Category Archives: travel

The Lazy Perfectionist

I think an acupuncturist described me as such when I was in college after telling her about myself. I don’t know if I’d call myself a lazy perfectionist anymore. I think perhaps I’m lazy (can you relate?) but have developed habits that urgently push me out of bed in the morning and have learned set goals that keep me on track. And the simpler and shorter my goals and “to-do” list is the better…

Back in March some of you may know I signed up for a half-ironman.Seemed so exciting at the time…and doable!  It’s next Saturday. The training has not been as consistent or as hard-core as I would’ve liked, and I have also had some great moments.

For any of you other Lazy Perfectionists or  Type-A-Wanna Be-Neurotics you might be able to relate. Perhaps you you  don’t always wake up saying,”YESSSSS!!!!!TODAY I’M GOING TOTRAIN!  YESSSS!!!! or even, “TODAY I MUST TRAIN, AND I WON’T COMMIT TO ANYTHING LESS..” By the way, you can substitute work or any other goal (it doesn’t have to be training) and this entry still applies.

This mind of mine gets really excited about doing a large volume of training or a really fast pace.. But then And it gets really upset when I don’t complete that large volume or that really fast pace.

So lately I’ve started training my mind in a different way…instead of telling myself that we are going to train hard (anyone else have multiple personalities, ha!) I tell myself that we are going to train focused.

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Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis

I know that sounds strange. One of the delights of longer trainings is letting the thoughts drift. Getting lost! Exploring! And it is! But that’s not necessarily what I need for my day at that time.  And f I let my thoughts drift too much without feeling my body and my brain rooted in the training then I stop…and drift some more…

…..and knowing that sustained focus is something that I consistently  need to practice, why not do it during a time in which a repetitive movement is already built in to my week.

 

 

 

 

A View From the Cottage

These hillsphoto 2

light  breeze ,  sunshineunnamed

And some blank pages

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Nothing more needs doing

Walking Towards the Sun

Lands End

Lands End

“What would you do if you had nothing?” an ex-boyfriend once asked me. I was in the middle of preparing report cards, and training for a half-ironman. I didn’t have a whole lot of time for him, and he was frustrated. Nonetheless, his question gave me pause. I loved being busy. It’s who I was, and without it? I didn’t know. I never stopped to think about what “nothing” was.

Coming back to San Francisco this past December, I felt totally lost and lonely. I had entered a huge urban metropolis that I wasn’t used to anymore. And I was confused by that lostness as I had once loved this city so much. I realized over that month that I was holding onto expectations of what this city was for me before, thinking that  I would drop back into the life I had previously and pick up where I left off. Once I started to let go of those expectations I was able to have patience with the ups and downs that come with moving to a new place. But still, I marveled at the busyness of it all. Maybe because I wasn’t part of it. And of course I had just come from living in community where, part of the busy day was consciously stopping to make time for meditation and for conversations at meal time.

So yeah, I was confused…especially because I had been a part of a bigger urban metropolis just 6 months prior. So the fact that it was strange and foreign was strange and foreign. Had I changed that much in just those six months? Was I jealous of all the busyness that I no longer felt that I was a part of? Did I suddenly feel that I had “nothing?”

As it was, my loneliness led me to the Integral Yoga Institute. Having just come from Yogaville, I was rejuvenated with the idea of teaching yoga again and was determined to do so. The Integral Yoga Institute is a center in San Francisco related to the Yogaville Ashram in Virginia. It is situated in an old victorian up on a hill from Dolores Park. At night, when I stand outside on the front steps the sun lights up the sky with different neon colors as it settles over the top of the city.  Since I was there, and desperate for housing in a seemingly very expensive city with a housing crisis I thought I would ask about residency as well. “Yes.” They said.  And so here I am two months later living in a yoga center with housemates and a community that practice meditation and yoga, and embraces peace of mind and transition.

Shortly after I moved in, I came down with a cold. That ate up quite a few expenses as well as had me laying low for almost a month. Almost no work, no going out, and certainly no signing up for the classes that I had hoped. I was, by nature of the cold, forced to stay home, get quiet and meditate. And meditate. And meditate. It was stressful at first. I am active. I am an ironman! And to sit and watch the busy lives of those around me while I had to sit, drained of energy was indeed frustrating. And then, something happened. I relaxed. I stopped worrying. There was no need. There was no use.

I have heard that if you trust in the universe it will provide. I have some tension with this. How is that not lazy? I believe that if I want something to happen then I need to put the energy out there to make it happen. And yet, once that’s done there needs to be a certain amount of trust that the right thing will bounce back.  I think what it comes down to is listening. It doesn’t mean being  lazy.  It means sitting and listening to that voice inside even if it doesn’t make sense. It means, at least in my case, practicing patience.

So in my three weeks in which I couldn’t do much I sat and listened a lot.I did nothing.  I have achieved a certain amount of relaxation that I fear is lethargy, although I am also making sure to keep an eye on that.I am yoga-ing, journaling, involved in a small fun project, discussing,  and my favorite, practicing to be a professional coffee shop dweller, an aspiration of which I had in my early twenties.

Simple Pleasures Cafe

Simple Pleasures Cafe

I was coming back from my favorite coffee shop, Simple Pleasures, late afternoon one day, after a morning in the foggy part of the city. I called my friend to say hi, and left a message. She texted me back and said, “I hope you get this with your phone dying and all, but I love that you ended your message with ‘I’m walking towards the sun.’

I Don’t Really Wanna Say Good-bye

So, we left off in Mexico. In San Gil at the Water’s Edge where I swam 1900 meters in 37 minutes!

And then, things started to get hard. Friends came back to Mexico and it was so so wonderful to see them!  But they were all headed back to school. I wanted…I needed something to do and I knew it wasn’t school, but I didn’t know how to start what I wanted to do…and I found myself in that negative cycle of…but if I open door number one then what if door number two won’t open and then I’ll be stuck again and in the same place that I was before, and then there’s no point and… down the rabbit hole. I was completely stuck.

So many wonderful places to go and things to do, and I felt like all the stuff that I had spread all over the room that my friends were kind enough to let me stay were boxing me in.

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All My Bags are Packed, I’m Ready to Go

It’s time to leave, Mexico. I heard the voice over and over again say. No, no. Not yet! Just let me figure this out. I pleaded back.

And it wasn’t until I wrote an email to a friend thatI thought I wrote from the depths of my soul that I got a wake-up call. “Sarah!” he wrote me back. “Stop feeling sorry

Alexa (teammate), Mike (coach), and Me

Alexa (teammate), Mike (coach), and Me in Veracruz

for yourself. You are an independent smart woman. Do something about this! You are not happy. I tried to justify his statements. “Maybe YOU don’t like what I’m doing, but I’m perfectly FINE!” I snapped at him in defense. But I wasn’t.

I spent the weekend at my ironman partner’s Paloma’s house with her and her family.”Go home.” she encouraged. “You’ll see.” 

Waiting for the Important Guests

Paloma’s children watching for the dinner guests

Indeed it was the only place that came up over and over again…home, I know, ultimately is where the heart is, but in this case home…meant my mom and my dad.

And so I booked my ticket; . It goes without saying I hope, that I savored that time with the good friends and community that I was lucky enough to have in DF. Here’s a short list of activities:

  • got in a couple more walks/talks/and healthy food exchanges with a friend whom I’d been running with since arriving in Mexico three years prior.
  • accompanied a friend wedding dress shopping
  • held a “see you later party”
  • attended one more yoga class, and of course
  •  trained for one more triathlon, Veracruz in August.

It was a wonderful weekend, reminding me of why I had started with the sport in the first place. I spent the weekend, laughing my head off with athletes from both Endurance and Fortia,

Endurance and Forita Together

Endurance and Fortia Together at Veracruz Triathlon

and my coaches, who had become good friends.

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Coach Mike, Me, Coach Luisen, Coach Alejandra in Veracruz

Before my final departure in late August, I visited my acupuncturist one last time. “I can’t believe I’m going home.” I told him. “Well why are you going?” he asked.. “I don’t know. Something in my heart tells me that’s where I need to go.” I responded. “Well,” he said. “Go home. Relax. And you’ll get the email or phone call you need in two weeks.”

I’m sure my eyes widened at his words, hopeful and skeptical at the same time. “Could there really be something to this whole follow your heart thing?”  I thought. And with that I bid him farewell and headed to Massachusetts on the early morning of August 26th.

The Water’s Edge


The weekend of May 23rd was the most fun-disasterous-ego-busting-laughing-learn-my-lesson the-hard-way weekend of the year . My friend Kate and I had planned to do a triathlon on the coast of Ixtapa. It really was one of those everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong types of weekends, but so fun that everything worked out in a wonderful way. Here’s a “Fortunately/Unfortunately” synapsis of our weekend:

Start of the race in Ixtapa. Our international crew.

Start of the race in Ixtapa. Our international crew.

10. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find cheap tickets to the beach.

9. Fortunately we decide to take an overnight bus! And then, Kate finds cheap tickets!

8. Unfortunately, she bought them backwards. And so we have to buy a new set of tickets.

7. Fortunately, they have tickets available.

6.Unfortunately, the return flight is for Monday. This means we have to miss a day of work.

5. Fortunately, we have to miss a day of work to stay at the beach another night!

Suffering at the Beach one more day.

Suffering at the beach one more day.

4. Unfortunately, our flight is delayed….and delayed…and deeelaaayyyeed. (we spent more time in the airport than on the plane)

3. Fortunately, they gave us food vouchers so we got to eat a pretty good meal at the airport.

2. Unfortunately, we were going to get in after packet-pick up and registration closed.

1. Fortunately, the owner of the race was on our flight and so they kept registration open and when we got our packets just as they closed the     doors!

On the physical side of things I had hurt my foot pretty badly the week before. “Tendinitis. Stay off of it for two weeks,” were the orthopedic’s recommendations. “MMmmm. Listen. I have a competition in a week. Let me do that and then I will rest for as long as I need to. And um, listen, I’ll just swim and bike if I need to, and will stay off of it for the run.”  I pleaded.

I did realize the ridiculousness of my negotiation. It  was as if I was six and my mom and I were negotiating how many more bites of broccoli before I could have dessert…only, I’m 33 and this is not about dessert this is about recuperating from an injury! What patience doctors must have working with athletes! It’s not like I can say to my foot, “Hey..pssst…just heal for now and then you can hurt afterwards.” [although admittedly, I did].

My most important rule about racing is that I cross the finish line with a smile. Races always have their moments, but I do this for fun.

“I really will just do the swim and the bike, and stop there.”  I thought to myself. Yeah..right.

Unfortunately, I finished that race… with a grimace on my face. I think I came in last.  What a lesson in humility, injury, and letting go. It was a great weekend-cheering on my teammates and spending an extra day at the beach with Kate.

Returning to DF I got a stern lecture from Coach 1, Coach 2, an orthopedic doctor, and my foot might-as-well… in which the message rang clear: OFF YOUR FOOT.

I asked my coach about his thoughts on this race.

“You did an ironman, Sarah. That’s awesome. But your ego made you do this race. And now you want to ride 90km on an injured foot. For what?” [I had just signed a teammate and I up for a ironman in July in which I was going to swim and bike and he was going to run] . Also, cut the bullshit. Start training.”

I was puzzled. “I am training. I’m training every day.”

Still not quite grasping his meaning another coach pointed out to me, “You come here tired and stressed.” Oh ,that’s true.

The thing that no one tells you about the aftermath of an Ironman is how long the let down is going to last and how it manifests itself. I knew that it was going to be hard afterwards. I figured two weeks. Maybe a month at most. And the most obvious part of it probably lasted two months (the first month after everyone wanted to talk about it still, so that was fun!). But then regular life settles in.

Paloma (my partner in Ironman) and I would talk about this periodically. She was able to identify more easily her struggles with the aftermath. “I’m fine.” I told myself. “I don’t have a problem slowing down. I’m still training every day. But I’m good!”  Or so I thought.

But really I wasn’t good. I was pushing at everything I was doing; I was afraid that I stopped pushing then I would lose all my strength, gain weight, and god-forbid, have no purpose! Enjoyment and ease of course did not even enter this conversation. I am an ironman. I am a long-distance triathlete. I must teach all day, tutor twice a week, teach yoga, complete a master’s program, and compete  90 kilometers on a bike because that’s what I do.

And so I pushed. I pushed at everything. And without realizing it I was just kind of physically present to whatever was there but didn’t have my whole being into anything in particular. And as a result: I lost strength, gained weight, and wasn’t sure for what I was training. And what pushed me to go and go and go? This idea that I couldn’t stop or else I’d be a total failure….look at all of the people around me and how fast they swim and their workload! Of course I can keep up…I have to keep up!

I finally hit bottom when I was examining yet another option for the summer and on the brink of taking it, I cried to my mom, How can I know what I want to do next when I have not even submitted grades yet. When my apartment is still a mess and I have to move in a week? My whole life I have been rushing to do the next thing and meet the next goal. I just need to be.

After that race in May I started counting my steps.Training was my godsend in the craziness that was going on and I showed up. Not always my fastest times or my “strongest” moments, but I smiled more. Started to become more conscientious of my body, my breath, my attitude, and the other people around me.

In the pool (where I was spending a lot of time since I couldn’t run) my coach badgered me. Every time I did a long distance work out he would say, Much better than Ixtapa, huh? 1500 meters in 32 minutes-not okay anymore.

Endurance sports are about personal bests for me.  32 minutes is an awesome time. So is 40. So is finishing! So is getting in the water and taking a stroke. . Everyone’s goals are different for them. So the time references here are not a general statement for what everyone should/shouldn’t do. For me I only use time as a reference because I know what I am capable of.  32 minutes is slow especially because I hadn’t been able to break that time in open water.

5:30am waiting to go to the start line for San Gil.

Sunday, July 13th I stood on the edge of the lake at the start of San Gil in San Juan del Rio, Queretaro. My race mate walked down to the start with me. I was freezing. It was 6:30 in the morning and the sun hadn’t risen yet.”Oh yeah, even in Mexico it’s cold when the sun’s not up.” I didn’t have a jacket with me.

Start of the RaceMy job was to swim 1900 meters in under thirty-eight minutes and then cheer on my teammates as they raced 90 km on the bike up a mountain and ran 21km for a strong finish. Nervous. That I’d get the route wrong and get my team disqualified. That I’d be stuck forever with the same speed in open waters even after two months of solid training in the pool practically every day.

Why? I thought. Why do I do this for so much anxiety. I don’t get money for it. Why?  Ni modo. Here I am. My teammate who walked down with me to the start said, “You are so brave to swim in this water so early in the morning!” “The air is colder than the water,” I reassured him. And I knew it to. But still what if I was wrong and it took me the whole swim to warm up?

I stood, at my coach’s suggestion towards the front of the pack, ready to jump in at the sound of the race. What if I get run over?Yellow buoys to the right and green buoys to the left.  Breathe.

The sound went off and so did we. Counting my strokes, listening to my breath, sighting the buoys. This was just like any other race. This was the pool…find the line, push the hand down in in the water, relax the elbow as it comes across…one, two, three…next buoy.

So why? Why do it?  Every time: as I stand on the water’s edge, the stage’s edge, whatever edge…always, why? Am I an adrenaline junkie…? Probably. But then I am there: swimming, acting, being.  And then the question becomes always, why wasn’t I here before?   All I know in that moment is that I forget about what or why and hear only my heart beating strong.

Lou just off the bike!

The cyclist on our team just off the bike

It it only when I pass another colored cap, or when another swimmer passes me does my mind come back and say Yessss! or Shit, what place am I in? …and then it comes back for a split second when the coach is at the water’s finish holding up a 3 and a 7. Panting, slightly dizzy, and disoriented I can only give a thumbs up about ohmygawd37minutes!!!  as I sprint up the cobblestones in bare feet to meet my cyclist who is waiting in the relays tent for me so that she can climb the mountain. With all the spectators clapping and yelling  animo! I am there giving her a big high five send off as I collapse ready to enjoy the sun for the rest of the day.

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Enjoying the sun with teammates.

It is a relief to not climb 90 km up and down a mountain, nor run 21km in the heat of the day.  It is so fun to spend the day in the sun with the other athletes on my team and cheer on the cyclists and the runners. And it is then that finally I see  the results of my strength; the grin from ear to ear is back and it started the minute my teammates arrived the evening before and continued well into the evening of the race day and pretty sure it stuck when I went to bed that evening.

There will continue to  be bad races, annoying training sessions, maybe hopefully no more injuries (please!), internal battles, and ego checks.

Our Awesome Relay!

Our Awesome Relay!

I sometimes worry about my  adrenaline junkie. It’s not very heart-oriented and I worry that because of her I will continue to seek these very highs that then lead to the very lows. But then I think that perhaps actually she is what takes me to that unknown edge even when there is fear and anxiety, and then my heart is what steadies me when I’m there.  I never know what’s going to happen at the start of the race. Can’t control it. And that unknown space is the only thing that is real in this life.

 

A Spanish Date and Other Creative Musings from the Concrete Jungle

People often ask me “How’s Mexico?” and as so much of Mexico now seems normal to me, I don’t know how to respond.

This weekend happened to be quite unusual in the sense that there were a series of events that that could be described as, “Only in Mexico.”

 

I-A Spanish Date

If you get stopped by the Mexican cops

I recommend that you take a

sassy fast-talkin Spanish hottie driving behind the wheel

and make sure you have a

mordita of something sweet…

a date, perhaps?

II-Cafe Jorocho, La Lluvia, y Bicis

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Getting Ready to Bike Home

“Cafe Jorocho on bikes?” I read on my phone as I walk in the door just from biking back from training.   “yeeessssss!” I reply to my friend David.

We meet at a in-between location where, to my delight, our coach and friend, joins us. “You know how to bike in the street?” he asks.

“Yes!” I reply indignantly.

“Good! I want to see it.” How is it that coaches even when they’re not coaching still have a way of coaching?

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Bike Parking?? Pretty please!!

I love biking in cities, especially cities that people say are not bikeable. Especially in cities whose streets and neighborhoods are so varied and interesting and that it’s too hard to get a feel for them if one is always in a car.

Our bike wheels hit the cobblestone streets where cotton candy and artesenal ice creams are being sold on the corners of the small town square. The market is crowded; full of stands that sell memeles, and any other type of tortilla that you could possibly want. We settle for a restaurant next door first of course parking our bicycles at the estacionamiento negotiating and thanking the attendants for watching our locked up bikes hidden by the garbage cans in back.

The Game

Luisen and David Watching the Game

First order of business: “How about we put our cell phones away?”

Look of death. “It’s the world cup, Sarah.” Oh right, the game.

The restaurant’s TV has something else on so Luisen props his phone up against the table like an old mobile tv; it works like one too, with the internet’s connection in and out. My friends stand hunched over their seats watching the tiny screen as the internet connection wobbles.

Eating in Coyocan

Restaurant Kitchen, Eating in Coyocan

After a Oaxacan style lunch with mole and tlayudas we thank the attendants at the estacionamento again and get our bikes to head for Cafe Jorocho, a Veracruzan style coffee.

Deep discusison at Cafe Joroch

Deep Discussion at Cafe Jorocho

Imagine a deli store in New York. A tiny little corner store that sells coffee, mochas, cappuchinos, what-say-you,with different sweets; pan de elote, muffins,  or perhaps a donut. The workers are polit
e but short. “Que pides?” Okay. Jorocho Especial. Gracias! Proximo!”

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Cafe Jorocho

Families, couples, friends sit in plastic chairs and there is a line down the street for churros, cafe, and crepes. There are buskers on the corner singing trying to earn an honest living. We sit in our plastic sipping our hot coffees while eating our treats watching the rain on the outside. We sit until it is dark and there is no point in avoiding the rain because clearly it will not stop.  We ride back along, and Luisen leaves first. “Let me know when you get home..okay?”

“Okay!” we say as we continue along. David is next to go. “Just head straight down Division del Norte. And tell me when you get home!”

“Okay!”

The rain is coming down faster, and I glide along the wet streets (only having to ask for directions once)! The warmth that I feel inside the apartment building after the doorman lets me in is priceless. I am a wet satisfied full rat, and a warm shower feels good. And then I collapse into bed so that I can be ready to run the next morning.

 

III-The Roommates

Monday morning I hear squeaking like a rocking chair above me. “What are the neighbors doing?”I haven’t heard that sound before in this building. I start to feel dizzy and I recognize what this is just as my roommate, E knocks loudly on the door.

“We got to go!  Earthquake!”

“What’s our other roommate’s name?” she asks.

“Laurel!” I shout banging on her door as her boyfriend scrambles to put his jeans on over his boxers.

“We need a key!” yells E, and at that point we even debate if it’s worth evacuating as the apartment has stopped moving.

Welcome to Mexico.

Free-Rollin to Karaoke

I heard a car door shut and my coach’s voice, “Sarah, solo es tu y tu camino!”  and then it was just me….well, me, my bike and a highway of roaring cars. This was back in November. The last long ride before the Ironman. I stared ahead of me and felt the beating sun on my face. I looked up at the green rolling hills and thought, “This is how I fell in love with Mexico.” And when I looked down at the white line that I was tracking I thought, “Oh hell, this road needs some song!” And assuming that no one could hear me busted out “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the top of my lungs.

When I was little my grandparents’ house in San Francisco was my magical kingdom: besides being spoiled rotten with sugar cereals for breakfast, jelly donuts on Sundays,  two ice cream sundaes for dessert  I was also the ever- gorgeous and willing model for my grandmother’s continuous clicking camera.

Upon arrival to the castle from Boston, I dropped my bags at the door, and raced up the winding carpeted staircase, where to the immediate left was the king and queen’s bedroom (my grandparents).My grandfather lay in his the big comfy bed with a breakfast tray lying on his belly and the crossword puzzle in his hand. Upon seeing him, I shouted “PAPA!” and he in his gruntling papa way would say, “Eyyyy, Sarahla, good to see ya.” Black and white photos taken and developed my grandma lined the walls with my mom, aunts and uncles, me and all my cousins.

But the best part…the real reason that I raced up those stairs so quickly was the Royal Closet. A three part door with mirrors on each one. When you closed the two doors it became a hall of mirrors…I spent hours in there making up songs and plays and conversations with the millions of mes so engrossed in my own imaginary play not giving a care in the world what adult might be laughing hysterically on the other side of that closet.

Fast forward twenty-five years, a little more hesitation and reserve has settled in. But on that hot November morning on the roaring highway, after 100 kilometers of riding, I really was not thinking about who might be on the lookout (well, except for maybe that broadway producer who just happened to pass by).

At lunch later that afternoon of the bike ride one of my coaches looked at me and said, “So in the car all the sudden I heard, ‘And IIII will always love you.” And everyone busted out laughing. So much for solitude. Another coach reprimanded me not for singing, but for my choice of song. And so began Sarah’s reputation for singing during whatever she does. (to this day, there are certain songs I am not “allowed’ to sing).

Around the same time, I was introduced to the rodillo libre

the-free- roller

the-do-you-love-me-today- roller

the-wash-your-lycra-out-with-sweat roller

the panic-and -run roller….

…a bike trainer in which the only way to keep yourself from falling is to breathe,  pedal, balance, and relax.  The first time I got on, my coach said, “Sing to me.” HA. I couldn’t tell him he was crazy, I couldn’t say anything but whimper and cry out “WOAAAAHHH!! AND DON’T YOU DARE LET GO!”  nonetheless, not a single lyric would come out of my mouth.

rodillo libre

My coach is in front of me saying “Relax!”

Rodillo and I have almost a year together. As much as I panicked (and still panic) over it, it has also been the best meditation. Letting go of the stresses of the day,  focusing on just rhythm and breathing (cuz if not, the damn thing will throw me overboard),and allowing myself to be okay with not having a good moment. It has taught me what it means to  to fall out and come back, to let go of disappointment, and know that no matter what happens I am loved…

as well of course  balance, cadence, and hand position.

The rodillo libre is just me and my road…with the distractions of people moving around, coaches bumping into me as a lesson to keep pedaling and balanced,  heavy rain falling on the tin roof, music blasting with coaches and my panicked mind saying “REEEELLLAAAAX.”

Thursday  I had come a little late and so everyone else had finished their rodillo libre and went to swim. It was just me, the rodillo, and the wall. The music had stopped. “Coach! Please put on the music!” (I could finally say a few words that weren’t “Shit, I’m going to fall!”)

“What’s that one song that you always sing?” my coach asked me.

Oh how the coaches spoil me! Just me and my road, mirrors of myself all around. My choice of song  and the echo of my own voice at the top of my lungs (well as much as my breath would allow)…my very own American Idol Diva Moment….all on tape.  And  I was not about to pass that up.

Ladies and gentlemen I present to you… free-rollin to karaoke.