It’s been a busy 18 hours or so. The Berries returned to the Soundbox in Simpsonville last night. We were second on the bill, so 80% of us gathered at the college at 7 last night to load the gear. (Lex, one of our guitarists, lives near the venue, so he was off that particular hook.) I drove up with Larry, in a much quieter vehicle. Earlier this week, I took the van to my local repair shop, because it was making a variety of loud and unpleasant noises. A day and about a grand later, I had a new front wheel bearing, fresh brakes, and new rear shocks. Ouch, but I remember my dad’s advice — “A repair bill is cheaper than a car note.” The mechanic said, “You know, the next step after that noise you were hearing is when the wheel comes off the axle, which can happen at 5 miles and hour — or at 75.” Given that I had heard the noise for a while — including during my previous trip to Greenville — I guess God looks after fools and 51-year-old drummers (if there’s a difference.)
We reached the venue as The Licorice Whips were loading in for their opening set. Hellos were exchanged, and we got our gear inside as they were putting theirs on stage. There was a larger crowd than in our previous shows at Soundbox, which surprised me a little, as a pretty big regional festival began last night, and I figured that was where most people would be.
The regular soundman was unable to make it last night, so Jeremy (Soundbox’s manager/booker) handled the duties. Since that’s not really his thing, we basically went with vocal mikes and a bass drum mike, relying on stage volume for the rest. That’s not a problem for us — that’s basically how we rehearse, and the Whips were fine with it as well. We loaned them our bass amp, and they got the show rolling.
The Licorice Whips proper are a duo — Julie Clark Shubert (gtr, vox) is the principal songwriter, while Melanie McDermott plays bass and guitar and does backing vocals. They do a fair amount of coffeehouse kind of gigs as a twosome, but for shows like last night, they add a drummer/percussionist who goes by “D.W.” — sorry, but I didn’t catch his last name. Their sound is rootsy and loose, just on the right side of sloppy. About two songs in, I told our bassist that they would have been a really good fit on K Records in the 80s, along with groups like Beat Happening. But here’s an example of what they do:
They’re a lot of fun, and there’s just something cute and cuddly about them. They make people smile. The Licorice Whips were a tasty treat indeed, and I look forward to another helping.
After they wrapped it up, we set up and went for it. It wasn’t our greatest set, but it wasn’t bad. Part of the problem was my fault — I misread the set list and got a couple of songs out of sequence, but it wasn’t a clamfest or anything, and we did 18 songs in about 45-50 minutes. The crowd enjoyed it, and I saw a couple of folks dancing over by the billiard tables, so that was a good sign.
The night closed with Greenville-based Serotonal, who brought a nice set of groove-heavy originals, augmenting a power trio with lead singer/hand percussionist Caitlin Swett, whose sweet, flexible vocals provided a strong counterpoint to Andrew Woollens’s guitar heroics and a forceful rhythm section. Influences ranged from Middle Eastern music to Zeppelinesque thud, and I think these folks are a band to watch. Alas, I couldn’t stick for the entire set, as I had to get home for this morning’s activities. I got Larry home and I was in bed by two. Which is good because…
The alarm went off at 6:15. Bleary-eyed, I found my way downstairs for a wakeup shower and put on a pair of shorts, some socks, and a T-shirt extolling the 160-year existence of Mondoville College. I said goodbye to Mrs. M, and told her that if she wanted to see me finish, that I’d be getting to the finish line somewhere between 8:40 and 9. I drank a glass of water, put on my walking shoes, and walked over the hill to the campus, where the day’s 5K was taking place.
If you’ll recall, when I started walking five months ago, I set this Homecoming 5K as a goal. My original target was to complete the walk in less than an hour, and I told people that if I could finish in 50 minutes, I’d be content, and if I could break 45 minutes, I’d be ecstatic. I have in fact broken 45 minutes once, and typically do it in about 46:30, but that has been on a treadmill at the Y. Today was the first time to try it in the real world.
Skies were gray and the temperature was in the low sixties when I got to the registration table. I saw some familiar faces — folks from town and the college, and a couple of former students as well. Several people told me they had been keeping track of my adventures in alternating feet and that they were glad to see me there. As I got my bib (the number that participants pin to their clothes), I noticed that the numbers were in the mid- to high 600s. For an instant, I wondered if I’d get #666, but I was relieved to get 680. I was handed a bag with a bottle of water, a protein bar, and an electrolyte packet to add to the water. A little farther down, I got a T-shirt for the event. They didn’t have any in my size, so I got one for the Spawn.
After a couple of minutes, I saw my friend (and Berries bassist) Justin, who was there to run sound for the event. “I’ve got my driver’s license in my pocket,” I said, “in case they need to identify the body.” He said he’d advise the authorities to rifle through my shorts.
As 8:00 approached, a guy from the runners’ organization that administers the race took the mike and advised us that the race was following a different route than it had in previous years (I was told later that it was a harder, hillier course than the earlier one, but it isn’t like I had a basis for comparison.) He also said that it was an open course, and that while there would be police and course monitors on duty to keep an eye on us, we should still be careful. Justin played the National Anthem over the P.A., and the President started us off. Almost everyone else took off running. I started walking with three women and a couple of guys. Members of the college cross-country team were stationed at decision points to direct the participants and offer encouragements. Occasionally, local residents stood on their porches or in their yards to cheer us on.
I led the walking pack for the first mile, which I finished in 15:50, with two or three uphill stretches. The women passed me about a quarter-mile later, but when I looked over my shoulder, I could see the men in the distance behind me. The women stayed in my sight at mile markers two and three, and I last saw the men behind me at about 2.4 miles. I took consolation in the fact that at least I was ahead of those guys. I wouldn’t be last. As I neared the football stadium (midfield was the finish line), I saw the event clock reaching 45 minutes — but I hadn’t quite made the three-mile mark. I tried to pick up my pace a little, but there was another uphill stretch. But I knew I’d finish.
Of course I’d finish. I do 5K almost every day that I walk, and more than that most of the time. But that was on the treadmill, where I don’t have to watch for uneven pavement, gravel, or other distractions. This was the real world.
I passed the registration table, and a bit later, some of the cheerleaders told me I was at three miles. “You only have 100 meters to go!” one said. The math doesn’t work, I thought, but I don’t think it threw me off stride. When I came through the stadium gate, I saw one of those “Wacky Inflatable Flailing Arms Guys” guarding the clock and the finish line. I saw the clock. 50:10.
Dammit. I said as much to Justin, who was standing at the gate. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Just finish.” So I kept walking, and saw Mrs. M waiting just beyond the finish line, taking pictures. The earlier finishers applauded as I made it to the line, a metal rig connected to the clock and looking rather like a highway scale. I stomped on it at 50:44.
I hugged Mrs. M, and said there had been a couple of guys behind me. But I never saw them come in, and now I can’t help but wonder if they had just been there to sweep up the end — which would be me.
People asked me what I thought of my first 5K, and told me that I really had done pretty well. A couple of days ago, when I found a map of the route, I tweeted it and said that the course was my real opponent. If I was right, then I guess I won — not quite as well as I hoped (45 seconds!), but I did outlast the course. I thought of something my dad had said: “Nice guys may finish last — but they do finish.” And I don’t know how nice I am, but I did finish. Even off the treadmill.
And since this is a potpourri, here’s some music before I head over to the football game. It’s one of the first videos I ever saw on MTV. It seems appropriate today, and it makes me smile. Hope it makes you smile too.