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


We had a brief layover at my parents' house on our travels this weekend. As we were getting ready to go, with Corey's usual sloth-like urgency, I noticed Corey had left something upstairs. This is also usual. In the eight hours we were at the Rank house, he managed to spread his possessions throughout both stories. I love that about him.

"Corey," I said, "Did you forget something on the counter upstairs?"

He looked at me, puzzled. Squinched up his face. I could see him thinking "Bicycle? No, that's at home. Toothbrush? No, I got that...what else could be important???"

I waved my hand in his face and said, "You definitely left something up there...something crucial...something you definitely need tomorrow..."

Nothing. No recognition. "Corey. Your wedding band!"

"Oh yeah!" And he scrabbled upstairs to retrieve it.

Corey hates his wedding band. He predicted this. His genes prepared him for this. Thirty-five years ago his own father, in what I believe was a thinly veiled ploy to cover his jewelry aversion, lost his wedding band down a drain and hasn't ever replaced it. Today, Corey takes his off all the time. He puts it on his thumbs and plays with it. He leaves it on the bedside table. Even now, I hear the rattle of it spinning to stillness next to his bottle of Fat Tire in the living room.

My sister's husband and she do not wear rings. Richard had a truly lovely reason, which made me feel sheepish and superficial for wanting Corey to sport one. But I just need him to have one on there. I like to look at his hand and see that it is married to me, along with the rest of his body. I like to remember sliding it onto his finger as the rabbi mispronounced his name and secretly giggling.

I thought if we got him one made of titanium--the same material of which top notch bicycles are made--he would start to enjoy it a little. It's only been two weeks. I haven't given up hope yet. I think he'll soon develop a callous and not be able to imagine his hand without it. At least I know he can't imagine his hand without mine there to swat at it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How to Become a New Me

Being a newlywed is grotesquely joyous. I walk around the streets beaming and then see my reflection in the windowpanes and think "I would gossip about me if I saw me from the 71A." I just can't help it. I take my chipper cheer with me, even in long lines at government agencies.

My journey to becoming an all the way newlywed, to amending my name, began at the very building that sold us our marriage license. As luck would have it, I had the same government worker who worked our case to start with. She seemed not to remember me. She robotically asked me which sort of marriage license record I would need. I had no idea. I smiled and asked her which she advised. She snarled and said "Well, don't you have a passport???" Apparently possessing a passport makes it cost more money and take longer to get the copy of the license. I dared not ask her to point me toward the Social Security office and instead asked the nice man who patted me down and checked my backpack for weapons.

All in all, I've spent ten hours over the past two days changing my name. I have a printed letter of proof that I have a new Social Security card. I have a new driver's license. I have ten photocopies of my triple seal marriage license and lists of credit cards and student loans and iTunes accounts. Each place I go, the lines are longer and the people are grumpier.

The DMV man did not laugh when I pointed out that he was an upside-down lefty. The parking attendant at AAA didn't agree that the weather was fantastically dry and temperate. For some reason, the 71A driver didn't care that I had a brand new Panther card with a brand new rider name on it.

Ordinarily, long lines and customer service agents make me crazy. They make me want to murder. They remind me of the time I had to work the return counter at K-mart on the day after Christmas. But now? When all I can think about is gushy happy things? I could care less.

I should have saved up all my annoying bureaucratic tasks until right now, when my high spirits can't be broken, even by a 95 minute wait to print a form at the registrar's office.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Pictures of Marva's Mountain

Climbing. Recall: Marva did this in loafers. Her sneakers were wet from an earlier climb that day so she went with what she had available...

Corey looking moist in the mist at the top.

The moist, moist rainforest and Team Lev, the interlopers.

Climbing down with both hands. Now how did Marva and Corey skip so lightly down this craggy trail??

Gros Piton is the one on the left, the one so tall it disappears into the clouds. It looks so gentle and serene from a distance...

Monday, June 04, 2007


I can't summarize the experience of being married or the wedding briefly enough to not be gushy, so I'm going to zoom straight ahead to the honeymoon.

We found ourselves on the beautifully gorgeous La Haut Plantation in St. Lucia, where our room overlooked two enormous volcanic mountains and the Caribbean Sea. Obviously, our first task upon seeing the mountains was to climb them. We took an $80 taxi ride on St. Lucia's only road, which runs around the perimeter of the mango shaped island, to get to the bottom of Le Gros Piton.

Oh, so cocky we were. We didn't believe we needed a guide. We have hiked before! We play sports! We wore t-shirts proclaiming our athletic allegiances. Nonetheless, we were introduced to Marva, who would guide us up the 2 mile trail into the sky.

Marva was as tall as Corey and shaped just like him. She quickly informed me she has climbed this mountain at least once every single day for 15 years, sometimes twice. Marva was wearing a t-shirt and mesh shorts and loafers. I became even more certain this would be a baby climb.

At first, Marva peppered us with fun facts as we began the gentle climb. She has never come in lower than 4th place in a marathon. This trail will require 17,000 footsteps from top to bottom. Twenty percent of hikers do not reach the summit. Once, on a tour she guided, a lady had a heart attack and died at the top. She plucked a mango from a nearby tree and started skipping straight up the rocky face without using her hands.

Four seconds later, I thought I would have to quit. Marva and Corey were running up the hill like lemurs. I was heaving and wringing the sweat from my soaked clothing. I felt like my nephew, using both hands to labor up the 25% grade. My heart beat so quickly and thunderously I thought I, too, might have a heart attack. I have never been so humbled in my life.

Halfway up the mountain, Corey decided not to scamper ahead with Marva. He lingered behind with his dying wife and helped me take smaller steps, reminded me to drink juice. "This is just like cycling," he told me, fantasizing about riding his Surly down the rocky face. It started to pour and the climb became slippery in addition to impossible. I prayed for the strength to finish.

Marva reached the summit and whipped out her mango. She wasn't even sweaty. When I finally lumbered up there, the rain clouds were so thick I couldn't even see the view. It didn't matter, though. The mountain had not beaten me entirely. I felt like I had conquered the world. Marva told me Le Petit Peton is more fun for her because the climb is nearly vertical and climbers must use ropes to ascend. I sprawled on a rock and prayed she would eventually get fat.

Climbing down was just as bad as climbing up, as I needed to use my hands and arms to lower myself down the steep, jaggy rocks. When I woke up the next morning, I felt worse than I did after my first rugby match. I spent the rest of my honeymoon soaking my sore legs and cursing the awful pride that allowed me to underestimate one of nature's most intense creations.

The experience has made me want to really dedicate myself to my fitness. To not just talk about it but actually become fit again, until I can really climb any mountain any time. Next time, Marva, I will keep up with you. And my loafers will have fewer scuffs on the toes.