Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Don't Ask For Ketchup

One of the best kept secrets in the running industry is that I have a doctorate and that I was a university administrator and professor before the "penguin" took over my life. My column, "The Penguin Chronicles" was replacing Dr. George Sheehan's in Runner's World and they didn't want to use Dr. John Bingham, so "the Penguin" was born.

I mention this because I used to teach a music history course and we talked about how all music is culturally specific. The reason that the music you listen to sounds better to you than the music I listen to is because we both listen to the music of our culture. As specific as music is to the culture, food is even more specific. Enter Gene and Jude's.

Gene and Jude's is a tiny hot-dog stand/building in River Grove, Illinois. It's been in the same location for 60 years and - with the exception of adding a double-dog - has served the same menu for all those years. You can get hot dogs, corn tamales, fresh cut french fries, and a drink. Period. And on the hot dogs you can get yellow mustard, chopped fresh onion, pickle relish, and sport peppers. That's it.

I ate there with my grandfather and father. I've taken my son there since he was old enough to eat solid food. And this summer we took my grandchildren there. 5 generations of Binghams have eaten at Gene and Jude's. And not one of them has EVER asked for ketchup. It's just not done.

What's any of this got to do with running, or scootering, or life? Maybe not much, but it seems ro me that we all live inside of a specific culture and one of the most difficult things to do is to break out of that culture and change your life, even if you know it's what's best for you.

When I first started running my family thought I was crazy. When I wouldn't overeat at every meal they thought that I was turning my nose up at our culture.

As a motorcyclist for over 40 years I'm finding that as much as I would like to I don't understand the scooter culture. I love to ride. I love to be riding. What I'm riding isn't nearly as important to me as THAT I'm riding. My love of riding transcends my love of any particular form of riding.

So, just like when I started running, my foray into the scootering culture hasn't been met with universal acceptance. I don't get the "wave" from fellow motorcyclists. I don't get the nod from the "cool" guys. I don't get the "look" from kids in the backseat. And that's a shame.

The MP3 has become my "go to" ride because it is everything I want a motorcycle to be. It's fun, it's fast, it demands very little and delivers a lot. And for me, that's what matters most.

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