Wednesday, July 04, 2018

A Fine Nation, I'm Thinking

fabulous savers
A pleasant Fourth of July with moderate heat and the very same clear blue sky I'll be seeing for the next several months. But that's Independence Day in Southern California.

Two of my aunts left Ireland for America in the 1930s. They were required to have a sponsor who would be responsible for them and ensure they stayed off public assistance. They found work, married immigrant Irish men and conceived American children.

Their younger sister, my mother, didn't make the trip over until after the Second World War. Mom had been a nurse in the British Army. Her training included treating casualties of the Nazi bombing of London in 1940, known as The Blitz, battle casualties from North Africa and Europe, and casualties of the German V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks. Mom was under more enemy fire than most of the guys at the bar of the VFW.

So, in windy Chicago, she found work and married an American of Irish descent, a fellow I called "Dad." They also sired American children. My mother worked like a dog raising my brother, sister and I, then returned to nursing.

But she didn't officially become an American citizen for many years. Sixteen, I think. At last, she took the formal plunge  and we were all yanks.

And so, to my countrymen, Happy 4th of July! Barbecue, enjoy the fireworks, and be the best American you can this day.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Instapundit Plug Kicks eBook Up to Top Spot
 Ed Driscoll over at Instapundit was kind enough to promote my prostate book, resulting in enough sales to lift the info-packed, non-fiction saga of surgery and its aftermath to the pinnacle of TWO categories.

And humble thanks to writer and actor Charles M. Howell IV for his Amazon review of the above book.

No original posts for awhile, and now I'm awash in thanks.


Update: This morning I was #1 in two of my Amazon categories and #3 in oncology.

Thanks again to Instapundit. (You'll have to scroll down now to find me.) His notice bolsters the old adage that you can't buy what you can't find.

Friday, June 01, 2018

San Diego Marathon Back in the Day

Another running nostalgia post as I recall the last marathon I ever ran ten years ago.  Additional material here and here. I continue to lope along three times a week, at roughly 3 miles an outing. I'm grateful to be able to do that little. Happy June!

After a marathon moving experience, I left for San Diego on Friday in search of the real thing. As the San Gabriel Team lacked a "sweeper," I'd volunteered for the job. Thus I had to enter the race as a participant, station myself toward the back and sweep along our runners and walkers, making sure they passed the cut-off points and crossed the finish line. I drove down with TNT mentors Ernesto and CJ. In the car, we had a long spirited discussion on international monetary policy, the existence of God, and driving while drunk.

As marathons go, San Diego was deceptively difficult. On the map, it appears you're running a pleasant course around Balboa Park, downtown, around Mission Bay, and finishing aboard the USMC Recruit Depot in Point Loma. However there were a number of long inclines and declines coupled with several miles on a slanted freeway that aggravated old running injuries. In the latter miles, IT bands, hamstrings, and calf pulls would be refreshed, feeling just as painful as the day on which they occurred.

Sunday arrived with an overcast sky. Our team milled around the start area. Pictures were snapped, trash bags worn to ward off the morning chill, and Port-a-Potties visited again and again. Steaks dropped by for a chat before setting off to run a sub-five hour race. Teammate Gordie had been the featured speaker the previous night at our send-off dinner. A cancer survivor, he was treated  like a rock star by other TNTers except Gordie was coherent and didn't smash anything.

6:30 AM. Crack! A cheer. The race had begun! We advanced 14 feet then stopped. Then a few more feet and stopped. Then walked. Then stopped. Seventeen minutes later, we crossed the start mat. NOW the race began.

Mile One: Lots of laughs and fun. There were many people dressed as Elvis, including CJ. These running Elvi hoped to set a record for the most Elvis-garbed runners in a marathon. (How did they do? I can't say.) In addition, a woman ran with an artificial leg, several men ran with large American or MIA flags, and a blind woman with a shirt that read "China Gal," speed-walked without a guide, tapping like mad against the curb.

Mile Two: We passed over the 163 Freeway and started south along the east side of Balboa Park. Nice and downhill. I ran ahead, marking the position and disposition of teammates.

Mile Three: Still east of the park. A man jumped into a sumac bush to urinate, but found the bush already taken. These are the gritty set-backs that must be overcome for a successful marathon.

Mile Four: Coaches Katie and Kate said 'hi' and 'bye' as everyone was doing Okay.

Mile Five: Downtown. We passed a Hooters where two desperate men were already lined up at 7:30 in the morning.

Mile Six: More loping back and forth between groups. Several of our injured had cautiously begun running.

Mile Seven: A long uphill climb on Broadway.  Coach Alfredo arrived to capture the moment in digital pictures. Away from the camera, I stopped to use a Port-a-Potty. The smell was most dire.

Mile Eight: We're on the 163 Freeway, heading north and uphill on slanted concrete. Aches and pains crop up. A man in a red Super Man cape tore up a hill as if pursued by a kryptonite dog, leaped a chain-link fence in several bounds, and disappeared behind a tree.

Mile Nine: Adios cloud cover. The sun emerged and the temperature rose instantly. Worse, it felt humid. We came upon TNT drag cheerleaders. There's nothing like screaming men with beards, wearing make-up and short dresses, to energize the weary.

Mile 10: We passed beneath University Avenue. There was a strange phenomena: locals strolling along the freeway. Apparently, the novelty of walking on a freeway was too rich to ignore. What fun San Diegans have!

Mile 11: Downhill. Huzzah!

Mile 12: Off the stinking freeway and west on Friars Road. To our left stretched a colossal mall. It was layered with smaller malls within the mother mall as well as satellite malls across the street. Truly, we were running through shopping Valhalla. Cut-off time loomed close.

Mile 13: Anna, Liz and several others picked up the pace. Other teammates nursed more serious hurts. They vowed to run again another day and stopped at the half-marathon. Coach Pete cheered us on, offering encouragement as well as an odd snack consisting of wheat thins floating in a pan of hot dog water. The encouragement was appreciated

Mile 14: I almost missed the cut-off. This would've have resulted in my appearing weak and foolish. Virginia and Stacy stood on a curb with a bag of Oreos. I took one and it disintegrated from the heat like a cookie dandelion.

Mile 15: We were now on the east side of Mission Bay, running north through parks and suburbs. Natasha had fallen behind her group of Sanchez and the sibling duo of Whitney and Kingsley. Her IT injury was acting up and she walked along, having been joined by a runner named Stu. Stu had completed ten marathons, five San Diego marathons, and had tickets to Pat Benatar that evening.

Mile 16: Hobbling to a curb, the woman with the artificial leg sat down. I caught up with Kirsten and Sonia, battling pain and fatigue, but determined to press on.

Mile 17: Heading back toward Natasha, I found she'd ditched Stu. We set out to pass the mile 19.4 cut-off. Miss this one and you were bussed to the finish area, given a half-marathon medal and sent on your jolly way. Our team manager, Tiffani, met us, wished us well, and successfully hit up several children for contributions to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Mile 18: Despite IT pain, Natasha kept up a brisk pace. She remarked that her first name spelled backwards was "Ah Satan." True. But I felt it was the marathon talking.

Mile 19. We made the cut-off. Stopping in a medical tent, Natasha had ice wrapped around her IT band with yards of packing tape. It unraveled within a mile as we headed up a steep bridge. In the far distance, downtown San Diego shimmered in the haze. Rapid tapping. We turned as China Gal sped past, cane arcing from curb to pavement like a metronome.

Mile 20: Sea World was nearby. I'd been running and walking since early morning. I fantasized about dynamite fishing and Shamu.

Mile 21: Coach Sharla  showed up somewhere around here. It was getting into the afternoon. We turned onto a dirt road, curving along some tidal inlet that smelled like dead sea lions. Trucks were dismantling water stations. Did I mention this was a rock 'n roll marathon with bands every mile? They were striking their gear. In fact, there was no shade and we sensed it had also been packed up.

Mile 22: Coaches Karla and Alfredo met us with ice for Natasha's head. As I was an unpaid volunteer, it was felt ice would be wasted on me.

Mile 23: All around, runners hobbled and limped. We walked by a water station that had everything but water.  A street sweeping machine gobbled up the flattened cups, chasing us under a freeway and out again into the sun. Without question, we were at the butt end of the marathon.

Mile 24: Bleak concrete overpasses; scraggly bushes. We passed China Gal, tapping along, locked into pace.

Mile 25: Jets roared overhead from San Diego International Airport. To our left, we passed the Marine base where I went through boot camp 36 years ago. I wasn't in a nostalgic mood. Natasha's IT band hurt so much she was biting a piece of wood to keep from yelling. China Gal tapped past.

Mile 26: We're on the base. The end is near. Natasha vowed that no matter what happened, she wasn't finishing behind China Gal. We started running and passed that tapping machine.

Mile .2: But China Gal was a Terminator and would not quit. Tapping sounded from behind like the clock the crocodile swallowed in Peter Pan. We passed a guy with a "I Wish I Weren't Here" tee-shirt. We passed two chick in grass skirts. We crossed the finish line in seven hours and twenty-eight minutes.

But our adventures continued. The finish area was practically deserted, covered with trash and looking like the parking lot of a rock concert. We got our medals then tried to figure a way to reach the UPS trucks where our gear was stored. There was no crowd to follow, just wide open areas surrounded by fences and garbage. I climbed over a metal barrier near the trucks. Natasha and I tried dismantling the barrier, despite the fact there was an opening about twenty feet away. Eventually we spotted the opening, got our gear, stumbled over to the TNT sign-out area and called it a marathon.

That night there was celebration and drinking. (For some, a good deal of drinking.) Many first timers walked with the "marathon shuffle," a post-race gait that makes 28-year-olds look like doddering wrecks. CJ finished as Elvis and Ernesto finished despite a bum hamstring. Teammate Chris ran a phenomenal race, crossing the mat in 3:43. (On the 2008 highlight video, he's pumping up the crowd at 2:37.) Nevertheless, all who persevered and finished the marathon/half-marathon were exceptional.

Well done, Team.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Breaking Four Hours at the Eugene Marathon

(A decade ago witnessed the zenith of my distance running career. Back in December '07, I signed up for Eugene with the goal of running 26.2 miles in under four hours. From then until the 4th of May, I trained with that achievement in mind, working harder than I've ever prepared for anything before or since.

In September, I injured my left knee training for the California International Marathon and, what I hoped, would be my qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. I've never run more than six miles since then. Now, then: my goal is to run another marathon, regardless of the time. Then I write a book entitled "From Marathon to Couch Potato and Back." Always begin with a title. Time will tell. Enjoy this repost from May 2008.)

Light shifted subtly over the Willamette River. You sensed God working the sliders on his heavenly lighting board, blending shade and tone while sipping coffee from an immense mug. As marathon day began in Eugene, temperatures hung around the low 40s. I was reluctant to leave the warmth of our rented RAV 4. But MDW (My Darling Wife) pointed out that no man ever raced crouched over a hot air vent. So it was out into the cold near Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus. MDW vowed to meet me at mile 18. There I'd planned to leave my water belt: a symbolic act to "lighten the load" for the arduous last miles where head games are mandatory. Meanwhile, I lined up behind other shivering runners at a Port-O-Potty.

Back in January, around the time I began training for this race, the wife of a friend died battling leukemia. I asked Peter if he'd mind my dedicating the marathon to Rosina. He and the kids were cool, but I had forgotten to bring anything. Fortunately, MDW grabbed some art supplies and cobbled together a fine inscription for me to wear. As I ran that day, spectators called out Rosina's name, encouraging me to keep going for her. In those moments, it seemed Rosina was present but just out of sight, as if she'd gone to fetch something from the car.

As to the course, imagine a drawing of a bolo tie such as gentlemen might wear in a square dance. Now imagine that same bolo tie drawn by an angry man. This will give you an idea of the route's shape. The opening miles led out from the campus, up a hill, down another, then into a park area where the metal tips would be if it really were a bolo tie. Doubling back to the U of O campus, the course led up another long hill, down to the Willamette River and across. Instead of a turquoise clasp, Autzen Stadium provided the center piece around which the race swirled, looping along bike paths around the Willamette. Tree-lined and tranquil, the river flowed under quaint foot bridges. The finish line was just outside the stadium where you could purchase bolo ties and other treasured souvenirs.

Finally, we go. Despite last-minute wavering, my goal was to break four hours. That meant a pace of 9:10, 49 seconds per mile less than my previous best in Phoenix. Since January 2007, my only marathon had been an extended walk in Chicago. The night before, I'd phoned coaches Jimmy and Kate for a little advice. They told me many useful, savvy things that I promptly forgot. But what I recalled was to stay on pace and save something for the end.

The first mile led uphill. I ran way too slow (9:40). I wanted to sob like a weepy old man, but didn't.

Mile 2: Mostly downhill.

Mile 3: More downhill. Now I was almost a minute ahead of pace. Cool.

Miles 4 and 5: Running the dangling string section of the bolo tie. Ate some yummy goo.

Mile 6: Doubling back to campus through Amazon Park. Still slightly ahead of pace.

Mile 7: Up a long hill. I slowed again, keeping my heart beat even. Runners blasted by, huffing and puffing. I smugly watched them pass.

Miles 8 & 9: Back through the campus, then across the Willamette on a foot bridge. At one point, I thought my legs were buckling. But it was only the bridge wobbling from impacting runner feet. Still, I hurried across.

Mile 10: On the bike trails along the river; more yummy goo with double caffeine.

Mile 11: We'd been running mixed in with a half-marathon. Now the half-marathoners veered off to finish their race. I remarked to a woman next to me, "I thought they'd never leave."

Mile 12: MDW surprised me at 12. I was still ahead of pace, feeling great. Perhaps I'd made too much of this marathon business? We confirmed our date for 18.

Mile 13.1: Half-way assessment. I was at 1:56:52, about an 8:55 pace. A little brisk, but no strain. Figuring I could hold it a bit longer, I decided to press on.

Mile 14: I encountered the Clopper. A lean man in his 60s with short, silvery hair, he slapped the ground loudly with every stride like a farm horse walking on cobblestones. Whock-whock-whock-whock! The sound grated. I sped past. But since I was walking a minute every seven minutes, there was no escape. I'd prepare to run again when I'd hear whock-whock-whock coming up behind.

Mile 15: What was on the menu? Surprise, it was another double-caffeine goo! (Damn the Clopper!)

Mile 16: Holding steady two and three minutes ahead of pace. I was looking at a solid finish. I uped my run/walk ratio to 8x1.

Mile 17: Something happened here but I can't remember.

Mile 18: MDW took my water belt after I washed down the last of my salt.

Mile 19: I finally ditched the Clopper. Hurray! Oh, God, hurray! First little twinges of leg pain.

Mile 20: Back across the Willamette. We're now running on the south side bike trails. I was still ahead, 3:00:06, but my pace had dropped to 9:00. My legs were beginning to feel a tad thick.

Mile 21: Now began the Track of Broken Dreams, better known as the last miles of a marathon. I dropped a full minute.

Mile 22: Dropped another minute. The same effort took tons of energy. My calves felt like iron knots. The four-hour pace group leader, whom I hadn't seen all day, breezed past with several runners in tow.

Mile 23: Leaking seconds badly, I dropped intervals and ran. All around, marathoners were breaking down: a young, bearded guy fast-hobbled on an injured foot; a husky Asian man cramped out in pain; a girl in tangerine shorts ran backwards to ease the ache; a guy in a floppy hat staggered off the trail and heaved a great spray of liquid. He heaved again and again. Meanwhile, sunlight shone through the trees and the Willamette flowed serenely.

Mile 24: For the moment, I'd plugged the time leakage and was almost exactly on pace, but fading fast. My hip flexors felt as light as a parking structure. Walking at a water station, I ate jelly beans and realized I enjoyed walking. Forcing myself to run, I focused on a large man in a red T-Shirt and passed him.

Mile 25: On pace, but maintaining the effort brought a bonus hurt. A side stitch arrived as I passed a balding runner in a blue and gold singlet. His feet quickened as he tried to catch me. Pretending I was in the Olympics staving off a Kenyan, I moved ahead to the next runner.

Mile 26: Reaching the shadow of Autzen Stadium, I was roughly on pace, but gassed. MDW waved and cheered. All the blood in my upper body had migrated to my legs. Woozy and light-headed, I lumbered along on auto pilot.

Mile .2: An orange snow fence lined the final kilometer. On the race clock ahead, red LED numbers inched into the four-hour district. I tried recalling how many seconds had passed before I crossed the start mat. However calculations were oafish folly as I lacked blood north of my waist.

I made it by six seconds: 3:59:53.

MDW helped me to a curb where I sat and stared at nothing for several minutes. I was fortunate to have reached my goal. Nevertheless, I finished what I set out to do. Plus, I honored Rosina and pumped money into the Eugene economy so they might purchase yet more commemorative bolo ties.

It's been two days since the marathon, we're back home and life proceeds. We have to move in a few weeks. And there's still the TNT Summer Team and preparing them for their first marathon. Oh yeah, and finding a job. And jury duty.

But today I'll rest and eat pizza and think about running another marathon in a few months.

That'll be fun.

(Start line photo by Rick Russell. All others by MDW Joy.)

Note: A few additional observations and comments.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Book Trailer Basks in Anonymity

Well, what's the answer? I can write books, but I really don't have the zest to market them. Sad, pathetic, self-defeating, true. I will create book videos—and have—and I will maintain a number of social media outposts, but I lack all enthusiasm for the marketing grind. (That may have something to do with once working as a copywriter.)

It's not like I retired a millionaire from TV animation. Far from it. We're so mired in debt, I feel like the federal government. All I lack is a printing press.

But there is an upside, a big one: at day's end: I don't have to take notes from executive idiots.

So buy a copy of the prostate book or not.
Buy one of my other titles, or not.
View one of my other videos, or not.

Right now, I need to finish my next book.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

For Whom Art Bell Tolled

Tales From Out There
With sadness, I learned of Art Bell's passing on Friday the 13th. His paranormal-themed radio show was perfect for a time when I drove more and my nights were late. (Along with Phil Hendrie), Art made 90's radio sizzle.

Back in 2013, I sang Bell's praises as he returned to the air. But his new show was a faint shadow, a wispy shade of the old, with Art carrying more of the conversational ball, instead of deftly drawing out his eccentric guests as before, allowing them full scope to expound their non-traditional views.

I only wish there were a way Art could interview himself from the Beyond. I'm sure he'd say, "If what I'm saying is true, this is amazing."

Note: Actually, I got things backwards re. Art's 2013 show. He carried the ball less, letting guests ramble and not channeling their chat into bite-sized entertaining chunks.

George Noory, who is driving the Coast-to-Coast paranormal/supernatural van these days, seems like a competent pro, but lacks Art's showmanship. There was only one William Castle. There was only one Art Bell.

R.I.P. from West of the Rockies. 

Friday, April 06, 2018

Sucks to Be a Settler in 1860s Kansas

Dog Soldier Justice: The Ordeal Of Susanna Alderdice In The Kansas Indian War by Jeff Broome
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Historian and author John H. Monnett notes in the Forward that "over the past two or three decades it has not only been unpopular but unwise to write about the period of Indian resistance in American history in terms other than pro-Indian. Monnett goes on to say that, "Ubiquitous in these histories . . . is the obligatory litany of sins committed by white missionaries, Indian Agents, politicians, military leaders, and Protestant reformers . . . to write otherwise [is] to invite charges of racism."

Acknowledging brutality on both sides, the book concerns itself with the fate of white settlers in Kansas attacked by Cheyenne (and Sioux) warriors during the period 1867 - 1869. In particular, we learn of the destruction of the Alderdice family by raiding Cheyenne in 1869. Author Broome draws heavily on narratives contained in federal Indian depredation claims filed in the National Archives.

As settlers sadly discovered, the government would—allegedly—pay for stolen livestock but not gang-raped wives, or four-year-old children festooned with arrows. Depredation claims were often denied for technicalities, or because Congress failed to appropriate money.

I thought the book a bit thin on the actual details of Susana Alderdice's ordeal, though we're invited to grimly speculate based on the treatment of other female captives.

Overall, an interesting work detailing the fate of innocents, their stories adrift in a backwater of American history.

View all my reviews