Friday, January 13, 2023

MCRD 51 Years Later



USMC League

MCRD San Diego Back in the Day

Everything must begin somewhere. And in the United States Marine Corps, my enlisted tour commenced with yellow footprints. Drawn on the asphalt of the recruit depot with heels close together and toes angled out to 45 degrees, they are where I, along with seven other guys from our suburban Chicago neighborhood, stood to begin military service. Then we marched somewhere, boxed up our clothes and mailed them home, coming to the realization that our new life would be different from drinking beer behind a bowling alley.

The Vietnam War was winding down, at least for the United States, though the North Vietnamese would launch a huge attack against South Vietnam toward the end of March as we conducted infantry training at Camp Pendlelton. (In September, now a Private First Class, I would find myself in an Army hospital called Camp Kue on Okinawa, sharing  a ward with American advisors who'd been wounded helping the South Vietnamese forces stop the communists.)

In 1991, I visited the footprints on a vacation to San Diego with my girlfriend. (Now My Fine Wife or MFW.)

In 2002, I stood on a hill in Vietnam called Con Thien with a Vietnamese guide who told me about the obliteration of his village by B52s, bombing the NVA advance.

In 2008, I was back at MCRD finishing up a marathon with Team in Training.

But on a Friday night, January 14, 1972, I stood on yellow footprints. Oh, right before we boxed up our clothes, this happened:
(The following scene is rather accurate, except there's no C&W music. Just buzzzzzzz.)

h/t: amp1776

Note 2020:

On this 48th anniversary of my enlistment, I pay my respects to Tom Poto and Steve Lovell, two of my comrades who are no longer with us. RIP, bros. Hard to believe we were once young together.

Note: 2021

Yikes! 49 years ago; one removed from a half-century. I'll write no more on the subject.

Note: 2022

NOW 50 years have passed. I remember being hung over with a shaving cut on my right cheek that bled most of the day. Grisly forshadowing. Ah, well. 

Note: 2023

Alas, another comrade passed on. Gary Burke, who I'd known through grade school and high school, died last November. We'd only recently gotten back in touch. He was a great guy and a man's man. I pray for his soul and that God may ease the hurt in family and friends.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Fun with ChatGPT: Hemingway Writes a Diaper Ad

Since writing is on the verge of being replaced by Artificial Intelligence, I thought I'd have a little fun with the hot new thing: ChatGPT.

I asked ChatGPT if it would write a diaper ad in the style of Ernest Hemingway. I received two options.

"The soft, absorbent cloth. A small shield against the constant tide of youth. A simple thing, yet essential. Trust in our diapers, as dependable as the sunrise."


"In the chaos of new parenthood, there is one constant: dirty diapers. But with our diapers, you can face each change with the stoic, reliable protection they provide."

I feel like a 56 bpm modem.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

A Better 2023!



What shall happen? Let us go forward and learn or, as Ben Franklin wisely said:

"Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and let every new year find you a better man."

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Car Trouble in the Cascades


A Happy New Years to all! Busy collating, totaling up, adding together various measurements from this year in the fields of running, writing, and finance.

Fourteen years ago, I spend New Year's Eve in the following manner:

Such a possibility awaited us until a few minutes ago. But first yesterday's driving update: loaded up the car at my sister's place out in the Washington countryside. My windshield was glazed with ice. That meant Monday's rain-soaked roads were also icy. Heading out on two-lane blacktop past alpaca farms, Douglas Firs, and coated horses grazing in early morning fields, we kept the speed down to 30 mph. Even that caused the car to swerve on slick blacktop. A half-hour of tense driving got us on the interstate and a deep sigh of relief. 

Regular motoring down into Oregon, through now-cleared Portland and across the flats to Eugene. Past Eugene, the terrain rose toward Grant's Pass. MDW was driving when a high-pitched squeal sounded under the hood. She pulled over and I checked - nothing. I took over driving as the squeal came and went, usually above 2300 RPMS/63 mph. 

We passed through Medford and Ashland, climbing into the southern Cascades into California. Dusk arrived and the squealing worsened. I began paying attention to exit sign numbers and hoping the engine held up to Redding. We entered a prehistoric lava field, encircled by cone-shaped, extinct volcanoes, snowy slopes aglow in the fading light. Overhead, a crescent moon gleamed above a landscape that seemed as bleak and lifeless as an asteroid. Oh, God, not here, I thought. And we squealed on past.

Finally made it to Redding. This morning the garage checked it out and said a part holding on my fan belt assembly was expiring. They found an after-market item over in Andersen and managed to install it, ensuring New Year's Eve might indeed be spent in the bosom of our condo.  
Ah, but another full day of driving stands between us and home. Adventures abound on the western roads. Let us see what transpires. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Smashwords Holiday Book Sale

Find them here!

 In truth, my BOOKS are 50% off. Not all of them, just the ones on Smashwords or Smashwords via Draft2Digital.  A deal-bargain-score for the Christmas season! Choose between subjects as diverse as horror, humor, parody, or prostate cancer. I'd go myself, but I wrote them all. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Paul Rugg and I are Hired at Warner Bros. v.6


And I Have the Memories to Prove It

Today, December 16, marked 27 years since Paul Rugg and I were offered jobs at Warner Brothers TV Animation. We were over at Paul's house watching Zontar: Thing From Venusdrinking coffee, eating chocolate donuts, and smoking. We'd just turned in scripts for some new show called Animaniacs. (Mine was "Draculee, Draculaa.") Paul's wife was off earning money as a social worker, while my future wife was still employed at the magazine I'd quit two months earlier. Rugg and I were performing improv and sketch comedy at the Acme Comedy Theatre. (Along with cast member Adam Carolla.) Money was very tight. The payment for one script would really help out my Christmas. 

Then Kathy Page, Tom Ruegger's assistant, called to offer us staff jobs and the trajectory of our lives veered sharply into an unexplored cosmos.

We were amazed, stunned, numb. Walking outside, we smoked more and talked it over. Should we take the jobs or would they pollute our comedy pureness by turning it commercial? We would accept the work immediately. 

Now it all seems opaque. If it weren't for the Web and talking to Paul Rugg yesterday, I'd swear the whole experience never happened. But I'm glad it did. (Paul, too.)  So thanks to Tom and Sherri Stoner. (And her husband, M.D. Sweeney, our Acme director, who recommended us.)

Note: After thirteen years of blogging, I'm running out of life events to chronicle.

Notes: 2019

A little hyperbole last year. I have plenty of life events and more on the way. Now then, Paul's episode was about a pet shop, I believe. In 1991 I wrote on a Mac Classic. (They look so quaint now, like a fancy radio from 1938.) Jeffrey Dahmer, Silence of the Lambs, Thelma and Louise, the unraveling of the Soviet Union and the number of computers on the newly commercialized Web reached one million.

Not mine, but similar.

Notes: 2020
What a year! (Wednesday will be 29 years, but close enough.) Pandemics, riots, politics. It's like 1968 on crystal meth. What's new? Well. You can now obtain the Top 5 Dating Tips of H.P. Lovecraft. Yes, that weird horror guy. For details, go to this nifty spot.  Actually, try THIS nifty spot for my mailing list, should such an act spur you. 

Notes: 2021
NOW it's 30 years. After three decades, events merge together into a clot of time. But I'll never forget that day. A life-changer. 

Notes: 2022
Paul has moved to Virginia. I remain in crumbling California. People on Twitter keep the memory of Animaniacs alive. I thank them.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

CIM Marathon Stats

10,000 Stoopwaffles

Stoopwaffles sounds like a Nazi death unit on the Eastern Front. But nothing so dire here. A Stoopwaffle is a confection I was handed post-race. Very tasty. California International Marathon runners hailed from 32 countries and all 50 states. But how many tubs of Vaseline were used? Scroll down for that and more.

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Marathon Report: CIM 2022

Lessons galore awaited me in my 7th marathon. New approaches and techniques had been incorporated into my training, lending uncertainty to the final outcome. Would these new elements cause me to bonk? Blow up? Grimace in the presence of photographers? Here's what happened.

Back in July, I was goofing around on the web instead of working on my book. Ending up on the California International Marathon website, I had a pang of nostalgia. Once, I'd signed up for the same race, intent on qualifying for the  prestigious Boston Marathon. But injuries by the crate load sidelined my training and appeared to end my running career. 

Anyway, 14 years later, I signed up for CIM. My 2022 training commenced with the goal of breaking five hours. But then I went on vacation. My hopes of incorporating training runs with travel fizzled. I lost two weeks.

Back home again, I only had 10 training weeks left. Some running economies would be necessary. Preparing for Surfers Point the previous year, I'd been steamrollered by my 21-mile run. Slow as I was, that distance was practically the same amount of time it would take to run the actual marathon. To keep my legs fresh, I chose to limit my longest run to 16 miles. 

My goals were to finish 26.2 with a smile and only lightly brush the fabled Wall. The smile would have to await circumstances. As for the Wall, I planned on taking electrolyte paste—known as "gu" and also a popular brand of exercise paste—earlier than I normally did and staying well hydrated.

Since rain was forecast for race day, I packed the poor man's rain coat: a 33 gal. trash bag.

Sunday in Sacramento

At 4:45 AM, rain swept the parking lot, drops beading on windshields. Boarding a drafty school bus, I was conveyed with my fellow runners to the start-line near Folsom Prison. CIM sure didn't skimp on Porto-Potties. I was able to locate one without too much hopping around. There were almost 9k runners waiting in the drizzle for the the race to start. I figured to hang out in the back, go out slow for the first few miles, than dial up the pace, hitting the second half of the race with more zip. I'd make up the time and bust five hours like dropping a dish on bricks. 

Loudspeaker banter from someone, then a woman sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," then the race began. Seventeen and a half minutes later, I crossed the timing mat. Downhill, then up. That would be the pattern for most of the race. You run a little different going uphill, conserving your energy, then drop your arms and let your legs swing back on the downhill. These weren't steep hills, nothing like what I trained on, but they grew monotonous.

Pretty green country with farms and horses, and people outside in lawn chairs. "You're almost there," yelled someone on the second mile. No one laughed, not even the man who said it.

I smiled at people cheering. ("You've got this.") It was a good way to pump up my own energy. But in the course of things, I let my pace lapse. By around seven miles, I realized I needed to hustle. As we ran through suburban Sacramento, past high school cheerleaders, taiko drummers, djs spinning techo mixes, musicians and vocalists, I sped up. By around the 13.1 mile mark, I was closing in on goal pace.

"It Could Be Worse," said a homemade sign, "You Could Be at Work." The overcast sky parted and we ran under a clean polished blue sky. Wadding up my "raincoat", I jammed it into a trash bag held by a teenage dude. "Watch," I said, "It'll rain now." He snorted in amusement.

Too much water; that's what my stomach said. I felt bloated. At mile 18, I couldn't touch another Gu. I also noticed that walking ached almost as much running. Between miles 21 and 22, we ascended a bridge over the American River. Coming down the other side, a man yelled, "You're on the fast part now."

Really? My legs felt as heavy as iron girders. As we entered the Sacramento city limits, a woman checked her cell phone and cried, "86.6 percent of runners have already finished." She seemed delighted to convey the information, as if responding to popular curiosity. The only runner I cared about was me. Dark clouds drifted overhead.

Best message of the day was held up by a boy of around nine. His homemade sign read: "This is the worst parade I've ever seen."

While I was holding pace, I still hadn't made up lost time. At mile 23, I took off, giving it all I had left. 

Grit-your-teeth time. Everything hurt. My feet burned as if running on lava. I hoped for an injury so I could walk in. 

At mile 24, the rain resumed. I was grimacing for all to see, praying the finish line would rush forward to meet me.

Then we were in downtown Sacramento. The rain eased off. The finish line was just past a jigsaw beyond the 26 mile sign. Straight then left. My wife Joy waved from the sideline. "See you up ahead," I called. Then the course hung a left dogleg and the finish line awaited 

A woman passed me. An odd hobbling man passed me. To break five hours, I needed afterburners like a Titan rocket.

Wobbling over the finish line, I checked my time: missed the goal by 24 seconds.

And So?

Clearly, I should've picked up the pace sooner. I tended to weave across the course, wasting even more time. Still, I bettered my last marathon by 22 minutes. I also discovered that 16 miles is just fine for the longest of the long training runs. I didn't smile at the end, but I didn't suffer from a lack of electrolytes. I felt relatively good.

You race like you train. I trained to finish and did. If I want an afterburner, then I need to improve my chi running form, strengthen my core muscles, and set aside a dedicated running day for speed. I also need to practice marathon pace when my legs are heavy.

As we entered Christmastime, I'll allow my body rest for the next few weeks. But I'm anxious for the next marathon. Perhaps Los Angeles? Starting January 1st, I'll have a whole 11 weeks to train.

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John P. McCann Sizzle Page

'Twas suggested I post a few episodes of my work in a pleasant spot. I've chosen here. Sadly, not everything I've written has y...