Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fatass 50k

For those not in the know (you know? No?), "Fatass" races tend to be put together in the winter months, long after race season has subsided and we all pack on those lovely extra pounds from grazing, boozing, and in some cases (coughcough) both, around holiday-time.

Kate and I had planned on running a 50 KM (and in looking more closely at the mileage, Kate, we did more like 53k!) so this past Saturday, and lo and behold, we did. For we have "followthrough". See?

Parking at Forest Park's 53rd Ave trailhead, leaving my car at that, our turnaround point , loaded to the roof with cookies and cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate, and chicken soup, Kate drove us to the start/finish trailhead at Germantown Road. After some last minute typical runner-panics ("Do I have my keys? My wallet? Did I remember to grease my nipples? [that one was mine]"), we set off in the cool morning temps on our adventure on the winding singletrack, Kate up ahead: The leader of our twosome.

We were greeted within the first hour by snow: Big, looping flakes, tumbling from above the barren treetops, and it was such a treat to run in the fluffy stuff. I can't count the number of times we both sighed, "Thank GOD this isn't rain", but I know I at least thought it about 598 times. Divide that in half, and you likely have the number of times I uttered it. I am a mathematician.

We caught each other up in our lives, having not really spent much time chatting since the 100 in August, stomping through the slop and muck and generally having a grand ol' time, although my gloves had become wet about 10 miles in, so I began losing all feeling in my fingertips. This was a tad distracting, but I knew we'd reach my car soon, where a pair of fresh, dry gloves awaited.

As we approached the Firelane 1 intersection, two runners were headed down the trail towards us. After passing by, Kate and I said at the exact same time, "That was Tom!" We passed about 8 other runners on the trails that day, many of whom are elite stars in the sport of ultrarunning. Oregon is loaded with talented long-distance weirdos. And I say that with all of the love in my heart.

About 20 minutes later, we reached my car, hopped inside, and ripped opened our goodies. The soup I'd brought had cooled quite a bit, but Kate's hot chocolate was SCALDING and sooooooo perfect. With my hands thawing by the vents of my heater, we wolfed down our food and then, relucantly, opened the doors.

Holy. Crap. The winds were somewhere in the neighborhood of 30MPH on that ridge, and we both were shivering like a couple of virgins on prom night. Knowing that the quicker we returned to running the warmer we'd get, off we trotted, back towards the direction which we came, this time, with me at the helm and Kate behind.

I had a feeling around mile 22-ish that my pace was a tad fast for Kate, so I checked in with her, and she replied, "Hey, I'm keeping up so far!", so we stayed at my pace (I calculated with 1/4 mile markers all along Wildwood trail that we were doing around a 10 mn mile) and kept trucking. Which is when the rain started.

It wasn't torrential, but it chilled us to the bone, so we picked it up and ran harder. I think the last two miles we were cruising pretty damned hard, hammering the downhills, scrambling the uphills until we reached Kate's car and the "finish" in just under 6 hours.

The winter storm hit Portland/NW Oregon within 5 hours after we finished. Timing is everything, I suppose. Now, the streets are so covered wit ice, getting to Forest Park will be next to impossible until the weekend.

Glad we snuck that one in.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You know, or perhaps you do not, I love finding out what peoples' first BIG concerts were. My friend Dave and I - completely by coincidence - share the exact same first concert, even though we met 20+ years past the performance date. And I just found out last week that my Dad's first concert was Janice Joplin, in 1968, at The Fillmore in San Francisco. He alleges that she drank an entire 5th of Southern Comfort during the performance, and the more she consumed, the better she got. Not shocking to hear, but truly amazing that he was there to witness it.

I've sat lock-jawed and wide-eyed through concerts by Prince, REM, Duran Duran (cough-cough), Jimmy Paige and dozens of other legends as they've taken the stage and hammered the house into the floor. But one Sunday, 3 years ago, a close friend called to see if I was available that night to catch Bruce Springsteen at Dodgers Stadium, as he'd won two tickets on the radio.

I like Bruce. Many of his songs blow my mind, yet I do not consider myself a fan. But that night, wading in the mass ocean of 50,000+ fans, he set the stadium lights ablaze and invited everyone to sing along to a little diddy you might know.

To this day, the most amazing concert-going experience in my life. So...what's YOURS?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It seems that I have come up with a writing challenge for myself. This pounced upon me as I wove through the streets of Portland last night, walking home after my bar shift:

As I discovered upon the recent (and loooooong time coming) completion of the first draft of my first novel, I have a lot of shit I've started writing, yet haven't finished. Or, in some cases, continued beyond the kernel-of-the-idea phase.

Like drunken sex that carries on for far too many hours: It's time to finish. Well, I've heard of this phenomena. Sounds...horrible. Anywho...

I plan on burrowing through the sorted shorts/dangling longforms/stream of consciousness junk that I've pecked away at over the last years and will give myself a short deadline with which to complete it/them. Sounds like torture? Yeah, it freaks the hell out of me, but I believe setting up this exit ramp will help me get off the freeway in a more timely fashion. And in one piece.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


This morning, I went for a hilly run at Mt. Tabor Park here in Portland. I was meeting up with "Ruben": Another runner from a trail running group we belong to called TRAIL FACTOR. I type this all in caps because each time someone from the group sends an email to everyone, TRAIL FACTOR is capitalized each time the words TRAIL FACTOR FACTOR into the message.

Ruben greets me, and I clearly have some years on him. He's an incredibly sweet and cool cat, and I'm always up for makin' a new friend or three, so off we trotted up the road for about a mile's jog before hitting the TRAILS of the park.

Okay, I'll stop the all caps thing now. Okay, one last one.


The climb was subtle, but there, and I couldn't help but notice we were running at a speed slightly faster than my normal short run pace. Ah well. Things will slow down when we hit those massive climbs in the park thought I, gracefully skipping over road construction pot holes and following my partner into the park.

We get to talking, not necessarily about running at first: School, jobs, loving the Pacific NW, and then the first major climb rears it's ugly, muddy head. I was immediately reminded of an episode of The Simpsons wherein Homer agrees to climb a mountain sponsored by an energy bar. One of the people sponsoring the climb points out the window and it's revealed to reach miles into the sky. The man tells Homer, and I am paraphrasing, "Yes, riiiiight next to that one." The camera pans back to reveal a larger and even more ominous mountain beside the original towering giant. He then adds, "Uh huh. Juuust to the right of that one." Camera again pans back to reveal a monstrous mountain that completely dwarfs the others, stretching into the clouds.

That, my friends, was only slightly less steep than this first climb.

Ruben trots up the trail casually at a pace I myself would label "a slow sprint". I even tell him I need to walk a few seconds, which he happily does with me until it tapers back to something that would remind a human being as not-a-means-of-torture. Winding up and up, we finally hit the top and are on level loops around a central park when we begin talking about ultra marathon running.

Me: "Is that shirt from the local 50k I've heard about?"

Ruben: "yeah! It's really fun. I was in the lead until the last few miles."

Me: "jdhfpunf;oiwhrvudu[dcjnv!!!!!1111eleventy" (as my jaw had hit the ground, I was incoherent)

Me (finally getting it together): "What did you wind up placing?"

Ruben: "Third. I finished in 4 hours."

Me: "lASKDCkfgjkgjfkkgjriig886hrvhvhrifhinrcr!!"

As it turns out, I was on a hilly training run with, someone I would at least deem, an elite trail runner.

We returned to his place 45 minutes later, my legs burning from the intense speeds (at least for this old man) and enjoyed some snacks while watching Californication.

I bid Ruben farewell and promised we'd run together again, maybe for a long, slow run (please God, please - long and slow this time) and I returned home, muddy and humbled, with legs that felt as though Bruce Lee had swung by and kicked the living shit out of them.

I hadn't noticed the race trophies on his mantel until just before I'd left.

(post script: I just checked the website for the results from the 50k at Forest Park that was run in May. Guess who won the damned thing.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I dare you to not tear up during this. DARE you, I say.


It's okay if you don't. But if you don't, please refrain from stealing toys from orphans this Christmas. if you can.

Friday, November 14, 2008

First novel...

...first draft: Done.

After researching, outlining and writing the prose for 8 years (several of which were spent in a "drawer" on my hard drive, not to be opened, much less touched), today, sitting in the kitchen nook with the bright Portland sunshine filling the skies, I drummed out the final two pages of my first novel. And I have to admit, it feels...false? As in, is it really over?

Then I look over the final pages and see that the characters have run their courses, the plot has fully arced and, really, there's no place left to go.

Except to rewrites, starting on page 1. But not until next week.

I'm gonna enjoy this feeling for a bit.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


It seems my life's lesson, at least the greater arc of it, is perspective. So much has changed for me in the last two + years, the greatest of which is my perception of the world around me and my place in it. My eyes have been snapped open wide to how much there is to learn and how immediate life truly is. For this, I am forever thankful.

Last evening, a shift in history took place and with this shift, I believe (dare I say "hope"?) that the world's perspective was given a slight refocus. I could carry on about my personal feelings on the election, but the first and foremost word that sums up what has processed thus far: Calm. This is a far different blog entry than the one I posted 4 years ago, the morning after the election...


Saddened. In disbelief. Frightened. Angered. Mortified. Stymied. Dissapointed. Freaked fucking out.

George W. Bush and his Republican regime have bought another 4 years in power.

The hopelessness is deeper than anything I've ever felt. The disbelief in my soul that 51% of my fellow American are fucking idiots. It hurts me that now, not only do we live in a sovereignty led by a born again Christian extremist, but more than 1/2 of the population supports that.

Let the drinking commence until 2008....

God help us all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

During this current financial crisis; amidst the single most important Presidential election in my voting lifetime, where the future of the country, nay, the world may lay in balance/teetering on the edge of oblivion, I would like to point us towards a more daunting and disturbing fact:


I'm really sure what the commercial is trying to sell me, nor do I care. All I know is that Craig T Nelson agreed to appear in an ad alongside THE DEAD GIRL FROM POLTERGEIST. So to him I say:

Good on you!

It takes a brave actor to stretch his acting chops by performing in a scene with an actor who died 20 years ago at the tender age of 13. Why, her acting skills were at best those of a 15 year old! And now, her soul floating in the hereafter for two decades, how much better could her "acting-is-reacting" talents have possibly gotten? So it all falls on Craigers. And pull it off? Does he EVER!

I'm half-tempted to buy whatever-the-thing-is that THE DEAD GIRL FROM POLTERGEIST and the ubiquitous star of "The Killing Fields", "The Ghosts of Mississippi", and - his greatest tour de force performance prior to the commercial WITH THE DEAD GIRL FROM POLTERGEIST -"Coach" is selling, sight unseen. Why, the way he deadpans to camera as her lithe, tiny frame stares at him with the soulless eyes of a demon from the foot of the bed is the hilarious delivery that sends my shopping urges over the edge! His wry, mildly exacerbated reads of his lines as he continues to ignore the weakening, frail, and quite frankly, DEAD LITTLE GIRL absolutely leaves me in awe!

If you have yet to have seen this masterpiece in the flesh, please click below. And remember to dim all lights and wait until the stroke of midnight to watch it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ultrarunner Karl Meltzer's adventure across the Appalachian Trail that began in mid-August ended 2 days ago. His attempt to break the thru-hike record was met with challenge upon challenge: A bout with Trench Foot sent him to a hospital for examination and medical care, and painful achilles tendonitis made his every step excruciating as he ran and hiked some of the most beautiful and technical trails this country has to offer.

Karl reached the finish on September 29th after 54 days, 21 hours, and 12 minutes of relentless forward motion.

Way to do it, Karl!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


In Portland, we have four (4) trash/recycling containers: Muted green for trash, blue for "recyclabes", a bright green for yard waste, and a small, yellow container for glass. Frankly, I'm shocked we aren't asked to separate the different colors of glass. And I'm not being facetious.

We haven't quite figured out the trash pickup routine yet, even after 10 weeks of it. We were told by neighbors that glass pickup is on Wednesday morning and everything else Thursday morning, but then Ann phoned the company who told us that no, Thursday, everything is picked up, so make certain to cart our stuff out Wednesday evening.

Well, some Thursdays, one of the (random) containers sits untouched and remains full. And other weeks, they just don't show up at all. But they've been fairly consistent.

One of the more fascinating aspects about trash day (I can almost see you all perched on the edge of your chairs) are the recyclabes collectors. Routinely, we hear the clanging of empty glass containers bouncing about in shopping carts. This is a veritable army of glass collecting-hobbyists who descend on our trash like Lindsay Lohan on a new sexual identity (I worked real hard coming up with that one, folks). Thing is, they aren't the predictable homeless every time. Our first week, two college-age preppy "dudes" nabbed our stuff (beer money, we assumed). And now, not 3 minutes after I put the containers out front, I'm watching a middle aged Latino man who looks like he might have been playing chess in a park a few hours ago dig through our glass. All I can assume he's thinking is, "Damn, you people like beer."

That and, "King takes rook seven."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Deep thoughts, with Russ McGarry

Yesterday hailed birthday numero 38. My phone rang, predictably, at 12:27pm, Central time, the exact minute I popped onto this Earth. It was my mom, who calls every year, and who greets me live, or via voicemail, with the same message:

"It was xx years ago exactly now that I was in the hospital..." and on she goes to describe my birth: How I let out one, huge wail and then was docile and calm, how she held me to her chest and I just lay there, quiet, calm, comfortable.

I really do cherish this tradition.

About 3 hours later, I found myself curled up on the sofa, near tears, hit with the realization that HOLY SHIT IT'S MY 38TH BIRTHDAY. Birthdays serve as milemarkers, no matter how we poo-poo ("poo-poo" LOLZ) age in these "enlightened times", i.e.:

"Age is nothing but a state of mind!"

"You're only as old as you feel!"

While both of these statements remain true, it's also a time to reflect. And there, prostrate on the couch, I was doing just that.

Much has changed for me in the last two years...actually in the last year...well, to be completely honest, in the past two months. I went from being a married, freelance television writer with a house in North Hollywood to a resident of Portland, Oregon, in a relationship with one of my oldest friends, pouring beers at night and exploring the latest, freshest chapter of my life. And while change is certainly exciting, it's also frightening.

But that's the whole point now, isn't it?

Ann and I talked about it: How this paradigm shift is so uncertain and stressful, and we came to a realization, as I flopped onto my back on the sofa and she paused the episode of "The Office" we'd been watching:

Ann: So we could've stayed in Los Angeles, in a city we didn't like living in, chasing jobs we don't like, to just survive.

Me: Right. That would be "more comfortable".

Ann: Or, we could live in a city we love, maybe have to struggle a bit financially at first, and see what's out there, make new friends, and live new experiences.

Me: I think I see where you're going with this.

I cried for a bit - aka, let out one, huge wail - and then stopped. Quiet. Calm. Comfortable. Happy to be alive and here.

I guess it's just in my nature.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


(the other night)

Me: "What would be served to you in hell that you'd have to eat, every day, for all eternity, that would truly make it hell?"

Ann: "Quiche."


I cooked for the 2nd night in a row. I'm really beginning to enjoy cooking, something that has always terrified me (my mother used the stovetop this regularly: There was a towel covering the burners at all times, upon which was stacked paperwork), and I dove right in this afternoon with a plan to cook a sausage, leek, and mushroom "pie".

I'm not so good with deciphering ingredients as of yet, but eggs and 2 kinds of cheese were on the list. Yes, that's right...

After 30 minutes of chopping and browning, and 45 minutes of baking, I produced a wonderfully rich, tasty, and flavorful quiche.

Ann did say that it's the best quiche she's ever had. So that's something, I suppose.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Most men know who I'm talking about when I bring up "Naked Guy" at the gym. I'm unsure of the politics in ladies' locker rooms, but having been a member of various gyms since roundabout 1991, Naked Guy has been present at each one of them, in one horrific incarnation or another: "Old Naked Guy", "Chatty Naked Guy", "Cruising Naked Guy", "Incredibly 'Blessed' Naked Guy", "Naked Guy Who Shaves and Blowdries His Hair Naked"...the list goes on and on. The trait all of these Naked Guys have in common? Go on, guess. Give it your best shot. No? okay:


Sometimes, Naked Guy taunts other locker room patrons by draping a towel OVER HIS SHOULDER, leaving his unmentionable parts not only totally mentioned but flapping in your face.

I am not Naked Guy, at neither my new gym/pool here in Portland or at any other facility I've ever belonged to. But yesterday, another gym member turned me into Naked Guy. The story goes:

I've been swimming since pacing Kate last weekend, giving my body a break for a week from the pounding of the trails, and I was fortunate enough to find a community center only a mile or so away that has a 6 lane lap pool. I was changing from my suit post-swim to my running clothes so I could hit the weight room, wearing nothing but a layer of chlorinated water, when an older gentleman, the second, and I'm not exaggerating, the precise moment my towel hits the floor, asks, "Where'd you get the tattoos?"

I (outwardly) calmly open my locker, trying my hardest to focus on answering him while digging through my bag to prevent anyone from walking in and mistaking me for Naked Guy. Naturally, nothing I want to wear is easily accessible, so there I stand, bare-assed and chitchatting, digging (outwardly) calmly through my clothing.

Then - somehow - the subject of where he'd attended high school in Los Angeles is introduced. At this point, I'm naked, standing on my towel (athlete's foot fears, a discussion for another time), struggling to get my shorts right-side-out. I'm picturing myself hopping on one foot as well, although it likely didn't happen, for added, horrifying, jiggling-junk effect, as I slide my left foot through the waist of my shorts...my still-wet leg that I hadn't dried once the conversation started in hopes to escape Naked Guy fate more quickly.

The leg which, predictably, gets stuck inside the shorts liner.

By now, my captor is magically on the subject of how his niece happened to run into an old grade school classmate of his in Florida, and I'm one leg through, sprinting towards the finish line. As his lips spin the yard of the unexpected phone call and reunion, I'm nearly relegated to sitting on the bench (my naked ass on an unprotected naked bench = another neurosis for another time), jamming my right, wet foot into my shorts and triumphantly yanking them above my waist.

I don't know why, but the conversation kind of dwindled at that point, and before I could pull on my t shirt, my newfound friend was bidding me a good workout and exiting the locker room.

Luckily, no one had entered our area during this seemingly weeks-long conversation. So, narrowly escaping with my Not Naked Guy status intact, I closed my locker and turned the corner to be halted by a hairy, naked back and bottom, facing the mirror, toothbrush in hand.

Brush on with your bad self, Naked Guy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

"This feels sooooo comfortable," Kate confided to me as she lay on her back, knees bent, staring at the clear, nighttime sky. The smile in her eyes matched the one curled upon her lips. Eucalyptus leaves in the trees around us crinkled against one another in the cool breeze. It sure was the perfect night for kicking back on the forest floor and taking it all in, all right.

Save for the fact that we were 70 Miles into her first 100 Mile race, and Kate had just taken a pretty decent spill on the trail.

Its funny to think what led to that very moment all began when I came across an incredibly beleaguered Leslie at Forest Park, running for dear life to the finish of her first 50k race. But there I was Friday night, in Marin, preparing to run Kate in the last 40 miles at the Headlands Hundred.

Kate , her husband Rodney, Leslie, Kate's sister Karen, and I tooled around the race course Friday afternoon, spotting where the aid stations would be, as Leslie and Karen were planning to meet her at each stop along the way. It was a beautiful course, but a pretty tough one (you know, as opposed to the easy 100 mile races out there), with 17,700 feet of gain slapped on to trails that included heavily rocky singletrack, miles of exposed trail, and ridges that wound you along the ocean front...and into the infamous Bay area fog, so thick you could barely see your own hallucinations in front of your face.

We stuffed ourselves with pasta at a Mill Valley eatery and returned to the motel, teasing Karen the entire ride about the movie she could have SWORN she'd seen about killer baboons. And the teasing continued after we arrived, until she burned us all by pulling it up on the ol' internets. I wondered aloud if we'd have any interaction with killer baboons ourselves during the night as Leslie graciously taped our feet. Then, I was off to my room for a Benadryl allergy tablet: My magic carpet ride to Dreamtown.

Wow, that even felt a little bit gay to type.

I passed on watching the start so I could sleep in, and good thing, as I remained knocked out until the late hour of 8AM. Yes, 8AM. It seems that even when it's not my race, per se, I still get all excited and anxious and can't sleep. Ah well.

Rodney and I grabbed lunch (Thai food - note to self: DO NOT EAT THAI FOOD ON RACE DAY) and talked on and off with Karen about Kate's initial 40 miles. The reports were excellent: She was in fantastic spirits and having a blast, although her pace was far faster than she'd planned. I hoped she'd slow down a bit before the night came, as I didn't want her blowing up at 2AM.

Rodney and I got to the start/finish/50 mile aid station and were soon greeted by Leslie and Karen, who were both adorned with huge, pink foam hats and matching ties. They were most definitely in the spirit of the game and had apparently made a great number of friends over the course of the day. Not hard to believe.

Kate pulled in to the aid stop in 12 hours, 35 mns, and she looked better than I feel on most days upon climbing out of bed and hitting the shower. Shoe changes, some refueling, and she and Karen - who would be pacing her from that point until I picked her up - trotted off into the growing night, so Rodney, Leslie, and I packed up the car and dashed to the next aid station.

After a couple of hours of waiting, making grilled cheese sandwiches, and bullshitting, before we knew it, Kate and Karen popped out of the woods and to the station. Her stomach had been troubling her since the last aid but she was back on the up and up and then off into the dark once again. And again, for us: Car, drive, and pull into the Mile 61 aid station at Tennessee Valley. I prepped my water bottles, headlamp, and gear and readied for a night filled with possibilities.

Miles 61.8-65.9: I got warmed up pretty fast, since the trails climbed pretty relentlessly up the mountain. Kate was drinking and eating well, and her pace was strong. Like, damned strong. She updated me on how the race was going, and she was 100% smiles, even as she warned me that this piece of trail (which she'd already once run and we would one more time before the day and night were through) was intense uphills followed by intense downhills. I will admit here, in front of you all, "intense" is a useful adjective for this report. I also had my first confused/hallucination of the night, only 2 miles in, when another runner's lights were coming down towards us. i thought, "Oh, cool - some guy on a night run." Uh, no, Russ. That's the lead runner coming back from the aid station. Doy.

Kate's longest runs prior to this race topped off at 100k (62 miles), so I alerted her around mile 65 that she had done her longest run ever. After running for another 10 minutes, she turned to me and said, "Guess what? This is the farthest I've ever run!" And this joke continued about every 5-10 miles. We found ourselves quite hilarious. Must have been the endorphins.

We made it down to the aid station at Muir Beach, refilled, gobbled some fresh strawberries and blazing hot soup, and off we dashed. Throughout the night, we kept aid stops to a maximum of 5 minutes, even when something major like a clothing change had to occur. I think it saved a substantial amount of time, and I'm proud of Kate for keeping that always on the forefront of her mind.

Oh, and those intense downhills coming in to the aid station? Yeah, they made for intense uphills on the way out.

Miles 65.9 - 71.3At the top of that insanity, the course took a detour before sending us back to the Tennessee Valley aid station that included about 19,034 stairs up the side of the hill. Okay, I lost count after 5, but it sure as hell felt that high. We crested and continued when Kate gave me an "Uh oh...I think I have to throw up" signal. I told her to go for it and switched off my headlamp. Some small heaves came from the darkness, followed by a, "Dammit! That's it?", but even that little bit soothed her stomach, and we were off to Tennessee Valley.

We came down the part of the trail where my initial hallucination hit, likely around mile 70, after carefully running down rocky switchbacks, when the trail turned to gentle, soft powder. A perfect place to face-plant, right?

And now you're caught up on where I started this entry.

After checking in, Kate decided the worst of the damage was a scraped knee. We dusted her off as much as we could and trotted on down to the aid stop. She told me to not mention her fall to the crew to see if they noticed, so I told her that, if they pressed me for information, I'd spin a detailed yarn about attack baboons on the trail. We ran it in, whooping ourselves like simians, and got in and out in no time flat.

Miles 71.3 - 75.3: "Diabolical."

This is the word that Kate drummed up to describe the upcoming 4 miles. 4 miles, that's nothin', right? Yeah. And I shave my head because I have too much hair. I suppose in the dark, this course is a bit easier, as you can't see what awaits you, especially for this piece. Holy. Christ. You think you know hills? I'LL show you hills. And my legs had 60 fewer miles on them than Kate's, which you'd find shocking, because her mood, even at it's darkest, was excellent. I think if race workers had heard the amount and the intensity with which we were laughing, she'd have been disqualified for having too good of a time and they would have made me run sweep.

We passed back through Tennessee Valley and like a pit crew, Leslie and Karen were on us. Our bottles filled, we began up towards the start/finish, which also served as the 75 mile marker. But in the dark, the markings leading out from the aid station were a little subtle. The trail took us in between a couple of barns and we figured we'd missed the markers when we wound up back at the aid station. Damn. An incredibly sweet and helpful worker ran us back to the glowstick we'd missed (this was our first missed trail marker of the night - watch the theme and see how I was able to add another 2 miles to my total) and we were again on course. And climbing. And climbing.

THis section is a bit blurry in my memory, but I do remember the word "diabolical" being repeated several times. I managed to have another hallucination (woe was me: 15 miles in) when we stopped to pee: Kate was up ahead and I finished off. I saw her headlamp ahead of me bouncing around, which indicated she was running and done with her break, so I sprinted after her. To my right, I heard the sound of - what I believed to be - someone peeing in a toilet, which made me jump, as I thought Kate was going right beside me. And somehow running ahead of me. It turned out to be a large bucket with constantly flowing water for horses to drink from.

Hey, it was probably 3AM, cut me some slack.

After the 820 feet of climbs came 1,000 feet of downhills, which wound us through the old WW2 Battery, which dates back to 1938. We ran through the concrete tunnels and popped out onto an asphalt road that twisted down, down, down and lo and behold, the 75 mile aid station glowed ahead.

When we got in, Kate crammed the last piece of a homemade cake in her mouth and announced, "This is the best cake I've EVER had!" to the crowd at the aid station. We managed to cut up a little and get some laughs from them, although they may have just been as delirious and punchy as we were. Leslie swapped out my dying batteries for some fresh ones and away we went.

Miles 75.3 - 83.9: Sand sucks. It's a fact. Running in sand at mile 76 of a 100 miler? That sucks more. Or sucks harder. Either way, we were ankle deep in it headed uphill for about a mile, our shoes loaded with grit and dirt until we hit an access road and began more climbing.

A couple of rogue deer sprinted across the road ahead of us, and then we saw headlamps coming towards us, but on a road running parallel to ours. They yelled, "Keep going!" as there was a turn up ahead. Within a mile, we reached the turn and began heading back, spotting feral cats' eyes glowing in the darkness, watching us, wondering why in the hell we would do such a stupid thing, most likely.

Then, another turn faced us, but no trail markings indicated whether we should proceed forward or turn. I told Kate to take a short break and ran about a 1/4 mile ahead, seeing no markings along the way. Either trail bandits had swiped the glowstick or this section was really crappily marked. I returned to find Kate seated on the curb, and we hemmed and hawed for about 10 minutes as to our next move. Then Kate said, "Screw it - let's go straight."

Wise words.

We continued down the road, which took us through a parking area and then, after about a mile, a glowing green stick hanging from a tree appeared! Whew. All right, let's get down to business, I thought, and before we knew it, we were back on trails.

It was at this point - around mile 80 - that I feel like Kate's darkest patch came. We were silent for a great deal of time, running very little (uphills. YES, MORE UPHILLS), and this stretch was 8 miles between aid stations. High ahead, I saw two headlamps bouncing up the switchbacks, maybe only a mile away. While we power-walked, I put it out there very simply:

"Let's run for 30 seconds."

Without looking at me, she replied, "That sounds like a good idea," and Kate began to run. And run. And those 30 seconds came and went and began to grow into minutes, which swelled into more minutes, and before I knew it, I looked at my watch and realized we'd run almost 10 minutes! Her mood lightened a bit, and we hiked more of the hills and ran every flat and down hill stretch we could. The sun began to rise and, as always, our energy came back, as did the jokes ("Baboons!" and "My longest run ever!" being the staple), and then, we turned a corner and spotted the two runners I'd seen nearly an hour before, now only 100 yards ahead.

Kate's pace picked up, and I say this with all sincerity: I had to keep up with her. They kindly moved over to allow us by and we all bade one another a "Good job!" as Kate TORE down the singletrack. And this maddening pace continued for about 15 minutes, the sun now struggling to cut through the early morning fog above.

We figured we were closing in on the station at Rodeo Valley and began to fantasize about breakfast. Kate dreamed of pancakes as my stomach begged for a breakfast burrito, but alas, after we pulled in and sat down, Twizzlers, brownies, and potato chips would have to suffice.

Miles 83.9 - 87: Okay, our brains were pretty baked from sleep deprivation, I'll admit that. We kept pushing though, and Kate's periodic stops to stretch her lower back were met with her own response of, "Well, Kate, we aren't gonna get there any faster by standing still." This is one tough cookie.

We crested at an intersection where ribbons dictated we take a left and head downhill, but straight ahead, a staggering uphill stared us in the face. No markings were on the uphill, but we were out of it and confused, so I hightailed it uphill about 5 minutes to find no trail markings. When I returned, we saw 2 runners come out from the turn we could have taken. We shouted to them, "Is that the way to Tennessee Valley?", and when their response was a slow, tired, confused, "Yes?", we took it as total truth.

Once we realized where we were (things look massively different in the daylight), we began our descent to the aid station, passing the horse bucket I'd mistaken for Kate-on-the-toilet-hours earlier. Cruising in, Kate headed for the port-o-potty and I dumped a bunch of Fritos and pretzels into a baggie, refilled my water, handed my stinking night gear to Leslie and Karen, and BOOM! We were off yet again.

Miles 87 - 91.1: DO YOU REMEMBER THOSE CLIMBS FROM EARLIER? Yeah, here we were again. We were both hazy on the distance and length of the hills, but dammit, they hadn't installed an escalator since we last visited. With periodic breaks, we jammed up those bad boys and cruised down the descents. I was highly impressed how much strength Kate had in her because I know her feet were bothering her at this point, and the constant slamming downhill couldn't have felt very pleasant. Once we reached the bottom, it was about 1/10 of a mile to the aid, which we jogged in. Kate took a seat on an ice chest as we consumed and refilled and, as per usual, she was ready to roll in less than 3 minutes. Which meant those downhills were now uphills, but, as I reminded her, we were single-digit-miles from the finish!

Miles 91.1 - 96.5: We banged out the climbs in the growing daytime heat and headed for those bastardly steps for the final crawl. We crested and began to hightail it down to the last aid station when we started to come across runners still going to the stop we'd left an hour before, the first of which being a pacer I'd spoken with long before I'd started running the day prior. He was pacing a new runner, named Scott, and was a liberal amount of distance ahead of him. About 30 seconds later, we came across Scott, who seemed to be in an upward mood, and I high fived him, screaming his name before Kate embraced him in a powerful hug. Say what you want about ultra runners being nuts, but we're all on the same team. Instantly, I felt our own energy pick up. And a good thing, because "diabolical" was about to re-enter our vocabulary...

Miles 96.5 - DONE!: Needless to say, spirits were high at the final aid stop. I dropped my (soaking wet) windbreaker and tore off my gaiters (I can't explain why I hate wearing them, but I do) and literally had to *chase* Kate out of the stop. She had left a full 20 seconds ahead of me(!!). Then began the climbing, but now we had adrenaline on our side, so we powered up those suckers like we'd not run in a week, and every rocky, twisting down hill was greeted by our light, sprinting feet. Now we were joking and laughing out loud (Kate, on what place she'd finish: "You know what they call the person with the lowest GPA in medical school?" Me: "No." Kate: "'Doctor'."), and once we hit the battery, the barn door was just around the corner. So what does someone who's been running 28 hours + do in this situation?

They run HARDER.

Our pace must have been 8 mn/mile for the last mile or two, and we hooted and hollered when we saw the finish below us as we wound down, down, down the switchbacks, encountering day-hikers with dogs who apologized profusely upon seeing Kate's bib number. Her response?

"What pretty doggies!"

Now we popped off the trail and hit the road, another 200 yards and we were done. I began to well up and tears streamed from my eyes as I was overtaken by what I'd witnessed: A dream, come to fruition, right there beside me. Kate turned and said, "We're crossing the finish together, so get ready to hold my hand!" and I smiled, as I'd wondered hours earlier if I should let her take this victory alone, but I then I realized: We were a team and now bonded for life by this single experience.

I don't recall the precise moment we crossed the finish, but I can still feel the embrace we shared. For someone who'd pounded out a truly difficult first 100 mile run, the strength in the hug I received was that of a champion, of a warrior. Someone who'd battled not merely a trail, not some random mountain range, but who looked in the mirror and said I can.

There's a saying that goes, "There is no glory without struggle." I repeat this in times of hardship to remind myself that in arriving beaten, battered, and bloodied at the mountain's peak, I will have learned much more than if I were dropped off to simply enjoy the view. And standing at the finish of Kate's first 100 Mile run, I was lucky enough to see living proof of it.

Congratulations, Kate. I'll forever cherish those hours. Thank you for sharing them with me.

Now, about this 100 I've been looking at for next year...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This past Saturday, Kate and I swept the course at the PCT 50 miler. I'd never had the honor of sweeping an ultra before, which involved, for this particular race, a run from the 25 mile turnaround point to the finish, picking up ribbons used to mark the course, snag any dropped trash, and make certain that all runners have been accounted for. Kate has run this race and swept the course before and made sure to tell me that we were about to have a blast...but if we pick up a slow, stubborn runner, our day could get a hell of a lot longer, which had happened to her last year while sweeping.

We met at the start/finish and left her car so she could shuttle us back after we'd finished. Kate is running the Headlands Hundred in a week and a half, the final 35-40 of which I'll be serving as her pacer. So this 25 miles was my last, longest run and her shortest long run prior. We knew we'd utilize the time wisely, chatting strategy for the 100 miler (Kate: "My plan - to keep moving until I finish.") and getting to know one another better. Where else do you do that, other than on a 5+ hour adventure across mountain terrain...right?

We manned the 25 mile aid station, planted firmly midway up Mt. Hood, and it was an amazing experience. Watching runners wander, stumble, dash, or crawl in was truly an inspiration. I thought of the many aid station workers who've watched my sad ass confusedly grab for food and liquids at stops, only to gently ask me, "Can I help you find something?", which, I discovered is code for, "You look really fucking lost. Here, let me help."

A man named Tim introduced himself and informed us he'd be tagging along down to the start finish, as he was vacationing nearby and had asked the race director if he could squeeze in a long run on the course. Before long, 2:00 rolled around, and we all strapped on our gear, shoved a dozen cookies in our faces, and trotted off.

We began grabbing ribbon from the tree branches as we slid across snow banks, which, Kate informed me, was odd for this time of year (I plan on giving Al Gore a call to get his insight). We made light chatter as we ran down the mountain on some of the most beautiful singletrack I've ever run on. Leapfrogging as we each stooped to tear off ribbon, we came across not a single runner, and before we knew it, were rolling in to the 6 mile aid station (HWY 35).

After some confusion on the radio about missing runners (who had dropped earlier), I introduced myself to a shorter, squarely-built aid station worker named Tom and quickly realized I'd been reading his blog for the last 2 years. He's a amazing ultra-runner, and an incredibly friendly, enthusiastic guy. He welcomed me to Oregon (just as everyone has - people LOVE living here!) and promised we'd be seeing each other again.

Off we dashed again, keeping a pretty good clip as we rolled along the trail. Kate wanted to stay slow and steady so as to not screw up anything so close to the 100 (like taking a header blasting down a downhill), so we 3 chattered some more as we wove and dove up and down the mountain terrain. At one point, a large female deer stood on the trail ahead, staring us down. Suddenly, she gracefully leapt off and into the woods above us, showing us the secret of how you really run in the mountains: By having 4 legs.

We'd been grabbing small bits of trash accidentally dropped during the race (but not very much. Everyone had been very conscientious) when we came upon a pair of thong panties dangling from a trail marker. We opted to leave the discarded remnants of a likely high school-aged tryst and sped along to the next aid station only to find 10 workers, all with thong panties on their heads. You see, they called themselves "thong distance runners". I confessed that I was wearing one as well and it was getting uncomfortable, as the chafing was out of this world. I was assured I looked pretty without visible pantylines, and I took solace in the news as we thanked them and ran off.

So far, we still hadn't encountered a straggler and were making pretty decent time considering our slowish pace. As we emerged to the next-to-last aid station and refilled our bottles, we were informed that 2 runners had left about 10 minutes ahead of us. The sun was setting behind the towering firs, and I admit to thinking, "Well, shit," at the thought of sweeping suffering runners to the next aid station and making them drop, which would slow our pace considerably. Then I reminded myself: That's your job, buddy. Doy.

Soon enough, we came up behind an older, speed-walking runner. We informed him that we're more or less The Grim Reaper, and if he didn't make the cutoff time at the next aid station, we'd have to make him drop. That put some fuel in his furnace.

We approached the final aid station before the finish (Little Crater Lake), and Kate showed me her watch, which read the same as mine: He had missed the cutoff at the last aid station, but they let him slide, but this time, he was a full 5 minutes past the cutoff. I think the three of us were relieved, as our pace had slowed to a walk, and night was settling in. Sticking with him would easily add an hour or more to the final 10k.

As we walked him to the aid station, Kate announced to the workers, "This is the last runner, and he didn't make your cutoff." Another runner was picking up food from the table, readying to finish the run, but we informed them both that, sorry, but you missed it by nearly 10 minutes. The second runner was confused at first, but as we were explaining to him that he'd need to hitch a ride back to the finish, our other (original) runner we'd picked up took off! We yelled to him that he missed the cutoff, but away he power-walked.

After taking more food and fluids with us, we caught up with him in no time, and he was slowing as the miles ticked by, the sun set, and the mosquitos came out, but Kate and I enjoyed the slow pace and took looks around Timothy Lake and the river inlets (Tim had taken off about 2 miles in to the final 6, with our blessings, naturally).

We were at a crawl, and I could tell our runner was hurting as he grunted stepping over fallen tree limbs, but soon, we popped out on to the service road that was a 10th of a mile from the finish. We lagged behind so our he could trot his way through the finish area and then we ran it in, stuffing garden burgers in our faces within minutes after stopping.

Olga and Monica, co-race directors, put on an astounding event. Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful. And who knows? They're putting on a 100 mile version next August.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

(Dammit - blogger hates formatting from a Word document. Because it is free, I assume, so sorry about the non-existent paragraphs)

This past weekend, Ann and I adventured to Portland, aka, “home” in a month or so (!!!) to look for a place to call “home” in this city soon to be “home”.
We’d lined up 4 potential places, the first of which rented before we even got to walk inside of it. Our stress levels already on high alert, this pushed us into the red, which, according to our government, means the likelihood of a terrorist attack is very high. Or something.
That afternoon, I went for a run at Forest Park: A network of 40 or so miles of amazing, lush trails. Spending an hour trotting up and down the muddy switchbacks eased most of the strain, and I took note of the markings for the next days’ race, which was organized by pctrailruns, whose events I’d run in twice before. As I trotted back towards the car, I (literally) ran into the race organizers, setting up the final markings, and I told them of my jealousy of the 50k runners who would get an entire day out there.
Sunday, we looked at a potential house to rent (cute. Incredibly cute. A bit small, but…cute.) and Ann decided to drop me off for a run at Forest Park while she ran by the river (poor kid is STILL rehabbing her injury and isn’t supposed to run hills quite yet). I climbed up the initial incline and hit the trails, taking a left instead of my normal right, just to see what else was out there. The race markings were now muddy and trampled, and I figured that the race had been over by at least an hour now, adding up on my fingers (truly, I’m that good at math) that the 50k would have officially ended by 4pm. It now being 4:00, I guessed I’d pretty much have the place to myself.
Not 2 minutes after that thought and practicing my times tables on my fingers, I saw a slow-jogging runner up ahead. I looked for a place to pass her, and as I did and grinned an “afternoon!” to her, she responded, “How far to the parking area?” As I turned my head to answer “I’m not sure”, I noticed she was wearing a race number…and it started with a “5”, which indicates – for pctrailsruns – that you are a 50k runner.
Holy. Shit.
I stopped and waited for her and asked if she was in the 50k, and an exasperated “uh huh” came as the answer. “The cutoff time is 5:00.”
Holy. Shit. She’d been out there for 8 hours and likely had another 3 miles to pull herself through.
“Want some company?” I inquired.
She paused, which in her current state was the equivalent of screaming “ARE YOU KIDDING ME, YES!!!!!!”, so I told her to get ahead of me and we could chat.
I introduced myself to her, and she to me as Leslie, reporting that her friend Kate, a doctor and ultra runner, was acting as her crew person and would be meeting us the last half mile. It was then it dawned on me:
“Is this your first 50k?”
She nodded.
Holy. Shit.
“What’s your longest run before this one?”
“3 ½ hours.”
Holy. Fuck.
We’re getting you in before the cutoff, I promised to her. In my head. Just like crazy people think!
Leslie kept up an amazing pace, particularly for the final 50 minutes of 34 or so miles of running. See, 50 kilometers are more or less 31 miles, but some “trail bandits” (I prefer the term “dipshits” myself) moved the markers and sent a bunch of runners on a 2-3 mile detour. May they all live to smell my socks and shorts-liner after a 100 miler.
I digress.
I asked if she wanted some fluids from me, as she wasn’t carrying any, and she politely declined, as her crew person Kate was also a doctor and had told her she was over-hydrated at the last aid station.
“Over-hydrated” basically translates to “you puke up a shit-ton of water”, which, apparently, Leslie had done and was now feeling better.
We hit a series of switchbacks that began leading us downward. When asked, “How much longer, do ya think?” my only answer was, “Maybe a mile…but then again, I could be completely wrong.” Pacing someone the final miles of an ultra distance is a tricky balance of encouragement, allowing deathly silence, joking, and storytelling. I was cautious to not talk about my recent DNF at the San Diego 100 and instead supplied her with stories of my painful finishes, so she would know that the hell she was feeling was completely normal.
Again, she brought up her friend Kate, who would be meeting us at the finish, and a connection hit me:
“Is her online name ‘KateMD’?” I asked, jumping over roots and rocks.
Holy crap! I knew Kate from online running forums (nerrrrds). Her first 50 mile race report was an inspiration to me as I trained for my first 50 miler.
“Well, now you’ll get to meet her!” yelled Leslie.
And soon enough, there Kate was, awaiting Leslie’s arrival, about ½ a mile from the finish. I introduced myself and my online name, and she shrieked, “Oh yeah! Hi!”, then, Leslie, all battered and beaten to a lump announces, “No way! I know you too!”, introducing herself by her online name as well!
Kate and I fell back as Kate told her to give it all she had left for the final 100 yards. And as I watched my newfound trail friend slip ahead of me, my thoughts went back to my first 50k finish, and all of the feelings that washed over me: Pride, joy, sadness, relief…it truly is an amazing experience, because you face something so much bigger than yourself, look it in the eye, and say, “I can.”
And then, with relentless training, friends backing you up, and a bit of luck on your side, you do.
Leslie wept at the finish as she hugged her dear friends and the race directors. Filled with pride for her, I watched as nearly 9 hours worth of emotions drained out. Then, she turned and saw me and outstretched her arms, giving me a hug with the strength not typical for someone who is physically and mentally exhausted.
I smiled. “You’ll never forget this.”
The small crowd laughed, and Kate added, “No matter how hard you try!”
As I readied to continue my run, Kate turned to me with the most stunning smile and said, “You got to be someone’s angel today.”
And so I set off for another hour and forty minutes into the woods, reflecting the entire duration the miracle that had just transpired, tears pouring from my eyes at times, my heart filled with emotion.
It certainly put all of the house-hunting/Portland-move-stress into perspective, and this is the life-lesson that ultra running has taught me time and again: No matter how dire or frightening the circumstances, regardless of how ready you are to give up and surrender to fear in any situation, no matter how uncertain the future seems, relentless forward motion will carry you there.
And who knows? Along the way, you might make a friend or two.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Okay, I've already made note that the last time I published this blog was 3 months ago. And I've already beaten myself up for it a little. So now, moving forward...

My allergies had been growing more and more intense over week prior to this weekend's 50k race at Sycamore Canyon 50k due to the onslaught of tree pollen and heat marching in and blossoming, so we'd spent most of the day Saturday hiding in the AC of my bedroom. I swore that Sunday would be better, as we'd be by the ocean which, as we all know, eases the blow of any major weather system. Except for hurricanes, I suppose.

I'd run about 20 miles of this trail and loved it a few weeks' prior: The weather was overcast, cool, and absolute perfection in the mountains beside the ocean. But Ann and I awoke early Sunday and stepped outside at 7AM to load up the car...and it was already hot. Africa hot. But ol' weather dot com (which I now swear to never believe again) promised 82 degrees by the water, so panic we didn't, and out we headed.

And like Yoda, we talked, apparently.

At the start, the race director warned us all that it was going to be less than comfortable out there. I knew from running the route weeks before that there was virtually zero tree cover on any part of the run (thank you , desert climate), so I prepped Ann that I'd likely need my nathan pack to replace my handheld bottles for the next 7.5 mile loop, and man, was I glad that I did.

The 5.7 miles to the first aid station was a good 3.5 miles uphill, but the breeze off the ocean was cooling us in the growing sunshine. I wound up talking with another runner, Sue, who was really strong on the uphills, but eventually, I started getting the ol' itch I try to prevent scratching for as long as I can, and before I knew it, I was winding down the 2-ish mile singletrack drop to the aid station, pulling in at about 1 hr, 5 mns. Considering all the uphill, I was a little bit ahead of schedule.

Ann helped me swap out my bottles for the magic pack and noted that I was SOAKED. In fact, she said, every runner who came in had been drenched (there were 18k and 30k versions of the run as well), aka, it was MISERABLE out there. I knew I'd need to keep it reigned in since the heat would batter us all into the dust, so off I trotted to the next loop of singletrack, figuring it was easily 80 degrees at 9:45AM, and that the canyons, without teh aid of an ocean breeze, would well hit 90+ in teh coming hours.

I caught up again with Sue, and she kept our pace ahead of me. We chatted and made all sorts of small talk, and she revealed to me that she's won the women's division in a 30k race and placed in the top three women in 50ks! If anyone was gonna give me a pull when I needed it, I knew that she could.

We continued our 1,000 foot ascent over 3 miles up the winding switchbacks, and that's when I felt something I'd never experienced during a run: My breathing felt labored. My vision, as a result, was a bit blurry, and nausea began creeping in thanks to that. We pressed on, and the heat began pounding down as we hammered away down singletrack into an open meadow. Now I knew I was starting to fade, because I felt as though I'd need to walk some of the gentler hills I'd normally trot straight up. Sue and I passed several runners squatting in the shade, soaked, gasping, and it began to dawn on me:

Today, "the bear would get us".

Sue stopped to tie her shoe and I yelled back that I'd likely be seeing her soon, and sure enough, about 5 minutes later, she came padding up the trail, passing my sad ass as I rested a minute and guzzled more fluids. The next 3 miles were PAINFUL, but I ran as hard as I could-when I could, and as I emerged back towards the aid station, I saw Ann standing in the trail, waving and yelling my name.

"I quit!" I bellowed, leaving no question as to my condition.

We walked the last 50 yards to the aid stop. I slammed back a few cups of Sprite to alleviate the nausea, but my breathing remained tight and uncomfortable. We talked about how the pollen and dust must be wreaking havoc on my lungs, and I waved goodbye to Sue, who had introduced herself to Ann about 3 minutes prior, which told me she was taking longer than normal at the shady rest area. In fact, about 4 runners continued hanging out at that stop as we left, looking like they'd gone 10 rounds with a very hungry Mike Tyson.

Following a shower at home and downing gallons of fluids, Ann and I made the call: If my breathing remained uncomfortable at 4:00, we'd head to the ER. And after careful deliberation and the bell tolling 4PM, she packed me in her VW and carted my wheezing ass to the hospital, where it was discovered that I was suffering from asthma, likely due to allergies. So now, I have an awesome inhaler until it clears up, which I will wear around my neck. On a lanyard. With my fly unzipped. And I periodically scream, "LAAAAAADEEEEEEE!!!!!"

On the plus side, I'd busted ass in that 25k and nearly broke my 25k PR of 2:38, dropping out at 2:45 or so which, on a good day, would have clocked me in at 5:30 for a 50k, in really tough terrain. As it turns out, the leader finished in 5 hours, which is a full hour + longer from last year's top finisher, and there was another 400 feet of gain during that run.

Also: We are moving to Portland in July.


Monday, February 4, 2008

(in bad comedian voccé…imagining me in a sportcoat and T-shirt will further sell it) :

“You ever notice the line that YOU choose to stand in at the bank is always the LONGEST wait, no matter how much shorter it is than the others? What’s up with that? And don’t get me started on hospital food…”

(now imagine yourselves hauling back and throwing empty beer bottles at me. It will cleanse your souls.)

As lame as that cliché may be, why is it SO TRUE???? Although, if you’re still standing in lines at the bank, you may want to email me and ask about this brand new concept called the “ATM”. It will blow your mind. I also will be shocked that you managed to set up an email account to contact me in the first place.
Whether you’re in line at the supermarket, the movie theater, or the urinals at the ballpark, the “other guy” seems to always shuffle up more expediently to the cashier, ticket seller, or ice-filled pisser, doesn’t he? And it goes without saying that he’s pulling this off on purpose and silently snickering at your pathetic, hangdog expression while wheeling away his cart or zipping his fly. But HOW?
Allow me to take you back about 7 steps:
On Friday, I’d had my fill at my place of employ. I’d been laid off and asked back in a 24 hour frame of time, had numerous construction workers stand on my desk while shooting nails into 2 x 4s as they built an enclosed office beside me (that had yet to be completed in 3 months time), and I had been pulled aside by the “head of business affairs” to stop snapping the photographs I’d been taking, documenting the odd goings-on during the construction of said office. The number of script rewrites that I and the other writers had been put through kept us so busy that our shows – which we’d begun working on at the beginning of November – were still unfinished at the end of January. The company owner constantly marched about the offices, his thundering, booming voice demanding attention and gut-laughs from his employees, which were immediately surrendered as though he possessed the power to wish everyone into a cornfield like Billy Mummy’s character in the classic Twilight Zone episode.
Which I don’t doubt he is able to do.
I’d had my fill and, for the first time in a decade-long career in television, I gave ye olde “sayonara”, laying out a week’s notice, only to be told a day later that I was only needed only on Monday and thereafter let go.
So why wouldn’t I find this morning that my tire was flat? And that my AAA was no longer active, that I’d be paying $120 for a tow? And that not only is my single tire flat, but another is cracking so badly that the service man insists I get it replaced now, instead of in a month. And that the coffee shop across the street from the tire shop only has DECAF?
Now that I’ve caught you up, as I sit in the lobby of a tire shop in Glendale, I ask again:
I have been thinking on this, lo these last (checks watch) 45 minutes (kidding, I don’t wear a watch, but “checks cellphone clock” is such a mouthful), and have come to the conclusion that we, as humans, are blessed and cursed with the ability to forecast a future. No other animal, as far as we know, has the capability to “guess” what the next second, hour, day, or year may bring. This is why dogs’ New Years Resolutions involve sniffing as much butt as possible and pissing on as many shrubs as he/she can get their urine on.
So, when the delicate balance of, “I’m going to get in my car and drive to work” is upset, we’re thrown. HOW CAN THIS BE THAT I HAVE A FLAT TIRE/BUSTED RADIATOR/GENITAL WARTS? Simply put: Because it you DO. You guessed that you wouldn’t spend the afternoon at the free clinic and believed you were most definitely headed out to the local pub to pick up another skanky gal/guy and have unprotected sex with them. But there you sit, warts and all, in your paper gown and a doctor’s gloved finger in your tush.
I have managed to keep my frustration levels low by integrating reality into my life. I’m not Buddha by any means, unless Buddha was known to exclaim, “MU-ther-FUCK-er!” when he realized he was out of beer just as he settled in to watch a Dick Van Dyke Show rerun.
Plans are fantastic. Plans are necessary, and we’re lucky as hell to be able to dream them. Control is a fickle mistress, though: The minute she starts fucking around on us behind our backs with Mr. Reality, we lose our shit. My advice: Let her go, man. She’s not worth it. Her sister, Flexibility, is way hotter and, well, flexible, if ya know whadda mean.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Griffith Park has at last opened (nearly) all of it's trails!

Saturday, I went on a glorious 1 1/2 hour run up to the epicenter of the burn area. Hole. E. Shit. So much is barren. It really was like running on the moon...with gravity. And no flag standing straight out.


I kid.

I reflected during my run: My leg is nearly 100% healed; it merely took the time it needed. And Griffith Park took the time it required to heal, grow, and return.

I commend the LA Fire Department on their brave fight against the blaze. The terrain they traversed in smoke and scorching flame is incredibly steep and dangerous. To witness what they managed to save is nothing short of miraculous.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


There was a day, in 1995, somewhere in March, if memory serves, that I performed my final booked week as a comedian. It was a "Zanies" in Vernon Hills, Illinois, where I was opening act for George Wallace (the comic, not the former governor of Alabama...although that would have been interesting). I'd most likely booked the week around 6 months in advance, knowing that it would serve as my "grand finale" in the world of yucks. My Let It Be...or Abbey Road, for you true Beatles nuts.

I paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield when I say: "I quit showbusiness and came back to find...no one knew I'd left."

That's the legacy I was to leave behind: Strings of one night shows, for 6 years, in 48 of the 50 United States; at best, a select few left scratching their heads, stating on Monday morning at the work water-cooler: "Yeah, we went to comedy night at the Holiday Inn...there was this guy...pretty funny....I can't actually remember any of what he said...hey, are there any muffins left?"

And poof!, I vanished like Keyser Soze.

I find myself at a similar fork in an identical road. After 9 glorious (please bathe thineselves in the sarcasm) years in television as a writer/producer, I am no longer invested in what I'm doing. I don't care for where it would lead me, and I don't particularly enjoy pumping peoples' minds with, what I refer to as, "digital crack."

Digital Crack is also what your cable repairman shows you when he bends over and installs your equipment.

BADOOM-CHEE! I still got it.

So now what? And where?

This is a moment where I normally shit myself out of sheer terror, or I grow excited at the prospect of change. You know, like when you finally create another playlist for your iPod, and all the music seems SO ingenious, even though it's been sitting on your hard drive, unsorted, for over a year?

So now I'm on the exciting quest to begin writing a new chapter, which is chock full of blank pages and possibility.

I'm still wondering how I'll fit George Wallace into all of this.