Thanks for the company, Ira Glass

8 Jan

An ex-boyfriend of mine (I say that as if they number in the dozens) used to hate the sound of Ira Glass’ voice.  I imagine he still does.  The radio in his car was always tuned to NPR and whenever Ira Glass and This American Life would come on, my ex would let out a quiet groan and quickly shut the radio off.  I always imagined it was because, on top of being a bartender, he was a voice over actor and so he was especially critical of the voices of others.  He was allowed, I suppose, having an exceedingly nice voice himself.  As a result of his quiet disdain, I never really listened to Ira Glass, I always just took this dislike of his voice as a given.  Until I didn’t.  Ironically, Ira Glass does not have a voice for radio.  His voice is odd, not really low and not really high.  His words seem to come from farther back in his mouth than most and it almost sounds as if the very back of his tongue is touching the roof of his mouth when he utters certain sounds — such as the “gla” noise present in his own last name — making it sound as if, for lack of a better description, he is swallowing them.  It makes him identifiable, if nothing else.  Over time I have grown to really like it.

This morning I set out on a long run.  Sixteen and a half miles is a long way to go and, whenever I set out for one of these long ones, I always think back to my 16-year-old self who used to dread the timed two mile run we had to do in order to get on the field hockey team.  The required 8-minute per mile pace required, a seemingly insurmountable goal at the time, is now not so scary.  The 16.5 miles, however, takes about as much mental cheer leading as you might imagine.  I mapped out my route.  A lap around Sunset Park, around Greenwood Cemetery to Fort Hamilton Parkway and then onward for 3 loops of Prospect Park, plus a little extra, ending up at the gym to force myself to stretch.  Normally I run without audio accompaniment, letting my mind wander to all sort of fun and interesting places.  But today I had this feeling that mental amusements simply weren’t going to cut it.  Cue Ira and This American Life.

I headed south on 5th Avenue, listening to the story of an NPR staff member who, despite his allergy of crab and lobster, eats one or the other about 3 times a year.  The poisoning himself, he says “isn’t so bad.”  I imagined along with the narrator what he must look like with his cheeks puffed out and his eyes mere slits due to all the swelling.  I even acted it out, much to the wonder of those I ran by.  I then listened to the story of Cardinals pitcher Steve Blass who was cursed with his namesake, Steve Blass disease, leaving him unable to pitch a successful game.  It got me thinking about myself as an athlete and how, when I start focusing on my breathing, it becomes heavier, more labored.  Best to not think about it, This American Life advised.  But of course by that time I had already started.  I made it to the park while listening to a fictional story put on by “The Truth,” with the descriptor “movies for your ears.”  What a perfect companion going into my 5th and 6th miles.

The next episode starred Mike Birbiglia with his story of a hit and run accident in which he was hit, and, although the other person ran, he got stuck with the other man’s $12,000 repair bill due to police ineptitude.  This story, although a very frustrating experience I am certain, was so incredibly funny that I had to mask my laughter with coughing fits as to not come across as a crazy person to those around me.  It made breathing slightly difficult, and people gave me the side eye anyway, but the next few miles flew by as I waited to say what hilarious injustice would befall Mike next.  I sailed through an online musical, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, by Joss Whedon starring the loveable “triple threat” Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible.  And then came a reading by Dan Savage about his relationship with Catholicism and the loss of his mother.  Unfortunately for me I decided to take my Gu at exactly the moment when Savage nearly broke down while recounting the horrible moment in Tucson, Arizona when he found out his mother would die that day of pulmonary fibrosis.  Gu coated my throat and I made a sort of wheezing sound whenever I tried to breath, which was often since I was something like 11 miles into my run at that point.  I thought I was probably going to either suffocate or get Gu in my lungs which would have been ironic given the subject matter at that particular moment.  I didn’t do either of those things.  Water seemed to clear the problem right up but that was the third time I managed to draw attention to myself while running.

Nearing the end of my run I was joined by Dave Sedaris as he recounted the many pets his family had when he was a kid and how, after he and his 5 siblings had grown and left, his parents replaced them with a Great Dane named Melinda.  He discussed other pets he had throughout his life, including his female cat, Neil, who was ill and needed to be put down.  When his vet asked him to think about euthanasia, he immediately imagined the “youth in Asia.”  In his words,

I hadn’t heard that word in a while and pictured scores of happy Japanese children spilling from the front door of their elementary school. “Are you thinking about it?” (the vet) asked.

“Yes,” I said. “As a matter of fact, I am.”

And again, I tried to muffle my laughter through heavy coughing.  At 14 miles, give or take, this was no easy feat.  I decided then and there that when the inevitable happens, and I have to put one of my beloved cats down, I too will imagine the “youth in Asia” so as to not have another complete breakdown in the vet’s office like the one I had circa 2004 when my cat Sassafras was ill.  I then moved on to thinking about the parents of funny people.  In Dan Savage and Dave Sedaris’ tales, their mothers were both incredibly funny.  Do all funny people have funny parents?  Or is it simply in the story-telling?  Or maybe a combination of the two?  This little thought adventure made me miss a little of the following story, about Steve Malarkey (real name!) and his creation, Video Catnip, a film for cats which I now want to buy.  I made it to the gym while in the midst of a fictional story about an armadillo.  I didn’t make it through the whole thing because, wouldn’t you know it, my iPod Nano ran out of juice right as I sat down to stretch.

So, thank you, Ira Glass.  That was fun.

11 Responses to “Thanks for the company, Ira Glass”

  1. gimpanova January 8, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    I loooove this! It reminds me of a freezing 22-miler where I listened to the This American Life about the battling Santa impersonators. I think I listened to it 2.5 times, and laughed out loud more than once while choking on frozen spit. Ira Glass is a fantastic running buddy!

  2. creatingcarrie January 8, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    I love Dr. Horrible! I’ve forced several cousins to watch it with me.

    • FranklyRebekah January 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      I need to watch it now! (Also, I thought of you when I was listening to that part. I was going to recommend you watch it but now I don’t have to!)

  3. gimpanova January 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    I loooove this! It reminds me of a frozen 22-miler when I listened to the This American Life about dueling Santa impersonators. I think I listened to it 2.5 times, and laughed out loud more than once. Ira Glass truly is a fantastic running buddy!

    • FranklyRebekah January 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      Sounds like someone needed to download a few more podcasts! But, to be honest, I probably could have just listened to Dave Sedaris over and over again for the entire 2.5ish hours.

      • gimpanova January 8, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

        Ha! I had like 3 of them downloaded but got stuck on the santas…It was just so deliciously bizarre!

      • FranklyRebekah January 8, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

        Sounds about right!!

  4. glen January 8, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    dr horrible is the bestest.

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