Monday, March 07, 2005

Urban Iditarod

This past week marked the 11th annual Urban Iditarod in San Francisco. I was not a part of this silliness, but I offer this confession: I have been part of the silliness...twice.

I'll refrain from a detailed explanation of the Urban Iditarod; a concise description is as follows: you, your friends, dog costumes, beer, running, a shopping cart, and more beer. Go here for a more thorough look:

I'll also refrain from telling you in which two years I was involved as to avoid any legal action which might otherwise occur. However, a friend recently pulled me aside and said, "Did you hear about this? We gotta do this! We really, really gotta do this!" So I tried to explain I had done this and why everybody is immorally obliged to participate at least once.

The starting line: I'm dressed as Underdog: red, one-piece pajamas, floppy ears, a black nose. My buddies are Krypto, Dyna-mutt, a wrecthed looking Scoobie Doo, Mister Peabody and Huckleberry Hound. We have a shopping cart filled with two cases of beer, ice, a CD player cued to blast various dog-themed songs, two bags of (Scoobie) snacks and some extra rope. The rest of the rope has been tied to the cart and made into loops which will be "harnassed" to our teams of dogs.

The start is a chaotic mess. At some point, somebody, possibly the event organizer, is giving a speech from atop a cement pylon. Somehow, I have ended up beside him and have decided to invent sign-language to help aid our hundred plus viewing audience. I am drunk and it is not yet noon. Soon thereafter somebody yells "Mush!" and we are hurtling forward, a horrid wave of dogs and assembled sleds. One sled is a fake dog the size of a one-story building. Another sled has an almost comatose female riding inside.

It seems as if we have just started running when we have stopped again, just outside a bar. The sounds of beers being cracked, assorted barking and baying noises and the cheers of humans-dressed-like-dogs-for-no-good-reasons ensues. A pack of svelte looking "bitches" is actually a group of cats posing as dogs. Also, this team has a limosine (smart kitties). I notice another Underdog and think about offering to rumble, but suddenly everybody is moving as if by insticnt or by the fact that policemen have gathered.

We run through traffic--through all of the traffic that San Francisco has to offer--down Market, acorss Market, zig-zagging through terrified motorists who must think that New Yorkers have finally invaded. Our shopping cart bumps awkwardly over the cable car tracks, threatens to tip over, and then rights itself with the help of Mr. Peabody's expert guidance. I notice that virtually everybody is running with at least one beer in hand. Another team (French poodles) passes us on our right and I throw some ice. They laugh and strike back with French obscenties. The police seem stuck. There is little chance of them stopping this fleet even if they tried. We stop at another bar and our team, along with others, is huffing. We've lost Scoobie. Only when we are about to start running again does he find us. We rejoice without the sniffing of crotches.

We are running again, and this time we've smartly located ourselves at the head of the pack, just behind the "lead dogs". As we hurtle through Union Square--I mean straight through it--through the displays of arts and crafts--we hear some patrons shout with glee "a parade!" and then some disgruntled cursing as they are jostled aside. One artist stands boldly in front of his wares shouting "You break it, you buy it!" Through Union square, we push up a steep street which separates the weak from the strong. We are definately not the strong, and by the time we've reached the top our team is decimated. Nobody wants to haul the friggin "sled" anymore. Scoobie has been lost again, and our beers are so shaken that every can opened is a blooming flower of foam. But we're at another bar...with police and people dressed like dogs and a sled that contains a giant fire hydrant and we quickly recover our enthusiasm.

We run again, and the pace is furious. We hit a down-slope, and dogs have to leap out of the way as some of the more fierce competitors jump on thier sleds and ride. I follow suit, and I'm hurtling down the street (avoiding cars by sheer good fortune) when the cart hits a cable car track and we (I have come to think of my sled as a friend) topple over spilling beer and ice and CD player and snacks throughout a major intersection. My team catches up and scrambles to save the beer. We leave the remains of the CD player behind and rush on to rejoin the race. As we sprint past a crosswalk, a spectator cries "What are you protesting?" She is immediately met with a flurry of replies: "Sobriety!" "You!" "I just sharted!" And then there is more barking.

The next bar is a blur of beer and war stories already being formed. And then we are off on the next leg which, thankfully, has no hills. We are running on love now. Ahead of us, a dog pulling a large cooler on wheels makes a sharp turn; his cooler zips in a wide arc and explodes as it hits a parked car. There are screams of terror and jubilation, and somebody starts barking. My cape is tangled and upsets my otherwise world-class speed, and I have lost an ear. We are trading off pulling and pushing our slightly bent sled (now empty), truly working as team that is out of shape, drunk and worried that the beer is almost gone. We pass a slumped body on one of the sidewalks--he's probably dead. The police are now blocking off intersections on our route giving us free play in the streets.

The last bar comes and we rest for only a moment; we decide that cheating is not just the only way to win--it's the best way. Before the rest of the teams have finished the rest period, we trek off down a side street and soon become lost. We backtrack to the bar and try to cheat again, this time heading straight down the last leg of the course as non-chalantly as men dressed like dogs can. We push and pull our sled up the longest hill in the entire universe and cross into the finish area, a verdant field of grass where dogs can fall down and rest weary beer-soaked bones. Two other teams are here already having cheated better than us; we overlook their treachery and proclaim ourselves champions.

When the rest of group finishes, we mingle, sharing our stories of our brilliance with all who will listen. Scoobie shows up with a pack of scantily-clad doggettes and Mr. Peaobody throws up. Krypto and I try to hitch-hike back to the starting line, but nobody will stop to pick us up. I scream at them as they pass by, laughing, shaking their heads:

"But I'm Underdog!"


At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... which *two* years are you talking about? I'm reading only about one here.

Or is this in dog years?


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