back to the desk of Weezy F. Baby (and others)

To the left, to the left.

“ ‘cause she knows it would be tragic if those evil robots win.”

Growing up as the youngest child in a family of seven (!) (three are half-siblings and much, much older, but still) the only thing I ever wanted was a little sister. And to meet John Travolta circa “Grease.” I don’t know.

One of those things happened when my junior high guidance counselor shuffled my schedule around to make space for a high school math class and needed to find an elective that fit into my schedule. She chose Tech Lab*, which was a fancy name for wood working.

By the way, I only mention the advance math thing because I spent the next year not understanding and then cheating my way through Geometry (is there a way my high school can retroactively take away my passing grade? If yes, then this is all a really specific joke with no basis in the truth, Mrs. Kelly). I thought I would die if I didn’t get an A. THIS IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF TELLING TYPE-A KIDS THEY’RE “GIFTED” AT THINGS THAT THEY’RE NOT REALLY GIFTED AT DOING.

I’m still waiting for some situation to come up wherein I’m totally screwed over by the fact that I don’t understand geometry.

But back to the point!

I met John Travolta.

Okay, but really. There were two girls in my wood working class. One was a girl named Samantha who wore smeared black eyeliner, a wrist full of plastic bracelets and would say things like “Call me a bitch.”

The other was Hannah, who was a year younger than I was and in the same scheduling situation as me. We built racecars, I broke the band saw and we made a bridge together out of balsa wood. Our junior high didn’t practice block scheduling, so we saw each other every day. Sometimes after school we’d go to Bogey’s, an ice cream and deep-fried-anything haven. She was the oldest in her family and me being the youngest in mine, it was a natural progression that we adopted each other as sisters.

We played basketball (terribly), we watched indie movies and eventually she’d work at the art house cinema in town and I’d work as the Films & Media coordinator on my college campus. We both ended up at the same college despite being sure that we both “belonged” out of state and even though our lives have twisted and turned in different directions we’re still looped around that same family tree that lets us spend hours trying on dresses from each other’s closets (isn’t that the point of sisters?), borrowing CDs, nail polish, jewelry and advice about what to do with friends or dudes that suck.

And right there is truly the point of sisters, or family in general: reminding someone and letting someone remind you to love, live life, proceed, progress.

 

 

five years ago in an empty cow town

 

*This was not the last time she did this. I spent my sophomore year of high school making an end table.

I don’t know why I’m admitting this either

Every six months or so I get really into an artist that should have or has never had any appeal to me.The last time this happened it was Taylor Swift.

Bonnie was still a puppy and the entire world was sunshine and lollipops. Taylor Swift made sense. So, it only makes sense that now it’s Kreayshawn, the dirty mouthed, dirty haired girl with dirty beats from Oakland.

On “Watch the Throne” Jay Z asks “What’s 50 grand to a motha—– like me?” then name drops Audemars, Rolexes, and the Le Meurice hotel in Paris—which is just really relevant to a lot of people. Kanye comes in at the end and says William did it wrong by marrying Kate, that if it was him, he would’ve married Kate and Ashley. Also, he name drops Margiela, Louis Vuitton and Gucci before letting us know “how many bitches he owns.”

SWOON!

Side note: I just watched Tom Shadyac’s documentary “I Am” and while there were a lot (A LOT) of eye-roll inducing sentiments expressed, his idea that mental insanity was constantly taking more than what you need seems pretty spot on to me.

I found “Watch the Throne” to be completely underwhelming and I don’t feel bad about it. I expect more out of the guy  who wrote:

What if somebody from the Chi was ill got a deal on the hottest rap label around
But he wasn’t talking ‘bout coke and birds it was more like spoken word
Except he really putting it down
And he explained the story about how blacks came from glory
And what we need to do in the game

And I really feel the guy who throws down for the south side —that guy is amazing, that guy sang to my friends and I from 8th grade through high school. That guy accompanied me on the morning ride to graduation my senior year. I will love that guy forever.

The dudes on “Watch the Throne” are not trying hard enough and moving backwards (remember: “It seems we living the American dream; the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem; the prettiest people do the ugliest things; for the road to riches and diamond rings”? What happened to that??)

Kreayshawn rolls around in a Dodge, wearing gold plastic earrings and only sings about Gucci, Louis and Fendi in a dismissive way. And she’s fun! Look at those pink sparkly Minnie Mouse ears! I can appreciate that contrast right now.

(erm…WARNING: this song might/probably will elicit very strong reactions from your shame synapses if you’ve never heard it before but if you don’t consider “bitch” a bad word it’s totally clean… silver lining?)

Okay, I might just be an asshole. On the bright side, this won’t last long.

i’m always falling in love

Before leaving town yesterday afternoon I got a strange case of déjà vu standing in front of my friend’s door, which I always take to mean that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Saturday morning I slept in and then went to the farmer’s market where I picked up a loaf of zucchini chocolate bread for the first time in over a year, which seemed special in some way. I skipped over puddles and made faces at dogs before downing a pint-sized cup of complimentary rose-water lemonade and walking to grab a coffee, a spare chair and a table where I could enjoy a half hour of fiction.

A woman placed her things beside me and eventually we ended up in line at the same time, grabbing slices of lemon cakes and bagels and sharing details of our lives. She asked about my book and we talked about the now-defunct Borders and how there’s really no place like that around here anymore.

She told me she drove an hour to the Barnes and Noble on the plaza and it was nice but that she’s not there often enough for the drive to be convenient.

Maybe it’s that I’m on the precipice of another year, maybe it’s the fact that it’s the end of some things but when I get back to my seat that day I feel compelled to remember everything. So, like Zan McQuade I write it all down and for the next twelve hours I don’t stop.

I find pens in my car and take old ceremony programs from work and write it out in the five minute parking space in front of the dry cleaners. I keep one hand on the steering wheel and with the other I dangerously write down names as the next customer honks at me to hurry up and leave. I get the battery in the plastic one dollar watch from the antique store replaced for free and on the way out I run into my new dental hygienist—the one I share a history of small high schools and small towns with. I make a U-turn at the stoplight and head home for a twenty minute break where instead of reading what I’ve already written, I fill the margins with more and more notes.

Joshie has always told Post-Human Services staff to keep a diary, to remember who we were because every moment of our brains and synapses are rebuilt and rewired with maddening disregard for our personalities, so that each year, each month, each day we transform into a different person, an utterly unfaithful iteration of our original selves… – Super Sad True Love Story

__

After I finish my coffee and come to a stopping place in my book, I spend the rest of my Saturday morning running an errand I’ve set out to do for the past year. After I’ve finished the errand I see a sale sign and stop into the antique store I’ve passed countless times on 6th street and I buy an unused watch for one dollar. Normally, I would not have stopped but today is different.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The errand I ran involved an old pair of brown leather riding boots that needed to get re-heeled. I drive to the north side of Lawrence and unintentionally end up on a tour of the town.

The leather shop where I take my boots has a turquoise kayak in the yard, an old piano with keys that don’t move, piles and piles of bowling balls decorated with plastic jewels and paint that makes them seem like versions of the Earth if the Earth had been created by happy-go-lucky four year olds or Antoni Gaudi.

It takes the cobbler seconds to figure out what needs to be fixed on my boots and it takes me nearly half an hour to leave.

“Where are you from?” he asks and when I tell him “Kansas” in a general way he says “of course you’re a Kansas girl” with a smile. It’s the best compliment I’ve received in some time because I don’t think he would say the same to someone he suspected to be from Kansas City. I like his Kansas, I know it by heart.

I wonder if it’s the boots that have given me away—that I’d rather replace the leather around the soles where it’s too worn, that I’d prefer to keep an original, old pair of shoes with scuffs on the toes instead of buying something new and wearing them in.

Then I think that maybe it’s the way I take ownership of the entire state.

I suppose that it might be the way that I pivot from my spot, trying to see every inch of his workspace until he gives me permission to wander. Maybe he can tell by the way I pluck the strings of his mandolin and ask to hold his banjo, although I can’t play a single chord. Maybe it’s how I ask questions about the little girl in pictures playing what he refers to as a fiddle. Maybe he can tell by the way I absentmindedly finger the leather of the brown saddles in the back next to the rows of black motorcycle jackets waiting to be picked up. Or, maybe it’s that I ask questions and am happy to wait a half hour for the answers.

On the two second drive back into the heart of Lawrence, I pass a Southwestern style restaurant with outdoor seating and I can’t believe I had no idea that it existed. I almost want to believe that it has appeared just to surprise me, to show me more of what I haven’t seen but I know better. I’m seventeen again and I’m closing my eyes and wishing for more and more time like I don’t know that everything ends.

It’s not a war story, but it can sound like one.

To generalize about war is like generalizing about peace. Almost everything is true. Almost nothing is true. Though it’s odd, you’re never more alive than when you’re almost dead. You recognize what’s valuable. Freshly, as if for the first time, you love what’s best in yourself and in the world, all that might be lost. At the hour of dusk you sit at your foxhole and look out on a wide river turning pinkish red, and at the mountains beyond, and although in the morning you must cross the river and go into the mountains and do terrible things and maybe die, even so, you find yourself studying the fine colors on the river, you feel wonder and awe at the setting of the sun, and you are filled with a hard, aching love for how the world could be and always should be, but now is not. -The Things They Carried

My fear of auld lang syne compels me to write everything before time runs away from me and transformations that television high school valedictorians have warned me of for years begin to take place.

“Look to your left. Now look to your right. Remember yourself exactly as you are today.”

6/10. because the night

Patti Smith.

Patti Fucking Smith.

It’s so obvious it embarrasses me.

It’s like: she’s the coolest and the sun is hot. To say anything else seems redundant. Obvious.

But then again, that’s the whole point.

That is why this all started.

Because of the British.

Because I’d rather feel over saturated with news of women whose titles include a few conjunctions than with news of women who are lauded for their genetic makeup and silence.

Because of what Amy said and especially because of the last line of her quote.

Once it comes into the adult realm it’s like, ‘Great, go for it, do your own thing … Sit on cakes. Do whatever the fuck you want.’ It’s just that I get worried for young girls sometimes; I want them to feel that they can be sassy and full and weird and geeky and smart and independent, and not so withered and shriveled … More than it being the Pussycat Dolls thing? It’s just distracting from what is real power.

Did you know Patti Smith invented the mosh pit?

Patti Smith’s black hair inspired millions of girls and boys with Xs on their hands to dye their own hair inky black and stage dive into crowds.

Patti Smith wore ripped jeans sitting next to John Stamos on a plane once and the next day he bought ripped jeans.

Okay, Patti Smith may or may not have done any of the above, but in 1967 the 21-year-old future “Godmother of Punk” moved to Brooklyn to become an artist and then she did. THE END. It was really easy and simple and she didn’t understand why EVERYBODY wasn’t doing it because OMGEASY.

No.

She was 21 and seeking refuge and acceptance. She found Robert Mapplethorpe and, consequently, everything else she was looking for—or, at least, everything she needed.

She was a poet first, a rock star by accident and a punk by necessity. She and Robert lived through poverty and all the necessary growing pains of finding yourself. And she’s shared it all with us.

Just Kids, the 2010 National Book Award non-fiction winner, is a memoir of Smith and Mapplethorpe’s early lives in New York and you’ve either heard about it and already read it or plan to read it and water is wet and other shocking discoveries. But in case you don’t know, it was just announced that it’s being adapted into a screenplay.

Patti and Robert were friends until the day he died.

I can never decide what the most interesting part of a memoir is: the meandering path that people take to become who they’re supposed to be (always so much clearer in retrospect), the little secrets nestled into already known information or the freak encounters that change the entire direction and trajectory of someone’s life. Sometimes, just the act of writing it seems like the most interesting part.

David Sedaris once said that when he re-reads journals from years ago and wants to tear pages out, he resists the urge because he knows that if he feels that way it means he hasn’t learned anything from it yet.

So, here’s Patti, showing us the pages of her journals, pointing out the beautiful and ugly parts like a kindergarten teacher at story time.

“Here is the boy I met and fell in love with in New York City.”

“Here is where I found my confidence.”

“Here is where I lost my confidence. And money.”

“Here are my ambitions.”

Memoirs, and especially the memoirs of women like Patti, are good reminders to keep the pages in your journals. Because the stories worth telling don’t come without their share of bad and it’s a good idea to remember that.

where are you going, where have you been

 

For the past three years, trips out to Los Angeles have been annual and a respite from whatever temperature is plaguing the Midwest at any given time. Usually, it’s in the fall but it was so hot that exceptions were made.

I got an extra Kanter out of this trip and since meeting him I’ve decided I would spend seven billion years with these two in a cabin in the mountains, a Korean mall, an apartment in East LA with a shrieking tamales saleswoman as an alarm clock, in a car in LA traffic or, I guess, anywhere.

So, that’s where I’ve been.

ps, last Thursday I spent the afternoon at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Art in the Streets exhibit featuring the works of Shepard Fairey, BANKSY and Os Gemeos, among many others. The exhibit closed yesterday, but had been running since mid-April. It was the first major exhibition of graffiti and street art and OH MAN, was it amazing.

not as critics, but as participants

“For some reason—who knows why we do what we do?—JP started drinking again.”

The margins of nearly all my notebooks are lined with names of books, authors and quotes meant to remind me of specific conversations or to read certain essays. Usually, it works. The quote above is from Raymond Carver’s essay “Where I’m Calling From,” which was published in The New Yorker in 1982.

In attempting to write a story this summer that told “the whole truth” in a short amount of space, I was curious about Carver and where he was in fact calling from. It seemed like that aside in the above quotation held the whole truth of the story because it’s such an evergreen question. Why do any of us do anything that we do? And if we think about it too long will our heads float off into another dimension, or will we find the answer?

Last night Goodreads hosted an hour-long chat with Pulitzer Prize winning author Jennifer Egan. A majority of the questions were fan questions—people wondering what her favorite chapter was in her prize-winning book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, or people curious about what she would do next with the characters. She briefly mentioned the pilot that was being shot for HBO, emphasizing that it was in its early stages and could go anywhere, even absolutely nowhere, and talked about everything she knew about the characters. She said she had so much more to say on them but also mentioned that she wasn’t a fan of sequels or prequels, which was really wonderful to hear as a reader. If the story decided to come out in some way, or another (she is a fan of unconventional storytelling–one chapter in Goon Squad is told through PowerPoints and she just wrote a short story in the form of a to-do list), she would not fight it.

When the questions became more technical, she revealed that A Visit from the Goon Squad was written as individual chapters, which is easy to believe. Some of the chapters were released as essays long before the novel came out. I know of at least two: one in Granta and the other published in January 2010 in The New Yorker.

The New Yorker essay, “Safari“, was easily my favorite chapter in the book and was the reason why I wanted to tell a story that had everything in it from these characters’ points of view. Jennifer Egan has a knack for putting her reader in one very specific situation then giving them a sudden glimpse of the character’s entire world in a single sentence. This then colors the rest of the story. I wanted to do that—still want to do that. “Safari” is still available to read online if you want to get a glimpse of Egan’s style.

Because Raymond Carver’s essay is almost thirty years old, it is not supposed to be available online anymore. When you click on the link for it, it takes you to an abstract explanation of what the story is all about. But when you click it to read more, instead of asking you to supply login information or to buy a pass, it takes you to the complete text. Every time I flipped the virtual page I was sure that an error would pop up and it would leave me hanging, but it never happened and I was right about the aside: he’s telling it all in that moment.

Being able to interact and listen to Jennifer Egan last night was absolutely amazing and insightful, especially when she seemed to be reiterating what my professors have said. My favorite piece of advice came on the back-end of an answer she gave to the one question I submitted. In old interviews she’s mentioned how essential it was for her to be a part of writing communities, so I asked her about that and she directed me to The Paris Review’s slush-pile before saying the greatest thing ever, which (and I’m simplifying here) was that setting up a situation in which you can thrive is absolutely essential.

Really simple and obvious, I know, but having it stated was kind of an a-ha moment and will probably serve as a great reminder.

“It’s hard to pull off anything, take as long as you need”

In Goon Squad there is one chapter that I think tells the whole story of the novel and that’s the PowerPoint chapter. You see, everything ends – we all know that, but there parts where we think it’s all over, pauses.

“The pause makes you think the song will end. And then the song isn’t really over, so you’re relieved. But then the song does actually end, because every song ends, obviously, and THAT. TIME. THE. END. IS. FOR. REAL.”

THE BEST THING I EVER ATE

Red and yellow peppers, cucumbers, homemade croutons and tomatoes: these are a few of my favorite things as well as ingredients to Greek Panzanella.

I added “cook something new every day for one month” to my 43 Things because I wanted to grocery shop with intention and really, really wanted to learn how to cook a few really great dishes. At the beginning of the summer, my roommates and I invested in a spice rack and having that available has increased the amount of advanced recipes I can try and has, without a doubt, enhanced the way I taste food.

To accomplish this goal I started with easy vegetable fajitas on the first weekend in July. From there, I moved on to more complicated recipes for Portobello mushroom burgers, guacamole and sweet potato fries all in one meal, all in the next week. The following Sunday, I followed a boozy recipe to make Grand Marnier French Toast (subbing the $27/bottle Grand Marnier for $13/bottle Patron Orange Liquer—which doubled as two ingredients, because the recipe calls for orange zest).

In this month I have easily become more confident and useful in the kitchen. Every recipe has gotten more advanced and has lead me to the greatest thing I’ve ever made and eaten.

Greek Panzanella.

When I chose this recipe, I knew that most of the items that it called for –salt, pepper, olive oil, Dijon mustard, oregano, garlic, onions, cherry tomatoes and feta – were already in my house, and everything that I needed to buy I could easily use in other recipes (or, in the case of the olives, in martinis).

It’s a summer salad, so besides toasting the French bread on the stovetop to make your homemade croutons (the best part), you can breeze through the recipe. When I made the Portobello mushroom burgers, I had to grill them and was dripping with sweat as I stoked a fire on the hottest day of the summer so this fact gets ten million thumbs up. You chop and combine all the cold ingredients, make a vinaigrette with GOOD (emphasis theirs, not mine) olive oil and red wine vinegar and set it aside. Then you cut up the French bread and let it toast in the olive oil on the stovetop.

When the bread is lightly toasted, you throw it in with the cold ingredients, toss in some feta (the recipe says use half a pound, but I just sprinkled some over the mix until it looked like enough to add in flavor), pour the vinaigrette over it, mix it up (they say to toss it lightly, but I sealed the Rubbermaid container and shook it – it’s a salad, not a baby: you don’t need to be gentle) and wait for thirty minutes so it can soak up all the great flavors.

Instead of cutting the bread to tiny crouton-sized, I made them a little bigger and I’m glad I did. The flavor really gets concentrated in the bread and since my croutons were so big, the whole dish was really filling.

If I were to only recommend one dish for you to cook from all the dishes from this past month, I would recommend the panzanella. Especially because all the vegetables are in season, so it’s an exceptionally fresh dish.

You can read the entire recipe over on Rebecca Crump’s food blog Ezra Pound Cake and here’s a grainy cell phone picture of the panzanella I made.

I’ve enjoyed finishing this goal so much I might just keep making new dishes into August.

Greek Panzanella

pariah

Until 3o Rock parodied Precious in the fictional film “Hard to Watch: based on the novel ‘Stone Cold Bummer’ by Manipulate” I never gave that film a second thought. When I did, I could not figure out its point.

Was it about AIDS in the 80s?

Was it about broken homes and child abuse among African-Americans in low-income areas?

Was it about hope?

I don’t think that a well-told story needs to end on a happy note or even needs to have an obvious point, but I think it needs to be sharing something in a human way. In retrospect, I’m not sure if Precious did that.

It made me uncomfortable, it made me feel bad, it assaulted my senses and showed me a terrible environment in which a girl could be illiterate, abused in the worst ways and trapped. It definitely outlined that well and while it seemed assaulting, it was probably necessary to show that conditions are that bad in places.

But the fact that it’s not set in present-day takes away from the setting, because it can make the viewer think that it happened then and doesn’t happen now, removing the urgency and the public-service-announcement feel of the film.

So, if it makes you feel bad, incites reflection on a past time, then what it is doing? Is it just manipulative?

I don’t ever plan on watching Precious again (and I will not be watching The Kid), so I can’t really answer that question or make any solid judgments about it but I just doubt its purpose…although, I clearly am doing exactly that. I just feel a little conned and maybe that means I should re-watch it, instead of letting parodies form the last impression of it in my mind.

Last week I heard about a film that I think will confront pertinent issues and lend a voice to a not-oft heard group. That film is the Spike Lee produced drama Pariah. It’s such a cheap excuse, but any explanation that I could write would just take away from this beautiful, beautiful trailer that I think you should watch.

“And I’m not running, I’m choosing.”

Saturday Night Live could solve all of our debt problems

There. Done. Let’s recess until September.

Okay, but really, let’s talk about this.

Don Pardo: And now the Not Incredible Adventures of the Down and Out Dollar.

American Dollar: Oh, boy oh boy. What a year, it sure does stink being a US dollar. Here it is, 2005, and I’m at an all-time low. I used to be on top of the world, now look at me – good for nothing. Who wants a measly old dollar?

Euro: Dollar? Is that you?

American Dollar: Oh. Hey Euro.

Euro: Oh my goodness Dollar, you look awful!

American Dollar: Oh jeez, here we go again.

Euro: Look at me, look at all my wonderful colors, aren’t they supercool? You like my hologram? Look at it this way, now look how it changes!

American Dollar: Oh boy it sure is nice. I wish I had a hologram.

Euro: Hey Dollar, do you want to hear a joke? Knock, knock.

American Dollar: Oh, who’s there?

Euro: Germany. And France. And Greece. And Italy. And Denmark. And Luxembourg. And Belgium. They’re all stronger than you, hahaha ha! Is that not funny?

American Dollar: Oh come on Euro! That ain’t a joke. Gimme a break.

 

Who is our in-house accountant at the White House?

I guess when they get to that level they’re called economists and the budgets they balance stop being about numbers and start being about parties, but maybe we’re missing out on something because of that.

I mean, shouldn’t there be a group of people sitting at wooden desks in corner offices keeping track of our budget anyway? Imagine them hunched over complicated calculators, reams of paper shooting out one end, pencils behind their ears and glasses perched on the end of their noses while they finally come to the end of one fiscal year and press the equal sign. Now imagine them shaking their heads in disbelief.

“Oh, no, no. This does not add up.”

Unless it’s an actual crisis, I usually let political dramas roll right on by while I focus on more important things like Katy Perry’s smurf dress or Ryan Gosling’s abs. But what I thought was just the dramatic flair of contemporary American politics actually turned out to be the dramatic flair of  contemporary American politics that could potentially create a crisis.  This was made even more interesting to me because I’m in the midst of managing my own budget.

Me and the United States government: twinsies!

Earlier this week, I was cruising Videogum when one of the comments led me to a summary of the debt ceiling debacle by Howard Marks, whoever that is (he works at a capital management firm, as indicated by the letterhead). It was all told in layman’s terms and except for a few digressions into Personal Opinion Time, or P.O.T., at the top of page nine and the bottom of page 10, it’s factually based and stays away from bias—even in P.O.T. he stays away from bias.

“For the last several years as I’ve visited with clients around the world, I’ve described the typical American as follows (exaggerating for effect, of course): He has $1000 in the bank, owes $10,000 on his credit card, makes $20,000 a year, and spends $22, 000. And what do lenders do about this? They mail him additional credit cards.”

He uses this as a jump-off to explain how the typical American’s fiscal health compares to that of our country as well as countries around the world.

What I took away from this article was that we need to balance the budget (OBVIOUSLY) and that in order to get any real, effective and lasting change in America with our budget, we are going to have to hurt for a while.

Real talk. I have been wistfully staring at the large, neon metro tote on MZ Wallace’s summer pop-up shop and quietly sighing to myself because even though I loved it at the beginning of summer, I never actually saved any money so I could buy it without guilt at the end of summer.

“In addition to balancing the budget and growing the economy, I think we have to accept that the coming decades are likely to see US standards of living decline relative to the rest of the world. Unless our goods offer a better cost/benefit bargain, there’s no reason American workers should continue to enjoy the same lifestyle advantage over workers in other countries.”

If you want to read more on the debt ceiling debacle before the August 2nd solution deadline, Pro Publica is constantly updating a reading list here that I am constantly not reading because one really great article is enough for me but maybe you’re interested in more. Kudos, you, people who click on that link!

3/10: hey there delilah

If you don’t recognize this face, maybe you’ll recognize this song.

Years ago in Chicago, Tom Higgenson met Delilah DiCrescenzo at a party and promptly fell in love with her, despite the fact that she had a boyfriend. He told her he’d write a song to win her over and then he did—well, he wrote the song, at least.

He and his band, The Plain White Ts (RANDOM TANGENT: band names like this annoy me for some reason, it’s just so…schticky? Like, I bet one or all of the members of this band own a keyboard necktie that they wear ironically), spent years performing and building a fan base and “Hey There Delilah” became a crowd favorite. Eventually, the song was nominated for a Grammy.

And Delilah?

She kept dating the boyfriend she had when she first met Tom (they’re still dating now) and let the song gain popularity, living her life anonymously and training to compete in the Olympics. Oh yeah, she’s an elite athlete and her event is probably one of the most grueling and ridiculous events in track and field. This is what she does for 3000 meters:

You know who else steeplechases?

HORSES. Big, brawny horses.

Delilah didn’t make the Olympic team in 2008 but she’s still training and will probably try to qualify again next year. Training for her means traveling around the world and doing STEEPLECHASES.

STEEPLECHASES!

Sorry, this event just has me in awe of human beings. People can just do that? Regularly?!

Delilah competed in the Ivy League for Columbia University in New York and had done pretty well but was not enough of a standout to land sponsorships post-college. So, she ran off and on for a couple of months, then moved back home to Chicago where she figured she was pretty much done with running. Then she got a phone call from the Kenyan runner Isaya Okiwaya. He wanted to coach her and like anyone worth admiring she said yes to the new opportunity.

Having a coach allowed her to have financial support for lodging and traveling for races (not to mention biweekly massages—we should all be so lucky to have someone pay for that) but she wasn’t actually getting paid to run. During this time she was not only training, traveling and running, but working full-time at a marketing and advertising firm. This girl understands the side hustle.

After one year and one third place finish in the steeplechase at the 2006 Outdoor Nationals, Delilah decided to commit to her running full-time, crossed her fingers and moved out of the city. That year she trained full-time and worked as an assistant track and cross-country coach at Bryn Mawr. It paid off when she won the 6K title at the USA Track and Field National Club Cross Country Championship.

In 2009, she became a member of the US Track & Field team, where she was able to travel to Amman, Jordan and compete for the United States at the World Cross Country Championships. In 2010, she was inducted into Columbia University’s Athletics Hall of Fame, where she is now studying to get her master’s in Sports Management. She also works as a part-time assistant for the cross-country and track & field team there. Remember what I said about the side hustle? She does not quit!

Delilah is one of only two American athletes sponsored by PUMA, which is such a sweet fact when you consider how close she came to giving it all up after college. As for the song? She says she doesn’t get asked about it much now, a fact that she’s fine with. It was fun and flattering, she says, but she’d like her running to dominate the conversation now, please and thank you.

I think it will. Easily.

If you’re intrigued by Delilah, PUMA is hosting a video series tracking her training in a short web series. I don’t think any video is longer than three-and-a-half minutes and new episodes are uploaded every Monday.